February 16th, 2012
01:36 PM ET

Explainer: How and why do Mormons baptize the dead?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The recent disclosure that Mormons baptized the dead parents of Jewish Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal by proxy has sparked outrage in the Jewish world. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has apologized for the baptism, which it says resulted from the actions of a church member acting in violation of church policy. The LDS church vowed to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims in 1995.

But proxy baptism for the dead is a proud Mormon tradition. Here are the basics about how it works and why Mormons do it.

Why do Mormons practice proxy baptism for the dead?

For Mormons, baptizing the dead solves a big theological problem: How do billions of people who never had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ – including those who lived before Jesus walked the earth – receive salvation? By baptizing the dead, a practice known as posthumous proxy baptism, Mormons believe they are giving every person who ever lived the chance at everlasting life. That includes Muslims, Hindus, atheists, pagans, whoever.

“Mormons believe that there is a place the dead go where they are in ‘spirit prison’ and where they have the chance to accept the Christian baptism,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. “But it’s a duty to actually perform Christian ordinance of baptism, so Mormons seek out every last person who ever lived and baptize them.”

Many Mormons are proud of the fact that they attempt to make their faith universal through baptizing the dead. “Historically, Christians have been exclusive,” says Terryl Givens, an expert on Mormonism at the University of Richmond. “Catholics have taught that only Catholics are saved, and evangelicals say only if you confess according to their tradition. Mormons say, ‘No, salvation is open to all people.’”

“In that sense Mormonism is the most nonexclusive religion in the Christian world,” Givens says.

So are all those who are baptized after death considered Mormon?

No. Mormons believe that baptism provides the deceased with the opportunity to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but not the obligation. They don't know if the dead actually accept Jesus. “This is about putting names on the guest list,” says Givens. “They might not go the party, but they are given the chance.’

How does the church decide who is baptized?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its members to baptize the dead in their families going back at least four generations.

The church also has teams at headquarters in Salt Lake City and that travel around the world to identify as many people as possible to baptize, whether or not they’re in the lineage of present-day Mormons. “The church is constantly going through parish records, wills, deeds and every other genealogical source so they can extract names and put these people through the temple process,” says Bushman.

The LDS says it does not know how many deceased have been baptized. Experts say the number is in the millions.

There is no way for a person to prevent himself or herself from being baptized by the LDS church after death.

After Jews complained about baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims, saying such baptisms deny the Jewish identity of those who died because of their faith, the LDS church worked with Jewish groups to stop the practice. But the system of preventing the baptism of Holocaust victims, initiated in 1995, has not been foolproof, as was shown this week with the disclosure about Wiesenthal’s parents.

What are Mormon baptism ceremonies like?

Baptisms for the dead happen inside Mormon temples. Members of the LDS church volunteer to undergo full immersion baptism while the names of the dead are read. An LDS member might participate in 10 or so posthumous proxy baptisms at a time. Young Mormons especially are encouraged to participate, as a way to participate in temple life.

How old is the practice of baptizing the dead?

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, introduced baptism for the dead in the 1840s. Mormons cite Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as precedent to the practice. “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead not rise at all?” reads Corinthians 15:29. “Why are they then baptized for the dead?”

For Mormons, baptizing the dead is not seen as a new Mormon tradition but as a practice that ancient Christians practiced and that the LDS Church has reintroduced.

What other questions do you have about the practice? Let us know in the comments below.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • Mormonism

soundoff (2,301 Responses)
  1. The Central Scrutinizer


    You are making me crack up over here. Thanks for the chuckles. It is good to know I can go to a web site and learn the truth about God's plan. Question, why doesn't God just tell me/us about his plan? He needs your web site? Does that really make sense to you?

    February 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • bc hughes

      Why hasn't God told you? Seriously, have you ever ASKED God to tell you? James 1:5-6

      February 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      If a deity does exist it had nothing to do with the bible.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      I was thinking, we could find a Muslim priest and convert Romney's dead father to Islam, so that he had a chance to accept Allah.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      *****Joseph Smith = L Ron Hubbard****

      February 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Joe

      If you search, you will find. God isn't going to drag you up the sacred mountain. You have to climb yourself. That's one thing that life is about.
      t is sad that one persons actions could cause so much trouble. The way the computer programs are set up he could not have done what he did without knowing it was against Church policy.
      The fact that the LDS Church lets Helen Radkey have access to their records, knowing that she is "out to get the Mormons" shows that the Church also wants to put a stop to these actions that others feel are offensive.

      The fact that Helen Radkey only agreed to give the information to Rabbi Cooper "...as long as there is a public stink" shows that she probably doesn't care about Jewish feelings or much of anything but her longstanding mission of hurting Mormons.

      It is also sad that activists are trying to use this for political gain.

      Rites for the deceased are ancient, and many people still practice them. When done in accordance with Church teachings (for ancestors of LDS) they are acts of love, and God knows our world needs more of those.

      February 18, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  2. dillet

    This whole issue of proxy baptism is ridiculous. Either it is Silly or Sacred. Either way it's harmless.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer


      These people have children being indoctrinated into this bizarre behavior, deprived of their right to grow to adulthood, be education, learn to think critically and decide what their beliefs will be. I bet it wouldn't be THIS. Harmless. Wow.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer


      February 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • JMK

      Central Scrutinizer – you scrutinize things you know nothing about. Mormons teach doctrine, they do not indoctrinate. Children are not brainwashed as you would suggest. Every adult convert, all children teenagers etc are encouraged to seek truth on their own via a personal relationship with Christ. Most religions say we are it, accept it or go to hell. Mormons say, this is the complete gospel, get on your knees and pray about it.

      This point of doctrine is a lot less silly than the evangelical belief of unconditional grace, that suggests that a person who accepts Christ as his or her Savior is saved, regardless that that person could be a child molestor, wife beater, drug dealer, or rapist.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • TRUTH

      JMK got it right!

      February 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Scrutinizer, you are being ridiculous. Just like any other adult these people are free to walk away, just like with any other religion. Some do, some don't. You want indoctrination? Go talk to some Jehovah's Witnesses. Yeesh.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      You scoff at "unconditional grace" for an abhorrent sinner, but you support the idea that the same person could be saved after they die? craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy

      February 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • MIkeBMc

      I can understand your point, coming from a point of view where the full concept of Baptism for the Dead may not be fully understood or is just new to you so it sounds crazy. So that's just fine. I can understand that. But I ask you, What's crazier...having an opportunity after death to finally hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept it or deny it and thereby gaining a chance to be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven or to be banished to Hell for all eternity simply because you never had a chanced to live in a place or time where you could hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in THIS life? It may seem far fetched to some but to me the former just makes more sense and more fair from a true and just God.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  3. The Central Scrutinizer

    Bible Contradiction Fun Thursday – Today: The Prophecies

    Called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1)

    Matthew has Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod, and says that the return of Jesus from Egypt was in fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:15). However, Matthew quotes only the second half of Hosea 11:1. The first half of the verse makes it very clear that the verse refers to God calling the Israelites out of Egypt in the exodus led by Moses, and has nothing to do with Jesus.

    As further proof that the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt never happened, one need only compare the Matthew and Luke accounts of what happened between the time of Jesus' birth and the family's arrival in Nazareth. According to Luke, forty days (the purification period) after Jesus was born, his parents brought him to the temple, made the prescribed sacrifice, and returned to Nazareth. Into this same time period Matthew somehow manages to squeeze: the visit of the Magi to Herod, the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt, the sojourn in Egypt, and the return from Egypt. All of this action must occur in the forty day period because Matthew has the Magi visit Jesus in Bethlehem before the slaughter of the innocents.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • dillet

      Not everyone (including translators and transcribers of later centuries) gets chronologies right every time. ( Especially us older folks!) Do you assume that the New Testament books were intended as precise historical records? Or are the events and teachings of greater importance?

      February 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      The Bible is a lie. Jesus is a lie. God is a lie.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Colin

      Dilet, that is typical apologist nonsense. Every time the Bible is demonstrated to be nonsense, the response is "it was not meant to be accurate." Total garbage. For 2,000 it has been claimed to be hard fact, until science and historians showed it to be wrong. Then, all of a sudden, it is just a moral code. Face it, it is discredite Iron Age mythology.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      1. The gospel writers contradict each other.
      2. The gospel writers rewrote history when it suited their purposes.
      3. The gospels were extensively edited to accommodate the evolving dogma of the church.
      4. The gospel writers misused the Old Testament to provide prophecies for Jesus to fulfill.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • John Andrew

      What does this have to do with the discussion?

      February 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Tsaot

      Matthew states that the wise men's visit to the baby Jesus and Herod's subsequent execution order occurred 1-2 years after the birth of Jesus. That's plenty of time for other events to take place.

      February 18, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  4. Bill O'Reilly

    Is it just me or does there seem to be an abundance of articles regarding catholic, and mormon oddities lately. I smell a conspiracy.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The Propoganda of Allah!

      February 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Joe T.

      The Republican frontrunners...
      One is Catholic
      One is Mormon

      There is your answer.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jim

      If it is "News" to have all these stories about the religions of the front-runners and their religious evolution, then it would only be logical to include the other main candidate - Obama - in that analysis. To be fair, these stories could also include Obama's religious past - Jeremiah Wright, etc.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • FairAndBalanced

      Where are the articles about the horrible things that Jeremiah Wright and Obama's church taught?

      February 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Ancient Curse

      Jeremiah Wright? Isn't he a Christian minister? I thought Obama was a secret Muslim? Why don't you folks make up your mind about how you'd like to hate our president, and then let us know what you decide.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  5. The Central Scrutinizer

    Bible Contradiction Fun Thursday – Today: The Prophecies

    The "slaughter of the innocents" (Jeremiah 31:15)

    Matthew says that Herod, in an attempt to kill the newborn Messiah, had all the male children two years old and under put to death in Bethlehem and its environs, and that this was in fulfillment of prophecy.

    This is a pure invention on Matthew's part. Herod was guilty of many monstrous crimes, including the murder of several members of his own family. However, ancient historians such as Josephus, who delighted in listing Herod's crimes, do not mention what would have been Herod's greatest crime by far. It simply didn't happen.

    The context of Jeremiah 31:15 makes it clear that the weeping is for the Israelites about to be taken into exile in Babylon, and has nothing to do with slaughtered children hundreds of years later.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  6. William Demuth

    I believe a lawsuit would be justified.

    Baptisim without the consent of the baptized should be a criminal offense,

    February 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Towner

      Wow–should prayer on behalf of someone without their consent be illegal? You should go to law school before declaring yourself chief justice of the supreme court. I'm pretty sure reading a name as some other person is put into water and then lifted out is not grounds for a law suit.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jim

      I agree with Towner that makes little sense.

      I guess I'd say that it could potentially make some sense if the person being baptized (i.e. a dead guy) were to bring it to court. If that's the not the case, then who are his descendents to say he shouldn't be given the opportunity? Would the kids have the right to say, "Grandma can't join another church" while she's alive? No. But are you suggesting they can say, "No" the day after she dies?

      February 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • joe

      Lawsuit..... You must be a lawyer.... How do you sue when someone is dead? The article stats they have the chance to accept or not accept. Freedom of choice.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Alberto


      February 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      "Watch out your thoughts." That just made my afternoon. I will find a way to inject this into conversation.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • visionability

      I don't think Alberto is a Mormon.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • TRUTH

      A lawsuit? Hahahahahahahahaha. Take a pill.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  7. The Central Scrutinizer

    Bible Contradiction Fun Thursday – Today: The Prophecies

    The virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14)

    This verse is part of a prophecy that Isaiah relates to King Ahaz regarding the fate of the two kings threatening Judah at that time and the fate of Judah itself. In the original Hebrew, the verse says that a "young woman" will give birth, not a "virgin" which is an entirely different Hebrew word. The young woman became a virgin only when the Hebrew word was mistranslated into Greek.

    This passage obviously has nothing to do with Jesus (who, if this prophecy did apply to him, should have been named Immanuel instead of Jesus).

    February 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  8. Colin

    It astounds me that people still go for this patently absurd voodoo in the 21st Century. Dead people being in a "prison" until some Mormons perform some magic hocus pocus to release them!

    Then again, if you believe that a being powerful enough to create the entire universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago whispered the secrets of life after death to a failed treasure hunter and convicted fraud, you will believe anything.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • dillet

      Joseph Smith was falsely accused and tried for many things and never convicted for any of them.
      As you well know, accusations and outrageous claims against someone are designed to do much
      more lasting harm than any confirmed misdeed.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Colin

      He was convicted of fraud. But even if he was the most upstanding member of society, that would not make his supernatural nonsense credible.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      He was a religious con man. What more does one need to know? Only an idiot would follow him.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Brigham Young wasn't so lucky as his predecessor though.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Steve

      Famous Yale scholar and agnostic Jew Harold Bloom called Joseph Smith a "true religious genius." You call him a con man. You are obviously more informed than Harold Bloom who has spent years studying the subject and has published multiple books and papers on the subject. You should read a book or maybe two before you strive to shape other peoples opinions.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      "Famous Yale scholar and agnostic Jew Harold Bloom called Joseph Smith a "true religious genius." You call him a con man."

      @Steve, why do you assume that the two are mutually exclusive? Seems to me to be more mutually inclusive than not.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      L Ron Hubbard is another True Religious Genious.

      February 17, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Steve

      Harold Bloom on Joseph Smith: "Joseph Smith was a great religious genius and perhaps the only one this country has ever produced. Not even Jonathan Edwards, not even my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson has had such an original and prophetic a discourse as (Joseph Smith's) King Follett Sermon. An amazing person; I always feel that if we had gotten to know each other we would have gotten along splendidly— Joseph Smith hovers in me. There cannot be too many Mormons who are as imbued with him as I am in my own odd way."

      UPenn scholar Sarah Gordon on Smith: "He had great charm. We've all known people who fill a room; he filled an entire faith. So in one sense Joseph is everything. In another sense Brigham Young is his cement: He took those tools and he connected them together in a people's experience. So this faith is gifted with two extraordinarily gifted leaders, both of whom ... arrive at the right moment in their lives and American history to lead this group of people. They were brilliant; they were inspired.

      Of course, all you posters have studied the faith more thoroughly than two ivy league PhDs...right?

      February 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Bad Religion

      I for one def hold the belief that Joseph Smith was the BIGGEST con man of all time. I mean who the heck in their right mind would believe a man who said he had tablets sent by god and then lost or they were given back but to just accept his word as truth with out a single shred of any evidence, divine or otherwise. That all spells CON MAN!!!!!

      February 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      Joseph Smith = L Ron Hubbard

      February 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  9. Uncouth Swain

    When I was doing some research on the family, I saw that I had Mormon ancestors. I thought this was really interesting. Even more so when I discovered they were from the 1700's when Mormonism wasn't around yet. I found out that I had a 6th cousin whose family went along an "baptized" all the ancestors. Kind of different but it didn't offend me any.
    Friends of mine who are Mormon expalined to me what this bapitism was about and that they didn't participate in it at their church.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • John

      Those who are baptized by proxy are not considered members of the LDS/Mormon church. So your story doesn't ring true. No history is re-written by posthumous baptism for the dead.

      February 18, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  10. David Johnson

    They baptize the dead, because they are a crazy cult.

    But then, why do Christians consume wine and wafers and pretend it is the blood and body of a savior that never actually existed?

    All believers are loony.


    February 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      If people are eating of his body...has anyone ever eat'n jesus's junk?

      February 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I believe I will have some champange and take a nap in the tub.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I always wanted to make Jesus Jerky.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      I hear the liver is actually the best. Not that I would know or anything..

      February 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Well Hung Jesus

      I believe Lazarus beat you to the Holy Baloney Pony.

      Him and Jeebus were REALLY good freinds!

      February 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      David..you believe that ppl care about what you think. You sir are looney.


      February 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • tim-tam

      "I always wanted to make Jesus Jerky."

      It comes up after 3 days

      February 16, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      tim tam – LOL

      February 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Lisa Simpson

      If you have them, the beliefs about wine and bread you mention come down to whether you belive in transubstantiation or contsubstantiation. You don't have a be a nut to belive it. You only need faith. I hope you'll experience some.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  11. The Central Scrutinizer

    I am starting to think we are all dead and this is our hell.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • momoya

      There's no philosophical reason that couldn't be the case.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I am slipping into a Solipsism coma.....

      February 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Well Hung Jesus

    Why do Mormons play with the dead? Why do witches cast spells? Why do christians, muslims and jews do wierd practices? Why do people believe in magical things? I will tell you...out of fear and ignorance. When man laughs at other mythical beings (Zues etc) but claims theirs is real....I think that pretty much sheds light on the ignorance. When miracles happen in ALL religions but men/women claim only their god is real...it sheds light on the ignorance. Man worships its gods out of fear, not love. Their gods are jealous gods after all. Fear/religion will always be the stumbling block of man. Man's greatest achievement will be the day he/she puts mythical things behind them as a majority. The days of praying to magic man in the sky, witch doctors etc ending will be a great start.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      Caught you looking at my junk while I was up on the cross! You know who you are..you freak!

      February 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Relax

      Baptism for the dead is similar to the view that Jesus acted as proxy for every human when he atoned for the sins of the world. Christ did this not only for the Jews that decided to follow him, but for everyone (Hindus, Muslims, everyone). We then have the choice to follow Christ or not.

      Christ did this because we lacked the capcity to pay for our sins, just like dead individuals lack the capcity to be baptized as commanded int he bible. I prefer this idea a whole heck of lot better than just condemning millions to "hell" because they were never baptized or even heard about Christ.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus


      Um yeaaaaaaaahhh, okay. Let me guess you have felt the holy spirit and experienced miracles. There are people who also experience voices and seeing things only they can see. I refer back to my comment about religion still being a stumbling block. Right now a miracle is happening from Allah for a muslim. Right now a practicing witch has recieved confirmation that their spell worked. Perception is an interesting thing and subjective.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • momoya

      Yeah, but you were looking down my robe; whadda ya say we forgive one another?

      February 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus


      Yeah, but you were looking down my robe; whadda ya say we forgive one another?


      On your knees then lol

      February 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • David Johnson


      If god is all loving, all good and all just as Christians profess, how do you reconcile this with the fact, that there is a place called hell?

      How could an all good, all merciful, all just god, spend His time constructing such a place? Did he whistle while He worked?
      If god is all loving, all good, all merciful and all just...how do you reconcile this with the fact that god would burn humans for all eternity? What crime could justify such a punishment?

      Man lives a finite number of years. Only a finite number of "sins" could be committed in this finite time. How is it just to punish a finite number of sins with eternal agony?

      Christians say god is omnipotent. If so, He cannot be injured, either by one sin or a billion. So, god sends people to hell for all eternity, for sins which , in no way damaged Him.

      How is that just?

      Christians also claim their god is all knowing (omniscient). If this is true, then He would know who will be saved and who will be damned, even before they are born. Yet, god lets them be born knowing their ultimate fate is eternal punishment. Seems wrong somehow. Maybe it's just that I am sane...

      Christians often prattle on about having a choice of accepting Christ or spending eternity in hell. This is not a choice. This is Vito Corleone making an offer that cannot be refused. Pfui!

      If you were trying to start a religion, as the New Testament authors were, wouldn't this be a good PowerPoint bullet? I mean it really couldn't hurt the membership roster, right?

      Join = Eternal Bliss

      Decline = Eternal Agony

      If a puppy peed on the floor, would you hold it over a burner, even for a second? I couldn't. Not a puppy and certainly not a human. I am more moral than the vile Christian god.


      February 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      God is all loving and his will is done. Just ask the 2 sons hacked then blown to "hell" no pun intended in Utah. There is more evidence that if the christian magic man in the sky is real...he/she is quite pathetic and subpar as a god.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Relax


      My comments are more directed to those Christians that believe that everyone that never accepted Christ is going to "hell" or at least their version of "hell." I don't really think hell is a place with flames and pitchforks, I would compare it more to a prison. We still exist, but we are confined to a place with limited choices. On the other hand, those that decide to accept Christ and God have more freedom.
      I just feel it would be unjust and certainly not merciful to tell somebody, "Hey Guy, I know you never heard of this Christ fellow, but tough beans–you were never baptized so no heaven for you." The Mormon idea of baptism allows individuals after they die to still be baptized and still let them decide to follow Chirst. That's my take anyway–whether you accept Christ now or later is your choice.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • dillet

      You are right, all of you, to not believe in the the God of the Christian creeds. They do not define Him as He really is. This is the reason that "Mormon" missionaries seek to teach other Christians and everyone else. Go to lds.org and find out about the true nature of God and the great plan of happiness He designed for us if we will accept it.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  13. KD

    LDS folks that participate in vicarious baptisms for the dead do so from a vantage point of love for all of God's children. The proxy work for spirits that have passed on to another realm of existence is done within LDS temples so that these individuals can receive the necessary ordinance of salvation as taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Individuals in the Spirit World are free to accept or reject the ramifications of having this ordinance performed in their behalf. The same is true here in this world. People are free to choose baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or not. Just as Jesus gave his life freely for the salvation of mankind, baptism is the door through which one enters to receive all that God has in store for his children.
    More info. here:

    February 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • W247

      However, you are NOT Jesus. You are NOT the son of God. You are NOT the Savior. He was the proxy that took on all the worlds sin because of His divine nature. Your proxy to be baptized for the dead has no real meaning.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • KD

      Much depends on whether or not Joseph Smith was actually called of God or not. Here is a good place to find out how he felt about being saviors upon mount zion. You are right, however, we as individuals are not THE Savior. We can only act as his servants to help him in the work of redemption and salvation. We are our brothers and sisters keepers.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • KD

      Here is the link I forgot to post.


      February 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      KD sez:
      "Individuals in the Spirit World are free to accept or reject the ramifications of having this ordinance performed in their behalf."
      And exactly how do you know this ?
      It is just as easy for me to say:
      "When individuals in the spirit world are baptized by the CLS they are tatooed on the forehead and are shunned and cast out of heaven to walk the world as losers because god HATES Mormons"
      My analysis is as valid as yours

      February 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • dmiller

      The real scandal here isn't that the Mormons baptize dead people by proxy, it's that the Mormons perform over an hour of highly creepy rituals for dead people, by proxy. It is an extreme of arrogance and hubris to presume that no one should be offended by the fact that Mormons desecrate the memory of every dead person whose name they can get.

      Imagine if the world knew that an entire cadre of Mormons spends over an hour of time for each and every dead person. In total, the church's descecration of the dead includes baptism, washing and anointing, ritualistic prayer, secret oaths, covenants, handshakes, and passwords, a new name, a marriage ceremony, and bizarre costumes. Before 1990, when the church sanitized it a bit, the rituals included death penalties.

      The Mormon Church is happy that the world only knows about the baptism part of the ceremonies. I'm sure they fear the day when some smart reporter does a full expose of the entire suite of ceremonies that the Mormons think only affect the dead person "beyond the grave". They are blind to the effects on the living who are powerless to prevent the desecration of their own name or the names of their deceased loved ones.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Fly

      Yes THE REAL SCANDAL is that Mormon people care about others. That is a terrrrrrible sccccanddall. Oh no people actually love and care for others.

      Perhaps you should spend less time criticizing people of faith and actually go out and help someone, serve someone, or make someone else's life better. Instead it appears you want to take down a faith that seems to promote, from what i've observed, more love and kindness than most faiths. We'll I hope we can all look for the beam in our own eye, before pointing out the mote in anothers. In that spirit, I too should go do something good for someone...so I will go make my wife dinner.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      FLY sez:
      "Perhaps you should spend less time criticizing people of faith and actually go out and help someone, serve someone, or make someone else's life better"
      ...And exactly how does baptizing a dead person make their 'life' better.
      Mormons are doing this for strictly selfish "Look at me" narcissistic reasons. You cannot make a dead person's life better. .. They have no life.

      February 17, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Guest

      @W247: AMEN!!! There is NO other "proxy" than Jesus Himself!

      February 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Jim

      Wow KD, that's a great idea - go the the LDS Church and ask them why/how they perform baptisms for the dea. It's honestly amazing how many people would never think of that.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • W247

      FLY –

      It is not "works" that bring you closer to the Lord. It is faith, it is the understanding of what was done on the cross for you, for the world. It is from that humbled understanding that you serve others, not because you were told or commanded to by a governing body that has NO MORE "pull" with the Lord then you do.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  14. Woody

    "Mormons believe that baptism provides the deceased with the opportunity to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but not the obligation. They don't know if the dead actually accept Jesus."

    I have the answer for you. They're DEAD!!! Their brains no longer function!!! They're incapable of accepting anything or anybody!!!
    Are these people serious? This IS the 21st century, is it not?

    February 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • poquimoqui

      If there were no life after death, then you are absolutely 100% correct. But that is a question that we don't have a definite answer to right now. So we'll just have to see....

      February 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  15. Aerosol

    Is in silico baptism possible (virtual baptism?). A whole lot of people have died and presumably a lot of them are listed in the Mormon database. You can't realistically hope to manually proxy baptize them all. If we could just automate it, maybe set up a high performance computing cluster for it, we might be able to whip through it in no time.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  16. Joe T.

    Funny, there are no examples of first century Christians EVER baptising dead people. As soon as you can come up with one, let me know.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • dillet

      1 Corinthians 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?"

      These days there are dozens of re-translated versions of the Bible out there. I hope your Bible has not deleted this scripture because it doesn't square with your teachings. This is one reason why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the "restored" church, originating directly from God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith. This is one reason why we need to be led by a Prophet today as in old times, to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ. Surely we will all be able to get it right THEN.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • What IF

      dillet, "we need to be led by a Prophet today as in old times"

      There is no verified evidence that your "Prophet", or any other alleged "prophet" throughout history, has or had supernatural messages delivered to them.

      Do you believe that Mohammad was a "Prophet"? I'm thinking, no... so, why is that? Perhaps when you understand why you dismiss the unsubstantiated claims of others, you will understand why we dismiss yours.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • W247

      Dillett –

      Paul wasn't speaking about Christians in this verse. He was speaking about a pagan cult, found in the area of Eleus who practiced baptism for the dead. That was whom Paul was speaking about. It was a backsided warning to the Corinthians at the time.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Also dillett, the Bible provides no actual EXAMPLE of anyone doing. No names, no instances, no accounts of it being done. Just Paul mentioning something a pagan group was doing.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • logic

      Actually, there is considerable evidence more than just a "pagan" cult practiced it. See the following scholarly article on the subject: http://mimobile.byu.edu/?m=5&table=jbms&vol=19&num=2&id=530

      February 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • logic

      Also, why would a "pagan" cult be preforming an ordinance taught by Christ. That does not sound to pagan to me. They were performing BAPTISMS–christian baptisms. Remember, it was Christ, not a pagan, who was baptized and taught that baptism was required to enter the kingdom of God.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • W247

      LOGIC – there are a lot of cults that take the ordinances that Christ teaches and pervert them for their own pagan beliefs.

      Paul was also warning the Corinthians not to follow suit as the pagans were doing, by baptizing their dead.

      What my understanding is that the LDS church believes that the baptism -salvation -of the dead (ancestors) is tied closely with their own salvation (D&C 128:18) As Christians, we know our salvation is based only on what Christ did on teh cross for us, our profession of faith and acknowledgement on our previous sinful nature.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • W247

      LOGIC –

      Baptism is an outward profession of faith, a symbolic ressurrection of a new life in Christ. It has nothing to do with your salvation.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  17. Wayne Dequer

    Thank you for the very clear and informative article.

    IF "Mormon" religious claims are so much hot air, should it matter to anyone that their deceased ancestors are being baptized by proxy living individuals? (Bodies are NOT desecrated by being dug up and dipped!) Should prayers and candles by Catholics for the dead (Catholic or not) be offensive? Probably not: After all, it’s just names IF the rituals are meaningless. It gives ritualistic comfort to those who participate in the ordinances and may lead them to think about and care more for the individuals, their descendents, and, in fact, all of humanity. It is at worst misguided, but benign. Toleration of this practice certainly falls under religious freedom. However, IF the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is correct, then such ordinances would be of potentially eternal worth, if and only if accepted by the departed spirits of these individuals. Thus, “Mormons” are encouraged to do these vicarious ordinances especially for their direct ancestors. “Mormons” believe that they are fulfilling an Old Testament directive to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers as found in Malachi by engaging in sacred ordinances described in 1 Corinthians 15.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joe T.

      It's more a matter of principle than anything.

      It would be like someone accusing my dead grandfather of being a Nazi. In the end, I know they are full of it, but I don't want him to be associated at all with those ideals.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • JNaismith

      Joe T.: Did you just equate Nazi ideals with Mormon theology? I think you're missing the mark a bit. The principle, as mentioned by Wayne is - at worst - misguided love and concern for the welfare of others that doesn't actually impart any blemish or harm to the reputation of person or family members involved. I mean seriously.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Joe T.

      "Black people are cursed" – Mormon teaching

      February 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • dillet

      To Joe T.–You seem to have a very skewed understanding of LDS teachings. Why don't you go to lds.org or your local missionaries and learn the truth from its source rather than its critics?

      February 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • W247


      You have a poor understanding of the saving grace and redemption of our Lord. I suggest you walk into the nearest evangelical church and have a talk with the Pastor. You will have free reign to all aspects, with nothing hidden.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • poquimoqui


      If salvation comes through grace alone without man having to do ANYTHING then you need to explain the imperatives that Christ gave in the Gospels. Shall I list a few of them? I am currently reading in the Gospel of John, here is what I ran into just in today's reading:

      -John 3:5 -You MUST be baptized in order to enter in the the Kingdom of God.
      -John 7:17 – DO His will
      -John 8:31 – CONTINUE in His word

      A correct understanding of the doctrine of grace is that: only through Christ can we be saved but we must show a desire to follow Him by DOING what he commands us.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Dillett, that's rich. Just ask them. I'm sure they'll be completely honest and won't try to mislead or cover over anything at all.
      Same thing with the scientologists. I'll ask them what they believe too. I'm sure they'll be honest.
      Hey, I'll do the same thing with Jehovah's Witnesses.

      Trust me, I know how these cults work. I was raised in one and escaped.

      The "black people are cursed" teaching was a major teaching. It wasn't until the Civil Rights movement really got underway that they made any change to it. They only changed it out of necessity in an attempt to expand to have greater access to different areas and get more money from the sheep. This is a fact.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jim

      Joe T, your suggesting that someone baptizing an ancestor is similar to someone accusing them of being a Nazi is ludicrous on several grounds:
      1) The correlation to Nazis is non-existent - few groups could be farther apart - you're just throwing out a prejorative term

      2) Accusing someone is an active, publicly declarative act. Baptism for the dead is done in a quiet, sacred ceremony and you'd never even know your ancestor was baptized unless you consciously looked for that information. It's not like someone posts a newspaper ad sayint, "Joe T's grandpa is now a baptized Mormon."

      3) The VAST majority of deceased people who are baptized are from several (if not dozens) of generations back. That generally implies they have LOTS of descendents. If that's the case, why are YOU the one descendent who gets to say whether or not they get baptized?

      February 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • penquin

      If I pray for someone of a different faith than mine, I am not making that person into my faith. I am simply turning to whatever Creator I believe in and asking for some help in a way that is familiar to me. I am not saying "Make this person my faith, on some list so others can see it" That is why it is different to baptize, not simply pray for another human being.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • W247


      SO a profession of faith is not enough? Was the theif on the cross next to the Lord baptised? He professed his understanding of who Christ was, and was saved, without being baptised.

      John 3:5 is also correlated with Eph. 5:26 which says, "that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." Some believe that the washing of water is done by means of the Word of God.

      John 7:17 is an outcome of being saved. There are many people that will take this verse and turn it to make salvation a "works based" idea, when it is not.

      JOhn 8:31 Jesus was telling the Jews not to count on their heritage and automatically assume that the are free ( just becaue they are jews). He tells them to remain in His word, and if you read further into the next verses He reminds them that ALL are sinners. They are not an acception just because they are descendants of Abraham.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      Yes, I do find both Nazis and Mormons to be equally reprehensible and disgusting. And I would NOT want to be associated with EITHER!

      February 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  18. The Central Scrutinizer

    Makes just as much sense as baptizing the living. Why isn't the question, we do they baptize at all?

    February 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ritual drowning is no more odd than ritual cannibalism.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • TMD

      Because, if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable, which is where you seem to be judging by your stream of comments today.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      Ritual drowning does not equate to baptism, you dolt.

      February 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sin Loi!

      February 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      February 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Actions change things ...

      February 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The only thing this troll changes is his momma's diapers.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Not true. I've been praying, but this idi0t's posts haven't changed one bit.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  20. The Bobinator

    How? They wave their hands and say magical incantations.

    Why? Because they believe nonsense.

    Any other questions?

    February 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Nah dude

      They aren't allowed to boff it till it's Mormon.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.