Baptism for the Dead - A Saving Ordinance

Mormon Temple Baptism Font

Baptisms for the dead are performed in baptismal fonts similar to this one, which is in the Nauvoo, Illinois LDS Temple.
Baptisms for the dead are performed in baptismal fonts similar to this one, which is in the Nauvoo, Illinois LDS Temple.

Baptism for the Dead

The Mormon Church and its practices are often misunderstood, often intentionally. I want to clarify one principle of Latter-day Saint teachings and practices: Baptism for the Dead.

Baptism for the dead is an ordinance that we perform in temples as a service for those who lived and died without having received the ordinance.

Baptism for the Dead Explained

Scriptural Foundation for Baptism for the Dead

In my interactions with members of what are considered mainstream Christian churches, an interesting discussion ensues when this question is asked (naturally by me): Do you believe baptism is essential for salvation? Depending upon who I've asked, this question is met with the full spectrum of answers. Here is a sampling:

  • Living a good life is the only requirement for salvation, independent of any sort of documented belief in Jesus Christ or any performance of an ordinance.
  • Baptism is not all essential.The only critical act necessary to secure a place in heaven is an outward (usually public) expression of belief in Jesus Christ.
  • Baptism is necessary for salvation. This answer is the correct one as referenced in several Bible verses, which I will cite below.

Bible Verses Mandating Baptism as Essential for Salvation

Matthew 3:13-17 - Jesus' own baptism at the hands of John the Baptist came after the doctrinal pronouncement is made by the Savior that the act would "fulfill all righteousness."  Baptism was required for Jesus, and he was clear in indicating that those who would have a part with him must also be baptized.

John 5:3-5 - Nicodemus, in his interview with Jesus, is told unequivocally that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.  Despite attempts by guessing preachers to explain this scripture, it is generally accepted that the Savior was referring specifically to baptism as part of the process of being born again.

Mark 16:16 - The Savior, in commissioning his apostles to spread the gospel, clearly lists the two requirements for salvation:  1) believing; 2) being baptized.

There are other references.  These are the most obvious ones that I chose to include in this hub.  You can study more by studying the topic of Baptism, Essential in the Topical Guide of the LDS scriptures.

Where do Latter-day Saints Get Their Instructions Regarding Baptism for the Dead?

The LDS doctrine that teaches equal access to salvation for everyone who has ever lived, which inspires us to perform baptisms for the dead, does not come from an attempt to explain a few scriptures found in the Bible. Instead, we believe the doctrine to have been revealed to modern prophets, and that their teachings are in harmony with what is taught in the BIble.

Baptism for the Dead Lost from Modern Christianity

LDS scriptures teach that some of the teachings and practices of the early Christian Church were lost from the Bible.  One of the foremost of those involves performing baptism for those who have not had the opportunity.  Having established that the Bible clearly teaches the necessity of baptism, the next logical question is, "If God is just and fair, and if baptism is a requirement, what happens to those for whom the opportunity to be baptized was never a possibility?" This includes the billions of people in heathen nations and even in Christian countries whose circumstances made it so that they had no exposure to the Bible or Jesus Christ.

Comments 7 comments

passingtheword 5 years ago

Rom 2:6 New International Version (©1984)

God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

King James Bible

Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

John 3:16 for God so loved the world..... That whosoever believeth in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not yourselves it is the gift of God (not from someone that was baptized for you)

Ezekiel 14:14 Though these three men Noah daniel and Job were in it they would deliver only their own souls.

Same again through out the chapter

Luke 23:39-43 the criminal that was crucified next to Jesus. What saved him. it wasn't baptism, it wasn't someone else being baptized for him it was verse 42 Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. the thief had a change of heart and with his faltering understanding, casts himself on Jesus' mercy. he is rewarded because of is faith. verse 43 Jesus says i say unto you Today i will be with you in paradise. He received salvation

I baptized for the dead. but i always thought to myself, "How do i know if this person did not have a chance to receive the true gospel?" "Are we second guessing God by doing this?" Just my thoughts.


passingtheword 5 years ago

Ezekiel 14:13-14 13Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:

14Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.

Someones deeds can only help themselves. Someone must do there own works. God has a plan for those people that did not get the chance to receive the gospel. has not to do with us.


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

A great hub. Baptism for the dead is one of my favorite teachings in the Church. It fully answers the question is God just and merciful?

As for salvation by proxy, Isn't that a central teaching of Jesus Christ? The Lord died on the cross, taking upon Himself the sins of all mankind by Proxy!


technologyvault profile image

technologyvault 5 years ago from Utah Author

ruffridyer. That's a great explanation. Because we are not perfect, we have to rely upon someone else, Jesus Christ, to bear our sins. Baptism for the dead falls in the same category: We assist in the salvation of others by proxy.

Thanks for commenting!


passingtheword 5 years ago

technologyvault. did you read Ezekiel? no one can save another. also remember Lazarus and the rich man. the rich man wanted to go and help his brothers. those that did not have a chance to receive the true word of God will get a chance. read Revelation 17 to 20 the millennium "the Lords day." We should not put try and take the place of God. How do you know if that person accepted Christ, you don't. I can't believe that The LDS baptized for Hitler. it just saids something about the lds.


jloeding profile image

jloeding 5 years ago from Lafayette, LA

Thanks for all the comments. I have my answer. It is NOT by WORKS of righteousness which we have done, but according to HIS mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing on the Holy Ghost; Titus 3:5


technologyvault profile image

technologyvault 5 years ago from Utah Author

I appreciate all the comments. I have to reply to two of them:

passingtheword and jloeding: One of the major errors I see with contemporary Christianity is a tendency to grab one or two verses out of the Bible and use them out of context to attempt to prove a point. The practice of grabbing a scripture from Luke, Revelation, Titus or wherever else you want to find a not-so-relevant verse and then try to tangentially attempt to connect dots to create a case for an apostate doctrine simply bastardizes the holy scriptures. That's why there are thousands of different Christian churches that exist today, each with their own spin on how the Bible should be interpreted.

The teachings of the modern day Church of Jesus Christ on this matter come from a prophet, one who was given the same priesthood authority held by Peter in the Church of Jesus Christ in ancient times. We don't believe that the doctrine of baptism for the dead and other doctrines of the restored gospel come from a man's interpretation of the teachings of old prophets. Instead, they were revealed in this day and time, and they bless the lives of those of us who participate in the ordinances as well as the lives of those who are benefited by them on the other side. I invite you to study the doctrine and allow God to teach you about its truthfulness. Here are some references:

Doctrine and Covenants 128: http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/128?lang...

Doctrine and Covenants 138: http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/138?lang...

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