Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?
Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:29
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have temples. Unfamiliar with temples? Learn more about them here:
I have finally just started making headway in my personal family history research. This is genealogy, which includes compiling photographs and personal records of our ancestors as well as researching further back in our family lines. It also includes baptisms for the dead, which, as shown in the video, we perform in our temples.
It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.
I have a general understanding of that last statement. In other words, I have never been sure exactly why we cannot be perfected without each other, but I have faith that the Lord knows and I trust Him.
In the process of doing my family history research, I have had wonderful experiences, even miracles, that led me to names of my long-lost ancestors. It has been amazing.
I’ve also learned things about my family that I am far from proud of. In fact, some of the things they have done are utterly repulsive to me.
I have also done a lot of thinking about my genetic inclination, and I must admit I have felt a little put-off with my ancestors about some of the flaws that seem to run solidly in my family line and I am battling to end right now.
My grandma’s stepfather did some pretty terrible things to my great-grandma. Or, at least, his mother did terrible things to my great-grandma, and he allowed her to.
There is a little tab on FamilySearch for members that shows us baptisms for our ancestors that haven’t been completed. It shows up with a little star to tell us we are missing something.
His name keeps popping up.
Allow me to back up, a little bit. We are taught that baptism and confirmation by the gift of the Holy Ghost can sanctify us, make us clean and pure. We believe that with this ordinance, our sins can be washed away.
We also believe that the family can be an eternal unit. We call the creation of these eternal bonds ‘sealing.’
And now I continue to jump around. I promise it will all come together…
In Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10, the Savior tells us:
…For he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
There is a great post exploring some aspects of it here: The Wasted Atonement.
I called my grandma and asked her about the name of her stepfather appearing on FamilySearch. I approached the topic of baptism delicately, because I can understand having some qualms with forgiving a man that had impacted the life of a loved one so terribly enough to allow his saving ordinances to be performed- I struggle facing that inevitable decision eventually in my own life.
We need to do his work so my grandma can be sealed to her two brothers, who passed away a long time ago, and who she loved dearly.
We have to allow him to work out his salvation with the one true Judge of Israel. We have to forgive and move past his wrong in order to enjoy the full blessings offered to all of us.
A few weeks later, after a miracle, I had a few names of women in my family ready to take to the temple and baptize for the dead.
A thought started teasing the back of my mind- I didn’t know these women personally! What if they did something unimaginably terrible?! Was this the right thing to do?
And after I had been vicariously baptized for each of them, I had a feeling in my heart that everything was okay. It didn’t matter what they may or may not have done. The Savior had suffered for them the way He had suffered for me. That work was complete- that price- the price for all of our sins- had already been paid.
No matter what they had done, it didn’t matter. Their sins were washed away. They had been redeemed, just as I had been.
This experience opened at least a part of the concept of needing each other to me. My family needed me to perform this vicarious work for them in order for them to progress and gain redemption.
I needed to help them in order to be forced to forgive them. Because without offering that forgiveness, for wrongs that may never even have been committed and wrongs that certainly were, I would have come under condemnation. I had to give the weight of any perceived grudge to my Redeemer.
My performing this work played an integral part in my (continuing) redemption.
Indeed, “…[I] without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without [me] be made perfect.”