Baptism for the Dead - A Saving Ordinance
Mormon Temple Baptism Font
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.