LDS Articles of Faith, Part XXI

Article IV, Baptism for the Dead


LDS Apostle James Talmage discussed baptism for the dead in the Articles of Faith (A. of F.) on p. 145, by saying, “The universality of the law of baptism has been already dwelt upon. Compliance with the ordinance has been shown to be essential to salvation, and this condition applies to all mankind. Nowhere in scripture is a distinction made in this regard between the living and the dead. The dead are those who have lived in mortality upon earth; the living are mortals who yet shall pass through the ordained change that we call death.” But the Bible does not say that baptism is a law that is essential for salvation. In John 6:47 Jesus said “He that believes on me has everlasting life.” Baptism is part of the believer’s obedience to Christ’s teachings.The Bible does distinguish between the living and the dead. II Cor. 6:2 says “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” And Heb. 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” No Bible text offers salvation after death.


Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth LDS President and Prophet said, “If a man cannot enter the kingdom of God without baptism, then the dead must be baptized. But how can they be baptized in water for the remission of their sins? It is easy to understand how they in person could believe in Christ and even obtain the spirit of repentance; but water is an element of this world, and how could spirits be baptized in it, or receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost? The only way it can be done is vicariously, someone who is living (on earth) acting as a substitute for the dead” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. II, p. 141). That LDS doctrine is not in the Bible. There is no Biblical or other record of anyone being baptized until about the time of Christ. Christian baptism identifies the believer with the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Rom. 6:3-6), so no one before Jesus’ death and resurrection had Christian baptism. No Old Testament saint was baptized and God didn’t tell them to be baptized!


LDS founder, Joseph Smith, said that baptism for the dead “was certainly practiced by the ancient churches” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 179). He then quoted I Cor. 15:29 as proof that Paul taught it. That is the only Bible verse that mentions baptism for the dead and it says, “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?” And v. 30 says, “And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” Notice the difference in the pronouns in those two verses. Paul does not include himself in v. 29 but he does in v. 30. Why is that? First, Paul briefly mentioned the gospel by which we are saved in I Cor. 15:1-4 and then the rest of the chapter, including v. 29, is about the resurrection of the dead. Paul uses several arguments to support the resurrection of the dead, including v. 29. In it he questioned why they (some sect) baptized for the dead if there is no resurrection? Then in v. 30 he said why do we (Christians) risk our lives every hour to preach the gospel if there is no resurrection? Second, Paul didn’t include himself with those in v. 29 is because it would have contradicted his own teachings in texts like II Cor. 6:2 which says, “Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” No New Testament writer taught that anyone can be saved after death. The Book of Mormon also denies that the dead can be saved in Alma 34:34-35, so LDS contradict their own scripture on this subject!


Even though LDS often use I Cor. 15:29 to support baptism for the dead, it is not the real source for this LDS doctrine. BYU Professor Robert Millet said, “The Bible is not, and was never intended to be, our sole guide, our template, our standard against which we measure what we teach or believe” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6:1, pp. 198-199). And Robert J. Matthews, Chairman of the Ancient Scriptures Department at BYU said, “The Bible is not the source of the doctrines the Prophet Joseph Smith taught. He had obtained the doctrine of salvation for the dead (which includes baptism) by revelation and not from the printed pages of the Bible” (Ensign, September 1981, p. 16). But LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote What the Mormons Think of Christ to proselyte Christians. On p. 2 he said, “Mormon doctrine is Bible doctrine and Bible doctrine is Mormon doctrine. They are one and the same.” So, LDS leaders contradict one another about the Bible’s place for LDS. The BYU professors reported the LDS Church’s true position. But if a doctrine does not come from the Bible, it cannot be a Bible doctrine! As BYU professor Matthews said, baptism for the dead came as a revelation to Joseph Smith and it is in Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.) 124:29-39; 127:5-7; 128:1-3 &17-18.


In Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 193 he said, “This doctrine

presents in a clear light the wisdom and mercy of God in preparing an ordinance for the salvation of the dead, being baptized by proxy, their names recorded in heaven and they judged according to the deeds done in the body. This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures. Those saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation.” That shows LDS salvation is dependent on their works, not Christ’s work! On p. 356 Smith said, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.” So, LDS must find family genealogy records and do the LDS temple work required to save them. On p. 357 Smith said, “Every man who has a friend in the eternal world can save him, unless he has committed the unpardonable sin. And so you can see how far you can be a savior.” And on p. 191 it says Smith “presented baptism for the dead as the only way that men can become saviors on Mount Zion.” If mortals on earth can become saviors of the dead, then Jesus Christ is not the One and only Mediator between God and men as I Tim. 2:5 declares!


Talmage said in the A. of F, p. 152 “As the children learn that without their progenitors they cannot attain perfection, their hearts will be opened, their faith will be strengthened, and good works will be attempted for the redemption of their dead; and the departed learning from the ministers laboring among them that they depend upon their children as vicarious saviors, will seek to sustain their mortal representatives with faith and prayer for the perfecting of those labors of love.” That again shows that Mormonism is a religion of works for salvation. But Titus 3:5-6 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” Psalm 49:7 says, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” I Pet. 1:18 also says we are “not redeemed with corruptible things.” Anything on earth is corruptible including water for baptism, temples for ceremonies, men and women who do the ceremonial work! Mankind can be redeemed only by the incorruptible blood of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:18-19).


We will continue to discuss baptism for the dead next time.