A recent news item posted to Religion News Blog says:
Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.
The article explains the practice as follows:
Baptism by proxy allows faithful Mormons to have their ancestors baptized into the 178-year-old church, which they believe reunites families in the afterlife.
Using genealogy records, the church also baptizes people who have died from all over the world and from different religions. Mormons stand in as proxies for the person being baptized and immerse themselves in a baptismal pool.– Source: Holocaust survivors to Mormons: Stop baptisms of dead Jews, AP via CNN, Nov. 11, 2008
Baptism for the dead, or baptism by proxy, is one of countless unbiblical practices of the Mormon Church. While the church — which calls itself the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — claims to be the restoration of early Christianity, its doctrines and practices clearly demonstrate that it is, theologically, a cult of Christianity.
Baptism for the Dead is part of the LDS Temple Ceremony:
The most often practiced ritual in the Mormon temple is baptism for the dead. In a font resembling King Solomon’s “brazen sea,” participants are baptized on behalf of those who died not having embraced Mormonism. To say that early Christians were baptized in a similar font is without historical merit. There was no brazen sea during this time period. According to 2 Kings 25:13 the brazen sea was destroyed by the Chaldean’s and its pieces carried off to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem. It was never again replicated.
Mormons claim the Apostle Paul participated in this practice since he mentions baptism for the dead in I Corinthians 15:29. While scholars have debated as to what the apostle was actually referring too, one thing is certain: Paul actually separated himself from such a practice when he said, “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?” If baptism for the dead was in fact the “most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel” (D&C 128:17), it seems odd that Paul would not include himself as a participant.
Biblical scholars have noted that heretical groups such as the Cerinthians and Marcionites practiced a form of baptism for the dead. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that such a practice was the Christian norm.
– Source: The LDS Temple Ceremony, by Bill McKeever, Mormonism Research Ministry
In our opinion, the Mormon practice of baptizing people after they have died is of no consequence because the doctrine is true only in the minds of Mormons. It is not a Biblical practice and — like Mormonism itself — has nothing whatsoever to do with historic, Biblical Christianity.
At the same time, the practice is obnoxious. Many people, religious or not, feel that the LDS Church is assaulting the memories of their ancestors.
If a verse could be nominated to represent the different ways in which Mormonism and Christianity approach the Bible, a premier candidate would be Paul’s question to the Corinthians, “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 Cor. 15:29) The Mormon church has built an interpretive superstructure upon this verse that defies its obscure setting as a singular statement that offers no obvious hints about how “baptism for the dead” was performed or what purpose it served. Of course, Mormon apologists will assert that baptism for the dead is authorized by passages in their own scriptures. But 1 Corinthians 15:29 was appealed to by Joseph Smith as justification for the Mormon practice of vicarious baptism (Doctrine and Covenants 128:16). If Smith used Paul’s words improperly–if the Corinthian practice was unlike the Mormon rite, or if Paul refers to the practice disparagingly–then Mormons are faced with a dual dilemma: Their interpretive superstructure collapses, and Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority comes seriously into question.
“Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” (1 Cor. 15:29, NASB).
Numerous explanations have been offered for this verse, ranging from the inane to the sophisticated. Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), in particular, has claimed that this verse supports their view of baptism for the dead. In their practice, individuals go to their local Mormon temple, dress appropriately for a baptism, representatively adopt the name of a person who has died, and then the Mormon is baptized in water for that deceased person. This way, the dead person has fulfilled the requirements of salvation in the afterworld and can enjoy further spiritual benefits in the spiritual realm.
But, the Mormons are incorrect. They have usurped this verse and taken it out of context. So, let’s examine 1 Cor. 15 briefly so we can see what Paul is talking about when he mentions baptism for the dead.