Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How can God be just if baptism is essential and many die without knowing this?

This is part four of a ten-part post. Elder Cuthbert of the First Quorum of the Seventy suggested ten questions which members of any church might ask our missionaries or any other member of the Church.

Question number four: How can God be just if baptism is essential and many die without knowing this?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer to a friend and minister of another church:

“Is baptism essential?” I asked.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Do you believe God is just?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“Then what of those who died without baptism?” I inquired, and he indicated that he had often wondered about that. I asked whether he had overlooked Paul’s teaching: “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 minister looked at me and quietly said: “Thank you for explaining that doctrine.” I was glad he had been enlightened but sad that he and so many others had failed to see before. Yes, our Father in Heaven loves all of his children and has provided a way for every one of them to return to him.

My testimony:

Baptism is essential as taught by the Savior Himself as he walked the roads of Palestine (see Matt 3:13-17; John 3:3-7) and we know from the scriptures that God is just and merciful (see Deut 32:4; Alma 42:15). Yet some die without the knowledge of the Restored Gospel and being baptized. Therefore, “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6; see also 1 Peter 3:19). Jesus Christ then instated baptisms for the dead which operates through the power of the priesthood. Of baptisms for the dead, the Savior taught, “Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (D&C 128:9).

As members of the Church do their family history and discover the names of their ancestors who did not have the opportunity to receive the saving ordinances such as baptism, they can bring these names to the temple that they or other patrons may participate in the ordinances on behalf of those who have died. Others involved in family history that have too many names or cannot go to the temple to do the work themselves submit their names to the temple and other people may participate in the saving ordinances for them. Members of the Church age twelve and older can be baptized vicariously for the dead as taught by Paul in Corinthians.

It is was my privilege each week to go to the temple and baptize those who come to do baptisms for the dead in a font similar to the one pictured here. That part of my week was so wonderful for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the special spirit that is present in the temple. Everyone in the temple is a volunteer and is there because he or she wants to be and wants to serve others. Selfless service always invites the Spirit. In the baptistry a lot of the patrons are young people. How wonderful that part of the younger generation has the understanding and the testimony to willingly sacrifice a part of their time to come and serve by being baptized for people they don’t even know who lived in a different time and potentially on a different continent.  When the patrons come in with their own family names, a sacred and specific reverence is felt and a palpable spirit is present as sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, and cousins participate in the saving ordinances in behalf of their kindred dead.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As our Savior gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for us, so we, in some small measure, do the same when we perform proxy work in the temple for those who have no means of moving forward unless something is done for them by those of us here on the earth.” (“Until We Meet Again,” Ensign, May 2009, 112.)

Those who die without a knowledge of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and without baptism have the opportunity to accept the Gospel on the other side. As they learn of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and we do their work for them here on earth, they have the opportunity to accept or reject the baptism that we performed on their behalf.

The Lord lives and loves each of His children. He is no respecter of persons—each has the opportunity to come and learn of him and partake of the Atonement unto salvation whether that opportunity is in this life or in the life to come. He is just and merciful. His work and His glory is to, “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).


See also:

Topic: Baptism on LDS.org
Topic: Baptisms for the Dead on LDS.org