Baptism of the Dead


#1

Can we have a chat about this?

This Mormon belief is based on 1 Corinthians 15:29. The passage is described as ‘troublesome’ by Newadvent which cites Archbishop McEvilly (unfortunate name) as stating "It is almost impossible to glean anything like certainty as to the meaning of these very abstruse words, ".

Mormons believe that Baptism is the gateway to eternal life, but going on this passage in Corinthians, you can’t Baptise a Spirit so what do you do?

How do we understand this passage of Scripture and how do we deal with the issue of baptising the dead?


#2

I found that verse in my 1582 Douay-Rheims Bible. It has a large Commentary. I will just use a small bit here.
1 Cor 15:29.

He says several Early Fathers interpret this to mean a metaphorical baptism. “To be baptised for the dead” is to undertake self-denials, mortifications and works of penance. in hopes of a happy resurrection. Some think St. Paul says the living should not question the resurrection.There was a custon of baptising a living person for a dead person who was not baptised in some places.

Tertullian mentions this and St Crys also says it does not seem probable that St. Paul is agreeing with this custom.Edit Pevitii, concurs that it was a metaphorical baptism. It only had the hope that all the faithful would have resurrection. ( I have reduced the commentary to about 1/4th of the volume.) The bottom line is that a dead person cannot be baptised as a living person can be baptised. The self-denials etc. are like prayers.


#3

Isn’t this where Baptism of Desire comes in? (I can never explain this very well).

We know that there are certain people in the world who have never had the chance to hear about Jesus and his Church. We also know that God is love and is justice and would not condemn these people to eternal punishment because they did not learn this information in their lives.

We believe that souls such as these are judged by God based on the way they have lived their life - and if they have lived as good a life as they could have then of course God will admit them to Heaven. This is a Baptism of Desire.

It would also apply to those who believed in the Christ and the Church and followed it’s teachings, but for some reason did not have the chance to be baptised into the Church.

Mormons believe that a soul can only be admitted to heaven if they have been baptised into their church - this includes after death. They believe that after death we still have the chance to accept the Mormon gospel and that without this, there is no salvation.

Have I explained this properly? Please feel free to chip in and help if I’ve missed (or misunderstood) something.

Peace

Vince

I just found this quote:

"Some people die while being ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His Church. In such cases, it can be presumed that they have received the Baptism of desire and were saved if they truly searched for the truth and lived righteous lives by the will of God in accordance with their understanding. "It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (C.C.C. # 1260, 1281)"


#4

When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. [13, 14] Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?
1Cor. 15: 28-29 New American Bible

[footnote 13] [29-34] Paul concludes his treatment of logical inconsistencies with a listing of miscellaneous Christian practices that would be meaningless if the resurrection were not a fact.

[footnote 14] [29] Baptized for the dead: this practice is not further explained here, nor is it necessarily mentioned with approval, but Paul cites it as something in their experience that attests in one more way to belief in the resurrection.


#5

[quote=Matt16_18]When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. [13, 14] Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?
1Cor. 15: 28-29 New American Bible

[footnote 14] [29] Baptized for the dead: this practice is not further explained here, nor is it necessarily mentioned with approval, but Paul cites it as something in their experience that attests in one more way to belief in the resurrection.
[/quote]

I like that footnote. The best explanation I have ever heard is that Paul is talking about the truth of the resurrection here. Is point, is that if there were no ressurection, there would be no reason for people baptizing for the dead. He makes no mention of whether this is an approved process or not. He simply states that people do it because they believe in the resurrection. The point of his comment was to show that the resurrection is true.


#6

[quote=FightingFat]This Mormon belief is based on 1 Corinthians 15:29. The passage is described as ‘troublesome’ by Newadvent which cites Archbishop McEvilly (unfortunate name) as stating "It is almost impossible to glean anything like certainty as to the meaning of these very abstruse words, ".

Mormons believe that Baptism is the gateway to eternal life, but going on this passage in Corinthians, you can’t Baptise a Spirit so what do you do?

How do we understand this passage of Scripture and how do we deal with the issue of baptising the dead?
[/quote]

The text is problematic because it is vague. For example, some note that Paul does not say “we” indicating that he may have not approved of the practice but was only using the custom to help support his argument concerning the resurrection.

On the other hand, why would the Holy Spirit allow Paul to cite an erroneous and false custom to promote truth? We must also note that Paul, while not approving the custom, is not disapproving of the custom either.

Another way to look at this passage is to see it in a metaphorical way. This is permissible as Jesus Himself uses the word “baptize” to mean sacrifice, offering, and spiritual suffering (Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50).

This passage can then mean:

Otherwise, what do people mean by offering [prayers, sacrifices, good works, etc] on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people offering on their behalf?


#7

[quote=FightingFat]This Mormon belief is based on 1 Corinthians 15:29. The passage is described as ‘troublesome’ by Newadvent which cites Archbishop McEvilly (unfortunate name) as stating "It is almost impossible to glean anything like certainty as to the meaning of these very abstruse words, ".

Mormons believe that Baptism is the gateway to eternal life, but going on this passage in Corinthians, you can’t Baptise a Spirit so what do you do?

How do we understand this passage of Scripture and how do we deal with the issue of baptising the dead?
[/quote]

Thank goodness for Spring break. I have time to contribute a little to this discussion.

I am going to have to suggest that mormons do not base the baptism for the dead on one tiny, ambiguous, in passing, remark made in that direction such as 1 Cor. 15:29. Mormons base the doctrine on revelations received by Joseph Smith, see for example Doctrine and Covenants passages scriptures.lds.org/tgb/bptsmfrt.


#8

Having been dunked 45 times as a youth, by a man who I swear was an auctioneer, I haved looked into this topic from both faiths (mormon & catholic). The scriptures supporting the mormon argument corinthians 15:29 do not approve or disapprove of this practice and are vague at best on this topic. The mormon scriptures that support this argument are found in their Doctrine and Covenants 124:29, 124:33 127:5-10, 128, 138:33 these are revelations from their first prophet Joseph Smith. In his revelations he quotes the new testament and the old testament with vague references to the prophets and apostles, however you can not find any reference of this practice in The Book of Mormon. Also remember that the the Book of Mormon was published 5 to 10 years before these other revelations in the mormon D&C. I hope this answers some of your questions on this topic.


#9

[quote=ex-mormon] The scriptures supporting the mormon argument corinthians 15:29 do not approve or disapprove of this practice and are vague at best on this topic. The mormon scriptures that support this argument are found in their Doctrine and Covenants 124:29, 124:33 127:5-10, 128, 138:33 these are revelations from their first prophet Joseph Smith
[/quote]

ex-m actually beat me to the bunch here because I was still editing. Well said! I didn’t say it any better.


#10

Actually this is a GREAT verse, as far as dialogue with Protestants is concerned. As a convert myself…it certainly made me think. Dave Armstrong, in his book *A Biblical Defence of Catholicism *, which I highly recommend, (his site is ic.net/~erasmus/RAZHOME.HTM or biblicalcatholic.com…great apologetics there), makes an interesting comparison between the following passage from 2 Maccabees and this New Testament verse. Compare the two passages:
2 Maccabees 12:39-42,44-45 . . . Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen . . . Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear . . . So they all . . . turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out . . . For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin. (Quoted from the book…)

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Notice the striking similarities? If baptisms is here understood in the metaphorical sense (as cited above, Christ’s passion is called a baptism)…these baptisms for the dead would be penances (including prayers). Paul seems to be echoing the argument found in 2 Maccabees here. This is the most logical interpretation, in my oppinion.


#11

[quote=FightingFat]Can we have a chat about this?
Mormons believe that Baptism is the gateway to eternal life, but going on this passage in Corinthians, you can’t Baptise a Spirit so what do you do?

How do we understand this passage of Scripture and how do we deal with the issue of baptising the dead?
[/quote]

A mormon friend who saw me responding earlier pointed something about the title to me that I missed. He said “Baptism of the dead”?? Shouldn’t that be baptism for the dead. So yes it is not possible to baptise a spirit. Actually it might be possible, but it isn’t legitimate. The rules are that baptism is an earthly ordinance and must be attended to in mortality. In the case of LDS baptisms for the dead, someone acts as a stand-in or substitute for someone who has passed on. We still believe that whether that baptism is fully efficacious is up to the spirit’s willingness and God’s willingness to enter into a baptismal covenant.

And interesting tangent is that in mormon thought spirits are not immaterial, just made up of more fine matter. Another point of trivia is that Adam was baptised by the Spirit. See
scriptures.lds.org/moses/6/64-65#64.

But back to where mormons get their ideas from. In earlier posts, revelation was cited and linked to; but that only gives part of the answer. Revelation frequently comes as a result individuals seeking communication with God to find answers. This means that for some revelations we can re-trace the events, the environment, the development of thought that characterizes the human side leading up to the revelatory moment. I suppose one difference between non-believers and believers is that the skeptic will attribute the so-called revelation entirely to human factors, whereas the believer is willing to allow for divine intervention.

Let me sketch an intellectual history of mormon baptism for the dead. My version begins with Joseph Smith in the 1820’s when his older brother Alvin died. At Alvin’s funeral, a minister condemned Alvin to Hell because he had not been baptised. Joseph follows Alvin’s deathbed advice to faithfully obtain the plates which contained the Book of Mormon. As ex-m notes, the Book of Mormon doesn’t discuss baptisms for the dead. But it does lay a lot of ground work for it. The Book of Mormon:

  1. Has Christ in his appearance to the American continent stressing the necessity of baptism. 3 Nephi 11

  2. States that baptism under an age of accountability is un-necessary. Moroni 8

  3. Stresses the covenant nature of baptism. Mosiah 18 and Moroni 6.

  4. Information about what goes on in the afterlife abounds. The fate of spirits awaiting judgement is discussed. Alma 40

Two events occured in 1830, the “mormon” church was established and the Book of Mormon was published. With that foundation, more ideas, or revelations if you will, about baptism came forth. New members, even those baptised in other faiths, were instucted to be re-baptised. The claim was that baptisms must be performed by someone holding the proper priesthood authority to be acceptable. This priesthood had been restored in to a response to Joseph Smith inquiring about Christ’s words in the Book of Mormon about the importance of baptism.

Fast forward to 1836 and the first mormon temple was being dedicated. Two things of note are said to have happened. First Joseph Smith saw a futuristic vision of his brother Alvin in heaven. The second is that in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, Elijah returned and bestowed priesthood keys in the spirit of “turning the hearts of the children to the fathers”. To this day the event and scripture are cited as the inspiration for geneology work as mormons try discover anscestors with hopes of helping them on their spiritual journeys.

(More)


#12

Picking up the Alvin story again, I don’t think the concern Joseph Smith might have had about his brother’s status was fully reconciled until after he received the revelations on baptism for the dead in scriptures cited earlier. But in addition to his personal concerns, Joseph pondered over biblical passages such as 1 Pet. 3:18, 1 Pet. 4:6, and 1 Cor. 15:29. He cites all these scriptures and more when he teaches followers about the newly restored doctrine.

Since Joseph Smith’s time the thought on baptism for the dead has remainded largely the same. Perhaps a vision here or a procedural clarification there has increased LDS knowledge of the subject over the years. Recently some LDS saints have looked into the ECFs for traces that establish that it may have been practiced anciently. But basically the same scriptures that were important to Joseph Smith are still important to us today.

For some, the doctrine of baptism for the dead is just a product of Joseph Smith’s inherited Universalism, to others it is just a questionable misreading of some sketchy biblical passages, but for me it is inspired truth that transcends the human backdrop.

I would look forward to anyone that can post a similiar synopsis of where Catholics get their ideas from on baptism and sketch a history of developing thought on some of the aspects that have been brought up like infant baptism, the baptism of desire, and why priesthood authority is desired but not necessary to perform a baptism.

Later,
fool


#13

Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 10:1-4:

1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea,
2 and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 All ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,and the rock was the Christ.

If Pauls ancestors were “baptized…in the cloud and sea” because they “drank from the spiritual rock that followed them”, then that paints a pretty clear picture that redemption is available for those that die without a physical baptism. One can make an argument that the words “drank from the spiritual rock that followed them”, would have to mean that they simply accepted Christ, in effect, baptism by desire. If baptism by desire is so readily available for those that have died it seems to me that baptism by proxy is entirely unnecessary. This demonstrates that God is entirely just and will give everyone a chance to come into His grace.

As an ex-LDS I appreciate the dedication that is given to this endeavor by the LDS faithful. It truly is a labor of love, does no harm, and has created an industry out of it’s genealogy work. However, it is unnecessary(as shown by Paul’s statement), is not efficacious, and saves no souls.

You asked for a Catholic understanding of baptism in general but because you come from an LDS perspective my response to you would too long for the time I currently have at my disposal. And, we really should keep this thread on topic. For a really good exploration of the differences and the reasoning involved, I recommend starting a thread on with exact baptism topic you wish to discuss (infant baptism, baptism by immersion, etc.). I will restrict my comments on this thread to baptism for the dead.


#14

[quote=Tmaque]Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 10:1-4:

1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea,
2 and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 All ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,and the rock was the Christ.

[/quote]

I appreciate you pointing this scripture out to me, as I have never considered it in this context before. I will have to meditate on it some more. One thing that jumps out at me, at least preliminarily, is that Paul is employing symbolism, which makes this passage somewhat problematic to use to support a doctrine: different people will read different things into symbols.
I believe that Moses taught and practiced ritual/physical baptism and therefore if the people passed through a symbolic baptism and the opportunity came to later turn baptismal desires into the actual thing and they failed to go through with it, then they are in trouble. I do have to extrapolate my ideas about Moses from John the Baptist’s practice and Book of Mormon (B.C.) practices coupled with my notion of continuity–where possible-- of some aspects of the gospel.

You asked for a Catholic understanding of baptism in general but because you come from an LDS perspective my response to you would too long for the time I currently have at my disposal. And, we really should keep this thread on topic. For a really good exploration of the differences and the reasoning involved, I recommend starting a thread on with exact baptism topic you wish to discuss (infant baptism, baptism by immersion, etc.). I will restrict my comments on this thread to baptism for the dead.

I suppose you are right about that baptism in all its aspects and history becomes too unwieldy of a topic. In trying to write a short synopsis of mormon thought, it was my longest post to date and I avoided presenting details that would have me hunting down references. The Catholic history covers many more centuries and would take longer to recount. I can’t start threads now, but I will put this on my researching list for later.

The various churches have taken stances on the issues: whether to accept baptism performed in other churches, whether baptismal requirements can be met without a ritual, whether infants should be baptised, what the afterlife fate of the un-baptised is, and how to extend mercy to the ignorant victim of circumstance (or not!). I submit that all these things need to be considered to “get” the neccessity or lack thereof of baptism for the dead. 1 Cor. 15:29 is a good place to start, but it is hardly the last, definitive word on the issue.

Thanks for your response and patience with me.
Later,
fool


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