This lesson covers the remaining portion of a letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints in early September 1842. In this portion of the letter, the Prophet taught about the salvation of the living and the dead. He also encouraged the Saints to be faithful in their work for the dead and expressed his joy in the Restoration of the gospel.
Imagine you are attending a temple open house with a friend who is not a member of the Church. As you walk through the baptistry, your friend asks, “Why do you get baptized for dead people?” Your friend also asks, “Is baptism for the dead discussed in the Bible?”
As you study today’s lesson, you will discover principles that can help you answer these questions.
You might recall from the previous lesson that in September 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith was hiding from men who were unlawfully seeking to arrest him. While in hiding, he wrote a letter to the Saints. In this letter he taught them about baptism for the dead.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:12–13, looking for what Joseph Smith taught about the symbolism of baptism.
In your scripture study journal, write a few lines explaining how you could use the teachings in verses 12–13 to help someone understand why baptism is done by immersion.
As you read Doctrine and Covenants 128:14, notice how Joseph Smith emphasized the importance of keeping an acceptable record before the Lord concerning the work of salvation for the dead.
Study Doctrine and Covenants 128:15, looking for reasons why we perform baptisms for the dead.
In verse 15, the phrase “they without us cannot be made perfect” means that our ancestors who die without the gospel cannot progress toward perfection until the saving ordinances of the gospel have been performed for them.
Read the following information, marking phrases that indicate how you can help your ancestors who died without receiving the gospel:
“Your deceased ancestors live in a place called the spirit world. There they have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, they cannot receive the ordinances of the gospel for themselves, and they cannot progress until others provide these ordinances for them.
“Your privilege and responsibility is to give your ancestors this gift by identifying them and ensuring that ordinances are performed in their behalf in the temple. They may then choose whether to accept the work that has been done” (Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work , 2).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do you think your ancestors might feel toward you when you are baptized for them? If you have had the opportunity to participate in baptisms for the dead, also write about the feelings you have had during that experience.
Review Doctrine and Covenants 128:15, looking for another reason we perform baptisms for the dead. Based on what you learn, complete the following doctrine: The salvation of our deceased ancestors is to our salvation.
As you continue to study Doctrine and Covenants 128, ponder why doing family history work and temple work for our deceased ancestors are essential to our salvation.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:16–17, looking for teachings from an Apostle in the New Testament and a prophet in the Old Testament. Why might it be helpful to know that the Bible includes teachings about work for the dead?
Have you ever looked closely at a metal chain? To make a chain strong, each link is welded shut after being connected through another link.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:18, looking for how the links of a chain relate to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings about baptism for the dead. (Remember that a dispensation is a period of time when the Lord reveals His doctrines, ordinances, and priesthood [see Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations”]. In this verse, the word children refers to us and the word fathers refers to our ancestors.)
You may want to write the following doctrine in your scriptures near verse 18: Baptism for the dead helps to link us eternally to our ancestors.
In addition to baptism, the other saving ordinances—confirmation, Melchizedek priesthood ordination (for men), the temple endowment, and the sealing ordinance—are also essential to secure the welding link between our ancestors and ourselves.
To increase your understanding of the truths in Doctrine and Covenants 128, study the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“Some members of the Church have wondered just what was meant by the words of the Prophet, that we without our dead could not be made perfect. Will not a man who keeps the commandments of the Lord, who is faithful and true so far as he himself is concerned, receive perfection? Yes, provided his worthy dead also receive the same privileges, because there must be a family organization, a family unit, and each generation must be linked to the chain that goes before in order to bring perfection in family organization. Thus eventually we will be one large family with Adam at the head, Michael, the archangel, presiding over his posterity” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:175).
According to Doctrine and Covenants 128:18, why is it important to be part of this chain of people who have been linked or sealed together?
The following statements can help you understand what the curse in verse 18 refers to:
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “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” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:122).
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “The eternal family is central to the gospel of our Savior. There would be no reason for Him to return to earth to rule and reign over His kingdom unless the eternal family unit has been established for our Father in Heaven’s children. When we understand the eternal role of the family, the nourishing and developing of strong family ties take on even greater significance” (“Youth of the Noble Birthright,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 74).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Based on what you have learned from your study of Doctrine and Covenants 128, why are family history work and temple work essential to our salvation?
Think about a time when you have been happy to hear really good news. When you heard it, did you want to share it with others? Why?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:19. The word tidings in this verse is another word for news. Look for the tidings the Prophet Joseph Smith said we have received.
In what ways is the gospel of Jesus Christ a voice of gladness both for the living and the dead?
In Doctrine and Covenants 128:20–21, we read about some of the experiences Joseph Smith had with heavenly messengers as the gospel was restored through him.
One truth we learn from these verses is that the keys, powers, and authority of the past dispensations have been restored in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Consider writing this truth in your scriptures or in your scripture study journal.
President John Taylor said: “If you were to ask Joseph what sort of a looking man Adam was, he would tell you at once; he would tell you his size and appearance and all about him. You might have asked him what sort of men Peter, James and John were, and he could have told you. Why? Because he had seen them” (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 103).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How does knowing that the gospel was restored to the earth through heavenly messengers influence your faith and your testimony of the Restoration?
Doctrine and Covenants 128:22–23 contains expressions of the joy the Prophet Joseph Smith felt because the keys of the priesthood had been restored and because the Saints could help redeem the dead. As you study these verses, you may want to mark phrases that are meaningful to you.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:24, looking for an offering that the Prophet instructed the Saints to make to the Lord. What can you do to contribute to this “book”?
Ponder the following truth: When we do family history work and receive temple ordinances for our ancestors, we make a righteous offering to the Lord. As you think about this truth, read the following statement, in which Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described your role in the work for the salvation of the dead:
“Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family. …
“It is no coincidence that … tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. … The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.
“I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 26–27).
To apply what you have learned today, make a plan to help some of your ancestors receive temple ordinances. You may want to work with your parents or a ward or branch family history consultant as you make this plan. Write your plan in your scripture study journal as follows:
My plan to find the names of ancestors who need temple ordinances:
My plan to accomplish temple work for my ancestors: (If possible, make a plan to attend the temple to receive baptisms and confirmations for the ancestors you identify.)
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 128:12–25 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: