My husband, the youngest of eight, grew up in a less active family. Each time a child approached his eighth birthday, his father would start attending church so that he would be able to baptize the child. Afterward, he would return to his less active status. Fortunately, my husband had a friend his age in the ward whose family would take him to church, which eventually led to serving a mission and getting married in the temple. Most of his siblings remain inactive.
We recently saw this phenomenon in our ward. We attended the baptism of a beautiful young girl performed by her father. We have been in the ward for about three years, and I had not seen the family until a couple of months before the baptism. I couldn’t help but notice the older sister that was helping her. She also had been baptized by her father. We have not seen them back since the baptism. I have seen this pattern in many families; one might even call it a trend.
Conversely, at the same time, I became acquainted with another inactive family who decided not to have their 8yo daughter baptized. She and my daughter played together, and she appeared to be quite familiar with the church. She knew the primary songs and scripture stories. Yet her parents felt that, for whatever reason, they were not prepared to support their daughter in making and keeping the baptismal covenants.
I feel a great deal of respect for both families. They each are struggling to overcome obstacles and do what is right for their children. I tend to personally prefer the thinking of the latter family in making sure that their children understand covenants and have the support they need to keep them. Yet, I cannot deny that I am the beneficiary of the former trend to baptize children with or without long-term familial support. If my husband had not been baptized, he would have dropped off the rolls of the church and may not have had the outside support that he received.
I really don’t know which is better, and I suspect that it depends on the family and individuals involved. I hope that we can all respect the position of the parents who make these choices and support them however we can.