Is Work for the Dead Irrational?

February 14, 2007    By: Blake @ 10:32 pm   Category: Life,Theology

There have been several political commentators lately who have opined that Mitt Romney cannot be trusted to be rational because he believes in baptism for the dead (notwithstanding 1 Cor. 15:29). This is not about Mitt, but about this kind of political spin non-sense. There are also Jewish groups who are offended that LDS do work for their dead. I think they take this work to be an implicit message that we judge their progenitors to not be good enough as Jews so we must make them Mormon. However, imputation of such motives is itself a judgment of Mormon by attributing motives which I don’t believe could possibly explain this work for the dead.

In one sense, work for the dead is non-sense. Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own? On the other hand, there is something deeply meaningful about work for the dead. It is not for the dead and not for us individually, but a gift given to enjoy together. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierekegaard noted in Works of Love that “the work of love in remembering the dead is a work of the most faithful love.” Why would he say that? His reasoning is roughly that in giving a gift to any other living person we create an obligation to give in return. Therefore, there can be no true gift because giving creates receiving in return and the gift is therefore merely reciprocal obligation-creation. Yet if we create an obligation, we have not given a gift because it creates a demand for a return gift — and that which is “given” out of obligation isn’t a gift. A gift is something that isn’t given out of obligation. It is as if our gift creates uninvited obligations and “earns” a gift in return. Thus, it is impossible to truly give a gift because of the obligation structure built into giving.

However, Kierkegaard observes that we can truly give a gift to the dead because we cannot expect a return from them. “The work of love in remembering one who is dead is thus a work of the most disinterested, the freest, the most faithful love. Therefore go out and practice it; remember one dead and learn in just this way to love the living disinterestedly, freely, faithfully.” In doing work for the dead we are giving a gift of our love without expectation that our gift will be reciprocated. It is given freely and this truly out of the sheer goodness of love and the goodness of giving. Only giving to the dead makes pure love possible.

Work for the dead is also the recognition that salvation includes all others. The notion of “individual salvation” is impossible because to be all alone in heaven would be hell. We are saved only to the extent we can continue the loving relationships that we care about. However, we don’t do this work for our benefit but solely for those dead so that we love them as we love ourselves. The joy that we will receive is merely the joy of love fulfilled, the joy of giving truly and freely for no other purpose than to give the opportunity to be in relationship. In this way we offer a grace — a sheer invitation to enter into relationship of eternal significance for those we don’t even know, haven’t met and cannot expect to reward us. It is a gift that recognizes that there is no such thing as an isolated or independent salvation. It is gift given recognizing that no obligation is or could be created.

Finally, let me express my consternation about the reaction of some Jews who are offended that we would love their progenitors enough to seek to give this gift of love. If the ordinances are of no effect, as they undoubtedly believe, how are they hurt? In taking offense they are implicitly recognizing that these ordinances could have the effect of a transfer of loyalty. Yet that is irrational because they deny any efficacy to these ordinances. If the ordinances have no effect, then not wasting an iota of energy worrying about their effect is the only rational course of action.

On the other hand, if the ordinances are truly an invitation to relationship and a gift of love, then the reaction of offense is a failure to appreciate a gift freely given out of love. The Church has respected the demands of a handful to deny this opportunity to give this gift — the opportunity to link ourselves to them by offering to them what we value most. We do not obligate anyone to accept what is offered by doing these ordinances — and that is in part why it is a gift without obligation. Yet why create a rift by insisting that we cannot even offer the gift? Whether the gift is offered is solely our affair; whether it is received is up to the person for whom the work is done. Those who are now living who object to this work seek to control a free offer of love and in effect purports to control which gifts can be given and which can be received.

47 Comments »

  1. I have simply become almost entirely disenchanted with politics in general as of late. Both parties and pretty much all candidates just disgust me.

    More to the point, however, I just don’t get how people can see baps4dead as being utterly irrational. It makes perfect sense to somebody who takes the saving ordinances seriously.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 15, 2007 @ 12:55 am

  2. Really excellent post Blake. (I love it when you do your drive-by posts here!) I especially like the reasoning you have for our temple work for the dead. It resonates far better for me than the reasons I have tried to conjure up over the years.

    (I frankly have usually given up on using work for the dead as a reason to go to the temple and mostly treated the temple as “the Lord’s University” and a quiet place in our noisy world where I could have a personal discussion with God…)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 15, 2007 @ 1:11 am

  3. Blake,
    Whilst Kierkegaard is certainly right in some instances, I can think of many cultures where remembering the dead is an entirely selfish act: by placating the dead, their ghosts don’t cause trouble. Also, if we’re honest, Mormons do proxy temple work because they expect some tangible spiritual benefit for themselves in the hear and now. Or that’s at least some of the motive.

    Comment by Ronan — February 15, 2007 @ 4:57 am

  4. “Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?”

    The only reason I think that is because I know that if I don’t perform the work, someone else will… perhaps in the Millenium. John 3:5 is clearly non-negotiable.

    Comment by Jay McCarthy — February 15, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  5. In the Spencer W. Kimball days and before, the general idea was that if you COULD have gone to the temple to do your own ordinances and didn’t, you were SOL. That is no longer the prevailing doctrine. Nowadays, it is believed that even if someone heard the gospel, accepted, was baptized, sinned egregiously, apostatized, and refused to have anything to do with the Church, someone will have his temple work done and it’s still up to him to decide in the next life.

    So in one sense–no, temple work doesn’t make sense and neither does baptism for that matter. These are formalities only, and it’s up to Heavenly Father and the deceased individual in the next life to decide.

    Comment by Joan — February 15, 2007 @ 6:41 am

  6. I can think of many cultures where remembering the dead is an entirely selfish act: by placating the dead, their ghosts don’t cause trouble.

    Any cultures in particular you have in mind here? In the Asian context this is a gross oversimplification based on a mis-reading of the “individual”.

    Comment by SmallAxe — February 15, 2007 @ 8:00 am

  7. Joan (#5),
    However, one could look at Baptism and work for the dead as a way of enabling salvation being up to God and the individual. I guess that is a fine line from formality. I also think the difference between today’s view and the more hardline view is that we know people are condemned if they truly have had a chance already to accept the message, but it seems presumptious for us in our imperfect knowledge to presume when point of reasonable chance is.

    I like what Blake is saying here. It is a way of interconnecting us and helping us exercise a good from those we have no hope of reward from. I guess this is clearly the theological basis using Malachi as the example.

    Comment by Doc — February 15, 2007 @ 8:22 am

  8. Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?

    If by “we”, you mean Jesus Christ, and if by “work for the dead”, you mean effort towards the salvation of another, then would we not, in fact, be denied salvation even if we fully repented, and thus, through no fault of our own?

    Is not Temple work our opportunity to “Act as savious on Mount Zion” in peer-relation concert with Christ?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 15, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  9. Axe,
    I’m thinking of certain native cultures and also some of the ancient Near Eastern peoples I’m familiar with.

    Comment by Ronan — February 15, 2007 @ 9:01 am

  10. I am still dumbfounded by the comments on the blogs that discuss baptism for the dead. How can something so simple be so misunderstood? If you do not complete the work for your family members that have gone beyond, they will NOT be able to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection.

    It is not that the work will not eventually be done in the millenium. That is a given. It is that their progenitors love them enough to make sure they could do all that was possible to ensure the entire family could arise that spectacular morning sealed together and rejoice in one of the most glorious days that will ever occur on this planet.

    If their work is not done (and if they have not accepted the gospel), they will have to miss out and will be stuck waiting who knows how long.

    What is so hard about life-long church members understanding this concept? It is basic Mormon doctine people! Is it only converts that get this?

    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2007 @ 9:09 am

  11. Matt — you lost me with your comment #8. What was you point in the first sentence again?

    Michael (#10) — Just to be clear… Do you believe that any person from Adam to today who doesn’t have their temple work done before the millennium is SOL until they do get the work done? (I gather that you think the morning of the first resurrection is a pre-millennium event, right?) Doesn’t that strike you as a bit… legalistic? I mean there will be vast throngs of people who have lived and died who we don’t have records of at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 15, 2007 @ 9:18 am

  12. Geoff,

    You got to get past the political correctness stuff. There is discrimination in the plan of salvation. It cannot be avoided no matter how much you try to paper it over. Our thoughts, words, and deeds in this world and in the spirit world will determine what blessings we enjoy.

    Point #1 – It will not be from ADAM to today because those people that were from the time of ADAM to Christ came forth shortly after the resurrection of Christ. To get a better handle on this, please refer to the Book of Acts, the Book of 3rd Nephi (the Savior’s chastisement of Nephi for not placing the information on the resurrection in the record) and Section 137 of the D&C (President Smith’s vision of the Spirit World). So those people from the first
    4,000 years that were prepared and accepted the gospel have already come forth in their resurrection.

    Point #2 – The next great resurrection will be when the Saviour returns at the second coming and those who are his sons and daughters will join him in that great coming. Those who have slept will come forth out of the graves and be clothed with their physical bodies again. These are the people who do work for in our temples. These are the family members for whom we strive to perfect as saviours on Mt. Zion.

    Yes, it is discriminatory (I don’t think it is legalistic at all). If their work is not completed, they will not come forth at that time. They will have to wait. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, Completing the work for our dead is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we have to do in this life (Teachings of the Prophet JS). He mentioned this more than once. More than raising kids, more than giving to the poor, more than home teaching. It is saving our dead. How much more clear can he be?

    If you try to place man’s thoughts upon this process, you will conclude that it is so unfair and can’t possbily be correct but that is how it has been revealed so far. Every Latter-Day Saint that has received the truth has a solemn responsibility to be a saviour for their ancestors. You will be held accountable.

    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  13. Michael,
    So what you are saying is that the answer to the question “Why” things are discriminitory is because God says so.

    Fine, but I wonder, why does he say so. It also seems like their has to be more to it than witnessing the glory of the 2nd coming in the flesh. Great as that moment will be, it ultimately will be a moment in the ocean of eternity. I think some change must to be wrought within us through doing this work. It’s the absence of turning our hearts toward eachother that would waste the Earth at his coming, not the absence of our resurrection.

    Comment by Doc — February 15, 2007 @ 9:47 am

  14. Doc,

    I stopped asking “why” when I was dealing with my gayness. It led me to a breakdown. Now I just have to accept that our knowledge is limited and there are reasons for what we perceive as gospel discrimination. There are just some things in life for which we do not yet have a “why”. I believe this is one of them.

    I do agree with you that work for the dead is transforming for the person doing the work. I am a witness to that.

    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2007 @ 10:20 am

  15. Geoff J,sorry for being unclear. My point was that I have thought of our doing work for the Dead as been a type of Christ performing the atonement for us.

    The concept of the atonement(or so I think) is that we would be unable to repent without him performing thatact of atonement for us. Thus we would be unable to attain salvation “through no fault of our own”.

    Thus, my point is, I do not see why it is unreasonable to consider that someone could be denied salvation based on the actions of another. Otherwise, why would the atonement or works for the dead have been necessary at all.

    (This may boil down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the atonement on my part.)

    I hope that clears up my inquiry.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 15, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  16. Michael,

    Now I just have to accept that our knowledge is limited and there are reasons for what we perceive as gospel discrimination.

    I can understand why you would feel the plan of salvation is discriminatory, but your sentence above nails it for me. I remain committed to the idea that things are not ultimately (in an eternal context) arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory. When they seem so to us here it is because we lack the knowledge and perpective to understand them. So, I took Blake’s original question to be asked in this context. Does anyone really believe God will turn out to be discriminatory and needlessly legalistic once we are able to see things from his perspective? Personally, I don’t think so.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 15, 2007 @ 10:49 am

  17. Michael,

    The original (rhetorical) question Blake asked was: “Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?”

    Are you answering “yes, I do”? It seems that way, but I am having trouble believing you really do.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 15, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  18. Is this Blake’s equation? Temple baptism work = love = giving out of no obligation

    hmmmm . . .

    Are you expressing that there is no obligatory pressure in contemporary operation by LDS authorities in regards to temple work? And there is no expectation from sincere LDS that temple work is necessary for exaltation?

    If, I as a believer in unconditional love, have trouble with Blake’s premise holding any water, how will the rational skeptics believe this?

    Temple work – unconditional? Even to get into any LDS temple is based on conditions, rooted in duties. The whole structural system needs a complete overload if one is going to imagine a picture of God-centric, unconditional love. Shouldn’t Ezekiel’s temple vision be the paradigm? Efficacious sacrifice is at the heart and center of it all. Do LDS look at baptisms for the dead as efficacious sacrifice? Are they actually being saviors for others? Or is this to be downplayed before the media?

    Comment by Todd Wood — February 15, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  19. “Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?”

    Geoff,

    No, I do not believe this. All souls will have the most liberal opportunity. I was only trying to address our responsibility to our families and why it is so important for them. I don’t pretend to know why everyone will not be able to join in the morning of the first resurrection but I am darn sure going to try to make sure my ancestors have that opportunity.

    Jacob,

    In the large picture which encompasses our pre-mortal existence, our life here on earth, and our spirit world sojourn, we will be able to fully understand the whys and the wherefores. That is my saving hope for not being able to love in this life. I know how easy it is to lose perspective and only concentrate on this short mortal experince. I am firmly dedicated to making sure I do not lose that perspective again. Even if I don’t have the why.

    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2007 @ 11:26 am

  20. Blake,

    I am glad you brought up the point about Jews being offended by our temple work for their progenitors. I have tried to do thought experiements to put myself in their position, but I cannot come up with a scenario where I can understand their reaction. I don’t care what group it is, if they wanted to do a ritual in the privacy of their own temples which they sincerely believe offers my progenitors a chance at salvation, I wouldn’t object. The only reason I can think of that they would object is an underlying offense at the idea someone else thinks they have the only way to salvation. People don’t like the exclusionary nature of religion. But, if you extend that only way of salvation to everyone you can at great expense to yourselves (as we do), then I don’t see any reasonable grounds for offense. Thanks for expressing your consternation, I couldn’t agree more.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 15, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  21. Recently I’ve been a bit bothered by the work for the dead. Not that I’m opposed to it by any means. My concern is the emphasis placed on it and the amount of time and effort that goes into it. If “feed the hungry and clothe the naked” were missions of the church as well and we spent half as much time energy and money on that as we do on temple work what would the result be?

    Personally I fall short both in my temple work and my charity work, but I feel that at church I’m only directly encouraged to do the former. This strikes me as odd. Would the dead be offended if we spent a bit more time on the living?

    Comment by a random John — February 15, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  22. While I still feel my points in #15 are valid, and I hope they are clear this time around, I should add that the Temple Work as an expression of Love is, of course, very powerful.

    On the other hand, I recently saw an article where some are now using the same concept of Temple work vs. Judaism in a new thread of Temple Work vs. Catholicism. It seems that by equivocating with the Jews, we are creaitng a risk for the whole.

    ARJ: Fundamentally, I have felt the church’s policy has been “Take the slums out of the people, not the people out of the slums” when it comes to feeding the sick and clothing the naked. Thus, missionary work would be the focus here, and I would say it is still the number one focus of the church.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 15, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  23. Dear Random John,

    I refer you to my post #12. Perhaps you missed it.

    “Completing the work for our dead is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we have to do in this life (Teachings of the Prophet JS). He mentioned this more than once. More than raising kids, more than giving to the poor, more than home teaching. It is saving our dead. How much more clear can he be?”

    If it is THE most important thing we have to do in this life, why wouldn’t we spend most of our time, talents,and energy doing it?

    If the teacher told you that the final exam would be based largely upon long division, would you spend your time on addition? What would be your excuse when you failed – I felt that addition was a better thing to concentrate on?

    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  24. Matt W.,

    Some of the people in the slums have served missions. I know a few of them. Church welfare has failed them. There are missionaries from my mission that are now illegally in the USA and others that are trying to do the same.

    Michael,

    Can you answers the “Why?” question?

    Comment by a random John — February 15, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  25. Ronan,

    I’m thinking of certain native cultures and also some of the ancient Near Eastern peoples I’m familiar with.

    Which native cultures?

    Comment by SmallAxe — February 15, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  26. Michael: Completing the work for our dead is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we have to do in this life (Teachings of the Prophet JS).

    Which specific quotes from TPJS do you have in mind here? I know there are a few candidates but I always like to see the sources specifically too.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 15, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  27. ARJ: I guess I am thinking more of the whole, and not of the individuals.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 15, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  28. While it is certainly easy to understand and sympathize with the motivation which underlies b4d, it should not be difficult to see why a Christian for whom the faith/works debate means so much may not understand the practice. After all, not only would a born again see b4d as being salvation by works, but being salvation by SOMEBODY else’s works. Furthermore, the idea that WE are saviors on mount zion in addition to Christ is the very antithesis of what the “faith/grace only” side stands for.

    It must also be admitted that there is little reason that more liberal protestants should view baptism as being absolutely necessary. John is the least reliable of the gospels, historically speaking, and such an exclusive practice goes directly against the message of universal love and compassion which they see as being more foundational to the religion. The whole idea of rites being absolutely essential simply creates way too much of an us/them dichotomy.

    Again, while the motivation behind b4d is not at all bad, the practice seems to betray an intense commitment to the idea of exclusive truth. This commitment, accordingly, is not at all politically irrelevant.

    Comment by Jeff G — February 15, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  29. Axe,

    I am thinking of how the Roman feast of the Lemures morphed into All Saints Day; I am thinking, admittedly, of Setsubun (and await your correction); I am thinking of classical Chinese ancestor cults; in my own field I am thinking of the Mesopotamian kispu.

    I don’t believe that any of these rites are performed solely out of benevolence towards the dead, which is my main point.

    Comment by Ronan — February 15, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  30. I don’t believe that any of these rites are performed solely out of benevolence towards the dead, which is my main point.

    IMO “[not] soley out of benevolence” and “entirely selfish act[s]” are two very different things.

    I see the point of your original post was to state the cultural limitation of Kierekegaard–some cultures give things to the dead because they expect something in return. So K is not right on all accounts. I was simply bothered by your characterization of those cultures as “entirely selfish” in their relationship with the dead. I, however, have no problems with your clarification. In some respects ancestor veneration (in the Asian contexts) shares certain familiarities with Mormonism–it is done also out of a sense of responsibility to one’s ancestors. I think, given my re-reading of your initial post, you’d agree with. (although there are of course many other factors, such as you mention–keeping the dead at bay, etc.)

    Comment by SmallAxe — February 15, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  31. Yeah, that’s it.

    Comment by Ronan — February 15, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  32. Ronan: I think that you are entirely correct that one could perform work for the dead out of a desire to be seen at the temple, or feel good about one’s self, or to get the dead off of our collective backs. However, that isn’t Kierkegaard’s point. His point is that only with the dead is it possible to escape the structure of obligation creation. His point is that this act for the dead opens up the possibility that otherwise cannot exist with the living. So it is a possibility of pure love that can be expressed. It opens up the possibility to achieve a love which is otherwise impossible.

    Of course we may only infrequently achieve this possibility. But this possibility of giving without obligating anyone to receive or give back to us in return opens up enough room for us to practice Christianity. So observing that it is possible that we can perform rites for the dead out of selfish motives doesn’t capture the vision that Kierkegaard is asking us to join him in seeing. It is a purity of love to strive for out of love. At least, that is how I read him.

    Comment by Blake — February 15, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  33. Jacob J,

    I can understand why some Jews would be offended. It may not be logical, but I can understand. To a certain extent Jews feel that we are judging them and very good and holy members of their community as lacking or somehow unworthy. I think the offense is due to the perception that we are judging them.

    I also agree that work for the dead is very odd. I have often wondered whether it is really necessary at all. If it really works the way traditional mormon thought implies, it sure paints a very strange God in my mind.

    I believe work for the dead is one of two things. Either a training will of sorts for us to help us become less selfish and have more love much like Blake suggested.

    On the other hand, perhaps certain individuals on the other side need to have ordinances done to help them accept the atonement. Not because the ordinances are necessary, but as a help to overcome their own feelings of guilt and inadequacy. A placebo of sorts.

    Comment by Joshua M — February 15, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  34. Blake,
    OK, I agree that that’s how it can (and should) be, but we must admit that our temple work is sometimes motivated by a desire for some personal gain, or at least to avoid that popular scenario where Grandpa Joe meets you in the afterlife and says to you condemningly, “Why didn’t you do my temple work, boy?” Cue feelings of guilt…got to avoid that at all costs…must do genealogy!!

    Comment by Ronan — February 16, 2007 @ 1:42 am

  35. Ronan: I believe that you are right about all of that. Still, I don’t think it is wrong to go to do work for the dead for such reasons. Why the guilt? Only because of the call of the Other to us in the first place. And through the ordinances the Other ceases to be foreign and alienated Otherness, but comes within the scope of family. There is a reconciliation of us to those we work for even in our weaknesses. There is something healing and noble in that. Work for the dead is the invitation to make those we don’t know part of our family. There is something inherently wonderful in that.

    Comment by Blake — February 16, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  36. I agree with what Kierkegaard said, and I like the way Blake has framed this discussion. But I have a little different perspective on the question of, is baptism/work for the dead irrational?

    It seems that baptism was considered essential in the Catholic church for many years. Not sure it carries the same weight today. Then along comes the reformation where some things that were once considered essential was no longer thought to be so. My question is, at what point in time did protestants consider faith to be sufficient for entrance into heaven? And what exegesis did they use to support their claim? Is it valid? Any reason to question the necessity of baptism? I mean, if baptism is not even necessary, then of course baptism for the dead would be irrational.

    Any thoughts on this? And no, I am not trying to be dumb and start an argument, just curious.

    Comment by CEF — February 16, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

  37. “Why the guilt? Only because of the call of the Other to us in the first place.”

    The problem I have with this is that, unless we rein in our fantastical theology a bit, one is made to feel as if mortal life were in a giant fish bowl. How in the world do we learn to offer an offering in righteousness a la Kierkegaard with all our ancestors eyes on us?

    I find the idea terrifying.

    Comment by Jack — February 16, 2007 @ 4:47 pm

  38. I want to clarify a comment in my post made purposefully: “In one sense, work for the dead is non-sense. Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?”

    The demand that we must be baptized to be saved, as section 76 clearly states and Jon 3:16 less clarly so, is not based on logic or common sense. Either God has commanded baptism as the mode to enter into a covenant relationship with him or he hasn’t. That isn’t something proven by logic or moral considerations. It is simply a question of fact: has God in fact so commanded? If one believes that God has so commanded, and one seeks a relationship with God, then baptism for the dead makes eminent sense and doing it as a means of opening the doors to salvation is a work of love par excellence. But for one who doesn’t see that or believe that, it is still understandable that perhaps we do work for the dead because in this way we express a pure love. So this observation is meant to be an expression that even a non-LDS may grasp. They may be led to see that our efforts are neither irrational nor an affront, but an offering of love to them.

    Comment by Blake — February 16, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  39. “Does anyone believe that if we fail to do work for the dead then others will be denied salvation and/or exaltation through no fault of their own?”

    Did I miss something in your post, or did you answer your question?

    If the answer is “yes”, then we have one very strange God.

    If the answer is “no”, then we have one very strange religion.

    Comment by Raymond — February 17, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

  40. Raymond: Don’t be flippant wipper snapper. {grin} If the answer is “yes” it is because the scriptures are clear that baptism is a condition for salvation established by God — and the scriptural support is ample. What makes that strange? It is no stranger than making an experiential participation a basis for understanding. Further, God ought to seem strange in some respects in the same way that the master’s giving the dog a shot to stop rabies would seem strange to the dog who knows only that his master is causing him pain for reasons he can’t grasp.

    If the answer is no, why would that make a religion strange? If the entire purpose of the religion is to teach us how to love one another, and ordinances for the dead are the best way to teach us pure love, then it seems to be the opposite of strange. It seems sublime.

    Comment by Blake — February 17, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  41. Blake

    The dog cannot comprehend the shot, but man can, and should, comprehend the absurdities and irrationalities of its own conjurings.

    Taking the sacrament is a personal witness unto Christ, and an expression of worship and love for the Redeemer – a relationship between the worshiper and God.

    Prayer is a communication between an individual and God. Sometimes things are asked for, and third parties invoked, but it is essentially a personal dialogue.

    You can call Temple work for dead people “gift-giving”, but it pre-supposes that a ritual done off a computerized list by those who have no connection to the deceased is required for third-party souls to be eternally saved in the afterlife.

    [Edited]

    Comment by Raymond — February 17, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  42. Raymond: You don’t get it. Compared to God, you are like a dog in your comprehension. He can ask us to do things we don’t fully understand. I suspect that your ad hominem here of “absurdities and irrationalities” needs to be demonstrated and not asserted.

    Second, what work for the dead presupposes is that our individual exaltation is integrally related to the salvation and exaltation of all others — thus “individual salvation” is an oxymormon. That happens to be true. What is at issue is the relationships we have. Work for the dead is the recognition and ritualization of that simple fact. That is why I stated that salvation all alone in heaven would be hell. Work for the dead is a way of recognizing that our salvation is never done individually or alone and that our efforts to enter into relationship requires us to recognize that such relationships must be formed beginning in the here and now. You may see it differently, but that is of little moment.

    Finally, your statement “those who have no connnection to the deceased” is precisely the assumption that work for the dead challenges since it gives us some connection to the deceases. It is precisely the fact that such work creates connections where there was not one previously that the work takes on its meaning of love. So I suggest that your assertion that it depends on such a presupposition of no connection is false.

    So here is my challenge: explain how we could be saved all alone if salvation consists in being in relationship with others — all others who are willing to be in such a relationship? Salvation in heaven all alone is hell. We can remedy that by seeking to enter into relationship by offering a gift of love by our service here.

    Comment by Blake — February 18, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  43. Brake: Compared to God, you are like a dog in your comprehension.

    Wow. I will remember this quote, Blake. This is me. And I believe that it is because I am of an altogether different species than God (please see my engagement with some of your writings here).

    Concerning your repudiation of individual salvation, I agree. In John 3, I see the direct involvement of all three members of the Trinity. But I don’t see how any of the apostles were instrumental, yea even necessary in an absolute sense for the imputation of righteousness to others by efficacious grace.

    To thrust man into some kind of community role in the work of salvation is to unfairly demand of them an unconditional love that they are simply unable to produce.

    Comment by Todd Wood — February 19, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  44. Todd: You might want to read John 17 where the essence of the exaltation promised to Jesus is promised to his disciples — to the extent they are one in just the same way that the Father and Son are one. That entails also that they are not saved alone. As for the imputation of righteousness, I don’t believe that such a view is remotely scriptural and it is incoherent. You might want to look at chs. 9 and 10 of my 2nd vol. where I explain why imputation of righteousness is internally incoherent. As for the inability to love, you might want to look at Jesus’s command to love one another as he has loved us. Isn’t that the essence of his message — which you somehow deem to be impossible?

    Comment by Blake — February 19, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  45. Blake, is God’s agape and our agape of the same species? God’s agape is spontaneous and self-generated. Our agape is responsive. We love him because He first loved us.

    If I am going to love like Christ, it can only be His love through me.

    Comment by Todd Wood — February 19, 2007 @ 10:53 am

  46. Todd: the fact that I love my son before he loves me doesn’t entail that it is a different kind of love, much less that I am a different species from my son! It is true that God makes the first move to free us of our self-deceptive rejection of relationship, but it doesn’t at all entail that our love is different in kind. Our love too can be spontaneous and self-generated. Indeed, it my were generated by another, then it isn’t really my love it seems to me. That is one of the big differences between the LDS view of free will and the Protestant emphasis on grace alone which we are not free to reject and we don’t choose to accept. I suggest that there is no love in such a relationship because love necessarily entails that the lover must be left free to say “no”.

    Comment by Blake — February 19, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

  47. I guess it is no more irrational than looking for Lamanites in the USA. Go for it!

    Comment by Don — April 1, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

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