Guest Post by Melissa
To understand why Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) perform baptisms for the dead requires both an understanding of baptism and the Plan of Salvation. In general, baptism is an outward expression of an inner promise- to follow in the footsteps of Christ and strive to be like him. Many Christians believe that baptism is a requirement for the cleansing of sins and becoming a part of the body of Christ, to be accepted into His Church and into Heaven after we die. LDS members believe this and also believe that when we are baptised we are making a promise, or covenant with our Heavenly Father to do certain things, and in return he will bless us.
“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
This is a very important covenant that we believe to be a requirement for entry into the highest kingdom of heaven- what we call the Celestial Kingdom. This is where an understanding of the Plan of Salvation comes in. Latter-day Saints believe that our time here on earth is part of a detailed plan set forth by our Father and presented to us in Heaven before we even came here. We had the opportunity to accept or reject the plan, and those of us who accepted it are now living it. The plan was designed for our growth and progression, with the creation of an earth where we could go receive bodies and experience opposition – to be tried and tested, made stronger as we choose the right and repent of our wrong choices. We were given a Savior to redeem us of our sins, also conditional upon our acceptance of Him. Then, when we die, the work continues until the time of the final judgement, where we will be granted a place in heaven fit for ourselves.
We believe that heaven is divided into three kingdoms, and that the highest kingdom, the celestial kingdom, is the one that requires baptism (and other covenants) for entry. For everyone to have an equal opportunity and potential for reaching this highest glory, they need to have had an opportunity to make those covenants. God’s plan would not be fair if some were rejected just because they never had a chance to hear the message of Christ and be baptised by someone with Priesthood authority, and there are many, many people who have lived on the earth, and still live on the earth, who have never been baptised through no fault of their own. We believe that the spirits of those who have passed on continue to be taught the gospel and that many are ready and waiting for their baptismal work to be done, so that they will be able to enter the Celestial Kingdom come Judgement Day.
Performing baptism for the dead works the same way as a regular baptism, except that a living individual- a proxy- is standing in for the one being named. Once the baptism is performed, the individual waiting in the spirit world can choose to accept or reject the act, but if the baptism was never performed, no choice would be present at all. We perform baptisms for the dead in order to offer everyone the opportunity to choose exhaltation. We have been touched by the spirit of Elijiah, to search out the names of those waiting through geneaology work and to then complete their ordinances.
Malachi 4:6 “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Many members feel driven by a feeling of duty, as the promises we have made puts a level of responsibility on our shoulders. Because we have done our own ordinances, we are obligated to also do the ordinances of those who missed the opportunity to do it for themselves, and we believe that we cannot be saved without our dead. It is part of the four-fold mission of the church to “proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, care for the poor and needy, and redeem the dead“. Heaven would certainly not be heaven if we could not be joined by our friends and family, our ancestors and kindred dead.
Baptism for the dead is something very close to the hearts of many members, including myself. I remember meeting my great-grandmother on my mother’s side as a youth. She was 98 years old and suffering from Alzheimers. My mother would tell me stories about spending time with her growing up- that she was her favorite grandma, she taught her to cook, and how she would always be looking out her window to watch for the robins- a sign of the return of spring. When we visited her, my mother had brought her a small robin figure as a gift, but my great-grandmother did not even recognize my mother or understand why we were visiting her. I remember seeing my mother tearing up as we left.
A couple years after this visit my great-grandmother passed away and my mother went to her funeral. My great-grandmother had never joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and so had never been baptised through the Priesthood authority or completed any of her other ordinances. I was priviledged to take her name to the temple and perform her baptism, among other names, but I specifically remember feeling a sense of peace overcome me as hers was completed. I know that she is grateful and look forward to seeing her again in heaven, to really get to know her as my great-grandmother and a fellow daughter of God.Read More
Trinity is defined as follows:
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons (Greek: ὑποστάσεις): the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial (Greek: ὁμοούσιοι). Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being (Greek: οὐσία). The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith. According to this doctrine, there is only one God in three persons. Each person is God, whole and entire (wikipedia.org/Trinity).
n 325, the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and adopted the Nicene Creed, which described Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father”.
The Protestant reformation, although desiring to get back to biblical Christianity with the Bible as the central authority, mostly kept orthodoxy’s definition of the Trinity. Most Christians, in spite of biblical descriptions of prophets speaking with God face to face, have imagined God as a spirit and that spirit taking on a body (becoming “incarnate”) as Jesus Christ.
Mormons reject the trinity as being post-Biblical. Mormon beliefs accept all three beings as completely separate beings, but one in doctrine and purpose. They’re entirely unified in their work.
Trinitarians often use scriptures to back their belief, generally those in which Jesus says that He and the Father are one. Another popular scripture is found in John, chapter 14:
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? (John 14)
Those who pluck that scripture from the King James version often fail to notice that a little further down, Jesus demonstrates what this means.
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
This verse shows they aren’t the same person, because Jesus says plainly He is not speaking of Himself, nor is He the person doing the works. Later in the chapter we learn even more:
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
In this verse, Jesus Christ states He is in the Father, but He follows this up by saying ye (the apostles) are in Him. Clearly he wasn’t saying the apostles were also part of the Trinity. If the apostles were in Jesus in the same way Jesus was in the Father, then the verse means they are unified, not the same person. Because both phrases are in the same sentence, the meaning is very clear.
In the final verse of this chapter, Jesus Christ expresses His feelings for His Father:
31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.
It seems unlikely He would walk around telling how He wants the world to see how much He loves Himself. This chapter does an excellent job of demonstrating the individuality of the three parts of the Godhead, as the Mormons call God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
In John, chapter 8, we see further evidence of their individuality:
28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
In these verses, Jesus talks about God being the person who assigns Him His work. He does nothing Himself, but follows the teachings of His Father, and works to please Him.
A person who carefully reads the Bible will notice there are many verses which demonstrate that God and Jesus are a family, not a single being. The trinity is a concept that developed after the death of the Savior and the Apostles. Tertullian is credited with first using the term to describe God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, writing in the early third century, and it was another century later before the First Council of Nicea formally declared it to be doctrine, after a debate in which five people initially disagreed. Three were talked into changing their minds, and the remaining dissenters were ousted. The doctrine was not declared by a prophet, but chosen through debate.
Mormon beliefs teach that Jesus Christ is what the Bible says He is-the only begotten Son of God the Father. While He came to earth, God continued to watch over and care for the earth, hearing prayers-including those of Jesus Christ, who was not praying to Himself-and answering them. In perfect harmony, they work with the Holy Ghost to carry out the work of God.Read More