Do Mormons Pray To or For the Dead?

May 14, 2009

Q. Do Mormons pray to or for the dead?

Mourners often pray at gravesides of loved ones.To the first part, no; we do not pray to the dead. We pray to God the Eternal Father. We believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and we end our prayers in Jesus’ name.  We believe that the Father and the Son are both very much alive.

Perhaps you are referring to the uniquely Mormon practice of baptism for the dead.  It’s not exactly a prayer to or for the departed, but an ordinance and covenant made on their behalf.  If that is what you meant, please read Baptisms for the Dead.

Regarding prayer for the dead, I would begin by recommending reading some of our other articles on prayer. Most recently, I like the way this one addresses how we pray and what we pray about.  Personally, I would say there’s nothing wrong with praying for deceased loved ones.  In fact, I think it’s a wonderful idea.  The prophet Joseph Smith received revelation pertaining to the eternal welfare of his late elder brother, Alvin.  I am sure the prophet Joseph prayed for his brother many times; he and his wife Emma likely prayed for the many children they lost as well.  I know I have personally prayed for loved ones who have passed on, both those I knew in life and those I did not have the opportunity to meet.

There is a great bond that joins all generations. As Malachi of old prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).

So go ahead and pray for deceased loved ones. God will undoubtedly hear you.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

9 Responses to “Do Mormons Pray To or For the Dead?”

  1. I have what probably will sound like kind of a dumb or naive question. When praying for the dead, do you only pray for deceased family members — or do you pray for deceased friends, as well? What about people you never knew (perhaps a historical figure, a friend of a friend, etc.)?


  2. Katie,

    Thanks for your question. Maybe to clarify: I don’t think prayer for a deceased person is really an integral part of Mormonism, (like doing ordinances for the dead is). I might be wrong, but even if it is, it’s just a personal subject of prayer like any other. I don’t think that I have ever done it myself, or heard anyone else do it (except maybe at a funeral, but even then I can’t think of any specific instance.) But, as Megan pointed out, there really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t, I just don’t think it’s that common. So in the question of who you would pray for I wouldn’t think that it would matter much.

    We do perform ordinances vicariously for the dead (like that baptisms for the dead article) in temples, and that is a different story. A lot of times I’ve heard this described by non-mormons as “praying for the dead,” but I wouldn’t really call it a prayer to God on behalf of the departed. Maybe close, in the general concern for their welfare.

    In the case of ordinances for the dead, there are rules about who you can and can’t perform those ordinances for. Because part of the ordinance is baptism and confirmation as a member of the church, we try to stick to just family members, for legal reasons. Every once in a while, someone’s descendants get mad that we’ve given them a mormon baptism and confirmation. (I’ve heard someone did it for Obama’s grandmother, and it caused a small ruckus?)

    On that subject, I can understand why people would dislike the idea of their dead grandparents getting baptized into the Mormon church, but it’s a funny situation logically. obviously if you don’t think Mormonism is true then you shouldn’t believe the baptism really means anything anyway.

    Your question makes me wonder, though. I’m interested in hearing from mormons out there: do you regularly pray for the welfare of your dead family and friends?

  3. I agree with Dave here. Praying for the dead isn’t institutionalized by the Church. If you pray for the dead, it’s just because of your own personal concern.

    I might pray for a dead relative at a funeral, or when preparing to perform their proxy baptism. But it’s hard to know what they need, since we haven’t seen each other in a while.

    I think prayers probably generally flow more in the opposite direction. Prayers from my loving grandparents on my behalf.

  4. I thought I would just chime in here–

    The only time I ever pray for the dead is when I am doing their ordinances for them in the temple. And in that case, it isn’t a “please save their souls” prayer, it is a “please let them be open to this so they can be happy” prayer.

    That is just me, though. Personally, I agree with Thaddeus. We can’t do much to save them but they are probably doing a lot to help us.

  5. Joseph

    You must receive salvation prior to physical death through the name of Jesus. After death your fate is sealed. There is no changing that fact. Read Jesus’ words in the New Testament.

  6. Willie

    In Matthew 12:31-32, the Savior talked about how all manner of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, “neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Evidently this implies that there are sins which may be forgiven in the world to come (after death).

    Peter, speaking of the Savior, says in 1 Peter 3:19-20, “He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient…” Why would the Savior go and preach to spirits in prison? Just to let them know that they were stuck there forever and that their fate was sealed? I don’t think so. Christ said, “He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight of the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” [Luke 4:18]

    Are those the words the Savior spoke that you were referring to?

    I believe in a God who is merciful and loves all of his children. “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” [Matthew 5:45] I invite you to study the doctrine that we believe. I think that you’ll find it is quite coherent with all the scriptures.

  7. Becky

    As a practicing Catholic, I can tell you that the Roman Catholic church teaches us to pray for the dead. As they are in pergatory, a place for being purified (among other things), our prayers help them to become closer to God and give them strength to endure the pain they may be in ( and thus to move on to another place, other than pergatory). We can pray for them, and they can pray for us, but they cannot pray for themselves.
    I think it helps sometimes to know what other denominations believe and teach, so as to understand perhaps why a question is being asked.
    Since my church pretty much requires me to pray for the dead, it is interesting to know what other churches teach on the subject. I understand from the comments I read that it is pretty much up to the individual LDS believer if he wants to pray for the dead or not… that it doesn’t actually do anything for the deceased person.

  8. Thaddeus

    Becky, thank you for enlightening us on your beliefs and practices as a Catholic. I’d like to learn more about your idea of prayer and what it means. Why can a person in purgatory not pray for herself? Is a prayer for the dead a simple, heartfelt plea like, “Father, please comfort and sustain Suzie who is enduring purgatory. In Jesus’ name, amen.” ? Or is there more ceremony involved?

    And, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that in the LDS Church, a prayer for the dead “doesn’t actually do anything.” A fervent prayer will always be heard and answered by the Lord. It’s just that praying for the dead is not an essential saving ordinance or sacrament in the way that baptism and confirmation are. Be sure you understand what baptisms for the dead are and how they differ from a prayer for the dead.

  9. Joe

    My mother, a devout, lifelong Mormon, prays to my deceased father. She boorishly recounts stories of his intervening on her behalf every time I talk with her. Furthermore, at any Mormon testimony meeting, one will hear similar stories of the deceased aiding and advising the living. So regardless of the church’s official position, church members regularly pray to the dead. One day I challenged my mother, saying, “Praying to the dead is against your religion.” “It most certainly is not,” was her reply.