Happy Thanksgiving!

See also my posts on the D&Cs, including the 2021 “Come Follow Me” LDS Series.

This D&C is the promised follow-up to D&C 127, giving more information on Baptism for the Dead (BFTD), since JS was on the run and couldn’t preach it in person. I must make mention of the fact that these verses are quite long — often several sentences, or if only one sentence, it is a long one. I’m not criticizing, since they can have verses of whatever length they want, but it is unusual compared to most of the other verses in the D&Cs or BOM, which frequently break up long sentences across two or more verses. This means that though it is only 25 verses, it’s probably the same amount of text as one with 50-75 verses.

The first few verses give more details about there being someone to witness and record BFTD. V2 doesn’t change the impression that this recording is necessary for it to be recorded in heaven. V3 says that if there are witnesses present, they should be named, so they can confirm it if necessary, for the Biblically required “three witnesses” — but it does not actually require that there be multiple witnesses there.

V6 says that when Rev. 20:12 says that John “saw the dead… and the books were opened”, that he “was contemplating this very subject in relation to the dead”. So, far from distancing itself from saying that BTFD must be recorded on earth for God to have a record of it in heaven, this D&C clearly states that very thing, with v8 quoting “whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”, and saying it is merely a “different view of the translation” to say that this really means, “whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven”.

The D&C also affirms baptism as picturing death, burial, and resurrection, and thus needing to be full immersion; and saying that, “the baptismal font… was commanded to be in a place underneath where the living are wont to assemble”, then somehow citing 1 Cor. 15:46-48 which says in part, “that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual”, and saying that this applies to baptismal records — that Mormons have to have physical (“natural”) records first, and afterwards the spiritual records (in heaven) exist.

V15 is intriguing and also troubling, saying that when Hebrews says, “that they without us cannot be made perfect”, that this is talking about BFTD, and that it also means that “neither can we without our dead be made perfect”. This is troubling because, taken as written, if one of your family members isn’t “made perfect”, then that can keep you from being “made perfect”!

I’ve seen it said that (some) early Mormons believed you could advance only as far as all your predecessors had advanced. I think of it like a train — all the cars are linked together, and no later train car (a descendant) can go further than an earlier car (his ancestors). This helps explain some of the emphasis on BFTD and genealogy work, trying to find your ancestors. After all, if you could go no further than your ancestors, all the way back to your great-great-great-grandparents (or beyond), you’d need to make sure that they had all had their baptism work done for them. This also sounds a bit selfish, as if Mormons are doing baptism work for their dead so that they are “made perfect”, so the Mormons themselves can be “made perfect”. That said, this is just something I’ve heard of, as having been believed in the past; I don’t think it’s something the modern LDS believes. However, it’s here in this D&C.

After quoting 1 Cor. 15:29, “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?“, the D&C doesn’t expound on that, but instead jumps to Mal. 4:5-6, about Elijah coming, and turning “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”, and says that BFTD is what is meant, saying, “the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link” between fathers and children, and says that BFTD is this link.

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