Baptism for the Dead

Why do Mormons baptize the dead?

Baptism for the dead by proxy (or "vicarious baptism") is an ordinance practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Mormon denominations. (It is also found among the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, some of the Neo-Apostolic congregations of Europe, and some Native American religions.)

In the Mormon rite of baptism for the dead, a living person acting as a proxy is baptized by immersion in typical Latter-day Saint fashion. The ordinance is performed only in temples.

The prayer accompanying the baptism differs from typical wording in that it states that the baptism is being performed for and in behalf of a deceased person whose name has been submitted for that ordinance. Any member of the Church who is at least 12 years old may be baptized for the dead. Young men must hold the priesthood.

The Latter-day Saints' view of baptism of the dead is based on their view of baptism in general. In John 3:5 (KJV), Jesus states, "Except that a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Mormons believe firmly that personal baptism is a required ordinance for those who desire to enter the kingdom of God.

Baptism for the Dead allows this saving ordinance to be offered to all those who have previously passed on without having heard of the Gospel of Jesus. If baptism is a required ordinance, as Mormons believe is evidenced by Jesus's own desire to receive it from John the Baptist, then this ordinance becomes a burden for all those who wish to spread the Gospel with all the inhabitants of the earth who have previously passed on to the afterlife.

According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their practice of baptism for the dead is based on a revelation Joseph Smith received. Smith first taught the doctrine at the funeral sermon of a deceased member of the Church, Seymour Brunson.


  1. "Baptism for the dead." Wikipedia, accessed October 2005. Text used under GFDL.

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