There’s an interesting article that I would recommend: “What if Mormons are right, and Catholics and Protestants are wrong?”
The full article (and well worth the read) can be found here.
The author asks the important question “Why are the Catholic bishops so concerned about Mormons baptizing dead parishioners?”
His article is referring, in case you weren’t ware, to a recent and ongoing controversy over use of records of the Catholic Church by Mormons in their ongoing genealogical endeavors, to discover and trace back ancestors and create complete genealogical trees, which are also used to perform ordinances for those that have died.
He suggests that the practice of baptism for the dead makes more sense than the practice of baptizing babies, since throughout Christendom it’s agreed that the soul lives on after death and maintains “understanding and consciousness of self”, which is more than can be said of babies, who have no understanding at all.
What’s more, the practice of baptism for the dead, he points out, wasn’t invented by Mormons, but rather was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion, and was only abandoned after a close-run, highly heated debate, which he describes as an effort to hamper growth of competing sects.
He concludes that if we (Mormons) are wrong, then who cares, what does it matter? But if we’re right, then there’ll be a lot of people in the hereafter that are awfully grateful the Mormons had the inspired guidance to restore a practice that dates back to Christ’s original church.
His argument is much similar to one in the Bible where the apostles were brought before the court, and the argument was given that they should be allowed to preach, for either they are right, in which case what they teach is good, or they’re wrong, in which case it doesn’t matter.
For those who might be less familiar, baptism for the dead refers to the practice of allowing the saints to be baptized by proxy, for those who have already died. It’s a doctrine and practice that is sublime, a clear manifestation of God’s mercy, and a key element in his eternal plan of the salvation of man.
For baptism is a required step unto salvation (“Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5), but what of those who have died without a knowledge of Christ, or an opportunity to hear and accept his Gospel?
Either they are eternally damned for something over which they had no control, or there must be a way provided for them.
Most Christian religions today subscribe to the former view, believing that they were somehow simply “not selected” for salvation, and as such, are eternally damned.
But such an argument contradicts the notion of a just, fair, and merciful God. For if Christ’s mercy is sufficient for all, why not for them? This is the “sufficiency paradox” which I describe in detail here.
But the doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is a key element in understanding the real meaning of the atonement, and the concept of “sufficiency”. Indeed, and it is my solemn testimony, that for those that have died before, without an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, a way has been provided.
Hence, why in the original church of Christ, and why as a part of the restored church of Christ, we have the practice of baptism for the dead (see also 1 Corinthians 15:9). That those who have passed before, might have the opportunity yet in the life beyond death, and before judgment, to accept the gospel, and have the work of baptism done for them, by proxy.
The doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is yet another instance of the loss of purity of the gospel of Christ over time, as saving doctrines and practices such as this, have been slowly eroded and even removed. But this apostasy was not to be forever, for in 1820 the lord appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in a grand vision that would change the world forever, and would initiate a complete restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the earth today.
To learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, see www.JosephSmith.com.
Realizing the reality of that grand vision is the quintessential question of our time, for as I explain here – if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, then the fullness of the restored Gospel is available today, in a church led by living prophets, with ordinances performed by the power and authority of God, the one and only path to perfection.
My hope is that awareness of the sublime doctrine, along with the ancient and restored practice of baptism for the dead will lead many to discover the many other restored truths that can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).