Church Responds to Media Interest in Baptisms for the Dead

News Release

In light of recent interest by Australian media outlets regarding baptisms for the dead, the Church has released the following statement.

"In 2012, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to all Church members reminding them in clear terms that vicarious temple ordinances are to be performed only for those in their family lines, and that individuals who ignore or abuse this policy may have family history research, temple, or membership privileges restricted or revoked. In recent years the Church has put significant policy and technological safeguards in place to prevent the inappropriate performance of temple work.

The Church cares deeply about ensuring these standards are maintained. Four full-time personnel in FamilySearch watch for names of restricted individuals on a daily basis.

If a record indicates that "more information is required," that demonstrates that our safeguards are working. At that point, an individual would have to prove a direct familial relationship before they could proceed further with a request for temple work.

Some have suggested that names should simply be deleted from the database. However, in order to prevent misuse (and to trigger the protections in place), the data must remain there.

There are instances when it is perfectly appropriate for a Church member to request or do temple work for a celebrity or public figure. This would be the case for someone who is a direct descendant.

When ordinances are submitted against Church policy they are invalidated.

Temple work is an act of love. Members believe that they can offer the blessings of salvation to their ancestors through vicarious work performed in temples, including baptism and marriage. This is done as a member researches and identifies their ancestors and then enters the temple to serve as proxy on behalf of their deceased relatives. It is a selfless work that builds deep connections to our forebears and a love for God and His children."

From the official Newsroom “Baptism for the Dead” topic page:

“Jesus Christ taught that ‘except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). For those who have passed on without the ordinance of baptism, proxy baptism for the deceased is a free will offering. According to Church doctrine, a departed soul in the afterlife is completely free to accept or reject such a baptism — the offering is freely given and must be freely received. The ordinance does not force deceased persons to become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor does the Church list deceased persons as members of the Church. In short, there is no change in the religion or heritage of the recipient or of the recipient's descendants — the notion of coerced conversion is utterly contrary to Church doctrine.”

The following may also be helpful in clarifying the Church’s policy that members are encouraged to perform temple proxy work only on behalf of their relatives.

This is from the Newsroom article, “Background Explanation of Temple Baptism”:

“Although the Church believes everyone must ultimately have the opportunity to receive the sacraments of salvation, Church members are encouraged to request temple baptism only on behalf of their relatives. However, well-meaning Church members sometimes bypass this instruction and submit the names of non-relatives for temple baptism. Others — perhaps pranksters or careless persons — have submitted the names of unrelated famous or infamous people, or even wholly fictitious names. These rare acts are contrary to Church policy and sometimes cause pain and embarrassment.”

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