Why the Gospel Requires Embodied Proxies


Surfing the Internet back in February, I came across the following three questions on another blog:

“Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?”

“If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?”

“And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?”

The questions intrigued me and I endeavored to answer them. The exercise ended up drawing out new information (new to me, at least), which is why I’m copying it onto this blog. This post contains those comments I left there, but with clarifications, corrections and a little expansion. First, though, here’s a review of two scriptures concerning baptism for the living and dead.

Baptism for the living; vicarious baptism for the dead

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. (AoF 1:4)

And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them; but behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. (D&C 138:29-35)

My comments with [clarifications], [corrections] and [expansions] in [brackets]

Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?

It’s patterned after the way God saves us: through Jesus Christ, a[n embodied] Proxy[, even the Only Begotten Son of God, according to the flesh.]  This points our minds to Christ.

If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?

Because they are imprisoned [referring to the bands of death, which prohibit naked spirits from getting their bodies back and being baptized]. We do the work for them because they cannot do the work for themselves.

And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?

Because they [the resurrected, damned souls] are still, technically imprisoned [referring to the chains of hell, not the bands of death]. No one can break the chains of hell without faith in Christ and no spirit in hell can exercise faith in Christ without the ordinances being done in their behalf. A resurrected, unclean spirit cannot be baptized, for they remain unclean, having never exercised faith in Christ [after dying in their sins]. Although they have left the geographical location of hell, they still have the chains of hell upon them and are still subject to the devil. In their resurrected state, having the Lord before them, they cannot exercise faith, for now they have a perfect knowledge. It is faith alone that saves. Therefore, their only hope is through vicarious ordinances performed in their behalf, and missionary proxies preaching [to] them while they are still spirits in prison. If they can exercise faith in Christ while they are there, prior to their resurrection, they can free themselves from their chains and obtain salvation.

So, LDS Anarchist, what you’re saying is: Spirits can’t be baptized because there are no fonts in spirit prison.

No, what I’m saying is that 1) they are still impenitent [referring to the chains of hell] and 2) they are bound [referring to the bands of death]. Whether there is water or not in hell makes no difference, whatsoever. They can’t be baptized because they have no faith nor repentance because they are bound by the chains of hell [as well as by the bands of death]. That’s what chains do, they stop you from doing things you otherwise might do. It’s called prison for a reason.

[In other words, the chains of hell keep them impenitent, or incapable of exercising faith and repentance, which must precede baptism to qualify for baptism, and the bands of death keep them from being baptized because they don’t have a body. The double captivity whammy of sin and death makes it, essentially, impossible to escape hell.]

[You, LDS Anarchist, wrote,]

We do the work for them because they cannot do the work for themselves.

Ironically, doesn’t that sound like Satan’s plan?

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Satan’s plan was to save man by destroying agency. The Lord’s plan was to save man while retaining agency. Both wanted to be the Father’s proxy (His only begotten Son.) Under the Lord’s plan, there are a multitude of proxies, we [the people of the Lord] acting in the name of the Lord, in behalf of ourselves and others, as “saviors on mount Zion,” while the devil’s plan had only one proxy and savior acting under his own power and authority: him [the devil].

Are you saying they have no agency?

The spirits in hell have no agency. They are subject to the spirit of the devil and are bound in the chains of hell. He is the warden there. It operates according to his destruction-of-agency rules. Spirit missionaries traveling from paradise to hell to bring the gospel light to their darkness would be unable to get anyone to exercise faith in Christ and free themselves, because they cannot be baptized. Proxy baptism opens the way for them to exercise faith and shake off their chains.

And where does it say that there are no fonts in spirit prison?

Fonts in hell would serve no purpose, except to torment people further. Since the devil is a sadist, perhaps he does have fonts there.

One more thing. The ordinance of baptism requires complete immersion (of the soul.) Your physical body is as much a part of you as is your spirit body. So that’s the requirement. All of the fallen man must be immersed. The unbaptized spirits in prison are screwed because they have no power to get their bodies back, thus [they] cannot exercise faith unto salvation. So the Lord provides a way for their escape from prison, by making temple workers proxy souls. The ordinance of baptism, then, is of necessity an earthly ordinance. It must be performed by embodied spirits (souls.)

But what about the souls in spirit prison that have accepted the gospel and are ready to accept the proxy ordinance, but it hasn’t been performed yet…?

The principle of a future savior (on mount Zion) still applies, allowing them to exercise faith and escape. This is how the ancients who lived prior to Christ obtained faith. But if there were never any work done for the dead, none of the dead could exercise faith.

Are you saying that up until the point where the proxy ordinance is preformed they have no faith nor repentance, then as soon as someone performs the proxy ordinance, then they stop being impenitent…?

No. I’m saying that there must be a way for the ordinance to be performed, in order for the commandment to be fulfilled, otherwise no amount of preaching to the dead could allow them to generate faith. They are hopelessly bound by the devil’s chains and also by the bands of death. They have lost all agency, all hope and thus, all faith. The missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency, through the light of the gospel, and hope for escape from hell through the vicarious works and also hope of a resurrection. All of this allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, which, if they do, shakes the chains off.

Which is it? Spirits in Spirit Prison are physically incapable of being baptized or they lack the faith and repentance to be baptized? Or some combination of the two…?

It is both. Their are two bands or bonds they are powerless to overcome. The first are the chains of hell, which subject them to the devil. To put it in more modern terms, subjection to the devil means that he takes total control over you, so that you become a mind-controlled slave, or a robot, a puppet. The “you” of you ceases to exist. Your will becomes (forcefully) swallowed up in the impenitent will of the devil. You lose all agency and become a thing that is merely acted upon. This is slavery on an absolute level. The second bond are the bands of death, which also provide many limitations.

In mortality, a person (who has not sinned unto death) can exercise faith, repent of all their sins and then fulfill the commandments of baptism, etc., because first, there are no bands of death on them and second, any chains of hell upon them are powerless to drag them down to hell (because of the body) and are also powerless to subject them to the devil. These conditions of mortality allow us to have agency and make choices according to our wills. Once we die, though, the limitations of the chains are removed and if we still have chains attached, all is lost.

Thus, people who die in their sins also die a spiritual death, as Jacob taught. This is also why if there were no resurrection, we would all become angels to the devil, again as Jacob taught. Death and hell present an insurmountable obstacle to mankind’s very existence, for according to the very laws of the universe, the devil must always win. But then the Lord provides the miracle of the atonement, providing a way for our escape.

And it is miraculous, for the spirits in hell have the will of the devil, and so are incapable of repenting or exercising faith. They can no longer choose their own path. They are powerless to get their bodies back. This makes it impossible for them to escape from their spiritual and physical death. But irregardless, the Lord provides a resurrection of the physically dead and a resurrection of the spiritually dead, doing the impossible.

If the missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency — and the hope for possible ordinances allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, hence shake off their chains — then why can’t the missionaries in prison dedicate a spirit baptismal font and baptize them once they’ve repented?

The ordinance of baptism is a washing ordinance. We are washing “our garments.” You know how in the scriptures it says that many high priests washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb and were made clean? All things from the Spirit have both literal and symbolic meaning. There are no pure symbols in the gospel, but all symbols are based on real, concrete things. A real thing is symbolically called this or that because it reminds one of something else. So, we partake of new wine in the sacrament because wine reminds us of the blood of Christ, because it looks like blood, etc. The wine is a real thing that is used symbolically to represent another real thing: blood. To the prophetic mind, the physical body is a garment, for we put it on at birth and take it off at death, just as we do a cloth garment. Baptism is the ordinance in which we wash our “garment.” A[n] unembodied or disembodied spirit cannot wash his or her garment in baptism, for they are naked spirits, and that ordinance is specifically for the washing of the “garment.” Baptizing a disembodied spirit does not meet the requirements of the ordinance, nor its purposes. Because of this, baptizing spirits is powerless to generate faith. It must be done by embodied spirits.

Alternately, if the spirits of the dead don’t have the agency to repent and stop being mind-controlled robots, then how do they have the faith, repentance, and agency to accept the proxy baptism once it is performed?

The spirits in prison are kept in darkness by the devil. They are spiritually dead. I’ll put it another way: they are dead spirits. The devil is a murderer from the beginning and as soon as they are dragged down to hell, they die. In other words, he kills them. How do you kill an immortal spirit? By taking away their ability to perceive. If you can’t see, hear, or have any other sense, if you can’t even perceive your own thoughts, you will cease to exist as you. You lose your identity, your sense of time and everything else. This is accomplished by the darkness and the chains. Thus, they have no agency or power.

When the missionaries arrive, though, they bring with them light (if not so, the darkness would overpower even them) and this light allows the spirits to perceive once again, granting them agency. They still have to contend with the chains (which are real things that symbolically represent and look like, intertwining chains, and which also look like the tares plant, hence the prophets giving them that name, too) but they are no longer fully subject to the devil and can choose to exercise faith and repent.

Are you saying that the fact of performing the proxy ordinance breaks that spirit’s chains and allows the spirit to develop faith?

The chains of hell (also called the bonds of iniquity, since they proceed from the spirit of the devil) cannot be broken by ordinances. They have to be shaken off or shaken loose in the process of “working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.” That process requires faith, repentance, and coming to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. That process starts with faith, but no faith can be generated if the process is doomed to fail even before it begins. The spirits must be given hope. They must be given good news. If they are told, “You must have faith and repent, but you can’t be baptized nor will you ever be able to,” this would extinguish all chance of them ever attaining faith, for there is no salvation without baptism. This is why we perform baptisms for the dead.

In other words, you seem to be saying that because they died in their sins (and are bound by their chains of unfaithfulness), they can’t be baptized. OK, well then why can they be proxy-baptized? Does the proxy baptism itself somehow grant them agency so that they are no longer mind-controlled slave/robots?

The light the missionaries brings with them grants them agency. Proxy baptism allows them to be able to exercise faith unto salvation. Proxy baptism is permissible in the gospel because it develops faith, as does every other part of the gospel. Unless faith is developed, no salvation is possible. The chains of hell, once attached, are impossible to detach except through faith. In other words, it is faith that saves. Faith is the first principle of the gospel. All the other aspects of the gospel are for faith maintenance or faith development, which also makes them salvific. But nothing in the gospel saves apart from faith. You can go through all the motions you want in the gospel, if you never develop faith the chains are still attached and upon your death you will find yourself in hell, despite all your “gospel living.” So a man cannot go to paradise with chains attached, for they drag him back. A man can’t get a physical, resurrected body with chains attached and expect to be free of them by virtue of his new body. It doesn’t work that way. No, that body is Satan’s. His possession alone. Just as king Benjamin taught, the Lord does not take what belongs to another.

Summarized principles

Those were the comments, which I wrote in February earlier this year.  Now to summarize the principles:

Baptism is ineffectual in the resurrection

To qualify for baptism, faith and repentance must precede it. A resurrected, unclean spirit cannot be baptized, for they remain unclean, having never exercised faith in Christ unto repentance. After leaving the geographical location of hell, through their resurrection, they are brought before the Lord to be judged. They cannot exercise faith in this state, for they will have a perfect knowledge. Because it is faith alone that saves, baptizing them can have no power to save them, for baptism only has power to maintain and further develop the faith that a person already has. It has no power to engender faith in individuals devoid of faith, being a dead work to such people.

Soul baptism (spirit + flesh “garments”) is the ordinance

The ordinance of baptism requires complete immersion of the soul. Your physical body is as much a part of you as is your spirit body, it being the physical “garments” of the spirit. So that’s the requirement. All of the man (spirit + flesh) must be immersed. We are entirely dipped into water, while clothed in flesh, washing our garments in the watery liquid. This garment of flesh is like a physical kabod that covers the anthropomorphic part of us, corresponding to the spiritual kabod that we also have.

Baptizing a naked spirit does not fulfill the ordinance requirements

Owing that naked spirits have lost their physical bodies and have no power to get them back, spirits in hell cannot be validly baptized, nor can the spirits in paradise be baptized in behalf of those in hell, because, they, also, do not meet the requirements of the ordinance, having no physical garment to wash.

There can be no faith without baptism

We teach faith, repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost as an ordered progression for those who have reached the age of accountability. The commandment is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent of all one’s sins, be baptized in water and receive the Holy Ghost. If you are taught these principles but are unable to be baptized and confirmed by the laying on of hands because you do not have a physical body, you cannot comply with the commandment. It will be impossible, then, for you to exercise faith unto repentance, because you cannot see the commandment to completion and receive the remission of your sins. You cannot fulfill the required baptismal witness. Preaching the gospel requirements (the first four principles and ordinances) to spirits, then, while simultaneously telling them they cannot comply with them, has no power to engender faith in anyone.

Vicarious baptism must, of necessity, be performed by the embodied people of the Lord

Embodied, proxy baptism fulfills the gospel requirements in behalf of disembodied (disrobed) spirits, so that now, when a missionary preaches the gospel to them, they can exercise faith and escape hell, confident that the vicarious baptism has been or will be done in their behalf. Therefore only the embodied people of the Lord, prior to the resurrection, can provide the necessary proxies to save the people in hell by allowing them to exercise faith, which is why temple work must be done on this side of the veil.

One proxy vs. a multitude of proxies

God’s plan calls for a multitude of proxies, all of them becoming saviors on mount Zion, patterned after the embodied Christ who performed the ordinance of atonement in our behalf, whereas Satan’s plan called for just one proxy: himself. (The missionary work done in hell is likewise patterned after the disembodied Christ who traveled to paradise to declare to them the day of their deliverance.)

Spirits in hell can leave on the faith and hope alone of future ordinance work being done

A spirit does not need to wait for his ordinance work to be done, in order to have sufficient faith to leave hell. All he needs to know is that the work will be done at some point in the future. This allows him to have hope and to exercise faith that it will be done. The urgency of ordinance work is not that undone ordinance work prohibits spirits from shaking off the chains of hell and leaving that region of darkness, but that it prohibits a spirit that has already left hell and gone to paradise from entering paradise. They can go to paradise, but cannot enter into it until the work is done, for like all hollow spheres, there is an outer and an inner part. The outer surface is where people wait until the work is done. The inner part is for those who have the ordinances. Those “appointed there” at the gates make sure that no one can pass into the interior of paradise (see D&C 132:18), but once the salvation ordinance work is done, then the people can pass by those “set there” (see D&C 132:19.)

It’s all about engendering, maintaining and developing faith

The first principle of the gospel, faith, is engendered through the atonement of Jesus Christ. All the other principles of the gospel are to maintain that faith and to further develop it. If you exercise faith unto repentance, but afterward return again to your sins, the faith you have engendered is not maintained and you lose it. The commandment to be baptized in water after you have exercised faith and repented of all your sins maintains your faith when you comply with it. The same is true with all the other commandments of God; when you obey them, the faith in you is maintained, and when you disobey them, faith is lost. Everything, then, in the gospel, is an act of faith, either one of engendering, maintaining or developing.

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