How Mormons Accidentally Anger the Jews
Unless we examine them more thoroughly, posthumous baptisms seem to be completely absurd. While nearly all Christians believe that baptism is the only key to salvation, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so dedicated to keeping everybody out of hell that they will even, despite criticism from other sects, graciously perform post-mortem baptisms for anyone—even people who were not Mormons during their lifetime (it is worth noting that these baptisms are performed via proxy; the Church is too respectful to baptize a cadaver). To better understand why Mormons perform baptisms for the dead, let us look at another very common practice in the Church: missionary service. Since its founding, the LDS Church has strongly encouraged all of its young men to go out into the world on a mission to serve others. Similarly, the Southern Baptist sect of Christianity strongly believes in mission service.
On the website for the Southern Baptist faith, the importance of mission service is explained thus: “as a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” If we are to assume that the Mormons—at least in this particular aspect of spirituality—hold similar beliefs to the Southern Baptists, then we can conclude that a very large part of the purpose of any mission is simply to convert people to one’s own religion, making mission service essentially a worldwide imitation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practice of going from door to door, knocking and hoping to convert people to what they believe to be the correct one religion. If Southern Baptists hold religious traditions that attempt to convert people, it is possible to assume that all religions do this, including Mormons. 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.
Assuming that the ultimate goal of any religion is to lead every individual down the path to redemption—or, as some individuals might assert, ram their beliefs down everyone’s throat—, we can conclude that every religious practice, such as posthumous baptism, is at least partially done for the sake of converting non-believers. This does not mean that the Church has no respect for a baptized individual’s soul’s right to choose to convert, but it does 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. Despite the good intentions behind the Mormon’s practice of baptizing Holocaust victims, many members of the Jewish community misunderstand the implication of post-mortem baptisms, and therefore feel spiritually raped by the Mormon Church. 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. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means no harm towards to Jewish community, the message of good will behind the baptism of Holocaust victims is not received as it is intended to be.
According to Rabbi Moshe Waldocks, many Jews feel that the actions of the Mormon Church are nothing more than a desperate grab for converts, saying that “It smacks of a certain sense of proselytism: If you [Mormons] can’t get them 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, its contempt for the Mormons and the homosexual community notwithstanding, is an unmistakable 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 Jewish belief that the dead must stay dead, and are not to be converted by one Church or another.
To summarize, the belief in posthumous baptism stems from the desire for universal salvation by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as from the Church’s desire to add more names to its congregation—a common desire amongst all world religions. However, a post-mortem baptism does not guarantee a conversion—this reflects the Mormons’ respect for the dead person’s soul’s right to choose its religion, and also explains the practice of posthumously baptizing certain individuals such as Anne Frank multiple times after death, in order to essentially make more Mormons. Jews, fundamentally holding a belief that conflicts with an idea held by the Mormons, have interpreted the practice of baptisms for Holocaust victims not as a gesture of good will, but rather a disrespectful grab for more converts. This misunderstanding has led to an outrage in the Jewish community, resulting in the creation of a vitriolic website aimed at converted Mormons to homosexuality. Ultimately, the conflict between the Mormons’ desire to save everyone from hell and the Jews’ feelings of abuse at the hands of power-hungry Mormons raise a question that has been asked since time immemorial: can’t we all just get along?
Oppenheimer, Mark. “A Twist on Posthumous Baptisms Leaves Jews Miffed at Mormon Rite.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
“Mission and Vision.” Http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/missionvision.asp. Southern Baptist Convention, 15 June 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
“Why Do Mormons Perform Baptisms for the Dead?” Mormon.org. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Goyette, Braden. “Why Mormons Baptize the Dead: A Guide.” NY Daily News. 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Feedback was requested.
P1. You can’t say “the only key to baptism” because baptism might be necessary but it isn’t sufficient.
—As a rule, if your parenthetical material is a complete sentence that should start with a capital letter and end with a period, it probably doesn’t belong in parentheses.
This transition from “the Mormons send youth out on missions” to “similarly do the Baptists” is very awkward because we haven’t seen the payoff for the first comparison yet. You promised us “better understanding” of the need to baptize the dead, then said missionary service would explain it, (haven’t explained it yet), then offered us a comparison to another religion while we’re waiting.
P2. Yeah, that’s not working. I see that you want to apply the SB mission statement (that’s a pun!), but with sects like the LDS, readers are not likely to grant you the “assume they hold similar beliefs” argument. Find a quote from the LDS declaring the centrality of missionary work to their own belief. THEN the conclusion that conversions are central, even if they are posthumous, will be accepted more readily.
In other words, make the case first. Nail down the conclusion, then you can minimize the oddity of the practice by comparing other extreme religious practices.
P3. It cannot be fairly said of every religion that its goal is to lead every individual, period. Does that disturb your conclusions in any way?
—One of these is right: [Mormons’] [Mormon’s]. I think you know which.
P5. Is there any way to determine whether the Jews are receiving the Mormons’ message, that the proxy-baptized souls are only being invited to convert, not forcibly converted? Would it make a difference to them if they did perceive the ceremonies as invitations? Or do the shenanigans of alldeadmormonsarenowgay indicate that a majority of Jews believe “there is no undo” of Mormon conversions too?
P6. Does it seem odd to postulate that a belief stems from a desire, or are you deliberately identifying this procedure as an act of “wishful thinking”?
I don’t know if you want to take this bait or not, but Buddhists and Hindus don’t seem to care if anybody adopts their religion or not. As for Muslims, most of those I know are also blithe on this point, but clearly the psychotically fanatical Muslims scourging Africa, parts of Asia, and the Middle East have adopted a “convert of die” policy. So, should we put this desire to convert down to enthusiasm or to psychosis?
—”aimed at [converting]”
—”the conflict [raises]”
Stellar work as always, douglasadams.
It’s been a pleasure to watch this paper develop.