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. Bleh

    @zookini: Baptism of the dead were neither "common" nor "an approved practice" among early Christians. There is absolutely no evidence that they were performed at the time of Paul's writing. There is reference to this practice in the late second century, though the practice was apparently limited to groups recognized as heretical (see Chrysostom, Homily 40 and Tertullian, Anti Marcion 10).

    February 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Joe

      Catholics and others currently perform rites for deceased persons. Copts and others reportedly still practice baptisms for deceased persons. I would be honored if they performed rites for me. Those trying to stir up hatred against Mormons over matters of faith could do more good for the world by fostering understanding and being peacemakers.

      For those interested in the past here are some links:



      Here are some quotes:
      John A. Tvedtnes, Feb. 1977, 86 (perhaps more info now)
      “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?” (1 Cor. 15:29.)
      “In his epistle to the Corinthians, Paul cited the early Christian practice of proxy baptism for the dead as evidence of a future resurrection and judgment…some pass it off as an outmoded practice of the early church, while others believe it refers to an apostate or heretical doctrine.
      But historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the Marcionites of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:
      “In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.)

      Early Christian writings attest to the fact that baptisms for the dead were performed, and that not only Jesus, but the Apostles, preached to the dead.
      After their death the apostles visited Hades in order to preach there to such as had not heard the gospel and to baptize the righteous. (NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA, p. 43. also in THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS, vol. 2, p. 49).
      Do not the Scriptures show that the Lord preached the Gospel to those that perished in the flood…shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord; preached (to the dead)..if, then, He preached the Gospel to those in the flesh that they might not be condemned unjustly, how is it conceivable that He did not for the same cause preach the Gospel to those who had departed this life before His advent? (THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS, vol. 2, pp. 490-492.)

      Roman Catholic Bible commentary:
      "...some Christians would undergo baptism in the name of their deceased non-Christian relatives and friends, hoping that this vicarious baptism might assure..."

      February 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      dude, catholics do NOT allow baptism after someone's died.
      it is forbidden.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Joe

      From WIKi on purgatory:
      The notion of purgatory is associated particularly with the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (in the Eastern sui juris churches or rites it is a doctrine, though often without using the name "Purgatory"); Anglicans of the Anglo-Catholic tradition generally also hold to the belief. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed in anintermediate state between death and the final judgment and in the possibility of "continuing to grow in holiness there."[2][3] The Eastern Orthodox Churches believe in the possibility of a change of situation for the souls of the dead through the prayers of the living and the offering of the Divine Liturgy,[4] and many Orthodox, especially among ascetics, hope and pray for a general apocatastasis.[5] A SIMILAR belief in at least the possibility of a final salvation for all is held by MORMONISM.[6] JUDAISM also believes in the possibility of after-death purification[7] and may even use the word "purgatory" to present its understanding of the meaning of Gehenna.[8]However, the concept of soul "purification" may be explicitly denied in these other faith traditions.


      Throughout November the Church prays for all who are in the purifying fires of Purgatory, waiting for the day when they will join the company of the saints in heaven. The celebration of Mass is the highest means the Church can provide for charity for the dead, but we can also relieve their sufferings through our prayers, sufferings and penances. We an also help the Poor Souls by doing acts and prayers that have indulgences attached to them. There are many indulgences, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, that can be obtained during the month of November.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      the marcionites were a heretical group, gnostic. Not catholics.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      catholic church recently removed purgatory altogether.
      the concept was for souls still possessed of original sin, but not souls doomed to hell. Usually young infants that would die, is where they'd go to, purgatory.

      you are confusing the concept of redemption for souls stuck in purgatory, similar to how jesus freed the souls after he died. Notice how jesus did not perform baptisms after the fact for the souls.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  2. rybl101

    Hey "Christians" –

    Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt called. They said you are all atheists

    February 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      an atheist is someone who does not believe in a god.
      Buddhists, for example, are atheists since they don't believe in a god. They still have a religion and are respected for their beliefs.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  3. WhatWhatWhat?

    LDS was started by a pathological liar who looked into hats at stones, and tried to swindle people by claiming he could find treasure. Maybe baptizing dead people was another way he made money, I dunno?

    February 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Religion

      What was this man trying to swindle out of people? Did he live off the spoils of the people?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Joe

    Along with my other comment I wish to add that, generally speaking, religious rites for the deceased are acts of love, and God knows our world could use more of those.

    Baptizing people not related to LDS is offensive to Mormons as well as Jews.
    However, I think people are getting a little carried away with taking offense at things they don't understand.

    It is sad that one person can break down relationships between millions of people. Mormons have a longstanding policy against Baptizing Jews (not from discrimination since many Jews request it).

    Baptism for the deceased is an ancient teaching, and many Christians still practice rituals for the deceased. I understand that Jews have also, in times past, and presently offer certain prayers. I hope that Jewish people understand that the Mormons I know would be honored if Jews were to perform rites for them. That goes for anyone with good intentions, Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist etc.
    I love all and hope we can all be friends, under one God (even atheists can be friends under God ; ))

    Rites for the deceased are intended as acts of love, to seal families, but when someone intentionally goes against Church teachings on a sensitive issue it hurts all of us.
    I'm sorry this person has done this.

    Also, I hope everyone understands that there are many people out there who delight in stirring bad feelings against Mormons. Those who hate us have intentionally misrepresented the purposes of rites for deceased persons. These rites are meant to turn the hearts of the Fathers and Mothers to the children, as Malachi taught.

    Please understand:
    1 Mormons are opposed to the Baptism of anyone who is not an ancestor to a Mormon.
    2 Mormons do not believe that Holocaust victims are suffering in Hell or purgatory and that Baptism, like indulgences for the deceased, helps reduce their suffering. Mormons understand that all will be rewarded according to their works. No kind, good person will ever suffer in the next life, regardless of religious affiliation. All are in Paradise and will go to Heaven.
    God is just, and good people will not suffer punishment in the next life.

    3 Baptism is not done to anyone, it is for. LDS believe that people are free in the next life to choose, just as they are here, and Baptism for the deceased gives them the opportunity to make a decision, it does not make anyone Christian or members of the Church. Even without it they can still make choices in belief.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      Psssst...... It is ALL make believe.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      i'm not trying to pick on mormons.
      I do want to caution that humanity has done its greatest evils while thinking they were doing good works.
      Baptism has a tradition, it WAS done to people, not just for people. It's how christians cleanse original sin.

      as with most religious folks, they seem to have a hard time understanding their religion and where it came from. The good ones can actually quote scripture and will put forth arguments, the worst don't even know why they believe what they believe.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  5. dave

    I do find it interesting that you assert that Catholics think all can be saved. Living in Spain and visiting the sites of the Spanish Inquisition where they slaughtered many Jews in the most horrible of ways imaginable makes me glad that the religion has changed positions 180 degrees. Burning, taking our their bowels for being a heretic wasn't very nice

    February 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Joe

    I really appreciate your efforts to accurately explain. There are so many mis-perceptions about this. Thank you. I do disagree with one thing, as I understand it all good kind people go to Paradise, and eventually to Heaven (one of three), and Spirit Prison is reserved for unkind people. However, Spirit Prison is sometimes associated with the "Spirit World" in LDS theology, and in that case kind and unkind people are both there.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  7. serdich

    ..because the Mormons are morons..even their advisor is called angle Moroni...

    February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  8. dieyoung

    They have to try every means they can to get into Heaven, but even this won't save them. I live just next door to Mormon capital. They are violent and every area they pollute turns to mush that is corrupted by filth and vermin. They practically terrorize those who are not mormon by going to their home and polluting their ears with the word of their false message. I would convert to Islam before becoming a Mormon.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Joe

      Wow, I think you should take some diversity classes..... no offense. : )

      February 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Joe

      Here is an interesting article for you to study up on : )

      On moving to Utah:
      I imagine that if I were moving to San Francisco, no one would ask me if I was coming out of the closet. If I were moving to Detroit, no one would dare ask if I was going to buy a gun to carry to work. And yet, when it comes to the LDS Church, its open season for jokes that border on ignorance and often cross into outright bigotry.
      . That being said, here are the four major differences I have noticed in Salt Lake City which are a function of it being the center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
      1. Beer....
      2. All beer...
      3. All liquor or beer....
      4. These are the nicest, most polite people I have ever met.
      As you can see, three of the four differences are related to alcohol.
      There also is a quality that is undeniably welcome, especially to an interracial couple from out of state."

      February 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  9. DaveInPA

    The more I read about the Mormon religion, the more I am astounded. There's a lot about main-stream Christianity that is very bizarre, but I think the Mormons have everyone beat... from your own special planet in the afterlife to now this. And some of us want to consider a man with these beliefs as PRESIDENT?!

    February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • ID Spud

      Where do you read about Mormons? Just wondering what your main source is. If you haven't yet, you might try lds.org. You can certainly get a lot of information elsewhere via the web, just try to maintain context when you do. The context of the 1800's is certainly different than today, regardless of what social or theological topic you read about. You may come up with the same conclusion about the LDS church and beliefs, but hopefully you are trying to be balanced in the pursuit.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Joe

      I think you are reading a lot of stuff that is not true (for example: "own special planet") For some reason, Mormons are accused of all manner of evil falsely.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • ID Spud

      I believe the statement "own special planet" (used in a perjorative bent in this case) is derived from the LDS doctrine of eternal increase and becoming like God. Be ye therefore perject, even as your Father in Heaven is perject, suggests we have the potential to progress and eventually attain some form of perfection like unto God. However, in our mortal state we don't yet fully understand how, in reality, such will play out. That doesn't prevent detractors from making fun of the principle.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Oly1207

    Talk about wanting your cake and eating to... and then going back for seconds. Watching the above video clip and reading many of the comments regarding the LDS practice of baptizing for the dead causes the following insights. You all who scream and rant and rave about separation of church and state and the perceived influence of the LDS Church in the California Prop. 8 issue and how they should not be involved in public or political issues are also the same individuals who are calling on a political candidate for U.S. president to try to exercise some influence to change a practice the majority of the people are afraid of, simply because they don't understand. All the while, saying you wouldn't vote for a Mormon to be president because you are afraid that the LDS church might have too much influence on the president. It's like watching a dog run in circles trying to catch its tale.

    Any Christian who claims to accept the sacrifice and atonement of Jesus Christ either doesn't truly accept it or believe it or whole-heartedly accepts the notion of a proxy. Christian theology is that Christ paid the penalty for our transgressions to satisfy the demands of justice, so we wouldn't have to, so we could return to heaven. On that same premise, if baptism is essential to salvation as many Christian's adhere to, then why is it such a stretch to suggest that somebody living can perform that rite for another so we all can have the opportunity to benefit from salvation?

    February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Alfred the Great

      There seems to be no end to redemption. Why bother living a decent life? Everyone will always have a second chance.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      I appreciate the way you worded the question.

      It's an interesting question. If we can get baptized and accept jesus as our savior AFTER we're dead, then i guess half of our history was for naught. Why take back jerusalem? why even try to preach the good word at all and get people to convert while they're alive, if we can simply baptise them once they're dead?

      I don't fault the mormon's at all for believing in this. I fault the logic of most organized religions nowadays. Why would god even create a hell? why even make a sacrament like baptism if we can do it after the fact, after there is no choice because presumably our souls are in some afterlife prison, or worse, and believing and faith are no longer applicable? You don't have to believe in hell, if you're stuck in it for eternity.

      Seems like a simple out, suffer or accept jesus?
      seems like the rationale of a caring, loving god?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Willis

      Easy answer! Jesus was fully God and was able to make a sacrifice of himself worthy to forgive all sins of the world. An imperfect person being baptized in the place of a dead person is nowhere near the same. FYI... Jospeh Smith was crazy and has started a religion "based" on the Bible. How can anyone take a Bible and then add another book just because they saw a naked angel over and over again in a cave in the words. Hmmmm. food for thought mormons.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • ID Spud

      We are all naked under our clothing. Why the need to use "naked" in reference to an angel? What is your point or purpose in doing so? Also, I've never heard of a cave in relation to any visitation to Joseph Smith in the woods by an angel. He claims having been visited by the Father and the Son in the woods, and an angel in his room.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  11. So Mormons dig up bodies and baptize

    Do they bury them again or what Do they do any bad things to them like a priest might to a kid?

    Just kidding around I know they only do normal things like ask the spirit of the long deceased if they want to accept The Angel Moroni and Mr Smith and Pumpkinhead

    February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  12. Lt. Mandrake

    Why are you people so bothered by this? Did you actually read the article, or just the headline and immediately jump to the bottom to leave a comment? This is a ceremony conducted inside an LDS temple, with only mormons present, and has absolutely no impact on anyone else unless you actually subscribe to the church's belief system. I'm not a mormon, but hey sure, if you want to baptize me in my absence then go for it. I'm happy to hedge my bets when it doesn't cost me anything :).

    February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Oly1207

      From a non-LDS, this is probably the most sensible comment yet. If you don't subscribe to the faith, then where's the harm? If what the LDS practice is correct, then you'll be on the right track already.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      the secular world doesn't care at all.
      as for the other religious communities out there, it's deeply offensive.
      it basically proclaims that all other religions do not offer a path to salvation, only mormonism does.

      understandably, it's incredibly offensive.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Alfred the Great

      Right, a bunch of old white dudes in a temple performing some hocus pocus ritual will bring salvation to people already dead.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. M

    As the Giver of life, our Creator knows all there is to know about life and death. He tells us in his Word that “the dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) That is why Adam and Eve could not suffer in a fiery hell after their death. They simply returned to the dust and ceased to exist. They were “conscious of nothing at all.”

    February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      as explained by the religious, jesus had to die so he could go to hell and free all the souls trapped there.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • M

      LOL where the heck is that at??

      February 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  14. Dia

    I have family members who are Mormon. You have missed the obvious reason why they do this. Anybody who knows anything about the Mormons know that they are merely Scientologists hiding behind the face of Jesus. They are a Christian cult. Nothing more.
    Even more so then the other Christian denominations. There was an article last week that stated they believe that Jesus is coming and he will land in Missouri. Really? Then why dont they all live here instead of in Salt Lake City?

    February 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Religion

      Because that part is a misconception of facts.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  15. EDDIE D

    Can you say Cult... as hard as they try they will NEVER be Christian.. that is why they have the "angel" Moronii on top of their "church" read Brigahm Young statements.. "Don't give money to the poor, they don't know what to do with it" says alot about their "christian" charity....

    February 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • neptonomist sentry

      Christianity = cult too.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • GenericMan

      It seems the people most hating on Mormons are the Protestants. Why am I not surprised by this?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      anyone who accepts jesus as their lord and savior, believes him to be the son of god, is a christian.
      it's a very loose definition.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • ID Spud

      You can believe what you will, but please become more informed about the charity the LDS church, and its people, do in behalf of others. Consider also that some may not know how to manage money, thus a possible reason they become poor. Best to offer food and other life sustaining necessities before just handing over money. Nah, Brigham Young probably wasn't thinking that way ..... Or was he?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  16. anotherthinker

    No one has the right to force their religion, or their religious beliefs on anyone, for any reason. That most non-mormons find this poecedure inane is not the point. The point is mormons are trying to force their practices on others who are offended by it. They are in fact saying, "your beliefs are not as good as mine and the only way I will be happy is if I force them on you... whether you believe it or not. I feel myself to be a better person for forcing my beliefs on you and yours."

    Leave my dead and living relations alone. If they wanted to convert, they would have, They didn't. They are dead and really don't care about anything anymore– they can't they are dead and gone, have no thoughts or concerns at all. Problem is you are offending the living. Would you not be offended if muslims had conversion ceremonies for their dead, not consenting family members? What if the jews held re-conversion ceremonies, so that all dead mormons would be re-converted to judaism? If we re-convert all the mormons and all their mormon dead, would that just do away with the sect? Hmmm....

    February 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • neptonomist sentry

      I would have my dead family member baptized by a Mormon than a living one beheaded by a Muslim.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • thetruthteller

      Mormons baptize their dead because they are retarded.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • dave

      What on earth? No offense, but it's like you didn't even read the article. Mormons can't force anything on anybody, especially dead people. A person for whom a baptism has been performed isn't counted on the Mormon rolls, isn't considered a Mormon, etc. Jesus said everybody needs a baptism, you can't baptize a spirit, this is a way to follow Christ's teachings – it's offering a gift to someone who is obviously free to turn it down, ignore it, etc.

      If you don't believe in Mormonism, then you don't believe that what they are doing has a point, so why do you care?

      February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Norman

      a) Mormons aren't a "SECT" any more than Orthodox Jews are a Sect.
      b) If you read the article, you'll understand why the Mormons choose to offer this proxy service.
      c) Proxy was done in Ancient times, actually done in the Jewish Temple of Solomon.
      d) It's a matter of free agency and belief. If Mormons are correct, then those Baptized by Proxy (i.e. after death) can choose to accept the Gospel; if Mormons are incorrect, then no harm, no foul.
      e) If your immediate relatives weren't baptized, what does it matter to you?? Just ensure YOU and YOUR Relatives aren't baptized when you/they die.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  17. bird

    "Why do Mormons baptize the dead?" because they are freaking idiots

    February 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • neptonomist sentry

      Why do (insert people who follow any religion) do (some stupid thing because they believe a spaceman tells them to)?

      February 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  18. becool

    Why the Mormons baptized the dead? Two answers: First because they are dead in themselves "Let the dead burry their dead" Second is the result of first: Morons. The Bible asks to baptize the believers (Mark 16: 16).. If you believe you are eligible to be baptized (Biblically and logically which the Mormons belong to none of these). This is why they are a cult not a Christian denomination.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      "This is why they are a cult not a Christian denomination."

      Sorry to burst your perfection bubble, but all religion is of a cult status.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Religion

      Interesting to watch people say "I am better than you" to each other. Why not take a neutral objective look at the good that religions are trying to do? Promoting good behavior and kindness breeds more kindness than putting others down ever will.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Norman

      Mormons aren't a cult, a sect, or any other derrogatory term. It is a Christian faith. The reason I say this? We believe in Christ and the name of the church is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. The Christian Apostles, who called the other members in the Epistles "Saints" were from the early days, the members of the Church are Latter-day Saints. I don't think people are very smart or even articulate, if they only can spout off what other ignoramuses foolishly say.

      EVERY rite, ritual, or action performed in the LDS Temples was performed in the days of CHRIST. And, all the Proxy actions of Baptism for the Dead is doing, is the physical ordinances for those who didn't have them done while they themselves were alive. Those that have left this earth and passed to the other side of the veil (i.e. died & went to heaven) can now choose to accept the Gospel and not have to worry about the physical ordinance of Baptism. If they don't believe or do not choose to accept the Gospel, then no harm, no foul. I think people are getting worked up just to get worked up. Chiiiiill out. Ask questions if you don't understand something. Speak/Comment Civily to one another. Don't just jump up & down, rant & rave, because you don't understand it. Ignorance breeds fear, fear breeds anger and violence.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Minoa

      I am saddened that some are angered by this discussion. Permit me to explain a point: LDS belief is that in each case of baptism for a dead soul, that individual soul can accept it or reject it. We hold that if the individual does not want it, then the ordinance will be null, void, and without effect. So, you see, there is no intent to coerce or offend. Also, a few comments indicate a misconception that corpses are involved. Not so. These ordinances only involve the NAMES of deceased individuals. These ordinances are simple, beautiful, and done in privacy and without fanfare.

      The point about free will is important: One comment asked how Mormons would like it if some other religion did this. A fair question. Because I think it is obvious that God gives every soul the free agency to reject or accept any ordinance, I wouldn’t mind if any religion or group performed a rite that used the names of myself or my relatives. Those ordinances would have no effect unless I or my relatives accepted them. Again, that is why there is no intent to offend or coerce when LDS members perform baptism for the dead...in each case the individual soul can accept it or reject it. If the individual soul does not want an ordinance, then it will be null, void, and without effect.

      Another point of confusion: “Mormon” is a nickname, and the actual name of our church is Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s okay with me if people call us “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints “ or “Latter-Day Saints” or “LDS” or “Mormon.” I am not a spokesperson, just a regular member of the Church that wants to express how I feel. I am deeply saddened that some people are angry about baptisms for the dead. It is a beautiful and ancient Christian ordinance that fell into disuse long ago, until our church restored its use. Baptism for the dead is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:29, and verses like Malachi 4:5-6, Psalms 16:9-10, Acts 2:25-31, and 1 Peter 4:6 help to illuminate aspects of the doctrine.

      Again, I wish to assure Jews everywhere that no disrespect or offense is intended. I apologize for the fact that this topic has not been explained well to the public. Please understand that we believe none of the souls for whom this ordinance is performed is “forced” into baptism; we believe every deceased soul has the free will to accept or reject the baptism. LDS members, myself included, feel respect and a strong sense of kinship with the Jewish people. For example, I and every LDS member I know is a strong supporter of peace and prosperity for Israel.

      Hoping to add understanding, let me add that we LDS regard ourselves as Christians. Yes, I am sadly aware that some other Christians like to argue that point. I think these arguments stem from the fact that all Christian denominations have some differences in doctrine; our restoration of baptism for the dead is one of those differences. But I wish we could all set aside our arguments about differences and focus on the fact that we have so much in common. To quote two of our most essential articles of faith: “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” And “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

      February 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Doug

      You are dead on (no pun intended) right. No true Christian faith would ever do something like this. Baptism is a sacrament wherein a living person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, whether it is infant baptism or a believer's baptism. (Look up infant baptism on wiki...ia for a much more detailed explanation.) Jews don't believe baptism is necessary at all.
      The article has a quote, “In that sense Mormonism is the most nonexclusive religion in the Christian world,” Givens says. What a bunch of rubbish. They practice this perverted ritual for their own selfish believe that it will enhance either themselves or the Mormon church. I find it very disgusting.

      February 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Duh

      Minoa et al. – let me get this straight...Mormons baptize the dead just in case. They can either choose to accept it or reject it. And, in spite of how intellectually abhorrent and offensive it might be to the deceased or the deceased's living relatives, the Mormons claim no harm, no foul. I see.

      So, if I baptize Mormons in the name of Satan for his church, just in case he turns out to be a decent guy who just got a bad rap and is the true savior of the world, no one should complain because I am doing this in their best interests, right? I mean, they can also reject it if they want.

      February 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  19. zookini

    Thank you for this informed article. The doctrine of baptism for the dead resolves a simple challenge. If, as Christ said, "except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (which we 'Mormons' believe to mean baptism), then what of all of the people who lived good lives, but were not baptized? Peter said that to ensure that these were not lost, that Christ's sacrifice was extended to those who missed out in life, and as a result, "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 Go in the Spirit.". So, if the gospel is preached to the dead, how are the living ordinances of baptism, requiring physical bodies and physical elements (eg., water) to be performed on those spirits, even if they accepted the gospel in their post-mortal lives?
    The answer: Those who are living, typically ancestors of the diseased, are baptized in their names. In Paul's great treatise to the Corinthians (see his first epistle) his focus is not on baptism, but on resurrection as he tries to convince his brethren that there is, in fact, a resurrection – a time after death when the body and spirit of man is reunited. In his logical approach on the subject, after laying out his argument, he says this: "Else, what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?" He is saying: "Look, your faith is wavering on the subject of the resurrection, but you're still doing baptisms for the dead," (a common and approved practice). "Tie these two things together...you do baptisms for the dead because there IS a resurrection." Oh yes, and what about all those who don't get reached in the here and now by the gospel or by baptism, there is a millennium of time when the last work is to be done. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I remind my fellow Christians and our critics as well, that we have a lay clergy. We do our best to enrich the lives of our families and reach out to our fellow men in this same spirit. But we are men and women and we sometimes make mistakes. While the doctrine of baptism for the dead is a wonderful doctrine of reaching out to our fathers (as Malachi suggests), sometimes the zeal of our members goes a bit beyond the mark. And sometimes a direct descendent performs a work that other direct descendents of a different persuasion do not approve. For this, we beg your understanding and forgiveness. The only objective is that all will come to a knowledge of the gospel of Christ and have the opportunity to accept it or not, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Dan Halen

      The whole ordeal misses the point of what Christ said and meant about Baptism. Actually, as a human, to assume you can offer such grace to the dead is completely arrogant on your part as a human being, which in itself is sinful.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Religion

      If you think baptism is offered by man, then yes, it is wrong. If it is offered by God, then it has nothing to do with arrogance. People thought Noah was arrogant, but he turned out to be okay.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bleh

      Baptism of the dead was neither "common" nor "an approved practice" among early Christians. There is absolutely no evidence that they were performed at the time of Paul's writing. There is reference to this practice in the late second century, though the practice was apparently limited to groups recognized as heretical (see Chrysostom, Homily 40 and Tertullian, Anti Marcion 10).

      February 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Brad

      Well said Zookini. One day every knee will bow and recognize Jesus Christ as their Savior. If Christ was baptized and was perfect how great then is our need to be baptized being imperfect? It is plainly written in the Bible and Book of Mormon that we MUST be baptized to enter into the kingdom of God. If any person lacks the wisdom or knowledge of something, including baptisms for the dead I challenge you to read the Bible and Book of Mormon and then ask God if baptism is necessary to be saved in the kingdom of God. He will answer your sincere prayers, I promise you.

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

      Dan Halen – Apparently the Bible disagrees with you as baptism for the dead IS mentioned as a positive thing in the Bible and Christans at the time were doing it.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  20. bmben

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

    Bull. Christian Universalists. Look it up.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
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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.