After complaints from the Wiesenthal Center, the name of Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi war crimes hunter, has been removed from the church’s “genealogical database.” Since the church agreed in 1995 not to posthumously baptise Holocaust victims, the issue of Jews in the database has been a sensitive subject. Church spokesman Bruce Olsen stated that Wiesenthal’s name was immediately removed from the genealogical index and that no proxy baptism had been performed for him.

Some thoughts on temple work.

When I was a missionary I had a dream (I’m not going to claim it was revelatory and I’m not going to relate its detail) about temple work that left me with a tremendous sense of the justice of God inherent in the church’s mission to “redeem the dead.” That God opens salvation to all his children is beautiful doctrine.

But I’ve come to see that there’s a complication, at least in the way we popularly conceptualise temple work. We’ve all heard stories about how people felt that their dead ancestors were aiding them in their genealogical research. We speak reverently of the time when the American Founding Fathers visited Wilford Woodruff and practically demanded that their temple work be done.[1] The assumption in all of this seems to be that “spirit prison” is somewhere you’d want to leave if you could, but that it all depends on temple work being done for you by living Mormons. Motivation to do temple work often paints pictures of the dead anxiously waiting for their work to be done.

And yet…. Since homo sapien man first walked out of the African Rift Valley, billions upon billions of people have lived and died without receiving the “saving ordinances” claimed by Mormons to be their right to administer. In the popular rhetoric of the dead anxiously waiting their salvation from “spirit prison,” we are forced to admit that 99.9% of the human race twiddles their thumbs there whilst we figure out who they are. This is an impossible task. Meanwhile, George Washington rides gaily on his horse out of spirit prison because he is famous.

The problem is with time. By recalling Simon Wiesenthal’s name and agreeing not to baptise Holocaust victims, the church is not lessening the salvific power of the ordinances of the temple, but is suggesting that if needed, they can wait. In my view this contradicts the rhetoric that imagines a race against time to save the dead. And it is this rhetoric that causes people to over-zealously submit names like Simon Wiesenthal in the first place. Wisdom and order seems like the more reasonable course.

As for temple work in general, I find myself in agreement with Molly Bennion:

Since the Lord could just take care of identifying us in due time for temple work, I’ve always seen the greatest benefit of geneology that of personalizing history. Still in his teens, my Scottish great uncle died at Flanders. An American great uncle missed dying on the front lines in France by a fluke. Just before a battle that killed his entire unit, he was pulled out to the rear to care for horses, as he had cared for them on the farm. Family stories send us to the history books and to deeper thought about war.

Turning the hearts of the children to their fathers has deep and satisfying meaning to me. As a young man, I felt my dead grandfather’s presence in the temple in a way that remains vivid. Certainly an awareness of the dead, and of my place in the chain of being makes me feel wonderfully alive.

But the rest of temple work soteriology — the rush, rush desire to “save” all of God’s children ASAP — is not quite the legalistic exercise of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s we are inclined to believe it is. If it is, then it’s unjust and doomed to failure.

I do not think we should be extracting names from parish rolls, baptising dead famous people, or “turning Jews into Mormons.”[2] This is a memo that rank-and-file Mormons need to get or we’ll continue to be running into Simon Wiesenthal-type problems. The trouble is, by limiting the scope of the work to our own ancestors (and believe me, genealogy is fun), a theological adjustment would be necessary.

1. On September 6, 1877, Woodruff related the following dream:

The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we . . . remained true to it and were faithful to God.’ These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.

2. As part of my dissertation research I have the names and family history of a tonne of ancient Babylonian slaves. Theoretically, I could do their temple work, but for a reason that I have been trying to articulate here, it seems kind of ridiculous, even perverse. On the other hand, doing temple work for a deceased relative is often a sweet experience. A Babylonian slave and my relative are both God’s children, both deserving of release from “prison.” The fact that I feel inclined to “save” one and not the other, is instructive. That said, if you go to the temple and see the name Madanu-Bel-Utzur, born in Babylon, died in 512 BC, then you will know I have changed my mind. And if you see him there, I am dying to know what he looks like.


  1. UnicornMom says:

    Wonderful post, thank you – I’ve often thought about just that – that the rush-rush feeling of doing temple work doesn’t feel right.

    I also wonder about something you said –

    In other words, is Wiesenthal a Mormon now regardless of whether he’s on the IGI or not?

    Does being baptized by proxy make someone Mormon? I always wondered that – as there is a friend at work whose father was baptized for the dead soon after his death by her mother. She’s still fairly angry about it. It’s one of the topics on my taboo-to-discuss list with her.

    That aside, I feel badly for not doing more in-family temple work. You’re right that the ordinances seem so much more important when they are family. My family has all the easy names done (though they are a holy mess), but my husband’s a convert and his family is untouched. The problem is that his mom was adopted and she forged her age to get out of her foster home early, so her records are extremely messed up. It’s going to take a decent amount of money that we don’t have to try to track down her original, unaltered records.

    Geneology is expensive!

  2. What if Simon Wiesenthal had descendents that were LDS converts? Could they baptize him? Would there still be outrage?
    I think if someone submits a name, the name doesn’t necessarily get baptized and endowed immediately, does it? Is there a lag time? I guess it’s possible that Simon W hadn’t had the work done for him yet. But is it likely?

    BTW, does it have to be unanimous for the surviving descendents to allow someone’s work to be done, or does only one person have to give the go-ahead?

  3. As far as I understand it, IGI lists names whose work has been done, not just names that have been submitted. I am willing to be corrected though.

  4. I’m confused. . . you’re in agreement that we should NOT be in the business of doing temple work for dead Jews? I agree that we shouldn’t do their work right now, out of respect and because we’ve agreed not to . . . but I think of it like missionary work in China–yes we won’t proselyte here right now, not because we don’t want to eventually (and not because we don’t think we should), but because we want to be in good graces with the government and go through the front door so-to-speak. Same with the Jewish issue . . . yeah we’ll agree to that right now, but we are most definitely interested in doing their work someday. Not just interested, but obligated.

    Also, as far as Babylonian slaves go . . . wasn’t the temple work that was done anciently the same work we’re doing today? I honestly have no idea, but isn’t the restoration of Temples a restoration of the work that was going on back during King Solomon’s day, Moses’ day, etc? So isn’t there a possibility that there are already a lot of Babylonian slaves whose work was already done . . . you know what I mean?

  5. Miggy,

    These slaves were probably not Jewish. And besides, there is no liturgical correlation between ancient Jewish temple rites and those we perform in Mormon temples today.

    I agree 100% in the softly, softly approach to temple work but it is discordant with the notion that we’ve got to save these poor souls from spirit prison FAST. One of them has to go. If the Jews can wait (and 99.9% of all humans who have ever lived), why was George Washington (plus all those ancestors in all those fireside stories) so desperate to get out…?

    Something doesn’t jive. And I think it’s the idea of spirit prison 101 that is in need of further light and knowledge.

  6. I’ve seen names on the IGI that don’t have the date of baptism filled in–instead they are listed as “cleared.” I assumed that meant the names had been submitted to temple ready but the ordinance hadn’t been completed.

    …also willing to be corrected.

  7. Huh. Thanks BiV!

  8. My genealogy expert wife says that a name can appear on the IGI without any ordinance work having been done.

  9. So, someone may have submitted Wiesenthal’s name recently. In which case, the church (as it already has, I think) needs to reiterate that people need to work on their own family line only. But if we restrict temple work to that then we’re kind of admitting that this isn’t a universal work, something that opens up a whole new set of questions.

    I understand that the church does its own mass name-extraction work, but as the Jewish case shows, even this is liable to restriction. What happens when another group voices its displeasure?

    Again, something has to give. Or not, I guess. We can just happily ignore the implications. But for me, if we insist that we have to speedily pass out get out of jail cards, then we have to deal with the fact that the overwhelming majority of people simply cannot be reached.

  10. Jonathan Green says:

    However, I haven’t noticed the urgent push for springing suffering souls from prison lately as much as a focus on getting to know one’s own ancestors.

    What does name extraction entail? Is it a matter of moving names from old church records into the temple work pool, or turning those records into data available to familysearch? The first is God’s own work, but takes a lot of explanation and is easily misunderstood. The second is God’s Own Work, period, and I don’t want to hear anyone complaining. Have they ever tried getting access to old church records from across the Atlantic, and then reading some awful 17th-century scribble in a foreign language?

    I’m skeptical that recycling names is common or occurs other than accidentally, since dead people are pretty common on–or under–the ground, but perhaps someone else knows better.

  11. Jonathan,

    I agree that the tone has changed, but relics of the prison-break mentality linger.

    I’m so out of my comfort zone on this name extraction thing, but I think it’s a bit of both. The church helped with data extraction of the British 1881 census — a monumental project — and the data are available to do family history with. But I think they also simply extract names straight to the temple file. But, man, maybe I’m making this up.

  12. My expert geneaology wife says the opposite. Everyone on the IGI has had some temple ordinance performed or is at least scheduled for temple work. She may well be wrong but she does have a family history degree from BYU. So there.

    Our record keeping is a mess. At home no temple work was submitted to the IGI for decades. In a sense, I am happy because there are privacy considerations. Making the data of recently deceased people accessible to the public is problematic.

    Anyways, the bigger point is that the LDS Church needs to be more stringent with data collection. If we achieved that then we could include controls. We should require submitters to declare that they are related to the people in question and that there are no Jews on the list.

    Also, it seems to me that there are automated solutions. The first one would be including religious information about the deceased. Second, there are only that many Ashkenzi names. With the help of a name dictionary software could prevent the performance of ordinances until people are cleared for their gentile status.

    In light of the public relations damage that happens to recur every five years, one can justify some investment.

  13. While it is true that various LDS prophets have taught that non-baptized people will have to reside in spirit prison, I cannot reconcile that with Christ’s assurance to the murderer that they would be in paradise that very day.

    Besides, the notion that Wiesenthal might be trapped in prison because of a formality is bizarre. That would mean that some anonymous hero could suffer while Hitler has a party in paradise.

  14. Jonathan Green says:

    I think if you stipulate that the submitted names are your own relatives, that removes the need to check for their Jewishness. Not baptizing Jews at random–or anybody else, really–is probably a good idea. (And I agree that a little control tightening on submitting names is probably a good thing.) But no one else has a right to tell me how I want to come to terms with the death of my own ancestors through my own religious rituals.

  15. But no one else has a right to tell me how I want to come to terms with the death of my own ancestors through my own religious rituals.

    The other relatives do. They might feel that your practice is inhibiting their ability to come to terms with the death of their ancestors.

  16. Hellmut: My expert geneaology wife says the opposite. Everyone on the IGI has had some temple ordinance performed or is at least scheduled for temple work. She may well be wrong but she does have a family history degree from BYU. So there.

    I don’t think that’s the opposite. Our genealogy expert wives agree: it’s possible for a name to show up on the IGI without any ordinance work having been done. Being scheduled for temple work isn’t the same thing as temple work having been done, is it?

  17. I am sorry brothers and sisters but it sounds as if there is a lot of misunderstanding as to the purpose of temple work and its relation to the spirit world.

    1) The temple work we do for the dead is laying the foundation for the full fruition of redemming the dead which will occur during the millennium. It is not all meant to be completed before the Saviour’s return in glory.

    2) Latter-day Saints have a very specific responsibility to redeem THEIR dead and to make sure they are sealed together in eternal familiies. This responsibility is very great and we will be accountable for our inaction to save our own families. However, the promise is also great that we will be saviours upon Mt. Zion when we do fulfill our duty.

    3) Those persons who have their work completed before the return of the Lord will be able to come forth in the first resurrection when the Lord shall return in glory. Those whose work is not completed before then will still have the opportunity to be resurrected but they will have to wait for a longer period of time.

    4) The temple work that has been completed in all other previous dispensations is recorded in the books kept by the angels and will also serve to help us during the millennium.

    5) The Lord’s return is predicated upon having a Zion people prepared so He can govern them during the millennium. This Zion people inclue both the existing Latter-day Saints upon this earth as well as those that have accepted the gospel and had their ordinance work done prior to His return.

    6) Ordinance work in and of itself does not bring salvation. The sealing work must be done to make sure the families are united as one. Without this work being completed, the earth will be wasted at His coming.

    7) There is definitely a connection between temple work performed here on earth and the repercussions felt in the spirit world. They do assist us in completing the work and are disappointed when we procrastinate.

    8) The records collection and name extraction that the church does is to supplement our own efforts and is to help us fulfill OUR responsiblity. It is not meant to substitute for our lack of action.

    9) God’s mercy and justice are perfect and complete and we need to be careful about second guessing if everyone will be have the same opportunity. Everyone will have the same right to our Lord’s mercy and saving grace.

    Just my thoughts supported by a very strong testimony.

  18. Hellmut,

    You may want to read the Joseph Smith Translation footnote of the “murderer in paradise” scripture. It provides the accurate rendition of the Lord’s statement.

  19. 1. The IGI can have names in it that work is not done for. It is my understanding that names go into the IGI when they are printed at the Temple on the Pink and Blue cards. There is, however, no way for the church to hunt down the pink or blue card of every single individual who is doing their personal Temple Work. However, if the name was submitted by some other means (Submitted to the Temple File, as opposed to being done by an individual member), then the work could have been halted.

    2. If the work was done, I wouldn’t worry about the record.

    3. That’s what the Millenium is for.

  20. I should add that using Ohana’s handy Temple software, it has come to my attention that some of my ancestors have had their Temple work done 40+ times.

    In a system where over 1,000,000 different people are submitting names for temple work, there is going to be repitition, and there is unfortuneately no real way to monitor for the occasional holocaust victim.

    There are employees at the Family History Center, I am told, whose sole job is to go find names of people and “get rid of them”, as requested.

  21. Hellmut raises what I think is a major issue here.

    If a relative of Wiesenthal happens to be LDS, and submitted his name for temple work, whose desires would win out; the well intentioned relative who wanted to do the proxy temple work, or others who are not related? I am not sure where the church would stand on that. I would hope that they would stand up for the doctrine and side with the relative instead of those who are not members of the family. But if it is a disagreement between posterity, that is a tougher situation. Whose wishes should respected? Probably those who would not want the work done, and those who did would have to rely on their faith that all would be worked out in the Lord’s time.

    There is no power of attorney in making these types of decisions. I run into family disagreements all too often when it comes to end of life decision making as a physician. You always go with the wishes of the patient if those are known. If not, and there is a designated person who has the power of attorney, they make the call, even if other family members disagree.

    In the case of proxy temple work, however, it is difficult to understand what the true desires of the individual would be, as they pass into the spirit world and receive additional light and knowledge.

    Many difficult questions here.

  22. Personally, I find the idea of Wiesenthal having to wait eons to have his work done (presuming, of course, that he does) just because of the sore feelings of some of his descendants rather sad. BUt I supposed my feelings must just be a relic of the unenlightened mentality of the past. The Holocost center does not seem to understand the idea that the choice to enter the covenant is absolutely still Wiesenthal’s to make, we aren’t forcing our beliefs on anyone, on Earth or posthumously beyond the veil.

    That said, there really should be tighter controls on name submission. On my mission, I knew members who had Woodruff type dreams for Jimmy Hendricks and Janice Joplin. WHile it is possible they accepted the gospel, why should celebrity status allow the line to be breached. I heartily agree with Jonathan in #14. Nobody should be able to tell us how we may or may not act in regard to my own ancestors. It is much more personal and I think appropriately so.

    As for the question of the ordinance making them Mormon, in reality accepting the ordinance makes them God’s covenant people, something the Jews feel they are and shouldn’t necessarily be so repulsive to them. I realize that is easy for me to say, I haven’t walked in their shoes, but there it is nonetheless. I like to think that much of our sectarian silliness will be seen for what it is in the next world and simply not matter so much anymore.

  23. I just wanted to elaborate on #14. There is a freedom of religion issue here. The idea that an non LDS organization has veto power over our temple practices is a non starter. I have some Jewish ancestory way back in Poland. I do not want SLC to start screening for Jewish names and “getting rid of them”

    I have also been at the temple doing baptisms for family names with our ward youth and started hearing Jewish names like Cohen.

    In addition I grew up with a family that was converts from Judaism who had relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.

  24. It’s not a matter of veto power.

    It’s a matter of peaceful coexistence, and due respect for the opinions of others.

    Now, if you felt that your personal salvation were dependent on the temple ordinance work being done for a certain person, and you delayed that work because some other person objected, that might be more troubling.

    But nobody’s suggesting that Simon Wiesenthal’s proxy baptism is necessary today for anybody’s salvation but his own.

    And, who’s to say that those who lived good lives find that prison so hellish awful? Maybe it’s like a Federal minimum security joint where there are no bars on the windows and a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course out back.

  25. Whenever a well-meaning speaker or teacher tries to lay the guilt on and harangue me to take a day off work to go serve in the temple and liberate people from spirit prison who have been dead for 200 years, I remind them that in celestial time, 1000 years = 1 day, and by that reckoning, great, great, great, great grandpa only died this morning and he should just keep his shirt on already. He hasn’t even had time to take the discussions yet.

  26. #20 Matt

    In a system where over 1,000,000 different people are submitting names for temple work, there is going to be repitition, and there is unfortuneately no real way to monitor for the occasional holocaust victim.

    At some level that is true. However, there are any number of reasonable precautions to improve the system.

    Simon Wiesenthal is not exactly an anonymous individual that can reasonable slip through the cracks. The presence of a celebrity in the IGI demonstrates that we are doing too little.

  27. Apologies to Tom, #16. You are right.

  28. Ronan,

    My understanding is that I am likely a descendant of every human being, with living posterity, from 2500 years ago, including the Babylonian slaves. Why don’t you send me the information so I can have the work done?

  29. P. Anderson says:

    I’ve never understood the objection to our baptisms for the dead. They feel how they feel and we should respect their wishes (and I’d like to see it more regulation on the submission of names), but I just can’t see where they’re coming from.

    If you think our religion is nutty, and silly and just plain wrong then whatever we do will have no efficacy in God’s eyes. I imagine it being like baptising people into the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Who cares if a bunch of nut-jobs think they’re bringing my ancestors safe into the arms of his noodly goodness by doing whatever it is they do?

    If you think our religion is ‘right’ enough for God to respect our ordinances, then you’d also have to concede that God would act according to our doctrines that are built into the ordinance– that those who are baptised or sealed or whatever don’t have to accept any of the work we do for them.

    What am I missing that they are objecting to?

  30. In addition, as I understand it, the Church agreed to remove from the IGI and attempt to prevent vicarious work for Jews who are not ancestors of living Church members. Thus, bbell’s Jewish ancestors would remain on the IGI.

  31. 2. Is removing a name from the IGI tantamount to a proxy “name removal”?

    I’ve pondered on this one, and here’s what I think. We believe that when temple work is done, the individual has the opportunity to accept or reject the ordinance. It is logical to believe that the same thing occurs with proxy “name removal”. If taking a name out of the IGI is a name removal, than any individual who had his or her name so removed, should have the opportunity to accept or reject that action.

    This relieves us of the burden of figuring out the eternal status of Wiesenthal’s soul. It can all get worked out in the Millenium.

  32. Jonathan Green (#10), I’m not sure what’s normal, but I know that last weekend, my in-laws announced that they’d just discovered the fact that many of the names they’ve done in recent years have in fact been taken through the temple six times. My impression is that six branches of the family, out of communication, repeated each other’s work, and since the temple records haven’t been well-organized in the past…

    Apparently, the church is putting some serious effort into straightening temple records out, which is how my in-laws found out what had happened.

  33. Pardon my typo. The last sentence in my first paragraph should read: “If taking a name out of the IGI is a name removal, then any individual who had his or her name so removed, should have the opportunity to accept or reject that action.”

  34. There are several considerations at play.

    First, what is the difference between spirit paradise and hell? Some in Mormon thought (JFS/BRM) believed they were separate locations; other (BY) believed that it was on location but a condition of the soul. We know that the God can forgive those who have not been baptized…look at the young Joseph Smith in his earliest First Vision accounts (plus he saw God!).

    What does baptism and the other ordinances of the Gospel do for us? They bind us as God’s people (both together and to Him). Regarding the Woodruff visitation, most of the folks on his list had already had their work done. Moreover, and I can’t remember who wrote the paper of the top of my head (Stuy, maybe?), but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for a true visionary experience by Woodruff…more likely a dream.

    Ultimately, proxy work is about creating bonds with our progenitors, which it does quite well. This is, in some measure, why the Church limits the temple work we do to our ancestors.

  35. …er, they had already received proxy baptism, which is not technically “their work.” Sorry.

  36. Steve Evans says:

    “But the rest of temple work soteriology — the rush, rush desire to “save” all of God’s children ASAP — is not quite the legalistic exercise of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s we are inclined to believe it is. If it is, then it’s unjust and doomed to failure.”

    I agree entirely that we need to be careful about overly “legalizing” the ordinances and spirit of temple work.

    That said, I think that you are being far too narrow in your urge that temple work be done solely for one’s own lineal ancestors. The “family” that is important here is the human family of Adam, speaking of us collectively.

    We believe that ultimately the Atonement will permeate all of humanity, past and present, binding us together — and the temple ordinances are both (i) a manifestation of our desire to weld those links and (ii) a real and effective means of doing so. Unless we believe both of those tenets, we’re missing the boat on why we build temples.

  37. In regards to having someone’s name “done” several times in the temple: It sounds kind of cool in an odd way–think of it this way, 6 family members were so inspired to do temple work for their ancestors that they all felt the need to do something about it and get it done. 6 family members may have started doing temple work for that one ancestor and now are “hooked” and continue doing family history work.

  38. In the afterlife, I’d like to be a spirit bounty hunter, tracking down those people who were inadvertently released from spirit prison before their time. Whenever the Church responds to a complaint like the one mentioned in this post, somebody’s got to go out and haul that spirit back to the slammer. Most of them probably go pretty easily, but I bet you get a live one every once in a while. (I mean “live” as in “feisty”, not “live” as in “alive”.) This kind of job could really spice up what otherwise sounds like a boring paradise.

  39. J. Stapley:

    I’m not sure JFS/BRM taught them as two seperate locations literally, in that they both definitely taught that there was comingling of prison/paradise in the teaching of the gospel post-mortally.

    While there is more that can be done, as is evidenced by the church’s efforts now to do more in general, there are great challenges in eliminating a single person from a database such as IGI. For starters, take for example Simon W. here. How do we know this is that Simon W.? and not someone with the same name? We’d have to check dates and places to make sure they were identical. What if dates and places were not provided, or there was one typo or style error? (A lot of work I’ve found have locations notated as “,California” etc.) The Computer would either be programmed to err on the side of allowance, or err on the side of caution, but could not really be determinate. I guess an algorhythm could be placed to compute the similarity between the spellings, remove punctuation, etc., but the cost involved in developing such is high, while the benefit to the church is miniscule.

  40. bbell

    I just wanted to elaborate on #14. There is a freedom of religion issue here. The idea that an non LDS organization has veto power over our temple practices is a non starter. I have some Jewish ancestory way back in Poland. I do not want SLC to start screening for Jewish names and “getting rid of them”

    For a couple of reasons, religious freedom is probably approaching its limits when it comes to proxy ordinances.

    Lets begin with a Jewish perspective. If you walk the Jewish cemetary in Mainz, for example, you will encounter a series of headstones of people that were drowned in the Rhine for refusing baptism.

    The Jewish experience is about the preservation of identity against hegemonic pressures. Historically, Christian pressure on Jews was the worst.

    It’s one thing to invite people to convert when they have the opportunity to decline. To many people baptizing their dead feels like an imposition of religion, especially when the beneficiaries of the proxy ordinances have been killed for being Jewish.

    In Mormon theology, of course, the proxy baptized spirits might reject our kindness. I don’t think that people are getting upset about the dead. Rather people feel disrespected themselves. And it’s not just Jews.

    Bear with me when I speculate trying to make sense of negative reactions to proxy ordinances. Though I have encountered a number of people who felt offended by proxy ordinances, no one has yet been able to explain their feelings.

    When we baptize the dead then we imply a claim of understanding the essence of that family better than their surviving relatives. We are taking the liberty to redefine other people’s heritage on our terms without their participation.

    When someone assigns metaphysical meaning to your family that means that you are being redefined yourself. We are getting uncomfortably close to the limits of religious freedom because the non-Mormon relatives would much rather define themselves rather than ceding that ability to us.

    Therefore it is not reasonable to demand that people just acquiesce over proxy baptisms in the name of religious freedom. To some people that equals a demand for submission.

    Of course, every religion with a universal mission for humanity claims to give meaning to people’s life. While others assert their claims of dominance by imagining infidels in hell or submission, we hope that everyone has an opportunity to become like us, which is another way to imagine domination.

    In the past, similar questions were raised over the religious imposition of meaning. Particularly, marriage comes to mind. Beginning in revolutionary France, one solution was obligatory civil marriage. OCM created the space where citizens of different religious persuasions could meet as equals relegating the creation of religious meaning to the private sphere.

    Of course, the function of proxy baptism is quite different from marriage. As there is no way for the state to create space where adherents of different faiths can coexist with equal status, one has to expect that proxy baptism will remain conflictual.

    Here is a bizarre idea: people who feel violated should be able to submit proxy resignations to a third party. That way we all have the proxy work that our identity requires.

    Anyways, the good news is that only few people care what we think about them and their ancestors. Though that might change if Mormonism became more powerful. If Mormonism ever would be party to a Renaissance style religious war then we would find it difficult to deal with proxy ordinances at the peace conference.

    You may want to read the Joseph Smith Translation footnote of the “murderer in paradise” scripture. It provides the accurate rendition of the Lord’s statement.

    Michael # 18, I accept the Joseph Smith Translation as Mormon theology. Since his work does not capture the meaning of the Greek text, one cannot reasonably accept it as a translation of the gospels. Therefore the contradiction persists.

    The question then is which source represents Christ’s words better. The notion that a spirit’s presence depends on a formality has absurd implications. It would mean, for example, that a firefighter who loses her life saving a child could suffer in prison while somebody of less merit might feast in paradise.

    That would be unjust and cannot be the meaning of the law.

    Christ’s message to the murderer captures justice better and is therefore more likely to represent the good news.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    1. My (third hand) understanding of the 1995 agreement is that a baptism may be done or authorized by a lineal descendant. The other descendants may not like it and there may still be a hue and cry about it, but I think that was the bright line drawn for the agreement.

    2. I believe that in the earliest layer of LDS thought there was just a single spirit world. The demarcation between a spirit prison and paradise is a developed notion. To see this in graphic terms, get a book entitled Latter-day Prophets Speak! and review the section on the spirit world, which has quotations from the prophets in chronological order. One can easily imagine the motivation for the development; we don’t want the righteous to have to live among and rub shoulders with the unwashed hoi polloi. But I kind of like the original idea myself.

    3. Speaking of other groups that have had similar reactions as the Jews, what about the Russian Orthodox? They raised a stink about this a year or two ago, but I never heard whether it went any further than that. Does anyone know?

    4. Helen Radkey’s interest in this is simply to embarrass the Church. The Church people offered to have her come in and show them how she found all of these Holocaust names in the database so that they could more efficiently screen for them, and she absolutely refused. She’s not Jewish, I think she’s an Evangelical, and her interest isn’t really in cleansing the database, it is in scoring public relations points against the Church.

    5. I tend to think that the work for the dead that we do is in large measure for our own benefit (just as funerals our for us, not for the deceased).

  42. Matt: I’m not sure JFS/BRM taught them as two separate locations literally, in that they both definitely taught that there was comingling of prison/paradise in the teaching of the gospel post-mortally.

    Actually, they did. do a search in MoDoc and Doctrines of Salvation for “spirit prison.” They taught that Jesus created the a bridge that allowed missionaries from paradise to visit those in Hell. Obviously, many have viewed this position as mistaken.

    The homogeneous paradise/hell of BY seems to fit much better with a rational discussion of Justice.

  43. J.:
    Point noted From EOM:

    “Bruce R. McConkie explained, “Until the death of Christ these two spirit abodes [paradise and hell] were separated by a great gulf, with the intermingling of their respective inhabitants strictly forbidden (Luke 16:19-31). After our Lord bridged the gulf between the two (1 Pet. 3:18-21; Moses 7:37-39), the affairs of his kingdom in the spirit world were so arranged that righteous spirits began teaching the gospel to wicked ones” (MD, p. 762).”

    In this sense, there was not once intermingling, but there now is.

  44. or in other words, you are right, I am wrong. :)

  45. Steve,

    The question I have has nothing to do with the necessity of the proxy temple ordinances per se, it’s with the doctrines that have grown up around it.

    Simply put, by acquiescing to remove Mr. Wiesenthal’s name from the IGI, and also not to baptise Holocaust victims, the church is in effect saying that these are ordinances that can wait. I absolutely 100% agree with that position. I am just noting that it rejects somewhat the concurrent notion that temple work is of some urgency.

    I guarantee that the average Sunday School discussion of proxy work will include within it some notion that our restless ancestors are waiting for us to quickly do the work for them. The unspoken assumption is that “spirit prison” is a place you would prefer not to be. But it is unthinkable that the church would willingly leave Mr. Wiesenthal in this limbo just to appease PR, ergo the popular image of “spirit prison” is simply wrong.

    And this feeds into my wider point that the “family of Adam,” as you put it, could not be “saved” by us if the church worked night and day for another ten thousand years. And that’s assuming we even knew who these people were. It is unlikely that for the first 200,000 years of human existence people even had names! To get around this we have to make stuff up like, “it will all be done in the Millennium.”

    Temple work is about building a covenant people. I’m with Kevin’s number 5 that it is mostly about building a covenant people in the here and now. Binding ourselves to our own ancestors helps with this. As the Jews themselves show, covenant peoples never have to encompass everyone. God will save the rest of family of Adam if they want to be saved. This is not a job for us.

    This may be a case of me making doctrine up. So be it! You don’t have to believe it. But the ideas presented in Gospel Principles about all this stuff make reason stare and are contradicted by the church’s present actions.

  46. righteous spirits began teaching the gospel to wicked ones

    This righteous/wicked dichotomy is total hogwash.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    “God will save the rest of family of Adam if they want to be saved. This is not a job for us.”

    yeah, you’re making doctrine up on that one, and I think there are significant counterweights in modern prophets to your idea. Saviours on Mount Zion, anyone?

  48. Ronan,

    I agree with your last point about the average Sunday school class. I know in the last year or two, I have been subjected to the person standing at the podium in silence for what seems like forever and then chastising the congregation with “Are you tired of waiting? Well, so are your ancestors!” — bleh

  49. UnicornMom says:

    This discussion makes me wonder if we really understand the nature of the spirit world and ordinances at all. Is it possible that baptism is not required to release a spirit from spirit prison, but is required to gain certain degrees of exaltation?

    Perhaps spirit prison/paradise is more a state of mind (spirit?) but the three degrees of glory are dependant on fulfilling the law – and thus performing the ordinances.

  50. Ronan, Section 138

    29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding aquickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the bwicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
    30 But behold, from among the righteous, he aorganized his forces and appointed bmessengers, cclothed with power and authority, and dcommissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in edarkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
    31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the aacceptable day of the Lord and proclaim bliberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would crepent of their sins and receive the gospel.
    32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had adied in their sins, without a bknowledge of the truth, or in ctransgression, having drejected the prophets.

  51. There is one Saviour on Mount Zion and his name is Jesus Christ. And btw, that phrase is the worst decontextualised use of an OT passage in all of Mormondom. We offer something but it is not salvation.

    The idea that Ug the Caveman is going to have to wait for another hundred thousand years so that the Mormons, who have finally settled on a policy that cavemens’ birthdates can be given in epochs, can “save” him is pure…[a name I have been banned from using on this blog]. Or you have to imagine this Millennium Temple Factory Thingee.

    I’m happy to be wrong, however, and it doesn’t matter so much as I will continue to search out my own dead. (Something I quite enjoy doing, actually. So give me orthodoxy points for that, old boy.) What has to stop is the ghastly stuff that Kris points out.

  52. I was planning to crepent of my sins too, so that I would not be drejected by God.

    Gotta love those footnote markers!

  53. bbell,

    Yes, I have seen D&C 138 once or twice before. My complaint was with the idea quoted above that the “righteous” Latter-day Saints will preach to the “wicked” unbelievers. If spirit prison is the place that all the un-ordinanced go, then there will also be many righteous people there. That’s all. The dichotomy is not so clean.

    D&C 138 has Jesus sending ministers to the “wicked” and to those who “rejected the gospel.” For all we know, Ug the Caveman was a righteous man. He certainly did not reject the Gospel. So where is he? Perhaps he is in paradise, which sounds fine to me, but then it contradicts popular Mormon notions of the same.

    And this is all about notions, not doctrine.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, there’s a latter-day pluralised “Saviours” reference that I think you should read sometime. Yes, Christ is the Saviour. But we all have a role to play in bringing others to salvation.

    Agreed that Ug the Caveman need not wait for the LDS Church in order for him to believe in Christ and rejoice in the Atonement, tossing his post-mortal dinosaur femur high in the airs of the Spirit Prison courtyard.

    And yes, Kris’ experience should never, ever happen.

  55. 2 out of 3. Deal.

    Speaking of the dead, my g-g-g grandfather, Francis McGuirk, was born in Calgary then married a Welsh women and moved to Wales. We’re brothers, man.

  56. I’m knee deep in my analysis of Smith’s cosmology and the chain of being and what I call the simultaneous human family, so this topic is intriguing to me. I’ve been fascinated to see some of the earliest saints placing the spirit world on Kolob, near the throne of God. BY is famous for placing the spirit world on earth, but that was not the only idea about its location.

    JSJ and his nephew both saw the spirit world as generally prison-like–even the virtuous dead yearn for the final resurrection.

    For the earliest Saints, this was all extremely personal, but there are roots of Ronan’s “rush-rush” approach in early Mormonism as well. Just as JSJ was inviting kings and queens to visit Nauvoo and its temple, to stay the night in the Nauvoo House, so Woodruff was inviting George Washington to come unto Mormonism. They both provided a vision of universal domination by the church and its eternal family.

    I think Ronan’s concerns about inequity are somewhat trumped up, ultimately. Regardless of what you think about JSJ’s cosmology as a physical construct, these dead exist largely outside time, and while the dead would treasure contact with the living, I do not think that a delay of a thousand years makes much difference at all to Ronan’s Babylonian slaves. According to JSJ/JFS, they’re to busy waiting to be resurrected to note other events on the cosmic scale.

    I think it’s a motivational question: how do you keep people interested in the dead, in the spread of the gospel, in universal genealogy, if you don’t have some kind of a stopwatch going?

  57. Ug the Caveman says:

    A voice speaketh from the dust…

    Name: Ug
    Place of Birth: Cave of Stink, post-glacial France
    DOB: Neolithic period
    Married: Big Brow, the Neanderthal
    Children: Dug, Mug, Bug
    Died: Neolithic period

  58. Ronan:

    re: righteous/wicked dichotomy

    Are you saying this based on the belief that there is also a baptised/not baptised dichotomy?

    I am curious.

    I think BRM is actually in bounds here, as he is speaking in context of the Book of Mormon description of Paradise/Prison, but I do agree the terms wicked and righteous are very loose aggregates there.

  59. It is indeed a motivational question, Sam.

  60. Matt,

    Actually righteous/wicked (per 1 Peter and D&C 138) is a fair dichotomy, but they are not, IMO, synonyms for ordinanced/unordinanced (per modern Mormon conceptions of the afterlife).

  61. Hey Ronan,

    Could you provide the exact reference for your W.W. quote. It’s not in volume 7 of his journal. There’s an entry from August 21, 1877 about being baptized for the signers of the Declaration of Independence (among others) but nothing about the Endowment. The first week of September W.W. was busy with B.Y.’s funeral. He writes that the Twelve met on September 6th and “discussed various questions,” but doesn’t elaborate.

    Are you getting this quote from The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff (G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946) or elsewhere?

  62. First post here, so bear with me. I’ve lost track of some of the numbers and names of other posts, for which I apologize.

    First, I am a firm believer in the requirement for our families to be bound together, and sealed, in temples. It appears from various statements of general authorities, temple presidents that I have listened to, and others, that there is a power in the sealing ordinance, which is why a divorce does not automatically create a cancellation of sealing. That requires a separate appeal to the First Presidency.

    Second, the current boom in temple building seems, from President Hinckley’s comments, to be aimed at bringing the blessings of the temple to church members world wide, not to create ordinance factories. Time to us may seem to be hugely significant, but in the concept of eternity, not so consequential. Waiting in spirit prison is probably not so awful, unless it is one of your ancestors that you could be doing the temple work for. So if we wait to do Jewish names in general, that is probably not an issue, nor the Babylonian slaves previously mentioned. But my wife has felt some urgency over some of here 4th and 5th generation ancestors, some of apparently Jewish descent, that we have been unable to get enough information to do the work.

    Pardon any spelling errors, my work and home are part of the 200,000 still waiting for power in the Northwest/Seattle area, and I am typing in gloves. Waiting for the power crews to clean up the trees down across the power lines at the bottom of my street, now that’s intolerable….in this existence.

  63. Welcome Kevin.


    Journal of Discourses, 19: 229 – 230. Delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, September 16, 1877. (Reported by George F. Gibbs.)

    So I should have said that Gibbs recorded that Woodruff said!

  64. Indeed Kevin, Welcome. If you need some warmth, drop me an email…we got power back on Sunday.

    The best treatment of the Wilford Woodruff experience we are discussing is found in the JMH, by Stuy (pg. 64):

    Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

  65. I just wanted to point out that it’s very easy to find out if work has been done for a specific ancestor. Just register at http://www.familysearch.org. YOu’ll need your confirmation date and membership number. Then you can search the IGI logged in as a member, and the results will display the temple ordinance data. Everyone really should do that before submitting names, so that the work isn’t done over and over. It’s a pretty good bet that any of your old pioneer ancestors have been done multiple times. And yes it is possible for someone’s name to appear without having had temple work done. As someone else said, it will say “cleared” by the name, but you have to be logged in as a member to see that.
    A few years ago, briefly, you could find Diana Spencer sealed to Dodi Fayed there, but that’s been removed.

  66. Thanks Hellmut for your post #40. Well said…
    I was born and raised Jewish and I would like to share my point of view on this subject to those that are struggling with understanding what the hooplah is all about for the Jews.

    Simon Wiesenthal’s name appeared- yet again- on the Mormon Church’s list for proxy baptisms…this after repeated promises from Church authorities that the practice would stop years ago.

    Well, the solution to permanently stop these mistakes is simple; develop a computer program which would not allow certain names to be added…by anyone EVER. Thousands, millions of names to be blocked could be input as quickly as those that are added to baptize. Surely, they have a technician that could do that. One has to wonder why this has never been done.

    Rabbi Hier, Wiesenthal Center founder, said in a post yesterday that he thought “it was sacrilegious for the Mormon faith to be suggesting that Jews on their own are not worthy enough to receive God’s eternal blessing”.

    Key point #1 What you may not understand is that Jews think they are worthy.

    Are the Mormon brethren so appallingly arrogant and presumptuous to believe that Jews, who lived their whole lives as Jews, fought and suffered for their right to practice their faith, and died perhaps because they were Jewish, might want to change their mind about their faith in an after life ceremony? Don’t they think Jews are intelligent enough, while alive, to make the correct decisions about their beliefs? Obviously not, so they’re given another chance to redeem themselves.

    Keypoint#3 The negative implication and offensiveness of this is that there is an assumption that Jews need or want this opportunity in the first place. Jews don’t think they need it. That’s part of their faith, so they’re certainly offended when it is offered and why this proxy practice is also so insulting.

    For this same reason, it is a ridiculous rule for those who have a direct Jewish descendant be allowed to add those family names to the list.

    I see these baptisms as a desecrating practice in the name of altruism. I find it disrespectful and hurtful to those that practice Judaism and to their deceased family members. I think about my mother who just passed away and if she thought someone was doing this for her- how angry she would be. She would want me to stop it for her. I know that.

    This practice does nothing to endear these two religions to each other. I wish it would stop.

    Dr. Keith Norman published an enlightening article in Dialogue called “The Use and Abuse of anti- Semitism in the Scriptures’’. He explains some of the reasons from a more scholarly view why Jews are offended by these proxy baptisms. Read it if you can.

  67. lal, I missed your keypoint #2, I guess, but let me address your “question” (I put it in quotes because I get the feeling you’re not asking, but pontificating):

    Are the Mormon brethren so appallingly arrogant and presumptuous to believe that Jews, who lived their whole lives as Jews, fought and suffered for their right to practice their faith, and died perhaps because they were Jewish, might want to change their mind about their faith in an after life ceremony?

    Your question misses the entire point of temple work, which is to provide those people who have not heard the gospel message during their lives with a chance to accept it if they choose. Temple work doesn’t constitute a second chance.

    With that clarification out of the way, maybe you should also be made aware of the fact that being listed in a genealogical database is quite different from being on a list for proxy baptisms. Simon Wiesenthal’s name was not up for baptism.

    I won’t pretend to parse Rabbi Hier’s comment, except to say that I think he is misusing the word “sacrilegious” and that his misunderstanding of mormonism is no doubt as profound as our misunderstanding of judaism.

  68. Sorryi I’m not good with embedding links apparently…


  69. Steve- I agree that he misused the term sacrilegeous and yes I was pontificating.

    I don’t misunderstand the point of temple work. The ‘second chance’ is to accept Jesus as the Messiah one more time, lest we all be saved…isn’t it? I’m sure that’s a simplification. Hasn’t that gone on for centuries by all Christian faiths?

    I know Weisenthal’s name was taken off the roster but that was not the point. There are thousands of other jews on there that have not been and more will continually be added against an agreement.

  70. Simon Wiesenthal’s name was not up for baptism.

    You only get listed in the IGI in connection with temple ordinances, Steve. If he was not baptized yet then he would have been soon.

  71. I’m afraid that I don’t have the exact details at hand, but it has been explained to me that in Jewish theology there is the belief that the actions of the living do have an effect on those in the after-life — esp. actions that commit a name to paper in a religious context.

    I think this has already been said, but I it’s a bit disingenuous of us to invest time and resources in this project that displays to the world that it for us has (at the very least) great symbolic effect and then to be surprised when others react negatively to those symbolic acts.

  72. Hellmut, you’re not the first to bring this to my attention, but I was under the distinct impression that the IGI is not a strict mainline to temple ordinances. If that is not the case, I’m open to correction.

    Lal, I would think you’d know the answers to your questions already — remember that mormons aren’t just performing ordinances for jews, but (gasp!) for christians too and every person that died without baptism in the LDS church. So no need to feel like this is some odd posthumous pogrom the Mormons are hatching.

    As for the “thousands of other jews on there,” beats me. I would agree that the Church should stick to its agreement not to posthumously baptize Holocaust victims, but I don’t think that means that all jews were covered by such an agreement.

  73. William,

    But we should all remember this: as Kevin Barney noted above, much of this is egged on by muckraking Evangelical anti-Mormons who are being vomitously hypocritical. Evangelicals believe Jews (and Mormons, gays, Muslims, pagans, Catholics, Canadians) will burn in hell forever.

  74. The SL Tribune has a much more detailed article on this story: Wiesenthal’s name appears on site.

    In light of Kevin Barney’s (#41) comments about Helen Radke, part of the story makes more sense. Rather than letting the Church know about it, “she immediately alerted The Simon Wiesenthal Center” when she found his name in the database.

    The article also mentions that “anyone (LDS Church member or not) can access and add to” the database. If that is correct, then someone (like Ms. Radke) could conceivable add holocaust survivors’ names to the database and then cry foul that the names are there.

  75. re – lal post # 66

    Do you imply that part of my ancestors, when driven from Germany to Denmark in the 16th century, disrespected their Jeweish heritage by converting to Lutheranism to escape further persecution(we can only assume)? Perhaps. Fast forward 300 hundred years to when Mormon missionaries converted my ancestors in Bornholm, Denmark. They were then beaten, arrested, chased, their shops and livelihood boycotted, and threatened on almost a daily basis until they finally either emigrated to Utah, or were expelled from Denmark by the government. Did their conversion dishonor thier Jewish heritage? Perhaps their commitment and courage honored that ancestry by holding to what they perceived as a new truth.

    We have that Jewish heritage on both my side and my wife’s side of the family. In her case, a funeral was held for her great grandfather when he converted to the LDS Church in the 19th Century, and his ancestral records later destroyed when a fire burned the synagogue where he grew up in Philadelphia. With our shared heritage of faith and persecution, one would hope that we could work out these issues without rancor.

    I respect your claim of correctness and exclusivity, just as I hope you would respect ours. Our eternal perspective helps me to understand that we should respect the ban on extraction work on Jewish records without permission. However, I have issues with the your claim that as a direct descendent, I have no right to try to try and pursue those ordinances for those ancestors that I consider part of my family. If the LDS viewpoint is correct, then these people will have a choice to accept or reject the work, and their agency is protected. Our actions certainly do not bind them. If the LDS viewpoint is wrong, then we are merely exercising our religious freedom in vain, and nothing comes of it. If we are both wrong, well, that’s another perspective that has not been considered here, and it won’t matter much either way.

    I can agree with not doing the work wholesale on lists of Jewish names, but I do feel a need to find the rest of my family, and learn of them. Learning about them, as Molly B stated, is also a worthy cause. Knowledge only leads to greater understanding.

  76. Lal (#60)

    Well, the solution to permanently stop these mistakes is simple; develop a computer program which would not allow certain names to be added…by anyone EVER. Thousands, millions of names to be blocked could be input as quickly as those that are added to baptize. Surely, they have a technician that could do that. One has to wonder why this has never been done.

    Blocking the names permanently would prevent lineal descendants of those people from having temple work done for them, which is something explicitly allowed by the agreement. That is why it has never been done.

  77. Sorry, that should have been addressed to #66, not #60.

  78. Ronan:

    Yeah, but who cares about that? I don’t even care if some of the more vociferously conservative pro-Israel Jewish groups continue to hassle us about every single little thing.

    But this incident and the way it makes it look like the Church hasn’t done much to improve things since the agreement was signed hurts us with a whole spectrum of Jewish people — people whom needn’t have ill feelings towards the Church and who could be our friends (in many cases).

    The solution I’ve seen raised in other forums is to have some sort of filter set up so that if certain attributes match names either already in the IGI or on the lists the entry is flagged and reviewed (and the person doing the entry is notified). I realize that this would most likely create a huge workload for the Family History Dept., but I think the benefits would outweigh the costs. That way names aren’t blocked permanently, but it forces the members who are inputting names to double-check their info and provides a mechanism to clean up the data before it gets into IGI.

    It could be a two-step filter. First on the user end: are you sure you want to do this — it matches this record or a name on this list? Second on the database management end: If somebody gets the first one but goes ahead and submits it, a family history specialist troubleshoots it.

    This will slow down the work, for sure, but as has already been expressed all things considered, I think we’re at the point where accuracy should come at the cost of speed.

  79. http://familyhistory.byu.edu/labs/handouts/h-igi.htm

    Submissions in the IGI/OI come from vital records extraction, family file submissions to the temple, or LDS membership records. These files contain the names of approximately 320 million deceased people who have had their temple ordinance work done.

    So IGI=temple work…

    …but is there any way in the world we have done 320 million temple ordinances? Something doesn’t square here.

  80. In San Antonio alone, we’ve done 300,000 in the past year, and that’s a small temple.

  81. I should add allegedly…

  82. Steve- I wish all Jews were covered by the agreement but I don’t take it personally. I understand the belief and calling for proselytizing to everyone not LDS.

    I believe proxy baptism is divisive and harmful to relationships with other religions. I have read about it and know that even many authorities of the Church from the beginning have been equally hesitant about the practice for that very reason.

    Capt- all the more reason to have better control over those lists.

    Kevin F- I don’t believe I am implying what you are implying from my post. All Jews could be seen as direct ancestors of Mormons to some history scholars. So where would the line be drawn? We could all from the same place if you want to get scientifically technical about it or even Adam and Eve… but that’s another topic.

    I understand that the baptism is an offering and doesn’t need to be accepted. The point of my explanation is why many Jews don’t want it offered and are offended in the first place. It may be considered by some as a breach of free agency.

    Learning about your heritage and finding your ancestors is much different than putting their names up for a baptism.

  83. Considering that you can register with FamilySearch.org without having to link yourself to an LDS Church membership record, I don’t think that’s the case anymore that IGI=temple work.

    I would also assume that there’s a lag between when something is entered into the IGI and when the ordinance work is completed.

  84. That’s well over 800 endowments a day. Pretty good going.

  85. William,
    The BYU flier is from 2002. Maybe it’s changed. Any old geezer can register with familysearch, but if you upload your family history does it automatically get listed on IGI? That’s the three dollar and 55 cents question.

  86. MikeInWeHo says:

    Whence commeth this Mormon need to exagerate the numbers in so many areas??

  87. Ronan,
    I’ll confirm with my wife, but I think IGI=temple card, which does not necessarily mean that any ordinance work has been done. My wife has stacks of pink and blue cards with names of people who are in the IGI, but for whom no work has yet been done (and which provides good guilt trip fodder).

    Anyways, the wording of that flier doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that all names in the IGI have had temple work done.

  88. RE # 82

    lal, you said: “All Jews could be wseen as direct ancestors of Mormons to some history scholars”. Well, that’s not what I am concerned about. I am concerned about Jakob Folkmann’s father, and why his son left Germany for Denmark in the late 1590’s. My wife is concerned about her late great-grandfather Levi Garrett, and his family, that we know nothing about. Our children have direct lineal descendancy from these people, and I want them to know about them, just like I want them to know about my Grandfather, Clifford Hunter, who remembered hiding from the federal marshalls in Idaho who were hunting his polygamous father, or my Grandfather Heber Nephi Folkman, who as a missionary, survived the great hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900. These are real people, and my direct family, not a semantic abstraction.

    Again, I support the concept of not doing the lists of Jewish holocaust victims and their ancestors, as you and others have asked us not to, unless someone who is a direct descendent requests it. I find things like the Princess Di/Dodi Fayed thing silly and embarassing. And I appreciate the sensitivity over the extraction programs. You have every right to say that you don’t want your mother’s work done, but what if your sister wanted to do that work? How do we work out the respective rights of both parties. Actually, with all due respect, we all think we know our parents, and what they might or might not have wanted, but in reality, none of us can say for sure what they might do, given the choice in an eternal perspective, in the afterlife. I would have no right to try and do that for your mother and other ancestors, but your sister might. You have no right to make that decision for Jakob Folkmann’s father, but I do have the right to offer it as a gift to him, to his wife, and any other children he might have had. It is up to them to reject or accept the gift, or laugh at us for our silliness, but still love us as a part of their family.

    I fear that sometimes we in the church get caught up in the numbers game, and lose sight of what we are really about. Our goal should not be about how many ordinances we can do in all of the temples we now have throughout the world, but can we make those blessings available to every member of the church that desires it.

  89. lal #60,
    The key point which no one seems to mention is that we absolutely are not arrogant enough to assume that Jews who died rather than convert to Christianity will change their minds suddenly in the afterlife. If they are assured that they are okay with God, and do not wish in any way to recognize the baptism, it will be of absolutely no effect.

  90. There is IGI on the site and Ancestral File. Both are DB’s maintained by the Church. IGI is for Temple Stuff and AF is for everything in General I believe.

    Ronan, I think the 300k was all ordinances, not just endowments…

    That actually sounds about right though.

  91. Bottom line for me is that it is divisive and arrogant practice, causes religious tensions, and this is what causes wars. We will not agree on how it should be done and you should not do the work at all for anyone else, even your relatives, because there is no way of knowing what a dead person wants or doesn’t want or even if they can want anything at all. Baptisms should be done while people are alive and consenting. Period. There are legal documents and wills to protect people’s rights in death but what is there for this? Is this practice worth the tumult it creates?

  92. Each time I see my posts up on the blog, I find the typing errors imposed by having to work in gloves in the dark and cold. You could ask why I am still at work. I’m even asking that.

    That gives me some perspective on why Simon Wiesenthal’s name may have appeared on the IGI. Someone may have, with the best of intentions, done something that has turned wrong, in spite of every good effort. While I understand that some fear the evangelical sabotage conspiracy theory, raising six kids (two still at home) has helped me to understand that mistakes happen, sometimes very embarrassing and stupid mistakes. I don’t know, maybe it could be my fault (credit Jimmy Buffett).

    Perhaps I am too optimistic, but more often than not,in my experience, good people with good intentions often make mistakes. I even give President Bush credit for good motives, just extremely poor execution.

    Perhaps that why all of us strive so hard for perfection, knowing all along we are so unable to achieve it. It’s getting later, and darker, so I probably won’t be here at work much longer, and I still don’t have `internet access at home until my power comes back on. I’m sure that the power crews that work non-stop for 40 hours out here are making a few mistakes as well. lal, give us some credit, and we promise we’ll try to do better.

  93. lal: Is this practice worth the tumult it creates?

  94. and so it will be…

  95. Ronan: Any old geezer can register with familysearch, but if you upload your family history does it automatically get listed on IGI?

    No. In order for your names to get listed on IGI you have to put them through Temple Ready, which is one of the steps on the way to getting the cards for temple ordinances.

  96. lal,
    Religious tension and war seem much more likely when you believe the infidels will burn in hell. This makes them not only “other” and less than “us”, but wicked and worthy of God’s wrath. It makes them subhuman. If we were the ones operating the gas chambers I would absolutely understand the Jews fury.

    However, the only way to de-escalate religious tension in light of the fact most religions carry some kind of ultimate truth claim, is to take these ordinances as well meaning, (if arrogant and assumptive) gestures of goodwill and a recognition that we recognize their humanity. Religious tensions will only cease when we are comfortable in our own beliefs to stop feeling threatened by those that feel differently and allow them to go their way. This is true of Mormons and Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. How else are we ever going to live together, short of mandating a secular, atheistic world.

  97. Well said, Doc.

  98. Doc,
    “Religious tensions will only cease when we are comfortable in our own beliefs to stop feeling threatened by those that feel differently and allow them to go their way.”

    That was well said but I’m not sure we are ever going to peacefully live together. It is human nature to fight.

    I had a funny thought about this whole issue a minute ago when talking to a friend. I liken this argument to forcing the telephone solicitors to stop calling us by being on the national do not call registry..only in this case the dead can not speak for themselves to say please do not call…

  99. lal, that argument isn’t remotely cogent. Doc’s comment is impervious to your whining.

  100. Just leaving work, but can’t let lal’s last post stand unchallenged. Isn’t the reason any religion exists is to try and help us to be better than our “human nature”? Sorry, I hope to do better. Good night.

  101. It is too cogent… you are being difficult J. I see you have power now. I’m glad.

  102. Steve Evans says:

    “I’m not sure we are ever going to peacefully live together.”

    This thread is living proof.

  103. lal: you are being difficult J. I see you have power now. I’m glad.

    I’m glad too! And thank you. I guess I was being a bit difficult. However, I don’t find the telephone analogy applicable. Dead people don’t have phone numbers to dial. And the living aren’t interrupted by calls to the dead’s non-existent numbers.

    I am much more troubled by someone saying that I am doomed to hell than by those who believe that when I die I will see the error of my way (a bonus if they believe that I will have a chance at reformation).

    That was well said but I’m not sure we are ever going to peacefully live together. It is human nature to fight.

    I’m simply not willing to give up and send the troops off to war. This relegates us to genocide in the end. Humanity demonstrably has the capacity for that, but it isn’t an absolute end.

  104. lal, speak for yourself: some of us think J. already has too much power.

  105. I am much more troubled by someone saying that I am doomed to hell than by those who believe that when I die I will see the error of my way (a bonus if they believe that I will have a chance at reformation).

    How do you know that expectations of assimilation are not just as aggressive as phantasies of damnation? The worst crimes in human history were committed by people with the best intentions. Good intentions do not blunt aggression.

    Redefining someone’s ancestors interferes with their identity. In the eyes of some, the stakes are high.

    Religious tensions will only cease when we are comfortable in our own beliefs to stop feeling threatened by those that feel differently and allow them to go their way.

    How would you feel if some Muslim told you to veil your daughter to spare him temptation? That’s how other people may feel about baptizing their relatives without permission. It’s their family, their heritage, and their identity. When outsiders mess with that then some folks will get angry.

    Tolerance is a two way street. Your argument is self-serving because it empowers us at the expense of others. Why should any self-respecting Jew put up with that? Instead of telling other people to chill, the obligation of tolerance is to consider ourselves how we pay respect.

    The problem with proxy ordinances is that it infringes on the identity of others. May be, that is not as bad as the inquisition but some people still experience it as aggression.

    How else are we ever going to live together, short of mandating a secular, atheistic world.

    By mandating a secular state. Drop atheism. That’s just a straw man that serves no function.

    Secularism and liberal democracy work pretty well. There is no problem with private religious behavior. When we subject families other than our own to gospel ordinances then we are intruding into the private realm of others. That’s an intolerant act.

    We of all people should understand that people value their heritage. Redefining that is much more consequential than displaying sacred clothing or drawing cartoons of the prophet.

  106. “The problem with proxy ordinances is that it infringes on the identity of others”

    Hellmut, prove this one. It just doesn’t.

  107. Steve-I think you and J together already have too much power.

    J-The living are interrupted by calls to the dead’s numbers all the time! Just because their body is gone doesn’t mean the living have stopped taking calls of responsibility for them… debt collectors, caring for their estates, caring for their interests, concerns, etc. And, by proxy baptism -one is hoping they will be reached by some esoteric number.

    It is not an either or for me. I am troubled by those that presume I need reformation (based on their religious beliefs) and won’t let me ”go my way” as Doc said, without annoying me first by stepping in my way, or in this case, our ancestors way.

    I am equally troubled by those that think everyone is going to hell if they don’t believe the same as they do(if it is based on their religious beliefs).

    I am also troubled by telephone solicitors (or Mormon proxys) presuming and hoping we would not be bothered by a call (or baptism opportunity) from them based on what their boss (or religious ideology)says.

    Jonathan, I don’t want to send anyone off to war for ideas. It’s almost 2007 and humanity is still fighting and killing each other over the same things they have been fighting over for thousands of years. It’s so archaic. I can’t believe we haven’t advanced as a human race beyond this. Acceptance, understanding, and respect are active words to implement in all areas of our lives.

    Hellmut you are a God-like creature, you are so wise. I love you. Bless you for preaching tolerance. I wish you were the President. I think we could have peace in the world. I would vote for you.

  108. Redefining who one’s parents and grandparents are, rewrites a person’s identity, Steve. Insofar as that happens without consent, that’s an infringement.

  109. UnicornMom says:

    I don’t understand how baptism for the dead redefines who they are. I’m not being sarcastic – I really don’t.

  110. Hellmut, I really think you’ve got it wrong. We are not changing their identity in the least, nor are we doing anything without their consent. I suppose you would have similar identity problems if I gave your grandfather a gift certificate without your permission? That’s about the closest analogy I can think of.

    Above all else, don’t drop in the word infringement with lawyers present unless you feel really confident in using that word.

  111. Is it tolerance that he is preaching? Where is the tolerance for those that simply wish to do proxy work for their dead (and I know not a few Mormons of Jewish decent). Perhaps, it would be best to keep the IGI private…

  112. p.s. “How would you feel if some Muslim told you to veil your daughter to spare him temptation? That’s how other people may feel about baptizing their relatives without permission.”

    worst. analogy. ever. I mean, in both cases people might feel upset, but that’s about it.

  113. Unicorn Mom

    I don’t understand how baptism for the dead redefines who they are. I’m not being sarcastic – I really don’t.

    It’s actually pretty simple. A person that used to be Jewish and was remembered by their family members as a Jew becomes a Mormon. That’s a change of identity.

    And that is not simply a private matter among Mormons. Rather we are extending our religious views into families other than our own.

    Wilford Woodruff’s dream about the founding fathers’ wish to become Mormons illustrates perfectly the imposition that proxy baptism entails.

    Woodruff rewrites the American origin myth on Mormon terms subordinating the Constitution to his needs and to the detriment of the Episcopalians, deists, Presbyterians, and Catholics who the Founding Fathers actually were. On Woodruffs terms adherents to those faiths are now lesser Americans until they become Mormons.

    I wonder how anyone can dare to be upset about that.

  114. I suppose you would have similar identity problems if I gave your grandfather a gift certificate without your permission?

    Thats. the. worst. analogy. ever. Property does not define who we are, Steve. Religious membership does.

    Moreover, a gift certificate does not entail the statement that a person is incomplete without it.

    You are trivializing the damage of our actions, Steve. Look at the problem from the perspective of the people that are acted upon.

    Some of them feel disrespected. Of course, we can always dismiss them as irrational and unreasonable. I don’t think that’s a christlike approach.

  115. #85, Ronan– Anyone can register at http://www.familysearch.org, but you cannot submit names for temple ordinances there. If a non-member geezer submits a file online it goes into Pedigree Resource File, which is just a database at the site, basically for people to share family history information. To see the full material about the individuals listed there, you have to buy the correct CD or go into a FHC. The IGI contains names of people who have had their templework done, or at least their names submitted for work. These names come from several sources. Old LDS temple records have been extracted and put in the database as well as all records of deceased members. Then there are names there from the extraction program where they take the records from various church and state birth and marriage records. (No death records are extracted.) Then the rest of the entries there are the “Patron submissions” which have earned the disdain of the genealogical community. These are the ones that members submit for temple work. Far too many of them are terribly inaccurate, based on guesses by family members. The IGI is the only place that contains temple records. When you register at the site, you can register as an LDS member, and that’s how you get to see those records. Ancestral File is an older database, not updated since about 1995, I think, but could be wrong. This was an attempt to take all the records submitted by members and match and merge them together into one big tree– match and merge created a lot of mistakes, and since the whole system was based on patron submissions, Ancestral File is only a guide, not a source of information. By the way, you can’t submit your Babylonian slaves without special permission. All submissions from before 1500 (Or maybe 1600) are supposed to be prescreened, since the information is so hard to obtain. They want to make sure that people aren’t just resubmitting old junk like those family trees that go back to Adam through Thor and Gilgamesh. (I’m a certified genealogy geek, and ward family history consultant.)

  116. UnicornMom says:

    How does baptism for the dead make them Mormon? It’s not like they’re on our church roster and getting hounded by a couple of strange men once per month. Is the purpose of baptism for the dead to make them Mormon?

    I always thought it was an ordinance of purification, not a rite of induction.

    Again – I’m not trying to be sarcastic or argumentative. I’d really like to understand this, as a friend of mine has a very passionate problem with this exact concept. (Unfortunately, she’s too passionate to explain it to me.)

  117. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut, I am really wondering whether (despite you having been Mormon) you understand how baptism by proxy works. The choice of the deceased is fundamental. We cannot change their identity. Only they can do this. You keep using phrases like “acted upon,” which in my mind displays that you think we are changing people without their permission. We’re not. If the deceased person rejects the baptism, it is as if it never occurred. And if they accept it, then they’ve done so of their own free will, so who are you to complain?

    Now, if you are saying that currently living people should be upset that we’ve baptized their ancestors, I would reply that they have nothing to be upset about, because it’s as if nothing has happened unless their ancestor decides from beyond the grave to become a mormon.

    I ought to be more Christlike with you, Hellmut, but Christ didn’t put up with people misstating His gospel, and did indeed dismiss people as irrational and unreasonable when they acted as such.

    And did you just try to do the old “no, YOUR analogy was the worst ever!” That’s like sooooooo jr. high.

  118. UnicornMom, I realize that you’re not asking the question of me, but maybe I can explain a bit. This question comes up somewhat frequently on genealogy discussion lists. Some people aren’t bothered at all by us doing the temple work, and are just glad that we do it because it’s led to the church preserving and making available such a vast amount of genealogical records. Others are very bothered by it. They think that someone has “made my granny a mormon”. If someone were sticking a pin into a voodoo doll of me, I don’t think I’d be bothered by it at all. After all I don’t believe it works, so let them poke away. But other people who don’t believe in voodoo either might be bothered by it. They might find it a bit creepy, or they might not like the intent behind the action. So some people are offended because they feel our intent is to take away the deceased’s old identity. They also might be offended because they feel that our baptisms are a way of saying that their own religion wasn’t good enough. I’ve come to think that both sides are a bit too fanatical. It’s mostly baptisms that seem to get people riled up. Maybe the rest is too incomprehensible, or maybe it’s just the change in religion that bothers them.

  119. Thanks for asking, Unicorn Mom. The short answer is baptism is about purification and membership.

    While Nicaean Christians accept each other’s baptism, we require baptism to join the LDS Church. Nicaean Christians will also require Mormons and Jews to be baptized to join their organizations.

    Though Joseph Smith Jr. and Oliver Cowdery have reported that they baptized each other immediately upon receipt of the Aaronis priesthood, they baptized each other again on the occassion of the Church’s restoration, presumably to join the Church (at least that’s what I was taught in seminary).

    Therefore Mormons and many gentiles share the notion that baptism is partially about induction. As such baptism symbolizes a changing identity.

  120. Ronan–you have a flood of comments now, so I doubt you’ll get back to me. . . but, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I wasn’t talking about Jewish slaves and Jewish temples. The Jewish thing was separate . . . I was talking about ancient temples from the Bible that, as far as I understand, definitely have correlation to our work today. So my point was. . . I don’t think we (meaning members of the restored gospel) are the only ones who have ever been charged with the duty of temple work. If ancient, Christian, biblical temples were doing the same thing that we are today (and I would think they were–but this is where I could be wrong) then a lot of temple work has already been done for those that may seem impossible for us to trace at this time–like the unknown Babylonian slave you mentioned. Therefore, there could very likely be a legitimate urgency for temple work since we may not have to trace back as far as you’re saying because, couldn’t much of the work already be done from an earlier time? Perhaps there was an urgency then as well.

    Besides–to answer your ‘Why George W. over all the unknowns’ question, I mean we’ve got to get who we can get when we can get them. . . OK, so we know who the famous people are–I don’t think it has anything to do with favoritism, it’s just a fact . . . we KNOW who they are. So let’s get their work done and move on. I think the idea is consistent with the ‘urgency’ message.

  121. Steve #117,

    There is an empirical problem. Even though we are saying that there is no reasonable cause for offense, there are a substantial number of people who are upset.

    The media has been covering these stories for a decade. If there were not an audience that could relate to the anger then neither the media would cover proxy baptisms nor would evangelical agitators attempt to embarrass Mormonism over this issue.

    Your explanation for the gap between Mormon views and people’s behavior is that those who disagree with us are ignorant. I am assuming that those people are rational and that there are reasons for their emotions.

    Notice, the Brethren may well get it. Hence the purge of information about Holocaust victims from the IGI and the promise to discontinue their proxy baptism.

    Assuming that people have reasons for their feelings even if they may not be entirely aware of them, I am trying to weave an interpretative narrative that accounts for the ill feelings about proxy baptisms.

    However clumsy my explanation about identity, it can accommodate protest against proxy baptisms in rational terms. I will be happy to entertain attempts of better explanations.

    The claim that everyone else is ignorant, however, is implausible. It only fosters a provincial mindset. It is not an explanation.

    When we feel tempted to attribute ignorance and stupidity to our fellow human beings, usually that’s an indication that we are missing the point.

  122. I’ve never viewed proxy baptism as being about “making people Mormons.” Even if the ordinance is accepted, they don’t “become Mormons.” They simply accept the ordinance of baptism. Jesus, Paul, Alma, Adam, and the Ethiopian Eunuch, to name a few, all accepted baptism. Not one of them became a Mormon when baptized. Not one was baptized by a Mormon. Yet we recognize the ordinance as being fully valid and authorized.

    Acceptance of baptism (whether by proxy or not) is not so parochial an act as to simply pigeonhole a person into a narrow subdivision of 19th-21st century Christianity. It’s not about enrolling ourselves into a particular denomination. Although baptism is a distinctively Christian practice, I don’t even see it as fundamentally about becoming a Christian. I suspect that those baptized by John still thought of themselves as Jews. Baptism symbolizes turning our lives over to G-d. Many people did that before there was Christianity as we now understand it. Many people even now do it without being followers of Christianity.

    Baptism does include partially a concept of induction and changing our lives and identity. However, in many ways, Mormons feel a common identity with the Jewish people, and recognize the validity of Jewish belief and their relationship with G-d. Jan Shipps has discussed the Mormon self-identity with the House of Israel. In many ways, Mormons see themselves and Jews as sharing a common identity.

    It is understandable that Jews do not share that perspective. It is reasonable that Jews will tend to see proxy baptism as a denial of Jewish identity. We should be able to respect that viewpoint. But let us also recognize that from a Mormon perspective, Jewish identity is not affected by a proxy baptism. Nor does the baptism make anyone a Mormon, even if the person chooses to accept the ordinance.

    But regardless of our intent, we need to be responsive to the concerns of others. We need to do far better than we have in upholding our pledge.

  123. Steve Evans says:

    “When we feel tempted to attribute ignorance and stupidity to our fellow human beings, usually that’s an indication that we are missing the point.”

    You must have this big book of interesting sayings, man, because you keep whipping them out! I dub thee Sir Axiom.

    Fundamentally I believe that those who are upset over mormon baptisms of the dead do indeed suffer from ignorance — ignorance of the true nature and purpose of baptism for the dead.

    Now, are mormons ignorant of the feelings of others and the necessity to be sensitive? Sure — we can definitely do better. But the cure isn’t to stop the baptisms, it’s to combat the ignorance and to try to act in a sensible and compassionate way. Lines of thinking about how we force changes in identity on others, etc. is just a thinly veiled effort to speak ill of the church, Sir.

  124. Left Field,

    I tend to agree with you. I tend to think the Celestial Kingdom will be full of Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Secular Humanists, Sunnis, Shiites, Hindus, Community of Christ members, and the like (and even some Mormons). I suspect quite a few will still not like green jello nor do I think white shirts and ties will be required.


    There is a fascinating report in Nu? What’s Nu?, the Jewish genealogy publication, of the most recent meeting with LDS representatives with respect to the challenges and implementation of the 1995 agreement. http://www.avotaynu.com/nu/V07N13.htm

  125. Launa Mower says:

    A few comments:
    1. Names of the deceased are “intellectual property”, and they should not be co-opted from families/groups by the LDS for baptism or by other like minded groups. No statute of limitations or limitations on “patent life” for the deceased.

    2. Think of the probability of name/date/sealed to wrong person type errors. Who will correct these?

    3. Alvin Smith – no work done for him, right? He’s in the CK, no?

    4. Don’t you think God can call worthy deceased Mormon priesthood holders to do Temple Work or similar in Spirit Prison where perfect knowledge likely exists of who’s married to whom, and if they want to be married. Also, think of all the bastard children that can be positively identified – no guess work about Father/Mother. I don’t need any comments back about temple work needing to be done on earth. God is not that incompetent, nor would he impose such nonsense/bottlenecking proceedures.

    5. Compute the cost of ordinances. Make up your own formula. Example: Add up the cost of all the temples, the value of the time spent by name submitters, then divide this by the number endowed deceased. Then minus those who’s sealing/other work is doubtful. Maybe Great grandma didn’t want to be married to that old bastard. Answer: Bankruptcy.

  126. Steve Evans says:

    Launa, fun points!

    1. ownership of the IP in question is not at issue. Baptism doesn’t co-opt their identities or affect ownership of the name.

    2. amen. Mormon temple work is and always has been done on a “best-efforts” basis.

    3. Alvin’s work was never done? You sure about that? The vision of him in the CK was considered remarkable because he had never been baptised during his life.

    4. And yet, God clearly has asked members to perform temple work. huh.

    5. apples divided by oranges minus bananas. Answer: awesomeness.

  127. Steve-o,
    I don’t believe that at the time of Joseph’s vision of Alvin the church was doing proxy baptisms.

    All I want for Christmas is for the lame guilt trips a la #48 to stop. It’s because of these guilt trips that the membership keeps tripping the church up publicly. The policy seems to be shifting to one where we offer the ordinances to our own dead (which is how it began, actually) and not worry (for now) about the rest. This is a sensible move, one that speaks doctrinal volumes, and which I hope the membership takes note of.

    BTW, it’s not just Jews who find our practice offensive. Someone mentioned the Russian Orthodox above; I know in my own family someone became very bitter when they found out their ancestors were “becoming Mormon.” So, it’s an issue beyond Holocaust sensitivity. I guess we could argue all day about who’s right and who’s wrong. Ha! I guess you all just did. As always, I’m right and you’re wrong.

    I really have no idea what temples you are talking about. The only temples I know of — Herod’s, Solomon’s, and the Tabernacle — performed rituals that bear zero resemblance to ours. And early Christians had no temples.

  128. Answer me this. Can I do my father’s work and be sealed to him even though my mother adamantly opposes the idea?

    As it is, I have no eternal family. =( I would love to know exactly what I’m allowed to do in the face of extreme opposition from the rest of my family. Up to now I’ve thought I had to wait, to let others do our work in the far future, when there are no objectors left alive.

  129. UnicornMom says:

    I wonder if some of the issues people have come from a disconnect between the “Mormon” idea of baptism (esp. for the dead) and the rest of religion’s idea of baptism. (By the way, thanks for the answers #118 and #119.) I think I have trouble understanding their point of view on baptisms for the dead because I don’t think of the ordinance in the same way. I can, however, respect their point of view without necessarily understanding it.

    As far as baptism being a rite of induction – I thought people weren’t considered members of the church until they were confirmed. Wouldn’t that make confirmation and not baptism the rite of induction? (But maybe that’s a moot point, since the two happen almost simultaneously in the temple.)

    Furthermore, is there a difference between the ordinance for the dead and that for the living? I’ve never thought of the baptised dead as members of the LDS church.

    Regarding ordinances – to my understanding, the ordinances were different before Christ and before the Church was organized. Is it the ordinance itself that is vital for exaltation, or is it what the ordinance symbolizes that is vital? Perhaps we have the current temple ordinances because they are what symbolizes the “Great Truth” behind them to us.

  130. ed johnson says:

    What about those unfortunate enough to have no living descendents at all? Can they have their work done?

  131. ed johnson says:

    I’m interested in the claim that San Antonio does 300K ordinances per year.

    I’d guess that a fairly small fraction of these are endowments. If we assume that names are not being recycled, then there must be a large backlog of endowments (and sealings).

    I’d also guess that this 300K ordinance represents 75K to 100K unique names. If this temple is fairly typical, then that would make on the order of 7 million new names or more per year for the whole church. I’m suprised (skeptical, actually) that we are able to generate that many new names of ancestors of current members. Does this indicate that we’re recycling, or doing work for non-ancestors?

  132. 110:

    Above all else, don’t drop in the word infringement with lawyers present unless you feel really confident in using that word.

    Above all else? Please. A lawyer’s arrogant claims to “infringement” may include the transitive use of the word on a good day, but the intransitive sense is public domain.

    PS-Hellmut is on solid ground here.


    My apartment overlooks an abandoned Jewish cemetery. The thickets there haven’t been mowed in the last couple of decades. I bet a nickel per crooked headstone the direct descendants of my dead neighbors don’t waste a thought per day determining then defending what their dead ancestors want out of the next life. I reckon the controversy has as much to do with celebrity as anything.

  133. In Joseph Smith’s vision of his brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom of God, their father and mother were also present. Their father died eight years after the vision, and their mother twenty years after.

  134. Well, my father was a US Navy Pilot in WW2. Suppose one of his contemporaries, say a LT Brown, was one of the pilots who delivered cargo to the Pacific Islands, to include military supplies and ALSO food, clothing, medicine, and other supplies to the local natives who’s local economy was disrupted by the war; and after the war LT Brown and his Navy’s cargo planes go away. And the local natives, desiring more free goodies, start up their cargo cults trying to use religious ceremonies to make the cargo planes come back. Is the ex-LT Brown, now working and raising a family back home in Peoria really going to care about the cargo cult? Even if the natives, remembering his name ’cause he gave away candy to their kids, use his name in their ceremonies trying to force him to return with a plane full of goodies? If anything, if the ex-Navy pilot Brown even heard of the cargo cult, he would most likely just have a good laugh!

    Come on lal and Helmut, if the LDS baptism, whether live or by proxy, is not required for salvation, then why would anyone care what we do with dead peoples names in the temple. In that case, getting all worked up about it makes about as much sense as old ex-Lt Brown going off on a rage because some Pacific Islanders performed some made up ceremony to try to force him to fly in another cargo plane of goodies.

  135. MarkinPNW,
    The fact is people do care, and for this reason, the church happily pulls names. Thankfully, its response to the Wiesenthal Center was gracious.

    John M,
    Good point.

  136. But baptism is just the tip of the iceberg. These people will then go on to be sealed to whomever they were married to or had kids with, even if they were unmarried. The expectation is that somehmw God prefers these rituals, no matter how many toes need to be stepped on to get there. Yet how many of these ordinances throughout the ages will even be valid, even if the dead accept baptism? 5 percent? Less? Were Ug and Mug even married? What happens when we find out great aunt Hattie had a lover?

  137. Amy,

    In my mind, it’s like a trillion piece jigsaw puzzle without a picture on the box. There is a great deal of value in trying, but it would be wise to admit that we can never complete the whole thing and should perhaps limit ourselves to making a nice picture out of the few pieces that do seem to come together (our own ancestors).

    And you are right. The difficulties inherent in family history, even in relatively recent time, probably mean that we’re getting a tonne of it wrong anyway (marrying the wrong people, sealing the wrong children, etc. etc.). As a systematic programme for saving the whole family of Adam it’s a recipe for chaos, despite whatever safeguards we try to implement. Which leads me to suspect that the real beneficiaries are the living, although an exact articulation of the whys and wherefores remain a bit of a mystery to me. Which is why I would suggest we don’t worry about it. Go to the temple, search out your own ancestors, do it out of love and a desire for communion and not out of the fear that Ug is going to club you for taking so damn long!

  138. The reason that this debate goes in circles is, as has been pointed out, that Mormons and Jews have different meanings for the word “baptism”. The problem is that the Jews don’t really care what the Mormons mean by “baptism”. For centuries Christians “baptized” Jews at swordpoint, usually killing those who refused. So when the Mormons say “oh no, we don’t mean THAT kind of baptism, it’s just an offer, not a conversion”…well, the Jews (speaking generally here) don’t care. The mere term evokes a thousand years of Christian oppression. So obviously they are going to be angry and offended.
    So, my advice to Mormons–don’t bother trying to justify it to outsiders. Either provide baptism to dead Jews or not, as you choose (as you have the right to do, at least in America), but don’t try to persuade the Jews that they shouldn’t be offended. You won’t have much luck.

  139. Doug,

  140. Let me try to articulate why I think temple work is for the living.

    Mormons believe that temple work offers saving ordinances to the dead. Correct?

    Yes. That’s why we think it’s so important.

    But even if you had perfect genealogical data for your own families (which you don’t) you could still only offer this “salvation” to a minuscule fraction of the world’s dead. Isn’t that unfair to the many billions whom you can never reach?

    We believe that during the Millennium, and using God’s perfect knowledge, this work will be completed.

    So why bother doing it now, especially when you might have to do much of it again in the future anyway?

    I think there are two answers to this question. Actually, maybe three.

    1. God has commanded us. The End.
    2. Why not get a head start and save those we can now?
    3. It’s for the benefit of the living.

    I accept 1. but think it serves 3. not 2. As I have tried to express, 2. seems unjust to me and besides, it is contradicted by the church’s own policy to not “offer salvation” to the dead now if it will cause offense. It is inconceivable to me that this would somehow disadvantage the dead, thus it cannot matter whether we do temple work now or in the Millennium (if that is the preferred solution. I’m not sure, but the “Millennium Option” seems popular. It has always seemed odd to me that God would have an absolute requirement for salvation that he knew 99.99% of people would have no chance of fulfilling and so have to design this complicated back-dating system. But, oh, well. The mysteries of godliness).

    As anthropologists will tell you, ancestor worship is probably the oldest form of religious expression. Honouring the dead is a powerful motivator for the living. Mormons have made family history a sacrament and I think it does those who do it a world of spiritual good.

    And with family history work, we get a double whammy. Temples — and the profound rites of passage they offer — are, paraphrasing Howard W. Hunter, the great centre of Mormonism. Temples make us Mormon. Once you take an ancestor religion into the House of the Lord you have something deeply profound and affecting.

    So, your grandfather can wait. But armed with your dear grandfather’s name in the temple and you have something tremendously numinous, for you.

    But in order for this to work, most people would have to believe 2. There’s the acceptable contradiction.


    P.S. Someone remind me of the history of proxy work. My sense is that it was fairly limited but once people were encouraged to experience the Endowment more than once, you needed names to act as proxy for. Hence the massive name extractions from the mid 20th century on. Can someone confirm?

  141. NoNameNedra says:

    Why not just have one “for and in behalf of” ceremony invoking the entire world–everyone who has ever lived or will live–and call it good?

  142. You must have this big book of interesting sayings, man, because you keep whipping them out! I dub thee Sir Axiom.

    Thanks for the compliment.

    Fundamentally I believe that those who are upset over mormon baptisms of the dead do indeed suffer from ignorance — ignorance of the true nature and purpose of baptism for the dead.

    Surely, LDS leaders understand the nature and purpose of baptism for the dead. Yet they have seen fit to validate the complaints by changing policy.

    Notice that LDS leaders had every opportunity to explain the nature and purpose of proxy baptism when they met repeatedly with Jews who felt offended. Nonetheless, people did not change their minds.

    Therefore, one has to conclude that the ignorance hypothesis does not capture the phenomenon of upset people.

    But the cure isn’t to stop the baptisms, it’s to combat the ignorance and to try to act in a sensible and compassionate way.

    We did stop baptisms for Holocaust victims. LDS leaders expect that stopping baptisms of some people is the solution.

    Lines of thinking about how we force changes in identity on others, etc. is just a thinly veiled effort to speak ill of the church, Sir.

    I can see why you would think that, especially since I am a teinted messenger to a Mormon audience, but I don’t do thinly veiled well. It’s not a repertoire that I master. If there is need to speak ill of the church, veils will probably not adorn my statements.

  143. My only really question is why no one has put a stop to this odious rumor of “power” belonging to J. Stapley and Steve Evans?

  144. Why not just have one “for and in behalf of” ceremony invoking the entire world–everyone who has ever lived or will live–and call it good?

    I have been told that the New Apostolic Church does it that way. Once a year, one of their apostles gets baptized for everyone that died that year.

    However, I am not confident that this information is entirely accurate.

  145. Hellmut,
    There’s a NAK next to the LDS chapel in Wels, Austria. Are they big in Germany? I’ve never seen them in UK/US.

    If only you knew how much…

  146. Ronan,

    I think your correct on Proxy work.

    Regular temple attendance was not the norm for the active LDS until mid century.

    Lots of reasons…..

  147. Paul Mouritsen says:

    Re Kevin Barney’s comments (#41) — I do not think that Helen Radkey is an evangelical. I have always understood that she is a militant atheist. If you google “Helen Radkey atheist” you will find her listed as a speaker at many atheist conventions and gatherings.

    This whole issue may prompt us to rethink our traditional philo-semitism. Mormons are generally enthusiastic supporters of the state of Israel. Church leaders have issued statements supporting the goals of the Anti-Defamation League. If return, we generally get pretty shabby treatment from Jewish leaders.

  148. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut: “Thanks for the compliment.”

    It was indeed a compliment, rest assured. Anyone who handles himself with the aplomb that you master in the face of adversity/being wrong deserves a compliment.

  149. Ronan, NAK has a presence in Germany. Some of our members there that I know personally converted over from them.

  150. Oops. That last comment (#149) was by me, not Jordan. That’s the danger of using someone else’s computer!

  151. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Paul, for the correction. I should have taken the time to look it up. But I was quite certain that Radkey wasn’t Jewish.

  152. The New Apostolic Church seems interesting. Never heard of it before this post. They seem to have experienced some kind of restoration themselves, around the time of the Prophet Joseph. Here is some info:


  153. The length of the temple ceremony suggests that there’s much more to it than the benefit to the deceased–else why more than 60 minutes of teaching every time?

  154. Can those of you who believe that Jews ought to regard your baptism as harmless imagine what it would be like if, say, the Catholic Church started baptising every dead Mormon. So your mother and grandmother and all of your cousins’ names were on some Catholic web site which made a big deal about how your relatives, despite having made the mistake during their lifetimes of being faithful Mormons, can now, thanks to the generosity and wisdom of the Catholic church, be saved for eternity?

    Can you see how that might be a little bit annoying?

  155. circonium, it wouldn’t bother me in the least. I’d go home, turn on Battlestar Galactica and eat cheetos just like every other night.

  156. circ: why would that bother us? Why would we even know about it? Why would we care? Other Churches (Presbyterian) have prayers where members can name names mid-service and ask for the person to be prayed for. My mother, in her presbyterian phase, has put me out there. Didn’t bother me. Why would it bother me that someone else cares about people enough to give them something they belive can make them happier, better, etc. It would be worse if they didn’t give it right?

  157. I’m glad it wouldn’t bother you, Matt and Steve, but it does bother me. In America we have a live-and-let-live attitude, I think: let the religious nuts do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t involve me. It crosses the line and becomes intrusive and annoying when it DOES involve me, i.e., my name, the name of my forebears. Living people’s names belong to them (i.e., there’s such a thing as “identity THEFT”). The identities of dead people are slipperier, of course, but what Mormons do feels like a form of the same thing: it’s stealing.

  158. Steve Evans says:

    Hey man, don’t get mad just because your hypothetical didn’t work.

  159. Sorry — not mad, just trying again. I think objections to Mormon baptism are more of a “gut thing” for most people rather than an articulated argument — except maybe for Jews, whose history of religious oppression gives them a special perspective.

    There’s this feeling of, “well, Aunt Trudy was never interested in Mormonism when she was alive…why should anyone assume she’d want to be baptised now?”

  160. What I meant with my last bit was that I suspect objections to the baptism are wrapped up in the survivors’ grief for Aunt Trudy. They knew her, after all, they knew what she liked/wanted/cared about, and this other-religion stuff is presumptuous. Who are these Mormons who think they know anything about my Aunt Trudy?

  161. Steve Evans says:

    Circonium, I think that’s fair. Mormons are definitely not as sensitive to those feelings as they ought to be.

  162. Circ: regarding Identity Theft, Someone just named their kid after my wife and there is nothing I can do about it, so Identity Theft has it’s place, but I think it is misapproriated in this case.

    That said, Mormons are typically encouraged to ask next of kin for permission to use names for baptism. There is no way really to regulate this and it is often ignored as a rule of thumb.

  163. 60 minutes are spent per person? Wow…now I know for sure it’s really a big deal.

    Some of you have tried to make the proxy gig sound so harmless and trivial. And, criticizing Jews for being so angry or hurt about it. I was thinking- why are many of you so pationately defending the practice if it’s no big deal? Now I know the truth.

    Jews (and others) don’t know what kind of secret proxy ceremony Mormons are performing on their dead. And even if they did- would they believe you? Isn’t it your duty as Mormons and Christians to say anything, do anything– to save everyone in world? And, that has been tried in every possible way on Jews for centuries? Some successes, many failures, and lots of dead Jews.

    This is not a rational discussion that many of you are trying to make it into. It is an emotional one. Religious beliefs and faith are emotional and irrational. Feelings need to be validated, respected, and honored even if disagreed with, however irrational they are. Just ask any woman!

    Mormons have been told many times by LDS leaders and in scriptures-to let the Jews alone to go their way and to stop conversion tactics.

    Jews believe God speaks to them directly. They don’t need Mormon interference, dead or alive. God will speak to them now and in times to come, just as He has in the past. Surely you can exercise that much faith in His promises. And He has promised them much as you know.

    He who lay claim to greater knowledge should show forth the fruit of the spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, fatihfulness, gentleness, generosity, and self control. As Dr. Keith Norman wrote, ” I think this implies we need to leave our spriritual kin, the Jews, space to nurture and preserve their heritage. Our mission now is to our fellow gentiles, not the Jews”. Why the need to undermine their preservation?

    I am grateful the Church says it is working on efforts to stop proxy baptism for Holocaust victims and for other Jews. It shows compassion and efforts at understanding, tolerance, and compromise. David’s article link about it in #124 is interesting but not all that encouraging. The dialogue on this forum about the topic is not that encouraging either.

  164. Steve Evans says:

    lal, you’re losing me with that last comment. Much of what you say just isn’t correct, regardless of your ardor.

    “And even if they did- would they believe you? Isn’t it your duty as Mormons and Christians to say anything, do anything– to save everyone in world?”

    No, it’s not. And comparing baptisms by proxy to pogroms is an absolute non-starter for any discussion.

    “Feelings need to be validated, respected, and honored even if disagreed with, however irrational they are.”

    Since when?

    “Mormons have been told many times by LDS leaders and in scriptures-to let the Jews alone to go their way and to stop conversion tactics.”

    Not so, actually. While the Church’s policy regarding temple work for deceased Holocaust victims has been made clear, that’s all there is. And there is nothing in the scriptures prohibiting “conversion tactics” towards Jews (if anything, there is the opposite).

    It sounds like you just want to be angry and you want to have everyone else tell you that your anger is justified. To a certain extent it is — there is definitely a lack of sensitivity at work. But flying off the handle in a blog comment is not going to get you the validation to which you feel entitled.

  165. Actually, I’m not angry and I will get you the references in scripture and by elders that you ask for.

  166. Steve Evans says:

    Sounds good!

  167. Steve- If every Jew is baptized Mormon there would be no Jews left, would there? Isn’t that what a pogram accomplishes? I didn’t intend to be comparing proxy baptism to pogroms and I’m not sure why you made the comparison on my behalf but the end result is the same, right?

    I’m sure none of these references below you will interpret the same way I have. You are right, that in looking closer, I can only find references to the call for conversion and I find none so far against it. Very sad. Only times where Mormons have given up for one reason or another. Don’t mean to cop out of the discussion but have to get dinner going here.
    I Nephi 13:23-30; 2 Nephi 29:6.
    2 Nephi 29:4.
    2 Nephi 29:5. Cf. Mormon 5:10:
    2 Nephi 29:4, 6. Cf. 2 Nephi 33:14:
    2 Nephi 29:14.
    Steven Epperson, in Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of
    Israel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992)
    3 Nephi 29:8.
    All Abraham’s Children, Armand Mauss chapter 6

  168. lal, why is it sad that Mormon scripture doesn’t have an exception for a specific group of people? It would be sad if the scriptures did say that the gospel of Jesus was for everyone except so-and-so.

    If every Jew is baptized Mormon there would be no Jews left, would there?

    It would seem that you do not have a good handle of what proxy baptism accomplishes. But, as a corollary, are secular Jews no longer Jewish? This is what you are implying.

    Mormons agreed not to proselyte in Israel when the built the Jerusalem Center. That is it.

  169. Couldn’t a Jewish person join the Church and still consider him/herself Jewish?

  170. Hey Mike,

    Merry Christmas.

    Your Jewish question is to me kind of hard to answer. It really depends on the family/individual. I have known several converts over the years and the family I am closest to consider themselves Mormons of Jewish ancestory. The kids seem furthest from their Jewish roots and simply consider themselves LDS. The parents who converted seem a little bit more nostalgic about their Ashkenazi German ancestory.

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