Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baptism for the Dead

My neighbor's daughter brought this news story to my attention. It was reported here.

Obama's Mother Baptized Into LDS Church, Grandmother Going On Hajj

Thursday, May 7, 2009 @09:46am CST

(Salt Lake City, UT) -- "President Obama's mother, who died in 1995, has been posthumously baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

According to a "Salt Lake Tribune" report, the church's ritual of "baptism for the dead" was performed on Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama's mother.

The practice of baptizing the dead without family consent has drawn sharp criticism from many religious groups.

Meanwhile, there's word that President Obama's paternal grandmother, Sarah Obama, will be performing the ritual of Hajj this year.

All able-bodied Muslims are required to undertake the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime."

My neighbor's daughter was outraged at this. But I think part of her outrage comes from not understanding what baptism means, nor baptism for the dead.
Baptism is an ordinance that symbolizes new birth. It symbolizes putting off the old person, and becoming a follower of Christ. It symbolizes spiritual washing, or repentance. This ordinance is part of a covenant that the person makes with God. When a person is baptized, they are covenanting with God that they will keep His commandments. A covenant is a two way promise. We promise to keep the commandments, and God promises in return that when we repent, He will forgive us.

Baptism for the dead is just the same as baptism for the living, except that the dead person cannot do this ordinance for themself. It requires someone else to act as proxy for them. Spiritually, the covenant is still being made between that person and God, but the living person acts on their behalf to receive the ordinance.

In our religion, we do geneology to research our ancestors so that we can do temple ordinances for them. We submit names of family members. It is against church policy to submit the name of someone who is not a family member. And in fact, if there are still living family members, we are required to get their permission in many cases before doing the ordinance.

But here is the part that many people don't understand. Even though the work is done here on Earth, the deceased person still has the right to refuse it. If they don't want to make that covenant with God, they can reject that ordinance. If they reject it, it is null and void. The covenant is between them and God. If they reject it, the promises are void.

Baptism for the dead was an ordinance that was practiced in ancient times. Paul, in teaching some who didn't believe in a resurrection taught, "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 His point being that the people were doing baptisms for the dead BECAUSE they would some day be resurrected.

Some might not understand the importance of baptism, but the Savior was very clear on this point. In John 3:5 he said, "...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Baptism is requisite to inherit the kingdom of God. Why would it be requisite? Because God only allows those who have made the covenant with Him to inherit the kingdom of God. Baptism is being "born of the water". It is a spiritual rebirth. After a person is baptized, they recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. This is the baptism of the Spirit that is spoken of.

Should President Obama be offended that his grandmother was baptized? I believe no, because if she doesn't want that baptism, she has the free will to reject it.

I have posted this link before, but here is a great article that discusses the practice of baptism for the dead, and whether or not it is ethical. Click HERE to read it.

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