The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also known as the Mormons have many doctrines in common with Christianity. One particular doctrine that they teach is the baptism for the dead and this is different from every so called Christian denomination.
My experience of this doctrine began when I was at a critical time in my life trying to search out the truth of Christ. I had come across some Mormon missionaries that taught be about baptism for the dead.
I thought right away that this was a strange and unbiblical doctrine. But they insisted that it was in fact from the Bible. They had me read 1 Corinthians 15:29 Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
So you can imagine my face when they show this to me in my own Bible. I was a bit devastated, shocked and confused.
What does it mean to Mormons when they say "Baptism for the dead?"
Mormons believe that when you die you will go to a spirit prison where you will be evangelized by Mormon missionaries and there instructed in the Mormon gospel. If you should believe the Mormon Gospel it is still necessary that you experience water baptism. Drawing on 1 Corinthian 15:29 someone here on earth will be baptized for you.
Where do they get names of people who have not yet received Mormon baptism?
Mormons are sort of famous for constructing genealogical records. They are collecting these records for this very reason, so that those in their family tree who have not been baptized Mormon yet are deceased can still enter into heaven. They aren't only looking up their own records. They are looking up all of those who have died so they collect any churches records of the deceased.
So what are we to do with this doctrine and that verse in 1 Corinthians 15?
First we need to read Saint Paul in context - Paul for the most part speaks in the first person and addresses the second person. I Paul am addressing you Corinthians. But a few times he does speak about people in the third person singular and plural. He talks about pagans, rulers, saints, patriarchs, and sinners. Notice again 1 Corinthians 15:29 Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
Notice that Paul is neither including himself nor the Corinthians in this practice or he would have said why are WE baptized for the dead, or why are YOU being baptized for the dead. In truth no one know anything about these people, and they very well may have been a break off group from the Corinthians. They were probably afraid that if the dead were not baptized that they would not experience the resurrection to life.
Now there is some mystery to this verse because this practice is found nowhere among the early church fathers or the tradition of the Church.
The Bible and the Catechism are clear that we are given THIS life to choose or reject God. Death seals this decision.
What does the book of Mormon say about this practice?
Nothing. In fact the Book of Mormons doctrines contradict this teaching
Alma 34:35-36 we read: "For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he does seal you his. Therefore, the spirit of the Lord has withdrawn from you and hath no place in you; the power of the devil is over you, and this is the final state of the wicked."
So even the Book of Mormon says that death puts an end to choosing God and warns against procrastinating.What does our faith teach? If we aren’t baptized is it a guarantee that we will burn in hell like buckets of Chicken?
No Romans 2:14-16 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
While God gave us the sacraments and we are in fact bound to follow them and a regular means of grace. God himself is not bound by them and can save whomever he so chooses.
Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.