As a family, we choose to do something that most people would consider quite strange.
We perform baptisms for the dead.
No, we’re not grave diggers, and we don’t drag dead people to a baptismal font or to a local lake. We may be weird… but we’re not that weird.
To be fair, everyone has rituals that someone from a different background might consider strange. To a Catholic, the communion isn’t strange, but kneeling at the feet of a statue of a man hanging on a cross while the wafer and wine supposedly turn into flesh and blood might be considered strange to someone who hasn’t been exposed to it’s background and meaning.
Isn’t it interesting what we deem as normal and acceptable based on our background and worldview?
So having a little context into why we do what we do with baptisms for the dead will help explain why we get all dressed up and go as a family to a temple to perform these ordinances, and why it’s so important to us.
Most people are aware that members of our church are big genealogy nuts. But at the same time, most people don’t actually know why it is that we’re so into genealogy.
The reason is simple. It boils down to some very clear cut Bible verses, and the linkage between those few important verses.
In the New Testament, Jesus is asked an important question. The question is about what we’ve got to do in order to make it into heaven.
He gives a few simple requirements:
First, he said you’ve got to have faith in His name.
Then He said you’ve got to repent. Meaning… you’ve got to get better and show God you’re trying.
And then he said that you’ve got to be baptized.
Well, not really. There are billions of people who have never, and will never even have the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus Christ, let alone repent and be baptized.
And so the great majority of Bible believing Christians have historically labeled these unlucky souls as cast off forever and predetermined to live in hell for the rest of eternity.
I think that notion is starting to change in Christianity, but nonetheless, that was the historical prognosis.
And that is where baptism for the dead comes in. We do it because we have a desire to help people who never had the chance to learn of Christ and be baptized.
We’re not just blindly making up this practice. It’s not something that is just unique to my church.
Ancient Catholic Basilicas are known to have murals on their basement walls with the saying “baptismo de morte” or “baptism of the dead.”
They likely got their teachings from the Early Christian Fathers who were taught by the apostles and members of the seventy.
The apostle Paul, recognized the practice in a sermon he was giving to the Corinthians about the resurrection. (1 Cor 15:29)
Peter himself taught that the gospel would be taught to those that were dead. (1 Pet 4:6) And that Christ himself would lead that effort in the spirit world. (1 Pet 3:19)
So when we go to our temples, it’s so much more than being intrigued with our ancestors. We look at it as if we’re directly serving our ancestors and doing something for them that they could not do for themselves.
In the fullest sense of the word, we are sacrificing our time to provide a “vicarious” work for our family and friends that have passed on.
Christ provided a way for each of us to not only be saved… but for each of us to partake in that saving process with him. Instead of just doing it all himself and making us idle observers, he asks us to help.
That’s what master teachers do. Engage their students in the process.
All of this helps us understand why John saw people wearing white and serving God in the temple “day and night” in the latter days. (Rev 7:13-17)
The temple is where our hearts are turned to our ancestors. It’s where we unite our roots and our branches. The Old Testament literally ended with a promise that Christ would come to make salvation possible and then he would send Elijah to make sure that salvation was offered fair and equitably to anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to know Christ.
It makes so much sense to me…
And yet, there are so many people that are going to suggest that we’re “wasting our time” doing these pointless exercises. And that’s alright. I totally respect their opinions because I’d probably think it was really strange myself if I had I not been exposed to the reasons behind it.
There are lots of different “pointless” exercises that people do with their time. Watching football, binging on a Netflix series you’re really not that interested in but there’s really nothing else on so you do it anyway, aimlessly surfing the internet, sitting at a bar and drinking, watching Youtube videos, playing clash of clans, Halo, Fortnite and the list can go on.
It’s no mystery that humans tend to squander a huge majority of the productive hours of their day… and I’m talking about myself just as much as anyone else.
But for us, when we’re able to go to the temple, it’s an exercise that brings us closer as a family. It’s something that we truly believe we are doing to serve others. And it’s something that is teaching our kids to sacrifice their time to serve others without receiving a thank you in return.
For us… it’s time well spent and oh how we hope we’re doing some good on this earth and on the other side of the veil.