Mormons believe that individuals who have died can hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world. And through proxy baptism performed for them in an LDS temple, they can attain eternal life in the presence of God.
The important question here is – does baptism for the dead have a basis in the Bible? Was this Mormon temple rite originally established by Jesus, and taught and practiced by His apostles?
LDS believe the ordinance of baptism for the dead was practiced in the early church, because the Apostle Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 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?”
The first thing to notice about this verse is that baptism for the dead is only mentioned – it is not actually taught.
The best way to understand any single verse in Scripture is to examine the verses surrounding it. When we read 1 Corinthians 15:29 in its context it is clear, that resurrection – not baptism – is the dominating theme throughout the chapter. False teachers had infiltrated the church at Corinth, teaching “that there is no resurrection of the dead” (verse 13). The whole chapter is devoted to reasons why this is a false teaching.
In verse 29, Paul is pointing out an inconsistency in the practice of these false teachers. Apparently, they did not believe that the dead would rise (verse 15), but they practiced proxy baptism for the dead. If the dead do not rise, why did they bother doing baptisms for them?
By carefully noticing the third person pronouns in that passage, one can see who was practicing baptisms for the dead. Paul says, “…what shall THEY do which are baptized for the dead… Why are THEY then baptized for the dead?” Paul did NOT say,
“Why are YOU – Corinthian Christians – then baptized for the dead?”
He did NOT say,
“Why are WE – followers of Christ – then baptized for the dead?”
He was asking in effect, a rhetorical question: why these false teachers, who did not even believe in the resurrection, would want to baptize for the dead if the dead will never rise?
Latter-day Saints believe that baptism is necessary for the salvation of all men.
The most important question to ask is:
Is baptism necessary for salvation?
Because that would be the premise of baptism for the dead. The New Testament certainly teaches that baptism is an important step, but it does not teach it is necessary to receive forgiveness of sins and to receive eternal life.In that regard, baptism for the dead can not accurately be called a Christian practice.
Mormonism is the first and probably the only religion ever to claim that everyone of the billions and billions of people who have ever lived in history needs to have baptisms performed on their behalf?
The LDS believe that along with baptism – other works for the dead are necessary for their salvation. As LDS members they do research to get the names of the dead.
It is called genealogy – which by the way – is condemned in the New Testament for religious practices (1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9).
In the LDS temple, once the proxy baptism is done for a person, if the dead person is a male, he receives the priesthoods by the laying on of hands. Then someone must go through what is called the “initiatory” work for the deceased subject. After that, a person must go through an “endowment” session. Then the dead subject must go through a sealing of himself to his wife and children.
Once all this “work” is completed by a member of the Mormon Church, the dead person on the “other side” will decide if they want to accept those ordinances or not. If they don’t, they will never get to live with God.
All, of that busy work requires a living person or persons to spend at least a total of eight hours of proxy work in the temple on behalf of just one dead person. All of that, including the required ten percent of their income to build these elaborate temple buildings, from one obscure verse totally, misinterpreted and completely misapplied.