Covering Your Bases
"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 Corinthians 15:29
Mormons believe in vicarious service for others; meaning that under certain circumstances, we believe we can perform necessary ordinances by proxy in the name and place of other people.
A lot of other people don’t think this is possible. But then the Atonement of Jesus Christ was a vicarious service…so…
And apparently, some people in Corinth were having a problem understanding the resurrection, so Paul used the principle of baptism for the dead to prove the point that if we were going to live again (resurrection) we must be baptized.
Baptism for the dead was not practiced before Christ’s earthly ministry. During the three days between his death and resurrection, he organized his kingdom in the spirit world so that this work could be done. (Doctrine & Covenants 124)
This is why Mormons are interested in genealogy. We find out who our dead relatives were so that we can submit their names to the temple to have their earthly ordinances performed for them. These ancestors, waiting in the spirit world for resurrection, can decide whether or not to accept the ordinances and the Gospel in general. I’m not sure how this works, because to me it would seem really easy to die and say, “Oh, yeah, I totally would have been a believer if I hadn’t lived in China during the Ming dynasty.” But, I don’t think it’s that simple; plus, God is the great judge…he knows….he knows everything.
This practice of submitting names can get controversial. Someone can check my facts, but I think that if the person is not directly related to you they have to have been dead for quite a while…50 years? And if they are related to you, there are certain people (living relatives) whose permission you must obtain to submit their names. But…in recent years, as lists of victims of certain heinous crimes, the holocaust specifically, have become public, there has been an outcry of resistance from various groups of survivors and memory preserving foundations against submitting victims’ names to the temples. So, out of respect (and the threat of legal action), the church has officially, banned the submission of holocaust victims’ names.
As I read articles and listen to radio shows on this topic, the factions seem to be pretty clear cut: sure, go ahead…I don’t believe in your religion anyway, so whatever floats your boat you crazy Mormons… and NO WAY will I allow you to baptize me or any member of your family into your crack pot religion…how condescending …how dare you even presume such a thing.
But as my husband likes to say, “Sure, go ahead. I like to cover all my bases…” So if there are any other religions out there who do vicarious-proxy work for the dead, as soon as Todd goes I’ll let you know.