Definition Argument–Douglasadams525

The Mormons Aren’t Hurting Anyone

In contrast with the opinions of many individuals of many faiths, I submit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should not be condemned or otherwise publically reprimanded for their unusual practice of posthumous baptism.  I should like to additionally assert that in spite of the claims of some Jewish individuals, the Mormon Church does not overstep religious boundaries by performing the practice of posthumous baptism for victims of the Holocaust—or any other person or group of persons, regardless of faith, state of life, or cause of death—, and furthermore causes no harm to any individual, living or dead, by doing so.

As we have previously established, 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 by the dead.  However, this is not done out of disrespect for the deceased.  Rather, it is done out of love for humanity, and a desire to prove salvation for all.  The Mormons show the utmost respect for the deceased individual, and assures 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 names of the person or person who is to be baptized 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 Church states that the process of baptism does not necessarily mean that a person is suddenly a Mormon—because of their apparent value of individual choice, the Mormons believe that a dead person’s soul must decide 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.  However, all of this shows that the Mormon Church cannot possibly doing any harm—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.  It is only in a society that despises freedom that a practice that offers salvation, yet respects religious beliefs and personal choice can be considered harmful.

To avoid stacking the deck and claiming that no religious practice is harmful, we naturally examine a second religious practice, which has, unfortunately and without exaggeration, caused infants to die.  Interestingly, this is a practice performed by the Jews—the very people who have spoken out against the Mormons for not hurting anybody.  It is a universal practice in the Jewish community to circumcise baby boys on their eighth day of life.  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 does not serve any apparent purpose.

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, assuming 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.  Ethics dictate that killing babies is most certainly unethical, 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 their own religion has caused physical harm to members of their own religion, they speak out against another religion’s practice of saving as many people as possible.

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, the Mormons’ religious practice is biblically supported, while the Jews simply must allow God to say, “Do this because I said so,” which is hardly a convincing argument.  Additionally, 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, which reflects an unfortunately stereotypical greed.  Ultimately, 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.

Works Cited

“Why Do Mormons Perform Baptisms for the Dead?” Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Otterman, Sharon. “Mayor De Blasio and Rabbis Near Accord on New Circumcision Rule.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015

James, Susan Donaldson. “Baby Dies of Herpes in Ritual Circumcision By Orthodox Jews.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Genesis. Holy Bible. Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011. Print.

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2 Responses to Definition Argument–Douglasadams525

  1. douglasadams525 says:

    Feedback was requested. I wasn’t sure how to approach this at all, and I fear I’ve missed the mark by miles (nice alliteration there, though).

    You won’t be alone in having deviated by degrees, Douglas. Defining is direct and entirely doable, but disguising it requires deviousness.
    Feedback provided.


  2. davidbdale says:

    Hey, DouglasAdams,

    In the model I offered in class, Helen Rubinstein does not once declare that before we can decide whether she was stealing internet service from her neighbors or not we must first define the term “stealing.” And yet, her entire essay is an attempt to grapple with the distinction between borrowing, stealing, and accepting a gift freely given. The point is, it doesn’t sound like a formulaic “definition essay,” and yours doesn’t have to either.

    The trick is to engage the concept in a direct way and let the ambiguities in the situation unfold in a natural way. The result is an essay much more entertaining to read than one that announces it has a single goal: to define a term.

    How to begin? As usual, with the most arresting example of the counterintuitive that you can find. Your white paper makes clear that you have a natural gift for finding the absurd in a situation and communicating it, entertaining readers all the while. There’s little of that skill in evidence here. Bring some in.

    P1. You may feel the need to make all of these statements, and perhaps the process of your essay will require them, but they make for a very dry opening. We don’t know why any of these terms will be useful to us. You haven’t intrigued us with a need to know.

    P2. Now we’re talking. Everyone has to be a baptized Mormon to get into heaven. That may not give me incentive to want to be posthumously baptized, but it does characterize the Mormons’ odd practice as generous. Take me to the ritual, please. Identify a beneficiary of such a baptism and relate the anecdote of the sacrament. And make this your first paragraph. “Mormons not only want to make it to heaven, they want to share it with all of us. Or at least, they want to share it with Elie Wiesel.”

    P4. Unclear what you mean by this: “This is because the practice of posthumous baptism, while odd, is neither extremely counterintuitive nor worth exploring.” I presume you mean “the posthumous baptism of Mormon congregants.”

    A deep exploration of baptism might yield some surprising ambiguities, DA. For example, while the Mormons, Baptists, and other faith groups routinely baptize knowing and compliant adults, other sects, notably Roman Catholics, baptize unwitting infants. Catholics, therefore, presume the cooperation of the baptized, or consider their cooperation irrelevant to the sacrament. That means Mormons aren’t unique in their desire to share their good fortune with the unknowing. You like?


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