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God has provided a way for everyone to receive and accept baptism even if they did not have
an opportunity in this life.
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Jesus taught that baptism is an essential gateway to heaven (see John 3:5). This often prompts the age-old question of what happens to the billions of people who never have that opportunity.

Mormons believe the answer lies in the doctrine of baptism for the dead, a practice of early Christians (see 1 Corinthians 15:29), but lost to the modern Christian world. For those who have died without the opportunity to hear, understand, and accept the full gospel of Jesus Christ, proxy baptism offers the opportunity of eternal life with God. Baptisms for the dead are an indication of God’s love for all His children.

A proxy baptism is an offering only. Such a gesture cannot make a person a member of any particular church or a Christian in the next life. A person who has died retains the right in the next life to make choices, and is free to accept or reject the baptism. Mormons believe the acceptance of the baptismal rite opens the way to continued progression for the departed soul.

Baptisms for the dead are performed in Mormon temples.

By Church policy, Church members may submit names for temple baptisms only if they are related. The Church does not accept for proxy baptism the names of celebrities or other prominent people unrelated to Church members. Nor does the Church list any deceased persons who have received proxy baptism as “Mormons” on its membership records.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not list any deceased persons as “Mormons” on its membership records.

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Articles in the media

BBC: Baptism for the Dead

CNN: How and why do Mormons Baptize the dead?

First Things: The Heavenly Logic of Proxy Baptism

Newsroom: Everyone Else Makes Such Lonely Heavens

Washington Post: What Baptism for the Dead Means to Mormons

Mormon ritual is no threat to Jews

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Answers from Mormons
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  • Jeremey
    Jeremey answered...

    We believe that everyone will have the chance to hear the full gospel of Jesus Christ. Not everyone has that chance while they are on Earth. Many people have lived and died without knowing of Jesus Christ. They will have the opportunity to be taught the gospel and accept it in the Spirit world after they die. We must all be baptized but it wouldn't be fair to those who haven't had the opportunity. So we are baptized in their name vicariously for them since they no longer are able to physically be baptized themselves thus fulfilling the commandment for the dead person that we all be baptized.

  • Matt
    Matt answered...

    This may seem like a strange doctrine at first, but may I first invite you to think about the idea of vicarious work--something done by someone else in behalf of another. The great Atonement of Jesus Christ, His sufferings on the cross and in the garden of Gethsemane, and His resurrection, was something He did for all mankind of every age, era and nationality. He did something in behalf of billions of yet unborn children of God. This is the same with baptisms for the dead, the idea that those of us here on the earth who are worthy to enter the temple can be baptized in behalf of our kindred dead.

    We read that in the first book of Peter he states that "the gospel was preached to them that are dead," and Paul asked in Corinthians, "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?" There are billions who have lived on the earth and have not had the chance to hear the gospel of salvation or receive its ordinances.

  • Stacy
    Stacy answered...

    Because our Heavenly Father loves us so much, his Plan includes a way for ALL of his children to return to live with Him. We read in the Bible that we must be baptized in order to live with Him again, yet so many of his children who have lived upon the earth never heard the gospel nor had the opportunity to be baptized. They are not lost! Although they have passed on, their spirit is alive and they can learn and make choices. They just can't physically enter the waters of baptism. They are taught in the spirit and we who have bodies perform the ordinance on their behalf.

  • G._mcintyre
    G. McIntyre answered...

    There is a single, obscure reference to baptisms for the dead in 1 Cor. 15:29. In this chapter, Paul is reasoning with the Saints in Corinth, who evidently had doubts about the resurrection, that if they were performing baptisms for the dead, why bother, if the dead don't rise at all? Yet they were performing such ordinances precisely because of their belief in the resurrection.

    Mormons are the only people I know of that know what to make of that one verse.

    Bottom line: we believe that the Lord through modern day prophets has restored the practice of baptisms for the dead.

  • Robin
    Robin answered...

    Many people never have the chance for Baptism in their lives. According to the words of Christ, all people need baptism. Jesus himself sought Baptism from John the Baptist. Later Jesus ordained his Apostles with the authority to baptize. Mormons are baptized in behalf of dead individuals so a baptism is available to every person. Those spirits may accept or reject that baptism. This way, all people can be put on equal ground and salvation is possible for all.

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