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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. Yohanon

    I guess it takes the dead to worry about the dead, still makes no difference, all dead works.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Peter

    To all my Mormon friends out there...

    I love how you all are very respectful to some of the comments on here. I have had a handful of Mormon friends in my lifetime and they were all much more understanding about other faiths than anyone I ever met. You show great maturity and love in trying to help others understand your beliefs. Keep it up!

    February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • GAW

      Some of the atheists who post here on the other hand........

      February 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Activemormon

    As an active (devout) member of the LDS or Mormon church, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this accurate portrayal of one of our less understood doctrines. As Mormons, it's pretty common for us to cringe a little whenever we see a story being done on some aspect of our faith or other. It's always a pleasant surprise when the story is this accurate. Thank you, Mr. Gilgoff!

    February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • cludgie

      Yeah, but the problem still remains: The LDS religion is weird as hell. I'm so glad I'm out.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  4. wolfpackbob

    “Catholics have taught that only Catholics are saved...." That is simply not true and it really ticks me off (something to add to confession) that people of any faith or no faith profess to be the wiki spokespersons for other faiths without in-depth research other than reliance on weak, lazy 3rd-hand references that perpetuate falsehoods.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Bible Clown

    I'm going to baptize my cat and name him Mittens Romney.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Recommend you wear full sleeve welding gloves. The don't like full imersion baptisms so much, but seem to calm down after a few minutes under.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  6. TColeman

    Thank you for a very well written article. For those with a sincere desire to understand the Mormon faith, this was well written and the principle of baptism for the dead correctly presented. For a more detailed explanation please see http://www.lds.org/study/topics/baptisms-for-the-dead?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  7. Marine57

    The Mormons baptize the dead because they are ignorant of spiritual laws and commandments. As a result, they have introduced too many of their commandments – the commandments of men, not God.
    From: Christian Education Evangelist

    February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • zack

      So you're saying we shouldn't follow jesus christ and what his apostles taught? How about you make more sense next time you try to post a know-it-all comment.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Marine57

      Zack:
      Your post would look a lot better if you would honor Jesus Christ by capitalizing his precious name.
      Further, there is no commandment or example in the Word of God of such a foolish thing as baptizing the dead.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  8. cc

    If this is a bad thing then praying for someone ( choose a religion ) is also bad. Proxy is just that, a prayer if you will, No one is converting anyone.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Glad you feel that way, and you are now a baptized member of the Church of Elvis.

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

      Extremely well said...

      February 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Marine57

      cc:
      Your logic is good. Both praying for the dead and baptizing for the dead is in error.
      The word "proxy" is not in the Bible. The closest thing to it is being an advocate with the Father.
      In any case, we pray only for the living. As for the dead, it is too late for them. All has been decided at death.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  9. cludgie

    Good article. As a former Mormon ward and stake leader, I can see a few things that the public should Know: While the LDS church has promised "disciplinary actions" against anyone submitting the name of a Holocaust victim, this whole mess says more about the church's oversight incapabilities than it does about any errant LDS individual. It's very possible that the names just came by way of one of the massive databases the church draws from, and that the names were innocently put forward by a random member who will never be identified and who wasn't at fault. And while the church has taken great care to suck in millions of names and dates, it doesn't appear to have any particular method in place to screen and weed out bad names. Evidence of this includes the baptisms and "endowments" of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun and other infamous Nazis, now "saved"–Mormon-style–along with their victimized Holocaust brethren and sisters, and the many, many instances of multiple ordinances for the same person, like Lucille Ball (baptized/endowed 5 times and sealed to two different husbands), Desi Arnaz (baptized/endowed 5 times, Babe Ruth (13 times), and my own parents (6 times).

    Another thing that the public should know is that these "saving ordinances" represent the epitome, the apex, the acme, if you will, of the Mormon Experience–dressing in a white robe, a green fig leaf apron, and a baker's hat, and sitting for 2-3 hours though an "endowment session" (as stand-in for a dead person) performing the handshakes, tokens, and passwords that will sneak the dead person through the Pearly Gates into the Presence of God. It is dry and joyless, as is the LDS wedding experience, initially made to seal multiple wives to a man and totally devoid of romance.

    While professing belief in Jesus, Mormons do not believe in unconditional love of Christ or salvation by grace. Mormons spurn those ides. Instead, salvation comes by church and temple attendance, performance of temple ordinances, and payment of 10% of gross income.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Dan

      Wow, which Mormon in your ward brought you the wrong casserole when you were sick and totally offended you?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Vanka

      Well said. I agree.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  10. James Ray

    The part that troubles me is that there is no way to stop this from occurring. There is no 'opt-out'. What happens if my ancestors attempt to trace family lineage in the future and all they find are records stating that I was Mormon but I wasn't? If there was a way to have family members removed from the list, that would be the most acceptable way. Who wants to have their religious beliefs 'chosen' or 'modified' for them after death? Not me.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "What happens if my ancestors attempt to trace family lineage in the future and all they find are records stating that I was Mormon but I wasn't?" Too bad. You are a Mormon. The LDS has more money than you do and is willing to walk all over you, so just take it. No way to stop it with them advancing on the White House.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • cludgie

      Very true. I the names of your ancestors have found their way into a Mormon database, the names will be printed out and used in the LDS temples. Your great-great-great grandfather, for instance, if he ended up in the database, will be baptized, ordained to the position of elder, be "washed and anointed," will receive his "endowment" (sort of a Masonic induction), and will then be "sealed" to his wife of record. All this will be done by proxy, by the Mormon faithful standing in for your relatives, and will be done in secret (they say "sacred," but the effect is still the same–you aren't allowed to see it happen), and you will not be able to do a thing about it.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • TColeman

      Perhaps this explanation will help you understand that baptism for the dead provides those who have passed on an opportunity to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but does not force them to accept this. Nor will they be listed on the church records as a Mormon – only that a baptism has been performed in their behalf.

      From lds.org – http://www.lds.org/study/topics/baptisms-for-the-dead?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead
      "Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church."

      February 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  11. Bible Clown

    I just baptized Adolf Hitler as a Mormon and adopted him into the Romney family. You're welcome!

    February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Grace Kennedy

      To: Terryl Givens, an expert on Mormonism at the University of Richmond- You are incorrect about what you said about Catholics. Catholics do not believe that only Catholics go to heaven- they believe that those who do good works on earth and believe in God go to heaven. Meaning if you are Mormon, you have to be the best Mormon you can be to go to heaven, if you are a Muslim, you must be the best Muslim you can be to go to heaven. How you treat others is key.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  12. textual_criticism

    Consider this quote from Alma 34:34, 35, the Book of Mormon which rather directly teaches AGAINST baptizing the dead:

    "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis (death), that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

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

    February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • shameshame

      too bad that verse is for people who were already baptized and haven't repented of their sins.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Not exactly

      Although it is talking about a persons choice, it is not referring to baptism.

      Remember all of this including this life is about choice.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jack

      This scripture actually validates the Mormons in their practices. You just didn't read the article above very detailed. If this in fact is what the scripture reads, then it sounds like those people, to whom the scripture refers, have already had a chance to accept Christ and repent and yet chose to disobey commandments that they WERE taught. So it actually makes sense. If a person is given the opportunity to accept Christ in their mortal life and be baptized and live the commandments according to the gospel of Christ and they choose not to accept it, then why would they later choose to accept it in the after life. It is just stating that you are the same person in the afterlife as you were on this Earth. With the same lack of faith and weaknesses of character. This is all regardless of if the Mormons baptize you as a dead man or not.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • textual_criticism

      Granted, Amulak is speaking to a group of proto-Mormoms who presumably are "saved." But nowhere is it made clear that the teaching contained in that verse is restricted to believers (or baptized if you prefer).

      February 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • textual_criticism

      @Jack: "It is just stating that you are the same person in the afterlife as you were on this Earth." You've proven my point. It directly follows from the verse that baptizing anybody after death is useless since it is the kind of life you have lived on Earth that grants you eternal life

      February 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  13. Republican Class Warfare

    What's worse, baptizing the dead or baptizing kids before they can consent to it? Or baptism later in life (again) as penance for sins committed (and yet to be committed)?

    February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • cludgie

      Uh... None of the above?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  14. IndyNC

    I've seen a friend go through the conversion process, she was a non-practing protestant christian. What she want through was emotionally wrong.

    Your the center of attention, the new kid in church so to speak, and everything's all peaches and cream... and slowly as you make more and more commitment you're expected to adhere to more and more of their practices, starting with Dietary, then moving to social and finally political.

    They check up on your constanty in ways I would say are controlling... all the while telling you it's your choice, but then being distainfull when you choose differently than what they want.

    Ironically I also know many "life long" mormons who don't seem to be practicing any of the stuff that was pushed to the person who was a new comer.

    Ultimately I find it offensive when anyone presumes to make a choice for another. That's one of my biggest griefs about most christian churches in general... when your young it's "Jesus is love, Jesus loves everyone" if a friend or pet dies, your consoled by adults saying "They are with jesus now" Then as you get older you hear how this unconditional love is very conditional... depending on your religious leaders, God may forgive everything so long as you believe in him and repent your sins... or not... and given the current political climate, apparently all bets are all if you're Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, or done anything that offends any conservative christian leader.

    Frankly, it's this behavoir that's led me down the path of Agnosticicm.

    I have no problem with God, I have no problem with Faith.
    I have problem with people who use God and Faith for control and personal gain.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • textual_criticism

      I think that any true Christian would certainly agree with your last statement!

      February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • zack

      Well .. mormons don't use the church as personal gain nor 'control' people. We try to involve people in the church and make it part of their daily lives. CHanging and repenting is no easy process and for that purpose we visit people and befriend them. So basically your comment is invalid and ignorant.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Timmy

      BS. Pure BS. I'm calling you out.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Joe

      @zack

      Quote:
      "Well .. mormons don't use the church as personal gain nor 'control' people."

      I'd say that brainwashing your children to believe is the very definition of control. And lay Mormons probably don't use the church for personal gain, but your clergy certainly do.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • C from Iowa

      Hi Joe,

      Interestingly enough, even the clergy in the Mormon church are lay members. Feel free to stop by a service sometime - you won't find a single paid member of the clergy.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Joe

      @C from Iowa

      Money is not the type of personal gain that I'm talking about.

      I'm talking about power, influence, social status, and the control of people's minds. In fact the number one reason people pursue money is to have POWER. Your clergy just bypasses the money part and goes directly for the power. The power to decide what children are taught. The power to say what is right or wrong. The power to influence people. The power to tell a woman what her proper place is.

      Understand?

      February 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  15. GAW

    Something is missing here. I know....There's no copied and pasted posts by Reality.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Maybe "they" got him. I knew the Flying Saucer people would beam him up one day.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  16. Robert2u

    Had to laugh at one part of the article in particular. "Members of the LDS church volunteer to undergo full immersion baptism while the names of the dead are read." What happens with a long list of names? lol

    February 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • W247

      Population control!!!

      February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • TColeman

      We believe that each individual is of inherent value to Heavenly Father – as such each baptism performed is just one at a time. A person is baptized/immersed as a proxy for one individual at a time. When they complete one baptism, they remain in the water and are baptized/immersed again for another person. One personal typically stays in the baptismal font and completes baptisms for 10 people at a time – being immersed individually for each person.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Joe

    Q: Why do Mormons baptize the dead?
    A: They don't... they just think they do.

    Q: Why do Catholics consume the literal body of Christ?
    A: They don't... they just think they do.

    Q: Why is the Bible a Holy book, that is inspired by a god?
    A It isn't... people just think it is.

    The REAL question is this: Why do people believe in irrational things?

    February 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • TonyInNYC

      I guess believing in irrational things is one way of dealing with things we don't understand.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • zack

      How is believing in Christ irrational? People these days....

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

      Joe, I can appreciate that position. It is difficult at times to believe in what seems irrational. However, I would bet all I had that you hold on to some irrational beliefs, some of which you don't even recognize. I am also confident that people used to believe that it was irrational to believe we could fly through the sky in large steel contraptions, or that we carry microscopic germs that pass along sickness, or that people would ever run for fun (thanks, Back to the Future). A bit of humility often allows us to believe in things that are not easily explained with limited understanding, but just might be explained in the future or with a totally different mindset that we were predisposed to not see. I would hope some day that you have a spiritual experience that you can't articulate but you know is real (and no, I don't believe that every alleged spiritual experience is real, but some of them are). Enjoy.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Not exactly

      Who are you to say that those who believe in a Savior is irrational?

      If you don't believe in the Savior Jesus Christ then what is this life for anyway? After you die, then what?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Joe

      @zack

      Believing that a Nazarene who, may have called himself the messiah, went about first century Judea teaching his religious views and moral philosophy is NOT irrational.

      Following moral commandments like loving your neighbor, and doing to others which you'd want done to yourself, and forgiving people for transgressions they made against you is NOT irrational.

      Thinking that this man was the "son of God," born of a virgin, resurrected from death, and judges the dead in an afterlife IS irrational.

      Sorry.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Joe

      @Not exactly

      Quote: "If you don't believe in the Savior Jesus Christ then what is this life for anyway? After you die, then what?"

      Why does there have to be some objective purpose or final goal in order to have a meaningful life?

      I don't believe in any kind of afterlife or "purpose" to life. But I still find life meaningful. I still find things to give my life "purpose." I still have friends and family that I love and care about. I still raise my kids to have a strong moral character, and to try their best in life. I still value life.

      When I die I'll be gone. But my memory will live on with my family. Many of my teachings, ideas, habits, and behaviors will live on in my three children. Each of them contain half of my DNA. So in a way I will live on after death... But my mind, my conscientiousness, the "I" part of me will be gone. But, that doesn't scare me at all. I won't even be there to know I'm gone.

      To you that might seem sad, but to me it's just an inevitable part of human existence. My only purpose in life is to one day lie on my deathbed and KNOW that I did the best I could to leave the world a better place than when I entered it, and that I made the most of the time I was lucky enough to have here.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  18. joemeservy

    How marvelous that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (not mormons...this is the real name of the church) invite ALL to come to Jesus Christ. No other religion does this or believes so fully in salvation.

    This is a miraculous truth. I am so grateful for my great great grandfather who heard about these doctrines and came from Denmark to America to join this church. His posterity (in the hundreds) have been true to the faith. We have received blessing from our Father in Heaven and faith in Jesus Christ. Many of us have earned college degrees and married in those temples.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Great! By the way, I just re-baptized your grandfather as a Lutheran. Hope you don't mind.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • cludgie

      Wow! This makes the church true!

      February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mark James

      OMG! Really? That sounds like a true cool-aid drinker. I got away from this brainwashing 35 years ago. It is sad to see so many people captivated by this cult. I saw it for what it is and got out before I could be indoctrinated.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  19. Sneakers

    Just a comment...Catholics recognize all baptisms. You are not re-baptised if you embrace the true faith (that ought to get some hot-headed comments!)

    February 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • SH

      That is simply not true. Catholics will not accept a Mormon baptism, for example. I doubt they except others as well, even though they might accept some. You can argue they shouldn't, but that would be contradicting your point.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. sparks

    Mormons are weird Christians just like the rest of them.

    I am glad to hear the some Christians do believe that their god will judge people based on their thoughts and actions regardless of their religious beliefs and practices; that's the only way that their god can be made to sound like a truly fair, honorable, and just god.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Thank u that u recognise the biblical perspective. The God of the Bible judges people as to whether they love their fellow human beings as themselves. He created man in his image and therefore to love even your enemy is to prove you love Him as well.

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

      I deeply regret 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 3:52 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.