A lot of ink and electrons are being spilled about Mitt Romney’s faith, this time coming from the left, as it is apparent he will be the nominee.
The latest assault comes from Gawker. Article VI Blog does a good job explaining what’s really happening here.
Let me share with you, reader, what Mormons really feel about baptism for the dead, why you have absolutely nothing to worry about, and why it is an outward expression of our love for all mankind.
As you are aware, Jesus Christ taught that except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he can in nowise enter the kingdom of heaven. He also commanded his disciples to go and baptize all the earth. We interpret these things very, very seriously.
We believe that the day will come when every individual who ever lived on earth, or ever will live on earth, will stand before God to be judged according to their works, words, and thoughts. Those who do not live up to the perfect standard will find themselves condemned to an eternal punishment. This includes every human who ever lived on this earth, except Jesus Christ.
We believe that Jesus Christ’s role was to literally save mankind from this future reckoning. Meaning, he has made it possible for everyone to return to God with a clean record, and receive the highest blessings God has to offer to those who are perfectly obedient, despite the fact that they have fallen well short of the divine ideal.
Now, we don’t believe that everyone will ultimately accept this wonderful gift. But it will be made available to them, such that at that day, if they are still found lacking, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
One of the conditions of escaping one’s sins and receiving the blessings promised to the faithful is to receive gospel ordinances such as baptism and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. If you aren’t baptized by proper priesthood authority (meaning, the LDS church), Christ can’t claim you as his and he won’t be able to cover your sins. If you don’t receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the same authority, you won’t be entitled to divine guidance that will allow you to navigate the strait and narrow way.
This means that billions of people are condemned to tragedy, and have no way out. Through no fault of their own, or rather, because they were born at the wrong place at the wrong time, they will never have the opportunity to be baptized by proper priesthood authority. Even if they are alive in a time when they can receive those things (such as today), they may be blinded by ignorance and never understand what it is they are missing, and could claim that they would have received it had they known.
If we end the discussion there, we are left to conclude that God is a horribly unfair God.
The way LDS doctrine reconciles this obvious contradiction is that we have taken it upon ourselves to do proxy baptisms for every person who has ever lived on the earth, or ever will live on the earth, and who has not been baptized by proper authority. This is what is called Baptism for the Dead.
It is not Baptism of the Dead. We do not dig up graves, we do not baptize corpses. We baptize each other “for and in behalf of” the individuals who are dead. All we need are names and enough information so that we believe the person actually lived, and we can do the ordinance.
We intend to perform vicarious ordinances for every person who ever lived on this earth. We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, which we continually invest in so that we can identify and catalog more names continuously. We believe that a large part of our time during the millenium, the thousand years of peace after the Second Coming, will be consumed in doing this work. We believe that as we exhaust all earthly records of the dead, we will have angels and records from heaven that will be given to us so we can complete the chain.
Indeed, we believe that if we do not complete this work, the blame for the damnation of the world will fall on our heads, and we will not be able to claim the blessings Christ has made possible for us. Indeed, the entire earth would be cursed, and no one would be saved at all.
Now, this practice is not without controversy. Some people get offended when we baptize ourselves in behalf of their ancestors. I cannot understand why. Logically, either you believe the LDS church has authority from God to make these things happen the way we say they will, or we do not. If we do not, then at worst, it is a kind gesture signifying that we do not think of ourselves as any better than your ancestors. If we do have the authority, then we are performing an invaluable service that will entitle your ancestor to salvation in the highest degree of glory, the greatest gift God has to offer, should they choose to accept it. Why would you want to deny your ancestor that opportunity?
Some people suppose that we do not have authority from God, but we derive our authority from a darker power. Let’s see where this logically leads us by supposing, for a moment, that we are being directed to baptize the dead by the authority of the devil himself. Well, so what of it? Can the devil claim one man’s soul because someone happened to get wet on his behalf? Of course not, sin does not work that way. So that argument is simply absurd.
Regardless, the LDS church has a policy wherein we simply don’t baptize people we are not related to. For recently deceased people, we ask that those who wish to perform these ordinances obtain permission from their living descendants. We believe that if we explain what we really do in the temple, no one would be opposed to it. We don’t believe in working in secret.
If you want to attack the church, there are better ways to do so. Our notion of trying to save the entire world by performing vicarious ordinances for them in our temples is a testament to the fact that while we believe we have the authority of God to do these things, we do not intend to keep it from everyone else, even our enemies. It is a testament to the fact that we believe when God entrusts someone with His power, he demands they become a servant, not a master. It is also a testament that we do not intend to go to heaven without the whole of humanity accompanying us. If my Atheist, Protestant, and Buddhist friends and ancestors are not in heaven with me, I will not be happy. I derive no satisfaction from seeing the wicked suffer for their sins, and intend to see everyone clutched from the jaws of hell.
If you choose to attack our church in this way, don’t be surprised when people who hear about this practice decide the LDS church is worthy of investigation. I know for a fact that many people who get baptized are baptized because of our beliefs regarding the dead, so you’d be doing me a great service.