Three years ago, I sat in a nice café with Kris and her husband John. By the end of the dinner, it was evident that Kris and I shared a complimentary passion for Mormon history and an interest in its particulars. This week, the first fruits of our (if I may say) fabulous collaboration hit my mailbox in the form of the Fall 2008 issue of Journal of Mormon History. I am planning to do a non-critical review of the issue in the near future; but I thought I would throw up a brief outline of “‘They Shall Be Made Whole': A History of Baptism for Health.”
After a cool 1890 account of a baptism for health in the St. George Temple, we highlight the relative lack of discussion of baptism for health in the scholarly literature. We point out the biblical healings associated with washing and briefly the post biblical baptism for health rites and cultural associations of Baptism with healing. Healing was a particular evidence of the Restoration and it was common for people to be healed during their baptisms or confirmations.
Nauvoo: Ritual Formalization
Joseph Smith viewed the temple as a specific space for healing and as he adapted baptism on behalf of the deceased, at the same time, Church leaders announced baptism for health as a discrete healing rite. Church leaders preached about it and led the way by example. Though Joseph Smith taught that baptism for health was reserved to the temple font, he soon started doing it outside the temple. Several variations of the ritual emerged.
Exodus and Early Utah
Latter-day Saints used baptism for health wherever they went and it was so common that details were frequently left out of contemporary accounts.
Return of the Temple Font and Utah Temple Practice
While Mormons continued to baptize for health outside of their temples, with the Endowment House font, they again went to their sacral sanctuaries to participate in healing. Loads of fun examples. Specific policies were formulated for temple healing and there are some interesting things about several aspects of ritual healing as a bonus. Temples kept statistics of baptisms for health, which we show in fun charts.
Rebaptism and Baptism for Health
Lots of folks have heard about rebaptism. I believe this is the most complete account of its end currently published and we show how that affected baptism for health.
Controversy and Cessation, 1910-1922
As the section title indicates, this shows how and why things ended…but I don’t want to spoil it.
Thanks for indulging a giddy author. Also, consider joining the Mormon History Association to get the journal mailed to you every three months.