Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baptisms for the Dead

Last week my son (12) and daughter (14) were able to participate in Baptisms for the Dead at the Temple. This was my son’s first time participating. He was excited, but a little nervous about it. I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could hear all about it. When he arrived home, he walked in the door with a big smile on his face. He said, “Mom! It was so much fun! I want to go back next week!!” He couldn’t stop smiling. I had a hard time getting him to go to bed because he just wanted to keep talking about it. :)

I also have fond memories of participating in Baptisms for the Dead as a youth. There is a special spirit there in the Temple, and to be able to be baptized by proxy for those who never had the opportunity in this life is a sweet experience.
Many people not of our faith are confused by this LDS practice. Why do we baptize for the dead?

We believe that Baptism by proper authority, is an essential earthly ordinance for our salvation in the next life. Though Baptism alone doesn’t save us, it is an essential step in accepting and following our Savior Jesus Christ. "Except that a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

Heavenly Father saw fit, for whatever reason, to put me personally here on earth in an environment where I could learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ and be baptized. Well, what about everyone else that has lived on the earth? What of those that never had an opportunity to really learn and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ? And what about those who have lived and died without even hearing of Jesus Christ? So do I just have an advantage over them because of the particular circumstances that I was born in? Are they just damned because they never had the opportunity to be baptized? No. Absolutely not. This is what our church has to say about it:

“Many people have lived on the earth who never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who were not baptized. Others lived without fully understanding the importance of the ordinance of baptism. Still others were baptized, but without proper authority.

Because He is a loving God, the Lord does not damn those people who, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity for baptism. He has therefore authorized baptisms to be performed by proxy for them. A living person, often a descendant who has become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is baptized in behalf of a deceased person. This work is done by Church members in temples throughout the world.” (lds.org)

This is GREAT news! This shows the power of God’s grace and love!! God loves ALL of his children and will give everyone who has ever lived upon the earth the opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they didn’t have the opportunity in this life, they will have the opportunity to accept in the next life.

Unfortunately there are those not of our faith who are offended by the practice of Baptizing for the dead. Most often it is because they feel that we are forcing deceased persons to be baptized into the church. This is not true. We are only making the gift available to them. 

“Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church.” (lds.org)

I was reading in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 the other day. Paul was addressing the people who were saying that there is no resurrection. He says, "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not" (vs. 12-15).

Paul then points out that there would be no purpose in baptizing for the dead if there indeed was no resurrection. "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?" (vs. 29)

Paul is right.  There would be no reason to do baptisms for the dead if there was no resurrection.  Paul testifies that the resurrection is real and that all will be resurrected. 

I also testify that Christ was indeed resurrected just as all of us will be someday.  I am grateful to know that God is a fair and just God and that through Baptisms for the dead the blessings of the gospel are available to all of God's children.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lost Pamphlet-Conversion Story #3

"The Lost Pamphlet"
By Wenceslao Salguero
Ensign, Feb. 2001, 60–61

I was born and raised in El Progreso, a small town in southern Guatemala. When I was about 10 years old, an unusual pamphlet came into my hands. It contained the story of Joseph Smith, a young boy who saw a vision of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I was deeply impressed by this story. Unsatisfied with the training I was receiving in the religion of my parents, I wanted to know more about the boy in the pamphlet. But I didn’t know where to get information. In time I lost the pamphlet, but I never forgot about it. I wondered if I would ever find another like it.

As a teenager and young adult, I investigated several religious denominations. I even took classes in their doctrine and received diplomas. But there were aspects of these religions that troubled me, and I felt uncomfortable with the criticism that clergy of different faiths sometimes directed at one another. By this time I had started reading the Bible, and as I compared the Bible with what I saw in the religions I had studied, I became convinced those religions lacked God’s authority.

I knelt many times in prayer, pleading with God to guide me to His true Church. I promised that if He did, I would be faithful in keeping His commandments and would always serve Him.

I had dreams, too, in which I told God I was willing to do anything to receive forgiveness for my sins. I would wake up and find my pillow wet with tears. I also asked God to help me find the pamphlet about Joseph Smith again.

By 1968 I had a wife and son. We moved to Guatemala City so I could find better employment.

On the afternoon of 20 November 1975, two young American women, simply dressed, knocked on our door. They said they had a message for my family. We made an appointment for them to come back at a later time.

I remember the first discussion clearly. One of the young women said a prayer, and then the other one began to talk about Joseph Smith. In her hands was a copy of the pamphlet I had read as a boy! My search for the truth had come to an end in my own living room.

No words can express what I felt at that moment. I wanted to snatch the pamphlet out of her hands. The sisters noticed the way I was looking at it and said they would leave it with me. When they gave me that precious pamphlet, I could hardly believe it. I put it in my shirt pocket to keep it near my heart.

Two days later the sisters returned. When they saw the pamphlet in my pocket, they asked if I had read it. I told them they didn’t realize what it meant to me. I explained I had read it as a boy and had prayed to find it again.

On Sunday our family went to church. We arrived very early, and the sisters were surprised to see us. They hadn’t really invited us, just told us where the building was.

The sisters continued to teach us. Although they didn’t speak Spanish very well, they taught by the Holy Ghost. When they taught us about repentance, I felt something I had never felt before and started to cry. Then I realized we were all crying. I was convinced I had found the true Church.

My wife, Rosa √Člida, had a similar experience. It happened when the sisters invited us to be baptized. “Sister Salguero,” they asked, “do you want to follow the Savior?” She realized right then that she did.

When I asked the Lord to help me find His Church, I promised I would serve Him. From the first time I went to church, I have faithfully attended and have tried to serve diligently. I have had many wonderful Church callings, including serving twice as bishop. My wife has served in the Primary and Relief Society and in the family history program. My eldest son served a full-time mission, and now his younger brother is preparing to serve. We have two daughters who are also active in the Church.

Whenever I am asked to speak in church, I try to communicate the joy I feel as a member of the Lord’s Church. I know that God lives and that through the Prophet Joseph Smith He has restored to us His gospel, His Church, and the authority of His priesthood.