‘Lest we run too far': Baptism for the Dead and the Holocaust

An anonymous Latter-day Saint in Arizona has reignited the debate surrounding baptism for the dead and victims of the Holocaust.  This unfortunate incident raises, once again, questions around whether and how Mormons should practice these ordinances and I think it is time for a change, but perhaps not the one Rabbi Cooper was calling for.

This type of offense has happened too often to ignore the evident implications.  As long as the LDS Church continues to pursue a wholesale approach to processing and performing baptisms for the dead lay members of the Church, intentionally or not, will continue to cause hurt to members of other faiths. Is there scope for change without altering what is at the heart of these ordinances.  I believe there is.

As JNS articulately examined a few years ago, there are a wide range of ambiguities in the practice of posthumous baptism.  I would suggest that these ambiguities open up the possibility for some change in how we practice these rites.  We do not really understand why these ordinances are necessary: for example, is there some ontological change in the recipient as result of their performance or why cannot God forgive without these ordinances received by proxy? Because we lack answers to these and other questions perhaps there is space to rethink our approach.

In my mind, it is time that we turn to a more humble, but potentially more meaningful, project.  Joseph Smith taught that ‘every man that has been baptized and belongs to the Kingdom, has a right to be baptized for those who are gone before, and, as soon as the Law of the Gospel is obeyed here by their friends, who act as proxy for them, the Lord has administrators there to set them free—a man may act as proxy for his own relatives—the ordinances of the Gospel which was laid out before the foundation of the world has been thus fulfilled, by them, and we may be baptized for those who we have much friendship for, but it must be first revealed to the man of God, lest we should run too far’.[1]

According to Joseph Smith, we can be baptised for two groups: relatives and those with whom ‘we have much friendship’.  Certainly there is some opaqueness here, and some challenges with interpretation, but this focus might radically shift our approach to these ordinances.  Rather than a Fordist approach to batch baptisms where, at least to outsiders, members of the Church are seeking to mass-produce Mormons, we could focus on the individual ordinance.  In my opinion, there is very little that is spiritually meaningful about baptising someone on behalf, or being baptised for, 20 anonymous strangers.  In contrast, I am sure many of us have been privileged to witness someone being baptised once for a close relative or friend.  That experience captures what Joseph Smith taught in D&C 128; that this ordinance binds the dead to the living, that it becomes a welding link between them.  In adopting this emphasis, will we baptise the whole world anytime soon, No?  But does that really matter, I think not?  As I said earlier, there is too much ambiguity here to fret about who has the ordinances.  If we are honest, we all know that we must leave this to God at some point.  We simply do not have the records.

To be clear I am not recommending any new policies per se but I do think that returning to this text, and others, invites reflection around whether the industrialisation of Baptism for the Dead is a necessary part of what Joseph envisioned.  My own sense is that we do not need to pursue this particular mechanism of salvation.

What is at stake in these ordinances, I believe, is our relationship to those who have passed on.  A shift in emphasis might enable all parties involved to feel that connection a little more deeply while, at the same time, we save some of the hurt caused to groups outside our faith.  Thus, I believe this shift will also increase the degree to which young people (the group who primarily are responsible for this work) attend the temple as families and the extent to which they are involved in family history. It may provide for them more of those meaningful experiences that can happen in the temple as we focus on the individual relative or friend rather than a series of anonymous strangers.

Now, there are problems with my suggestion: I acknowledge that this might seem like I am excluding some or that I am slowing the work.  But, we are a resourceful people and I am sure we will find appropriate ways around those challenges.

I believe it is fair to say that we have ‘run too far’.  We have not heeded the Prophet’s warning and we have caused offense. It is time to return to an approach to these ordinances that focuses less on Fordism and more on drawing out the emotional ties between the baptized and the one who has passed on.  It is time that baptism for the dead helped us all feel that welding link.

Notes:

1. Words of Joseph Smith, 12th May 1844.

Comments

  1. Great post! Sorry to be dense, but by “Fordist” and “Fordism” do you mean to refer to an assembly line (as in a Ford automobile factory), or does it mean something else that is obvious to a Sociologist?

  2. John F., thanks, as always. Basically, yeah, Fordism is a particular mode of economic production that tries to represent assembly line mass-production, the low degree of technical skill of the workers and the logic of efficiency which under-girds it. There are ongoing sociological debates around the role and nature of post-Fordism (i.e. print-on-demand) and Fordism in modernity.

  3. AndrewJDavis says:

    The hard part with this idea will be with those of us who have ancestors which have been members for generations. I enjoy family history research, and do it, but I can tell you, I doubt I could find anyone for my daughter to be baptized for (prepositions at the end of my sentences I can find; eligible ancestors — no, alas). Thus, she would likely never get that opportunity. And I would have no reason to return to do endowments or sealings, as I’ve searched my 10,000+ name PAF file, and found no one who needs more work for whom I have enough info to submit.

  4. Andrew, I admit that is an issue. Just to reiterate, the key point for me is that we need to ensure this does not happen and if the cost is to our members then perhaps that is a sacrifice we should make. However, as I observed earlier, I think there are potentially ways around this issue, although I may not know what they are.

    For instance, I am not proscribing being baptized for people unrelated to us but rather that in preparing the work for whomever it is we take more time and care with the names we submit and do the work for. Alternatively I know a great many people who have work to be done and no one to do it. Maybe a system of sharing names with other people might work, but more than just sharing names we can share something about the individuals as well. Further, you might take those people with you and have them watch while your children are baptised for members of their family. Sure you would probably go less often, but this also might be more memorable.

  5. In my opinion, there is very little that is spiritually meaningful about baptising someone on behalf, or being baptised for, 20 anonymous strangers.

    Having had meaningful spiritual experiences while participating in the baptism of hundreds of “anonymous strangers” I have a different opinion.

  6. American Eagle says:

    Without “Fordist” temple work, there would be no need for a temple outside Salt Lake City.

    The whole point is to go once a week, not three times a lifetime for the three non-Mormons that a typical white Intermountain West Mormon ever befriends.

  7. Mark B., of course I expected people to disagree with me on that point. I am glad that your experience is different to mine but I do not think I am alone. Nor do I think that undermines significantly the point I am making in the post.

  8. Going with a little of what Mark B said, I asked an acquaintance to do temple work for my great grandparents (him for my gg and a lady for my gm).. He said that he had fallen into some kind of trance and that my great grandfather and grandmother had appeared to him and told him that they accepted the ordinances.

  9. American Eagle, I am not sure I understand your point about going to the temple once per week. Would going twice per month mean you miss the point?

  10. I have also had meaningful experiences at times. I have wondered why certain names stand out and the spirit is stronger at some points than others. I have wondered how much is me and how much is that person being ready at that time. There is something so necessary about being able to love someone you don’t know enough to sacrifice a teensy bit of time and effort for them. There is something to be said about being able to feel God’s love for them. Even when I haven’t had a particular experience, i have frequently been reminded of just how many people God loves. To see all of those names is part of the perspective I feel at the temple.

    That said, my last time to help with baptisms…okay so I’ m a girl, so that means I handed out towels…but I was in the area of the ordinance ;P…a man and his wife were baptized for his parents and his brother. They had not done baptisms for the dead before, and didn’t know how to hold their hands or do much of it. The emotion was palpable.

  11. One solution that would allow us to do all the baptisms for the dead we could possibly do and not render specific offense would be to separate temple work from family history. We could do all the ordinances for non-specific Adams and Eves and then let the Lord work out which dead named individual gets that ordinance. A dual track system could exist also. The Fordist baptizing for all the Adams and Eves of the world as well as the individual ordinances for our ancestors and friends.

  12. The statistics of our proxy baptism program are interesting to think about.

    Assume for the sake of a little thought experiment that it was theoretically possible to obtain sufficient information on the 100 billion total dead humans to satisfy our record keeping requirements necessary to perform baptisms for all of them. You don’t have to go too far back in history to get to the point where, of everyone living in that era, either every single living human today is a descendant of that person, or none of us is. (Say that point is 1200 AD. Every person in that era or earlier either (1) had no offspring or their line died off relatively quickly, or (2) is distant enough from us to be a common ancestor of everyone.) So either we think ourselves justified to make of that person an ex post Mormon because he’s our relative, or because there’s no non-Mormon with a claim to offense as a relative of that person.

    So maybe that’s a solution to the problem of how to afford Mormon’s who have exhausted their genealogical knowledge of their own relatives (AndrewJDavis’ daughter from #3 above) the worship opportunity of proxy temple ordinances. Figure our how many total baptisms there are to do, and, recognizing that we will never have records on anyone before 1500 that isn’t already proxy baptized, create a list of 1 to 50,000,000,000, or whatever the number is, and let us crank down that list until our arms get tired. Can someone really get offended that we proxy-baptized their relative “#32,668,901,133″, especially when he’s our relative too?

    I think this works because the point of ancestral commonality is conveniently close to the point where our records become very thin, and only kept for important people, presumably all of whom we’ve proxy-baptized anyway.

  13. Sheldon and I made the exact same point at 6:58.

  14. lessonNumberOne, one dimension I did not bring out in the post that I do believe is very significant in relation to baptisms for the dead pertains to the effort to feel that sense of ever-expanding divine love. In fact it can help us feel that affection for a stranger and that is a wonderful thing but I am not sure it does have that effect to extent it could in the current format.

  15. gst and sheldon, are perfect examples of the resourcefulness I am talking about. Thank you both for your comments. There ideas might be problematic but unless we start considering these ambiguities carefully and come up with new solutions we will keep having these unfortunate problems.

  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_recent_common_ancestor

    “Because ancestors of the MRCA are by definition also common ancestors, we can find (less recent) common ancestors by pushing further back in time to ancient common ancestors of all people alive. Eventually we reach a point in the past where all humans can be divided into two groups: those who left no descendants today and those who are common ancestors of all living humans. This point in time is termed the identical ancestors point. …The identical ancestors point for Homo sapiens has been estimated to between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago.”

    So, how many people of the 100 billion that have lived on Earth were before the identical ancestors point?

  17. Just a couple of weeks ago I found out someone turned in the work for my grandmother and had all her work done without permission from any of the living relative…..basically my dad. All her work was done before the year mark of her death date. The person submitting her name didn’t put down a death date so she just went through the system. She was 99 when she died. I was going to do the work for her and was waiting for the year mark. We’re still trying to figure out who this person is who turned in her work. This makes me very mad and sad at the same time. So many rules were broken and somehow it still went through. I’m not sure what the solution is but I had another grandma pass away 9 months ago and I’m nervous that she will pass through the system too. I’m not sure what to do with that.

  18. Thank you, Rink, for sharing your experience. It highlights a dimension to this topic I had not considered previously. For me, your story resonates with the ideas proposed above and such changes might give you the chance to do the work for your other grandparent. I hope you do.

  19. Oops, I just figured out the problem with my “open season before the Identical Ancestors Point” solution–what if the IAP is earlier than 6,000 years ago (you know, when the Earth was created)?

  20. I wonder what effect the belief in the Law of Adoption had on Joseph Smith’s conceptions of baptisms for family and friends. It wasn’t until 1896 that Wilford Woodruff forbade sealings to people besides one’s own ancestors, after all, and until that point there was really no need for the genealogical work: you get adopted as a child to the dynastic structure of the church leadership who will definitely go to the Celestial Kingdom, not your unknown great-grandfather who might turn out to be a murderer and drag you all down to the Telestial Kingdom (that’s how the reasoning went, anyway).

    Another thing we often forget in the work of family history is that in our meticulously-researched family trees is that there will most likely be gaping holes all over it where people don’t accept the ordinances. In order to bind everyone together, there would need to be some pretty drastic postmortal rearrangement of everything.

  21. it's a series of tubes says:

    I believe it is fair to say that we have ‘run too far’. We have not heeded the Prophet’s warning and we have caused offense.

    A few isolated instances among millions of ordinances is not consistent with the above statement, particularly when you use the royal “we” to tar everyone with the same brush.

  22. Sheldon, gst, that really is a great idea. A very effective solution!

  23. American Eagle says:

    Sheldon’s idea in #11 is intriguing. It’s one of the most innovative things I’ve ever read on the Bloggernacle.

    Apparently, about 100 billion people have been born since the world began. Even if we opened up a night shift and ran temples 24/6 (closed on Sundays), we’ll never baptize all of these people. We obviously don’t have records for most people.

    So it’s not about literally completing a list of every person who has ever been born. It’s about the symbolism. So why not just get baptized for an anonymous “Adam” or “Eve” and let it all be sorted out in the Millenium? We could think of each baptism we do as an available “slot” that people in the Spirit World could take.

  24. tubes, I use ‘we’ because I believe that our community should bear some responsibility for the offenses caused by others, particularly when this is a feature of our culture and theology. Further, I use ‘we’ because of an assumption I have made about how this happened: I have assumed it was accidental. If it was not, then that ‘we’ may not be appropriate; but I do still believe that our current policies regarding posthumous baptisms and our theological emphasis will continue to lead to this type of situation unless there is some change.

  25. Sharee Hughes says:

    It is unfortunate that someone submitted names of holocaust victims to whom he or she was not related to the temple. Pretty much everyone knows the church had agreed not to do such work (presumably that will be accomplished during the millenium). What I don’t understand, though, is why the Jews are offended by this temple work. Since they do no believe in our religion, they cannot believe that such ordinances are valid, so why should it bother them? Tha said, I believe we should do the work for our own family members as much as possible, although I, too, have had spiritual experiences doing the work for strangers. I have more than once felt the presence of the person I was doing the work for and know they were grateful I was doing it.

  26. I think the currently articulated policy is very close to this, Aaron. See for example the Newsroom release on this matter that was released yesterday (note also that there weren’t baptisms performed in this case). I think in practice, however, the policy rarely matters to people.

  27. Sharee,

    Read Rink’s comment (#17) and put yourself in his shoes. Then perhaps you can understand why looking up their ancestors’ names in a database and seeing that they were “baptized” into another faith would be troubling.

    Or, imagine that you know your great-great grandmother was baptized in 1853. But some zealous and mistaken soul decided that she needed the ordinance done for her, and submitted her name for temple work. You then open New Family Search and see that your ancestor’s baptism date was listed as 2011 in the Provo Temple. Wouldn’t you feel that your family heritage was being stolen from you?

  28. American Eagle says:

    We need to get Sheldon and gst in touch with some General Authorities. Their idea is ingenious.

  29. As another side note, also per the newsroom piece, it appears that the church has instituted a blacklist of sorts for Jewish Holocaust victims in the temple software.

  30. You can’t imagine how painful it is to simultaneously and independently come up with Sheldon’s idea, publish it only seconds later, and then only moments after that see someone refer to “Sheldon’s idea” as “one of the most innovative things I’ve ever read in the Bloggernacle.” I quit.

  31. I’ve often wondered if finding information about people to be baptized by proxy – or having that information – isn’t one of the purposes of vicarious ordinances, something just being baptized for a number would defeat. Having a name of a person, a date, and a place of birth is very different (I believe) for the person being baptized as a proxy than just saying that they’re being baptized for someone. It helps create a “welding link,” at least in the moment.

  32. American Eagle says:

    @ gst

    Sorry, I see now that it’s your idea, too. It looks like he hit the “Post Comment” button a nanosecond before you did.

    If this gets to the Church Office Building, I think you both merit an audience with some General Authorities to explain it.

  33. Mark Brown says:

    American Eagle,
    gst merits an audience with the general authorities to explain himself on multiple issues, not just this one.

  34. So, what would be lost if the system of getting baptized for numbers were implemented?

  35. The extended Sheldon solution is to assign them an arbitrarily chosen name in case we don’t know the old one. That way they get a new church and a new nickname too. Software and historical linguistics could get them reasonably appropriate names in something somewhat related to their their native language. When you get far enough back all the male names could converge to “Zog”.

  36. So the church would hire specialists in Proto-Indo-European instead of genealogists? How would the baptizers pronounce the laryngeals? XD

  37. Further to my response to Sharee: for help in beginning to understand why someone may be offended to find his Jewish ancestors suddenly appearing as posthumously converted Mormons, see this:

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/09/20/in-which-i-suddenly-understand/

  38. If it comes to meeting with a general authority I’ll let gst take full credit for the separation of temple work and family history. I want to work on the 5 minute endowment session to keep up with all those baptisms.

  39. Great post. Just a question, as I may have missed something. Is not baptism for the dead needed for their progression. Do you advocate delay of this progression and if so, what of the feelings of the dead.

  40. gst (#19):

    There are plenty of Mormons who would not dispute that we all share a common ancestor about 6,000 years ago. (I’m on your side here, but just sayin . . . )

    As a sidenote: The idea of ancestor commonality deals a great blow to common explanations for the priesthood ban (and to other lineage folklore as well).

  41. The dead are in a place where “time is no longer.” So, don’t let your knickers get in a knot about a year’s (or a thousand years’) delay on earth.

  42. American Eagle says:

    Serious question:

    Are Neanderthals considered eligible for baptism?

  43. I haven’t read the comments, but I’d like to give a thought anyway, and I hope it’s not a repeat.

    One of the problems, I think, with the way we approach temple work is that we are so often focused on ourselves. We ask, and are asked, “Have you been to the temple recently?” We say, “There’s a temple trip this Saturday. You should attend.” We look to the temple as a place to go when we are struggling with questions, or difficulties. Going to the temple may be seen as a sort of regular sacrament for our temple ordinances, in that we are renewing those covenants made before.

    I don’t want to minimize the value that the temple has to us personally. I do love being in the temple, and I know it is valuable for so many. I think all the reasons I’ve given above are valid reasons to go. But…

    In reality, the only times we attend the temple to perform ordinances for ourselves is the first time. I recognize that I am (over?) generalizing. Still, it seems selfish to me that there should be so much focus on the personal, to the minimization or exclusion of those for whom we are performing the ordinances. Sometimes the greatest connection I feel to the deceased is in trying to pronounce their names correctly. (Can I out-perform the temple worker? :P )

    I think that Aaron R.’s suggestion may be worthwhile in that it would help us have a more balanced focus when we attend the temple.

  44. It is odd that the LDS response appears in the Newsroom (aimed at the media). It does not appear anywhere on the LDS.org main page. It does not appear anywhere on the News and Events page at LDS.org. In other words, the LDS response is directed at the public and the media (a PR response). It is not a message to members telling them not to submit non-relative names; it is a message to the public saying there really is no problem. The problem is that some people seem to view this as nothing more than a PR problem.

  45. One of the 4-fold missions of the Church is to Redeem the Dead. It stands equal in importance with the other missions. This has been affirmed to us time and time again. Likewise has been the call to work on one’s own ancestors first. But we all know that there are plenty of names available at the Temple in case you do not have any family names. What about those people? Do we have any more right to baptize them, then we do anyone other than our own family. The answer is no. Do Jewish people have any more right to complain than any other religious group? No. And yet, Jewish Genealogists willingly use our information, gathered for the purpose of Temple work, solely at the members of the Church’s expense, and even make money off of it. I’ve done Temple work for many of my own beloved family, who are all Jewish. Are they going to complain about that? i thought long and hard about doing it in the first place, but realized I didn’t want to be put in a position of being asked at some later date, why I knew, but do not do it. I can take the yelling, if they don’t like it. I think that many of the Jewish leaders protest a bit too much and there are some people who are just looking to expose this kind of thing, like Helen Radkey, because she hates the Church in the first place.

  46. Dave, it is a PR problem because the Church leaders agreed not to do it but are unable to control the zealots, who insisting on doing work for non-relatives.

  47. Debbie, I feel like they’ve been dead 100+ years, giving me a few more years to finish the research will not (ahem) kill them. There is little that twitches my whiskers more than discovering that the (insert choice insult) Extraction Program has gotten to a set of ancestors first, entered the information incorrectly, and allowed people to start the work.

    OTOH, I don’t get too worked up over people baptised a dozen or more times (including in life!) on my Mormon side; I figure they get a giggle out of it.

  48. Jeff (#48), I was not saying it is not a PR problem. I was disagreeing with the idea that it is nothing but a PR problem (that we are doing nothing wrong, it’s just that the media and non-LDS don’t understand what we are doing and why we are doing it, and that if they did they would be perfectly happy and there would be no objections). I’m thinking maybe we are actually in agreement.

  49. American Eagle says:

    True story: I had a BYU religion professor tell me that Elvis Presley has had his temple work done 14 times.

  50. I may have missed some details about this story, but how do we know the person who submitted the work for these Holocaust victims was not a relative? The Church encourages research of collateral lines as well as direct line research, and as Simon Wiesenthal and his parents were all born more than 95 years ago, under Church policy they are perfectly legitimate temple names for any church member who finds them in one of their collateral lines–no need to be directly descended. And if that LDS researcher didn’t have enough information about the deceased person to know that they died in a concentration camp (as opposed to just dying in Europe during WWII) then the submission could have been the result of a well-intentioned collateral relative submitting the name for temple work and the Church computer filters simply failing to catch it. That’s not to say that I think that’s what happened–I agree that it was probably someone willfully disobeying Church policy for some reason–but without more information I don’t know how we (I?) can know for sure.

  51. “We do not really understand why these ordinances are necessary: for example, is there some ontological change in the recipient as result of their performance or why cannot God forgive without these ordinances received by proxy? Because we lack answers to these and other questions perhaps there is space to rethink our approach.”

    Thank you for acknowledging this. I know a lot of LDS feel like ‘why not’ just baptize everyone and feel justified because we’ve determined this is the ‘one and only way’… never mind that not everyone is convinced of this. But when you look at the logistical reality (which have been very nicely laid out with some creative solutions as well), it is hard not to come to the conclusion that God probably is not such a ordinance stickler as we seem to portray; or if he is, there will have to be some heavenly accounting well beyond our current means. So, our contemporary one and only way is still shrouded with mystery.

    Debbie in #39 – I think that non-LDS may make the logical jump described above faster; when combined with historical repression (say in the instance of the Jews), it quickly goes from ‘why not’ to offensive. If we believe that God will eventually account for those born 5,000 years ago, then we really should be willing to slow down on those non-relatives only dead a few years or decades.

  52. We have conflicting issues here: the desire to be in the temple for the spiritual insights to be gained there, and the need to do temple work for our ancestors. Without work for the dead, we have no practical reason to return to the temple, once our own work is done. For someone whose grandparents exhausted all the available records and found all the available ordinances and had them done, I am left without access to the temple.

    Perhaps we need some other sort of temple related activity that allows us to be there when we are not doing work for our dead. I am not aware, outside of prayer circles, what doctrinal foundation there would be for doing something in the temples that did not involve your own endowments, or work for your direct ancestors. Perhaps severely enforcing a policy about doing work only for your own direct ancestors, and allowing prayer circles not connected with endowments, we might come up with some better solutions to this conflict.

    We have also made generating names too easy with the New Family Search. I now have multiple examples of people making stuff up to generate ordinances that need to be done, including a polygamous marriage of my wife’s great grandfather, who lived in Canada, to a woman who gave birth to three children in Northern California, attaching my wife’s great grandmother’s wedding date as the date for the second marriage, and then including this third party unrelated spouse as an additional child to the great grandmother’s parents. We have enough documentation to know that this second marriage is well out of the realm of possibility. Someone did it without documentation, latching on to a similar name, and doing ordinances that have no basis in fact.

    Some sort of rethinking of this whole process might be due.

  53. “Do Jewish people have any more right to complain than any other religious group? No. ”

    I think they have more right to complain. Baptism has been wielded as a tool against their religion throughout Christian history. (I’ve been reading on Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries.) Other groups could complain, and have, but I don’t think those complaints carry the same weight, or necessarily merit the same level of sensitive response.

    I do think some more aggressive push back by the church would sometimes be nice. Instead of another ad showing that we are normal, or that we love our families, how about a short ad in which someone with some pull gets on and for 30 seconds explains baptism for the dead – sans diffuse lighting and swelling string music. It could be an occasion to explain the importance of free agency in our doctrine, and our belief that the dead remain very much alive and that they own themselves. We could also explain why and how we are trying to be sensitive to Jewish concerns. Six or seven sentences. Think this kind of ad wouldn’t generate some press? Would we be mocked? Yeah. But a lot of that mockery could be neutered with a simple statement in the ad that acknowledges that some will find these beliefs strange but that for us they are sacred, and that we hope we can smile along.

  54. Tagline: Mormons, we’re weird, and how!

  55. Marie #50, this is actually a good question that I have, too. When someone gets angry that LDS temple work has been performed for her ancestor, what do we do when the person who has performed the work has an equal familial relationship to the deceased as the complainer does?

  56. For the idea of making proxies “general” or by number – If I were wanting someone to do work for me, I think I’d appreciate it more if people actually knew my name. These are real people, not just numbers or something to be checked off a list.

    For not having anything to do once all your ancestors are done – you don’t have to do proxy work to commune with God in the Temple. It is perfectly ok to go to the Celestial room without going through a proxy endowment first. Also, if your ancestors are done, work downward from them. You likely have countless cousins who have been deceased more than 200 years, many without any decendants, who also need their work done.

    There really isnt any good excuse for doing work for those outside your family or helping someone you know with their family. At the least, there have got to be a number of people in your own ward who have stacks of work you can help with.

  57. Buraianto #55: Church policy asks you to consider the wishes of next of kin if the deceased person was born less than 95 years ago. So if two Church members are related to a deceased person born less than 95 years ago (and have same relationship to that person) and there is no closer next of kin, then neither of them has official cause to complain if the other does the work without consulting anybody else. However, in the hypothetical case I was setting up for the Wiesenthal incident, the 95 year rule does not apply because both Simon Wiesenthal and his parents were born outside that 95-year limit. So the only official restriction one would face if one is truly a relative of the Wiesenthals is whether or not the member submitting the name knew that Simon Wiesenthal’s mother had died in the Holocaust* (e.g., did the research that he/she did or found give “Belzac Concentration Camp” as the place of death for Wiesenthal’s mother, or just “Poland”?), as the Church has a special policy regarding Holocaust victims: only *direct line* descendents should be doing temple work for Jewish Holocaust victims.

    * I had thought from my quick previous reading that both his parents had died in the Holocaust, but only his mother did–his father died during WWI. So it is entirely legitimate to do the work for Wiesenthal’s father under current Church policy if you find him in one of your lines.

  58. Sharee Hughes says:

    For those who say their family history is all done and the work for all of their ancestors is done, I would say, I doubt that. Even though we only need to go back to AD 1500, that’s a lot of people. We should not be doing just our direct line back, but collateral relatives (I like to call them ‘sidelines’) as well. I have 18,600 names on my tree and the work is definitely not done for all of them. I continually add new names to my tree. I added several this morning. The New Family Search program is designed to prevent the duplications that happened in the past. Although the program is not perfect, hopefully it will catch most submissions that have already been done. And I understand from the statement the Church made, that the Jewish names in question had been submitted to a genealogical dagtabse only and not for temple ordinances. People from many religions use our genealogical databases for their own family history research.

  59. Meldrum the Less says:

    ” What I don’t understand, though, is why the Jews are offended by this temple work. Since they do no believe in our religion, they cannot believe that such ordinances are valid, so why should it bother them?” (From #25)

    I think this statement goes right to the crux of the problem. I perceive two different ways to interpret the initial sentence of this statement.

    1. Our temple practices are essentially not offensive and that therefore Jews really have no legitimate reason to be offended and it is not understood why they are being unreasonable.

    2. Our temple practices are offensive; but as to why, this is not understood.

    In the first instance we just need to educate those ignorant Jews and/or tell them to toughen up. In the second instance we need to appologize for a real offense and seek forgiveness and understanding.

    Since I presume that what the LDS church does (most of the time) is the correct response and since it appears they appologized sincerely, I am assuming that the second interpretation is correct.

    In orther words proxy temple baptisms are offensive!

    Recognition is the first step of repentance or progressive change. Until we as a people recognize that these actions in the temple are offensive we are not going to make much progress in this matter. The first step in understanding the mechanism of how these actions are offensive is to be able to consider the fact that they actually are offensive. How unfortunate that giving up our offensiveness is inconvenient. You know repentance is seldom convenient.

    What if a deceased person was not a Jew? What if they were Baptist? Is it any less offensive? Critics of the LDS church threaten to digitally poach the entire membership list and do mass proxy baptisms in pig’s blood of all of us into the kingdom of the devil. Most of us would not find this very threatening or offensive because we do not take them seriously, so it is not a valid comparison. (I would probably be first in line at the subsequent barbeque all that pig blood would necessitate).

    But what if you were to discover that President Monson’s son had been given some vague kind of Priesthood authority to baptize all of the deceased members of your ward into another faith? Would that not be disturbing?

    Not very many people have this cock-sure sense that they are right and everyone else is wrong that we have. Not everyone else believes that what we do, even in secret in our temples, doesn’t matter if they don’t agree with us. Some people, Jewish folks especially, desire more than tolerance; they hope for respect. They want to be as far away from the mindset that resulted in the Holocaust as possible.

    Converting a person posthumously out of their faith shows extreme disregard of even the remote possibility that they might have lived a life pleasing unto God according to their faith and worthy of an eternal reward.That our outward ordinaces so far out weigh a lifetime of their experiences and decisions. If that is what we believe, perhaps we need to address this problem at that level.

  60. I think part of the solution here can be found in a logistical problem with work for the dead: the endowment. There is a huge bottleneck around endowments for the dead because the ceremony takes so long. You go and do baptisms or initiatories or sealings and you’ll do the work for a dozen or so deceased persons in about 1/3 the time of an endowment session.

    What if we changed that?

    What if we assigned a temple patron the ordinance card for a single dead person, and then expected that patron (during a single visit or combination of 2 or 3 visits) do all that individual’s work before moving on to another individual? During your first visit you would be baptized and confirmed (and ordained if male) and maybe washed and anointed on behalf of a single person. Next visit, endowment. Next visit, you participate in a sealing session (where applicable) for the person. Then you start the cycle over.

    It’s not very efficient, but then again, efficiency in ordinance work only creates problems because of the bottleneck of endowments. This actually streamlines, er, productivity, and allows patrons to potentially forge a longer lasting, deeper connection with the dead on whose behalf they work, even if they aren’t direct relatives.

  61. I think that doing ordinances for only Adams and Eves would cease to have the power of turning the hearts of the children to the fathers as does searching out their records and doing the ordinances for actual names.

    I think we have to ask why the Lord wants us to do something which would seem so inefficient to the outside world. The Lord wants us to labor for and love those who have passed on is one important reason.

  62. .

    I vote for #53.

  63. American Eagle says:

    @ Brad

    Actually, there probably isn’t a bottleneck. Most adults do only endowments. And teenagers only do baptisms about once a year.

  64. As someone recently released as an ordinance worker, I assure you there is a bottleneck. That’s why workers end up acting as patrons in virtually every endowment session of smaller, non wasatch-front temples.

  65. American Eagle says:

    @ Brad

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Provo Temple does more endowments than baptisms.

  66. gst, the Elisha Grey of proxy baptisms.

  67. er, Elisha Gray

  68. Some of the MoCorridor temples have been turned into little endowment factories (not to be confused with other little factories…) in an effort to improve endowment throughput.

    (Industrialized temple work FTW).

  69. Meldrum the Less says:

    #59.

    I have the blessing of many geneology zealots on every line of my family. A professional geneologist once bet me $500 that he could find another direct ancestor, after a discussion in Priesthood meeting. Several months later he sheepishly admitted he had never encountered a family that was so over-researched and offered to pay up. I forgave the debt.

    These zealots were professionals and their work was accurate. The LDS church used to make it difficult to do this work and required a whole lot of complex paperwork, etc. But a few years ago they decided to generalize the process of doing family research and allow the submission of even the most inaccurate information, estimates, speculation, and guess work. Many people of my generation and the next are inadvertantly resubmitting information nilly-willy and messing things up to the point that most of my aunts, the children of the zealous professional generation, are disgusted with doing family history.

    Another view of the same problem: I ran across a 9th cousin on the Internet who had searched out a small segment of the family tree, about 5 generations without the benefit of knowing about the Ancestral file. We compared notes and found at least a 20% discrepancy in the names and even more with dates. Most of these problems are impossible to resolve through appeal to conflicting sources of variable credibility. Not even birth certificates, death certificates and headstone informationis always accurate.

    He had evidence of one prominent ancestor who also had a mistress in the attic had numerous children with her at the same time as his legal wife. II call it “pre-restorational polygamy” and I think it might provide some insight as to why an ancestor did not find joining an unusual church that that practiced polygamy unthinkable. On another lin, there was evidence of an African slave wife and forgotten children sold by their father down the river. These discoveries were not greeted with joy by the once youth of a noble birthright back in Utah.

    I got into trouble last week speculating that 80% of men cheat on their wife. I do wonder how many children in those family group sheets were both biological and social children? How many women cuckooed their husbands and how many men fathered children with other women? These are not the sort of questions that are ever going to be answered but it has to be a substantial number. I presume we are on the very cusp of being able to answer these questions with DNA studies, but do we even want to know?

    It would seem to me that these sort of problems take most of the warm and fuzzy feelings out of doing geneology. I heard that a rich Mormon hired a geneologist and paid him $10,000 to do his family history.Then he had to pay him an additional $20,000 to keep quiet about what he found. Personally, I have more pressing problems than my family history. Like being nice to my neighbors (30% of my community is Jewish).

  70. American Eagle says:

    “I heard that a rich Mormon hired a geneologist and paid him $10,000 to do his family history.Then he had to pay him an additional $20,000 to keep quiet about what he found. ”

    I love this quote.

  71. But it’s not a quote. Nobody ever said it–except Adam, when he first told that tired old joke to Eve, the day after they were kicked out of the Garden.

  72. American Eagle says:

    It looks like DNA muddies the water:

    “A minimum estimated 1 to 4 percent of the DNA in Europeans and Asians (i.e. French, Chinese and Papua probands) is non-modern, and shared with ancient Neanderthal DNA”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaic_human_admixture_with_modern_Homo_sapiens

  73. it's a series of tubes says:

    Until we as a people recognize that these actions in the temple are offensive we are not going to make much progress in this matter

    Guess “we as a people” missed the prophetic memo where the new mission of the church is “Don’t give offense.”

  74. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/31/us/by-accident-utah-is-proving-an-ideal-genetic-laboratory.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    “But there is also something else involved — call it marital fidelity. On average across the United States, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people who have DNA tested for various reasons are not really the sons or daughters of the person they had thought of as dad, scientists say.

    In Utah, or at least in the families at the heart of the various genetics studies over the years, the rate of ”nonpaternity,” as it is called, is less than 1 percent, private industry researchers and University of Utah scientists say.”

  75. Hmm, not being from Utah, does that mean I can only be 90-95% sure of where I was when my children were conceived? I better not have 10 kids – I don’t think I could beat the statistics.

  76. Matthew (#74) cited a NYT article stating that “On average across the United States, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people who have DNA tested for various reasons are not really the sons or daughters of the person they had thought of as dad, scientists say.”

    At first I was astounded by this high percentage. But after re-reading the quote and going to the full article, I realized that the number may not be meaningful. “People who have DNA tested for various reasons” would be a largely self-selected group, and would probably include a disproportionate number of people who have a reason to doubt their previously-assumed paternity.

  77. Frank Pellett said (#56) “For the idea of making proxies ‘general’ or by number – If I were wanting someone to do work for me, I think I’d appreciate it more if people actually knew my name. These are real people, not just numbers or something to be checked off a list.”

    Yes, that would be nice, but we will never know the names of the vast majority of people that have lived on earth, and it’s not because we’re not looking hard enough.

    Think about it like this: Proxy baptism came about because Mormon theology wasn’t satisfied with the ordinary answers to the question of what happens to those who die without the opportunity for Mormon baptism. In the interest of celestial equity, we hit upon the solution of proxy baptism. Now, isn’t proxy baptism by number (without a name) just one more step to a more equitable extension of the blessings of Mormonism in the afterlife? That is, if we’re not comfortable discriminating against those who died before 1830, why should we accept de facto discrimination against those who died before 1530?


  78. These zealots were professionals and their work was accurate. The LDS church used to make it difficult to do this work and required a whole lot of complex paperwork, etc. But a few years ago they decided to generalize the process of doing family research and allow the submission of even the most inaccurate information, estimates, speculation, and guess work. Many people of my generation and the next are inadvertantly resubmitting information nilly-willy and messing things up to the point that most of my aunts, the children of the zealous professional generation, are disgusted with doing family history.

    This is quite true. My dad had pretty much all his genealogy done as far back as you could do it and had started working forward from ancestors. Then all the work he’d submitted was messed up by people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing.

  79. Think about it like this: Proxy baptism came about because Mormon theology wasn’t satisfied with the ordinary answers to the question of what happens to those who die without the opportunity for Mormon baptism. In the interest of celestial equity, we hit upon the solution of proxy baptism. Now, isn’t proxy baptism by number (without a name) just one more step to a more equitable extension of the blessings of Mormonism in the afterlife? That is, if we’re not comfortable discriminating against those who died before 1830, why should we accept de facto discrimination against those who died before 1530?

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that the work for the dead inherently deals with the significance of names. To remove the names is effectively to not do the ordinance.

  80. observer fka eric s says:

    Can I comment on the premise of this whole issue for a moment?: to wit, the offensibility* of an individual or a group. Over the past few days I’ve read a lot of commentary on this issue because I’m still struggling to arrive at what I feel is a complete understanding of both interests. I read Jana R.’s piece, and several others. Those articles are full of words like we “don’t understand”, “pain,” “hurt,” “humanitarian,” “obviously offensive,” “the history,” etc. Then Eckart Tolle’s concept of the “pain body” came to mind. Some of the lack of our lack of understanding is attributed to the ways that Jews perceive ritual and post-mortal life. But I mostly get the sense that Jewish ritual understanding is not what drives Judaism, and some LDS observers, to be upset over these baptism. I feel the big issue is the holocaust, which is another word for pain.

    I almost feel like I’m not allowed to talk about the holocaust. In fact, it seems like it is this holy grail of politically incorrectness for any gentile to talk about it in any way other than in a way of mourning and grieving and the ongoing retribution that humanity must pay for such a horrific episode. But can it be PC, even just for a second, to view the holocaust as “pain”? Or is that denigrating, to call The Holocaust something as common as “pain”?

    No one will ever understand the the pain endured by the holocaust victims, or their surviving families. And no other religious or ethnic identity other than Judaism can understand that event’s impact given its scale (even though there have since and before the holocaust been episodes of genocide). It seems, though, that if a community has a very strong attachment to and collective conscience of “you will never understand”, then that community will maintain and weild a high level of offensibility when outsiders touch the subject–no matter how well intended. Pain becomes power: I can indefinittely weild offensiveness because “the world has done me and my people wrong.”

    So this issue of baptisms has raised a few questions that focus on the premise:
    Should their be an end to the consciousness of “victimhood?” If not, should there be, as an ideal of mental health for individuals or cultures? Is the level of offensibility within Judaism so high that its inappropriate to even suggest that they strive to let go of the pain for their own good?

    Our time, and our generation may not be the time in history that Judaism exposes the Pain Body over this issue. And that process–the process of a collective self-awareness of pain–can only happen from within. What I question in the mean time, though, is whether we should all immediately condemn other global citizens, like the LDS church, that periodically unintentionally bump into Judaism’s Pain Body. I’m just surprised at the level of immediate venom thrown at the Church and members instead of seeing a more measured approach of understanding from all involved.

    *I don’t think this is a word. But I’ll make it one for this post, ha. It means the varying degrees of which a person or collective conscience is attached to something (a thought, prior pain, an ideal), and the resulting degree of vulnerable to resistance when that something is seemingly threatened by another.

  81. American Eagle says:

    @ Clark

    How are we supposed to get the names of all 100 billion people, and keep track of them?

  82. Not sure exactly what you are objecting to AE (81) nor how that is a rejoinder. Could you expand a little? It seems to me a filter for the names of people who died in the holocaust would be fairly trivial to do.

  83. All’s I know is, I want to do the temple work for THX-1138 when it becomes available. Or do you think Lucas would be offended by that?

  84. @Rink #17

    The same thing happened to my grandparents. My dad went on family search and emailed them. They said that my parents had the option to redo all of the work or they could reserve the sealing. The person who did it was a cousin that my mom had never met. She says she received permission from my grandma’s brother but didn’t even see if there was anyone else in the family that was LDS.

  85. MostlyLurks says:

    The idea of doing work without having the actual names is intriguing, since there are, as it has been pointed out, millions of people whose names it is logistically impossible to find by simply right now. Still, I’m inclined to agree with Clark that work for the dead inherently deals with the significance of names, so you can’t really disassociate the name from the person for whom the ordinance is being done.

    Sidenote: I’d always been taught, growing up, that a lot of the work for names we’ll never find on our own is going to be done during the millennium. Supposedly, during that time period the dead who had accepted the gospel in the afterlife would then be able to speak up for themselves and ask us to do their work. I heard this countless times growing up, but as I think about it slightly more critically just now, there probably isn’t any doctrinal support for that statement anywhere… so who knows where that came from.

  86. The relevant scriptures all speak of “turning the hearts” — not turning the CDs or turning the statistics. If u r doin it rite, you know what means, and you wouldn’t seriously suggest a by-the-numbers substitution. But then, neither would you submit names for celebrities (and I put Holocaust victims in that category in cases like this one).

  87. Thomas Parkin #53 – Best suggestions I have heard yet. If I could give gold stars for good suggestions, you would get at least two!

    Brad — couldn’t we just baptized in the name of everyone who ever lived and do one ordinance and leave it at that? I mean, once you’ve started down the vicarious ordinance road, might was well get it done.

  88. Raymond Takashi Swenson says:

    I think the anger of Jews toward Mormons over baptisms for deceased Jews is unfair. Most Christian denominations’ official doctrine says that persons who refused to accept Christ as their Savior before they died are now suffering torment in hell and will continue to do so forever. That includes ALL of the victims of the Holocaust. While some pastors and theologians hold out hope that many people are saved, that salvation involves usually an opportunity to accept Christ at the transition from life to death, or a post-mortem evangelism in which the dead can hear and accept Christ before the resurrection. In both cases, the only way out of hell is accepting Jesus as the Messiah. So Jews should understand that they ate either going to hell or toChristianity in the eyes of most of their Christian neighbors.

    Contrast that with the LDS view. According to D&C 76, the Jews who are righteous individuals will not be in hell, but will be in the First Resurrection along with most Christians. If they accept baptism, they could be admitted into the Celestial Kingdom. So unlike other Christians, Mormons do NOT think Jews will go to hell or can only escape hell by a specific conversion to Christianity. The LDS view of Jewish deceased is much more tespectful of them than the general Christian view. Other Christians won’t appreciate us siccing the Jews on them, but it is the simple truth. If Jews take offense at what people think about the eternal state of dead Jews, the Mormons should be the least of their worries. We believe dead Jews are in Terrestrial heaven and MIGHT if they wish go to Celestial heaven.

  89. But, RTS, the concern that some Jews have about the practice has nothing to do with its salvific effect, that somehow we’re offering their ancestors a chance at salvation–because they don’t believe that anything we might do in our temples will have any effect at all. What troubles them is that they can look up their ancestor’s names in the database and see that they were “baptized” and received other Mormon ordinances–and to them that seems to be almost a theft of their identity as Jews, of their Jewishness–for which, of course, they were slaughtered by the Nazis. At that point, it makes little difference to their descendants what our views are on the salvation of non-Christians, or that our views are considerably more charitable towards them than most Christians’–all they see is that part of their ancestors’ identities have been changed without their consent.

  90. Why not ask God what he would have us do and be be still until He answers?

  91. StillConfused says:

    If people are going to the temple for their own spiritual needs, then why not have the temple have some sort of service that does not involve doing things for dead people?

  92. The people who submit the names of Jewish ancestors need to stop. It’s that simple. I understand the reason for the offense and I think it doesn’t work to tell people who have survived an attempted genocide to just get over it.

  93. Third party says:

    “Frank Pellett:
    For the idea of making proxies “general” or by number – If I were wanting someone to do work for me, I think I’d appreciate it more if people actually knew my name. These are real people, not just numbers or something to be checked off a list. ”

    That’s very understandable, but as a non-Mormon, I would feel quite the opposite. It would trouble me much more to find someone was using my name than assigning me a number.

    I’m also not Jewish and quite familiar with the theological implications of baptism for the dead–and it still makes me terribly uncomfortable. I do think the Jewish people have a particular claim to offense given the historical efforts to strip them of cultural identity, but I expect most people’s resistance is much simpler. It’s just unsettling for someone to be using your name or relative’s name, without their consent, in a religious ceremony. The “ramificiations” have nothing to do with it. I wouldn’t want to find out someone is using the names of people in my family in that way. I think this post is a rather good parellel:http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/09/20/in-which-i-suddenly-understand/

  94. 93 – third party –
    It’s pretty theoretical, since if I were waiting for someone to do proxy work for me, I’d both be dead and in whatever afterlife there is, meaning I’d know that I need the ordinances or already decided I don’t want them. It wouldn’t make me feel better to know someone baptized me using my number, rather than my name if I didn’t want the ordinance at all, and if I did, being nothing but a number would be dehumanizing.

    I absolutely agree that we should not be doing work for people outside of our own families. When I go this weekend to do some temple work, I will be taking the names of men I have researched and come to know, at least lightly. They are not items on an assembly line, to be done and discarded, but living, non-breathing, people who continue to have their own lives, hopes, and dreams.

  95. Jeremy Jensen says:

    89
    I think some Jews do find it extremely disrespectful that we believe that Jews will not be exalted because they are not LDS, and the fact that we believe proxy baptisms are required for non-LDS people to have a chance at exaltation. I think their outrage, in many cases, is based on a misunderstanding of our doctrine. Many of those that object to baptism for the dead think that we consider someone Mormon after their work has been done in the temple. I read comment after comment about “forced conversion” on the internet. I think if these people understood that our proxy work is done only to give these people the opportunity to choose whether to accept the gospel, many of them would be feel far less offended.

  96. Even if we don’t consider them mormon after they are baptized, it’s fairly pompous that we consider they’d be better off if they accepted the ordinance. We know what’s better for their beloved relatives than they do. We know that they lived a good life and all, but once they accept the FULLNESS…THEN well, then they’ll understand. Oh an by the way loving living relative, if you really want to be with your family forever and if you REALLY love them…you’ll want to be baptized too.

    It seems very easy to understand why someone could take offense.

  97. Left Field says:

    About a year ago on Jeopardy! there was a clue something like this: “This religion, founded in 1830, holds that everyone, except a few deniers of God, will receive glory in the afterlife.” All three contestants stood there stumped until time ran out. And then looked startled when Alex revealed the question. We’re not well known, it seems, for our universalist doctrine. Yet I think it’s our universalism, not our exclusivism, that drives proxy temple work. Section 128 has quite a sweeping, universalist sense to it. I can’t really even envision such a thing as “Mormons” or “Latter-day Saints” in the hereafter. I think we’ll be past that sort of denominational division. The idea that the dead become “Mormons,” even after accepting proxy temple work, is quite foreign to me.

    To me, the marvelous thing about proxy temple work is its combination of unversalism and individualism. By intent, every single person in all history, by name, is individually ritually cleansed, falls into sin (as we all do), and yet is redeemed, embraces God himself, speaks to him, is taken by the hand and one by one, is drawn by God personally into his presence.

    That each person–throughout all time–is treated one by one as a unique named individual, is the essence of temple worship.

  98. Meldrum the Less says:

    Reply to # 88 RTS

    So I conclude that since the evangelicals are even more obnoxious, that makes our less offensive practices acceptable? ” …ye need not any longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews,…” (3Nephi 29:8), but ye can indirectly insult them for their own good. Call it “universalism” when we convert everyone to our way.

    Reply to # 80 observer

    Is it only the Jews who find our practice offensive because of their unique and especially brutal history? Well, in this momentary sound bite they are the ones a quacking. But is everyone else comfortable with it?

    Two points seem to be getting lost in this discussion:

    1. Proxy baptisms for the dead are offensive. They show disrespect for other religious belief systems.The church has appologized for it, in the specific case of the Jews. More pushing back is not the answer. This is not a legalistic battle. More sensitivity towards others and what they think and feel, more repentance, more seeking for forgiveness is needed, ON OUR PART!

    2. What is offensive to Jewish folks is also offensive to other religions. At this point the Jews are the ones vocal enough to be picked up by the mainstream drive-by media, making it an issue. But I know that my Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian friends are also insulted by this practice. Most of them tend to be quietly amused by our self-righteousness and clueless arrogance. It is seldom if ever a positive missionary moment when they discover or question this practice. Not in the least.

    Proxy baptisms for the dead need. to stop. For Jews. For Baptists. For most if not all the rest. The rammifications are extensive and how the details work out is for our inspired leaders to determine (such a substituting service for living people). Some of us have already asked God (#90) and he has spoken indirectly but clearly through his historically covenant people. He is telling us to repent.

  99. Jeremy Jensen says:

    98 – It doesn’t follow that because a practice offends one group of people that it will offend all. It also doesn’t follow that because we’ve apologized for proxy baptisms in some situations, that it is an offensive practice that God wants stopped, even though we’ve been commanded by prophets and by scripture. It’s also extremely arrogant to assume that you can receive revelation for the entire church, unless, of course President Monson is posting in this forum under the name Meldrum.

  100. Jeremy Jensen says:

    Meldrum, its as if you don’t understand the implications of what you’re saying. It would be the end of temple work. You and people who think like you, are asking us to discard one of the most important parts of our religion to appease people who truly don’t understand what we’re doing, based, from what I can tell, on the fact that some of the people complaining about it are Jewish.

  101. Jeremy Jensen says:

    Let me revise what I just typed here “You and people who think like you, are asking us to discard one of the most important parts of our religion to appease people who truly don’t understand what we’re doing. This is based, from what I can tell, on the fact that some of the people complaining about it are Jewish and a vague idea that the practice is offensive and disrespectful. You haven’t made you case either that God wants it stopped or that it is inherently disrespectful. Especially since the dead have the choice whether to accept the ordinance. You also haven’t really addressed the argument that we’re getting so much flack for this, even though, as #80 pointed out, most Christian beliefs are a lot more “offensive,” using the criteria you’ve established. “

  102. Jeremy Jensen says:

    “Even if we don’t consider them mormon after they are baptized, it’s fairly pompous that we consider they’d be better off if they accepted the ordinance.”

    Well then every religion is pompous, and we should all become Unitarians or agnostics. Nearly every religion teaches that you’d be better off if you accepted it to the exclusion of other religions. We’re just more fair about the chances we give people to eventually accept it. We’re also more fair to those that don’t accept it.

  103. I have a friend who was astonished to find out that some of her ancestors had been baptized posthumously. Knowing I was a Mormon, she confronted me about it asking me where we got off forcing her ancestors to be Mormon, I explained to her that Mormons believe that the souls of the dead still have free will and our work for the dead gives them the opportunity to do with it what they wish. That answer satisfied her. If we could sit down and have a heart-to-heart chat with everyone we might get them to understand our intentions.

  104. Jeremy Jensen says:

    Amen WaMo! So much of this outrage is based on a misunderstanding that baptism for the dead constitutes forced conversion. The media makes no effort to explain what we actually believe about baptism for the dead.

  105. Meldrum the Less says:

    Reply to #100 Jeremy:
    “…are asking us to discard one of the most important parts of our religion to appease people who truly don’t understand what we’re doing.” Again.

    Yep, you got that spot on right. It will have significant implications. Just like the Manifesto ending polygamy. It won’t be the first time. Polygamy used to be the most important aspect of our religion. We thought it would be imposible to give it up and not destroy our faith. Yet we can see now that it was crucial in order for us to be part of the great things God had in store for us as part of this wonderful nation (USA) and the rest of the world.

    I think the LDS church is now approaching a cross roads brought on by recent technological advances. We can hold onto our insular and exclusive past (Fortress Mormon) growing smaller and increasingly irrelevant or we can go forward and change and improve and become a better religion. To suggest we need to all become unitarian is an excellent example of all-or-nothing thinking which is a well-know irrational thought pattern. I don’t buy it.

    I do not think that the outrage is based entirely upon misunderstanding. You will often go wrong if you underestimate how much the Jew understands; they are among the smartest and most comprehending people around. I think they do understand, in ways that most of us do not, just how obnoxious we can be. That is the point. It is not a mere misunderstanding. Education is the solution to misunderstanding. Did the church leaders explain or did they appologize?

  106. Meldrum the Less says:

    “You haven’t made you case either that God wants it stopped .” #101

    jeremy jeremy, that one got past me due to my senility.

    I am not the one trying to make a case for the leaders of the church to appologize for this offenseive action. THEY ALREADY APPOLOGIZED!!! I think that God is not pleased with it and in this instance our sustained prophets and apostles have promised that it will stop. Again. After trying to stop it for a decade. Who is being stubborn here?

    I would presume the burden of proof is upon yopur shoulders to justify why they should retract their appology and decade long promise to stop the proxy baptisms for the Jews, and why you should not be following them. Our prophets and apostles have admitted for many years now that what we are doing is offensive to Jewish people.

    I concede that I do not have public GA backing for the second part of my argument at this point, that argument being that our proxy baptisms are offensive to Baptists and many others. But I think the logical extension is rather compelling. The consequences are enormous and so the wise leaders move cautiously.

  107. I think we also have to remember that to Mormons, Jews are not “just another religion”. We consider them to be a version of our same religion before the coming of Christ. We do till consider them to be a “chosen and covenant people”. We want to keep those ties as strong as we can make them, even more so than we want ties to the other Christian groups. We even adopt ourselves into Abrahamic houses. If simply waiting on proxy work for jews is enough to keep our good relations, it is a very small sacrifice.

  108. Jeremy Jensen says:

    Meldrum, church leaders apologized for an incident where they didn’t detect that church policies regarding baptism for the dead were being violated. They didn’t apologize for baptism for the dead in general. I buy into Frank’s idea here that waiting to baptize Jewish people is not a big deal, but its ridiculous to abandon a major part of our religion because some (especially those who misunderstand what we believe) are offended.

  109. it's a series of tubes says:

    Some of us have already asked God (#90) and he has spoken indirectly but clearly through his historically covenant people. He is telling us to repent.

    Thanks Meldrum. I needed a chuckle of exactly this type today. Please keep telling us what God has spoken, because the Gospel according to Meldrum the Less makes great blog fodder.

  110. Third Party says:

    WaMo, Jeremy–

    I disagree that the offense people feel has much to do with the idea that they are “forced conversions.” Non-mormons hold no theological interest in this ritual and expect it will make no practical difference, and still often find it offensive.

    As for other Christian beliefs being more “offensive,” there’s a big difference between beliefs and behavior. Any person is welcome to believe I’m going to hell–but I’d still be displeased with any of them holding a religious ritual using my name without my consent.

  111. Jeremy Jensen says:

    “I disagree that the offense people feel has much to do with the idea that they are “forced conversions.” ”

    You should go on the Huffington Post comment board then. That’s all the prattle on about anytime the subject of baptism for the dead comes up.

  112. We had a 5th Sunday presentation on the new Family Search a few years ago and the presenter showed us that Joseph F. Smith’s work had been done about 3 times since his death. I’m not sure if those records have been erased (the guy was a descendant so I imagine he went ahead and cleared it up?) We all kind of laughed and shook our heads though. I thought the new program the church had laid out would have corrected some of these errors though.

    As a side note, I’ve been reading but not commenting. I have commented in the past though and I’ll start going by Marie 2. I noticed there is another Marie and thankfully my parents only gave me 1 first name and 1 middle name (and both are used on these boards).

  113. Meldrum the Less says:

    A the risk of making chuckles (#109) into belly laughs…

    I enjoy the Old Testament as a gift from the Hebrews and see no problem in their continuing to give this gift of God’s word to us, when they are correct. Repent, we must do.

    Our church leaders did appologize. Not for baptisms for the dead in general, but for them in one specific circumstance. However, the reason applies across the board. I see it as a first step. Nothing distinguishes the Jews from anyone else when it comes to proxy baptisms. If we want to take a century instead of a few years to repent then that reflects on us.

    I think Third Party (#110) hit it on the head for me. It is one thing for another religion to believe I am doing wrong. But to enact systematic rituals based on the idea is more disturbing and offensive. Possibly mildly threatening.

    While we are still miles apart on this issue, I would like to also (thread jack) mention that our policy of excluding goodly mothers and fathers (non-LDS) from the temple weddings of their children is also extremely offensive and in a directly personal and damaging way to future relations in the extended family. This is yet another, possibly even more obnoxious feature of our temple worship that needs to be corrected. I will consult the secret handbook A and think of a few more examples if you wish.

    Frank (#107), I find the so called Judeo-Mormon connection entirely assinine and quite possibly offensive. Immitation is the highest compliment but we take it far beyond that and pretend that they will immitate us. My Jewish friends see absolutely no connection. None. It is purely a figment of the LDS collective imagination.

    The Jews are NEVER going to let us baptize them. It is not going to be saved for later. History is way on their side for out-lasting us as a religious entity. Especially if we continue to build the walls around Fortress Mormon higher and higher and hack off as many people as possible with our arrogance.

  114. Jeremy Jensen says:

    “If we want to take a century instead of a few years to repent then that reflects on us.”

    Ridiculous. Why would God want us to repent of something He asked us to do? Anyway, I’m done even paying any creedence whatsoever to someone who claims to be a Latter-Day Saint but that wants us to abandon temple work and thinks that Judaism is going to outlast Mormonism. It’s clear that we’re not coming from the same religious perspective. I just think you should have been upfront about that to begin with.

  115. Meldrum the Less says:

    Beating dead horse Reply to JJ.

    “Why would God want us to repent of something He asked us to do?”

    Because he didn’t.

    How many times have we been told the Lord demands that we do something and later find out that it was a mistake? Name a decade in church history and I will give you 10 examples. Our history is littered with wise prophetic counsel and foolish advice of men with callings.-

    I wish NOT to abandon temple work, but alter it. Improve it from my perspective. The church leaders seem to agree in principle, just not to the same degree or in the particulars.

    Judaism -4000+ years. Mormonism -182 yrs. That leaves us about 3818 years to go to catch up. That is asuming the Jews dry up and blow away today. What is so illogical about asuming the Jews will be more likely to persist to the end of time than we will?

    Do you really think that if we screw the LDS church up enough that God will suspend the Law of the Harvest and not let us fail? Do you really think the prophet will never be allowed to lead us astray AND that the people will also never be allowed to lead themselves astray collectively? Do you believe in apostasy? Or is that only something that happens to others? Jews, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics? Not Mormons, doesn’t happen. Perfect church. (Sigh.)

    And since when did any two people have the same religious perspective? I find that when the thinking begins the differences are exposed. From differnt perspectives comes growth. I have leaned much from this discussion.

    I am not asking for your creedence, else I would flatter you and tell you what you want to hear. I am asking you to think. Which I agree that you have done. I do not expect 100% agreement. I don’t even expect myself to be correct any more than about 10% of the time, on a religious blog. (You want my professional opinion on subjects I actually know something about? That will cost you money).

    So there you have it. I’m probably wrong. You are right.
    Feel any better now?

  116. Meldrum the Less says:

    Previous comment #115 correction

    third line “he” should be “He.”

  117. When conversing about other people as a group, its probably helpful to include a few people from that group.

    Like me.

    Yes, its true that I don’t think, or most Jews think your rituals actually do anything. But that doesn’t matter. Holocaust victims, pogrom victims, pizza delivery drivers, they all died as Jews. That’s who they were, and that’s how they chose to die.

    Then people like Jeremy Jensen come in and say, “Nope, they got it wrong. They shouldn’t be Jews. We know better. Since we’re so gracious, we’ll even baptize them into the light, to make up for their silly mistake of being Jews.”

    And I can already hear the rejoinder, “Oh, but it only takes if the dead person allows it.” Yet, somehow, I suspect your records would show them as Mormons. After all, who would refuse? Everyone wants to go to heaven.

    These are our ancestors, our memories you’re attempting to hijack. Ours, not yours. Take care of your own ancestors.

    Of course, you can always decided to not change because some silly, mistakenly Jewish people like me take offense. Your choice of course. Just don’t be surprised if you get called an asshole. Or be shocked if we don’t particularly want to have anything to do with you.

  118. Jeremy Jensen says:

    MrRoivas, do you criticize every Christian you encounter? Every Muslim? Every Orthodox Jew? Because all of those groups think that people that aren’t members of their religion would be better off in the religion they belong to. So, unless you criticize every other religion equally, you’re being selective in your criticism, which isn’t fair.

    No, our records do not show proxy baptized people as Mormons. Not at all. We don’t keep records on the people we proxy baptize except to say that they’ve been proxy baptized. We do not consider them Mormon. REPEAT, we do not consider them Mormon. We’re not attempting to hijack anyone’s memories at all, so you should stop saying that we are. So, if you take offense, you should take offense at the *actual* practice of baptism for the dead and not what you imagine our practice of baptism for the dead to be.

  119. Jeremy Jensen says:

    And MrRoivas, if you truly understood the theology of most Christian groups versus our theology, you would realize that Mormon theology is infinitely better than the Christians you presumably choose not to criticize. In their worldview, you go to hell. In our worldview, you go to heaven, even if you don’t accept baptism for the dead. You’re directing your ire at the wrong denominations.

  120. Jeremy Jensen says:

    MrRovias, do you consider it offensive for our missionaries to proselytize and ask Jewish people if they would like to join our church while they are alive? If not, it’s not logical for you to be offended at our practice of baptism for the dead. It’s exactly equivalent to what we believe happens in the next life. The baptism occurs in our temples because we believe it cannot happen in the next life, but aside from that fact, any conversion that may or may not happen in the next life is as voluntary as a conversion that may or may not happen in this life. We are not changing, or even attempting to change, who that person was in this life or who they died as. We keep records only to try and prevent duplicate work from happening.

  121. Your comments reveal you understand nothing. Here’s a hint. When attempting to understand a different group of people, try listening.

    “MrRoivas, do you criticize every Christian you encounter? Every Muslim? Every Orthodox Jew?”

    No, because they don’t do unwanted baptisms. Even more to the point, this is a strawman. I don’t criticize every Mormon I meet, just ones like you who see nothing wrong with unwanted baptisms.

    “We do not consider them Mormon. REPEAT, we do not consider them Mormon.”

    So I guess they are marked as baptized by the Mormon church, in a Mormon record, done by Mormon people, for the sake of making more Mormons, but they aren’t considered Mormon.

    You should take your talent for splitting hairs on the road. Its impressive.

    “We’re not attempting to hijack anyone’s memories at all, so you should stop saying that we are.”

    Your intentions are irrelevant. You have Mormon records saying these people were baptized into the Mormon church, despite the fact they showed no such interest in life.

    “And MrRoivas, if you truly understood the theology of most Christian groups versus our theology, you would realize that Mormon theology is infinitely better than the Christians you presumably choose not to criticize.”

    Of course. I couldn’t possibly understand your theology. After all, if I did, I’d obviously agree with you.

    Your theology is immaterial. Your actions are what matter, and they show a profound lack of respect. Additionally, presume is right. You have no idea as to whether I criticize other Christian practices. Whether I do or not has absolutely no relevance to this issue, and the fact you bring up such red herrings does not speak well for your argument.

    “MrRovias, do you consider it offensive for our missionaries to proselytize and ask Jewish people if they would like to join our church while they are alive?”

    Depends on how they do so. Usually, mostly because your church far too often indulges in such rather tawdry antics such as going door to door. I have absolutely no problem with Mormons sharing their beliefs in general. The difference is, whether conversion happens depends on the consent of the person involved.

    The dead cannot consent. They are beyond any ability to show their disagreement.

    That’s the whole point. Earlier, I used to term “unwanted baptisms” rather than baptisms for the dead. The point is the baptisms you are doing are unwanted, and have repeatedly been rejected by the community you are subjecting them too. The fact you wish to persist anyways shows better than any words do just how little respect you have for our concerns.

  122. Glass Ceiling says:

    This is as good as the Scopes trial. And there is no way to win it but to wait for the next life.

    A few words on behalf of Mormons: whoever it was who was baptizing departed Jews was not doing it for the numbers, but out of love. Also,the straw man of other Christian religions sending all non-Christians to hell is actually a central point. Intent should matter for something.

    A word on behalf of Jews, Mormons had no right to do this without permission. They likely would not have gotten it, but at least their intent would have been understood.

  123. Jeremy Jensen says:

    MrRovias, you refuse to understand what I’m saying.
    “Your intentions are irrelevant. You have Mormon records saying these people were baptized into the Mormon church, despite the fact they showed no such interest in life. ”

    No we don’t. They were not “baptized into the Mormon church.” A proxy baptism was performed that the dead can accept if, by chance, THEY decide in the afterlife, that they want to be baptized into the church. It’s almost as if you’re trying not to understand what we actually do.

    “The dead cannot consent. They are beyond any ability to show their disagreement. ”

    What you seem unwilling to understand is that we do believe the dead can consent. And it doesn’t matter how many times you say that we are, in fact, baptizing people without their consent, we are not. We are performing an ordinance that requires consent to be valid. I’m not going to repeat myself. If you want to continue believing the lies the media tell you, even after I’ve corrected them, you can. I’m done.

  124. They are beyond any ability to show their disagreement. You cannot dispute that.

    And you refuse to address or acknowledge that these baptisms are unwanted, and you have repeatedly been told to stop.

    As I said, continue if you wish. Just realize people are going to act based on the lack of respect you show.

  125. Jeremy Jensen says:

    And you refuse to acknowledge that you were spreading untruths when you say that these baptisms constitute us baptizing people into the Mormon church. There are a lot of people out there that are willing to criticize us based on an extreme misunderstanding of what we believe about baptism for the dead, willing to assume the worst about Mormons, and willing to lie about us outright, even after we explain ourselves. I’m sick of it.

    “And you refuse to address or acknowledge that these baptisms are unwanted, and you have repeatedly been told to stop. ”

    If you’re talking just about the Jewish baptisms, then I think there’s plenty of evidence that the church has taken steps to try and limit them. That there is an anti-Mormon bigot out there combing our databases looking for the small amount of mistakes that happen, doesn’t mean anything. Our system for submitting names is decentralized. You criticizing the church for these mistakes is exactly equivalent to criticizing, say, The Huffington Post for anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim blog comments because they somehow made it through the filters.

    “As I said, continue if you wish. Just realize people are going to act based on the lack of respect you show.”

    If you think that simply saying someone’s name in a ceremony that isn’t valid unless the person consents to it in the next life is so disrespectful as to warrant the tidal wave of disrespect for Mormons that I’ve witnessed on this issue over the years, well then I’m just going to have to disagree with you. My feeling is that, like you, most of the people that are angry over this issue simply don’t understand what we believe about baptism for the dead.

  126. The fact that you have repeatedly explained what you do believe and my opposition hasn’t changed should tell you something.

    And comments like your indicate that while the church has technically stopped with the unwanted baptisms of dead Jews, that there are people like you who think we’re being stupid, overly sensitive, or just don’t understand.

    I understand, as do many other people. And if you think that’s stupid or just being sensitive? Well, that’s your prerogative.

  127. Ugly Mahana says:

    Mr. Roivas, baptism for the dead does not equal conversion of the dead. A record is kept, but it is not considered, in any sense, a membership list. The dead retain the ability to show their disagreement. They may, and I imagine many do, reject our offer. What would you have us do with respect to those souls who wish to accept baptism, but are unable to show their agreement because they are dead?

  128. Sharee Hughes says:

    I spoke with a Jewish friend about this the other night. She said that although there were some people who were up in arms about the incident, she thought it had been blown all out of proportion. She said most of her friends understood that the church had made an agreement not to do temple work for Jews, but they also knew there were always a few people in any religion who didn’t listen.

  129. It’s been suggested that the following link might contribute something to the conversation. Something of value? Well, you can decide… ;)

    http://alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com/

  130. Researcher says:

    Is that supposed to be funny?

  131. Researcher – You can take it how you wish. My personal assessment would be somewhere between “humorous” and “apt.” I think “tongue-in-cheek” would be more accurate than “intending to offend.” No offense is intended, anymore than those who baptize deceased holocaust victims intend to give offense. Sometimes offense is taken, however. In fact, a good descriptive for the intent of those who created this application (insofar as I can speak to their “intention,” since I’m not them) might be “pointed.”

  132. Researcher says:

    Sorry, Lorian. I was irked after glancing at the comments on the latest HuffPost article on proxy baptisms — nothing particular to do with you — just coincidental timing.

    People must not realize that they are discussing some of our deeply held religious and spiritual beliefs about the nature of the soul and our relationship with God and our connections to our families and loved ones and the meaning of life, and evidently they think it’s appropriate to treat our beliefs like a comedy routine.

  133. I find it neither offensive nor funny nor pointed. I think the best descriptor is probably “lame.”

  134. You know, I commented without really thinking about this from some perspective other than my own. I guess if I were gay, I probably would find it offensive.

  135. Whether it’s meant to be good-natured or not, I think this is amusing. But to interpret it overly-literally: are they wanting to invite further comparison between proxy baptisms and conversion to homosexuality? Are they saying that homosexuality is a *choice* a soul can make? I don’t think that’s what they mean.

    But any Mormon who gets upset about this has lost his claim to not understand why some Jews might be upset at our proxy baptisms of them.

  136. Forgot to include: Or are they implying that the homosexuality is forced upon the soul, much as people keep insisting that Mormonism is forced upon the souls who have had baptisms performed for them?

    That’s why Mormons had better not dare to get upset about this. Is it in poor taste? Depends on the intent. But either we believe in post-mortal agency or we don’t.

  137. Wouldn’t we run out of names pretty fast if we didn’t go the wholesale, Fordist route to collecting genealogical information. For this reason alone it appears to be a non-starter. The 142 temples need to be stocked with names. Maybe I am wrong and it wouldn’t dry up, but it seems “name extraction” probably produces a vast majority of the temple names.

  138. Ugly Mahana says:

    I think that the website also lacks authority . . . Which is pretty important in context of true priesthood ordinances.

  139. I don’t know that it pays to overanalyze the gay mormon link. I don’t think it’s trying to make a statement about whether or not homosexuality is a choice. The point is, as Layne points out in #135, sometimes people find things insulting or hurtful for reasons with which we may not identify, but of which we might want to be respectful, if we want our sensitivities respected. Kind of a “Golden Rule” think, KWIM?

  140. I thought it was funny. It made it’s point.

  141. Cynthia L. says:

    If it has any point, isn’t the point that those who get offended by Mormon baptisms are wrong to be so? Kind of a weird point for it to make, but whatever.

  142. I suspect the point it’s trying to make is, “Here, Mormons, how about a taste of your own medicine.”

  143. StillConfused says:

    I agree with #142. If a Mormon’s response to the Jews about baptism for the dead is “what do you care, if you don’t believe, then just ignore it”, then how would that same Mormon feel if something was done on their behalf that violated their belief system (Assuming said Mormon thinks being gay is a sin or not in line with their belief system, of course).

  144. Psalm 49:7.

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