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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baptism for the Dead?

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.


Dawn Jessop said...

In John 3:5 Christ taught that baptism is necessary for the salvation of all those who have lived on earth. People die every day without being baptized. People that never had an oportunity to hear the gospel, whether you believe the gospel to be catholic doctrine or mormon doctrine this fact remains. Because of Gods grace, we mormons believe that he has thought ahead and prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing baptism for the dead these blessings are offered to the deceased. These people can then choose whether or not to accept or reject the work that was done, just as they could have decided to reject or accept the missionaries at their door had they been visited in this life. Its truly only an ordinance done to provide the blessings to those who never had the opportunity. Obviously it may be impossible for us to do proxy baptisms for EVERY one, but the work shall roll forth and God's work will be done. He's got a plan for that as well. Good Post Dan.

Daniel Egan said...

Thank you for writting Dawn. Part of my point was that the effects of Baptism can be applied without the water touching the body. It seems to me that this is what you already believe. Someone here on earth is getting baptized and the effetcs are being applied to someone else in spirit prison, even though that person wasn't actually baptized. We believe that the God who is the author of the sacraments is not bound to follow the rules which he has given to us, which is in fact what happens to those people in Acts. They recieve the Holy Spirit without being Baptized.

Anonymous said...

The current Christian Church didn't begin to coalesce until about the fifth century, long after the last apostles died. The men charge at the time were heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and prevailed over the remnants of the first century Christians. It was about this time that the Councils of Nicea began to aggregate the disparate books and teachings into what became the Latin Vulgate. In the course of bringing all these other ideas of Christianity together, those that didn't comply with the Greek philosophizes were discounted and left out. It became a political struggle in which many of the first century gospel teachings were rejected. Baptism for the dead, eternal nature of families, and theosis were some that fell out of favor with the new religious authority. Ask yourself this question: would a loving God create untold billions of children knowing that they were doomed to eternal damnation over something they had no control over? Such is the case of the countless numbers of people who have been born on the earth and never heard of Christ nor his gospel. There has to be a mechanism that mainstream Christianity has overlooked that makes the forgotten eligible for salvation. Either that or God is as evil as Satan.

Anonymous said...

There are several citations of authority in the bible that tell us t the dead will have a chance to hear the gospel and accept or reject it. Unless one believes that heaven is an amalgam of various and different beliefs of Christ and God, you must consider that there is only one truth and that one truth is God's, which is not man's understanding. So what ever missionary work done there has to be God's not Mormon or Catholic or Presbyterian or Buddest or Baptist or what have you. So to say that it is Mormon complete evades the obvious. Mormons say that their message is that there exists only one gospel and they have been tasked with bringing that lost message back to the the world. It is not in lockstep with historic Christianity but then Historic Christianity seems to have some serious holes in it its version of Christ's gospel.

Anonymous said...

Denominationalism seems to have become the Savior rather than Christ. One has to hold to a denomination to the exclusion of all others in order to be saved. So say the historic Christians. The caution against digging too deeply into works of such researchers as Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chair of the Religion Dept at University of North Carolina. There are others who have done independent research into the origins of historic Christianity.

Daniel Egan said...

Dear Anonymous,

If I may, I would like to answer some of your objections.

That isn't true about the church unite until the 5th century. Now the church wasn't as visible in the first three centuries as it would be in the 4th and 5th. When you are being hunted down, it can be dangerous to stick your head out and have a council. Persecution must be taken into consideration.

The church used Greek philosophy as a tool, not the other way around.

There were no Biblical teaching rejected. Eternal marriage is not a Biblical teaching. That is why it wasn't taught until Joseph Smith came around. Part of the problem with Mormonism is that it has built within its teachings misconceptions about what even mainline protestants teach.

For example saying that Original Sin is a sin that a child is guilty of. Mormons say that this isn't true - but so does every christian.

Original Sin says that because of the sins of Adam and Eve - we (their descendants) are concieved not in a relationship with God. If we were conceieved in a relationship with God then some would not need baptizing but John says that all need to be baptized.

As far as those who have not heard the gospel before they die, God is not a jerk - Romans 2 says that those who don't have the law will be judged according to their conscience.

If you have any further comments you can email me at

Anonymous said...

I understand why you take exception but I think the unaffiliated research supports my position. I would not have posted it if it was LDS based doctrine. I did not rely on Mormon scholars for this information. The list of researchers and scholars who differ with the historic Christian position is not short and goes back over a hundred years. Thanks though for providing your views on traditional Christian history.

Anonymous said...

I want o be careful not to start a doctrinal discussion that goes no where. My intent is to just advise those who are interested, that being Baptized by proxy does not in itself make one a Mormon and that the ordinance is not a modern day Mormon concoction and that there is ample historical data to show the early Christians engaged in this practice too. Of course I respect that Catholics believe they have a direct line to Peter and derive their authority from him. We just disagree on some fundamental points about many of these things.

Anonymous said...

I understand. Thanks for providing the space and response. I just hope that you and others will ask us what we believe before telling others. As often as not, most non-LDS commenters get it wrong.

Daniel Egan said...

I have spent numerous hours speaking with the missionaries and other regular Mormons like Dawn Jessop (above). I have tried to be extremely careful whe I tell others what any group believes, because I hope that others are doing the same for me and mine.

Now that that has been said. Neither history, secular or sacred (from what I have read) supports the Mormon position - any Mormon position. The crux of the issue is - did the early church fall away. Scripture and history says no, they did not.

I know about the "Catholic utterance," but that guy was a bad Catholic. The question isn't either it is the Catholic Church or the Mormon church. The question is, is Jesus a liar or not? Will he be with us forever or was he mistaken? is it he building His Church or men?

All the verses that Mormons point to to 'prove' that the great apostasy has happened fail under close examination by any reasonable person.

Anonymous said...

Sure. I understand. If you are committed to Catholicism, it makes sense that you would not find much attractive about LDS doctrine. However I think I am correct in saying Catholics make up either the largest percentage of new converts or next to the most numerous so there are some who look at it differently. Thanks again for the space.

Daniel Egan said...

Now only are you welcome for the space, but I appreciate you talking with me.

As far as the attractiveness of Mormonism goes. Truth is what is attractive and people are looking for it because we were born into a world of lies. We are designed for the truth and we are happiest IN the truth. While there are many "truths" in Mormonism (as well as every religion) the truth in its fulness resides and is guarded by the Catholic Church.

Noting that most of the converts to Mormonism are Catholics sound impressive from the outset, until it is closely examined. At its beginning ALL protestant converts were Catholic. Most of Islams converts (at the beginning) were Catholic.

I am Catholic because I believe that Jesus is the Christ. He (as well as the Bible) said that His Church would last forever. The Catholic Church os the only one that can trace itself back to Jesus. Its members, who have taken the medicine of Christ (the Gospel) faithfully, have prooved through their faith and the works that this Church has as its founder none other than God.

In my own life, I have seen myself the hand of God and know (by faith and reason) that the Gospel that the Catholic Church teaches is 100% true.