Chapter 6 -
Baptism for the dead is another
important ceremony carried out in Mormon temples in addition to the eternal
marriage. It is based on the Mormon view that repentance is still possible
after death but baptism is possible only in this lifetime and for this reason
substitution baptisms are needed and carried out by those people who are living
on Earth. This issue has been justified, for instance, by a couple of passages
from the first letter of Peter:
- (1 Peter 3:18-20) For Christ also
has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to
God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also
he went and preached to the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of
God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few,
that is, eight souls were saved by water.
- (1 Peter 4:6) For for this cause was the gospel preached also to
them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh,
but live according to God in the spirit.
It has also been claimed on
the basis of a short reference in the Letter to the Corinthians, in which Paul casually refers to this:
- (1 Cor 15:29) Else what shall they do which are baptized for the
dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
As comes to the
above-mentioned teaching, baptism for the dead, we can find clear faults,
however. Those are, for instance, the following:
- If baptism for the dead was
important as is thought, certainly the Bible would have spoken much about it
and urged to it (the same problem also goes to other teachings of the
Mormons). However, nothing like this can be found in the Bible. Instead,
there is only one reference in which Paul shortly mentions this issue. However,
Paul does not speak about “us”, in other words about himself and the
congregation, even though the whole chapter refers only to “us”. Instead, he
speaks about “them”, strangers who practiced it. The issue in question was,
therefore, certainly not a common practice of the congregation.
- When discussing the view of
the Mormons that repentance will still be possible after death, the common
teachings of the Bible states that a man has the possibility to be saved only
during this lifetime. After this, we will be judged and not offered a new
possibility to be saved. The view of the Mormons thus resembles the Catholic
doctrine of purgatory, in which people are still offered salvation after death
– something that is, however, not taught in the Bible:
- (Hebr 9:27) And as it is appointed
to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
- When the verses in the
first letter of Peter are used as justification for preaching to the dead, one
should note that these verses are in the past tense. They do not speak anything
about this being a continuous practice or about it concerning the dead of the
present times. Therefore, these verses are necessarily not connected with the
present time at all.
- Another view held by the
Mormon Church is that disciples, such as Peter, Paul, and others, preach the
Gospel in the spiritual world after their deaths.
appropriate question is: where can a teaching like this be found in the Bible?
Did not Paul, for example, say that he would go directly to God after his
death? He did not believe that he would be going to some temporary state or
start preaching again, but believed that he would go directly to God:
- (2 Cor 5:8) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be
absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
- (Phil 1:23) For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to
depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
- (2 Tim 4:5-8) But watch you in all
things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of
6 For I am now
ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought
a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8 From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me
only, but to all them also that love his appearing.