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Baptism of the Dead vs. The Bible

Article Index
Baptism of the Dead vs. The Bible
Response to the Doctrine
Footnotes

L.D.S. Doctrine Of Baptism For The Dead.
Baptism Of The Dead Vs. The Bible

by William Woodson

The present article will summarise the L.D.S. doctrine of baptism for the dead (as set forth in a standard work by James E. Talmage) and reply to it from the standpoint of Bible teaching.

I. The Doctrine in Summary

This L.D.S. doctrine may best be understood in the context of their general view of baptism. According to Talmage, one who seeks membership in the Mormon church must be one who has “obtained and professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” and “sincerely repented of his sins.” One so situated is then to “give evidence of this spiritual sanctification by some outward ordinance,” ie., “baptism by water .” (P. 120, 2 Nephi 31:17) In Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 one reads those to be baptized must humble themselves, having “truly repented” of all their sins before being baptized. Baptism is regarded as essential to salvation (P 128) and those, as the Pharisees and Lawyers (Luke 7:30), who reject baptism are thereby “forfeiting their claim to salvation .” (P. 130)

In developing the doctrine of baptism for the dead, Talmage notes that not all have heard and obeyed the gospel. (P. 145) He asks what provision has been made for those who have died having neglected and/or never having heard the gospel? (P. 146) He then argues that though these negligent or untaught ones will be punished, they will be punished only long enough to bring about their needed reformation and satisfy God’s justice. (P. 147) Thus he teaches a second chance for those who die in rebellion against God. To support this he refers to I Peter 3:18- 20; 4:6 which he alleges teach the gospel is to be preached in the spirit world now by ministers of the gospel who have died. (pp. 149, 152)

But, since one in order to be saved must be baptized, this neglected “ordinance” can be received vicariously when children are baptized on earth for their fathers and ancestors who have died without being baptized. In this way the children, who receive this baptism for others, now dead, become “vicarious saviours” and have their faith strengthened by these good works. (pp. 151 -152) Thus the one baptized on earth is “acting as proxy for the dead.” (P. 153) Of course, he alleges, those in the spirit world may reject the blessings made available by proxy, but they are not compelled or hindered from the exercise of their free moral agency. (P. 153) All this is allegedly sustained by 1 Corinthians 15:29 (P 149), by visitation of an angel to Joseph Smith in 1823 and in 1836, (pp. 150 -151), and by the teaching of Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 128:18. (P. 151 ).