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Why Mormons Do Baptisms for the Dead

By Mormon.org

Jesus taught that baptism is necessary for you, and for anyone who has ever lived, to receive salvation (see John 3:5). But there are some people who never had the chance to get baptized while they were alive, and there are others who have been baptized, but not by the proper authority. God is merciful and wants all His children to receive the blessings of baptism, and this is why Mormons perform baptisms for the dead.

What Are Baptisms for the Dead?

During a baptism for the dead, a living, worthy Mormon member is baptized on behalf of someone who has already died. This sacred ordinance includes full immersion in water, just as a baptism is performed for a living person. However, baptisms for the dead are performed only inside Mormon temples.

Any Mormon who is at least 12 years old and is worthy to enter a Mormon temple can be baptized for those who have died.

Who Can Receive This Ordinance?

Any deceased person who wasn’t baptized by the power and authority of God in the Mormon Church can be baptized vicariously.

Many Mormons do family history not only to learn about their heritage but also to find deceased ancestors who haven’t yet been baptized in the Church, and worthy Church members can then be baptized for these ancestors who have died.

Why Do Mormons Choose to Do Baptisms for the Dead?

When someone dies, Mormons believe a person’s spirit leaves the body. Performing baptisms for the dead is a chance for Mormons to do for those who are dead what they can’t do for themselves.

Their spirit continues to exist in a place called the spirit world. In the spirit world, you are able to experience feelings, continue to learn and make choices. Specifically in the spirit world, the spirits of those people who have passed on are able to learn more about Jesus and His sacrifice for them. They are taught His gospel. If someone didn’t have the chance to get baptized while alive or they weren’t baptized with the proper authority while alive, Mormons want these people to have the chance to receive the blessings of eternal life that God has made available. 

What Happens after a Mormon Is Baptized for Someone Who Is Dead?

Because the concept of baptism for the dead is unfamiliar to many people in the world, some believe that when these baptisms are performed the deceased people become members of the Mormon Church against their will. That isn’t true.

After someone is baptized for a deceased person, the spirit of the deceased person still has the ability to choose whether or not to accept the baptism, repent of the sins they committed while they were alive, and follow Jesus. Names of the deceased who have had baptisms performed for them are never added to the membership records of the Mormon Church.

Were Baptisms for the Dead Done During Ancient Times?

Performing baptisms for the dead isn’t a new idea or something that Mormons just decided to start doing. The Apostle Paul mentions baptisms for the dead in the New Testament as he talks about the resurrection, which indicates that it was a gospel ordinance done by Christians during Paul’s time (see 1 Corinthians 15:29).

For a long time this sacred ordinance wasn’t practiced, but it was restored when the Mormon Church—the restored Church of Jesus Christ—was established in the early 1800s.