MormonNews: The End Of Temple Work As We Know It?

John NilssonFLDS, inter-faith, plan of salvation, temple 67 Comments

According to the Utah Catholic bishop, John Wester, the Vatican has issued a directive to not release parish records to LDS researchers (who then use them to perform vicarious ordinances. As I understand it, these records have been a major source of names for LDS temple work.

What impact will this decision have on LDS temple work? Slow it down? Eventually force temple patrons to bring their own names every time they go to the temple (like was standard practice a century ago)? Jewish groups acting on behalf of Holocaust victims were the first group to stir controversy about this, now the Vatican. The issue is not just the revulsion of these entities at LDS proxy work, but also the increased visibility this gives the practice of LDS temple work every time one of these news stories break. How long will it be before other groups follow this trend and shut down access? What kind of a “backlog” of temple-ready names exists to keep temple work going should the world tell us to leave their ancestors alone?

And how would you feel if the FLDS, say, began doing temple work for YOUR grandparents? Speaking of the FLDS, the Texas appeals court has just ruled the state had no right to seize FLDS children…Discuss either topic!

Comments 67

  1. First I am glad to be french because ALL our records (church records included) are own by the govenment in places that are freely open to the people.
    Second. I have read on and on “verbale” exchange between LDS and catholics. The thing that all of the time members forget to say is how much we value free agency. We don’t believe we have “BAPTIZED” our ancestors. We believe that the work has been done here on Earth for them so they can accept it IF THEY WANT. If they don’t then it is their choice just the same way it would have been here. The problem is that we need to stop shortcuts when we speak and always talk about “the work done here” not “baptism of the dead”. It is very important because then we can totally understand why would catholics be offended that we “force” souls into our faith. It would be wrong beyond any limit to do such a thing.
    Third I understand (correct me if I am wrong) that in the catholic faith your soul goes to purgatory when you die. Then after serving your time in this place you can access to Heaven. Yet your loved ones can have mass celebrated so your soul spend less time in purgatory. One other way to turn the heart of the cildren… We need to explain to them how much this work is done in the same spirit. It is not a work of “baptism” it is a work of love. Nothing more.
    I understand some people are trying to make a point out of the fact that OUR records are not made public. I don’t know why tey are not but do we need it? What do we want when we do genealogy? Isn’t it the same thing as the information that the church is already providing when records have been filmed?
    And to end my little speach: FLDS can do whatever they want. They can chant naked around my ancestors name if they think this will bring salavtion to them. I don’t believe in what they have.
    Now if one cousin of mine would have a mass said for one of my strong communist great-great grand pa I would feel happy and I would love to meet such a cousin who has cared enough for someone that he/she has never met to have a mass said for him. No matter how much I don’t believe in it. I would be grateful.

  2. Elder Christofferson’s example of the man who cared enough about the welfare of his soul to talk with him about it comes to mind in this discussion – of temple work. That seems like a wonderful standard to me.

    As to the Texas CPS fiasco, I feel for the citizens of Texas who will have to watch their millions and millions and millions go to the FLDS to settle the lawsuits – unless the FLDS choose mercy over justice and turn the other cheek. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony?

  3. I’m not too concerned about the temple work. We’ll have a whole millennium, a whole 1000 years, to catch up. If we are short on names, however, just what are we going to do about the temple endowment session? Would we change it to be more of a reminder of our covenants, rather than doing proxy work for the dead?

  4. I think that we should start so see things from other people’s point of view. You draw a good point about the FLDS. Imagine your parents died and you discovered that the FLDS vicariously baptized them as a member of the FLDS church. I would find it a bit intrusive, especially if nobody at the FLDS personally knew my parents.

    I am unfamiliar with this, but are the temple records in the LDS church public record? Suppose that the records are not public, would the church simply hand over the temple records to the FLDS if they asked for them?

  5. As to the FLDS, all I will say is that I’m glad I’m over here on the east coast and have nothing at all to do with that whole thing.

  6. I doubt that it will a huge effect. There is already an enormous backlog of names to do that will keep us busy for a long, loooong time. Also, people will still be able to access Catholic records for their own ancestors, which only limits them to doing what the church has already instructed. As long as the Catholic church does a fair job of preserving its own files, and will still allow descendants access to pertinent records, then I think the effect, on the whole, will be positive. At least we won’t be able to do embarrassing things like sealing Pope Pius XII to “Mrs. Pope Pius XII”––which has, incidentally, been done!

  7. I want to opt-in to an international, Church-wide “Do Not Baptise nor Endow” list. I really do see how the LDS church, from its theological perspective, thinks this is an act of love. Even if I now disagree with its salvific efficacy, I think it underuses volunteer human resources for LDS to spend all the time it occupies in doing vicarious work for the dead instead of service for the living. Plus, it sends the message to many, as I see it, of: we devalue and reject your personal commitment, and those of your ancestors, to the faith for which they lived and died.

  8. Just for Quix, it’s not like the LDS Church is not already providing a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid throughout the world. Who are you do dictate what is worth doing and what is not worth doing? Mormons think this is important. I think we should leave them be, especially since many other highly reputable organizations can’t lift a finger to them when it comes to humanitarian aid.

  9. I think the real tragedy is that Catholics themselves and others who do geneology as a hobby are the ones most affected by this display of ridiculous prejudice. As others have pointed out, we have names already extracted to keep us busy for many decades.

    I really, really would not care if the FLDS started baptizing themselves for my ancestors because I know it wouldn’t mean diddly squat especially since the ancestor’s themselves could say yeahmmmmmmmm, NO! thanks.

    I welcome the opportunity to discuss this because the more well known it is the more the creepiness factor goes down. In that spirit, I posted on this very subject at my own blog. Baptism for the dead is one of the glorious parts of the restoration when properly understood. We just need to help others understand the theological underpinnings a little better.

  10. JFQ,
    Television does the same thing, shall we encourage all to get rid of these as well? It feels like you are reaching here. As for devaluing others commitment and faith, it seems that just saying they will all burn in hell ala the rest of Christianity would be much more disrespectful.

  11. Carl — That’s a fair critique. Let me try to be more clear: As a liturgy of human faith expression I have no beef with Temple Mormonism — let others attend and enjoy as often or as little as they wish. As an act of salvific necessity and repetitive service for one’s fellow man, there is a disconnect for me and for many others. It’s like flying over Myanmar and dropping aid in the form of American storybooks. Yes, learning to read could be helpful. Yes, learning to speak English could even be helpful, were there demand and volunteers there to teach it. Yes, books may even have other unforeseen, useful benefits. But there is a mismatch with what is a welcomed by those in need, and what is given. Therefore, because the temple service message often disconnects with those of other faiths, we find outbreaks of negative press at times. What you don’t hear of is the more usual emotional disconnect and distrust this can often create among persons of other faith due to the message they perceive and hear even if it is not the message that is intended.

  12. Two points:

    1.) Don’t we pretty much just keep recycling the same names over and over again anyways?

    2.) Furthermore, we were never going to baptize or do endowment sessions for even one-thousandth of one percent of humans who have lived since Adam, so the Catholics restricting access to their millions of names barely registers as an eyelash on the brow of a pregnant brontasuarus.

  13. I still don’t understand why other churches get upset about this if they believe Mormonism is B.S. than what does it matter if we baptize one of their dead members.

  14. Personally, I just don’t get the vociferous reactions of some toward LDS baptisms for the dead. It certainly doesn’t “make” a deceased Jewish or Catholic person into an LDS member, let alone a Mormon. At worst, the reaction of others should be to find it a quaint and harmless belief, which has no bearing on reality. I think one has to be looking for offense, in order to see any malicious intent on the part of the LDS members involved.

    Heck, I’ve no doubt that one of my children will see to it that LDS ordinances are carried out on my behalf after I die. I have no faith in those ceremonies, particularly since they have been gutted so dramatically since I received them, back in 1985 (not to mention all the changes that came before). Still, I certainly know their efforts would be well-intended.

  15. >>> And how would you feel if the FLDS, say, began doing temple work for YOUR grandparents?

    A fair question. If the FLDS believe it will save my grandparents souls (though I’m fairly certain it won’t) I DEMAND they baptize my grandparents. Since I believe it means nothing, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. And as JFQ points out, if it really means nothing, it will hold up their resources from advancing their goals or causes I might be at odds with.

    On the other hand, if it they are right… well… far be it for me to interfere. In a worse case scenario, they are doing me no harm. Either way, I have no objection.

    By all means, FLDS, please baptize my grandparents. I am not a bigot that will try to tyranically hinder your free exercise of religious practice and belief just because I don’t believe in it.

  16. Actually, I read a story that clarified this and said it was more about protecting privacy as opposed to religious reasons. It’s worth a read at least. From the story:

    “The Vatican, Bishop Wester says, is simply reminding parishes not to take large numbers of records and hand them over to anyone, but he says it should be OK for specific family requests.”

  17. Post


    There is a disconnect between what different Catholic bishops are saying about this. Father Massa said something quite different than the Utah bishop who has to live with his LDS neighbors.

    The Vatican document did call the LDS practice “detrimental”.

    On the FLDS story, will the appeals court ruling be seen as divine providence, strengthening the Jeffs’ clan in the leadership?

  18. Sadly, I agree with Matt on point no. #1. There is a great deal of repetition of temple work. Although with modern computer technology it would be very easy to ensure that it didn’t happen in most cases – a match could be checked against name, parents names, place of birth and birth date. Is this what the Church wants though?

    Without such repetition and name extraction by the Church most of the temples would be empty most of the time. It is not finding our ancestors that creates the majority of temple work – it is extracting names from the state, Catholic and Protestant records of people who may not have any Mormon descendants at all.

    Without the collection of such names – the majority of which I would guess come from Catholic records – the temples may risk a large downturn in available temple work, unless repetition increases to make up the loss, or there is a large reservoir of records not yet gone through.

    Perhaps in highly concentrated Mormon areas they might be able to keep the temples busy with live ordinances, but the other 90% would probably only have enough work to keep open one day a week if that, and the role of temple worker would be severely reduced.

    For all the talk of seeking after our ancestors, many in the midwest had all the work done long ago, and many converts do the majority of work within the first couple of years after joining the Church. Yet many youth (and adults) on temple trips often are given the impression that they are doing work for a fellow member’s ancestor, but in reality it is more likely a name was selected without regard for where it fits in the genealogy of any member, or if the work has ever been done before.

    We are not only baptizing Hitler, Jews, and those with whom we have little family connection, but are rebaptizing them multiple times. That would have done wonders for my numbers on my mission, but I’m not sure it would have counted more much in the eternities.

  19. My favorite part about the Catholic Church’s (and Jewish organization’s) position is this:
    the unspoken assumption that Mormon baptisms have state-altering properties of their deceased’s souls

    In short, if they didn’t believe Mormon baptisms had the power to alter the state of the soul of the deceased, it would seem that they wouldn’t have a problem with the Mormon obsessive compulsive record keeping. It’s no different from me writing down Pope Benedict’s name in my diary as a member of my “really super cool, super-best friend’s club.” It doesn’t make me his best friend (no make him my best friend). His state remains the same (“not my best friend”), so no one objects. Why would anyone care to stop that?

    The only logical explanation I see is that they are admitting to the efficacy of the ordinance. If you don’t believe the ordinance does anything, it amounts to hyper-vigilant name-keeping of the dead, which no rational person seems to have any objection to, judging by the proliferation of Genealogical societies.

    To be fair, I have seen objections like “I don’t want future generations to think my grandfather wasn’t a Jew/Catholic.” I answer this with: they won’t. These are the records of our private club and what we think of these people’s possibility to go to heaven. Because of the nature of the record, historians will know that “those crazy mormons are always writing down people’s names after they’re dead” and not believe the person was ever a member of the CoJCoLDS.

  20. Catching up on the comments, but #8 – You know I love you, man, but you might as well say, “Hey, just change your core doctrine. I’ll be fine with that.”

  21. #13 – I want to say this gently, but if that’s your view of temple work, it certainly is your right to frame it that way.

    #19 – *sigh*

  22. Drop in the ocean, this catholic thing.

    Many nations have public geneology records, as do we, LDS, have public library access with prior appointment.

    Maybe this will stop some of the misguided who add names just for numbers, when it should be only our own 4 generations really.

    And as pointed out before here, its the non-mormons who do it as a hobbie who will be most affected by this decision. There are actually more and more programs on geneology, like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ ( which will eventually force the church into reversing this order.

  23. Now if one cousin of mine would have a mass said for one of my strong communist great-great grand pa I would feel happy and I would love to meet such a cousin who has cared enough for someone that he/she has never met to have a mass said for him. No matter how much I don’t believe in it. I would be grateful.

    I’ve been grateful when others have prayed and done other things for my girls.

  24. About the FLDS thing, for me, it was just a Baptist conspiracy to discredit ‘mormons’ more because Romney is still a possibility for VP!! 🙂

    But as with most things the baptists do, its backfired on them, texas will now pay tonnes in compo -funding the FLDS by the way- and in the world’s media, most actually separated the fundamentalists mormons from the modern ones like Romney, thus helping his cause.

  25. #20 N. wrote:

    “The only logical explanation I see is that they are admitting to the efficacy of the ordinance.”

    It’s true, they are admitting to the efficacy of the ordinance, but not in the way that you mean.

    Whether or not the proxy baptism affects the souls of the dead Jews and Catholics, it does have an effect upon the living person doing the work. It’s a reaffirmation of his membership in (and importance to) the “private club” and it reinforces his beliefs in the power and moral rectitude of what he’s doing. Now, believing in the *power* of what he’s doing is, from an outsider’s perspective, probably harmless, but believing in the *moral rectitude* of what he’s doing is contingent upon his holding another belief–that the church is true, and that all other religious organizations are lesser in comparison–and it’s this underlying view that strikes an outsider as objectionable. When living Jews and Catholics protest the use of their ancestors’ names, they may be saying, “If you’re going to reinforce in your own minds and the minds of your children this belief of yours that I find offensive (and that I fear may lead to your people thinking less of my people and treating us accordingly), I can’t stop you, but at least I can refuse to help.”

    There’s another, simpler way of looking at it, too. There’s something sacred to us all about the lives of our dead relatives. We wouldn’t want strangers saying (whether through words or through actions, and even behind closed doors) that our ancestors devoted their lives to false causes–even if it’s true–because it sullies the dead person’s good name, and that causes pain to their surviving descendants. It’s akin to why we don’t like to speak ill of the dead–not because we believe that as soon as someone dies their lives become retroactively spotless, but rather because they’re gone now, and we want to hold onto our good memories of their lives, now that we can’t generate any new ones. To baptise the dead Jews and Catholics is to fix the [perceived] mistakes they made, which has the unfortunate side-effect of drawing attention to those very mistakes. Whether or not the dead ancestors were mistaken in their religious choices, we can honor them more by learning and passing on what was good about the legacies they left than by focusing on what was wanting.

  26. Miriam in #26. You gave a very thoughtful response. And I think you are correct in your assessment: “If you’re going to reinforce in your own minds and the minds of your children this belief of yours that I find offensive (and that I fear may lead to your people thinking less of my people and treating us accordingly), I can’t stop you, but at least I can refuse to help.”

    I think that *is* the underlying issue people have with Mormons practicing baptisms for the dead.

    However, such a saying could only have teeth in the mouth of someone that didn’t themselves believe their own belief system superior (or more correct) than anyone elses… and I fear such a person doesn’t exist.

  27. Bruce,

    You’re right, a person can’t hold one set of beliefs and simultaneously affirm the equal-or-greater truth value of a set of contradictory beliefs. Yet, that person might recognize, in some contradictory belief, a value not connected to that belief’s correctness.

    For example, let’s say all Aggs believe that being nice to people will lead to more peaceful interactions and all Iggs believe that being nice to people will lead to their not burning in hell for eternity. Suppose the Aggs are right and the Iggs are wrong, but the Iggs are so afraid of an eternity of hellfire that they are more scrupulous than the Aggs about being nice to people. If we grant that truth and efficacy are both important components of a belief system, then even the Aggs might see the two contradictory belief systems as, on balance, equally valuable.

    I know I’m asking you to accept that these Aggs are very broad-minded, but I don’t think such broad-mindedness is unattainable by humans. I secretly suspect that given adequate study of the actual belief systems in question, it’s practically inevitable to come to that exact conclusion. At that point, judging among them would involve less of asking, “Which is the true[st] one?” and more of asking, “Given my strengths and my failings, which one will be most effective in helping me become a better person?”

  28. When I talk to people who are offended by LDS baptism for the dead they fit into one, some or all of the following categories. 1) They don’t know that the dead person has agency and can decide whether or not to accept the ordinances done for him/her. 2) They don’t want their ancestors (or themselves) to be recorded as being LDS. And they fear that future ancestors will assume that person was LDS during their lifetime. 3) They feel like their ancestor’s agency during life is being ignored. They think that LDS people think they are better or know more than their ancestors.

    I think objections 1 and 2 can be overcome by simple education, but objection 3 is a very difficult to counter. I also think that general lack of knowledge about LDS beliefs and prejudice causes some of the concern. As for the FLDS, I don’t believe in their beliefs thus I wouldn’t really care if they baptized my ancestors or myself after death. I don’t think their baptism will make any difference.

  29. Objection to #3 can be countered with education as well. I have been taught that they are taught “on the other side”. You don’t know how much teaching they got in this life about the gospel. #3 could be a problem in the US where the gospel was re-established but what about the rest of the world where tones of people even in our times die without hearing of the church? And even in the US when you explain to people and when the realize that they did not know that much about the subject can they be sure that once educated their ancestors would not accept the ordinaces perfomed for them down here? They could refuse it as well as they could accept it.
    To me #3 is also a matter of education. But I see it from a Eurepean point of view. You can feel things differently.

  30. Miriam,

    I appreciate your respectful tone. And I agree with what you said in post #28.

    However, let’s now apply your example to this situation.

    We now have our Iggs who believe baptizing for the dead is an act of love for all humankind, but also see it as a truth that they have that no one else has. The Iggs dutiful perform their baptisms for the dead out of (as they believe) love. Might we not assume that this misguided act of love just might increase the Iggs love regardless of whether or not it is true? But it also increases the Iggs feelings that they have a truth that the Aggs do not, though they understand the Aggs also believe they have truth that the Iggs do not. The Iggs merely disbelieve the Aggs special truth claims and believe their own instead.

    And we also have our Aggs, who claim that the fact that the Iggs believe that they have a truth that they, the Aggs, do not, is unhealthy and will cause the Iggs to belittle them or think less of them. (i.e. “I fear may lead to your people thinking less of my people and treating us accordingly”)

    But this claim of the Aggs is itself a truth claim. And the Aggs are actually asserting that they have a truth that the Iggs do not. And the Aggs, by publicly attacking the Iggs over it and turning the Iggs beliefs into something offensive are indeed belittling the Iggs… exactly as the Aggs worried the Iggs would do to them.

    So the Aggs find themselves in a logical conundrum. They are simultaneously trying to assert that believing one has a truth others do not is dangerous while themselves asserting that they have a truth that the Iggs do not.

    Furthermore the Aggs are putting public presure on the Iggs to abandon their truth claims by framing the Igg beliefs as offensive.

    The Iggs then are merely acting upon their beliefs and allowing the Aggs to do so as well. The Aggs, if you will, are judging the Iggs by a different standard than they judge themselves and it is leading them to the very behavior they fear in the Iggs.

    Is there a way out of this logical conundrum for the Aggs? There is. They can apply their own beliefs to themselves and stop being offended by the Iggs beliefs and let everyone worship as they may.

  31. Oh, I should probably point out that my post #31 was specifically a response to Miriam’s explanation of why people oppose Mormon baptisms for the dead in post #26.

    I both agree with Miriam’s explanation (at least in some cases, if not this specific case with the Catholic church) and also see it to be logically inconsistent and a double standard.

    I am not necessarily talking about the Catholic Church’s decision to restrict Mormon researchers. As per #17, there is more than one way to interpret the Catholic church’s acts. It can be interpreted as intolerance, but don’t have to be. I prefer to assume the best about them. (Futhermore, I accept their right to do what they want with their property.)

    My point is merely that if Miriam’s explanation is true (and clearly that is the logic being applied in other cases besides the Catholic church’s), it’s logically inconsistent and thus a double standard.

  32. I think being connected with our past is a useful and important undertaking. I think that is the prime reason for temple work.

    I don’t think there is a tremendous back log of names, i know I attended twice a week at one stage and know that on at least one occasion I did the same person.

    I think about an ancestor that sacrificed his life to insure his Catholic flock honoured their faith when it was illegal to do so (in Anglican British North America) and I don’t think that he would appreciate the work however well intentioned.

    Colouring my perspective is the belief that the church is just another church, as flawed and as useful as any other, coupled with the fact that the work is essentially an impossible task given the limits of records. I enjoy reflecting on the honour and integrity of those that had faith and commitment more than any satisfaction from rituals that are really their for the benefit of the living.

  33. It won’t make any difference. They make up the names anyway.

    I personally know a former temple worker in St. George Utah that noticed the same names popping up repeatedly. He researched the situation and found that he was sometimes receiving the same names, in different order over and over.

    He left the church because of this (among other reasons).

  34. Ray #22,

    My two points in #13 are not my “view on templework,” but two obvious and practical considerations in light of the Vatican directive. Mahonri (#19) ably expanded on my first point. The idea that we keep recycling some percentage of the same names over and over again is fairly well-known. I’ve heard temple presidents and other church leaders speak openly about the problem. It’s been discussed on the academic front as well. Though the details are foggy, I remember a good Sunstone symposium session that looked inside the problem, offered some statistics, as well as some practical suggestions. SLC is trying to address the problem. But in the meantime, the recycling of names continues to some degree. This is accepted because, let’s face it, the benefits of performing temple work extend to the living proxy as well as the deceased individual. This isn’t controversial in my opinion, just the inevitable result of human and computer limitations.

  35. #31 Bruce,

    Thanks for your response.

    You said that Aggs should apply to all truth-claims, including their own, the stringency they impose upon those of the Iggs, such that if the Aggs are wary of the Iggian claim to superiority of truth-access, they should be equally wary of their own (Aggian) claim that it’s appropriate to be wary of claims of superior truth-access. I disagree, because in terms of social effects, not all truth-claims are equal.

    For example, suppose Eggism teaches that all Iggs and Aggs are rotten, and it is the will of the Great Egg that they be thrown off a cliff. Both Iggs and Aggs would consider such a belief to be harmful, and rightly so, because in as much as the Eggs believe the teaching and have the means, the Iggs and Aggs are in great danger of being dashed to bits.

    Now suppose Oggism teaches that all Oggs ought to sit under trees on sunny afternoons and listen to music. Iggs and Aggs would not consider this belief to be harmful, because of the limited scope: it makes no judgments about anybody other than the Oggs themselves.

    On the spectrum that runs from Oggian benignity to Eggian malignancy, it seems to me to be more dangerous for Iggs to teach, “Iggs have Superiority of Truth-Access (SoTA)” than it is for Aggs (or anyone else) to teach, “Anyone who claims to have SoTA might end up treating everyone else as less valuable.” The latter claim has been reinforced by the sobering lessons of history, so we know it’s not entirely inappropriate to hold.

    You suggest, though, that in this case the Aggs are overreacting–that when Iggs claim SoTA, its social consequences will be different from when other groups such as the Eggs make the same claim–and the Aggs end up doing more harm with their reaction than the Iggs ever do with their initial claim. As you put it, the Aggs are going around publicly attacking and belittling the Iggs, while the Iggs are only trying to express their love for all humankind in a way that the Aggs choose to find offensive.

    However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the Aggs to be hurt by the love-expression in question, as I touched on in the second half of my first comment (#26). Not all expressions of love are welcome all the time (as any person who’s ever asked someone out on a date and been refused can attest), and an expression of love that is unwelcome* and still given anyway might be considered rude. The Iggs are allowed to offer and the Aggs are allowed to refuse, and to have their refusal honored. And in this case, even though it’s the dead Aggs toward whom the offer would be directed and the living Aggs who are issuing the preemptive refusal, still the refusal of the living Aggs should be honored, because they can be presumed to have a closer connection to the dead Aggs than the living Iggs do. (Now, if the Aggs don’t stop with a simple “no thank you” and they go on to publicly attack and belittle the Iggian beliefs, then the Aggs are, as you suggest, no better than the Iggs and possibly worse, and they should stop. I did not know that the Aggs were going this far.)

    One last thing: we already know that the Iggs have many, many other effective ways of expressing their love for all humankind that don’t involve activities that the Aggs find offensive (quite the contrary!), so we need not worry that the Aggs’ refusal might harm the Iggs as it would if the Iggs had no alternative avenues of love-expression.

    *Just to be clear, in this case I’m saying the Iggian expression of love is unwelcome because it’s predicated on the SoTA claim, which by its nature rejects an aspect of the Agg’s views that the Agg might consider fundamental to himself. For more on the sort of love for humankind you’re talking about, I highly recommend this essay:
    You’ll notice it’s written in the language of Aggism, but I think it translates to Iggism without losing much in the process.

  36. I have enjoyed Miriam’s allegory and the thought behind it. I agree: if the love given isn’t received as love than it can even be seen as hurtful, neglectful and disrespectful.

    If someone created a website, of say, “Heavenly Transgenderism” and because that person believed this is the human condition that Deity most closely favors, and actually desires enlightened people to attain unto this condition in this life or the next, we might merely think that a strange, funny, and possibly even revolting belief. Yet that would be just that, a mismatch of beliefs. But if that person were to start taking actual names and maybe even pictures, culled from public obituary records, and start compiling a list of people who had finally accepted their transvestite nature in the afterlife, some may just think that is extra kooky. Some may even get a laugh, or say “What does it matter? It’s just what he/she believes anyway.” But regardless of how sincerely or not that website creator believed what they said they believed, many people would be very offended if that site used the name and/or picture of someone they loved, and presumed to claim a state about that person’s memory. We could say, “It’s just a joke” or “It’s not real” or “The person is misguided” or “It’s public information anyway” or “Not many people will read or find that website anyway.” But what if all of a sudden someone talked about it on the TV and then people started posting and submitting records, and their hits went thru the roof? The truth is that website creator’s belief or fantasy or creativity has become an act that elevates his/her belief to a level where people can fairly draw offense. The intention and belief really isn’t the point anymore.

    It’s an extreme example, I know. But I do it to make a truthful point: religious beliefs and acts really do tread the lines of human nature in such a visceral way, that on an issue like this, there may be no way to bridge the misunderstanding between Latter-day Saints and those who dislike its vicarious ordinance practices. If the “Iggs” are motivated by love, however, then it beckons them to adapt their practices in order that the act of love and service is received as such. If they need to adapt their beliefs they only need do such if it needs to be done to make the new policy of action align consistently with what adherants belief is behind it. To do less is to refuse to adapt in order to speak the right “love language.”

    (Which is a helpful book, by the way.)

  37. Update: See post #45 below and this post will make more sense.


    Miriam says: “all expressions of love are welcome all the time (as any person who’s ever asked someone out on a date and been refused can attest), and an expression of love that is unwelcome* and still given anyway might be considered rude”

    Certainly this is true. But how does this relate to the discussion? I only said the Iggs themselves did it out of love for humankind. They aren’t doing it to anyone that is themselves protesting. There is nothing rude in simply practicing your religion, behind closed doors, with only believers, using your own personal records.

    Mirmiam says: “still the refusal of the living Aggs should be honored”

    No Ma’am, it should not be honored in this case. The request is synonymous with requiring the Iggs to give up a cherished core belief that is entirely a private practice. Religious freedom should always trump offense over a practice done privately that does not affect the Aggs at all. Surely you must see this is true. Should the Aggs also be able to ask the Iggs to stop believing in the entire doctrine of salvation for the dead? Should the Aggs be able to ask the Iggs to not believe private beliefs if they find them offensive?

    It seems to me that your argument might be summarized: Aggs should be able to tell the Iggs “no I don’t want you to baptize my dead” and the Iggs have a (in your view) a moral duty to stop their practices and give up their freedom of religious practice because it bothers the Aggs — even though it hurts the Aggs in no way except that they choose to be offended by it.

    The key point here is that the Iggs and the Aggs have mutually exclusive beliefs. The solution is not for the Aggs to enforce their views/beliefs through public humiliation. The solution is for the Aggs to let the Iggs continue their harmless (though misguided) beliefs and private practices. Any other solution is a moral travesty, Miriam.

    Let’s leave the Iggs and the Aggs behind now.

    What Mormons do privately, on their time, not in front of you, with their own resources, and their own records because of their *private* beliefs is not sufficient moral grounds to claim that you “fear [it] may lead to your people thinking less of my people and treating us accordingly.” This argument can be made with *any* belief someone disagrees with. So we should limit ourselves to actual problems, not ones we fear may happen but haven’t.

    And it’s certainly not sufficient moral grounds to start a public humiliation campaign to force them to not practice their private beliefs, which would make such a perpetrator guilty of the very thing you accuse the Mormons of.

    But if you claim it were sufficient moral grounds, Miriam, where would you draw the line?

    Should we force orthodox Jews to not claim they are God’s special chosen people on the grounds that it hurts the feelings of Christians and Muslims? (Perhaps we can ask them nicely once to stop such a belief and then if they don’t, we can publicly humiliate them until they repudiate it.)

    Should we ask people that claim there is no God to not speak such things because believers are hurt by the idea that life has no meaning once dead?

    Should we force all “orthodox” Christians to stop trying to obey this command from Jesus: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” just because some people hate to have someone try to convert them?

    Or perhaps we should ask the Christians (nicely, of course) to never preach to anyone that doesn’t invite them to first. (Since for all we know, anyone that they preach too might have said “no” once before and we wouldn’t want to cause such a person offense) and then publicly humiliate them if they continue to do so until we get compliance.

    So I’m asking you nicely, Miriam, please oppose any public humiliation campaigns against the Mormons for their private practice of baptism for the dead. It’s the right thing to do.

    (Update: as per #45… the missing point is that this is a core Mormon belief and they can’t give it up without denying what they believe in. So a public humiliation campaign is really just persecution of a belief that Mormons must then continue to practice anyhow. Truly, I think Mormons should compromise on this as much as is possible without hindering their practice of freedom of religion. But I am not seeing you making a suggestion on how it is possible for you to not be offended *and* for me to be able to practice my religion at the same time. So far what you have suggested merely amounts to me giving up my religion so that you are not offended.)

  38. >>> It’s an extreme example, I know. But I do it to make a truthful point: religious beliefs and acts really do tread the lines of human nature in such a visceral way, that on an issue like this, there may be no way to bridge the misunderstanding between Latter-day Saints and those who dislike its vicarious ordinance practices

    JFQ, your point is valid. If there were such a website, we may indeed find that the offense being taken crosses the line in that people may start to become publically confused. But is that really what is happening with the LDS practice here? Can we site a single example?

    It would be a mistake to say “something bad might happen” so let’s force confirmity of belief.

    >>> the “Iggs” are motivated by love, however, then it beckons them to adapt their practices in order that the act of love and service is received as such.

    We are confusing the issue now. Miriam changed my statement of Mormons practicing baptisms for the dead out of sincere belief and love for humankind into an act to try to love the living Aggs. In fact, it’s a private practice and the living Aggs are, for the most part, unaware of it. This was a shift in the point being made. No one is trying to baptize living people against their will. Mormons are simply trying to practice their beliefs. Nothing more or less.

    Let’s ask this question another way. What is the alternative? Clearly every religion, if given a choice, will say “no, please don’t baptize any one from our religion.” We are simply infriging upon the Mormon practice of religious freedom at that point. We are just saying “Mormons, you are not allowed to practice your religion or we’ll humiliate you for it.” (This if this in context of asking every religion if they will receive Christian missionaries.)

    And I have another concern here, JFQ. I fear that the real issue here is that baptism for the dead is “unique.” It’s not likely that any religion is going to claim offense over missionary work because most religions do in fact practice such a thing in one form or another. And it’s not likely that any religion is going to start insisting that if you think you have truth that other religions don’t have that it’s immoral… because all religions do in fact claim such a thing.

    But only one religion practices baptism for the dead. And that religion is a small — and let me be frank — they are sometimes a hated minority. Thus Mormons become a target for something like this even though all other religions are doing things ‘equally offensive’ with their beliefs and practices.

    So if we are going to draw a line about where to start letting people practice their private beliefs (that affect no one else) without presecuting them, I’d submit this is the pefect place to start. And I think this is a golden opporunity to practice tolerance — the same sort of tolerance we all want for ourselves.

  39. If I might make a suggestion here: My concern with what Miriam and JFQ are saying is really because I understand it to be synonymous with requiring Mormons to give up their practice of salvation for the dead all together. (As per my argument that if Jews can say “no” then all religions can say “no” and thus the practice is ended.)

    It seems to me this is intolerant and frankly not worthy of debate. Of course we should protect the Mormons right to believe as they wish without persecuting them! Who in their right mind would argue that point?

    What I wouldn’t mind discussing is how the Mormons can modify their practice, or limit it, in ways that reduce offense to outsiders without infringing upon their own personal beliefs.

    Now it seems to me that the LDS Church’s decision to not baptize holocaust victims that aren’t ancestors of a member is a perfect example of this. The LDS Church obviously has a legal right to do what they wish as per freedom of religion. But they wanted to be as sensitive as was possible without giving up their beliefs and practices. It just makes sense to not baptize holocaust victims and to agree to remove any that get added by rogue members that don’t know the rules.

    I see this as a very good modification of the practice for the sake of both parties. And it in no way affects the Mormons ability to continue their private practices, so it’s non-offensive to Mormons too.

    On the other hand, if there is a Mormon that is a descendant of a holocaust victim then I do believe they have every right to perform this act of love for their own ancestor and thus it makes sense to not hold to the LDS Church’s self imposed ban in that case. (As I understand it, this is what the LDS Church does in fact currently do.)

  40. Again, it is possible for there not to be a harmonious resolution to this issue, for those who care about it, without change happening. As I see it, the truth is that the church has already accommodated an acceptable change. They have said, if Jews are to have vicarious ordinances performed for them, then it will only be able to be done by their immediate family members. This does not require the LDS church to change its theology, only its practice about how it goes about accomplishing its work. As others have said, there is no possible way the LDS church will ever make a practical dent in the numbers for whom they believe these acts must be performed. LDS already acknowledge they believe the work will continue in the Millenium, which, by then, if they are right, the necessity of the work will be vindicated. Otherwise, if they are wrong, there really is a fair reason for members of other faiths to feel this way on behalf of the memory of their dead. Sure, opponents choose to feel this way, but don’t we all choose to feel however we do? That misses the point that this is not a matter of belief, it is an act, informed by contrary belief, that members of other faiths are right to feel alienated by or opposed to.

    If an LDS person does temple work for their own ancestors, which may have to be limited to a certain number of generations (which is one of the holes in the appeal of this policy to non-believers) then it is an act where, were other family members to object on behalf of the memory of those who lived, they’d need to take it up with their fellow LDS kinsmen. But the culling of public records to generate the data required to keep temples busy is not a fair reason to keep up the practice, where we now have another large religious organization who has taking a fair exception with the actions, and obliquely the doctrine, of vicarious ordinances. In my opinion, it is the only sensitive policy that allows LDS people to act on their beliefs on behalf of their dead ancestors, while still accommodating the fair perspective of those who disagree with data being used this way. Because, in the end, these data aren’t just data; they are real people who lived, loved and believed.

    As God, presumably, is all powerful to accomplish His work and salvation, believers who believe otherwise see no imposition, I would presume, on LDS persons to ask them to wait for their vindication and free-for-all during the Millenial Reign. Until then, more polite solutions appear at hand.

  41. >>> Until then, more polite solutions appear at hand.

    I’m very interested in your suggestions here, JFQ, that don’t end up boiling down to the LDS Church abandoning a cherished or core belief. Requiring Mormons to only do temple work for a few generations of ancestors would end the practice of temple work very promptly.

    And isn’t this the equivalent to requiring Christian missionaries to only be allowed to convert family members so that we avoid any “public nuisance” that might come out of such a practice as missionary work? Let’s be fair here, JFQ.

    >>> Otherwise, if they are wrong, there really is a fair reason for members of other faiths to feel this way on behalf of the memory of their dead

    But isn’t this even less of a fair reason then converting someone to Christianity (as per the Christian missionary example) and then finding out the Muslism we’re actually right? We need to apply the same standards across the board to religious practice.

    >>> Again, it is possible for there not to be a harmonious resolution to this issue, for those who care about it, without change happening.

    This seems like the crux of the problem to me, JFQ. We all live our lives where harmonious resolution often requires someone to give something up that they’d prefer not to. Typically the way we determine this is by whose rights are more basic and who has to change the least.

    If I walk into a bar (or let’s say a skin-head meeting) and hear offensive racist language, it is I that should leave, not everyone else. But if I’m at work and hear the same it is the other person that should change because changing jobs is a huge burden compared to changing language. (Plus livelihood deserves stronger legal protections than “right” to say offensive language.)

    You have been framing this question in terms of how the Mormons might change. But if offense is taken over a private practice like this — and one so key to Mormon beliefs — I think we are on morally thin ice to ask the Mormons to abandon their temple worship over that offense. We need to start asking how the non-Mormons that are offended might change — perhaps by ignoring the practice in this case. Is this really too much to ask?

    >>> As God, presumably, is all powerful to accomplish His work and salvation, believers who believe otherwise see no imposition…

    Isn’t this the same argument of hyper Cavlinists in not worrying about missionary work? And from a Mormon point of view it’s sort of meaningless since we believe God wants us to be co-partners with Him so that’s the whole point. So this is an imposition, and a significant one, on Mormon beliefs/practice and should be treated as such.

  42. Miriam,

    Upon further reflection, the thought occurred to me that, being non-Mormon, you may not be aware how key our practices of salvation for the dead are to our beliefs. You may honestly see it as merely giving up a side practice so that we can concentrate on other beliefs. In fact, it would be a fundamental shift in Mormon theological practice on par with requiring Jews to believe in Jesus. (e.g. “What’s the big deal? Just end Christian offense over your rejection of Jesus by accepting him! Heck, you can still be Jewish… it’s just that you’d be a Jew that believed in Jesus as Son of God!” etc. Perhaps a better example is to require Jews to give up belief in Moses. But either way, I hope you see what I am saying.)

    Our temples would shut down (they are primarily used for salvation for the dead) and our beliefs in priesthood authority, God’s just requirements applied to all, and God’s just opportunity for all to believe would be severely if not completely undermined.

    Giving it up would also negatively affect or undermine several of our other core beliefs that I don’t have time to explain right now. i.e. sealing ordinances, patriarchal order of the priesthood and deification to name a few. Many of these make no real theological sense without also believing in salvation for the dead.

    Whether you realized it or not, this is no small thing you are asking. You might as well be asking us to just stop believing our beliefs, or as close as it possible to that.

    Perhaps this is the missing information that helps bridge the gap between us?

  43. Bruce (44): You do make some good points from the LDS point of view.

    I’ll confess it is surprising to me, even as a former Mormon, that you would say that such an accommodation for LDS to focus on their own family genealogies would require abandoning a cherished belief and ending temple practice within the faith. Don’t you feel personal genealogy work and the faith liturgy active members find the ordinances provides for their lives is enough to keep this factor of the faith vital and relevant?

    To be honest, I don’t feel extremely passionate from the perspective of a religious organization, for I’m not one. I really only know my perspective: I hope my extended family will honor my life and memory after I am gone. For my wife and I to convert to Christianity was an important step for us. Our trust in Salvation is placed in our conviction of faith. If LDS extended family disagree, that is okay, but I don’t want them to voice their disapproval for my faith in the form of “love” by having temple ordinances re-performed for me. Like many other Christians, we believe this life is a time to accept God in faith. With some nuance or another Christians believe that God will redeem all those who are His and can reach their faith in many ways. Therefore Temple Practice is a perspective that usually divides. (I think there are authentic bridges between our faiths, too, but such are more trustworthy when we’re honest about what authentically divides.)

    I hope my family would respect my living will — if ever it is needed. I ask that they will have me cremated, donate my useful organs, and consider throwing as uplifting a “party” as possible in my absence, focusing on the joy and trust I find in the gospel. And, among those wishes, I hope they will let me die and rest a Christian. I know I can’t control what they do. I hope those who love me will love me enough to accept me for the life and faith I’ve chosen to live.

    Therefore it is from this POV that I read into perhaps why others may feel the discomfort they express about having vicarious ordinances performed for them or for their beloved dead.

  44. >>> Don’t you feel personal genealogy work and the faith liturgy active members find the ordinances provides for their lives is enough to keep this factor of the faith vital and relevant?

    I think there is ample evidence that temple work couldn’t stay vital if we were limited to only our ancestors and only a few generations (as you were suggesting.) But if we don’t limit the generations… then we are sort of allowing everyone since we all link back to a common ancestor.

    >>> but such are more trustworthy when we’re honest about what authentically divides

    JFQ, I understand that this divides our beliefs… but in all honesty, I don’t think I can accomodate you without giving up my beliefs. I hope you’ll see that my need to practice my religion does over shadow your desires to not be baptized when you are dead.

    (Also, this is hardly the only thing that divides us. It’s not even close to the biggest.)

    Also, I think you are not seeing this from an LDS perspective. The fact is that if you have descendants in the Church that believe in it, they *will* baptize you for the dead. They must. Part of their beliefs will be that they want to be linked into the patriachal order. This is fundamental to our understanding of exaltation. It would seem you didn’t pick up on this point when you were LDS, but what I am saying now is accurate doctrinally.

    D&C 128:18 — For their [the dead’s] salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.

    Right or wrong, that is what Mormons believe. How do we stop this practice without denying our core beliefs? We do not believe in individual salvation in the same sense that non-Mormon Christians do. Yes, you have to make the choice individually and are accountable only for yourself. But we understand God as exalting (making us Gods, if you will) as part of the patriarchal order.

    Yes, we believe you, as a dead person, can reject it. Presumably that will pass the chain to someone else and thus not violate your wishes. But your descendants aren’t allowed to make that call. If they want to link themselves into the patriarchal order as part of their temple work, they must link you in as part of their own ordinances. Period.

    Since this is NOT understood as affecting your agency, it must be understood as non-offensive and in no way over-riding your desires. It really must simply be seen in the light of that person’s (your decendant’s) desire to practice their faith. You should look at it this way instead of the way you are currently viewing it.

    Yes, this belief can be cast in many negative lights that it is not. I think all these posts here prove that. But is that really any different than any other belief? Doesn’t Richard Dawkins cast raising your children in your own religion as child abuse? Doesn’t Sam Harris cast all religious belief as the root cause of all the world’s problems?

  45. #40

    Dear Bruce,

    I oppose humiliation. Of course. (Whatever made you think that I wouldn’t? Is there someone humiliating the church publicly in real life, that you thought I was aligning myself with?)

    Now that that’s out of the way…I’m trying a new format for responding this time, in which I try to paraphrase the bits of your remarks I’m actually addressing. Those are the parts in brackets. I didn’t feel right about putting quote marks around them when you didn’t actually say them. I have tried to represent your words faithfully. I hope it’s not too disjointed.

    [Love for humankind]–Even if the baptisers don’t include in their definition of “humankind” the protesting descendants, I would think the descendants would have a say over what happens to the names of their dead ancestors in the same way that they would decide whether an engraver carves additional words onto the dead ancestors’ headstones. The ancestors can’t communicate with the living, so I would think the closest relative is permitted to make the decisions the dead ancestors would have made.

    [Behind closed doors->not rude]–I think it is indeed possible to be rude even when the object of your rudeness will never know what’s happening, in the same way that it would be rude to stick your tongue out at a blind man or to stand behind the back of a deaf person and shout verbal abuse. The question is not whether the recipient of your actions knows about them, but rather whether or not he would want to receive them if he did know. In this case, of course, we are discussing an act that is done lovingly and with the best of intentions. Between humans and God, that is enough to justify the act. Between humans and other humans, however, there are other variables to consider.

    [Ceasing the practice equals giving up the belief]–Maybe there’s something I don’t get, but it seems to me that it’s possible for a believer to hold certain beliefs, even essential beliefs, without acting on them. It’s not comfortable, but it’s possible, and it becomes easier when it’s done for the sake of not hurting someone else. In this case, Peter believes it would be good to baptise my dead grandmother, but he knows that I would find it hurtful if I found out, because of how deeply I identify with her, and because I want other people to see how wonderful she was instead of focusing on her perceived lack. So even though Peter thinks I would be wrong to take offense, and even if he can look into his crystal ball and see that I will never find out, and even though he holds that it would be better for my grandmother, he defers to me out of respect for my wishes. That is what I am requesting.

    On the flip side, I also have an obligation to listen to Peter’s reasons for wanting to baptise my grandmother, and to weigh them alongside my own reasons for wanting her to not be baptised before I make my decision. I expect Peter to care about not hurting me, but I also care about not hurting Peter.

    [Descendants only *choose* to be offended by the practice–practice not inherently offensive]–I’m not sure how else to explain why it’s reasonable for the living relatives to feel hurt, and we seem to be getting stuck on this. Can we put it aside for now? Instead, tell me this: would you still defend a person’s freedom to practice his religion, if you also believed that that practice involves inflicting real hurt upon someone else?

    [Miriam’s view privileges the Aggs unfairly]–My view is exactly this: We all have an obligation to find ways of practicing our respective beliefs without harming each other. I advocate tolerance, but I’m not talking about tolerance; I’m talking about caring about other people, including how they feel, even if we think they are irrational to feel the way they do.

    [What Mormons do privately is not subject to an outsider’s moral scrutiny.]–Back in #26 when I first proposed that it might be, I also said that I realize the private practices are based upon a certain *public* view that I oppose (namely, that This is the One True Church). Because I oppose it but I can’t do anything to change it, I will tend to express my opposition in other ways, for example by not doing things to help you further your goals (wherever that goal-furthering occurs), as long as those goals are based on that view which I oppose. It isn’t the details of the practice that bother me; it’s the belief upon which the practice is based, or more specifically, the social attitudes that spring from that belief. I think that if it were taught that This is *A* True Church (with no comment on the truth value of any others), and dead people were baptised so that they could be free to choose which religion is best *for them*, with the understanding that there are advantages and disadvantages to all the options, then I wouldn’t have any further complaint. But I know that would never happen.

    Next you gave me a string of examples in which you asked whether some people who do some things that other people might find offensive should be asked to stop, and whether they should be humiliated if they don’t. Since I’ve already told you how I feel about humiliation, I’m just addressing whether or not we should worry about the offensiveness of the initial act.

    [Force Orthodox Jews to stop claiming chosenness?]–I don’t think it would work to force them, but I wish they’d stop teaching it. Even if it were true (which I doubt) I think it’s more harmful than helpful and should have gone the way of the dodo a long time ago. For the record, Reconstructionists got rid of the “chosenness” language in their liturgy. Check it out.

    [Make atheists shut up for the sake of theists?]–You can be an atheist and still believe that your life has meaning beyond your own death. But assuming that all atheists believed it doesn’t, and assuming the theists were going to be deeply wounded if the atheists spoke about it (two giant assumptions), then I would hope the atheists would take that into consideration when they talk, out of sensitivity to the theists.

    [End missionary work because it offends the gentiles?]–I do have reservations about missionary work, in part because it is based upon the same beliefs about who’s Right and who’s Wrong as the practice of baptising the dead is. Still, most people can handle a 21-year-old male in a suit telling them that they have it wrong without taking too much offense, whereas many people cannot handle it when they are told by *anyone* that their dear departed relatives had it wrong.

    [Silence the preachers unless they’ve been asked to preach?]–A preacher can reasonably interpret a person’s sitting in a pew on Sunday morning and looking expectant as an indication that he would like to be preached to. Otherwise, it might be nice to ask first. Of course, if it’s one of those street preachers who takes up residence right outside your office and lovingly yells at you daily about why you are going to hell unless you repent, well, he’s just asking for trouble, and I say, go ahead and mortify him any way you can.

    Just kidding. I usually smile and keep walking.

    # 41

    “Miriam changed my statement of Mormons practicing baptisms for the dead out of sincere belief and love for humankind into an act to try to love the living Aggs.”

    Oops, sorry about that. I misunderstood your use of the word “humankind” to include living humans. 😉

    [If we let one religion withhold names, all the other religions will demand the same.]–I suspect the Catholics and Jews might be a special case, given how they’re described in parts of your literature. Nobody likes to be vilified. But it’s not at all obvious to me that other religions feel the same way. (Ok, maybe the Southern Baptists). Still, I imagine there are plenty of people out there who just wouldn’t care. There might even be some people who would be in favor of it–how nice, they might say, that you care about the fate of grandpa’s soul. Please go right ahead. There are also many dead people who have no living relatives, or at least no living relatives that can be found through reasonable efforts. As far as I’m concerned, all of those names are fair game. Yes, I realize that includes lots of Holocaust victims whose entire families were wiped out and who thus have no living relatives. I’m ok with that too. I don’t speak for all Jews, of course….

    # 45

    [Ceasing to baptise the dead : Mormons :: Believing Jesus=Messiah : Jews]–Maybe I still don’t get it, but I don’t see why it would be necessary to abandon the practice or the belief. I just think that if there are living relatives, they should be given veto power. I would have thought there would be more than enough names available without using the names of those whose living relatives have not consented, but evidently I was wrong. Now, if you’re really going to only baptise the names of those dead people who either have no living relatives or whose living relatives have given consent, you’d have to do a whole lot of tracking down and talking to people all over the world, but that hurdle seems to have been surmounted already, so maybe it could be a new assignment for the missionaries (full-time or otherwise): explain to people why you want to baptise their dead ancestors, and if they agree, record the names and pass them back to LDS HQ to be distributed to the various temples. It might even be a good way of opening up conversations, and sparking the living people’s interests in the Church. I hope you don’t think of this suggestion as flippant or disrespectful. It’s not meant that way.

    [Forecast of no more salvation for the dead leading to utter disaster]– I would have thought it would be like the thing with polygyny–it’s still (I thought) one of the things that priesthood holders are given the authority to do when they’re ordained, but they’re told to hold off for now. Would it be different from that?

    [Temples would shut down]–Why? I understand that baptising the dead is the primary practice for which the temple is used, but surely you’d want a temple around for endowments and weddings and sealings and such. Why would using a temple less often lead to its shutting down?

  46. Miriam, requiring the LDS church to reroute all their missionary efforts in the world would be insufficient to handle your added burden of trying to track down every living relative of the deceased. Indeed, such a burden is manifestly impossible. And this isn’t some science we are talking about. It’s impossible to know all the descendents of the deceased in the first place to ask them.

    And yes, Miriam, it would be silly to pay for temples if the only things they could be used for were initial live ordinances or only a few generations back of ancestors ordinances. (As JFQ was suggesting as an alternative.) The temples would sit empty 90% of the time.

    Miriam, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you indeed misunderstood my points so incorrectly that your summaries are how you actually read what I said. I will also be willing to assume this is because I did a really poor job of explaining myself. (I think I did do a poor job, by the way.)

    But I also fear to take this conversation much further at this point. We had dialog going before, but I sense (perhaps incorrectly) numerous jabs (that is to say mockery) of things I hold dear in your last post. (For example, I felt it rather unfair for you to claim Mormons today vilify Jews. But if we are going to take older past statements, then Jew have as much vilified Christians such as Mormons. So I think I’m ready to put that behind me and hope you are too so that we can concentrate on the here and now.)

    But I think your last post does make one thing very clear. That you feel so strongly about making the claim that no religion is “better” than another that you are literally asserting this makes Mormons a lesser religion than your own. (As per my post #27.)

    And I feel you’re leaving me no middle ground which doesn’t amount to abandonment of the practice all together. This puts us in a tough spot: you want me to stop practicing a core theologic practice understood as necessary to my salvation or you intend to be hurt by it and that hurt is 100% my responsiblity because (from your view point) all I have to do is stop my religious practices to make you feel better. Since these practices have no meaning for you, of course I understand why you think it’s easy for me to give up and concentrate on other things.

    But, no, I am not okay with stopping a practice and believe in it in my heart alone. This was the point of the example I used about Christians need to preach to non-Christians. If Christians believe Jesus is really the Son of God and that he commanded missionary work (as the Bible records) then requiring them to stop such missionary work because it offends others is not an acceptable solution because it means they can’t practice a core part of their beliefs.

    You said:

    [I wouldn’t be so concerned if Mormons taught they were ] *A* True Church (with no comment on the truth value of any others), and dead people were baptised so that they could be free to choose which religion is best *for them*, with the understanding that there are advantages and disadvantages to all the options, then I wouldn’t have any further complaint. But I know that would never happen…

    But Miriam, would it surprise you if I said that isn’t far from the truth on how Mormons understand their practice of salvation for the dead? Mormons are basically universalists or at least heavily universalist leaning; we believe all religions lead to a form of salvation — that form that will lead them to their greatest joy.

    And while it is true that Mormons do see the salvation we strive for – to become like God — as the highest and best form of salvation (for those that choose it)… well, doesn’t that sort of makes sense that only someone interested in that form of salvation will receive it? Are you truly going to be offended that we believe we will receive a form of salvation that you have no interest in and don’t even believe in?

    Miriam, Mormons don’t see our belief in Deification and other religion’s lack of ability to receive it as God punishing those other religions. We see it as them making a choice that was right for them. (Assuming they really understand the option and decide to reject it.) And we don’t personally look down upon those other religions for it.

    Indeed, our belief is that others don’t receive that form of salvation because they were not interested in it and didn’t want it or choose it. They weighed the pros and cons of it and decided against it. We understand everyone receives the salvation they sought and thus we understand it to be fair and just — and exactly what was the desire of their heart and what will make them the happiest.

    I do think that, from your point of view, this should fulfill your requirement of Mormons believing all religions lead to salvation with advantages and disadvantages to all the options. Is this really so offensive to you?

    But even if there are people of other religion that would like to receive Deification but simply never really understood it was available to them, Mormons believe that God will move heaven and earth for them to receive it; including doing things such as allowing ordinances for the dead so that everyone is on a level playing field rather then just receiving what life alone gave them. So even then, we do not believe that the highest form of salvation is for Mormons alone. (Well, I suppose you could say this means we believe they have to choose to become Mormons in the afterlife to receive it. But I prefer to think of it as they choose to accept Deification as their form of salvation.)

    In other words, I believe you are conflating in your mind part of our real beliefs and part of what you *think* we believe and the end result is something ugly that we don’t believe in.

    You may also want to take a look at my post #49 again. It may not make much sense to you at this point, but the summary of it is this: we baptize for the dead to bind ourselves to our ancestors because we understand that to be necessary for our personal salvation. Stopping us from doing that would be like requiring other Christians to not get baptized or Chinese to not perform ancestor worship, etc.

    (Oh, the Chinese ancestor worship might deserve more attention here. Would you require the Chinese ancestor worshipers to obtain permission from all living relatives first? This is a very apt analogy.)

  47. Miriam,

    I will add this. From my point of view, it is the Mormons that believe in the value of all religions and you that has the exclusive truth claims of the badness of those that you disagree with.

    I hope you will not be offended by my saying this. I admit that I may be misunderstanding your beliefs… but your posts have done much to convince me that is what you believe. And it is that perception (which may be a misperception) of your religious beliefs that I am objecting to.

    If you pay careful attention to how I just explained my beliefs more fully, I hope you will see that from my point of view you devalue my religion but I don’t devalue yours. I think yours is exaclty that you believe it to be. I think you see mine as harmful.

    If I am misunderstanding your beliefs, I hope you will take the time to help me understand them better. But so far I am left with the distinct impression you devalue my religion compare to yours.

    Just as you wish all religions would accept your truth claim that the world would be a better place if we stopped having exclusive truth claims, likewise I feel that the world would be a better place if we all just acted like Mormons and believed in the goodness and salvic properties of all religions and the “bestness” of our own for our desires and goals. And I believe the world would be a better place if we allowed all people their exclusive truth claims (including yours) and chose to not be offended by it.

    And I believe the world would be a better place if we all accepted this as truth and stopped trying to use public pressure as a way of trying to force our beliefs on others. (I have a perception that this tactic is used on Mormons in some cases, though you may disagree with me.)

    Consider Ray’s words here. This is how I perceive Mormonism as well.

  48. I largely have stayed out of this discussion, but there are two things I feel like need to be said from the perspective of someone “outside” the discussion.

    First, Miriam said:

    “would you still defend a person’s freedom to practice his religion, if you also believed that that practice involves inflicting real hurt upon someone else?”

    Miriam, there is NO way to get around that for ANY religion, if you take it to its natural and logical conclusion – and I DON’T mean its extreme. EVERY religion “inflicts real harm on someone else” IF you define that the way you are doing to include **emotional** harm.

    Let me say that slightly differently:

    The ONLY “harm” that ordinances for the dead do ANYONE WHO IS LIVING is to hurt their feelings – to “offend them”. Religion, by its very definition, is offensive to some – **because people naturally take offense**, NOT because the religious beliefs themselves are inherently offensive.

    Think about this carefully:

    Anyone can claim to offended and hurt emotionally by ANY statement of religious belief. Should ALL religious beliefs be excluded from public conversation – because we KNOW they will “emotionally harm someone”?

    Here is my second point, and you can ignore everything else if you can answer this one point:


    If your response is, “No, since the person being baptized has the right to make that decision on his/her own, regardless of offense or emotional harm to others,” you have just made the argument for ordinances for the dead. If you say, “Yes,” this conversation is over. We will have to agree to disagree and walk away from it.

  49. #51

    Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and for caring about whether you alienate me, and for the general good will. I’m sorry I offended you. For what it’s worth, I didn’t think I was being offensive. How’s that for irony?

    [unreasonable burden]–I only meant tracking down the closest relative, not all the relatives. Sorry for not making that clear. And I wasn’t requiring Herculean efforts, only reasonable ones. I know it’d be an added exertion, but I also thought it could have some benefits, and at any rate, it seems like a significant enough thing that it’d be worth checking in with the relatives if you can figure out how to get in touch with them. If you tried and failed and later a relative showed up and complained, I wouldn’t hold you responsible for negligence.

    [vilifying]–I was referring to the way the Catholic Church is described in, for example, 1 Nephi 13-14 and the way Rabbinic Judaism is described in Matt 26 and other places. That’s what I meant by “literature”. I realize this literature is old. I understand that nobody’s preaching hate from the pulpit. You’re right, if I’m going to use words as strong as “vilify” I should be explicit. Sorry about that.

    [paying for temples]–I was envisioning the temples being open less often to reflect the decreased demand…that way, I thought, the costs of electricity, upkeep, etc. would be reduced along with the reduced usage. I gather from your reaction that I have no understanding of how a temple is run, so allow me to withdraw the suggestion. I have no desire to see temples shut down.

    [Calling triumphalist religions inherently lesser than non-triumphalist ones=hypocritical]–I do consider the social effects of triumphalism to be a serious drawback. However, I recognize so many good aspects of the LDS religion that are absent from mine (for example, a personal god and the focus on spiritual experiences) that, on balance, I don’t consider mine objectively better. If you want we can chat some day about the problems that plague Judaism…if you ever forgive me for all this.

    [Belief without practice=not acceptable, even if others choose to be offended by the practices]–Sorry for missing the point and zeroing in on the LDS missionary program when you meant all Christianity. I agree that it’s very important to protect religious freedom. It sounds like you might be holding the position that whatever God commands us to do is by definition good to do, however it’s done, and for this reason, those who take offense are wrong to do so. If that’s your position, I guess my response is that if my fulfilling a commandment offends someone, I’d tend to question the goodness of that commandment sooner than I’d question the validity of the person’s reaction (which might explain a lot about what I’ve said so far). If that’s not your position, sorry for putting words into your mouth.

    [Mormons=universalist; salvation for all to various degrees]–That’s wonderful! I haven’t heard it expressed that way before. Perhaps because I’ve heard so much talk of the One True Church, and because it seems so crucial to my beloved bf that I embrace it, that I’ve gotten the impression that anything beneath the ideal is unacceptable, and that anyone who chooses it is a less worthwhile person. Maybe that’s more a function of him than of his religion.

    “…doesn’t that sort of makes sense that only someone interested in that form of salvation will receive it?”


    “Are you truly going to be offended that we believe we will receive a form of salvation that you have no interest in and don’t even believe in?”


    [The system is just; people receive whatever reward they seek]–This is not offensive to me. What I find offensive is the implication that, e.g., the path my grandmother chose, knowing the options as she did, was not good enough after all, and needs to be fixed…or to put it another way, that anyone who chooses anything other than a certain path must have misunderstood, and would naturally be grateful for a second chance.

    “And yet you have yet to take the time to understand your Mormon neighbors well enough to realize that you have no real complaints (as you state in your quote above) to their real beliefs.”

    Doing my best, sir. I don’t know how to reconcile your explanation of the real beliefs about how salvation works with the exhortation to baptise dead non-members. If it’s totally ok for a person to choose a non-celestial kingdom, then why not honor that choice, instead of supposing she’ll change her mind once she’s dead? The implication *seems* to be that once she’s dead, maybe she’ll realize the folly of her former choice. It’s the idea that her choice was foolish that seems to conflict with the belief that she can choose whatever kingdom she wants and that’s ok with God. I mean, if it matters to God whether she’s baptised or not, it sounds like God has a preference about which kingdom she ends up in, and if God has a preference, then wouldn’t it be a moral problem for her to obstruct that preference? Do you see where I’m getting tripped up? Can you help me sort it out?

    [Baptising our own ancestors is necessary for our personal salvation, etc.]–That seems like a very cogent point, but it doesn’t address why you have an interest in baptising someone else’s ancestors, unless you’re supposing the ancestors are common to you both. (*Is* that what you’re supposing?) I think I was imagining that you had an interest in not only baptising an ancestor that you have in common with, say, the Pope, but also in baptising all the deceased descendants of that ancestor, including those aunts, uncles, and cousins to whom you’re related but from whom you’re not directly descended.

    “If you take all that I say above in tandem, I hope you will see why I feel your original expressed concern that somehow the Mormon practice of salvation for the dead will lead to Mormon “people thinking less of my people and treating us accordingly” is wholly unjustified and might even walk that line of looking down upon Mormons for a belief they never actually held — and treating them accordingly. (Thus creating the very sin you are trying to discourage.)”

    That wasn’t what I meant. I don’t think the practice is the original cause of the looking-down-upon. I was saying the practice seems to be predicated upon, and may tend to reinforce, a belief that might lead to the looking-down-upon…i.e. if the religion doesn’t exert the piles of effort needed to protect against that outcome. Maybe it would be helpful to say again that I don’t advocate giving up the practice. I advocate a more selective approach to the practice (i.e. some names and not others) explained by a certain understanding of the choices other people make–an understanding that you say already exists in the doctrine, but which (as of now) strikes me as difficult to reconcile with the goal of baptising everyone.

    # 52

    I suspect the Jewish campaigns responded the way they did because they were hurting, and not because they wished to force their beliefs upon you. Speaking only from knowledge of Judaism and not from knowledge of the situation, I would imagine they’d have no expectation that their complaints would change your beliefs. To speak the name of a dead person has significance in Judaism, and I wonder if some of the complaints (not mine, as I hope I’ve made clear) were based on an unvoiced worry that it might indeed affect the fate of that person’s soul, and not positively. Given the restrictions that some Jews observe regarding Christianity, it wouldn’t be so out there for a Jew to have concluded that if his papa’s name showed up in the context of a Christian ritual, that it might qualify as his papa violating a basic commandment, which would seriously harm his papa’s status in God’s eyes. In Judaism, you can’t atone after you die.


    Hi, Ray. Thanks for joining the party.

    [all religions inflict at least emotional harm] This isn’t apparent to me. Do you mean all existing religions or all possible religions? Because Oggism, for example (see #38), only talks about what Oggs should do; it doesn’t say anything about anyone else, not even the murderous Eggs. Oggs don’t interact. Not much of a religion, if you ask me, but it’s useful for the discussion. In contrast, the Iggs say anyone who’s not an Igg is inferior. Aggs find that offensive. That’s emotional harm. Then there are the Eggs, who try to kill the Iggs and Aggs on sight. That’s physical harm. I would place both emotional and physical harm in the “real” category. Now, if the Aggs are offended by Oggism (for example, because they think the Oggs should become Aggs, and the Oggs refuse), then the Aggs are being silly, because nothing in Oggism says anything about Aggs. This is not real harm. Do you see the line I’m trying to draw? Actually, let’s add to our little world the Uggs, who believe that it is their divine duty to spend their lives in service to the Iggs, Aggs, Oggs, and Eggs however they are needed. I have no idea how anyone could manage to be offended by the Uggs. Have you?

    [Ordinances for the dead don’t harm the living except by hurting their feelings]–See my response to #52 above if you haven’t already. If I truly believed that your using my father’s name in your ordinance is going to leave an indelible black mark upon my father’s soul, would that affect your decision to use his name? Also, would you feel offended?

    “Anyone can claim to offended and hurt emotionally by ANY statement of religious belief.”

    Yes, well, in order for us to take their claim of offense seriously, they have to give us good reasons.

    “Should ALL religious beliefs be excluded from public conversation – because we KNOW they will “emotionally harm someone”?”

    There are those who do not discuss religion or politics in social contexts for this very reason, but I think of this as more of an optional observance. I’m in favor of public conversation about religion, as maybe you can tell, but I also think it ought to be done sensitively. Bruce has pointed out that I’m not achieving that so well myself, but I am trying to improve. I want to be clear about this, though: I don’t advocate removing someone’s rights to talk about or practice their religion. I think the “rights” mindset is not helpful here. What I advocate instead is an “obligations” or “care” mindset–that we have obligations to each other, and that if my religious practice causes you pain, then I am expected to care enough to do something about it, even if that “something” is nothing more than having a conversation with you in which we listen to each other.

    [DO I OPPOSE BAPTISM FOR THE LIVING?]–No, but not for the reason you offered. I do think baptism should be available to those who want it and are prepared for it and understand its significance. But if a mother is offended by her daughter’s decision to be baptised, it’s her daughter’s *deciding* to be baptised, not the baptism itself, that will make the mother feel betrayed, rejected, or alienated, or like she’s failed as a mother, or whatever. Making baptism unavailable won’t solve the problem–the daughter could easily pick some other way to break her uncomprehending mother’s heart. I do think that a daughter ought to take her mother’s pending reaction into account before making her decision, because–well, that’s her *mother*, you know?–and family relationships are valuable. But she can weigh the expected severity and duration of her mother’s pain and the prospects of eventual reconciliation against how she herself will suffer if she isn’t baptised, and use all that to help her decide. My point is that she’s not obligated to do her mother’s wishes, but she is obligated to care about her mother’s wishes.

    Vice versa, too. There is a problem if the mother doesn’t take her daughter’s wishes into account. I suppose that can extend back from your analogy to the original situation: if you asked me if you can baptise my grandmother, I would need to consider what she would have wanted in addition to considering what I want and how this will affect my relationship with [my memories of] her. I hope that made sense.

  50. Miriam, that does make sense. Thank you very much for the clarification. Two things:

    1) I respect GREATLY the issue you brought up about Jewish belief. I can understand completely an objection if you belief the nature of the ordinance actually will harm your ancestor. In that case, as the Church has done, I would support not performing those ordinances for those dead.

    2) I mean this sincerely, so please understand I am not being coy or disingenuous in any way. I think if you understood better the actual, core doctrine of baptism for the dead, you would realize that you probably accept it *in theory* as we believe it. I’m not saying I think you would accept Mormonism, per se, but only that you wouldn’t have any problem with the practice itself. I’m sure you would exempt Jewish baptisms for those who believe as you described, but I think you would understand and accept it for those who believe there really is “no eternal harm done” – those who simply think we off our rocker and/or non-Christian.

    I can try to explain the practice from our perspective if you would like, but I don’t want to do so on this site if you don’t want to hear it now. I mean that sincerely; no pressure whatsoever attached. If you want me to try, let me know.

  51. Thanks, Ray. I would love to have no problem with the practice of baptism for the dead by better understanding the actual, core doctrine. Please go right ahead.

  52. Everyone, this is going to be long, but as I tried to figure out how to explain best, it struck me that I really want to frame this in the same way that Paul did in the New Testament. (I also thought you might say that, Miriam, so I was working on an explanation while waiting to hear if you wanted it. *grin*)

    The Biblical background:

    In I Corinthians 15, Paul gave his great dissertation on the resurrection. He began by reiterating what he had taught about the resurrection of Jesus and what the saints in Corinth had accepted when they believed and were baptized, focusing on the witnesses who testified of that resurrection – including himself (vs. 1-11). It is important to note that these were Christians to whom he addressed this topic – that they had expressed belief in the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ (Messiah). This discourse did NOT attempt to convince them of the resurrection; it attempted to teach those who already believed in the resurrection something deeper that they did not understand at that point.

    In vs. 12-17, Paul made it clear that those who testified of Jesus based their claims of uniqueness on the reality of “the resurrection of the dead”. Verse 14, especially, is plain and clear. No resurrection; no Christ; faith is vain.

    Paul then shifted focus in vs. 18-19, by bringing in all who are “fallen asleep in Christ” – those who died believing in Him. Verses 20-23 expands that discussion by stating unequivocally that everyone who has ever lived are resurrected through the resurrection of Jesus – verse 22 being the most explicit. (“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”) Verses 24-28 are a description of Christ’s rule AFTER all are resurrected. Then, in verse 29, Paul puts a capstone on his dissertation thus far, by asking two rhetorical question – phrased as two questions:

    “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”

    In the context of the entire chapter, it is clear to me that this is a rhetorical question designed to impress upon the early saints of Corinth that the practice of baptisms for the dead was the single most powerful example or proof of the fact that the claim in verse 22 was literal and truly, universally applicable – that ALL truly will be made alive in Christ through an actual resurrection.

    If you reword verse 29 into more modern conversational language, again, keeping in mind the argument of the entire chapter, it might read thus:

    “If the dead are not resurrected, what are we doing by baptizing people for them? Why are people baptized for the dead, if that has no practical effect – if those dead, in fact, are not made alive in Christ?”

    I have heard other interpretations of that verse that claim baptism for the dead was not an approved practice of the early Church, but not one of them makes sense in the context of the entire chapter.

    So, we believe that ALL people who have ever lived will be resurrected. We also believe that baptism has been commanded of ALL people who have ever lived as a symbol of their acceptance of God’s Christ/Messiah. (I personally believe in an exception for those prior to the birth of Jesus who were circumcised in token of their acceptance of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but that’s not revealed, so it’s a personal opinion.) This means that we accept Paul’s rhetorical question – and it’s applicable inversion:

    “Else what shall they do who have died and will rise in Christ, if the commanded is to be baptized but they have not had that chance in this mortal life? Why would we not baptize for the dead?”

    We also believe, however, that there is NO binding efficacy to these ordinances unless the person for whom they are performed accepts them.

    The best analogy I can construct is that of live baptisms. We DO NOT baptize unconscious people, nor do we tie them up and baptize them against their will. If that were to happen, it would not be considered a valid ordinance; it would be as if it had not occurred. The same is true of our baptisms for the dead. We perform the ordinance with the understanding that it can’t be done in their present condition as spirits, but it in NO way renders them unconscious or hogties them or takes away their agency. If they do not accept it, it is as if it had not occurred.

    If someone believes that there is some actual damage done to the dead by this practice, I understand their desire to not have it done for their ancestors; if not, I simply can’t accept the outcry as legitimate – like that of the Catholic Church, for example. If the ordinances have no eternal impact, opposition to them is the result of nothing more than being offended. If I am forced to choose between supporting someone who is sincere in a mistaken belief that carries no eternal harm to anyone or supporting someone who insists that a harmless practice be stopped simply out of offense, I will support the believing practitioner every time – even if that practitioner says they are converting my own ancestors. I don’t believe it would help OR hurt, so I would respect their sincere effort to help my ancestors.

    We also believe that this work will be completed during the Millennium – when we will have the information available to do so. Frankly, and this is just me talking – not official Mormon doctrine, this belief that “it will happen at some point, since we never will be able to complete it on our own” almost forces me to believe that performing these ordinances is NOT primarily for the benefit of the dead, but rather for the benefit of the living who perform them (since the dead will have it done at some point regardless of whether or not I do it for them). It is a real, practical way to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4), and it also is a real, practical way to blunt the natural egotism of our modern age by making us aware of just how noble and dignified and wonderful people were in previous times. It also is a great way to understand yourself better and realize what aspects of your character you inherited from whom. It also forces you to become aware of and thankful for the mercy of God in the lives of your ancestors, helping increase your ability to accept the possibility that God will be just as merciful to you.

    Finally, I personally believe there is a spiritual power that comes with being tied to the righteous dead, but that is a subject for a different post.

  53. Miriam,

    It is unfortunate, but you read my post while I was still editing it. Not your fault. I kept thinking of “softer” ways to explain myself without feeling like I was being untruthful to you. In any case, the final post reads better than the one you read, but said the same thing.

    Unfortunately I’m out of time on this discussion, which is too bad, because I felt like I was understanding you better and vice versa. I have found that Internet blogging can absorb my time to an unhealthy level if I let it.

    Besides, Ray is considerably better at explaining things than I am, so I’ll let you discuss with him. *IF* you are interested, I can send you his email address and let you discuss in a private form, if you wish. (Believe me, I won’t do this unless you actually want it.)

    Rather than try to respond to everything you said, let me just say that I am very much in favor of the LDS Church doing the best they can to accommodate other’s feelings so long as they are not being asked to give up their religious practices.

    As we discussed, your suggestions, so far, did mean a huge burden on the LDS Church — actually an impossible one. I think you don’t really understand how genealogy really works because you are thinking of it only in the case of your grandmother. In general, I doubt it’s possible to take a bunch of public records to be used in genealogy work and then trace back and find who the relatives are. Actually, it’s probably illegal. (Living people records are not public records, for example.)

    Let me also clarify one other thing in response to what you said here: “but it doesn’t address why you have an interest in baptizing someone else’s ancestors, unless you’re supposing the ancestors are common to you both.”

    We are confusing four different, but related, things:

    1. Personal temple work (which is always with ancestors only and is related to our concept of salvation.)

    2. Genealogy work and family history records. Obviously to do #1 you have to have #2. This is the Catholic records issue, in all actuality. They simply won’t be part of our extensive genealogy system open to and primarily used by the public.

    3. The extraction program. This is done when we don’t have enough family history work done in #1, which is most of the time. We take the public records that have been worked into the genealogy records from #2 and perform ordinances on them in hopes that it will help people out for #1. We also understand it as preparation for a future day (Christ’s coming) where they might be helpful. (We aren’t stupid, we know we can’t make real dent in the number of people that have lived on the earth.)

    But really — to be blunt – the extraction programs real purpose is to allow us to keep the temples open and useful to people like me that don’t have time to do family history (yet) but still want to go to the temple and participate. Shutting down #3 shuts down our temples.

    4. Baptizing holocaust victims or Catholic saints or what have you.

    I do not know the case of your grandmother, but I’m guessing you have an LDS relative and it fell under #1. This practice (specifically #1) is key to our beliefs and can’t be stopped without affecting our core doctrines.

    #2 is considered non-offensive and helpful to all. Actually the vast majority of users of our genealogy systems are non-Mormons. (We welcome the help.)

    #3 might be what you are concerned about. But because this is not part of our concept of salvation, the LDS Church has NEVER had any objection to someone asking to not have records used in the extraction program and, if they can accommodate it without undo burden, they do. For example, The LDS Church has honored requests to not take records (from #2) and use them for baptisms for the dead . The request of the Catholic Church will be honored too. I don’t know that there is a really good way to, say, ear mark a name in our system and say “don’t baptize this one.” (Maybe there is and I’m just unfamiliar with it) Typically this is accommodated by holding on to the records in a separate place to not be used in such a way. Since your grandmother is recent history, it’s hard for me to believe that she was baptized because of the extraction program… but I could be wrong.

    However, as I pointed out previously, we also have no way to know if the person from #3 has descendants that might object. Try to imagine a name taken from a census from the 16th century. How could you possibly know there is some living descendant somewhere (from the millions of descendants they might have) that might object?

    #4 – Baptizing Holocaust Victim: This is the real sticking point for most people… (though it sounds like it isn’t for you) so let me explain further.

    The LDS Church does NOT condone such actions. It’s against our policies. I am afraid I do not know the whole history here. I suspect that a long time ago the LDS Church had no policy against doing this because they probably had no policy at all and no one had previously thought of it to make a policy about. (I’m the current policy is quite old, but I might be wrong, maybe it’s more recent.)

    However, policy aside, there are always going to be well meaning little old ladies (or what have you) that don’t know the policy and thus decide for themselves “hey, what a great thing to do the baptisms for the dead for holocaust victims!” They then, on their own and against Church policy, find the names and personally integrate them into the genealogy system and then arrange for baptisms for the dead.

    There in lies the problem. While the LDS Church may sincerely wish to not offend descendants of holocaust victims via their policy, it’s unrealistic to believe that they can control every well meaning Mormon in the world.

    So what the LDS Church as done, instead, is they’ve reiterated the policy the best they can worldwide and then allowed the descendants of holocaust victims to monitor the system and let the Church know if they get added again. They then remove it.

    Miriam, I read a website a while back that took this very reasonable response from the LDS Church and vilified them over it. It claimed that the LDS Church had a secret agenda to baptize holocaust victims. (As opposed to rogue members that don’t know the policy.) It claimed that the LDS Church only “backed off” due to the holocausts victims descendants foresight to publicly humiliate the LDS Church. (Of course the LDS Church would have responded without the public humiliation.) They claimed that the LDS Church then secretly lied about their willingness to help because names kept showing back up again. They claimed that the LDS Church only remove the names again because there were thoughtful Jewish people “keeping an eye” on those scummy Mormons that can’t keep their word.

    One person on the Internet, feeling she was really well informed on the situation, summarized it like this: (I’m quoting from memory, but this is pretty close to what she wrote)

    I don’t hate Mormons, per se, but I hate liars and Mormons are liars. It’s just like the Mormons and the Jewish holocaust victims. It went like this:

    “We promise we won’t baptize holocaust victims any more.”

    (shows evidence they are still secretly doing it)

    “We really promise this time.”

    (show more evidence they are still secretly doing it.)

    “No really, we promise we won’t do it any more.”

    (Show yet more evidence they are still secretly doing it.)

    Forgive me, but as I type this, I realize now that I probably read some of this intolerance from this website into your objections. I didn’t really think of this incident until right now. But it must have colored how I read your objections.

    As you can see, I have very real cause for concern over the way this woman and that website are treating Mormons. This is out right bigotry and hate speech. To paint a well meaning attempt to accommodate other’s feelings, like what the LDS Church is doing, in such a way is demeaning and immoral and it is hurtful. Websites like this caused the woman in question to literally become a hater of Mormons. This is real harm we are talking about here and I have a lot of concerns over this misrepresentation and mistreatment of Mormons that came from it.

    In any case, I just watched Prince Caspian and while watching was thinking of ways that the LDS Church might accommodate other’s feelings better without putting the full burden on the LDS people. The holocaust victims case came to mind. The key here is that the descendants become the watch dogs. The LDS Church allows them to ask for removal of their names and they comply. The LDS Church has legal and religious freedom to not do this, but they have no reason not to as they (holocaust victims) are not ancestors of any Mormons at this point (so far as I know), so the issues of #1 never comes into play. In the future, it may, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    After writing all of this, I originally went on to say that perhaps the LDS church can eventually modify their computer systems (this is MUCH harder than it sounds) to allow people to have names removed from the LDS family history records if they have no descendants in the LDS Church. As it turns out, apparently they already accommodate such request when they can. I found this.

    In addition, he said the Church had over the years removed from display in the IGI the names of deceased Jews when they had been made known to Church officers. A letter from the governing First Presidency of the Church was read in Sunday meetings worldwide in June 1995, urging Church members to submit for temple ordinances the names of their own ancestors, and not the names of deceased celebrities or Jewish holocaust victims.

    The LDS Church’s computer systems are archaic and, to be frank, hard to make changes to. I’m amazed they have the ability to remove names from display at all. (I’m sure it was written decades before anyone ever thought that there might be people that would object.)

    I’ll bet making a change like this is a time consuming and difficult manual process at this point. Most likely the LDS church had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove the 380,000 names in the IGI program.

    I hope the LDS Church has plans to make this easier in the future as it does sound like a good idea. We really have no objection to having names removed if they fall under #2 or #3. But again, this is considerably harder than it sounds. But this sounds like a really good idea for future versions of the LDS Church’s genealogy software.

    That being said, Miriam, I have to admit that I doubt that a goodwill gesture like I am suggesting would be received as such by the people that wrote the website I read, nor the woman I quoted. In fact, I’m quite convinced that there is little that LDS people can do to accommodate the bad feelings such people have over this issue precisely because we are a very small minority and one that there is a great deal of prejudice towards. Right or wrong, I do not feel that people treat us equally nor make an attempt to really understand our beliefs on this subject. (And also because bigotry towards religious minorities is not always treated as equivalent to bigotry towards other classes of people.)

    Okay, that was long. I’m sorry. I’m afraid I can’t really say any more because now I really AM out of time.

  54. Miriam, I take it back. My #57 really wasn’t that long – at least compared to Bruce’s #59. 🙂

    If you do want to continue this via e-mail, Bruce has our addresses. I’d be happy to have him put us in touch.

  55. Sorry; I need to make one clarifying change to one paragraph, as it changes the comment significantly to what I wanted to say. In rereading my comment, I realized that I had not written what I actually was thinking. It is the paragraph dealing with the “applicable inversion” of I Corinthians 15:29. Here is the corrected version, with the addition **stressed**:

    “Else what shall they do who have died and will rise **again, including those who died** in Christ, if the commanded is to be baptized but they have not had that chance in this mortal life? Why would we not baptize for the dead?”

  56. #57 Ray,

    Thanks very much for all your hard work. If I have this right (and please correct me if I don’t!), your argument goes like this:

    1. vs 1-28 Resurrection for the dead is understood as a given, without which the rest of Christian doctrine is incoherent.
    2. v 29 Proxy baptism for the dead would be futile if not for resurrection for the dead.
    3. Therefore, it is understood that all the unbaptised dead need to be baptised by proxy.

    I’m not sure this reasoning is valid, though. Paul is referring to a certain practice in order to more deeply establish a doctrine of which his audience already seems to be pretty well convinced. Ok, so he’s preaching to the choir. It’s not unheard of for people to reinforce what they already believe. His goal, though, doesn’t seem to be to exhort the people to baptise the dead by proxy; it seems to be to reinforce the doctrine of resurrection of the dead. V. 29 is used in the service of reinforcing the doctrine, not vice versa. What troubles me is that Paul might have been referring to the practice without endorsing it, just as you might say to me, “Everyone knows it’s important to be punctual. Why else would so many people speed when they drive on the highway? Do you think they’d risk getting ticketed if they didn’t care about punctuality?” You’re not saying everyone should speed, of course; you’re just trying to illustrate how pervasive the interest in punctuality is by referring to a practice that isn’t recommended, but nevertheless proves your point that people are interested in reaching their destinations on time.

    I’m going to try incorporating that one verse into what I think is a more complete layout of your reasoning (again, please correct me if I have this wrong):

    1. Everyone who has died is going to be resurrected.
    2. No one can be resurrected without having first been properly baptised.
    3. But some people die without having been baptised!
    4. There must be a way of baptising the dead people to satisfy (1) without breaching (2).
    5. Proxy baptism provides just such a method (as shown by I Cor 15:29).
    6. Therefore, God wants us to baptise the unbaptised dead by proxy.

    I guess the only problem I see with this formulation is that it’s not clear that 5 is the sole solution to the difficulty presented by 1, 2, and 3. For example, why couldn’t God arrange it so that one dead person’s spirit can baptise another dead person’s spirit without any corresponding earthly act? Or if we assume God has foreknowledge (do you, by the way, assume that?) we can say that God will provide for whoever turns out to never have an opportunity to be baptised in life by making sure they’re baptised before they are born. You mentioned that you “perform the ordinance with the understanding that it can’t be done in their present condition as spirits,” but I don’t understand why. I get that it’s good for the living to be connected through ceremonies to their predecessors but what’s the importance *to the dead* of the baptism happening on earth and not in the spirit world?

    #59 Bruce,
    Thanks for explaining to me where you’re coming from, and for laying out the practical issues. I understand about running out of time. I don’t actually have any LDS family–just the boyfriend. I used the grandmother example because, of all my relatives who’ve died, I feel most connected with her, and so it was helpful for me to imagine her when I wrote about it to you. As far as I know, she’s never been offered baptism in reality. I’m sorry to hear about that one website you mentioned. It sounds like the author was confusing “we don’t condone it” with “it doesn’t occur”, but that’s no excuse for putting that kind of garbage into the public sphere.

    Since this thread is now beyond dead and probably only annoying everyone else, please do send Ray my email address so that we can keep writing to each other.

  57. Miriam,

    There is no doctrine which says that a person must be baptized to be resurrected. Resurrection from the dead comes to all mankind pursuant to the death and resurrection of Christ. There is no prerequisite of baptism for this to occur. You are correct that Paul was using the practice of baptism by proxy in order to solidify the idea of the resurrection. But the resurrection is not justification for the practice. You must incorporate one other verse into your analysis. When we read the story of Nicodemus and Jesus, Jesus makes the statement that a man must be “born again.” Nicodemus asks how this is to be done, and Christ answers, “except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” Mormons interpret this to mean that before anyone can physically enter into the presence of the Father, i.e. the “Celestial Kingdom,” he must first proceed with the covenant of baptism–wherein he accepts divine forgiveness of his sins on conditions of repentance and acceptance of the Savior Jesus Christ.

    But you may be left to wonder why a “physical act” here on Earth is necessary to accomplish this. After all, it would seem that if baptism is simply a symbol or outward showing of one’s desire to forsake sin and accept Christ, why couldn’t the same thing be accomplished without the need to physically submerge someone in water or have another person go through the same action on behalf of a deceased ancestor. Your answer lies in part with the Savior’s own baptism. You will remember that Jesus Himself was baptized. Why? He was without sin and by being here had already manifested his accent to the Father’s plan and purpose. But what did he say? He said that he did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” A vague answer to say the least, but Mormons interpret this action and statement to mean that for whatever reason, the physical act of baptism, either direct or by proxy, is necessary for all beings born to the Earth. Christ was no exception to the law–the righteous law established by His Father.

    But baptism for the dead is not limited in purpose for the redemption of the dead alone. Part of the three-fold mission of the Mormon Church is to “perfect the saints.” It is understood that as we live worthy enough to enter into God’s Holy Temples for the purposes of participating in ordinances for our ancestors, we ourselves are (hopefully) becoming more Christ-like and moving closer to the Father. I have never felt closer to those I love than when I have acted on their behalf in these ordinances. I truly feel a connection with them and with God. In the words of the Prophet Malachi, my heart is “turned to my fathers.” All Temple ordinances are in some respects “quid pro quo.” Essentially by helping our ancestors, we are helping ourselves–until the entire human family is one in Christ.

  58. Reading Bruce, Miriam and Ray’s discussion thread I was touched by the polite exchanges and sincere communication. I felt better about my beliefs as I read.
    Miriam, you have a great humility when you are writing. Thanks to all.

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