Thomas F. O’Dea argues that the Book of Mormon "is wholeheartedly and completely Arminian" in its theology; Moroni 8's rejection of infant baptism is reflective of 19th-century debates.

Thomas F. O'Dea

Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 28-29, 36

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Thomas F. O'Dea
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The doctrine of the book is wholeheartedly and completely Arminian. It tells men that “because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon . . . “ (II Nephi 2:26); and that they are “left to choose good or evil” (Alma 13:3). Men, says the Book of Mormon, will be judged by God according to their works—“Ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works” (Mormon 6:21). This doctrine proclaims that “whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last days it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds” (Alma 42:27). While the salvation of men is through the merits of Christ, these merits are available to all who repent. The Atonement was for all men, and grace and mercy are available to all.

Much can be seen in the Book of Mormon of the implicit mentality of the popular Protestantism of the time. For example, the story of the first Alma (Mosiah, chaps. 23-24) is, in a very profound sense, the history of sectarian, left-wing Christianity, as seen by itself, projected into an ideal or mythological representation. The persecution of the prophet Abinadi, is burning by the king and the established church in a scene recalling the deaths of Ridley and Latimer under Mary Tudor (Mosiah 17:13-15), the secession of Alma and his founding of a church that bore all the marks of sectarian regeneration, and its final exodus into the wilderness, where (reminiscent of John Winthrop) the regenerate founded a free colony and where (anticipating what had come only much later in Massachusetts) they established republican government—all this must have sounded deep resonances in the minds of those whose forebears had left England in the reign of the Stuarts (Mosiah, chaps. 11-18).

The Book of Mormon is an ideal projection of left-wing Protestantism in another sense. All the Nephite prophets, form Lehi in 600 B.C., who was “a visionary man” (I Nephi 2;11), to Moroni, who tells us that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may know all things (Moroni 10:5), spoke, like Alma, “according to the spirit which testifieth in me” (Alma 7:26), when indeed they did not converse with angels, with Christ, or with the father himself. Moreover, by this revelation and prophecy they spoke and taught “with power and authority form God” (Mosiah 18;26). Yet nowhere in the Book of Mormon does this abundance of inspiration and revelation and following of the Spirit “wheresoever it leadeth” get out of hand. Nowhere are the elect plunged by such criteria into controversy, with brother pitted against brother, each claiming divine sanction for his doctrine. Contention there is within the church of God, but good and evil are easily discernible at all times, and the Holy Spirit is never confused with impulses at all times, and the Holy Spirit is never confused with impulses of human or demoniacal origin. Complete freedom of inspiration and interpretation combines easily with revealed authority, the inspirations of all showing remarkable unanimity.

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Infant baptism is condemned, and Moroni urges that “ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you” (Moroni 8:6). He attributes to Christ the following decisive statement: “ . . . wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them” (Moroni 8:8). It is typical of the whole direction of Mormon theological development that infant baptism should be rejected not for the conventional reasons advanced by the Baptists but because of renewed emphasis upon the goodness of man. While this is attributed to the merits of Christ, it is nevertheless a part of the developing humanism of the period, which found such striking reflection in all Mormon doctrine.

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