Baptism For the Dead--Hallmark of Mormonism

“The Church must practice baptism for the dead.” - The foregoing is a fundamental identification mark of what Mormons call the church. Baptism for the dead, has become possibly the most important function of Mormonism. Their doctrine of baptism for the dead is found only in one of their own alleged inspired books, Doctrine and Covenants 124:28-36. The passage purports to be the Lord’s command to build a temple at Nauvoo, Illinois because there was not a “baptismal font ... upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead.”

The late Bruce McConkie, once one of the LDS apostles, explained the doctrine:

“Baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom (the Mormon concept of heaven, DRS) and except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit he cannot gain an inheritance in that heavenly world. (John 3:3-5). Obviously, during the frequent periods of apostate darkness when the gospel light does not shine, and also in those geographical areas where legal administrators are not found, hosts of people live and die without ever entering the gate of baptism so as to be on the path leading to eternal life. For them a just God has ordained baptism for the dead, a vicarious proxy labor. (D. & C. 124:28-36; 1 Cor. 15:29).“ (Mormon Doctrine, page 73).

Officially, the LDS Church makes no claim that any and all who died without baptism are to be candidates for proxy baptism. But, in actual practice, many Mormons have been baptized for a deceased loved one who specifically forbade the practice and requested that after death no one do such a thing. Latayne Colvett, a converted Mormon, says, “most of the deceased presidents of the United States, and other prominent persons of the past, including Catholic popes” have had this proxy rite performed in their name. (The Mormon Mirage, Zondervan, page 195). I have read Mormons who were baptized for Napoleon, Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.

The credibility of the entire Mormon claim rests on their understanding of baptism for the dead. If they have no basis for it in the New Testament, they will never confuse or convert those who believe the New Testament is a revelation from God. If it contradicts the Book of Mormon teaching it should convince any honest Mormon to abandon that religion as fraudulent. If it is clearly shown that the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:29 does not teach what Mormons practice, they cannot lay any claim to identity with the New Testament Church. If the church at Corinth was, in fact, not engaged in the practice of proxy baptism for those who were dead, then the argument for it has absolutely no basis in Scripture.

The passage reads, “Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead are not raised at all? why then are they baptized for the dead?” Before dealing with the passage it is important to notice how Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, understood the matter. Below, notice the passages, one from the New Testament, the other from Doctrine and Covenants 124.

Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead are not raised at all? why are they baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? (1 Cor. 15:29-30). But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.

But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.

(Doctrine & Covenants, 124:29,31,32)

The reader is urged to take a pencil and underline the pronouns Paul used. In the Corinthian letter, the contrast between the “they” of verse 29 and the “we” of verse 30 cannot be missed. Now do the same thing in the passage from Doctrine and Covenants. Smith started with “they” but instantly identified them as “my saints.” Then, he refers not to what “they” do in baptism, but “your baptisms” for “your dead.”

There are a number of alternate views on what 1 Corinthians 15:29 teaches, yet it is clear that Paul does not say that the practice engaged in by the saints at Corinth was proxy baptism for dead people. Even admitting that the passage could be understood as teaching that someone was being baptized for dead people, it cannot be shown that Paul said the brethren at Corinth were doing such or that Paul endorsed such a practice. To make this Bible verse fit Mormon doctrine, it would have to read as follows:

“Else, what shall we do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why then are we baptized for the dead?”

Nothing is more obvious than that Paul was not endorsing a practice of proxy baptism for dead people.

The doctrine of proxy baptism, not only is based on a perverted view of the New Testament, it contradicts the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Mormon presents are the teaching of two prophets called Alma and Amulek. This Amulek was a servant of God, according to the Book of Mormon who gave an inspiring and thrilling speech to the people of his day who had not obeyed the “gospel.” He warned them about delaying obedience and ended his words with this statement.

“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).

Notice the plain expression, “this is the final state of the wicked.” That was said of those who delay their “repentance even until death.” What happens to them then? The Mormon prophet(?) said they are sealed by Satan in the “final state of the wicked.” But the doctrine of proxy baptism denies that. It affirms this is not the final state of those who have delayed their obedience. All of that supposedly can be altered drastically by someone being baptized for one of those dead ones who has delayed repentance until death.

If Alma was a Mormon prophet, was he right? If he was right, then the alleged prophecy of Doctrine and Covenants 124 is false. One of the two alleged Mormon “Scriptures” is wrong. There is no possible harmony between the philosophy behind proxy baptism and the statement from Alma. If so, please ask some Mormon representative to give it.

Not only is the doctrine of proxy baptism contradictory to their own alleged “Scripture” it is also against the most basic thing Jesus ever taught, viz., personal accountability. Jesus taught salvation from sins is that for which every rational individual is accountable only to Him. He taught the judgment will be individual. Jesus said, (emphasis is added, DRS) “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10.39). Mormon doctrine has an alternate plan for losing and saving life in their strange view of proxy baptism.

Emphasize the individual nature of judgment in Paul’s statements. “Each one of us shall give an account of himself to the Lord” (Rom. 14:12) and “we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what we have done in this life” (2 Cor. 5:10). There is no possible way the Mormons can be right about proxy baptism.

How can a church be a true church, when, after establishing its own criteria for genuineness, cannot even measure up to it? The Latter Day Saints Church claims to be the one true church, and a basic identification mark is proxy baptism, which is contradicted by the Book of Mormon. Either the Book of Mormon is false, or the LDS claim is false -- and the truth is, that both are false.

We urge all LDS members to weigh these things carefully and come out of error before it is Nevermore too late and they are doomed to the fate of those who are in the “final state of the wicked.”

If you have a question or a comment on this article, click here to email us.


Back to STUDIES IN MORMONISM