Why are Mormons baptizing the dead?

Mormon temple font for baptizing the deadOne of the questions Mormons are asked about is why we make a practice of baptizing the dead in our temples. Some have the misconception that we’re actually baptizing dead people, which is not the case, but we practice proxy baptisms where someone living is baptized for and in behalf of someone who has passed away that never had the chance to receive baptism from an authorized priesthood holder in this life.

To understand this Biblical doctrine, one needs to turn to the New Testament. In the writings of Paul the apostle to the Corinthians, in the 15th chapter we find Paul explaining the doctrine of the resurrection and how Christ’s atonement paved the way for our receiving a body again.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

He then makes a strange argument. The Corinthian saints were baptizing people for their dead relatives and friends, but they had issues believing in the resurrection. He asks them why they are baptizing for the dead if the dead aren’t going to rise from the dead? It would be pointless.

29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

Paul didn’t condemn them for the practice, he used the practice to show them that there was an ultimate reason why they were doing it. That the resurrection (was real and they were helping their ancestors).

Peter taught that there are many people who died without knowing Christ, but God being someone that loves all of His children, provided means for them to be taught the gospel even after death so that they could accept and have faith in Christ and move toward returning to God’s presence. In this passage we see the example of some of these people being those that rejected Noah’s teachings and died in the flood. The same applies to all others who never had an opportunity in this life to accept the gospel teachings.

1 Peter 3

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

And 1 Peter 4:6

6 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.

So in the LDS faith today, we do genealogy work to research our ancestors that never had a chance to hear the gospel in this life and then participate in the Biblical practice of being baptized on their behalf. This is not something forced upon them. In a revelation to a modern day prophet, he saw that those who had the gospel taught to them in the spirit world:

Doctrine & Covenants 138

33 …were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

35 And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross.

Then those in the spirit prison, having been taught the doctrine of vicarious baptism (someone else being baptized for them as a proxy) for the remission of their sins and that Christ had wrought redemption for them, if they then accept the proxy baptism performed for them on earth by a mortal in one of God’s holy temples, they are able to then leave the spirit prison and enter into paradise to await the judgment and resurrection, as if they had been baptized on earth. They will still be judged according to the light and knowledge they had and used on earth, but they are able to ultimately progress forward on their eternal journey.

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What does the Book of Mormon teach about Christ?

Book of Mormon Teachings on ChristOne of the biggest misconceptions I have encountered in my life is when people who are unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon tell me that the book doesn’t teach people about Christ. To everyone that’s actually read the book, we know that almost every page in this 531 page work contains references to Christ, his teachings, his atoning sacrifice to deliver us from sin and death, and his tender mercies over the children of men. One of the stated purposes of the Book of Mormon in the title page was to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Here is a sampling of some of the beautiful teachings of Christ from the book, but I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t read the book to actually get a copy and read it and then ask God with a sincere heart if it’s true. I know he will give you a witness that it is a true record of ancient scripture. God did provide a group of righteous people on the ancient American continent with prophets who communed with God just like the ancient prophets in Jerusalem.

From the writings of the prophet Nephi who left Jerusalem around 600 B.C. and came to the Americas:

2 Nephi 2:5-9

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

2 Nephi 25:23-29

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

28 And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

29 And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

From the teachings of King Benjamin, a righteous prophet/king:

Mosiah 3:5-11

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.

11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

From the writings of Moroni, the last prophet and son of Mormon:

Moroni 10:32-34

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

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