“A Willful ‘Not Understanding’ of the Beliefs and Sensibilities of Others”

Maureen Dowd, a columnist for the New York Times who’s never been accused of excessive depth or substance, published a piece yesterday in which she faulted Mitt Romney for not “step[ping] up as the cases have mounted of Jews posthumously and coercively baptized by Mormons.”

She also cites “Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor,” as calling “the whole process very strange.”  “There is nothing positive in what they are doing,” she reports Wiesel as saying.  “It’s an insult. You cannot ask the dead their opinion.  Poor Anne Frank. As if she didn’t suffer enough.”
I would really like to hear Ms. Dowd explain how vicarious baptisms on behalf of the dead “coerce” anyone.
And I would love to hear Elie Wiesel elaborate on exactly how a vicarious baptism on behalf of Anne Frank has caused Ms. Frank any additional suffering.
One of the 251 comments following the article — most of them hostile to Mormons and Mormonism, if my hasty skim through them is at all accurate — denounced Governor Romney for “a willful ‘not understanding’ of the beliefs and sensibilities of others. . . .  It picks on those who cannot defend themselves.”
But aren’t these inflammatory misrepresentations of Mormon beliefs an illustration of, precisely, “a willful ‘not understanding’ of the beliefs and sensibilities of others”?
Another commenter condemns our “imposing” of Mormonism on Jews.  But, again, how do proxy baptisms impose anything on anybody?  Where is the evidence to suggest that any communicant Latter-day Saint believes that vicarious baptism for the dead “coerces” conversion? 
Quite to the contrary, Latter-day Saints have clearly and repeatedly stressed that they do not believe vicarious baptisms for the dead to have any coercive power whatever.
Where is the respect for the sensibilities of a relatively isolated, historically marginalized, sometimes persecuted, and often derided religious minority when powerful members of the elite like the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd publicly and grievously misrepresent Latter-day Saint beliefs ?
Can it not be said of Dowd and Wiesel, with far more justice than of Governor Romney, that they are guilty in this case of “a willful ‘not understanding’ of the beliefs and sensibilities of others” that, to a significant degree, “picks on those who cannot defend themselves”?  (Latter-day Saints overwhelmingly lack ready access to organs of elite opinion like the New York Times.)
Where is the respect for Mormon “beliefs and sensibilities” in Elie Wiesel’s public remark that the practice of vicarious baptism for the dead, so central to Mr. Romney’s religious faith, is “very strange,” or in his call for Mr. Romney to denounce it, or in the demand, by Rick Santorum’s honorary Florida campaign chairman, that Mr. Romney altogether renounce that faith?

Is there any respect for Mormon “beliefs and sensibilities” in Elie Wiesel’s dogmatic assertion that “you cannot ask the dead their opinion”?  Latter-day Saints believe that the dead survive as conscious moral agents who remain entirely capable of holding, expressing, and acting upon opinions.  Are Mormons under any ethical obligation to conform their religious practices to his views rather than to their own?

Incidentally, Ed Snow, who watches such things, tells me that Senator Santorum visited three Baptist churches today in Louisiana — can you imagine the outcry if a Mormon church were involved in politics in so overt a way? we’re regularly denounced as wannabe theocrats even though we scrupulously avoid such things — including sharing his personal testimony with the First Baptist Church of Bossier, Louisiana, and that, thus far, he’s campaigned only downstate in Illinois, in rural and predominantly Evangelical areas.  He seems to have a pretty clear strategy, no?

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