The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that baptism is essential to salvation. Since many people have died without being baptized, or because they were baptized outside the LDS Church, they cannot obtain exaltation, or godhood.
However, “Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism,” according to the church’s official website. “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.”
The LDS Church cites Jesus as its primary source for the necessity of baptism (John 3:5), and posits that “baptisms for the dead were done during the Apostle Paul’s time (1 Cor. 15:29). This practice has been restored with the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first taught about the ordinance of baptism for the dead during a funeral sermon in August 1840.”
No doubt, Paul’s statement about baptism for the dead has been widely misunderstood – and much abused. In his teaching on the resurrection, Paul inserts the statement, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people being baptized on their behalf?” (1 Cor. 15:29 ESV).
Did God really regret He created mankind, as Gen. 6:6 suggests? Why did He order King Saul to wipe out an entire race of people (I Sam. 15:18)? Who should be turned over to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5)? And what is the sin that brings death (1 John 5:16)? These are so-called “hard sayings” of the Bible.
What is a “hard saying?” Simply put, a “hard saying” is a passage of Scripture that is difficult to understand. We shouldn’t feel badly that we struggle with some Bible verses; even the apostle Peter had a hard time with some of Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16).
Why are some Bible passages difficult to understand?
- They seem to contradict other Scriptures (“No one has ever seen God”).
- They are isolated passages that cannot be cross-referenced with other Scriptures (“Being baptized for the dead”).
- They call God’s character into question (“The Lord regretted that He had made man”).
- Or they seem to make unreasonable – even unholy – demands of God’s people (“Go and complete destroy the sinful Amalekites”).
What are some keys to understanding these “hard sayings?”
- Context (who, what, when, where, why and how?)
- Key words (“The Lord regretted …”)
- Comparison (“I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau”)
In this 12-part study, we will explore some of the most prominent “hard sayings” in Scripture.