It was October 2010 and I was sat in the first session of the Mormon General Conference. The President of the Church Thomas Monson gave the opening talk and announced the locations of where some temples were to be built. The looks of awe and amazement that people in the audience gave each other, and the loud gasps you could hear right across the 21.000 people there really amazed me.
This is an issue of massive significance to Mormons. The temple is the holiest place you can be in on earth, its the place where saving ordnances are carried out for dead people and for yourself, only worthy Mormons who have lived out the Mormon gospel faithfully and fully, and been a member for at least a year can go in. This review will draw from the chapter here quite heavily, but will also be a glimpse of the Mormon temples, and what the Bible says about them as a whole.
Here is a video put together by the Mormon Church, talking about the significance of the temple. This is short and worth a watch just to see this from the Mormon Perspective.
In p.140 of the Lorenzo Snow manual we see this:
In temples we learn of the marvelous blessings God has prepared for the faithful.
The prospects that God has opened up to our view are wonderful and grand; the imagination cannot conceive of them. Come into the Temples and we will show you. Many of you, I presume, have been there, and have heard the marvelous things that God has prepared for those that love Him and continue faithful to the end. . . .
. . . He has prepared everything for the Latter-day Saints that they could possibly wish or imagine in order to effect their complete happiness throughout the vast eternities.7 [See suggestion 2 on pages 144–45.]
In the Mormon Temple the main functions it carries out are as follows.
- Baptisms for the Dead
- The Endowment ceremony, both for the living and the dead.
- Families being sealed together for eternity
- Wedding sealings, both for the living and the dead.
(Much less talked about is the 2nd anointing ceremony. In this ceremony which an Apostle presides over, someone can have their calling and election made sure, I believe this means they are then guaranteed celestial glory, provided they remain faithful. I will not be going further into that here, but you can catch an interview with someone who went through that and has since left the LDS Church here.)
I want to spend some time here looking at the Baptisms for the dead, and the endowment ceremony, looking at whether they are really a part of the Biblical gospel, and necessary in order that we might spend get eternal life. The rest of this post will focus on the Baptism for the dead doctrine and another post will follow soon on the endowment.
The belief in Baptism for the dead in the Mormon Church is based upon their belief that when all people die, they go to the Spirit world, awaiting final judgement. Those that lived the gospel of Christ faithfully will go to paradise. We see this in Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 138:11-12
However those that did not live faithfully will go to Spirit Prison, the same D&C chapter refers to those people being preached to by Christ.
8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in aprison;
This is the LDS interpretation of what we see in 1 Peter 3:18, they also believe that there will be missionaries who have died faithfully who will go to this prison to preach the gospel to the people there. However ultimately for people to be released from this prison someone must be baptised for them in this life. This is massively significant to the Mormon movement and its members.
Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism said:
“The greatest responsibility in this world that God has placed upon us is to seek after our dead” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 356).
This is why there is so much excitement among Mormons when they hear of new temples being built, as they see more temples as more saving ordnances for the alive but mostly for the dead. We see this in the Lorenzo Snow Chapter we are looking at. (p.143)
We desire anxiously that the brethren and sisters should not neglect this important work. Do you know what will be the main labor during the thousand years of rest [the Millennium]? It will be that which we are trying to urge the Latter-day Saints to perform at the present time. Temples will be built all over this land, and the brethren and sisters will go into them and perhaps work day and night in order to hasten the work and accomplish the labors necessary before the Son of Man can present His kingdom to His Father. This work has got to be accomplished before the Son of Man can come and receive His kingdom to present it to His Father.13 [See suggestion 5 on page 145.]
You can see in the bolded part here that temples must be built and all of the necessary labours must be done before Jesus CAN come back. So the more temples are being built for Mormons this means the more the kingdom is advancing and that means that the end is getting all the more close. This is Mormon kingdom advancement.
I just want to spend some time looking at this issue:
Does Baptism for dead people have any effect on the eternity of dead people?
The Biblical basis that the Mormon Church uses for the Baptism for the dead doctrine is 1 Corinthians 15:29.
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?
So while I believe that contextually, this verse is by no means teaching that Christians should carry out this act which I will show, this still leaves the issue of what does this mean?
Firstly I would ask you to read the full chapter of 1 Corinthians 15. For the sake of space I am not going to quote it all, but please pick up your Bible now and have it in front of you.
Ok, assuming you have done that lets have a look at the chapter.
We see in v1 that Paul is declaring the gospel which he preached (past tense) unto you, which you have received and stand in. So we see he is speaking to Christians, further supported by verse 2.
v3, we see Paul also received this gospel.
v4 to 11 are talking about Christ and Apostles.
v’s 12-18 are interesting as that says that some among the Christians (it says “you”) were saying there is no resurrection of the dead, he talks about the problem with this view. Such as in v18 those who had died in Christ would be perished, which is not the case.
in v19 we see that If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
So Paul is saying that is there was no resurrection for the dead WE would be most miserable. We know from Philippians 1:21 that Paul was very much looking forward to dying and being with Christ so if there was no resurrection of the dead then this is a big deal.
We see in v20-22 the glorious truth that Christ is risen from the dead, and that while all died because of Adam then all live in Christ. We see in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that those that are in Christ are a new creation. Yet in Romans 3:23 ALL have sinned. So therefore in context we know that all without exception are in Adam, yet it is only those new creations that are in Christ, and therefore those are the ones that live.
v’s23-28 talk about the reign of Christ. Then we get to the verse in question. I will quote the two verses after too.
29 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? 30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
Paul suddenly asks the question what shall they do which are baptised if the dead are not raised at all, why are they baptised for the dead? Paul has spend the entire chapter addressing the Christians as You and We then all of a sudden it goes from those to they.
The question needs to be asked why the sudden shift? If Baptism for the dead is so important, and the end will not come until the work is complete why is Paul content leaving this work to someone else? Does not Paul endure ALL things for the sake of the elect? (2Timothy 2:10) Why then is he not engaging in this essential work too?
Why does he seem to assume that his readers are not carrying out this work? Why does he not say that if there is no resurrection when you baptise for the dead you are baptising in vain?
This is because he is referring to people that are not reading his letter. People who are not Christians. We see this cemented by v30 that says And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
We know from other parts of the letters to the Corinthian Churches that the Church was undergoing persecution.
1 Corinthians 4:12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
So Paul is asking in v30, why would we stand in Jeopardy every hour IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION???
Why are they baptising for the dead? And why are we standing in Jeopardy? If there is no resurrection (which there is), is the cry of Paul here. Ending with his protest bring fueled by the rejoicing of YOU the Christians.
Who then are the they referred to in v29? In honesty I am not sure, Matthew 22:23 refers to the Sadducee’s as not believing in the resurrection, however I am not sure. Despite looking at this text alone we see elsewhere in the Bible that there are no second chances for salvation after death.
Hebrews 9:27 says: And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Everything in the New Testament with regards to salvation is geared towards people responding to Christ here and now.
Romans 10:9-10 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
There are no second chances, today is the day of Salvation. For more on this check out an excellent article on the Got Questions site here.
In another post soon I will be looking at the Endowment Ceremony in the Temple, in the mean time, I welcome your comments.