Why Do Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Do Baptisms for the Dead?

Jesus taught that baptism is required to receive salvation. But what about people who never got the chance to get baptized while they were alive? Because God is merciful, He has provided a way for all of His children to receive the blessings of baptism.

A woman stands outside a temple in spring and explains the purpose of baptisms for the dead
A woman stands outside a temple in spring and explains the purpose of baptisms for the dead

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perform baptisms for the dead on behalf of their ancestors so they, too, can accept Jesus. (1:22)

What are baptisms for the dead?

Jesus taught the importance of baptism when He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Faithful Church members can be baptized on behalf of those who have died without being baptized. These baptisms are performed in holy Church buildings called temples. Participants dress in white and are baptized by immersion as a proxies for people who have died. These baptisms must be performed by someone who holds the proper priesthood authority of God.

Who do we do these baptisms for?

Any deceased person who wasn’t baptized by the power and authority of God in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be baptized in this way.

Church members do family history not only to learn about their heritage but also to find deceased ancestors who haven’t yet been baptized into the Church. Church members can then be baptized for those ancestors.

Why do we choose to do baptisms for the dead?

Performing baptisms for the dead is a chance for Church members to do for those who are dead what they can’t do for themselves.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that when a person dies, their spirit leaves their body. These spirits continue to exist in a place called the spirit world. 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. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to give those who never got baptized while they were alive the opportunity to receive the blessings of baptism and eternal life.

The baptismal font set on the back of twelve oxen in the Ogden, Utah temple

Do those who have passed on have a choice?

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

After a Church member is baptized on behalf of a deceased person, the spirit of the deceased person can choose to accept or reject the baptism. Names of the deceased who have had baptisms performed on their behalf are never added to the membership records of the Church.

Were baptisms for the dead performed in ancient times?

Performing baptisms for the dead isn’t a new idea that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just came up with. Followers of Christ have performed baptisms for the dead since ancient times. The Apostle Paul even mentions baptism for the dead in the New Testament as he talks about the Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). The practice of baptisms for the dead was restored when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in the early 1800s.

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