The second listed belief in the Mormon Articles of Faith written by Joseph Smith states , “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.” On the surface this may seem like an appropriate principle. However, further study will reveal that it is rather ironic based on how the Mormon Church views dealing with sin and particularly their teaching of a proxy salvation.
They impart the idea of what is commonly referred to as baptism for the dead. It is the belief that one may be baptized on behalf of another who passed away and did not have the opportunity to be baptized in this life. According to their doctrine, some never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Others lived without fully understanding the importance of the ordinance of baptism. Some were baptized but by someone without the proper authority to administer it. Mormonism instructs that one must be ordained to be eligible to baptize another.
The description on the main web page of the Mormon Church reads,
Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf (www.lds.org).
As a young man in the LDS faith it was an honor and privilege to participate in this ritual. Every Mormon temple contains a baptismal pool surrounded by twelve statues of oxen representing the twelve tribes of Israel. This is where the procedure takes place. Years ago the person getting immersed would meet an older male who was “ordained” in the pool. A computer monitor was placed next to it with a list of numerous names. They would audibly state that they baptize the young man on behalf of a name on the screen “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost for the remission of their sins” and immediately submerge them. As soon as they brought us up they straightway went on to the next name. It happened quickly and gave the participant just enough time to catch their breath for the next name. The whole routine was somewhat repetitive, as we would be immersed forty times or so for forty people who were supposedly deceased.
Mormons are careful to inform that when baptism for the dead is performed, those deceased are not being baptized into the Mormon Church against their will. Each person who has left this life still has the right to choose on the other side. Their salvation is still contingent on whether or not they accept and follow Christ while residing in the “spirit world.”
According to the Mormon teaching, the New Testament validates baptism for the dead and was restored with the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They claim the Apostle Paul was doing it 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?” (1 Cor. 15:29). What needs to be considered is the context of the passage. If one carefully examines the entire chapter, Paul is describing the resurrection process. Notice the middle questions in verse 29: If the dead rise not at all, why be baptized? If there is not a resurrection, what is the point of being baptized?
First it must be understood who needs to be baptized, and why. Baptism is for the condemned (Mar. 16:16; Rom. 6:23). It is personal for each individual. The one who sins is the one who needs to be baptized in order to take care of it. If the wages of sin is death, something must be done consciously on an individual’s part to take care of that sin. Baptism is that commandment (Act 2:38; 22:16). The Bible teaches man is responsible for his own sins (Ezek. 18:20). Therefore if man is “punished for his own sins” according to the Mormon article of faith, then how could anyone else be able to atone for them? Paul writes, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation [emphasis, NF] with fear and trembling” (Phi. 2:12). The inspired writer pens, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Death seals a person’s fate.
It must also not be overlooked that man is held accountable for himself. Each person must hear for himself (Rom. 10:17). Each person must believe/obey for himself (Joh 8:24). Each person must repent of his own sins (Act 2:38). Each person must confess Christ himself (Matt. 10:32-33). None of these can be done on behalf of another. So neither can anyone be baptized for someone else. Jesus made it clear in His account of the rich man and Lazarus that their destinations were final. The Savior states, “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luk 16:26). There was not so much as even an implication of someone coming to the rescue of the rich man who had this life to make the necessary preparations for the next.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations:and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left (Matt. 25:31-33).
He proclaims, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Joh 5:28-29).
Paul confirms, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Therefore, to have Mormonism teach that man is punished for his own sins yet believe a proxy redemption is a contradiction in principle. One can not have a foot in both camps. It is important for all to realize that the decisions made in this life will determine where the next one is served.