Baptism for the Dead

Baptisms of the Dead

The following paragraph about the practice of baptizing the dead was taken from, an LDS ”apologetic” website–if there is such a thing.  It shows how Mormons helplessly try to explain the practice of baptizing the dead:

“Baptism for the dead is a powerful evidence that Joseph Smith was a real prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. The LDS practice has long been derided as absolute fiction and an abomination, and based on a terrible mis-interpretation of 1 Cor.15:29. However, long after Joseph Smith restored the practice through revelation, dozens of ancient documents have turned up showing that early Christians (at least some) indeed believed in and practiced baptism for the dead much as we do today. ”

I am always glad to see the appearance of the phrase “through revelation” because it usually means that all other Mormon explanations have been exhausted leaving only ”we do what we want through revelation.”

If there’s a part of scripture that best illustrates how Mormons twist the word of God, this is it.  We have always maintained that Mormons are great basing an entire belief system upon one or two verses of scripture.  This is a well known fact among those of us who work in the field of counter-cult ministries.  The LDS Church is no exception to this rule, although they would vehemently deny the allegations.  There is literally one verse that talks about baptism for the dead and this is what the Mormon Church has put their minds on to set a standard of a dead work for their god.  It is found in 1 Corinthians 15:29 and it 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?’

The key to understanding scripture is to read all things in context before you apply it to any teaching.  The first half of 1 Corinthians 15 is speaking about the absurdity of not believing in the resurrection of the dead.  Paul gave examples of those who had witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and then went on to explain that baptizing for dead people was even more absurd if they didn’t believe in the resurrection.  The uniqueness of Christianity lies in the resurrection of the dead.  For whatever reasons, the Corinthian church believed they needed to perform this proxy for the dead and Paul was there to set them straight.

Joseph Smith is quoted in the book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 179 as follows; ‘The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison.’

Several questions arise in my mind when I read this thought process of Smith’s.  First of all, how does one know if their dead relative got the chance to hear the gospel in spirit prison?  Secondly, how could someone ever presume that their dead relative would even accept the gospel? Third, if, as many Mormon leaders teach today, that all people will be caught up in the first two levels of heaven regardless of whether they’re Mormon believer or not (i.e. they deny the concept of hell), then what is the point of baptizing the dead? Aren’t we all already going to heaven?

Let’s look at the exact passage in scripture:

1 Cor. 15: 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?” KJV.

Just to gather some meaning here, let’s read the same verse from the NLV to get a better understanding:

“What good will it do people if they are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised, why are people baptized for them?”

Mormon “apologists” put all their reasoning behind the word “they,” in 1 Cor. 15:29, as if to imply that since Paul said “they” in referring to his fellow apostles in the early part of the chapter, that he means to attribute “they” to [the apostles’] practices later in the chapter as well.

We cannot build a doctrine based on that.  We need more.  We need to know what is biblical and what is not, based on the entire bible. Since God is not a God of confusion, He tells us what is His ways and what is not.  We know that when we see things mentioned in the bible, as in God’s law in the Old Testament, we also saw it in practice in the scriptures as well.  Paul talks about living a life for Christ numerous times in the New Testament and we see many characters in the Gospels doing just that. We also see what Paul wrote to the Churches in Ephesus, Corinth and others, yet again, we see it put into practice in Acts. We also know that the Church of Corinth was a church that was practicing some strange rituals.  They had lost their way and Paul’s letter was sent to correct that.  That alone should make us suspicious and cause us to question his motives for mentioning baptisms for the dead—if the context to the chapter were not obvious already.

But let’s look at this from one other angle.  Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if baptisms for the dead were truly God’s way, then it’s a significant thing?  Forgetting or not baptizing the dead as the Mormon’s teach would cost someone their salvation, or so we’re led to believe by LDS doctrine.  That’s an incredible statement if true!  If it were a practice of the early church, and a teaching of Jesus Christ that Paul taught as well, shouldn’t it have appeared somewhere else in scripture?  Perhaps Paul just wasn’t that concerned about the dead. And perhaps Jesus had better things to do.

Again, I cannot over emphasize this.  The idea of baptizing the dead so that people could be resurrected who would otherwise be lost for all eternity is a rather astonishing idea.  And there is much to be lost if the Church has failed to practice this exercise. Were it not the pagan ritual that it is, then we should have seen it put into practice by the early church. The book of Acts gave us many examples to follow, preaching, baptism, and laying on of hands, to name a few.

I was baptized for the dead on several occasions in the Ogden Temple while I was growing up as a Mormon in Utah. I remember thinking I had never heard of any of the people I was baptized for so I was unable to say if those people accepted the gospel.  Each time I went to do my proxy work I wondered if what I was doing was in vain.  I prayed that with all my hard work to stay holy and pure to get in the temple wouldn’t be for nothing.  I wasted many hours praying they would accept what I had to offer them.

The Lord tells us to set our minds upon the things of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says; ‘Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’.  The church keeps their members busy so they don’t have the time to think about the obedience of Christ, let alone anything He would want them to do, i.e., studying His Word.

My prayer now is that if you are a Mormon, you will study the entire passage in 1 Corinthians 15 to see where this teaching originated.  I can assure you that it had nothing to do with the Mormon Jesus’ teaching on the ‘eternal principles’ of baptizing for the dead in the meridian of times and everything to do with Jesus’ resurrection as told consistently in other scriptures in the bible. Can Mormons present the same evidence for Baptism of the dead being taught elsewhere in scripture?


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