How Should You React to the Mormons Baptizing Your Dead Kin?

To Answer This Question You Need to View it From the LDS Perspective

Sacramento California LDS Temple
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Concern Over the Fate of the Dead is Not Unique to Mormondom

When a child dies without baptism or someone crosses over who is still young, many of us fear for their ultimate fate. Some religions have procedures for assisting the dead. These can include special prayers, lighting candles, specific religious ceremonies and other mechanisms to assist them when they seemingly cannot help themselves.

Like those of other faiths, LDS believe that assistance can still be given to a deceased person. All the covenants and ordinances available to mortals here on earth can be provided to the dead who died without these privileges.

Misinformation spread by news media and individuals have confused many about vicarious work for the dead by LDS members. What follows should help you understand the true state of things.

Let Us Get A Few Things Straight

Before examining the issues in more detail, certain statements need to be made:

  • The dead are baptized without your knowledge perhaps, but not without their knowledge.
  • People who have died still have agency. They can still make choices.
  • Mormonism is not being imposed on the dead. They have the choice to accept or reject the vicarious covenants or ordinances done on their behalf.
  • People who have died can still repent and have the Atonement cleanse them from sin.
  • Covenants and ordinances, like baptism for the dead or eternal marriage, can only be done in LDS temples by mortals on earth. Spirit bodies cannot be baptized.
  • These dead people are not counted as Mormons and they are not on LDS membership lists.

Church leader, Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed these issues some time ago:

Some have misunderstood and suppose that deceased souls “are being baptised into the Mormon faith without their knowledge”  9 or that “people who once belonged to other faiths can have the Mormon faith retroactively imposed on them.”  10 They assume that we somehow have power to force a soul in matters of faith. Of course, we do not. God gave man his agency from the beginning.  11 “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,”  12 but only if they accept those ordinances. The Church does not list them on its rolls or count them in its membership.

The Dead Still Have the Ability to Choose For Themselves

In LDS beliefs, we believe in agency, our freedom to choose. We had it in the premortal life. We have it in this mortal life and we will have it in the postmortal life. There is just one problem. In order to make certain covenants and perform certain ordinances, we need bodies, mortal ones.

Spirit bodies in the postmortal life cannot be baptized or receive other ordinances. So, unless we help them out, they are stuck. We feel an especially strong concern for our personal ancestors. This is why we do so much genealogy.

One thing we can all agree on is that the dead are dead. Nothing we do on earth can change that. Mortals on earth cannot harm the dead in any way. However, the dead can be helped by us, if they want to be.

LDS believe the dead can choose to accept, or reject, the covenants and ordinances performed on their behalf.

Spirits in the postmortal world know when their work is done for them in LDS temples. How do we know this? Simple, their presence can sometimes be felt in temples. Sometimes these spirits are actually seen in temples as well.

Your Knowledge of the Dead is Probably Outdated

You may think you know whether people would have wanted their temple work done on earth. However, how can you know whether they have decided to accept it in the postmortal life? How do you know they would reject it now? Face facts, you have not heard from them in a while. Things can change.

We do not think knowledge of how they conducted their earth life is the best guide to know how they want to live their postmortal life.

Do you think they would want you to make decisions for them in their current postmortal life? Mormons do not. We give them the chance to make their own. That is all we do. What we do is done with their knowledge and their approval.

What we do preserves their agency and the ability to determine their own destiny. Doing their temple work allows the postmortals to progress eternally. Otherwise, they are stymied.

My Records, Your Records, Our Records

Genealogy, or family history, as Mormons tend to call it, is not unique to Mormondom. It is a top hobby throughout the world. Because of our deeply held beliefs on assisting our ancestors in the postmortal life, we acquire, organize and make genealogical records available to anyone, largely for free.

We do not evaluate the reasons other people or other religions do their genealogy or otherwise make use of the records we preserve or make available. We do not evaluate the lives of dead people or try to ascertain what they would have wanted to do on earth.

Usually, we know nothing about their lives. As long as we can find enough of a name, a birth date, and a death date, they are candidates to have their temple work done. This is true for anybody who has ever lived on the earth.

We try to be as unselfish with the mortals as we are with the postmortals. We will never be stingy with these genealogical records. 

Temple Work For The Dead is an Entirely Unselfish Effort

Mormons spend a tremendous amount of money and volunteer time in gathering genealogical records, preserving them, organizing them and making them available.

We also spend a tremendous amount of money and volunteer time in building temples, maintaining them and operating them.

No tangible benefit accrues to us from all of this. If postmortals reject it, we have wasted our time and money. If they accept it, we can rejoice with them in the postmortal life.

These are not selfish acts. When other people or religions do something for the dead that has special religious significance to them, why criticize them?

If someone starts a prayer chain for you, says special prayers, performs some ritual or does something else for the sake of your immortal soul, how should you react? What is wrong with simply being touched by their thoughtfulness and kindness?

Only Descendants Can Now Do Work For Their Ancestors

The Church now restricts temple work to the ancestors of those who submit names. This is a natural result of the sophisticated technology we now have.

If postmortals have no descendants or no Mormon descendants, then they will have to wait to get their work done. Every person who has ever lived will have to have their work done. Mormons do not intend to finish all this until well into the Millennium.

The Church has agreed to remove some people's names from our records, out of respect for current mortal feelings. This is true for Jewish Holocaust victims.

The Church cannot police what names are submitted by individuals across the world, but it can now restrict whether the temple work is done for them and whether or not these names appear on our completed records.

Mormon Membership Reflects Only Mortal Mormons

There are no dead people on Mormon membership lists. Current LDS membership reflects only mortals still living. When they die, they are removed.

You determine whether you want to be Mormon in this life or in the postmortal life. No one else can force you to be Mormon, in this life or the next.