The Temple: Baptism For The Dead

At the end of 2008 I asked what Sunday topics you would like me to cover, and after an entire month of posts I still have only touched on one of them, the Temple Garment. I felt there were two very important things I needed to do first:

  1. The Plan of Salvation is one of the first things that persons interested in the Church are educated on. It explains where we come from, why we are here, and where we are going. Helping you understand this Plan will hopefully help you understand why the Temple is such an integral part of our belief system.
  2. Another point of great importance is authority. I believe in the Church because I prayed and worked to gain a testimony of Joseph Smith. I believe Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees at the beginning of the 19th century, and that after that point in time all of the necessary ordinances of the true Church of Jesus Christ were restored once again on the earth.

I have previously discussed LDS Temples and why we have them, and for the next few posts I am going to try to help you understand a little bit better what goes on inside of them.

I realized that for those unfamiliar with the Church, it might be best to explain the Temple by walking you through my own experiences. My first opportunity to enter the temple came when I was somewhere around 12 years old. Once a year, each year, all youth aged 12-18 carpooled with our youth leaders over to the Seattle temple, almost 3 hours away from my hometown.

Before going on this trip, I met with my bishop (congregation leader) and was interviewed for a recommend. These questions dealt with topics such as testimony, integrity, chastity, faithfulness in living various commandments, personal habits, and affiliations. If you are curious about what the interview is like, I urge you to read this talk by Elder L. Tom Perry, who describes his own experience meeting with his bishop to receive a temple recommend. All Church member are asked the same questions, and a recommend is only received after meeting with a Church leader. Recommends do expire after a certain amount of time, and so members must meet with their bishop on a regular basis to be able to attend the temple.

On the day of our annual temple trip, myself and around 40 youth in my ward piled into various minivans and settled in for the long trip (it always felt very long as a kid) over Snoqualmie pass. We all did it with a smile though because being in the temple is such a wonderful feeling. When we arrived we were usually fed donuts and juice as a pre-temple snack, and before we entered we made sure our cell phones were off before we entered because the temple is a very quiet and reverent place.

We visited the temple on these trips to do baptisms and confirmations by proxy, for those who have died without the opportunity to accept the Gospel. Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Because God is merciful, he has provided a way for all to have the opportunity to return to live with Him again, no matter what time or place they lived. The New Testament indicates that baptisms for the dead were done during the time of the Apostle Paul (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). This ordinance was restored with the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf.

The baptismal font in the Seattle temple looked very similar to this:

I waited quietly for my turn, reading the scriptures or writing in my journal while reflecting on how I felt. I loved the feeling of walking down into the pool of warm water, and looking out to see the “forever mirrors” on either side. By setting two mirrors across from each other, a reflection that seemed to go on forever was created, reminding me that the ordinances I was participating in on the behalf of the deceased individual would last eternally if the deceased individual I was being baptized for chose to accept it.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“What a marvelous thing that is that you, an ordinary boy or girl, can stand in the place of some great man or woman who at one time lived upon the earth but who is now powerless to move forward without the blessing that you can give to him or her. … There is no greater blessing that you can have than to stand as a proxy in a great service to those who have gone beyond. And it will be your privilege and your opportunity and your responsibility to live worthy to go to the temple of the Lord and there be baptized in behalf of someone else.”
—President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 4.

Some people have misunderstood what we are doing, and think that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose whether to accept the work performed for them. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church.

Many of you may only know of term baptizing for the dead through the news reports done concerning the objections by the Jewish community to this practice. I refer those who are interested in this topic to this article written by Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

I hope this post has helped you understand this practice a little better. It isn’t scary, or weird; it is very beautiful. Baptism by proxy, or baptisms for the dead, are done out of love. As members of the Church we yearn to provide all with the opportunity to experience the happiness we do. We sacrifice our time, energy, and worldly means to enter into God’s holy house and do these things for those who were not previously provided the chance to do so. My heart literally swells when I think of what a marvelous opportunity we are providing our ancestors. I do this because I believe it to be true, and I want all who have ever lived to have the opportunity

I’ve deeply resisted the temptation to paste this entire talk by Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve into this article. If you would like to better understand why we believe in the importance of ordinance work for the dead, please read this talk. Kaitlyn, Kristin, Paula, Kate, Julie, Bean, Skywalker, mhb, Mrs. S, Sophia, phruphru, Cecy, Kalen (that was a long list, thanks for being so supportive friends!) and others who comment frequently on Sunday posts, I cannot recommend this article enough. He uses many New and Old Testament references which I know many of you will find particularly helpful.

55 thoughts on “The Temple: Baptism For The Dead

  1. Hey Jenna I had a question that I’ve always wondered about- in theory I really love the idea of mercy and opportunity being extended to all, because of all the reasons you’ve stated before- people who have never heard of Christ, or were raised in such an anti-christian environment that had hardened their hearts to the point where they wouldn’t have been able to accept him even if they had, etc.

    But I’m just wondering about the logistics of it- what if you can’t find everyone’s name? Are there enough people to baptize all the people on earth that ever lived? What about people born way back, like Native peoples thousands and thousands of years ago?

    Thanks for the Sunday post!

    Katy Reply:

    I hope Jenna doesn’t mind me replying to you…most things I would definately leave for her to answer since she does such a great job of it and it is her blog!

    As for the logistics – basically we try our best. As you mentioned, there are thousands and millions of people that have lived that there are absolutely no records of – they just lived too long ago or existing records are gone/damaged.
    I know that God knows each and every soul that has come to this earth since the beginning of time – He will provide a way in His own time for those that we cannot locate. They will not be forgotten and in God’s own time and way (since He is fair, just, and merciful God) they can have the opportunity to accept the Gospel and any ordinances performed.

    So, we do the best research we can and do the most we can. With billions and billions of people that have been on the earth now and in the past, we are making just a relatively tiny dent, but we know God will appreciate our efforts and will judge us individually to know if we truly tried our best!

    Jenna Reply:

    Katy I think you did a great job (and can I say how much I appreciate someone stepping in and trying to help out?)

    I have been sitting in on the Gospel Principles classes (classes for new members or investigators of the church), and we just had the lesson on the millenium a few weeks ago.

    Without getting too deep into doctrine Sophia, we’ve been told that during this time period known as the Millennium (thousand year time period after the coming of Christ) the angels will help us finish the rest. We are to do as much as we can now, and after Christ comes all of it will be finished.

    It is important to note that all of the work for all people must not be done on the earth. God lives by the law of mercy, but also by the law of justice as well.

  2. It’s a fascinating custom, but I can’t say that it makes any sense to me that God would treat those who had been baptised by proxy differently to those who hadn’t, so it’s hard to see why you believe that this would make a difference to how things turn out.

    By the way, what do the cows symbolise? It looks like a beautiful room and I love the symbolism of the mirrors.

    Jenna Reply:

    Cate would you restate your question? TH and I spent a long time debating back and forth on it today, but we couldn’t come to a consensus on what you mean by this sentence “I can’t say that it makes any sense to me that God would treat those who had been baptised by proxy differently to those who hadn’t.” Would you mind restating it because I would like to answer it if I can (maybe it wasn’t a question, but I took it that way).

    The cows symbolize the tribes of Israel. It has to do with gathering all people together and uniting them under Christ.

    Cate Subrosa Reply:

    Of course. What I meant was this: The very fact that you go through this process implies that you think it will somehow affect where these people will end up in the afterlife, whether or not they will be “saved.” So when God decides who goes where/ who is saved, do you believe he is going to decide based on which people you guys got around to baptising by proxy? To me, that makes no sense. Why would God save those people you got around to baptising by proxy and not those you didn’t? Surely he would have a more considered way of making that decision? And if so, doesn’t that render the whole thing pointless?

    Hope I made sense this time, it’s difficult to explain!

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m so glad I had you clarify because otherwise I would have written you a long drawn out response that didn’t answer your question at all.
    The simple answer is, that all people will be baptized. It sounds impossible, and I’m going to give you the annoying religious response of “we don’t understand how but with God all things are possible”, but God won’t have to pick and choose between anyone because all will be given the exact same chance.

    As far as how it will work, what we do now is that from now until the millennium we are told to do as much as we possibly can. Then during the thousand year period after Christ comes the rest of the work will be finished. I personally believe that it will be done with the assistance of angels working with mortals, but there aren’t a whole lot of official statements on the “hows” of the matter.

    I like that it is all so fair. :)

  3. There are many aspects of the LDS faith that I find wonderful. I also find it incredible that you share your faith so openly with us. I look forward to these posts each Sunday.

    While baptism is important, I do not believe it is essential to eternal life. Acceptance of the gift God gave us in Jesus Christ comes from our hearts, and I feel baptism is simply an outward expression of that.

    Luke 23:
    39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
    40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
    41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
    42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
    43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    When Jesus was crucified there were criminals next to him, and one believed. He was never baptized, however, Jesus told him he would be in paradise with HIm.

    The temples are such beautiful places, and I find your faith to have such lovely aspects. I appreciate the reverence, the devotion, the commitment the LDS faith contains. Though I do not personally believe in it, I truly admire your convictions and your dedication!

    I give you one last verse, and a link:
    Ephesians 2:
    *8″For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”

    Baptisim is a work, and it is only by the grace of the Cross that I feel we are saved.

    I encourage you to read this and see what you think:

    http://www.allaboutgod.com/do-i-have-to-be-baptized-to-go-to-heaven.htm

    As always, a wonderful post Jenna!

    Sophia Reply:

    I was taught the same principles as Kaitlyn- that baptism is symbolic of one’s conversion to Christ, that you died to yourself and are born again through him. The baptism itself did not save you, but rather was symbolic of Christ’s saving power, and was an outside sign of your dedication to Him. From a Quaker perspective, one is “baptized” in the Holy Ghost when their hearts are converted to Christ, and no literal baptism is necessary. That being said baptism is an incredibly moving and beautiful ritual, and the feelings and emotions associated with it are powerful.

  4. I really liked, in the article by Elder L. Tom Perry, that he mentioned having “wholesome bodies.” What good motivation to stay healthy and to treat our bodies well!

    In the “Why We Build Temples” article by Elder Mark E Peterson, he mentions that “others were so sacred that the Lord required that they be performed in a specially built edifice.” This got me thinking. I have seen pictures of Temples online, and they look like beautiful, sacred places, and I know how much fulfillment you get from them, but I guess I have a little bit of hippie in me….because a field and a blue sky are so sacred to me. Do you find spiritual inspiration in nature?

    Shaylene (That Wife's sister) Reply:

    I know that I find spiritual inspiration in nature. The Lord created nature and all of its beauty. I love to be out in the middle of nowhere with no ‘civilization’ in sight, that is one of the places that I feel so much peace and love from my Heavenly Father.

    Jenna Reply:

    My sister did a great job. I think you really have 2 questions, the first being personal (what does nature mean to me?) and two, why do we do the things we do tucked away in buildings instead of out in nature with God?

    1. I don’t think I realized the value of nature, of being surrounded by the beautiful creations of God until I moved to Dallas. I don’t think it is very pretty here, and I miss my family farm. I used to ride my bike up the road (gravel road of course) and sit under the neighbors big tree next to this nasty old pond and read a book. I used to run and exercise in the middle of the corn and the bean fields. I had a pumpkin patch in front of my house. I raised pigs for 6 years and snuggled with them in their pens when I took them to the fair. I went to college in Utah where the campus is surrounded by mountains. I went hiking and once even went and explored a cave. I just can’t find stuff like that here in Dallas. So yes, I miss nature, and I miss the wonderful feelings of awe and peace I used to experience when I was surrounded by such an abundance of it.

    2. We do the work we do in temples because it is important for us to keep those sacred things special. I hope you won’t be offended by the “don’t cast your pearls before swine” analogy used by Jesus Christ, but we believe there is something very beautiful in proving your love and devotion to the Lord and then being permitted to partake of those experiences.

    I guess the short answer (which is probably what you wanted) is yes, I do find spiritual inspiration in nature. I sound a little bit cheesy when I type it, but I believe we can find it in all good things.

    Stacy Reply:

    I found a really cool sermon called “Wonderstruck: The Science and Experience of Wonder.” You can find it at http://www.christ-community.net/sermons/sermon02_01_09.htm. The sermon is from a progressive Christian church, and it talks about maintaing a sense of awe and wonder in your life. I’m with you–I think we can find good in everything, even if you have to look hard.

    I’m not at all offended by you reference to the pearls before swine, but I do feel differently. I don’t think that there is any greater expression of God’s glory than the beautiful world he has entrusted to us, but I see where you are coming from and totally respect that. Thanks for your response Jenna and Shay!

  5. I have read your Sunday notes for some time, but this one has me seeing red…because Jesus has already shed His blood for me and no matter what the LDS do now or ever, through your baptisms by proxy, will change that gift that He gave us.

    I have read the articles you referenced, and question nothing that comes directly from the Bible. But, when Paul talks about baptizing the dead, he’s not talking about CHANGING THEIR FAITH – they’re all Christians and they are baptizing them not as LDS or even Lutheran. He speaks of baptizing them into Chrisianity. Do I believe the LDS are Christian? No, I don’t. But, is it my place to judge you for your beliefs? Again, no, it is not. I judge no one, but I do question and pray for a host of people and faiths, so that they may see the one true God. Not “your” God or “my” God — but, the ONE TRUE GOD.

    After living in Utah for 7 years for my husband’s job, the realization, educaton and understanding of the LDS baptism by proxy really upset me – and does to this day. I moved to Utah a Lutheran and I moved away a stronger (in faith) Lutheran. I *chose* in life to be a Lutheran. I wasn’t born into it, as my family was Pentecostal and Catholic…but, I CHOSE to be a Lutheran. And it’s a denomination that is the heart and soul of my spiritual journey. As I am sure you believe your LDS faith to be to you.

    Now, I totally understand why LDS perform their proxy baptisms – I get it, from the inside-out (I had a wonderful LDS lady who cleaned my house who answered my endless supply of questions about your faith and practices).

    I also know that I need to do NOTHING to go to heaven, because I was saved by GRACE and grace alone. Jesus died so I could live eternally. I was baptized, by choice, to be granted this eternal life. End of story…..to me. But, obviously not to the LDS. Because my life choices would and could be totally ignored if someone in your faith wanted to re-baptize me after I’m dead.

    The cruxt of this is that my testimony as a child of God is my life’s choice. It’s NOT anyone else’s choice after I am dead.

    When we moved away from Utah, the one question that I asked my cleaning lady (that she couldn’t answer) was … is there a way or a list to be put on, so that my memory, my honor and my very rich faith in life weren’t so totally ignored, in my death, to have someone who didn’t even know me (i.e someone doing geneology research) baptize me in your faith by proxy?

    You say that one’s soul can choose to accept the baptism while dead. Crazy notion to me, based on my faith and based on the Bible. But, what about their living relatives who did not choose for their kin to be baptized by proxy? Do they get to choose, as well?

    I have it in my Last Will and Testament that I not ever be baptized by proxy by the LDS. I want my relations to bring legal action against the LDS church practices, if my name should ever come through your temple doors. I feel so strongly about this that I will leave funds, in trust, to make sure that whomever follows me in life, make sure they have the means to uphold my CHOSEN FAITH after my death. I do believe it’s something my children (and hopefully grandchildren) will honor. But, I want more – because again, that’s MY choice and the LDS don’t ASK the families who are living if they want your baptisms performed on them. So, I ask you — is there a way to PREVENT, for now and forever, my baptism by proxy by the LDS after I am in heaven?

    Thank you, Tammom

    Jenna Reply:

    We are Christian

    See numbers 1-7. I believe all of those things apply to the things I have been taught about the LDS faith.

    Chris?tian
    ? ?/?kr?st??n/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kris-chuhn]
    –adjective
    1. of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
    2. of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.
    3. of or pertaining to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.
    4. exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity.
    5. decent; respectable: They gave him a good Christian burial.
    6. human; not brutal; humane: Such behavior isn’t Christian.
    –noun
    7. a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.
    8. a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ: He died like a true Christian.
    9. a member of any of certain Protestant churches, as the Disciples of Christ and the Plymouth Brethren.
    10. the hero of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
    11. a male given name.

    And no, there is no such list.

    Sophia Reply:

    Hey Tammom-
    Recently there has been a change in which if you are going to baptize anyone born within the last 95 years I think you have to ask their relatives if you can.

    Further, the LDS baptizing you by proxy does not automatically change your faith. You can choose to accept or reject the baptism. Lastly, and I don’t mean to come off as pointed her but- if you don’t believe the LDS church is true, then the baptism by proxy has no power. Zero. If you don’t think they have authority, it would be no different than if I went in my bathtub and baptized myself in your name, you know?

    Please don’t think I’m trying to diminish your feelings, but may I tell you how I look at it? I’m not LDS and I don’t believe in the baptism by proxy. Therefore, it doesn’t affect me. Furthermore, even if it’s true, I still have a choice. And lastly, I have an incredible amount of respect that because LDS believe that these baptisms must be done, they spend an incredible amount of their time and effort in doing them- one temple session is, I think, 3 hours. Basically it’s like “wow, you guys think this has to be done, and you love and care enough about these people (who, I have to say, are usually your own relatives, it’s the rare lucky person who knows for sure all of their ancestors have had their work done) to spend so much time doing it.

    Just my two cents :)

    Kristin Reply:

    Tammom,
    I have to agree with Sophia. I also believe that to be saved we simply need to believe in our hearts and speak with our mouths that Christ is Lord. We are saved through grace by faith; not by works. That being said, if someday hundreds of years from now, someone is baptized in my stead, it shouldn’t matter. I know I’ll already by living with my Savior and God in heaven. I think to leave specific instructions in your will and funds to prosecute the church is a bit extreme and only creates more animosity and hatred.

    The Christian church is so fragmented because of petty arguments over head coverings and the method of worship and baptism (at birth, by choice when older, by proxy, etc). No wonder our nation is in the middle of a moral crisis. The church is so busy arguing amongst itself that we are missing out on the true message of Jesus. Love the poor, the orphan, the widow. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick. Preach the good news to all the nations. Love our neighbors as ourselves.

    It’s God’s plan that we all be saved. The sad thing is that this will not happen. Many will be separated from him forever. I just think that the way to show the light of Christ is by loving one another.

    Liesl Reply:

    Sorry, you probably got a lot of defensive answers already, but I just can’t resist sharing a scripture from the Book of Mormon:

    2 Nephi 25:26
    And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

  6. Jenna-

    I’m de-lurking here ;) I found you through weddingbee. While I disagree with some of your views on life I love your writing style. Your blog is a good read :)

    I was raised non denominational and was taught religion is a personal choice. There are many fascinating religions that are practiced all over the world. I’m accepting of peoples beliefs and think it’s great for people to be passionate about what they believe it. I will say though reading your latest Sunday post made me prickle a bit. My first thought was how offensive to be baptized by proxy after death. Like you, I believe strongly in my religion and wouldn’t want ANYONE to second guess my choice after I’ve passed on.

    How often do you run into people who feel the same way and how do you respond?

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks for the compliments Tanne! You asked your question in such a positive, non-confrontational way. I really needed that today.

    The best thing I think I have heard so far came from a non-member who commented on a previous post. She said something like “If a Catholic went to church and lit a candle and prayed for you, would you be offended if you weren’t Christian?”

    Likely no, you would appreciate the person for caring about you. (The analogy is especially helpful if you imagine the Catholic in question is a tiny little Polish woman :) )

    I hope that people can come to see that it is much the same way for us. We do this out of love. We do it because we believe it is true. If you don’t believe it is true, it doesn’t change anything about who you are because it doesn’t matter, right? If my religion isn’t true, then the work I am doing for the dead doesn’t mean anything, and I am just wasting several hours of my time every week doing it.

    I knew this point would generate some (though I did not realize how much) controversy. It’s a difficult thing for many people to understand, because it looks like we are saying “We baptize you into the Church and then you HAVE to be a Mormon and you have no other choice.”

    Actually, it’s just the opposite of taking away your choices. Rather, we are providing you with one more you didn’t have. You can choose to accept, or you can choose to deny, it’s all up to you.

    Sophia Reply:

    Whoops, sorry Jenna, I replied to Tammom before I scrolled down and saw you wrote the exact same thing :)

  7. This is an interesting post that helps shed some light for me into why the LDS church is so invested in geneaology research.

    Clearly, from some of the comments above, you have readers who have strong feelings about baptism in general and baptism by proxy specifically. Since I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this, I just have some fairly bare-bones questions about your post:

    1) you said the temple recommends expire. How long do they usually last? Are they different for youth and adults? Heck, a whole post on the recommend might be interesting.

    2) I have my own beliefs about baptism that seem to differ from those of some of the readers, but also perhaps from yours. (I agree with you, though, that baptism is an actual sacrament, and is not merely an occasion for “good feelings”). Since you say the baptism-by-proxy is giving a chance for the dead to accept the Gospel, I wonder if that means just the Gospel, or all the scriptures of the LDS faith (including the book of Mormon)? Is there any chance for redundancy – if, say, someone had already accepted the Gospel but get baptized by proxy, that can’t hurt anything, right?

    3) My understanding of baptism is linked with a belief in original sin. What is the LDS stance on original sin?

    4) This is only partly about this post, but if you could map out the organization of the church that would be interesting… and helpful. I know there are wards and stakes… does a temple head each stake? Is there something like the Catholic concept of a diocese?

    I’m not sure if it’s because your blog is getting more popular, but I’m a little surprised by the tone of a couple of comments on this and your other LDS post this weekend. I hope these don’t discourage you from posting about your faith. You’ve already dispelled some rumors I had been told growing up, and I find myself looking forward to your Sunday posts each week. I don’t agree with you on everything, but I appreciate how you invite open, civil discussion and I hope that can continue. Your Sunday posts help me understand a major religion better, and they give me pause to reflect on my own faith journey. So, thanks.

    kaitlyn Reply:

    I second the idea for a post on #1 and #2. I also second the hope that impassioned responses don’t leave you reluctant to post (I’ve left one or two myself, I know! :) ).

    John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

    kaitlyn Reply:

    Oops.. #1 and #4 (not so much #2). Sorry, typo.

    Jenna Reply:

    I will answer your questions tomorrow, but for tonight I will say “Thank You”. I had a rough day with this one. I usually get excited about Sunday post, and the responses and the discussion it incites helps me feel inspired and excited. I had a harder time today, and you and Kaitlyn speaking up to let me know you care means a lot.

    Jenna Reply:

    1-Great idea for a post! Short answer is 2 years for “full” recommends (I have a full recommend now that I am endowed). Recommends that are only for baptisms (the kind I had when I was 12) expire after 1 year.

    2-I guess the short answer to your question is that the Gospel is all inclusive. You have to believe all of it to believe in any of it. That does not mean you have to understand all of the tenets, but you cannot pick and choose what you are going to believe/live. As for your question about redundancy, there are many many examples of people having their ordinances done several times. My own great-grandparents had their work done in the temple at least twice, my grandma did it for the, and then she learned several years later than another distant relative had done it as well. My attitude about this situation is “At least it got done Grandma!”

    3-Definitely, definitely something that should be covered in another post. I know I say this a lot, but I’m REALLY going to write a post on this very soon.

    4-Another great idea for a post and way too complicated for this reply I think. :)

    Thanks for giving me some future material.

  8. I apologize if I came off ugly – that was never my intention and I don’t want to stop you (not that I could) from continuing with your teachings – as, I’ve found them to be just as I learned about when we the LDS religion while living in Utah. I’m sure you feel it a calling, and I don’t want to discourage you from doing what you feel compelled to do. I also continue to have friends who are LDS, and we have no trouble getting along, even though they know they cannot convert me {grin}.

    But, please understand, we are Texans — and if you have met any “true Texicans” while living in this fine state, you will know that the Alamo is just one well-known example of what “passion for freedom” means to us. Passion. Freedom. Never underestimate that passion when dealing with Texans.

    There is no flaming, no ill-will, no meanness implied or intended in my response to your post. I asked an honest question that I feel very passionate about.

    Thanks for your understanding, and I apologize if I offended you or your readers.

    Tammom

  9. It’s always been interesting to me that those who so vehemently oppose baptisms done by proxy for the dead don’t realize that by opposing it so vehemently, they are actually granting it some credibility in their minds. If some religion or tribe somewhere on Earth wanted to perform a ritual in my name because they felt it would save me – go for it!! If I don’t really believe in it, will it really make a difference in the end? If I think the ritual has no credibility, they can do whatever they want in my memory-it won’t change anything and getting all upset only shows that I think the ritual DOES have some truthfulness and effect.

    That’s the important thing for non-LDS people to remember – - doing these baptisms doesn’t FORCE those who have passed on to accept Christ or follow the path of ordinances that we LDS believe we all need to return fully to our Heavenly Father. In the after-life/spirit world, each and every soul will have a CHOICE to accept it. If in the spirit world someone still thinks this is all crazy and wants to continue to believe how they felt on earth, they can choose to reject the baptism. (my great-grandmother was never a big fan of the church, and though my grandmother did perform the baptism for her after she and my great-grandfather passed, I’d almost guess that she is still a pretty stubborn person up there and it wouldn’t surprise me that maybe she even rejected it! Who knows right now, but hey, that’s her choice)

    But since our Heavenly Father is the perfect mixture of mercy and justice, he does require that all recieve this ordinance to attain the highest degree of heaven, so we do our part to help those that didn’t have the chance in their life and give them that choice. Will we get everyone – probably not, but God also knows every soul that has come to earth and will provide a way (in His own time and means) for those that we have absolutely no records or information on. We do what we can and God will take care of the rest.

    tammom Reply:

    Thank you Katy, but your belief of heaven doesn’t even have bearing in the Bible. I am saved. I will go to heaven. It’s your D&C references that speak of these “levels of heaven” — not the Bible. So, to a non-LDS person, though I understand and have knowledge of your levels of heaven, I don’t believe in them because they do not come from the Bible. Therefore, why should I not be passionate about something that is against everything the Bible teaches?

    Heaven is not a whirlwind of “placements” as to whether you gave enough service to others on earth…your opportunity to sit with God is not governed by how much you tithe…your *trip* to heaven is a gift of God’s grace. Why should we NOT have a choice in this matter, while we are living? Why do you have to wait until we are dead – and someone takes that freedom of choice away? Yes, I understand that you believe we will have a choice once we’re dead and become a “spirit” — but, I don’t agree with that belief. So, again, I ask why I cannot have a choice now, while I am living and full of life and faith and filled with the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, to choose not to be baptized by proxy?

    Frankly, Joseph Smith and subsequently Brigham Young were forced to leave many places in the east, because their CHOICES for FREEDOM to practice their religion were taken away from them by others. Is my request any different?

    Tammom

    Jenna Reply:

    I just have to reiterate what Katy said. If you don’t believe it is true, why does it bother you? I have a difficult time comprehending why people get so angry about what we are doing. You have said that you don’t believe we are Christian. You have said that you don’t believe it is true. If it’s not true, then why does it mean anything to you? If it isn’t true, it doesn’t change ANYTHING about who you are.

    I will only say this one more time. We believe every person has the choice to choose for themselves. When the baptism is done for a deceased person, we believe they have already made the decision not to accept it or not. So if they didn’t accept it, it doesn’t mean anything. But you don’t even believe we have any authority at all, you saw we aren’t Christian, so in your view, these baptisms are simply pagan rituals with absolutely no meaning. Why do you let them bother you so?

    Tammon, at this point I have to say, that I’m not sure what you are fighting for. I’m 23 years old. I haven’t even graduated from college. Most of the things I believe are supported by a book you don’t believe in. I’m obviously not changing my belief system anytime soon. What are you trying to prove by fighting this battle? If you are unhappy with the way 12 million church members around the world are doing things, complaining on a blog read by 400 people daily isn’t going to have a huge effect on things.

    My advice to you, is to let it go. Hold fast to your own belief system, find joy in your life, and pay no mind to people like myself who are trying to do the same.

    kaitlyn Reply:

    Extraordinarily well-said Jenna.

    Anna Reply:

    I think her concern is on a legal level. I am a very private person. I’m not offended religiously, I’m offended that someone I don’t know is performing a ritual using my name.

    Anna Reply:

    I was running errands, and was compelled to clarify my small comment.

    That Mormons are compelled to do this ritual of baptizing the dead does not spiritually concern me because I know that my salvation is secure regardless of what they believe or do. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any other powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 So in my personal view, it is a practice in futility.

    However, legally it concerns me, and I wonder if there isn’t more information used to baptize the dead than their names. “Yes…I googled” (name that movie!) myself and there are MANY Anna Horvaths and Anna Carters. How are these spirits/persons distinguished? And if only names are used, why not just baptize nameless spirits? I believe God is capable of sorting out the details without our assistance :)

    It strikes me that this may have been the concerns of the Jewish community, that there was much more personal information being used in these rituals than just a name.

  10. Yikes. This was a rough crowd. There were some commentators who really stood up for you. And that is true friendship.

    Don’t sweat it Jenna. You worked through it like a pro.

    And it’s true. If you don’t believe in Baptisms for the Dead, then you believe that it has no effect on you. So it really shouldn’t matter. I really like the idea to compare it to some pagan ritual on the other side of the world that someone is doing for you. Now that I think of it…I would feel pretty darn special if some random community in India decided I was important enough to perform some ritual for me when I died. I mean, talking about having a legacy. I would be so important that not only my family would remember my name, but this community.

    Cool.

    Sorry, that was a tangent. I’ll stop daydreaming about becoming famous after I die. But, still…

  11. Sorry, TW

    Maybe you hit this already…have you already been baptized and you’re rebaptizing yourself for others (hence the by proxy?).

    Interesting. Why would the dead need baptizing if they haven’t accepted the Gospels – wouldn’t the resurrection of the body cover this?

    I’m asking from a former Baptist-now Catholic standpoint. As a Baptist, you’re baptized for the forgiveness of sins and rebirth into the body of Christ, if at any time you want to be re-baptized and thereby reborn, you can. As a Catholic you get a baptism once.

    Skywalker Reply:

    Okay. So I reread this and you did cover the first part but another question – do you do this practice for non-Christians or non LDS? Again Protestant v. Catholic – Catholics believe we’re all Christians whereas Ps (read Baptists) don’t extend that kindness.

    So maybe I am asking a question for a future post. The view that LDS Church holds of other Christians and denominations.

    mhb Reply:

    That’s a good distinction, Skywalker, and a good question. I think you just pinpointed for me the thing that stung the most about one of those comments above: as a Catholic, I’ve been told many times by some Protestants that I’m “not Christian,” and I know well that it’s both painful to hear and extremely frustrating to explain to someone who simply won’t listen… especially if that someone’s authority on the matter is not what they’ve read or studied about my church, but what they’ve been told by the leaders (or random laypeople) in their own church.

    Katy Reply:

    It’s funny that you should write this because recently I have had some very good Catholic friends and they have expressed a ‘judgement’ they felt by the Protestant Christian friends – calling them ‘not-Christian’ and such. I thought only LDS people got that treatment! She said she always felt so judged and condemed by certain Prot. Christian friends and how so many misunderstand her beliefs that I feel a kinship to the Catholic faith now. It’s sad that ALL of us fellow Christians can’t realize that we are all on the same side of the line – we are all brothers and sisters in our faith in Jesus Christ and in doing our best to follow Him.

    Skywalker Reply:

    I didn’t know other Protestant denominations dislike the Catholics. Wow! I have had judgements on me as a converting Catholic and the only person willing to listen and have some empathy was LDS.

    Sophia Reply:

    Ughh, growing up in my small town all the Baptist churches preached that Catholics would burn in hell for “Mary worship” and idolatry. Seeing as how many members of my family are Catholic it was so frustrating to hear them say they weren’t Christian.

    Mrs. S Reply:

    I was raised Baptist and my husband is a Baptist minister and I have never been in a church that said Catholics were going to “burn in hell” or that they aren’t Christians.

    I am so sorry that you all have had these experiences. I think it is important to remember that not just because a few Baptist (or any other Protestant faith for that matter) people have said these things to you, it does not mean that the faith as a whole feels that way. As frustrating as it is to those of you who have been told that, it is really frustrating to hear that my faith is intolerant and hateful based on the actions of some, not all. Please also remember that there are different types of Baptists (Southern Baptists, etc) and that may be part of the problem.

    Sophia Reply:

    I’m sorry, I hope you didn’t take my statement to imply all Baptists- I really do think it was largely a result of how small my town was, and as you said, there are different “flavors” of Baptist ; )

    I will say, however, that the idea that Catholics are not Christian isn’t a small thing. It’s a very prevalent accusation that all of my Catholic friends and family have had to deal with on more than one occasion. Many, many Anti-mormon websites are also anti-catholic. That’s why I felt so badly for my LDS friends I made in college- I could sympathize with one Christian religion calling another Christian religion “not Christian”.

    I would second the other sentiments expressed- it’s just incredibly sad when people are all followers of Christ, and instead of rejoicing in the fellowship of believers we point fingers and try to stereotype one another.

    Anna Reply:

    Seems to me that LDS reiterate over and over that THEY are the one true following of Christ. I don’t think the judgement of other religions is exclusive to Protestants… LOL. See Jenna’s comment below.

    Anna Reply:

    In support of my comment above, see this link for how Mormon prophets, teachers, and BOM categorize religions outside of Mormonism.

    http://www.carm.org/religious-movements/mormonism/does-mormonism-attack-other-religions

    Jenna Reply:

    Baptism happens for all people, no matter of what faith, but once you are baptized into the Church you cannot be baptized again and have it “mean” something. As most other faiths believe, baptism is a symbolic act that shows acceptance of the Gospel as well as a forgiveness of ones sins.

    The LDS Church believes that this Gospel is the Gospel originally established on the earth by Jesus Christ, and that we are the only Church that holds the true authority of Christ, thus it is necessary to be baptized again if you were already baptized by someone else.

    The resurrection is not the same as baptism. Baptism is how a person becomes washed of their sins and a part of Christ’s church, resurrection is the joining together of the body and the spirit, the mortal and the immortal.

  12. Hi, Jenna –

    While I read your Sunday posts each week, I haven’t commented until today. Let’s just say that I needed it all to “simmer” before I could put together a coherent comment.

    I have a question on another post, but today, I just want to tell you that your willingness not only to share but also to answer and explain are incredibly refreshing, and I much appreciate that about you. Thanks.

    Marisa

  13. Oh my.

    I just wanted to give you a big virtual hug today Jenna. I am always so inspired by the respectful and interesting discussions your Sunday posts bring, and this one just hurt my heart. I am not LDS, as a matter of fact, I am the wife of a minister for a Protestant church and I would never attack you like that because I am often attacked that way myself. Please don’t be discouraged.

    Job 16:5
    “But my mouth would encourage you;
    comfort from my lips would bring you relief.”

    Also, that is not a Texas thing. Tammom said Texans are passionate and that is how she defended being so ugly to you. I have lived in Texas my entire life, and I wouldn’t want you to think that is a state wide attitude.

  14. Jenna, as always, thank you for sharing a very insightful post. It’s really a shame that people feel the need to be so hateful toward people of different faiths. I’m very sorry you and other LDS readers had to endure these hurtful comments.

  15. Jenna,

    Just wanted to drop a quick line to say thank you for being so open and willing to answer questions. You do such a great job, and as you are the only LDS member that I have ever communicated with like this, I really appreciate it. So thank you!

  16. Hi Jenna,
    It’s not Monday and I’m hoping that today is better than yesterday was. While I had heard of the LDS practice of baptism by proxy, I didn’t realize it was such a “controversial” topic.

    I thank you for your blog. I thank you for getting up each morning and making the conscious effort to post again. Reading your post from Friday was a great encouragement to me today!! And I can only hope that I can return the favor with a these words from James 1:2-4…

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

    Happy Monday!! :-D

  17. I know I am repeating others here, but I had only heard of the LDS practice of baptism of the dead in the context of the controversy surrounding it, particularly from people who have had family members die in the Holocaust. I am glad to hear that if you don’t believe in it, you are not baptized.

    No harm, no foul.

    I am not going to lie: I think it’s weird to baptize the dead. But hey, it’s also weird that Catholics (like myself) believe that the wafer and the wine the priest holds up at mass every Sunday is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

    To each his own.

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