I used to think as if this teaching found in the Book of Mormon was some sort of technical point that God had to tip-toe around in order to be just.
Moroni 8:14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
I knew this scripture was true, but thought of it as being a sort of technicality, as if, when a good member of another church preaching this doctrine was about to die, the Lord had to ensure that the timing of his death wouldn't coincide with his pondering on this subject.
Which is all rot.
The judgment bar will not be based on bureaucratic technicalities. Justice is not found in technicalities. Technicalities are, almost by definition, unjust.
So consider the verses that follow:
Moroni 8:15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
If we think that doctrines and beliefs don't matter, then we need to consider the end of verse 14 along with verse 15: "wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell. For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism."
This teaches that the reason those who are cut off in the thought must go down to hell is that it is awful wickedness to suppose such a thing. It is not so much the technicality of whether it was the last thing you thought about, but rather, whether you are sensitive enough to truth to simply know better independent of what your church teaches. Little children are pure and innocent, and the Lord expects us to live well enough to sense that in and of ourselves. He apparently feels that we ought to at least be that sensitive if we are to avoid hell and gain the Terrestrial or Celestial kingdom.
When Christ was on earth, he expected people to be sensitive enough to truth to recognize him as the Son of God. Men accused him of working by the power of the devil. Little children are pure and innocent. To either say such innocence could be condemned to hell is "awful wickedness". It isn't a question of what your church teaches, but whether you are listening to the light of Christ enough to know better independently.
The nub of the matter is that to avoid hell requires living by the light of Christ. That is why the Terrestrial kingdom has the honorable men of the earth. These were men who stood by right living independent of what others were saying.
One cannot, apparently, avoid hell by simply going with the flow. It requires standing by the light of Christ enough to stand out, enough to know some measure of truth independently no matter what your local church teaches, or what men around you are saying. The point of the above verse is not to pick out the Catholics as especially deserving of hell. In fact, the description of the telestial kingdom includes the array of apostate Christianity:
D&C 76:99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
So this isn't about Catholicism. Rather it is the principle that to avoid hell requires living well enough that you can stand by the light of Christ.
And that makes sense. It makes sense that when everything that is not of Christ is cast down, that only those men who have stood by his light will remain. They will inherit the earth during the millennium.
Continuing the chapter we see this implicitly in what follows. We see a requirement that men and women sense innocence, mercy, and real justice to avoid hell. To fail to do so is called awful wickedness. And how can they be sensitive to such things except by the light of Christ. They cannot.
Moroni 8:19 Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.
21 Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
Interestingly, to deny mercy to God's innocent ones leaves one in a state where one will not receive mercy oneself. This is the real meaning of the scriptures about God measuring out to every man according as he has meted out. It is not about approving everyone no matter their wickedness. It is the issue we see in this chapter - denying the mercies of Christ to those who are innocent, and attributing that which is most pure and righteous as being deserving of hell. Thus those who condemn little children to hell lean in the same direction, albeit in a much smaller way, as those who condemned the Son of God as being of the devil and condemned his servants to suffering and death through the ages.