The Mormons Aren’t Hurting Anyone
Many religions claim that it’s never too late to be saved, but one sect takes this concept to a whole new level. While most denominations teach that an individual is ultimately damned or saved at the instant of death, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that even after we die, we can have more chances to be saved than there are stars in the sky. Mormons believe that when a person dies, their soul goes to Spirit Prison, but that it can still join Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom if the person is baptized. Therefore, believing that every individual is entitled to the chance to be saved from eternal damnation, the Mormons uniquely perform post-mortem baptisms for people of all religions—even Holocaust victims.
The claim that baptizing Holocaust victims is both disrespectful and harmful is untrue—it brashly asserts that the practice of posthumous baptism has harmed even a Jewish fly, and also reflects a fearful insecurity held by the Jews, whose anger has led them to believe that their religion is better than that of the Mormons, and also to forget their own harmful spiritual practices. Others may disagree, but I submit that by performing baptisms for Holocaust victims, or any other dead Jews, the Mormons aren’t hurting anyone.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds the belief that it is never too late to achieve salvation, even after death. As a result of this, the Church permits baptisms to be performed for the dead, out of love for humanity and a desire to provide salvation for all. The Mormons show the utmost respect for the deceased individual, and assure the world that the remains of the dead person are not physically disturbed—the baptism is performed by proxy. A young adult in the Church is physically baptized in water, while a Mormon priest calls out the name of the benefactor of the baptism as the holy imposter remains submerged. The Church believes that this is good enough for Heavenly Father, and that the soul of the dead person has been given the chance to achieve salvation.
Out of further respect for the dead person and their soul, the Mormons insists that when a person is posthumously baptized by the Church, the dead person’s soul gets to choose whether or not it would like to join Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom. There is, however, no way to tell what the soul’s choice is, which has led to certain individuals being baptized more than once, such as Anne Frank, who was baptized at least nine times. Such an open-minded practice can hardly be considered harmful—the Church is demonstrating a truly generous display of religious tolerance by baptizing victims of the Holocaust, while simultaneously ensuring that the deceased individuals are not disturbed, as Jewish law forbids the exhumation of bodies. Further still, the Church still values the freedom of choice for every being, living or dead. Only in a society that despises freedom can a practice that offers salvation, yet respects religious beliefs and personal choice be frowned upon.
To avoid claiming that no religious practices are harmful, let us examine the Jewish practice of circumcision, which has, unfortunately, caused babies to die. Interestingly, this is a practice performed by the Jews—the very people who have spoken out against the Mormons for bringing harm to their fellows. In Orthodox communities, the Rabbi performing the circumcision will suck the blood from the infant’s penis, in a ritual practice thought to help cleanse the wound. However, the practice of circumcision has been labelled as nothing more than the mutilation of a baby’s genitals, and certainly does not offer an infant the chance to be saved by anyone other than Yahweh (the term by which Jews refer to God). However, we must not pretend that circumcision’s favorable nature in Yahweh’s eyes negates the physical harm that it causes to babies, which is notably absent from baptisms for the dead (with the possible exception of the proxy getting water in his or her ear).
Circumcision, as opposed to post-mortem baptism, does not provide the chance for salvation—in fact, it seems to be completely arbitrary. In the Christian Bible (the first five books of which constitute the Jewish Torah), in the book of Genesis, verses 9-14, we are told that:
“Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your house or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’”
From this text, we can conclude that the practice of circumcision is, in context, completely arbitrary. As opposed to posthumous baptism—which, according to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, is permitted by 1 Corinthians 15:29—there is no reason for circumcisions to be performed except for the fact that the Jews believe God commanded it. Furthermore, the Jewish babies have no choice in the matter, unlike the soul of a deceased person who has been baptized. However, to assume that one practice is valid and the other is not would be disrespectful, as it would insinuate a belief that the Jewish faith is superior to that of the Mormons.
Recently, some Jewish infants contracted herpes as a direct result of ritual circumcisions. Following the part of the ritual in which the Rabbi sucks the blood of the infant with his mouth, no fewer than eleven babies contracted the herpes virus between 2000 and 2012, at least one of whom died. Anyone with a greater sense of morality than a sociopath can agree that killing babies is certainly immoral, and that is exactly what the Jews have done via the practice of infant circumcision. While each individual person is different, and thus some may disagree, I submit that any practice that mutilates the genitals of infants who are merely days old, and furthermore can and has caused them to develop a terrible disease and even die, is most certainly a harmful one. The hypocrisy of the Jews is darkly ironic: while they criticize the harmless practices of other religions, their own rituals kill babies.
The Jews’ claim that the Mormon practice of posthumous baptism is harmful is simply ludicrous. While this practice is based out of love and causes no harm to anyone, the Jews are hypocritical in allowing babies to develop herpes and even die. Furthermore, while both practices are supported by religious texts, we must question whether the Covenant between man and a possibly nonexistent deity is worth the lives of some very real babies. We must also remember that posthumous baptism respects the choice of the individual by allowing the soul to choose to convert or not, while babies have no say in their circumcisions. It is also interesting to note that while the Mormons graciously extend their ritual to people of any and all religions, we scarcely hear of any Jews going around and offering to circumcise people—while very few people enjoy it when others share their religions, it hardly seems fair to criticize the Mormons for a generosity that the Jews do not share. After examining the two religious practices of the two religions involved in the controversy surrounding posthumous baptism, I submit that it is quite easy to determine what is harmful, and what is not.
Despite not being harmful, baptisms for the dead still appear to be absurd unless we examine them more thoroughly. To make sense of this practice and to understand why it brothers the Jews so much, let us first examine another very common religious practice: mission service, which unlike baptisms for the dead, is not unique to the LDS Church.
On the website for their faith, Southern Baptists tell us that “as a convention of churches, [their] missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” Similarly, a page on Mormon.org explains the Mormons’ emphasis on mission service thus:
Imagine you found a cure for cancer. How urgently would you spread the news of your discovery? Who would you tell? The gospel of Jesus Christ is the cure for so many of life’s ills that Mormons want to share the good news of eternal life with the same urgency.
The same website also tells us that after His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) As we can clearly see, mission service exists in multiple religions, all of which have the goal of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. While the specifics of the tradition may vary from travelling to Uganda to baptizing dead people, it can be said that every religion is ultimately interested in gaining more followers.
Knowing that the Mormons, like others, wish to share the good news, we can assume that baptisms for the dead are at least partially done for the sake of converting non-believers. This helps to make sense of the idea that a person can be baptized more than once. Posthumous baptisms are certainly a result of the LDS Church’s admirably intense desire for every person to meet Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom, but it is also true that more baptisms equate to more chances to convert, which—the Church hopes—ultimately lead to more Mormons (even if they’re dead).
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has exhibited an enormous display of religious tolerance and inclusion by trying to save as many people as possible, the Jews have not taken kindly to the Mormons’ practice. Jews, unlike Mormons, do not believe that an individual can be baptized after death. The practice seems so foreign and perverted that it is completely unfathomable. According to Rabbi Moshe Waldocks, many Jews feel that the Mormons have no good intentions whatsoever, saying that “It smacks of a certain sense of proselytism: If you [Mormons] can’t get them [Jews] while they’re alive, you’ll get them while they’re dead.” This statement makes it evident that it is not necessarily the desire for converts that the Jews take issue with, but rather the perceived lack of respect for a dead person’s dignity.
While the Mormons clearly believe that it is never too late to be saved, the Jews apparently are firm believers that the living ought to let the dead lie. It is this fundamental discrepancy in doctrine that results in a misunderstanding on the part of the Jews, which is reflected in an anger and some indubitably disrespectful shenanigans—one half-Jewish individual became angry enough to create a terribly disrespectful website titled alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com. According to the website,
Sadly, many Mormons throughout history have died without having known the joys of homosexuality. With your help, these poor souls can be saved. Simply enter the name of a dead Mormon in the form below and click Convert! Presto, they’re gay for eternity. There is no undo.
This website, when coupled with a lack of any sort of evidence to demonstrate that the Jews are aware of the implications of baptism for the dead, serves as a clear sign that Jewish individuals simply have failed to perceive the good intentions of the Mormon Church, and instead feel abused by the Mormons for inadvertently violating the belief that dead Jews must stay both dead and Jewish, and are not to be converted by one Church or another.
Since Holocaust victims, for obvious reasons, can’t verbally object to being baptized by Mormons, living Jews have taken it upon themselves to claim that it is wrong for the LDS Church to posthumously baptize their dead brethren. However, as we have briefly touched on before, they simply misunderstand the mitzvah that the Mormons are performing by doing exactly that.
After Daniel Pearl, a Jewish reporter, died at the hands of terrorists in February of 2002, the Mormons promptly baptized him. As we noted earlier, Rabbi Waldocks spoke for the Jewish community, and his comment would be merited if it did not assume that posthumous baptisms are only performed for the sake of converting people to the Mormon religion. Rather, such as Daniel Pearl’s are performed merely as an offering of what the Mormons believe to be a key part of salvation. Indeed, Michael Otterson, a spokesman for the LDS Church, asserted that “[t]he sentiment is one of inclusiveness and reaching out, that God loves all his children.” Mormons are certainly interested in growing their congregations, but the Jews have unfortunately failed to see Pearl’s baptism for what it truly is—a message of interfaith brotherhood, caused by a belief that God desires that all humans be saved, regardless of religion.
Since we cannot be certain that any particular religion is more “correct” than another, the Jews cannot reasonably claim that the LDS Church is depriving their Jewish brothers of a chance at salvation. Indeed, there is no scientifically accepted evidence that supports the existence of any version of God; it could very well be that the Mormons and the Jews are both wrong, and that we’ll all get eternal nothingness after we die. Because of this lack of evidence, it is simply irrational for the Jews to reprimand their Mormon brothers for trying to share the love.
Assuming that the Mormons are in fact a bunch of lunatics and that Judaism has been the right religion all along, we can still conclude that the Jewish discontent is a result of a religious insecurity. If God wants to save only Jews, then the Mormons can send as many people to their fictitious “Heavenly Father” as they please—it won’t matter, because God will ultimately decide who is saved and who is given a one-way ticket to Hell. Furthermore, we also must remember that the Mormons insist that the dead individual must choose to become a Mormon. The Jews, however, seem to forget this, and reflect their fear of a farcical religion by speaking out against a group that, unlike themselves, God has not picked as His chosen people.
There is a fundamental disagreement between Mormons and Jews when it comes to the idea of post-mortem salvation, presenting the opportunity for even the most thoughtful of actions to be taken as offensive. Because many Jews have very deep-seated beliefs, they simply misperceive the baptisms of Holocaust victims as a personal attack on their faith. Alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com reflects this sentiment, as it aims to do the same thing that the Jews believe the Mormons are doing: go after another religion’s deceased. This misunderstanding results in the anger that has been seen in the Jewish community.
The Mormons, as it has been clearly demonstrated, do not intend any ill will towards the Jews, nor do they cause any harm to any benefactors of posthumous baptism. Rather, they seek only to save as many people as possible, regardless of their state of life or their religion. The Jews, however, not believing that a person can be saved after they die, mistake this gesture of inclusion for a disrespectful and sneaky attempt at converting dead Jews to the Mormon religion. Unfortunately, the Jews have failed to recognize that while the Mormons do admittedly seek conversions by baptizing the dead, the offering of salvation is intended as a gift, not as a threat—there is no coercion in a post-mortem baptism. Ultimately, the reactions of the Jews to the practice of posthumous baptism can be explained in one simple sentence. First said by John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.”
Mark. Holy Bible. Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011. Print.
Genesis. Holy Bible. Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011. Print.
“A Missionary Church.” Mormon.org. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
The Elephant Man. Dir. David Lynch. 1980. Film.
“Mission and Vision.” Http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/missionvision.asp. Southern Baptist Convention, 15 June 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.