Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
The LDS maintains that “The greatest commandment given us, and made obligatory, is the temple work in our own behalf and in behalf of our dead.” (LDS President and Prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 2, page 149)
But the Lord Jesus said that the greatest commandment given us was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:36-38, Mark 12:28-30).
And therein lies the difference between Mormonism and Christianity.
Mormon theology is man centered. They maintain that rites, rituals and temple ceremonies performed by members of their priesthood are necessary for full salvation, eternal life and progression in the afterlife. Their reliance upon the authority of their priesthood and their church as the vehicle of salvation is such that they have even provided for folk who did not have the opportunity of becoming Mormons on earth, being able to do so after death. But of course the necessary ceremonies have to be carried out by members of the LDS priesthood. So they perform these ceremonies for the dead by proxy, in their temples.
All Mormons are required to complete their genealogies and hand them in to the LDS authorities, so that the required temple work can be carried out on behalf of their deceased non-Mormon relatives.
The LDS church uses 1 Corinthians 15:29 as their proof text for baptism for the dead. But plucking a solitary verse out of any book without taking into account the surrounding paragraphs, let alone the rest of the book, can only lead to wrong conclusions. Let us examine this verse within its proper context so that we can get its true meaning:
The historical and cultural background to 1 Corinthians 15 is as follows:
“Corinth was a Greek city, and the Greeks did not
believe in the resurrection of the dead. When Paul had
preached at Athens and declared the fact of Christ’s
resurrection, some of his listeners actually laughed at him
(Acts 17:32). Most Greek philosophers considered the human
body a prison, and they welcomed death as deliverance from
This skeptical attitude had somehow invaded the church and Paul had to face it head-on. The truth of the resurrection had doctrinal and practical implications for life that were too important to ignore." (The Bible Exposition Commentary)
In Corinthians 15, Paul is addressing a congregation of fellow believers on the subject of resurrection. You will notice that all the way through this chapter he uses the words you, me and I. But when he makes mention of folk being baptized for the dead (merely to prove his point about resurrection), he switches to those, them and they. He says in verse 29:
“ Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?’” (1 Corinthians 15:29, KJV)
Obviously the Christians whom Paul was addressing did not practice baptism for the dead. Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of the necessity for it. This is the only verse in the entire Bible that ever mentions baptism for the dead, and then it does so only in passing. (Remember, Paul’s subject matter was the resurrection.) So the LDS has no biblical precedent for such a teaching.
If baptism for the dead had been a teaching of the primitive church, there would have been very clear instructions about this in the Bible, and it would have been mentioned over and over again in the same way as their other teachings are repeated.
Baptism for the dead does not fit into the big picture of the whole of the Bible. It actually contradicts what the Bible teaches, i.e. that in this life we have the opportunity to repent and trust in Christ for salvation, and that after death comes the judgment.
“… behold, now is the accepted time; behold,
now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2,
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27, KJV)
(Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel, and that it was the keystone of their religion. Yet it doesn’t mention baptism for the dead.)
Doctrine & Covenants uses Hebrews 11:40 to back up the LDS teaching that one of the many requirements for personal salvation is work for the dead:
“And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers; that they without us cannot be made perfect; neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:15)
The phrase quoted above, "that they without us cannot be made perfect" comes from Hebrews 11:40.
But Joseph Smith had both misread and misunderstood this phrase. The whole of Hebrews 11 is concerned solely with faith and the perfection of that faith, not with the perfection of salvation. Although the LDS’s proof text is verse 40, we will read both verses 39 and 40, in order to get the context right:
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (KJV)
The epistle of Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians, hence the name Hebrews. At the start of chapter 11 the writer was talking about the promise of God and His plans for the nation of Israel. Their faith was resting in God’s promise of a coming Messiah, and this faith in His promise was “made perfect,” or fulfilled, by the coming to earth of Christ, the Jewish Messiah, and the salvation wrought by Him, resulting in the formation of the body of Christ, the church. (At the very start the church was entirely Jewish.)
Regarding verse 40, the Old Covenant believers comprised only some of the people of God. New Covenant believers comprise the remainder. So, as the people of God, Old Covenant believers are completed, or made perfect, by the New Covenant believers.
Nowhere does Hebrews 11 ever mention temple work for the dead. In fact, there is nothing in the entire Bible that even remotely suggests that we need to do work for the dead in order to perfect our salvation. That is purely a mistaken and unbiblical idea introduced by Joseph Smith. But he forgot he had used Hebrews 11:40 as a proof text, and nullified the use of this scripture for baptism for the dead, by altering it in his inspired version of the Bible. Provided below is the King James translation of this verse, followed by Joseph Smith’s translation:
Hebrews 11:40 (KJV):
“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect .”
Hebrews 11:40 (JST):
“God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.”
It is true that work for the dead is mentioned in exclusive LDS scriptures. But Mormon scriptures and their teachings originated in the mind of Joseph Smith. And his ideas on spiritual matters did not fit in with those of the Bible. He was an occultist. (It is a well known fact, and is acknowledged by the LDS, that right up until a good few years after he had established the church, he received his revelations through an occultic stone.)
The following article has some relevance to what we have been discussing:
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