I am reading your book on Mormonism [editor’s note: available at www.ipibooks.com] and I came across the section about Mormon belief and one of the beliefs was baptism for the dead. Do they take this from the 1 Corinthian 15:29 verse? What does the verse mean?
Mormons do not get baptism for the dead from 1 Corinthians 15:29. They get it from Joseph Smith. Almost everything that the Mormons teach–especially their more bizarre beliefs–come from their founder, Joseph Smith. Of course, Mormons might defend this false teaching today using the Bible, but it certainly is not where it came from in the first place. The next question is where did Joseph Smith get this outlandish idea that living “Saints” can be baptized for already-dead people? I am afraid that you will have to ask Joseph, which will be hard to do. Smith was a religious genius. He knew how to create religious ideas which would be popular with certain kinds of people. My guess is that Smith did a mental calculation and decided that adding this belief to his theology would create more loyalty to the religion he was creating. If we think of Smith as a cynical religious manipulator, we will be able to explain a lot of the doctrines he invented for his pseudo-Christian cult.
As for the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29, I have already answered this question, so I am copying and pasting below.
1Cor15:29 – Baptised for the dead.What does this all mean?
Commentators have several possible explanations of 1 Corinthians 15:29. This is a difficult passage and we will probably have to settle for saying we are not absolutely certain what Paul is getting at. The question of interpretation depends on the question of whether there really were people being baptized for the dead in the church. This is debated. Possibly some sort of “baptism for the dead” was practiced by another group. Possibly Paul is talking about something hypothetical. Possibly there were actually people doing this in Corinth. One thing we can be absolutely sure of, Paul is not promoting baptizing for the dead! My thought is that there was probably a fringe group somewhere which actually proposed baptizing for the dead and that Paul was sarcastically referring to them in order to shame those in Corinth who were struggling with belief in the final resurrection of all souls at the end of time. Sometimes when we come across more difficult passages (and 1 Cor 15:29 certainly is an example) we ought to start by asking what it certainly does NOT mean. Once we eliminate the possibility that Paul is actually implying that baptism for the dead is an OK teaching, I think we can decide that it is not a devastating problem to be not exactly sure what Paul is referring to.