One of the most unbiblical doctrines found in Mormonism today is the practice of performing baptisms for the dead. For those unfamiliar with the practice what happens during a temple baptismal ceremony is a living person stands in as a “proxy” for a deceased individual. In essence this individual is the dead person they are being baptized for.
This doctrine is just one of many which divide Mormonism from mainline Christianity. In the December 1971 issue of the Ensign Howard W. Hunter address the practice, comparing it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he said:
“Does it seem reasonable that persons who have lived upon the earth and died without the opportunity of baptism should be deprived throughout eternity? Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead? Perhaps the greatest example of vicarious work for the dead is the Master himself. He gave his life as a vicarious atonement, that all who die shall live again and have life everlasting. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In a similar way we can perform ordinances for those who did not have the opportunity to do them in lifetime.”
Comparing necro-proxy baptisms to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
The views Mr. Hunter expressed in this quote are reprehensible to me, there’s really no other way to put it. First he insinuates baptism is a requirement for salvation, and there is no possible way anyone can have eternal life without it. Then he has the nerve to compare their baptisms of the dead to the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.
Mormonism suggests salvation is based upon your works after acceptance of the Mormon gospel. It’s not about hoping your good out weights your bad, as their doctrine wants you to believe. For the Mormons who would say acceptance is a “work”, I would say our faith to accept the gospel doesn’t come from us. You see even our faith is a gift from God. It comes from him, not us.
Next he asks “Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead?” The answer is a resounding yes! It is unreasonable for the living to perform baptisms for the dead. There is only one instance in which it’s mentioned in the Bible. It may interest you to know that this is the verse commonly used by Mormons to justify baptizing the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:29 Paul says; “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?” Mormons choose to take this verse way out of context and say Paul was telling the people they should baptize their dead. The people he was talking to didn’t even believe in the resurrection. He was asking them, why are you doing baptisms for the dead if you believe the dead won’t be resurrected?
We only have this life to prepare to meet God. There are no second chances, and no do over’s. Jesus has already done the work necessary for all of us to receive eternal life. As a Christian I know that baptism is an outward expression of what Jesus is doing inside of your heart; it’s not something anyone can do for you. How can the dead express this change? God works in the hearts of the living, the dead had a chance to know God. Romans 1:20 tell us that all will be without excuse because all have an opportunity to know there is a God.
Communicating with the Dead
As a temple worthy member of the Mormon Church I had many opportunities to attend and participate in many baptisms and endowments for the dead throughout my time in the Church. One of things commonly said by members of church after they visited the temple is how they “knew” the individual(s) who they preformed the ceremonies for accepted them and were happy their temple ordinances were completed. They expressed feeling as though the dead were communicating with them in a supernatural way, thanking them for doing this work on their behalf.
As a Mormon this really didn’t bother me. I believed the spirits of the dead were present in the temple the day their temple ordinances were performed. Many of the Mormons I knew welcomed, and looked forward to a possible encounter with their dead relatives. I can speak from personal experience on this desire. Not long after I received my own temple ordinances I went to perform the work for my mom. I too, hoped to have some type of feeling or experience which would lead me to believe she was pleased with me, and was grateful for the work I was doing for her.
As a new believer God has not only changed my heart, but also my way of thinking and seeing things. The way I see these temple ceremonies now is nothing short of necromancy. Attempting to communicate with the dead is clearly against God’s Word. We read this in Deuteronomy 18:10-11:
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”
Moses was giving instruction to the Israelite’s not to follow, mirror, or accept the occult, polytheistic practices of the Canaanites, the last one being necromancy. He counseled them not to call upon the dead, or attempt to receive answers from them. He wanted them to remain separate from the Canaanites, so they would be recognized as God’s people so they would not be corrupted by their detestable beliefs.
The Mormons on the other hand welcome communication with the dead. They believe they are doing them a favor, and say the dead have a choice as to accept the work that’s done for them, or not. The further I get away from Mormonism the more doctrines like baptizing the dead feel creepier and creepier.
Salvation through Mormon Temple work
The Mormon people are expected to do their genealogical work; this allows them to perform their necromantic work for the salvation of their dead. Once they a accumulated a list of their dead relatives, they take the list to the temple to being performing proxy baptisms, confirmations, and marriages for their dead relatives behalf so that they also have salvation. These people truly believe they are being a savoir to their ancestors, and it falls on their shoulders to ensure their whole family will be reunited in the next life. They feel this burden because their church leaders have taught them their ancestors are being taught the tenants of the Mormon faith, and they are eagerly awaiting their turn to be baptized.
As a Mormon pictured my dead relatives in a classroom as they were taught the Mormon gospel. I believe they were being given a chance now to receive, and accept Mormonism. It made me feel good to know it would be my work for them that would allow them to progress, and to leave the spirit prison they were in. As you can imagine there is a lot of guilt heaved upon those who neglect their genealogical work, or who are unable to attend the temple regularly by the Church leaders.
One such example is this quote by Gordon B. Hinclely. Aside from reuniting their own families he tells them it’s up to them to save the entire world through temple works.
“Our message is so imperative, when you stop to think that the salvation, the eternal salvation of the world, rests upon the shoulders of this Church. When all is said and done, if the world is going to be saved, we have to do it. There is no escaping from that. No other people in the history of the world have received the kind of mandate that we have received. We are responsible for all who have lived upon the earth. That involves our family history and temple work. We are responsible for all who now live upon the earth, and that involves our missionary work. And we are going to be responsible for all who will yet live upon the earth” (Church News, 3 July 1999, 3).
“The eternal salvation of the world rests up the shoulders of this Church”? This is just one small example of the huge ego floating around in the minds of the members of the Mormon Church. They must feel a tremendous amount of guilt when they aren’t able to accomplish the task they’ve been given. I jokingly use the example of Mighty Mouse when I say they honestly feel it’s all up to them to save the day, by insuring everyone has eternal salvation.
I think it’s important we have a little vocabulary lesson when we’re dealing with Mormons and the words, “eternal salvation”. Eternal salvation to Christians isn’t the same as it is for Mormons, who believe everyone will be saved, and resurrected. That is they believe everyone will be saved from everlasting torment, and will spend eternity in one of the prospective Mormon heavens.
Even people, who rejected Jesus, will have their place in the Telestial kingdom, which is the lowest level of the Mormon heaven. Mormonism teaches that Jesus died to save everyone, so whether they’ve accept him or not, they will still have some level of glory in the next life. “Eternal salvation” for the Mormons is living in the highest level of glory, in the highest kingdom of the Mormon heaven, called the Celestial kingdom. Now to receive this prestigious recognition the living, and the dead most have all the temple ordinances done by, or on behalf of them.
Eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is nonexistent, when they mix in their temple works. I have to wonder if they have the slightest comprehension of what they are doing. Do they not know they are attempting to rob Jesus of the glory that belongs to him? It’s only through Jesus we are saved, only through him do we have eternal salvation.
Our salvation isn’t found in another individual. Acts 4:12 tells us “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The Mormons can’t save us; it’s not within their power to do so, and they’re not “responsible” for our salvation as Mr. Hinckley suggested. It’s through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family.
When we belong to God nothing can separate us from him, or his love. It’s not the absence of a temple ordinance preventing us from eternal life with God, but the absence of Jesus living in our hearts.
Melissa Grimes (firstname.lastname@example.org)