Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf.
Many people have lived on the earth who never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who were not baptized. Others lived without fully understanding the importance of the ordinance of baptism. Still others were baptized, but without proper authority.
Because He is a loving God, the Lord does not damn those people who, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity for baptism. He has therefore authorized baptisms to be performed by proxy for them. A living person, often a descendant who has become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is baptized in behalf of a deceased person. This work is done by Church members in temples throughout the world.
Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church.
The New Testament indicates that baptisms for the dead were done during the time of the Apostle Paul (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). This ordinance was restored with the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Baptism for the Dead,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism
“Family History,” mormon.org
“Letters on Baptism for the Dead,” Church History
“Frequently Asked Questions,” temples.lds.org
“Temples,” True to the Faith
“Family History Work and Genealogy,” True to the Faith
“Getting Ready to Go to the Temple,” youth.lds.org
“Baptisms for the dead,” Youth Activities
“How Family History Changes Our Hearts and Minds,” Ensign or Liahona, February 2015
“The Restoration and Early Christian Teachings,” Ensign, April 2013
“Preparing to Do Baptisms for the Dead,” Friend, September 2011
“Baptisms for the Dead: What to Know Before You Go,” New Era, April 2004
“A Voice of Gladness,” Ensign, February 2004
“The Savior’s Visit to the Spirit World,” Ensign or Liahona, July 2003
“Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity,” Ensign, March 1988
“I Have a Question,” Ensign, August 1987
“Baptisms for the Dead,” Lesson Helps for Teaching Children
“Baptism for Dead”
“Glad Tidings: The History of Baptisms for the Dead”
“Change Your Temple Experiences and Your Life”