Mormon Baptism for the Dead

April 4, 2011  
Filed under About Mormon Temples

By Richard.

In a clandestine dialogue between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, the Savior told the Jewish leader, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (See John 3:5.) This was one of the most profound sermons delivered by the Savior during his ministry. Also, this same sermon makes plain the significance of being baptized or being born again as a prerequisite for the salvation of man.

Baptism is Essential for Salvation
mormon image John Baptizing JesusBaptism is one of the oldest religious rdinances practiced by man. While some religious organizations contend that it was not performed until the ministry of John the Baptist, members of the Mormon Church believe that this ordinance was revealed by God to Adam, the first man, who was baptized by the Spirit of the Lord (Pearl of Great Price – Moses 6:51-68). Apparently, Adam taught this ordinance to his children and it was practiced by subsequent generations in the Church of Jesus Christ. Baptism was also taught by Enoch (Moses 7:10-13), and by Noah (Moses 8:23-24). The fact that God commanded these great patriarchs to teach and baptize His children elucidates the importance of this ordinance even before the coming of the Christ.

In the New Testament, the Savior Himself has affirmed on several occasions why people should be baptized. His statement to Nicodemus was a profound declaration of a law by which everyone, Himself included, must abide: Baptism is required for the salvation of all. Without it, nobody can enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ showed a perfect example of obedience to that law by being baptized even though he was sinless. To John the Baptist, his baptizer, He said, “Suffer it be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-17).

When the Lord chose His apostles, He gave them authority and commissioned them to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. This injunction was followed by a pronouncement which would determine the fate of those who would accept or reject the message of the apostles: “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”. (See Mark 16:15-16.).

After Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, Peter, the chief among the apostles, declared the same doctrine to a huge assemblage of people who were desirous to know what they should do to be saved. Peter declared: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.” (See Acts 2:37-39.) More than three thousand believed and were baptized on that same day. Peter’s declaration gives evidence that baptism was necessary for salvation even after the ascension of Jesus Christ.

The Mormon Church continues to teach and observe the ordinance of baptism as the only way for admittance into the Church and the kingdom of God. Mormon missionaries travel from place to place declaring the same teachings taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles.

“They Without Us Cannot Be Made Perfect.”
If baptism was required of all men, and no one can be saved without it, one may reasonably ask: What about those millions who have died without ever having any chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive this ordinance during their mortal lives? Will God abandon their souls to rot in hell?

Mormons believe that God is not partial, and that He loves all of His children equally. As He has given salvation to those who have been baptized  in this life, surely, He will also grant equal opportunity to those who have died without ever hearing the gospel, that they may also become heirs to salvation. “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6).

When Jesus Christ died, His body remained in the tomb for three days, while His spirit went to the world of spirits, where he organized messengers, and commissioned them to preach the gospel to the spirits in paradise. The dead were taught faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that are necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves for the final judgment and be saved in the kingdom of God. (See 1 Peter 3:19; Doctrine and Covenants 138:28-34.) “For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation – that they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without them be made perfect” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:15-19).

mormon temple washington baptistryBaptism for the Living and the Dead
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that baptism can be offered to those who have not received it during their mortal lives. This is done through a sacred ordinance called baptism for the dead, also known as proxy baptism.

The practice of baptism for the dead came to the Church as a revelation received by a Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith who, in August 1840, announced that the Lord would permit members of the Church to be baptized in behalf of their deceased friends and relatives. Joseph Smith said that the plan of salvation was calculated to save all who are willing to obey the requirements of the law of God. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 251.)  It is important to understand that the free agency of man is an eternal principle.  Although people who have died and now live in the Spirit World will be informed that ordinances have been performed for them, they need not accept them.

Any temple-worthy member of the LDS Church who is at least 12 years old may participate in proxy baptisms or be baptized in behalf of their deceased friends and relatives. However, only adult Melchizedek priesthood holders who have undergone the Mormon endowment may baptize others in behalf of their dead. Baptism for the dead is performed only in special baptismal fonts found inside the Mormon temples. Today, millions of Latter-day Saints visit the temple, taking with them records of their dead so that they can perform saving ordinances for them, and give them a chance to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and enter into His rest.

Additional Resources:

LDS News on Church policy for temple work

Mormon beliefs

Other views on Mormon baptism for the dead

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