The Catholics baptize infants through sprinkling; Baptists baptize believers by full submersion; Methodists practice infant and believers baptism by immersion, pouring and submersion; the Brethren baptize believers three times by submersion; the Quakers don’t baptize at all, and the Mormons baptize the living and on behalf of the dead by submersion. All practices leave behind their own unique set of records.
This blog will focus on the Mormon practice of “baptism for the dead” which has left behind some very important genealogical records. The reason being that the dead may have never heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and may have lived centuries before the church was founded in 1830. Whether you believe, disbelieve, or don’t care one way or another about the theology itself; be aware at some point you will come across this practice in your genealogical research.
I have to note that not all Latter Day Saints believe or practice baptism for the dead. This was a contentious point after 1844 in the American Mid-West as the church was preparing to migrate to the Rocky Mountains to build the Kingdom of God on earth. Many Mormons refused to acknowledge Brigham Young as the successor to their founding prophet Joseph Smith, and continued to practice the church in other forms. Among these are the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ), and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) among many others. One early group organized in 1844 did practice baptism for the dead, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangites) who settled on Beaver Island, Michigan. For this discussion only the Utah church will be addressed.
Tomorrow’s blog will continue with further background and the records you can utilize in your genealogy!