fbpx
46.1 F
Spokane
Saturday, May 18, 2024
HomeCommentaryAskAsk A Mormon: Can you be baptized after death?

Ask A Mormon: Can you be baptized after death?

Date:

Related stories

Harrison Butker’s damaging commencement speech exposes his privilege

Find out why Harrison Butker's recent comments as a commencement speaker have generated so much controversy.

DEI programs under fire: Advocates turn to Bible for defense

Defending DEI programs: Discover how the Bible defends diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives in society.

Pentecost’s message for today: Unity and hope in a turbulent world

Explore the profound significance of Pentecost, a testament to the Holy Spirit's ability to unite and inspire love.

Break the Silence Sunday church service offers healing for abuse survivors

Break the Silence Sunday: A powerful worship service dedicated to listening and supporting victims of abuse and violence.

Pecking order: A bantam hen’s lesson in patience

Join the author as she reflects on her bantam chicken, Midge, and the lessons in patience learned from these wise feathered creatures.

Our Sponsors

spot_img
spot_img
Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online or fill out the form below. 
 After your death, can someone baptize you into the Mormon faith?

 

SPO-House-ad_Ask-A-Mormon_0823139

 

Mormons believe that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). He loves all of his children, regardless of when or where they were born. We also believe that baptism, and the covenants we make at baptism, are stepping stones on the path to salvation and exaltation. A loving father in heaven would not refuse his children the chance to progress simply because they were born into a situation where hearing the gospel or receiving ordinances wasn’t possible. We believe that “baptism for the dead” is the method God has provided to allow all of his children the same opportunity, no matter their circumstances while they lived on earth.

 

The ordinance of baptism for the dead in temples is almost identical to what you’d see if you attended a baptismal service at any LDS chapel, with a single phrase added to the baptismal prayer mentioning the name of the deceased person for whom the baptism is being performed.

 

Baptism for the dead is one of several ritual washings, anointings, blessings and sacramental ordinances performed in Mormon temples, which we believe prepare our souls and families to grow closer to God and progress both on this earth and after we die. There are three options for having these ordinances done: participate in them while you’re alive, wait until the resurrection or have them done by proxy on your behalf after you die.

 

Latter-day Saints hold agency to be one of the most important gifts God has given to all his children. We believe that life continues after death and that our agency is still in force then. These vicarious ordinances are not binding on those for whom they are performed. They are not added to the membership rolls, and they are not considered members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These proxy baptisms simply provide the opportunity for those who have died to accept the ordinance and related covenants if they choose to.

 

When we perform baptisms for the dead, we’re not rewriting their life history or saying, “This person is now a member of our Church.” We’re saying, “Lord, this person didn’t have the option of doing this when they were alive. I don’t know if they want it or not. But if they do, please let me do this on their behalf, so that if they decide they want these blessings and covenants, they can accept them now instead of waiting until the resurrection.” Mormons view these proxy baptisms and ceremonies similarly to the way Catholics view saying prayers or mass for the dead; we’re asking for blessings on their behalf.

 

In keeping with the Church’s emphasis on families, members of the Church are supposed to research their own family trees and only submit names of their own ancestors for baptism. This Church-wide focus on families also necessitates a respect for others’ wishes regarding their families, and that’s what I believe is behind the Church’s denunciation of those who inappropriately submit names for proxy baptism. In addition, for those born within the last 95 years, permission is supposed to be obtained from, at a minimum, the closest living relative before ordinances are performed. For example, my family hasn’t done this proxy work for anyone in my grandmother’s line because my dad’s aunt objected and asked us not to, so we have respected her request.

 

Every religion, every organization or group, however, has those who get overzealous in pursuit of their goals. No one is immune from the very human tendency to get too focused on the “end” and lose perspective on the here-and-now. Unfortunately, that has happened in some cases with baptism for the dead and particularly, as you mentioned, for Holocaust victims. As Church leaders have cracked down on those who submit names from unauthorized groups, such as Holocaust victims or celebrities, those who do so can lose their access to the Church’s genealogical database and possibly face additional discipline as well. (See more information in this article from last year.)

 

In most cases of inappropriate submissions, I believe that people simply lost sight of the forest for the trees and forgot the primary focus. These proxy baptisms are about asking for blessings on behalf of our own ancestors, while respecting the feelings and wishes of others regarding their ancestors.

 

Emily Geddes
Emily Geddes
Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University.

Our Sponsors

spot_img
spot_img

14 COMMENTS

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
14 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Charlie Byers
Charlie Byers
10 years ago

Thanks for the response, Emily – That’s a perspective I hadn’t considered. What you’re describing sounds, at least, in better taste than the picture that’s been painted for me by other people.
It raises an interesting question about whether you can ask a covenant, rather than (or in addition to) a blessing, in someone else’s name, doesn’t it? My concept of the LDS church is of an organization that’s pretty rigorous about the difference.

Mer
Mer
10 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Byers

Charlie – at least for me, as a Mormon, I see the difference this way. We believe that a covenant requires three parts: the Lord makes promises to us, we make promises to the Lord, AND we take action to confirm the covenant and show our obedience (via baptism or ritual washing/annointing, etc). So it’s not that I’m making the covenant on their behalf – I can’t. I’m asking if the Lord will give them the blessing of being able to choose to make the covenant with Him **if they want to** by letting me fulfill the physical action requirements by proxy.

I’m actually a family history consultant for my congregation – and one of my jobs is educating people about doing their family history and only submitting family names with permission for proxy work. Try as we might, there are always some zealots who think they’ll get more celestial brownie points than anyone else if they submit every name they find – no matter how distantly or dubiously related – and rush through all of the work. I’ve run into lots of Mormons who over-simplify the whole concept and conflate the action with the covenant itself – or think doing proxy work for someone is a magic bullet guaranteeing that person’s salvation. They’re totally misinterpreting and misusing the doctrine, and we try to nip it in the bud when we run into those attitudes.

Charlie Byers
Charlie Byers
10 years ago
Reply to  Mer

Mer – your work as a family history consultant sounds like it could get tricky when there are celestial brownie points at stake. 😉 Thanks for the answer. What you say about covenants makes sense, but I can also relate to how difficult it is to hold a big group to a high standard of caution, with practices like that.

Mer
Mer
10 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Byers

SOOOOOO tricky! People get downright crazy about those celestial brownie points! 😉 Though I don’t know how much clearer the church can get. There are six pages of instructions for submitting names for temple work – the instructions talk about “ANCESTORS” about a dozen times. You have to verify multiple times that you have permission and/or that the person is a family member. So anyone who submits a name without permission has to outright lie about it. And anyone who wants to do a sacred ceremony so much that they’ll break one of the 10 Commandments to do it has … umm… much bigger personal issues to address. (the instructions are here: https://help.familysearch.org/kb/guides/en/ordinances.pdf).

Luckily, every name that’s submitted for temple work can now be traced back to the person who submitted it. So if a closer family member complains about temple work being done without their permission, it’s pretty easy for us to revoke the submitter’s access to the system and correct the problem.

I have to say though – the abusers are a very, very, very small minority. Most of the permission issues I’ve run into have just been honest mistakes. 99% of people who submit names for temple ordinances are doing it for their own ancestors and relatives as a sign of love and respect. I’ve worked with families to do temple work for their babies or children who died, and it is truly a healing process for them. That’s actually how baptisms for the dead began in the early LDS church: they were initially done by women who had lost husbands or babies before they joined the church or had the chance to be baptized themselves. The whole point of temple work is bringing families and generations together – so it makes me *facepalm* when someone gets so focused on that that they offend their living family members. I just don’t think that the act of love the dead should ever be more important than showing respect, love, and compassion for the living.

Sue Stevens
Sue Stevens
10 years ago

I suppose I’m still unclear as to why the Mormons insist on characterizing these proxy baptisms as simply provide the opportunity for those who have died to accept the ordinance and related covenants if they choose to. You stated in your article “Lord, this person didn’t have the option of doing this when they were alive. I don’t know if they want it or not. But if they do, please let me do this on their behalf, so that if they decide they want these blessings and covenants, they can accept them now instead of waiting until the resurrection.” Wouldn’t that mean that since the Mormon missionaries have discussed their church with my parents and since my parents choose to retain their own spiritual belief that my parents had the option of being baptized into the Mormon faith while they were alive? So why after they died would they end up on a proxy list–especially if Mormons are not allowed to submit names for temple work unless they are related to the person? Frankly, the explanation sounds dishonest to me, and the practice feels disrespectful to those still living. Just to add some background to my question, I’ve started using the Mormon Family Research Library but I’m afraid the entire FamilySearch mechanism exists to gather names. I don’t want to disrespect those relatives that I love by dishonering the beliefs they held while they were alive in my quest to hunt down family history.

Sue Stevens
Sue Stevens
10 years ago
Reply to  Emily Geddes

Thank you Emily for your response. It is without a doubt the clearest (and most respectful) answer I’ve ever received on this subject. Without exception, every other time I’ve asked the answer is theological rather than temporal and practical. I will follow through by contacting FamilySearch. I think the answer to my question is hidden within the “or” part of your answer coupled with the change from 95 years to 110 years. My father was born in 1911 so he falls right into that space of “or born more than…” .

Sue Stevens
Sue Stevens
10 years ago
Reply to  Emily Geddes

Emily,
I thought it would be appropriate to provide you and your readers with an update on this topic. I did contact FamilySearch as you suggested. Below is the entire response they provided. Although your original reponse to my query left me hopeful, I continue to believe the purpose behind FamilySearch is proxy ordinance work.
Dear Sue Stevens,
Thank you for contacting FamilySearch about your desire to having proxy work not done or restricted. It is not possible to have this done however this proxy work if done will have no effect if not accepted. We are attaching a document that explains the policy on that subject. If you would like to speak to us about you concerns please give a good time to call and we would be pleased speak with you further on this subject.
Thank you for using our program and hope that you will have a positive experience with it. If you have further concerns please feel free to contact us.
Sincerely,
FamilySearch
Patron and Partner Services

Tracy Simmons
Admin
10 years ago

@Mer, your work doing family history does sound quite interesting! From what I understand, LDS allows non-Mormons to use their libraries to do genealogy research. I know in Salt Lake people come from all over the world to use the amazing facilities. Does Family Search work the same way?

Mer
Mer
10 years ago
Reply to  Tracy Simmons

Tracy – Yup. Anyone can use FamilySearch. It’s basically the online equivalent of the brick and mortar Family History Libraries. There are teams of indexers transcribing the written materials at the SLC library – and they’re uploaded to the FamilySearch database in real time.

Tracy Simmons
Admin
10 years ago

Very cool, thanks!

Kathy
Kathy
10 years ago

I’m sorry to chime in on this several months after the fact, but I just found this article whilst googling. My LDS convert brother just had my parents proxy baptized and sealed last week in Salt Lake City. They passed away last year. He informed none of his siblings, including me, that he was doing this, and, I believe, he instructed his adult children not to mention it to us beforehand.

My parents were devout Catholics and would have never wanted either of these things done on their behalf, and, furthermore, made it clear to my brother that they did not want it done. Yet he went ahead and did it anyway.

I cannot tell you how offensive this is. Everything about proxy baptisms and proxy sealings is so passive aggressive. The overwhelming message is, “hey, it can’t hurt. if they don’t want it, they don’t have to accept.” I fail to understand why if the LDS church would not allow them into the temple before they died, they were so happy to help them after their deaths??? They were not allowed into the temple to watch their grandchildren get married, and had to sit in the parking lot, waiting to welcome them as a married couple which act, as devout Christians, truly offended them.

My anger is bleeding over right now, and I’m sorry for that. But this is truly offensive. Not to me. But to my parents’ memory. They didn’t want this. They told my brother that *specifically* and he went ahead and did it anyway. How do I get this undone? Whom do I have to petition?

Neal Schindler
Neal Schindler
6 years ago

This is a great response. I think many folks are confused about the posthumous baptisms. Thanks for shedding light!

14
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x