Notes & Context
The temple: In Mormonism, there are two important buildings to be aware of. First, there is the chapel, or the church, where Mormons attend weekly Sunday meetings. Anyone is welcome to go their and check out what it’s like. Second, there is the temple, which is a totally different thing. A few things to know about temples: there are far fewer of them than chapels, they are big and ornate and stand out when you pass them, they often have a golden figure blowing a horn at the top, Mormons go to them to take part in special ordinances (ceremonies or rituals, accompanied by covenants) for themselves and on behalf of the dead (more on that below). Oh, and not everyone is allowed in the temple. You have to be a member of the church and hold a temple recommend, which is granted to you by a church leader if you are determined worthy.
The temple before adulthood: From the age of 12 on, Mormons can get a temple recommend. But before they reach adulthood, they aren’t allowed to take part in all that the temple offers. Rather, they only go to do baptisms for the dead (more on that below). Often, church youth will be taken on a “temple trip,” where they all travel together to the nearest temple, do baptisms for the dead, and then hang out and do something fun after. That’s what this post is about.
Baptisms for the dead: While many strains of Christianity over the centuries have struggled to reconcile their belief that you must be baptized to be saved with the fact that not everyone gets that chance before they die, Mormonism developed a rather clever solution to this problem. The idea is that God, in his mercy, allows for living, worthy members of his church to be baptized on behalf of those who are already dead. The spirits of those who have thus been baptized have a chance to accept or reject that baptism in the spirit world. (I know, trying not to go too deep here…) This is in part why you see Mormons so interested in genealogy and family history: by identifying their ancestors, they can then have them baptized and potentially saved.
What does a baptism for the dead look like? Well, it’s basically like a normal Mormon baptism. The words are even the same, except a little addition about the person being baptized “for and behalf of so-and-so, who is dead.”