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Mormons baptized Lottie Moon in 1959, 47 years after death

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–On May 15, 1959, a Mormon by the name of Vergilia Polland went to the temple in Salt Lake City, donned a white robe and entered a baptismal font adorned with 12 ornamental oxen.
Once in the water, a Mormon priest greeted Polland with these words: “I lay hands on you in behalf of Charlotte Diggs Moon, who is dead.” Polland, standing in for Lottie Moon, was then dunked into the baptismal water in Moon’s behalf.
Thus, according to Mormon doctrine known as “Baptism for the Dead,” Lottie Moon, “heroine extraordinaire” for Southern Baptist international missions, was supposedly given a “second chance” to enter the celestial palaces Mormons call heaven.
However, Moon needed no second chance, according to Southern Baptist Don Kammerdiener, executive vice president for the International Mission Board. “Lottie Moon’s eternal destiny was settled in this life when she committed her life to Christ,” he said. “No one can change the course of that destiny after death nor on behalf of another person. The Bible teaching is that the eternal destiny of all human beings is determined in this life.”
After her salvation, Lottie Moon went on to become a missionary to China. Southern Baptists name their annual offering for international missions after her. This past year they collected about $100 million in that offering.
Mormon baptismal waters have also been stirred for other Southern Baptist legends, or soon will be. For instance, Mormon records on George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas from 1897-44, indicate he has been “cleared” for baptism, though the ritual has not actually taken place.
Years from now, after they die, other influential Southern Baptists will likely be named in these Mormons records of people baptized for the dead.
As the Southern Baptist Convention prepares to meet June 9-11 in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Mormon church — officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the spotlight will also fall on this doctrine that is one of many aspects of Mormonism that trouble Southern Baptists.
Messengers who tour the famous Mormon genealogical library in Salt Lake City may not realize that this doctrine of baptism for the dead has led Mormons to develop one of the finest, if not the best, collection of genealogical materials in the world.
The evidences of this doctrine are found in the library’s thousands and thousands of stacks and microchips of records. The public may only view records of people born before 1900 who have been baptized, but the library contains the names and baptism records for millions of people who never in life embraced the Mormon Church but who in death have been baptized by “proxy” — as a Mormon descendent acted in their places.
Mormons collect genealogical information so they can baptize by proxy non-Mormons who are now dead.
In order to baptize Lottie, for instance, Polland — whose genealogy most likely intersected with Moon’s family — had to “prove” through genealogical research that Lottie once lived and is now dead.
Moon’s Mormon records list historical characteristics that match those of Lottie Moon the missionary. They show her birth on Dec. 12, 1840, in Albemarle County, Va., her death on Dec. 24, 1912, and the names of her parents, Edwards Harris Moon and Ann Maria Barclay Moon.
The records also indicate Mormon rituals called “endowments” and “sealing” also were performed in Moon’s behalf.
These “baptisms,” “endowments” and “sealings” today are done in Mormon temples all over the world and are called by the Mormons their “vicarious work for the dead.” Their reason for this practice is their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29, which says, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?”
Mormons believe that in the spirit world beyond each person will decide whether to accept the baptism and confirmation made for him or her by living Mormons. But Southern Baptist leaders are unanimous that this Mormon practice is both unbiblical and a distortion of Scripture.
“The passage of Scripture cited by the Mormons deals with the question of the resurrection and not baptism,” Kammerdiener said.
“These Mormon doctrines seem strange to most Baptists and other Christians,” says material produced by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s interfaith witness team. “Many find it hard to believe a church calling itself Christian could teach such things. Nonetheless, these unusual ideas are standard beliefs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    About the Author

  • Louis Moore