What's with Mormons baptizing the dead? 12-26-17
December 26, 2017
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons, has a theological practice of baptizing dead people.
As this CNN piece explains, "For Mormons, baptizing the dead solves a big theological problem: How do billions of people who never had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ – including those who lived before Jesus walked the earth – receive salvation? By baptizing the dead, a practice known as posthumous proxy baptism, Mormons believe they are giving every person who ever lived the chance at everlasting life. That includes Muslims, Hindus, atheists, pagans, whoever."
As you might imagine, quite a few people outside of Mormonism think the practice not only is unnecessary but even offensive. In fact, a few years ago some Jewish people found that the LDS church was baptizing Holocaust victims. After complaints were lodged with the church, the LDS said it would quit the practice, and it apologized for it.
A few days ago, however, the Associated Press filed this report saying that someone has uncovered the fact that the LDS church is continuing to baptize Holocaust victims.
AP reported that "The discoveries (were) made by former Mormon Helen Radkey and shared with The Associated Press."
The LDS, in turn, said these particular baptisms "violated its policy and said they would be invalidated, while also noting it's created safeguards in recent years to improve compliance."
And the AP story says that a rabbi who consults with the LDS to make sure it doesn't baptize Shoah victims says "that the church takes seriously preventing Holocaust baptisms and said leaders are acting in good faith to honor the agreement."
Well, all of this is a reminder that not all faith communities that call themselves Christian share the same theology or the same practices.
For instance, in my Presbyterian denomination, there would never be a practice of baptizing dead people. One reason is that the church teaches that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Rather, it's a ceremony marking the beginning of membership in what's called the Body of Christ, or the church. The only possible exception is when, as an act of pastoral care to a distraught, grieving family, a hospital chaplain might baptize a still-born infant or one who died quite soon after birth. The chaplain might explain to the family that the ritual is not necessary for the well-being of the baby's soul, but if the parents insisted in the midst of their anguish, the chaplain might go ahead and do the baptism just to calm and reassure the parents.
A major reason the LDS church has such terrific genealogical resources (see its site for that here) is to assist it in finding dead members of current Mormon families to baptize -- along with many with no connection to Mormonism, as explained in the CNN piece to which I linked you above.
I'm grateful for the genealogical help, but I would find it offensive if I ever found that the LDS had done a proxy baptism on any dead members of my family.
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A RELIGIOUS COMEBACK IN 2017?
The Trump administration clearly is using religion and religious language to advance its agenda. Which is odd, this Atlantic piece notes, "for a president who is among the least overtly pious in recent memory." But it's increasingly clear that being overtly pious -- either for Trump or for the large percentage of white evangelical Christians who voted for him -- has almost nothing to do with it. It's about power and politics, not faith.