In the Catholic Church First Holy Communion is the third of the seven sacraments. Children aged seven or eight partake of the holy Eucharist for the first time, the bread (wafer) and wine seen to be the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. This coming-of-age holy ritual is surrounded by the gathering of supportive family, the giving of religious gifts, the wearing of special clothing, and the celebration of faith.
For Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a child’s eighth birthday marks a very special milestone. Mormons do not believe in the taint of “original sin,” because the atonement of Jesus Christ has taken it away. Infants are innocent in the eyes of God and are saved and exalted in innocence should they die in infancy. They have no need of baptism until they reach the “age of accountability,” which the Lord has determined should be the age of eight years. At this age, all normal children can discern between right and wrong and understand the process of repentance.
Little children in Mormonism are therefore baptized by immersion at age eight, and many of the surrounding traditions are similar to those of Catholicism. First, the child is educated about the choice he is about to make. Family and friends gather to attend the baptism and confirmation (the conferral of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands) and may have a meal at a family member’s home in association with the event. At the time of baptism both the child and the person (priesthood holder) performing the baptism dress completely in white. Before and after the baptism, Sunday best clothing is worn. Family and friends may provide gifts related to the event. Many children receive gifts of scriptures when they are baptized.
Surrounding the baptism is a religious meeting with an opening song, invocation, talks about baptism and the Holy Ghost, a benediction and a closing song. The ordinance of confirmation, or conferral of the Holy Ghost, may be performed after the baptism (“at the water’s edge”) or during Sacrament Meeting the following Sunday.
The idea of “coming of age,” or becoming cognizant of the value and meaning of ordinances, is common to both Catholic First Holy Communion and Mormon baptism. In both religions, new converts may receive the ordinances at any age above the age of accountability (which may be seven in Catholicism, and always eight in Mormonism). In Catholicism First Holy Communion looks forward to “Confirmation,” which as in Mormonism, relates to the receipt of the Holy Spirit.