Think What You Will of What Goes on in Mormon Temples: How Many Hundreds of Years Has it Been Since the Names of So Many Have Been Breathed Aloud?
By Ken K. Gourdin
Mormons take literally Christ’s injunction to Nicodemus that, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5, KJV). We also believe that baptism is an earthly ordinance (one reason is purely practical: how, exactly, does one baptize a spirit?), and take literally the observation of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “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?” (1 Corinthians 15:29, KJV).
Mormons believe that other ordinances, in addition to baptism, are necessary for one to receive the full measure of blessings God wishes to give His children in the life to come, and that the ordinances whereby these blessings are bestowed, like baptism of the dead, are received by proxy in Mormon temples. It was while serving as proxy in one such ordinance at a just-completed Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gilbert, Ariz., that BYU Professor Dan Peterson had what I think is a very keen insight. The ordinances are performed by name, “for and in behalf of” the deceased, whose name is then spoken.
I last visited this post on his blog today. See the following address: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2014/11/arizona-report.html. In that post, he writes, “[While performing the ordinance], I pondered the fact that, for many of the people for whom temple ordinance work is performed, this may be the first time that their names have been spoken aloud on the earth for many years — sometimes for centuries — since they died.” I replied:
Beautiful. It behooves us all to remember that these ordinances are being performed for and in behalf of real people. That’s easiest, of course, when they’re our own relatives, which is one reason why we’re asked to search out our own kindred who have departed. But we should do it every time we visit the temple.