Doctrine and Covenants 127-128: Instructions on the Ordinance of Baptism for the Dead

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 144–146


Doctrine and Covenants 127and 128 were written during a difficult time for the Prophet Joseph Smith. His enemies had forced him into hiding to avoid their relentless persecution. But it was also a time of great spiritual advancements. The Prophet had told the Saints that “the dispensation of the fullness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed” (History of the Church,4:426).These sections are letters from the Prophet Joseph Smith to members of the Church in Nauvoo, Illinois. They were written during his travels from place to place to avoid his enemies. In them he gave further instructions about the ordinance ofbaptism for the dead, which was first mentioned by the Prophet in 1840 ( the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forD&C 124:25–36, p. 142). As you readDoctrine and Covenants 127–28, look for how the Prophet felt about being forced to live in hiding. Also try to imagine how it must have been for the Saints to receive greater understanding of the doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 127

Pretensions(v. 1)Claims 
Transact(v. 1)Arrange, conduct 
Wont(v. 2)Accustomed, used 
Mete(v. 3)Measure 
Recompense(v. 3)Payment 
Archives(v. 9)Storage area for records, library 

Doctrine and Covenants 128

Certify(v. 2)Confirm 
Obviate(v. 3)Avoid, prevent 
Contemplating(v. 6)Considering 
In their ownpropria persona(v. 8)In person 
Annulled(v. 9)Overturned, reversed 
Precedent(v. 10)Established practice, example 
Summum bonum (v. 11)Highest good 
Similitude(v. 13)Likeness 
The first man(v. 14)Adam 
Consolation(v. 21)Comfort 
Anthems(v. 22)Hymns 
Fuller’s soap(v. 24)A strong soap used to whiten cloth 
Purge(v. 24)Purify 

Doctrine and Covenants 128:16–18—Why Are We Baptized for the Dead?

Performing baptisms for those who have died makes it possible for the other ordinances of the temple to be performed for them. All of these ordinances are essential for salvation. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“If Elijah had not come, we are led to believe that all the work of past ages would have been of little avail, for the Lord said the whole earth, under such conditions, would be utterly wasted at his coming [D&C 2:1–3]. Therefore his mission was of vast importance to the world. It is not the question of baptism for the dead alone, but also the sealing of parents and children to parents, so that there should be a ‘whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories,’ from the beginning down to the end of time [D&C 128:18].

“If this sealing power were not on the earth, then confusion would reign and disorder would take the place of order in that day when the Lord shall come, and, of course, this could not be, for all things are governed and controlled by perfect law in the kingdom of God.

“Why would the earth be wasted? Simply because if there is not a welding link between the fathers and the children—which is the work for the dead—then we will all stand rejected; the whole work of God will fail and be utterly wasted. Such a condition, of course, shall not be” (Doctrines of Salvation,2:121–22).

Doctrine and Covenants 128:24—The Sons of Levi and Their Offering unto the Lord

“Historically, the sons of Levi, including the sons of Aaron and the sons of Moses (Exodus 6:16, 18, 20), were the custodians of the house of God and were responsible for its holy ordinances (Exodus 25–28;Numbers 8:24–26;10:21). Today, the sons of Levi are those called by the Lord to ‘build up my Church’ and who are ‘faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies’ (D&C 84:31–33). They are those responsible respectively for the ‘preparatory gospel’ (D&C 84:26–27) and for the ‘greater priesthood’ and its ordinances (temple work) wherein ‘the power of godliness is manifest’ (D&C 84:19–21). If the present-day servants of the Lord function faithfully in this holy stewardship, they become the ‘sons of Moses and of Aaron and the d of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God’ (D&C 84:34).

“As righteous Saints serve the Lord in these holy ordinances, they become saviors on Mount Zion for the living and the dead. The sacrifice they offer through their service will be part of that ‘offering in righteousness’ which the sons of Levi, including the sons of Moses and Aaron, will present to the Lord before Christ’s coming” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual,319).

Studying the Scriptures

Do four of the following activities (A–F) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 127–28.

Activity A iconWrite a Newspaper Report

Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter in 1842 and that you were at the Prophet Joseph Smith’s hiding place to get an interview. UsingDoctrine and Covenants 127:1–3for ideas, write a brief news report on the Prophet’s feelings while he lived in hiding.

Activity B iconList the Responsibilities

From what you learn inDoctrine and Covenants 127:5–10and 128:1–5, list what you think would be the responsibilities of a temple recorder.

Activity C iconWrite a Response

Suppose you have a friend who is not a member of the Church but has heard about temples and baptism for the dead. Your friend asks you what baptism for the dead is and why it is done. Using what you learn inDoctrine and Covenants 127and 128, answer those questions. In your answers, be sure to discuss the importance of authority, the sealing power and welding links, eternal families, and Elijah.

Activity D iconList and Compare

ReviewDoctrine and Covenants 128:20–21and list the heavenly messengers the Prophet Joseph Smith mentioned. Explain why you think it was important for him to continue to receive revelation during the Restoration of the gospel.

Activity E iconMake a Poster

  1. 1.

    Considering the Prophet Joseph Smith’s personal situation at the time (D&C 127:1–4), what impresses you about what he wrote inDoctrine and Covenants 128:22?

  2. 2.

    Make a poster illustrating that call for action from the Prophet Joseph Smith and his enthusiasm for the gospel.

Activity F iconCompare the Verses

InDoctrine and Covenants 13:1you read about an offering the “sons of Levi” would make in the last days ( the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forD&C 13:1, p. 26). Compare what you learned there withDoctrine and Covenants 128:24. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, what is one way this prophesied offering will be fulfilled?