Baptisms for the Dead
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.
"The Redemption of the Dead"
Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1975, 97–99
We must not shirk our responsibility to provide gospel ordinances to both the living and the dead.
"The Spirit of Elijah"
Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 84–87
Service in the temple together is a sublime activity for a family. It provides its own sustaining motivation and verification of the truth of this unique work.
"The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus"
D. Todd Christofferson, Liahona, Jan. 2001, 10–13; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 9–12
By identifying our ancestors and performing for them the saving ordinances they could not themselves perform, we are testifying of the infinite reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"The Savior's Visit to the Spirit World"
Spencer J. Condie, Liahona, July 2003, 26–30; or Ensign, July 2003, 32–36
What Jesus did during the hours between His death and Resurrection provides the doctrinal foundation for building temples.
"Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity"
Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Ensign, Mar. 1988, 7–11
Is it true that because Latter-day Saints practice baptism for the dead, they are not Christian?
"I Have a Question"
Robert L. Millet, Ensign, Aug. 1987, 19–21
Was baptism for the dead a non-Christian practice in New Testament times, or was it a practice of the Church of Jesus Christ, as it is today?
John A. Tvedtnes, Ensign, Feb. 1977, 86
In his epistle to the Corinthians, Paul cited the early Christian practice of proxy baptism for the dead as evidence of a future resurrection and judgment.
"Baptism for the Dead"
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
(Please note that the contents of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a joint product of Brigham Young University and Macmillan Publishing Company, do not necessarily represent the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
"Family History Work and Genealogy"
True to the Faith, 61–64
True to the Faith, 170–74