“For This Ordinance Belongeth to My House”: The Practice of Baptism for the Dead Outside the Nauvoo Temple


Nauvoo Temple, baptism for the dead, Temple Ordinances


The Elders’ Journal of July 1838, published in Far West, Missouri, included a series of twenty questions related to Mormonism. The answers to the questions bear the editorial pen of Joseph Smith. Question number sixteen posed the following query: “If the Mormon doctrine is true, what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles?” The Prophet answered, “All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter before they can be finally judged.”1 The Prophet’s thought is clear—the dead must have someone in mortality administer the saving ordinances for them to be saved in the kingdom of God. Significantly, the answer given by the Prophet marks his first known statement concerning the doctrine of vicarious work for the dead. However, it was not until more than two years later that the principle was put into practice

Original Publication Citation

“‘For This Ordinance Belongeth to My House’: The Practice of Baptism for the Dead Outside the Nauvoo Temple,” Mormon Historical Studies 3, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 47–58.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


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Mormon Historical Studies




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor