Baptisms for the Dead: What to Know Before You Go


“I’m going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. What do I need to know?”

President Gordon B. Hinckley says temple work is a privilege, a responsibility, and a blessing both to you and the person for whom you do the work. Before you go to the house of the Lord, it is important to be spiritually and physically prepared. Sometimes anxiety arises not because we are unworthy to enter, but because we are unsure of how to enter. The following questions and answers might help ease some of your concerns.

Who can be baptized for the dead?

Any member of the Church who is at least 12 years old may be baptized for the dead. Young men must hold the priesthood. Most importantly, everyone who enters the house of the Lord must be worthy. You and your bishop or one of his counselors will determine your worthiness in an interview.

How do I get a recommend to do baptisms?

Youth who don’t hold a regular temple recommend can get a “limited-use recommend” to do baptisms for the dead. This recommend is obtained from the bishop, or one of his counselors, after completing a worthiness interview. If you’d like a recommend, schedule an interview with your bishop.

Can I go to the temple on my own to do baptisms for the dead?

Anyone with a temple recommend and adult supervision can participate in baptisms for the dead. However, most temples prefer that you make an appointment.

How do I make an appointment with the temple?

Before you go, call the temple you are planning to attend, and ask for the baptistry. Someone there can tell you whether or not you need to make an appointment. People who have been assigned, have made appointments, or have brought their own family names have precedence over those who have not.

Do I have to bring my own family names to the temple?

Often you will see others come to the temple with pink- or blue-colored cards with names on them. These are the names of those who have died and need baptism and other temple ordinances done for them. You are not required to bring your own names, but it is wonderful when you do. Often the temple has names of people you may be baptized for that others have submitted. It is best to call ahead to find out if you need to bring your own names.

What if I bring my own names?

When you bring your own names to the temple, the order in which you are baptized and confirmed is different. First you are baptized, then you are confirmed. This is because you are doing both ordinances for the same person and must do them in that order. This also means that you will need to ask for two sets of baptismal clothing so that you have dry, white clothes to be confirmed in. When you use names provided by the temple, you are first confirmed for one group of people, then baptized for another. In this case you will only need one set of baptismal clothing.

What should I take with me when I go to the temple?

You should bring a change of white underclothing with you, because you will get wet. You should also make sure that the underclothing you are baptized in is white. Some temples provide underclothing, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own. It is also useful to bring something that you can place your wet clothes in once you leave, like a plastic bag. Since all temples provide the baptismal clothing and a towel, you do not have to bring these items with you.

What should I wear?

If the Lord invited you to His home, what would you wear? Would you go with messy hair, a short skirt, or unclean feet? Going to the temple is an invitation into the Lord’s house. You should dress in modest, clean, conservative clothing, like you’re going to sacrament meeting.

Is wearing jewelry or nail polish okay?

It is a good idea to wear as little jewelry as possible, since most of it needs to be taken off when you are baptized. You should not wear anything that would distract from the spirit of the temple by drawing attention to you.

There is no official policy on wearing nail polish, and the temple workers won’t make you leave if you do. But if your nail polish is distracting and detracts from the Spirit, then go without it.

If I have long hair, what should I do?

It is best for young women to pull their hair back, so all of it will be immersed in the water when they are baptized. Some temples provide white hair ties. If possible, bring your own just in case.

How should I prepare while on my way to the temple?

Treating the time you are going to the temple as if it were the Sabbath is a wise idea. Listen to uplifting music, read scriptures alone or with your group, sing hymns, or pray. Do whatever will help you feel the Spirit.

What should I do while I’m waiting to be confirmed and baptized?

The baptistry provides scriptures and Church magazines for you to read. You can also pray, ponder, or do some self-evaluation. Observe the baptisms and think about those you are going to be baptized for. Enjoy the peace of the temple, and ponder its meaning as you are taken out of the world for a couple hours. If you must speak, speak softly.

How will I know where to go and what to do?

Don’t worry. There are plenty of temple workers to direct you. They are there to help make your experience at the temple one of peace and enjoyment.

Go Often

President Howard W. Hunter

“We hope that you, as young members of the Church, will go often to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. When the time comes for you to go on a mission or be married, we pray that you will go to the temple worthily and feel the beautiful spiritual atmosphere that is present in the temple.” —President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95), “Your Temple Recommend,” New Era, April 1995, 6.

The Blessing You Can Give

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“What a marvelous thing that is that you, an ordinary boy or girl, can stand in the place of some great man or woman who at one time lived upon the earth but who is now powerless to move forward without the blessing that you can give to him or her. … There is no greater blessing that you can have than to stand as a proxy in a great service to those who have gone beyond. And it will be your privilege and your opportunity and your responsibility to live worthy to go to the temple of the Lord and there be baptized in behalf of someone else.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign , Apr. 2002, 4.

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Snow

[photo] Photograph of Preston England Temple font by John Luke