Baptizing Other People’s Dead Relatives (Poll)

By: hawkgrrrl
February 21, 2012

Our Mormon moment continues (click here for the best article I’ve seen on this one). Baptism for the dead is under scrutiny again, mostly due to 2 incidents:  1) baptizing holocaust victims (despite the church previously stating this would not happen), and 2) Mitt Romney’s family proxy baptizing wife Ann’s father who was a vocal atheist.

Baptizing Holocaust Victims

Elie Weisel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and advocate for Holocaust survivors (he wrote Night about his survival from the Buchenwald Nazi death camp) has called on Mitt Romney to publicly correct the church’s behavior.  The church had already promised to stop the practice that was so repugnant to relatives of those who survived the Holocaust who felt it was disrespectful of their identity as Jews, since these people essentially were murdered for being Jewish.  The church is in the unenviable position of having to apologize yet again for baptizing Holocaust victims.  Even more scandalously, the church has also baptized the perpetrators of the Holocaust, war criminals who tortured and murdered millions of Jews.  I can see Elie Wiesel’s point.  However, while the actions taken by the church won’t prevent someone from submitting the name of a Holocaust victim through the genealogical system, it will prevent the work from actually being done for names that have been flagged.

Mitt’s Father in Law

The logical answer (which is the church’s policy) is to only allow people to perform proxy work for their own deceased family members, not for others they have no claim or rights to.  But that brings us to the situation with Mitt’s father-in-law.  What is the objection here?  Perhaps because the practice is misunderstood and viewed as weird and sinister to outsiders who may believe a variety of things about it:

  1. That it somehow involves actual corpses being baptized.  Ick.
  2. That somehow Mormons consider these proxy baptisms in our membership records.
  3. That we are forcing someone to convert to Mormonism, which any Mormon knows is not the case.
  4. That the intent is not to give a choice to the deceased person from a point of caring for that person but about . . . total world domination maybe?
  5. That it somehow changes the identity of the deceased person or disrespects their individuality and choices.

Limiting proxy work to one’s own direct relations also means that we will likely run out of names.  Members who’ve worked in the temple have reported that names are often done multiple times, perhaps accidentally due to mistakes in tracking, but it is apparently not an issue to repeat ordinances.  There have also been stories of people with a close relation they wanted to do the work for who found out that some very distantly related person already did it, at times not respecting the waiting limits imposed.

I don’t see much personal value in doing work for people not in my own family tree, but it can be a very loving gesture toward our own deceased family members, one that provides emotional closure to the family and a bond to the deceased.  Bill Maher obviously felt it was worthy of ridicule when he “unbaptized” Mitt’s FIL in a Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat, but this disrespects the family’s desire to honor Ann’s father.

We’re not the only ones.

When my mom was in hard labor in a Catholic hospital, they said they would not help her deliver the baby unless she signed an agreement to have my sister baptized by the hospital when she was born, despite my mother’s objection to infant baptism.  To me, that’s an even more invasive religious practice than baptizing for the dead.  Yet, my mother’s reaction was probably what my own would be:  “I don’t believe in it anyway, so do what you want.  Now get this friggin’ baby out of me right now!”

This seems like a byproduct of authoritative churches.  If you believe you have the authority and others don’t, you feel responsible to ensure the work is done for all.  In my mother’s case, they made her sign an agreement to allow it (obviously under duress).  Perhaps that’s a good rule of thumb for the LDS, too – if we would not be able to obtain permission from the person’s surviving relatives, we shouldn’t do it.

However, for some of our detractors, nothing will satisfy them but a complete cessation of baptism for the dead.

Where do you sit?

I’m a bit torn on this one myself.  I tend to think that for those who don’t believe in Mormonism (possibly including the deceased), it’s a practice that is simply irrelevant. For Mormons doing proxy work for total strangers, it seems like busy work to keep us in the temple and out of trouble.  For people whose identity is either very controversial (e.g. Hitler) or very clearly wrapped up with their religion in life (e.g. Mother Theresa or Gandhi) it seems tone deaf to perform proxy work for them.  I’m not a fan of celebrity baptisms for the dead (e.g. Michael Jackson or Obama’s mother).  I like the waiting period and the rule that you must be related.  Those zealots who submit celebrity or non-related names should have their access to the PAF revoked and perhaps someone should buy them a paint-by-numbers kit.  They obviously have too much time on their hands.

I also wonder if the church is being disingenuous in its efforts to stop the practice of baptizing non relatives, otherwise, why does it keep happening?  Someone could even come up with an equivalent of a DNC (do not contact) list. But again, I don’t really see the point.  Elsewhere a comment was made that someone would be very upset if Scientologists did some ritual involving them from afar against their will or without their prior consent.  I guess you can put me down in the camp of people who just don’t care.  Burn a candle for me in the Catholic church.  Do an ablution in a mosque on my behalf.  Write my name on a Tibetan prayer scroll.  I’ll take all the help and well wishes I can get.

Let’s find out what you think.

Which most closely matches your feelings about proxy ordinances for the dead as practiced by the church? (check all that apply)

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43 Responses to Baptizing Other People’s Dead Relatives (Poll)

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 21, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    Ok. I have had masses done on behalf of my family and myself. I have had evangelical prayer circles with my name. I can go out to the cemetery and see crystals and candles and rocks (new age, Catholic and Jewish practices, respectively) at the graves of my girls.

    I would be a fool to have taken offense. Or someone with nothing better to do. Some people live to take offense. There is no pleasing them.

    Otherwise, people need to get a grip. It is a huge, uncorrelated volunteer network we are talking about, of people of good will.

    Should Gypsies take offense at the memorials? Some do, but I do not see litergies changed. Go to a bar or bat mitsvah and see for yourself.


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  2. alice on February 21, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    I think it’s time to consider if this practice — particularly the high profile negative witness it’s engendered — is keeping people from being open to the message of the church and, in the process, inhibiting live, willing baptisms.

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  3. Last Lemming on February 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Baptisms for the dead are a way to keep the members involved in genealogy work, which has benefits well beyond proxy ordinances. For example see the following:

    If we stop proxy ordinances, the Church’s whole genealogical infrastructure will go to pot, and the world will be the worse for it.

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  4. @UtahMormonDemoGuy on February 21, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    I think we need to be sensitive to the wishes of the living. Jews, in particular, have faced a long and painful history of religious persecution, including forced conversion and baptism which likely makes the idea of proxy baptism more offensive to them than to others. That said, I do feel that, to some extent, people are “manufacturing offense” by assuming that the LDS proxy baptism ordinance means something that the LDS do not believe it means (i.e., conversion to Mormonism without consent). In addition, I don’t think those outside the Church understand that we are not keeping some kind of running scoreboard of who is baptized and who isn’t.

    In sum, I believe the Church could do a better job of enforcing its policies and training members about sensitivities that exist. But maybe everyone else could realize that the Church is dealing with a volunteer genealogist force of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people with varying backgrounds and levels of sophistication and education. Mistakes will be made. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but perhaps folks could just give Mormons the benefit of the doubt and see this ritual (if and wehen it inadvertantly occurs) as a good-will gesture, not some sinister plot. Like hawgrrrl, light a candle, say a prayer or whatever for me. As long as it is done in good-will, I will take. (That leaves that twerp Bill Maher out).

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  5. Jeff Spector on February 21, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    I did a post on this on Mormon Matters the first or second time this came up.

    As I have written, the Jewish leaders protest a bit too much. I understand it at some level, but they have ignored forced real baptisms done in the past.

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  6. Jeff Spector on February 21, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    “I think we need to be sensitive to the wishes of the living. Jews, in particular, have faced a long and painful history of religious persecution, including forced conversion and baptism which likely makes the idea of proxy baptism more offensive to them than to others.”

    I think it is easy to critize something you really do not understand or wish to understand.

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  7. Cowboy on February 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Frankly, those outside the Church shouldn’t really care all that much. If other faith’s want to spend a lot of effort impersonating me in their ritual, I’m flattered. Heck, I’d be flattered if the Church actors replaced Satan’s role with an impersonator of me. As far as all of that goes, if your a Jew and you believe your ancestors were stalwart Jews, what impact do you think Mormon Temple rituals will have on that? It seems like a rather petty complaint really.

    On the other hand, I think there could be some valid concerns raised over what is going on with all of this information gathering. If I was a Holocaust survivor, I would be much more concerned about secretive and militaresque granite vaults, and genetic profiling. While I can dismiss that as mere conspiracy theory, I would think to survivors of the Holocaust, those concerns would hit a little closer to home. At least they would seem to concern me more than proxy ordinance work.

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  8. Paul on February 21, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    What a moment…

    It does the church no harm to honor the wishes of the families of holocaust survivors to the best of our ability. That the church has apparently not completely succeeded is regretable.

    (I must say this particular story confuses me; I’ve read some reports that say baptisms have been done; others that say the names have only been entered into the the new Family Search.)

    As for Bill M — he’s paid to ridicule; he seems to do it quite well, though I’m not sure that’s to his credit.

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  9. Jeff Spector on February 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM


    “(I must say this particular story confuses me; I’ve read some reports that say baptisms have been done; others that say the names have only been entered into the the new Family Search.)”

    It’s been both. Apparently, some church members get a kick out of saving other people’s families whether they want them to or not. I imagine it is tough to be a church member whose family goes way back and has their Temple Work done.

    Besides, who wouldn’t want to hear “for and in behalf of Elvis Presley, who is dead…..” and being baptized for the hundredth time.”

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  10. Jake on February 21, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    A deeper issue I think is why we even baptise for the dead anyway. If everyone gets resurrected then why not have them baptised for themselves during the millennium? It just seems a bit unnecessary.

    Particularly because it seems to me that baptising them with no permission from them seems to violate their agency. We say ‘well they can chose to accept it’ but thats not the same as them choosing to be baptised themselves. We don’t baptise everyone here and then say well your free to chose to accept it or not. That doesn’t make sense to me. So how is it okay to do something they may not want doing just because they are dead?

    How would I feel if my ancestors were being initiated into Scientology, or christened vicariously as Catholics. I don’t think I would be too bothered. But then I can see how people would be upset. I might be upset if after my death I was baptised as a Jehovah Witness and put on their list of members.

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  11. SilverRain on February 21, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    How does it violate their agency? People can say whatever they want about me, and it doesn’t affect my ability to choose one iota.

    It’s polite and good to try to be sensitive to others’ sensibilities. But there is also a point where being sensitive is not the most important or reasonable course of action.

    There are times when choosing to be insensitive is a greater good.

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  12. Mike S on February 21, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    In engineering, you deal with boundary conditions. Or you deal with the exceptions.

    When it comes to baptism for the dead, there are obviously billions of people who will never have their proxy work done for them by LDS members in this dispensation. There is obviously going to be some sort of mechanism in place for all of the billions of good people who weren’t baptized, in life or by proxy. I don’t know what this is.

    - Perhaps in the millennium angels will actually just tell us who accepted it.
    - Perhaps we will find out that other baptisms were also valid
    - Perhaps we will find out that being a good person was enough
    - Who knows?

    In any event, the fact that the majority of any necessary work will be done “later” makes you wonder what the necessity is for doing it now? Not saying we shouldn’t try, but if we have to err on the side of something, I would do LESS rather than MORE.

    As someone mentioned above, if baptism for the dead is interfering with baptism for live people, what are we gaining.

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  13. Cowboy on February 21, 2012 at 2:02 PM


    You have tapped into a very interesting question. It’s mere speculation of course, but the whole notion of Baptisms for the Dead seems like a convenient way to duct tape a solution to the problem that Jesus said “except a man be born of water and the spirit, he can in no wise inherit the kingdom of heaven”, while faced with the observation that most people never actually have the chance. This wasn’t an observation made by Joseph Smith, but was rather a fairly schizmatic point debated by all of the “contests of religionists”. Baptisms for the Dead created a way for Joseph Smith to appease both sides.

    When you look at it that way, the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead makes a lot of sense as creative problem solving. Where the doctrine really loses me is in the implication that it wasn’t a 19th century extrapolation, but rather an intrical part of the system from before the foundations of the world. In other words, we are expected to believe that a perfect God designed things this way intentionally?? If you look at it that way, the plan of salvation starts to make absolutely no sense. God creates a plan, along with the physical infrastructure to support it, with the intention of placing people into an organic process where they are to learn to make and keep sacred covenants, knowing that over 99% of the population committed to that system, will not pass a quality control inspection. He then builds in a rework loop (baptism for the dead) that is managed at the casual convenience of the >100% that passed inspection. So, God sends us to earth knowing before hand that we will fail to pass inspection, but allows to go through processing anyway. And bear in mind that God is perfect in knowledge and capabilities. This is the perfect plan???? Why not create a better system that captures everybody on the first run?

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  14. Frank Pellett on February 21, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Mike (#12) –

    From my time working on the Church Facilities Management system, I came to understand that a good part of the work the Church does is in building up and preparing the systems now to not be overwhelmed for the “flood” of work to be done in the future. We have no idea how many temples it will take, working around the clock, to be able to do te work for everyone who lived on this Earth, but we can work now to be as close to ready as we can be before we’re called upon to do it all.

    I don’t think we’d be able to do the work we’re doing now in temples if we had not developed the FamilySearch system to track it all, and I think it will eventually need to give way for an even larger system that can handle the billions to come.

    I’d heard from a GA that one of the reasons the Church has not grown to all the nations yet is because we, both as a community and systematically, are not yet ready to handle such growth.

    Staring small and getting even a tiny fraction of the work done is far better than having nothing in place and having done nothing at all.

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  15. Douglas on February 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    There’s a technical challenge to flagging “Jewish” names as many European Jews had long adopted German names (to wit: there are over a hundred “Rosenbergs” identified as Holocaust victims, remember also Ethel and Julius R, executed as Soviet spies, but Alfred R, one of the prominent Nazis tried, found guilty, and hanged at Nuremberg).
    I see no problem with doing the temple work of a dead Nazi. We’re commanded to do it for all. Let the Savior be their Judge. But as with a deceased Jew, as with anyone, I’d secure the consent of surviving family. I’d be glad to do the work of Michael Wittman, Kurt “Panzer” Meyer, and Jochen Peiper. If there’s a way these men can be saved, fine. If their fate is already “sealed”, also fine.
    I suspect that Jewish objections to LDS proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims range from since offense at apparent arrogance and insensitivity to fear that the “body count” of Holocaust victims as documented by LDS genealogical research wouldn’t mesh with commonly accepted figures. Just a hunch.

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  16. Douglas on February 21, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Clarification – “sincere”, and it’s more than a bunch that most Jewish figures are genuinely offended at the notion of Holocaust victims having LDS temple ordinances performed w/o prior consent. If a reliable method can be set up to prevent further blunders, “make it so”

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  17. el oso on February 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    I think that we are going to see a new waiting period for vicarious work to be officially “posted”. The church will have a new program that officially flags suspect names and will remove them both before the work is done and then after, if it gets through. I would also like to see the date ranges moved a little bit for certain ordinances.

    People who are likely to have living children should not just have their names submitted by anyone without some connection/permission. This will eliminate the celebrity baptisms for a while and also keep the nearest kin as the most likely person to do the ordinance work.

    If I did ordinance work for someone that I had no connection to who was born in the 20th century, I would be somewhat concerned. Why did their son or nephew or grandson not do this work? For people that are generations earlier, I assume that a hardworking family history researcher has found their g-g-g-great uncle’s family (by marriage) and they do not have time to do the many hundreds of names that this type of research generates. If they come from the extraction program from a long time ago, they still likely have a current church member who is related.

    The bottom line, 1) Continue the temple work with high priority, 2) Change policies to put the “anonymous” work further back in time.

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  18. Mike S on February 21, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    #14: Frank:

    Thank you for the comment. I especially like the line: Staring small and getting even a tiny fraction of the work done is far better than having nothing in place and having done nothing at all.

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  19. Jake on February 21, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Silverrain, its not about simply saying something about you, I guess its like someone signing you up to join some organization such as the KKK on behalf of you. Yes, you are free to later opt out of it, but someone still signed you up and you were associated with it without your permission, for me that is a violation of my liberty to do something for me without my permission. Looking at it that way I would be offended if my grandad’s name was recruited for the KKK posthumously (not that the church is in any way like the KKK – merely an example of a organisation that I don’t agree with, just as they don’t agree with ours)

    Cowboy, thats an interesting way of looking at it. I agree that it is a very neat solution to a wealth of problems. But I think it creates others. Such as the one you pointed out, in that it makes the plan very ineffective, I mean why should the salvation of 99% be dependent on the 1% working themselves to death getting baptised for them? If it is an eternal perfect plan then can you imagine that conversation in the pre-existance;

    God: so you are going to go down to earth and be born with a bunch of pagans, you will die and then go to Spirit prison because you were wicked, then 1,500 years later you will be taught the gospel, and then 2,500 years later you will be baptised and be released from prison, then you will be resurrected.

    Pagan: Thats a lot of waiting in spirit prison, why can’t I just be born into a christian family and save myself 4,000 years in prison?

    God: Because Christian families are in high demand I only have a limited number of spaces, and thats only for the 0.05% of people, who will be the ones who get baptised for you later. And well this is awkward, but you weren’t valiant enough to get a place in the elite group to be born christian.

    Pagan: right, so why do I have to go to prison when its not my fault that I was born there, but yours for sending me there?

    God: ermmm… Well its because its an eternal laws… and well thats the way it is… you know mercy and justice and all that.

    Pagan: Your God, so why don’t you just change the plan so we don’t have to be in prison with all the gnashing and wailing of teeth for millenia?

    God: Look at the time its time for you to be born now.

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  20. dba.brotherp on February 21, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    I’m with Jake #10 on this one, so I voted busy work.

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  21. dba.brotherp on February 21, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    #17 “The church will have a new program that officially flags suspect names and will remove them both before the work is done and then after, if it gets through.”

    After the work is done? Judgement day is near. Now the computers can undo on earth and in heaven! :)

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  22. aerin on February 21, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    What if all the time, money and energy spent on the proxy baptisms and ordinances was spent on people alive right now.

    There are places all over the world where they don’t have clean water or sewers (including counties in the United States that don’t have a sewer system). People die of diseases that have a cure – malaria, etc. There are many homeless, unemployed, illiterate, etc. For many, simple additions could make a big difference – from a solar-powered lamp to a cow or goat. Not enormous gifts but well-thought out donations that really help people.

    So it could be an easy pr win for the Utah LDS church, suspend the baptisms for the dead program and use all those resources on making the world a better place right now. Frankly, it would be better public relations than the current billboards and commercials – actions speak louder than words.

    I think I could find doctrine that would support this assertion. Proxy baptisms are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and are only tangentially mentioned in the Old Testament. If I were in charge, that would be one of the changes I would make.

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  23. Badger on February 21, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Many of the previous comments have done a good job explaining why, from a Mormon point of view, Jews should not attach so much importance to baptisms for the dead. I agree with them, as far as they go. Nevertheless, it is a fact that some Jews do not see things in that light. Is it so hard to understand why that might be the case?

    As Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, …we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract….It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…

    It seems perfectly natural to me for descendants or close relatives of those who died at sites like Auschwitz to view those places, and the events that occurred there, in the spirit of Lincoln’s words. Dedicate, consecrate, hallow, are words that to a Mormon might well bring to mind the sacredness of temple worship, a matter about which Mormons appreciate sensitivity. Surely there is a basis for empathy here.

    Added to these considerations, the cause to which relatives of Jews who died in the Holocaust would, in Lincoln’s words, take increased devotion, did not experience persecution for the first time in Nazi Germany. There are centuries of very regrettable history, and one recurring element of that history at various times and places was forced Christian baptism. Although the Nazis were purely out for blood, they were part of a long line of persecutors, many of whom offered conversion to Christianity as a (partial) ticket out of martyrdom.

    Of course, the Church’s right to the free exercise of religion includes performing baptisms for the dead even in cases where the living relatives see the act as a desecration of a sacred memory. However, I don’t think it is surprising when the explanation of providing “only an option”—a Christian option—to a Jew who (in Mormon terms) sealed his or her testimony with blood is unpersuasive.

    Leaving aside the question of how sensitive is too sensitive, I see no possibility that the Mormon explanation will ever be persuasive to many of those who are offended. There are really only two choices. One is to “take a stand”, as with gay marriage: baptize and let the chips fall where they may. The other is to respond to the objections, but unless the Church lives up to whatever commitments it makes, the result will be perceived as just a hypocritical version of the first option. The more forceful tone of this most recent response may be a first step toward creating confidence that the Church is serious about preventing certain baptisms from going forward.

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  24. Steve on February 21, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    It was announced today the Anne Frank was baptized — again.

    There is one solution that would bring a quick end to all of this.

    Anyone caught submitted a “forbidden name” should be disfellowship. A second incident should result in excommunication.

    A couple announcements of such discipline would stop this cold.

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  25. hawkgrrrl on February 21, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Steve – the core problem with your suggestion is that to date the church has never (that I can think of anyway) disciplined someone for being a zealot. Presumably, on some level, they don’t want to bite the misguided hand that feeds the church (while making us all look bad).

    The zealots are (go with me on this) never going to turn down a calling, always going to pay a full tithe and maybe even more. They are going to go the extra mile, because that’s what they think they are doing by baptizing Anne Frank. They are envisioning their joy upon meeting Anne in the afterlife and embracing her as a kindred soul. Smacking that down is like beating your too-loyal dog. The dog isn’t going to understand anyway, and you just feel pity and guilt after. Maybe we should whack their noses with a rolled up newspaper and then rub their nose in their own feces.

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  26. Angie on February 21, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    There are aspects of this post that have a flippant tone: Bill Maher in a wizard’s hat, “ick”, and “friggin’ baby.” Please consider taking down the picture of the men in the concentration camp. It’s a disrespectful juxtaposition.

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  27. Steve on February 21, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    hawkgrrrl –

    But, the Church has disciplined those with excessive zealotry in the past. I think of the polygamists.

    Those who submit the naughty names should be treated like those who wear gingham on the Arizona-Utah border. That comparison might be enough to bring the process to a halt.

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  28. Steve on February 21, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    Deseret News is posting a story indicating the Church is considering church discipline as a penalty. Given the fact the paper is owned by the Church . . .

    Here is the story:

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  29. Douglas on February 21, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    It should be remembered, though, that as long as the names are acquired either through public records or voluntary submissions of family members, the Church can legally perform whatever proxy religious ordinances it wants. Any restraint, whether it’s to forgo the temple ordinances for Anne Frank or Adolf Hitler, is to assuage understandable sensitivities and nothing else.
    Had it been left up to me, I would have said, “as far as it’s been revealed (D&C 128), the temple ordinances are to be made available to all persons that we can document as having lived. This doesn’t mean that we claim them as members of the CoJCoLDS, since the Church is of the living. Nor do we believe that it forces the Gospel down the throats of the dearly departed. Nor does making the ordinances available to some of history’s more notorious individuals constitute endorsement of their nefarious deeds nor does it, in our opinion, ‘rehabilitate’ them in any way. We leave their final judgement to the Savior. Lastly, we cannot speculate whether any individual who has the temple ordinances performed on their behalf accepts them or not. This is our work, and is done without intent to offend or cause consternation. If certain individuals or groups elect to take offense, it’s their own problem with religious freedom. If they don’t accept the teaching of our faith, then certainly they must have better things to do than worry about our activities that have no direct bearing on their lives.”
    That’s probably why Salt Lake hasn’t called and asked for me to run the PR department.

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  30. Mike S on February 21, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    I think one of the main underlying reasons why many people find this whole practice distasteful is simple: They find it elitist, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.

    It basically says that no matter how good you were in your life, no matter how valiant in your beliefs, no matter how much you suffered for God and your religion, no matter what you did, it’s not good enough unless you’re also Mormon. And a lot of people disagree – they think they ARE good enough.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on February 21, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    Angie – done. I merely wanted to promote Elie Wiesel’s book, so I’ve used the jacket rather than the picture from within the book.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on February 21, 2012 at 11:53 PM

    Mike S – while the practice may appear elitist, if we were truly elitist, we wouldn’t care. We wouldn’t apologize and try to change it. We would be totally obnoxious about it.

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  33. JL Fuller on February 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Apparently some folks still do not understand what takes place when this ordinance is performed for a deceased person. Some think it makes the dead person a Mormon or Christian or their name goes on a membership record or in some other way their memory or life history or name is altrereed or tarnished. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at it as being the Mormon version of praying the dead person out of purgatory as Catholics do. The theology is differnt but the act is essentially intended to do the same.

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  34. Douglas on February 22, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    #30 and #32 – We KNOW that we aren’t “elitist”, but we at times inadvertently come across that way.
    Not to make light of the suffering of Jews at the hands of the Nazis, but at this point, nearly seventy years after the fact, by individuals who were themselves not directly involved or not even alive, smacks of “victimology”. That is, by performing temple ordinances for Holocaust victims, we LDS are victimizing them or Jews in general. Considering our motivation(s), nothing could be further from the truth.
    Wouldn’t the efforts of Jews interested in defending their culture (or their very persons) be much better directed at the real anti-Semites? Methinks that the complainers are what Isaiah described (Isaiah 29:21). To them, I say, “Quit yer kvetchin’!!!”

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  35. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on February 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Hmmm…. well at least it wasn’t a bunch of muslims you guys baptized for the dead… those guys reallly blow things out of proportion. Pun intended.

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  36. JL Fuller on February 23, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    The LDS church has said rogue members doing unauhtorized temple work can get them excommunicated. The reason is simple. As a member in good standing, every Mormon is required to abide by the highest of personal standards of honesty and integrity. When they deliberatly do something that defames the Church they no longer can be considered a member in good standing.

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  37. joshua on February 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    I may be a jerk for this but I think Bill Maher’s stupid example proves the reason I do not understand the objection of others to proxy baptism. I do not believe the words Bill Maher uttered are valid in any way or fashion. I do not believe that his words had any effect on Mitt’s Father in Law. Bill Maher can say whatever mumbo jumbo. To me and my beliefs it has no effect.

    That is how I wish non members would take this practice. Let it just be mumbo jumbo. As Dr. Laura once said (God help me I am quoting that woman), to a jewish caller concerned about Christian family members who were saying that unless this Jewish woman converted she would end up in hell. Dr. Laura asked the Jewish woman if she believed in hell and the woman said no. Dr. Laura then says “then who cares what the other people believe or think.”

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  38. [...] in Sunday in Outer Blogness Baptism for the dead has hit the news in a big way! With all of the criticism in the news about posthumously baptizing holocaust victims (including Anne Frank, again), the Hindus got wind [...]

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  39. Joe on March 4, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    A big reason for the original protest about the church baptizing Holocaust victims is that it was done in a methodical way using official records not intended for that purpose. I doubt that there was deliberate deception, but highly suspect that the church obtained access to genealogy records and someone else in the hierarchy didn’t bother finding out the conditions behind that access. (I understand that the Catholic church has gotten so upset over this that many parishes refuse to deal with the church or any of it’s perceived proxies [meaning mainly] Other governments see general genealogical record access as an invasion of privacy and heavily restrict it [i.e. Japan, though there are additional complex sociological reasons for this.]

    In the end, the church gave it’s word and broke it, repeatedly. What astonishes me is the lack of safeguards. Simple database queries could put an end to much of this, but the unintended consequences of running out of names may be too big of an obstacle.

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  40. Joe on March 4, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    BTW, I posted my comment before reading the link of the letter to the Catholic bishops. I already knew about it. What the letter doesn’t say is that Catholic church and several countries are very upset that immediately after WWII, the LDS church was running around Europe microfilming genealogical records under the pretense of simply preserving them. They are also upset that companies like have done the same thing and then had the audacity to turn around and charge for access to these records without giving any royalties to the original organizations (and this isn’t just simple greed; it’s quite expensive for these parishes and governments to not only maintain the records but to provide access to genealogical requests.)

    The extraction program run by the church is the big problem here. But they have no choice; without it, the temples wouldn’t have names (okay, they don’t have enough names and are constantly recycling them, but you can only do that for so long.)

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  41. hawkgrrrl on March 4, 2012 at 3:16 AM

    Joe – interesting details. Thanks for adding.

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  42. Bob on March 4, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    #40: Joe,
    “They have no choice”.
    I think if they can make sure every toe goes under the water__ they can stop Elvis or Anne Frank from being baptized again and again…..

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  43. JL Fuller on March 5, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Did you notice in the poll results that they most favorable was exactly what the LDS Church’s position is?

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