Chapter 8 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with Mormonism’s emphasis on doing temple work for the dead. As this chapter points out, this isn’t restricted to baptisms for the dead, but includes all the ordinances that the living participate in. There is so much that could be commented on but I will restrict my thoughts to three things.
First is the utter lack of biblical support for this. In the entire chapter President Smith only cites one Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 15:19. And that one is taken completely out of context! Even a cursory reading of the context shows that it is talking about the resurrection and how we would have no hope in eternity if Christ had not been raised. It is stressing the fact that Christ’s resurrection is the basis for our entire faith. It is, as Paul says in Romans 4:25, the proof that Jesus had done everything for our being justified, acquitted, forgiven by God.
But President Smith applies it to eternal marriage! He said: “Grateful should we be for a knowledge of the eternity of the marriage covenant. If in this life only had we hope, we would indeed be of all men most miserable [see 1 Corinthians 15:19]. The assurance that our relationship here as parents and children, as husbands and wives will continue in heaven, and that this is but the beginning of a great and glorious kingdom that our Father has destined we shall inherit on the other side, fills us with hope and joy.”
The bottom line is that there is no biblical support for this practice.
The second point is his portrayal of how others view eternity. He writes: “If I were to think, as so many think, that now that my beloved wife and my beloved parents are gone, that they have passed out of my life forever and that I shall never see them again, it would deprive me of one of the greatest joys that I have in life: the contemplation of meeting them again, and receiving their welcome and their affection, and of thanking them from the depths of a grateful heart for all they have done for me.”
He doesn’t specifically say this is how Christians believe, but I have had numerous Mormons tell me that is what they think I believe. Just to set the record straight. The Bible teaches that we will be together forever with all our believing loved ones. I expect not only to see them again but to live with them for all eternity. The Bible does talk about an eternal family –God’s eternal family made up of all believers. I will be spending eternity in this wonderful family – because Jesus did the necessary work for me. Through Jesus’ perfect law-keeping for me; through his atoning death for all my sins, I and all my believing loved ones have been adopted into the greatest eternal family, heavenly Father’s family. That is the family unit that will exist for all eternity.
Finally, I found the way he motivates members to do this work quite interesting. More than once he talks about the blessings people forfeit by not doing this work. For example he writes, “Our Heavenly Father told the people through Joseph Smith that, unless we performed the work for our dead, we would lose our own blessings, and we would be cut off.” He then goes on to tell the story of two brothers: one who did temple work for the dead and the other one who didn’t. The one who didn’t wasn’t received well in heaven. He then asks: “What will be your reception when you go on the other side? Will you be the one they will reach out to and bless throughout the ages of eternity, or will you be like the brother who was selfishly working out his problems here and letting those who could not help themselves go on without his help?”
Does this mean that for some, being part of their eternal family won’t be pleasant? Will it be like attending a family reunion where everybody shuns you? That surely is the impression given. That doesn’t sound like heaven to me.
But even more enlightening is again how, even here, the way that Mormonism motivates people to do work is by focusing on what they get out of it. I went through the chapter again searching for any mention of doing this out of love for people. But I couldn’t find that motivation mentioned.
How starkly different that is from how the Bible motivates believers. There it is all about love. Just this point alone illustrates again the great gap that exists between Mormonism and the Bible. This again shows how they operate on two completely different wave lengths.