Do you care if Mormons get baptized for you?

From Slate:

What do you know about this practice among Mormons? Do you think it is wrong? Do you care if they do this for you?

Family members of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded by terrorists while on assignment in Pakistan in 2002, were disturbed to learn this week that he had been posthumously baptized by Mormons at a temple in Idaho. The news came just weeks after Mormon leaders apologized for a church member’s posthumous baptism of the parents of Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter. According to the Utah-based researcher who uncovered the records, the list of prominent Jews whose souls have come in for the treatment may also include Anne Frank.

“Mormons think of baptisms for the dead as a service to others, almost like adding family members’ names to a guest list,” Slate’s Forrest Wickman recently explained. In response to outcry from Jewish groups, however, church leaders have removed the names of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims and others from its rolls. Still, they haven’t been able to stamp out the practice entirely. Are the families of those who’ve been baptized posthumously justified in taking offense? Should they be touched by the Mormon Church’s concern?


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  • Sherri

    I can understand why some would take offense, but really – how does it affect them or their loved one? It might feel a little dishonoring of the memory/religion, but it doesn’t really impact the person who is being “baptized.” It just seems a little silly to do it. If someone wants to be baptized for me, go for it. Doesn’t affect me, this world, or my relationship with Christ at all, especially if I’m dead. They’ve wasted their time, but that’s really their decision. – That said, I’ve never been persecuted for my religion or ethnicity the way the Jewish population has.

  • Barb

    I can understand how an atheist might be offended–but a Christian should pay it no mind.–just like Sherri said above–it has no affect. this practice is included in their “temple work”.

  • Kenny Johnson

    No and I actually don’t understand why people are offended. If Muslims baptized the dead, I would feel the same too.

    I’m actually do a lot of family history research and genealogy and have published my findings on and elsewhere as well as sharing them with 2nd and 3rd cousins. It’s very likely that many of my ancestors have been baptized by the Mormom church — and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

  • The people we knew when we lived in UT who were the most dedicated to having their names removed from the rolls, & excluded from such considerations were former Mormons. OTOH, it seems harmless, but on the other hand, it could be perceived as a post-mortem form of profound disrespect for others’ wishes, living choices & profession of their own religious belief or disbelief. If I recall the practice, correctly, it’s one aspect of the need for the new (male) gods to populate their planets in the celestial kingdom. There also seems to be an element of post-mortem choice given to the non-believing baptized.

  • Annie

    I’m grateful to those who’ve brought up the fact that according to Mormon beliefs, those who have proxy baptism performed for them have a choice whether or not to accept it. We don’t believe that God is going to force anyone into any form of belief, and we believe that there are levels of glory in the afterlife for the good people on the earth who didn’t choose to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and receive the necessary ordinances.

    It’s for this reason that I’m always a little surprised to hear that people are so offended by the practice. We believe it’s a saving ordinance, that everyone on earth deserves the chance to accept it, and so just as we send missionaries across the earth to offer the opportunity to those who haven’t heard about the Gospel in this life, we also view temple work as a missionary opportunity to minister to the dead. We don’t believe that everyone who is baptized accepts the ordinance – we don’t know have a way of knowing whether they do or not – but we want to offer them the opportunity just the same.

    And Ann, just as a little clarification – there is nothing inherent in baptism necessary for becoming gods, and there is nothing canonical in Mormon doctrine that talks about this or about populating planets. Neither is it gendered – women receive all the same ordinances in the temple that men do. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and for inclusion in the household of Christ. Our justification for baptism is that found in John 3:5.

  • Well, at least they have one verse supporting their bizarre doctrine, I Cor 15:29…

  • DRT

    …or would you mind if a religion, in which you do not believe, curses you?

  • Mark Edward

    To get offended by it, to me, is to implicitly give it some type of credibility. It’s as ineffective as meat sacrificed to idols.

  • JohnM

    Not only would I not be offended if it was done for me or mine, since I don’t believe it affects anything, I’m also weary of those who ARE so easily offended. Unless you actually believe in it there is no reason it should matter to you. However, if it’s a quarrel you want I guess it’s not hard to find one in this world.

  • FWIW, I found a site with some good exegesis for the Corinthians passage.

  • Amory Ewerdt

    While not knowing much about the motives for such a practice I would, perhaps ignorantly be honored that they would care enough about me to do what they think could secure my salvation for me. While I don’t think it will actually accomplish anything vicariously for me, why would I not appreciate the goodwill and intentions of someone who is operating in the light that they have?

  • Simon

    @ Amory (#11) – what a lovely sentiment to have on this topic. My stance has typically been the skeptical “ignore it because its all phoney” that typifies most of the comments above, but I do like the spirit of what you are saying.

    I also wonder how far removed it is from the orthodox habit of praying for those who have not consented to the prayer – such as politicians, rulers, surgeons etc.

  • holdon

    @Joey 10.

    The meaning of 1 Cor 15:29 rests on a correct rendering of the keyword υπέρ τον νεκρών. It means not “on behalf of the dead” as if baptism could be of benefit for the dead, but “instead (in lieu) of the dead”. That is newly baptized believers take the place of those that have died. The newly baptized christian refills the ranks of those martyred in the church militant. They only do that because the temporary suffering or martyr death is more than compensated by the hope of resurrection, because Christ will be the ultimate Victor. See the context of the chapter.

  • MatthewS

    It’s done in their space and within their system. The intentions seem honorable – they are following the golden rule in that they are doing for someone else what they wish for themselves as well.

    Just like I don’t want someone intruding into my space telling me who I can and cannot pray for, I think my response would be to let them do whatever and basically ignore it. If this practice involved intruding into the space of others and making some sort of ritual or ceremonial demands of them, it would be a different story. But again, their space, their beliefs – I don’t understand the offense.

  • Paul D.

    Since baptism by proxy is only for the dead I would most certainly be offended . . . ;-D

  • Dana Ames

    Most Jewish people don’t know the difference between the theology that underlies Mormon practice and other theology: all they see or hear is “baptism”. It freaks them out because for them it connotes extinction of their identity – and perhaps, literally, “extinction”. The history of our dealings with the Jews is not exemplary, even with the best of “good intentions”. I don’t think the Mormons doing this work really understand that, even though they believe it’s right.

    I don’t care if they ever do it for me, because it would do nothing for me. The first Christians did not practice proxy baptism, so that shows me that, whatever the proper exegesis of the 1Cor passage is, it is not that.


  • Thad

    There is nowhere in Scripture that states that baptism is necessary for salvation or the remission of sins. This is covered by 1 John 1:7. The early Christian church never understood baptism for the dead as a Christian practice.

  • @17 Thad, what Bible do you read? There’s only one way people are united to the cross, that’s through immersion. Baptism is tied in with the removal of sin and the new life. Baptism is absolutely necessary.