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Why Do Baptisms for the Dead?

by W. John Walsh

If you believe Jesus is the only way to salvation, why to you have baptism for the dead? I feel and the Bible and the Book of Mormon clearly states that you have only one chance to accept Jesus as your personal Savior. (Bible Verses -- Luke 16: 19-31; Hebrews 9:27; Galatians 6:8; John 3:36 --Book of Mormon -- Alma 34:31; 2 Nephi 9:38; Mosiah 26:25-27)

Latter-day Saints certainly believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. The Book of Mormon teaches:

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." (2 Nephi 31:20-21)

Why do we do Baptisms for the Dead? Salvation for the dead is the system where under those who would have accepted the gospel in this life had they been permitted to hear it, will have the chance to accept it in the spirit world, and will then be entitled to all the blessings which passed them by in mortality. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches:

"Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts." (D&C 137:7-9, emphasis added)

However, the principles of this great doctrine do not apply to those hear the gospel in mortality and reject it. The Book of Mormon teaches:

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, 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." (Alma 34:31-35)

In performing temple ordinances in behalf of the dead, Latter-day Saints do not attempt to distinguish between those who rejected the gospel in mortality and those who never had the opportunity. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ alone has the right to judge someone's eternal destiny. (See Final Judgment) Therefore, we perform temple work for all of our ancestors and leave them in the loving hands of our Savior.

(See Teachings About Temples; Teachings About the Afterlife; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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