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February 22, 2012 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Are you bothered by the LDS practice of "baptism for the dead"? Well, take heart, because now, All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay.
posted by jbickers (232 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay is my new SLC straight edge scene band name.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2012 [29 favorites]


Yes!
posted by Jim Slade at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few people here could use a little re-gaying...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2012


I'm very confused as to whether or not this is a parody. I'd like to think so, but life is strange these days.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2012


Oh, and :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2012


Lol.

J'approve!
posted by entropone at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2012


I just saved Paul Anderson from an eternity of heterosexuality!
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on February 22, 2012


Yeah, take that, erm, 'Martha undefined'.
posted by pompomtom at 2:08 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Awesome.

This reminds me of the Calvinist doctrine (possibly only in some sub...denominations?) of pre-BC people like Aristotle who were apparently Christians without even knowing it! This gets around the inconvenient fact that there's no way for a pre-Jesus person, however good, to get into Heaven otherwise.

That was maddening to me even when I thought I really believed.
posted by DU at 2:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mormons apologize for baptism of Simon Wiesenthal's parents
posted by Burhanistan at 2:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just saved Edward Romney from a hetero afterlife.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who was raised Mormon, I always thought the principle of baptism for the dead was a beautiful one -- a chance for those who died without the opportunity to hear the Gospel. I was always taught we were just providing the opportunity, and it was that person's choice in the afterlife to accept it or not.

That being said, I totally understand the sensitive areas involved with Holocaust victims and other groups. If you're not doing your own family names, I was taught to always ask permission of the family and if they said no, it was a no-go.

My two cents. I made a MeFi account and paid $5 just to get it out there.
posted by kustjt at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [66 favorites]


Do you know what that's worth?
posted by The Whelk at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2012


I'll be converting dead pillars of the church and current CEOs/politicians for the next sixty minutes.

YEAH!
posted by BlueHorse at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2012


I have no idea how these people got their dead Mormons wedged into their gay-making machine or why.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2012 [51 favorites]


it's weird to me that no one seems to get up in arms over the other mormon temple work done for the dead by proxy.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on February 22, 2012


Joseph Smith is getting converted back and forth so much right now, he's spinning in his grave.
posted by Beardman at 2:15 PM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is gay.
posted by codswallop at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like there is no real database backing it. "Choose-A-Mormon" gave me Susan Watson. I converted her, then went back and typed Susan Watson in manually and converted her. I should have received a message that she was already gay or something. So then I typed in a random fake name and was able to get Hokie Dokie converted. Guys, I'm not sure this is real...
posted by mysterpigg at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2012 [28 favorites]


There's so much weird stuff in the Mormon religion....I am old enough to remember back when the Mormons used to take out these long multipage ads in Reader's Digest. They never talked about some of their, ahem, more esoteric beliefs.

My former Mormon husband regales me with those tales on a semiregular basis tho.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm having beer for the dead. Any suggestions?

Joseph Smith is getting converted back and forth so much right now, he's spinning in his grave.

Hmm. Anybody got a generator?
posted by eriko at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mysterpigg, you can make them DOUBLE GAY
posted by The Whelk at 2:19 PM on February 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Gay is just another word for eternal happiness.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


relevant...
posted by entropone at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


How gay can someone get before they become straight again? Because Susan Watson is looking pretty gay right about now.
posted by mysterpigg at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would double gay just be straight?
posted by Think_Long at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is now an awkward time to mention I used the infodump to make you all redditors?

This gets around the inconvenient fact that there's no way for a pre-Jesus person, however good, to get into Heaven otherwise.

No getting around necessary. Christianity teaches that faith in God and even Christ (who is eternal and only incarnated recently) is possible without living in the A.D. era and without encountering a Christian. Whether Aristotle was that or just a wise person is just someone's guess.
posted by michaelh at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


like TEN TIMES GAY
posted by mysterpigg at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2012


Promoting antipathy on both sides will certainly help things.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


In music, a double sharp or flat takes you to the next whole step.

And I have no idea what that means for human sexuality.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's a nice thought, but to be congruent with Mormon practice/theology, the site would actually have to just offer Mormons a *choice* to accept homosexuality in the afterlife (in case it turns out to be awesome), given that according to Mormon religious doctrine, the subject of proxy ordinance may accept or reject the ordinance.

There would probably also have to be some sort of proxy ordinance, no doubt some form of sodomy, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be willing to get right on that, as it were.
posted by weston at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the Mormons do is a shocking disgrace!
http://www.newser.com/story/140235/mormons-baptize-anne-frank.html
Anne Frank got baptized!!

this is one of the most disgusting things I can think of and the Church simply says it takes place without their awareness? BullShit!
posted by Postroad at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really know what this is supposed to accomplish. A lot of Mormons I know (heck, a lot of ex/post/former Mormons too) don't get the big fuss around baptisms for the dead, under one of a few tropes:

a) If you don't believe in it, then what's the harm?
b) You don't understand what it's really about (e.g., it's just an offer, not forced conversion), so your being offended is illegitimate.
c) You're being oversensitive. It doesn't bother me, therefore I can't see how it would bother anyone.

With these three tropes, I can predict the Mormon reaction to Dead Mormons Are Now Gay

a) This clearly has no power or authority, so it doesn't do anything.
b) These people clearly don't understand what proxy baptism is like, so this is not comparable.
posted by subversiveasset at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


You can do this to alive Mormons too if you're seductive enough
posted by Greg Nog at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [127 favorites]


I don't think this actually makes them gay. It's just that some Mormon men, due to the time and place that they lived, did not get the chance to experience a blowjob from a hot guy. Pushing the button just gives them an opportunity to try it. It is their decision in the afterlife whether or not they continue to do so.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [48 favorites]


I find it offensive that the linked site assumes that homosexuality is something that people choose and that it is impossible to be gay unless a person is offered an opportunity to make that choice during this life or the next. But I'm easily offended.
posted by The World Famous at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2012


As a sky lizard, I always thought the principle of retroactively implanting reptilian organic matter into the brains of your human dead was a beautiful one -- a chance for those who died without the opportunity to personally feel the many needle teeth of Great Lizard as it eats your mind. I was always taught we were just providing the opportunity, and it was that person's choice to perish during the day of great reckoning in screams of horror or screams of ceaseless ecstasy.

That being said, I totally understand the sensitive areas involved with people of mammalian descent and other groups. If you're not doing your own genus, I was taught to always ask permission of the genetic clones and if they said no, it was a no-go.

My two cents. I broke the sacred vow of the Nameless City just to get it out there.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2012 [67 favorites]


Confirmed: Rick Santorum is now converted! Congrats, Rick!
disclaimer: Rick may or may not be dead nor a mormon
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so like gay dudes are into other gay dudes, right? So that means double-gay dudes are only into other double-gay dudes and not into single-gay dudes or straight dudes or any kind of ladies. Make sense?
posted by overglow at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2012


Think_Long: "Would double gay just be straight?"

Actually, same same-sex sex is probably just as complicated as it sounds.

Or it's masturbation.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sense an opportunity to link to this fantastic comment.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:31 PM on February 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


Two dickheads do not make a non-dickhead.
posted by biffa at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2012


Where's the glitter?
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2012


"All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" sounds exactly like it was written by Morrissey.
posted by 4ster at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Oh -- one other thing occurred to me. The emphasis is supposed to be on finding and converting your dead ancestors rather than the general public. Since there's clearly been some mission creep there on the Mormon side of things, fair's fair, I suppose, but the site should at least encourage people to focus on turning their dead ancestors gay as their first priority.
posted by weston at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So why bother joining the Mormon church in life if you're going to get a second chance after you die? It's like a deathbed repentance but even easier.
posted by Jehan at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does this work on RLDS (aka Community of Christ) members? Only one way to find out: insert names of grandparents and see what happens.

....
says grandma's been converted!
posted by vespabelle at 2:38 PM on February 22, 2012


Guys, I'm not sure this is real...

It's the beta version. Once they've worked out all the kinks, clicking the CONVERT button will actually deploy a homosexual robot to go and dig up the corpse and have sex with it. I think for cremated corpses it'll just splash a little gay semen in the receptacle.
posted by gompa at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


4ster: "All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" sounds exactly like it was written by Morrissey.

But Jesus hurt me, when he deserted me, but I forgiven you Jesus for all the desire he placed in me when there's nothing I can do with this desire
posted by filthy light thief at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2012


"All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" sounds exactly like it was written by Morrissey.

Like all good headlines, it can also be sung to the tune of "Camptown Races."
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2012 [27 favorites]


gompa: It's the beta version. Once they've worked out all the kinks

But the kinks were half of the fun!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Has anyone gayed Steve Young yet? No? Ok.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:42 PM on February 22, 2012


I went down there with my hat caved in,
Doo-da, doo-da
I came back home with a pocket full of tin
Oh, de doo-da day

posted by Burhanistan at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2012


"All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" sounds exactly like it was written by Morrissey.

Like all good headlines, it can also be sung to the tune of "Camptown Races."


though it does give special meaning to the Doo-da, Doo-da
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The gay thing is cute and not liable to get anyone really upset. However, if an actual recognized church started posthumously baptizing Mormons...Say, the Church of Satan, perhaps? Yeah, that would get the elders spinning in their graves.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2012


However, if an actual recognized church started posthumously baptizing Mormons...Say, the Church of Satan, perhaps? Yeah, that would get the elders spinning in their graves.

We just want Mormons to have the opportunity to worship Satan in the afterlife. There's no harm in that.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Say, the Church of Satan, perhaps? Yeah, that would get the elders spinning in their graves.

Nah.
posted by The World Famous at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can do this to alive Mormons too if you're seductive enough

If I tried it and it didn't work on a closeted Catholic (and I did try, in my misguided youth), it wouldn't have worked on a Mormon either. That "Mormon boys are easy to seduce" thing is a common gay porn theme, nothing more.
posted by blucevalo at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2012


I find it offensive that the linked site assumes that homosexuality is something that people choose and that it is impossible to be gay unless a person is offered an opportunity to make that choice during this life or the next. But I'm easily offended.

That's part of the joke.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints historically taught that the practice of homosexuality, meaning sexual behavior with someone of the same sex,[7] was a choice or curable mental illness.[8] Recent leadership has indicated that it may not be a conscious choice and that it may be treatable.
If homosexuality is a choice, then it is a choice we can offer to those in the afterlife, just as some offer them the choice to posthumously convert to Mormonism.

Of course I don't think that homosexuality in general is a choice, but I also believe that when I die I turn into worm food, so what do I know?
posted by muddgirl at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not a Mormon, nor do I belong to any organized religion. I am a huge supporter of gay rights, and believe LGBT individuals should be able to marry, etc. etc.

All I can say is that this is a another stupid idea that attacks people who have no part in the Mormon father's support of anti-homosexual legislation. It's like crating a website that sends all Catholics who have ever used birth control, to hell. It's cute, but disrespectful - i.e juvenile and childish.

And, for those of you making fun of the Mormon "conversion of the dead" process, you should realize that the side benefit to that is the most detailed and authoritative database of genealogy yet created, worldwide. It's a treasure, and was created as part of the Mormon project to findi dead relatives. btw, it's continually updated.

Bottom line: don't throw big rocks. Throw little rocks at the *individuals* who support the stuff that offends you. Name names. March in front of their home. etc. Not every Mormon deserves your wrath.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Hi there, kustjt. Welcome to MetaFilter. If this issue is important to you, you might want to check out this earlier MeFi post, where the issues raised by Mormon proxy baptism were discussed.


Say, the Church of Satan, perhaps?

Been there, done that.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2012


I think the Mormon idea that people may convert after death is much much better than the general Christian belief that people who die unbaptised will suffer eternally in Hell. Lots of horrible things were done in the name of Christianity because any amount of temporal suffering is better than eternal damnation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's part of the joke.

Ugh.
posted by The World Famous at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey I can't get the Mormon church to stop teaching that homosexuality is curable and should be cured. I'd do it if I could.
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on February 22, 2012


Hey I can't get the Mormon church to stop teaching that homosexuality is curable and should be cured. I'd do it if I could.

Oh for crying out loud.
posted by The World Famous at 3:02 PM on February 22, 2012


> Oh for crying out loud.

Maybe you could elaborate rather than voice exasperation.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:05 PM on February 22, 2012


Oh for crying out loud.

If you've got a cogent argument on how the LDS church hasn't actually had a long and unpleasant history with oppression of LGBT people, I'd sure love to hear it.
posted by elizardbits at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Maybe you could elaborate rather than voice exasperation.

My original comment was a joke. My "ugh" was uttered in frustration that my joke was for some reason interpreted as sincere offense. My "oh for crying out loud" was a renewed, stronger expression of that same sentiment.
posted by The World Famous at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2012


I've read it a couple times and I still don't see the joke. But I'll take your word for it.
posted by muddgirl at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also believe that when I die I turn into worm food mushroom food
posted by XMLicious at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, heck.
posted by pajamazon at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
posted by coolxcool=rad at 3:13 PM on February 22, 2012


I've read it a couple times and I still don't see the joke. But I'll take your word for it.

I appreciate that. Thank you for taking the word of a cult member.
posted by The World Famous at 3:18 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know that many Mormons, so I've started in on Southern Baptists. (You're welcome, Uncle Percy)
posted by thivaia at 3:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't really see why I should have any problem with posthumous baptisms. It seems like a stupid, but friendly gesture. If you actually believe that it can save a decent person's soul it seems like you would actually have something like an obligation to do it as often as possible. You'd end up like an overwhelmed superhero with all the soul saving you have to do.

"Oh crap, a tsunami just hit Java. Now I have to go across the world to investigate the names of every person of decent moral charachter to baptise them or they will burn in hellfire for all eternity and it will be MY FAULT!"

Even if their relatives object, it would be like "Oh, you want me to let their essense be seared in the lake of fire for all time because it would like, offend you if I stopped that from happening. Sure, no problem.", but then you'd pretty much have to do it anyway once they weren't looking or be unable to sleep due to the nightmares of the one you left behind.
posted by Winnemac at 3:27 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Think_Long: "Would double gay just be straight?"

No. Double gay would be Brian Boitano.
posted by Splunge at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2012


Would double gay just be straight?

Gay times Gay is always Gay. You can't turn Gay into Not Gay without using irrational numbers.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Dead women who are converted just join a softball league and read old issues of "on our backs"

And if it's a choice for the souls of the dead to accept or not, I still picture, say, Anne Frank's soul being all "Oh come *ON*, I said no already, and the time before that now please shut UP all of you." because a bunch of different mormons are all trying to convert her.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband is neither Mormon nor dead, but now he's gay! Just what I always wanted!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


And, for those of you making fun of the Mormon "conversion of the dead" process, you should realize that the side benefit to that is the most detailed and authoritative database of genealogy yet created, worldwide. It's a treasure, and was created as part of the Mormon project to findi dead relatives.

Say what you like about Kim Il Jung, but those Arirang Festivals are an absolute treasure. All those people, singing and dancing and gymnastics and marching in time, and not a single gay among the whole lot of them!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I believe that when I die I turn into a superluminal neutrino.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing with bapizing the dead is that it is necrophiliactically speaking for the dead. I don't want anyone speaking for me now, and not after the lizard people eat my brain.

My family does this all the time, except instead of baptizing the dead, they pretend like they were staunch republicans and all the younger cousins think that when I'm fondly remembering someone, that's a someone who loved Ronnie and Nancy. It's gross and wrong.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Brilliant
posted by mikehipp at 3:37 PM on February 22, 2012


When your friends are imaginary, it gives you a lot to work with in terms of what is and isn't possible. This is kind of like the religious equivalent of CalvinBall.
posted by iamabot at 3:38 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like all good headlines, it can also be sung to the tune of "Camptown Races."

Or House of the Rising Sun.
posted by scalefree at 3:43 PM on February 22, 2012


And, for those of you making fun of the Mormon "conversion of the dead" process, you should realize that the side benefit to that is the most detailed and authoritative database of genealogy yet created, worldwide.

And slavery was really awful but we got this nifty country out of it. Which you know, I'm kinda grateful for. But it's not going to impact my opinions on the loathsomeness of slavery one bit.

Chalk me up for the "this is kinda unnecessarily obnoxious" camp. I'm not without problems with the Mormon church and I think retroactive conversion is weird and problematic. But if you really think it's offensive why would you think responding with offensiveness is helpful/productive? If you don't think it's offensive then you're just being mean for the sake of it.
posted by phearlez at 3:48 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was a bit disappointed to see that this doesn't actually go search the genealogical records to find some real Mormons to bedazzle*.

Instead, it makes you wait a few seconds, and randomly pairs a first and last name from a pre-defined list of very ordinary-looking American names, buried in the page's source code.

Amusingly, Mitt and Willard were added to the list of possible first names, while Romney and Palin were added to the list of last names.

I looked this up partly because I'm a nerd, and partly because I was kind of hoping that the internet was weird enough for someone to have created JSON web service that spits out the names of deceased Mormons.
posted by schmod at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


And slavery was really awful but we got this nifty country out of it. Which you know, I'm kinda grateful for. But it's not going to impact my opinions on the loathsomeness of slavery one bit.

There's a slight difference between baptizing someone after they've turned into wormfood, and claiming ownership over another person for their entire life.
posted by ymgve at 4:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mormons "baptize" Anne Frank. Again.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:01 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Celestial Kingdom would be an awesome name for a gay dance club!
posted by Xoebe at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ervil LeBaron is now gay and I feel like a million bucks.
posted by Duffington at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2012


Forgive me if this has been linked, but Bill Maher unbaptizes Mitt's father-in-law. I particularly like the holy vestments he dons at 0:30.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Forgive me if this has been linked, but Bill Maher unbaptizes Mitt's father-in-law . I particularly like the holy vestments he dons at 0:30.

Wow. What a complete asshole.
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on February 22, 2012


Watch me turn this wine into water. And uric acid.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find the idea that retroactive baptism is required to get into heaven baffling; it sort of implies that God needs the church's OK to make a judgement about someone's admissibility, doesn't it?
posted by Hoopo at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


When asked by NEWSWEEK if he has done baptisms for the dead—in which Mormons find the names of dead people of all faiths and baptize them, as an LDS spokesperson says, to "open the door" to the highest heaven—[Romney] looked slightly startled and answered, "I have in my life, but I haven't recently."

Which shall henceforth be known as the GOP equivalent to "but I didn't inhale."
posted by webhund at 4:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I find the idea that retroactive baptism is required to get into heaven baffling; it sort of implies that God needs the church's OK to make a judgement about someone's admissibility, doesn't it?

As I view it, it's not a question of the church's OK, but of the individual's symbolic acceptance of Christ's expiation through the ritual.
posted by The World Famous at 4:23 PM on February 22, 2012


It's not binding if you don't grab the corpse's head and nod it up and down in a big "yes".
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hey all, Doleful Creature here. I used to be jnrussell on this site, one of the folk who tried to defend the practice of proxy baptism back in the Zenobia's Choice thread. That discussion actually had a profound impact on me, and is one of the reasons I changed my MeFi nom de guerre. I wanted a fresh start to represent my improve view of the world (well, that and jnrussell is a pretty boring screenname).

Basically I tried so hard to wrap my raised-in-the-faith brain around the idea whilst still maintaining an educated and respectful view of the world. I wanted to defend my religion and explain why this is beautiful and good and nice and that it just gets distorted.

What I ended up with was a near-total loss of faith, which I'm mostly happy about (so yeah, thanks MeFi, I think).

I'll probably never completely denounce mormonism; it's a huge part of my life and upbringing, my tribe for better or worse, but I absolutely agree that proxy baptism as it's practiced today is totally bonkers and insensitive.

My problem with this site is that it's really only effective as an in-joke. People are predictably sensitive about their personal beliefs. Whether or not they should be is beside the point...if this website wanted to drive home a point to active mormons that might actually change some hearts and minds...well it probably won't work.

The problem with a harsh truth is that if it comes in to harsh a package the people for whom it was intended won't take it. My beloved wife, who is still very faithful, said it to me the other day: "I don't like reading arguments against the church because everyone just sounds so mean and pissed off and it always makes me feel really stupid and small when I read it." Nobody wants to be told they're a dope or an asshole for believing in their religion (even if it's true). I think Jay Smooth's oft-linked video about race discussions is relevant here.

Explaining to her that there's a reason people are bitter doesn't work. It's too personal. It's too hard to face. So the believers keep on believing, and when they see something like this, they either can't face it at all or they see it as a maliciously personal attack and totally fail to notice the truth at the heart of it.

So it goes. This is a fun joke for the choir, but the congregation doesn't get it.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [48 favorites]


I find the idea that retroactive baptism is required to get into heaven baffling; it sort of implies that God needs the church's OK to make a judgement about someone's admissibility, doesn't it?

It implies that God is a lawyer. An especially dumb lawyer.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:26 PM on February 22, 2012


[Romney] looked slightly startled and answered, "I have in my life, but I haven't recently."

Proxy baptisms are mostly performed by 12-year-olds, so this doesn't surprise me, but it's a pretty funny soundbite nonetheless. I wonder how other mormons feel about what amounts to a write-off of temple attendance (something that most mormons consider very important).
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:28 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Proxy baptisms are mostly performed by 12-year-olds

yeah, i giggled. it's like someone asking him "when was the last time you broke curfew?"
posted by nadawi at 4:34 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard to say exactly why so many people find baptism by proxy so offensive. I have a hard time articulating it myself. It's probably that it seems so disrespectful. Even couched in Mormon terms ("we're just giving them the choice to be in the church") is seems like it's disrespecting the dead. I think that's what gets people. It conveys a lack of respect for the lives and beliefs of the dead.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:36 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder how other mormons feel about what amounts to a write-off of temple attendance (something that most mormons consider very important).

I thought it was an outrageously-disingenuous answer, given that there is little doubt that Romney has recently participated in proxy temple ordinances other than baptism.

The question that could really hurt Romney's candidacy is: "When is the last time you went to the temple?" The answer to that one would lose him either the non-Mormon vote or the Mormon vote (unless, of course, non-Mormons go on completely missing what it is Mormonism actually believes and does w/r/t temple work, which, let's face it, is likely).
posted by The World Famous at 4:37 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I particularly like the holy vestments he dons at 0:30
Wizard hat, but no cape?
posted by morganw at 4:38 PM on February 22, 2012


Forgive me if this has been linked, but Bill Maher unbaptizes Mitt's father-in-law . I particularly like the holy vestments he dons at 0:30.

Wow. What a complete asshole.


I know, right? That is a totally inappropriate usage of expecto patronum.
posted by elizardbits at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're welcome, Biff.
posted by homunculus at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2012


Not every Mormon deserves your wrath.

How about just any that financially support the church.
posted by the_artificer at 4:48 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The World Famous: "Forgive me if this has been linked, but Bill Maher unbaptizes Mitt's father-in-law . I particularly like the holy vestments he dons at 0:30.

Wow. What a complete asshole.
"

How do you know that Mitt Romney's father-in-law was a complete asshole? Cite please.
posted by Splunge at 4:50 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it ok is I find both links offensive?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2012


(Psst, there are 5 links)
posted by filthy light thief at 5:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So.. I guess I'm having a hard time really understanding this.

I mean, I get the joke on some level. But it feels like there's some kind of undertone of negativity toward homosexuals contained in the concept. As if the site were created specifically to somehow make group A (Mormons) feel angry and degraded about the dead ones being somehow magically converted to being gay.

Okay, I grant you, Mormons have a fucking awful track record when it comes to teh gayz. It's so bad, I don't even need to summarize it, because it's that well known.

But what actually is the point of this? It feels like it's trading on bigotry and homophobia in order to make a satiric point. Perhaps a point which could be better made without trading on "gay" as something that group A might feel is offensive. I'm bringing to mind Marc Maron's interview with Todd Glass and the things Glass had to say about making jokes and slams against gay people when you don't yourself actually hold prejudice toward them.

Somehow the wrapper on this feels really wrong to me. Perhaps I lack a sense of humor, but I doubt it.
posted by hippybear at 5:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gay times Gay is always Gay. You can't turn Gay into Not Gay without using irrational numbers.

Is it just me or did you just imply that women are irrational numbers?
posted by Talez at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2012


2bucksplus: Mormons "baptize" Anne Frank. Again.

From 2bucksplus' link, we can see that the CRT screen of old has been replaced (or was backed) by a web interface in the process of baptizing the dead. Fascinating. I wonder if there is some central database of names with birth and death years, to prevent repeated baptisms? But I guess if Ann Frank got re-baptized "at least nine times from 1989 to 1999," it seems their database wasn't too good then. Hopefully you can opt-out forever now.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2012


In case anyone is interested, there was a fairly interesting article and discussion of the issue on the By Common Consent blog the other day.
posted by The World Famous at 5:17 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


St. Alia: There's so much weird stuff in the Mormon religion....

As the Scientologists have been pointing out, this is true of all religions.

Gay times Gay is always Gay. You can't turn Gay into Not Gay without using irrational numbers.

This is like a particular Kids In The Hall sketch misremembered.
posted by JHarris at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "As the Scientologists have been pointing out, this is true of all religions."

Especially theirs.
posted by schmod at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2012


I acknowledge that (a) Kinsey found relatively few exclusively heterosexual people, and (b) religions must codify such statistical results along more absolutist lines.

I therefore concur that "All Dead Mormons Are Gay" provides a reasonable compromise between the needs tiny minority of living "actually not gay" mormons and the needs of historical and theological consistency.

Is there any reason for inserting the word "now" though? Isn't being gay non-temporal?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:24 PM on February 22, 2012


I was taught to always ask permission of the family and if they said no, it was a no-go.

I agree that the application should be modified to email family members and await a positive reply before converting.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2012


And, for those of you making fun of the Mormon "conversion of the dead" process, you should realize that the side benefit to that is the most detailed and authoritative database of genealogy yet created, worldwide. It's a treasure, and was created as part of the Mormon project to findi dead relatives. btw, it's continually updated.

There's no doubt that the IGI is, or was, the largest genealogical database, but its quality is not always great. Where it limits itself to things like transcription of parish records, the searchability of entries are a huge timesaver. But the index goes far beyond this, and includes significant amounts of family–researched material of a generally dubious nature. It's often impossible to know exactly what evidence lies behind certain facts, and in many cases it simply appears to be the "best guess" of whomever was working on it at the time. This gets passed around so much that it becomes a genealogical "fact" that is hard to disprove.

Let me give you an example from my own family tree. Ann Shucksmith married Thomas Pinder in Alvingham, Lincolnshire on 7 July 1787. We know that event actually happened, because it's in the parish register, so no problem there. Ann Shucksmith is also pretty easy to find, as it's not only a rare lastname, but there was somebody by the same name baptized in Alvingham on 24 February 1766, which is the perfect age and place for her to be the bride. But wait! There appears to be another Ann Shucksmith in the database, from Lincolnshire, who was also the right age to be the bride. However, she was born in Barkston over 40 miles away. Also, the details look kinda sketchy, as her entry doesn't give any parents, or precise dates, just an "about 1766". It looks like a half–researched entry, not a parish record, and indeed, checking the fineprint shows that it is a "record submitted by a members of the LDS church." Huh, fair enough, I guess there's another Ann Shucksmith out there, just with less documentation.

But wait again! This isn't just a research entry, it's actually a generated entry from a connected marriage event a user has submitted, the marriage of Ann Shucksmith to...Thomas Pinder. Now, that's odd, as there's no chance of such a coincidence, and somehow this must be the same marriage as the one we started with. It says that the marriage entry is based on a "marriage license", which is rare, as such licenses weren't generally preserved. It could be true though, but obviously somebody's got a bit confused and also placed Ann's birth 40 miles away from her village. It seems that there must have been a Thomas Pinder born thereabouts, who was the groom in the marriage, and somehow his location has been muddled up with hers somewhere along the line. Okay, that's an genuine mistake, but it's a biggie as you've now got two Ann Shucksmith's instead of one. If you go to baptize everybody on your list, you're actually baptizing somebody who didn't exist. Whoops. I've found a few family trees by Mormons which seem to have identified the correct Ann Shucksmith, so at least they're getting their ancestors baptized, right?

Wrong. For looking closer at Thomas Pinder shows another error, but of a different kind. There doesn't seem to be a person by that name born in Barkston at the right time, so he must have come from elsewhere. Swinestead maybe? Or Spalding? Sure, these are possibilities, but it's hard to know which is right. Indeed, most of the family trees I've found don't even try to figure it out, they just put his birth in Barkston because of the marriage license, and assign an estimated birth date of 25 years before the marriage. He's basically just an empty person, no more than a name, which I suppose is all you need to baptize. Maybe they accept it's a difficult patch, and will come back later to find out more. But you know, that marriage license is bugging me, as they are so rare, and I wonder if it ever really existed. After all, the index just says it did, without any supporting evidence. Suppose, for a minute, it didn't exist. We already know that the second Ann Shucksmith was a figment of the database's imagination due to the marriage license entry, so surely this Thomas Pinder could be too? Indeed, might there be a better candidate if we are willing to look again?

Why yes there is! According to parish records, a Thomas Pinder was baptized on 12 January 1762 in Castle Carlton, just 5 miles away from Alvingham. That's a much better fit, so why not him? There's no reason why not, just so long as you're willing to ignore parts of the IGI, which is what I did. I later turned up good evidence that I had chosen the correct man, and that everybody who had been working from the information given by the Mormons were wrong. Totally wrong. I managed to work Thomas Pinder's family back several generations, which was really satisfying. I guess that had I been a Mormon, I would have been very excited about all the new forebears I had to baptize. Except Mormons are less likely to baptize these people, as nobody knows that they're their ancestors. A crappy entry on the IGI has mislead everybody else because they treat it as authoritative when it's not.

In short, if you're a member of the LDS and have relied on the IGI to baptize your dead ancestors, you may have been baptizing the wrong people, if you were baptizing anybody at all.

(PS Oh my genealogy is addictive.)
posted by Jehan at 5:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Infant baptism is pretty rude, too, by this metric. That could very well be an atheist baby.

baby baptisms are pretty adorable though
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I for one am sick and tired of the blatant discrimination these services level against the undead.
posted by Brak at 6:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's hard to say exactly why so many people find baptism by proxy so offensive. I have a hard time articulating it myself. It's probably that it seems so disrespectful. Even couched in Mormon terms ("we're just giving them the choice to be in the church") is seems like it's disrespecting the dead. I think that's what gets people. It conveys a lack of respect for the lives and beliefs of the dead.

It's like having a full one Southern Baptist religious funeral, complete with altar call, for an atheist, someone who specified repeatedly that they didn't want anything of the sort. It's an attempt to erase or overwrite who a person really was with who you want them to be (or have been), which is a jerk move whether the victim can care anymore or not.

It's erasing history, the history of who a person was and what they said.

That's why it makes me angry anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 6:16 PM on February 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


Oral Roberts.
posted by shotintoeternity at 6:32 PM on February 22, 2012


It's erasing history, the history of who a person was and what they said.

I don't think any real records have been changed. That's the point of the "All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" website: it's just make-believe. If you're a Mormon you probably do think that the deceased person has been offered a choice, but what's wrong with that? Choices are good.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2012


Joe, it's marking down a person who was not Mormon in a record somewhere as "baptized Mormon." Whatever the theological implications (and if you're not religious, there aren't any), it's an act of claiming someone, or the record someone left behind, for your "team" as it were. Which I do find offensive, because who the hell does the Mormon church think they are to blur the historical records we leave behind? We leave so little when we're gone anyway, it's profoundly wrong to intentionally screw up that tiny bit of history to indulge their childish and perverse desire for postmortem evangelism. What they're doing is objectional precisely because it's so petty, like desecrating someone's grave or drawing mustaches on an old photo.

I don't want to have my memory associated with the Mormon church in any way because it will be a false representation of who I was. I also don't want to be marked down somewhere as vegan, blonde, or fond of organized sports, not because I have an objection to those things, but because they don't describe me. It may be petty of me, but I'd like the person I was to be remembered in a way that is as close to true as possible after I'm gone.

I think everyone deserves that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I like what someone upthread said. This sort of thing (the proxy baptisms) does make God seem like a total idiot.

But that's the thing about rote religion. If it wouldn't make sense in a relationship sense, it doesn't make sense in a faith sense. Our decision re a relationship with God is an individual one; no other human can make that decision for another. If it were I would snap my fingers right now and make every one of you a charismatic christian; and that makes exactly as much sense as these proxy baptisms. In other words, zero.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2012


I like what someone upthread said. This sort of thing (the proxy baptisms) does make God seem like a total idiot.

Sure, if you mischaracterize it like they did above. But nobody seems to care what Mormon beliefs actually are (didn't bother to read the article I linked, by any chance?) anyway. So go ahead and say whatever you want about it, I guess.
posted by The World Famous at 7:03 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have it on good authority from a very high-ranking member in the Mormon faith that there is a massive unpublicized effort constantly underway to baptize every single person that can be identified.
posted by odinsdream at 7:36 PM on February 22, 2012


Well I'm charismatic at least.
posted by XMLicious at 7:45 PM on February 22, 2012


I sense an opportunity to link to this fantastic comment.

re-reading that story, I can't help but wonder, if they baptize 8 and 12 year olds by immersing them in a huge marble tub placed on the back of twelve golden oxen, now many times has that water been peed in?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


if they baptize 8 and 12 year olds by immersing them in a huge marble tub placed on the back of twelve golden oxen

Not 8 and 12 year olds. 12 and up.
posted by The World Famous at 7:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


World Famous, I started to read the article you linked to, and reach as far as the third comment:
The hard part with this idea will be with those of us who have ancestors which have been members for generations. I enjoy family history research, and do it, but I can tell you, I doubt I could find anyone for my daughter to be baptized for (prepositions at the end of my sentences I can find; eligible ancestors — no, alas). Thus, she would likely never get that opportunity. And I would have no reason to return to do endowments or sealings, as I’ve searched my 10,000+ name PAF file, and found no one who needs more work for whom I have enough info to submit.
which reads to me (though I don't know what "endowments or sealings" mean to Mormons) as "I need to use other people's ancestors so my daughter can advance in her religion". I don't know what it says about God's purported idiocy, but it makes this person sound more like a grave robber.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My beloved wife, who is still very faithful, said it to me the other day: "I don't like reading arguments against the church because everyone just sounds so mean and pissed off and it always makes me feel really stupid and small when I read it." Nobody wants to be told they're a dope or an asshole for believing in their religion (even if it's true).

It's a real bummer that your wife is upset by learning that her offensive behavior, and that of her associates, offends people. It turns out, though, that that's not my problem! It's hers. It's not my responsibility to hide my feelings for fear that someone might feel bad about misbehaving.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 8:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It may be mixing religious traditions but I for one will be going to Chinatown to see if they have little paper effigies of lube bottles I can burn for the newly gay among the departed. No reason they should have to do without, that stuff is important. Also, some hell money (LOOK, THAT'S WHAT IT'S CALLED) so they can live swank in the afterlife. Won't you do your part?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:10 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


benito.strauss: I don't know what it says about God's purported idiocy, but it makes this person sound more like a grave robber.

Yes, the thing about interesting conversations between Mormons is that you start realizing that some Mormons believe things that other Mormons disagree with. Instead of stopping at the third comment and then assuming that that comment speaks for all Mormons, maybe continue reading. Unless, of course, you don't care that Mormons disagree as strongly on this stuff as you do with that comment.

For whatever it's worth, I agree with you regarding that comment. But I suspect it's not worth much.

I've a Horse Outside: It's a real bummer that your wife is upset by learning that her offensive behavior, and that of her associates, offends people. It turns out, though, that that's not my problem! It's hers. It's not my responsibility to hide my feelings for fear that someone might feel bad about misbehaving.

I don't think anyone has said that it is your responsibility to hide your feelings. It would be nice if you based your feelings on some sort of good faith effort to understand what it is you're mad about, though. It offends me that people on MetaFilter and elsewhere are so insistent on repeating false information and basing their offense on that false information (or claiming that their offense is based on that false information).

But, based on my own experience participating in these discussions on MeFi, it is clear to me that, at least where Mormonism is concerned, it is unrealistic to expect most people here to care about basing their analysis or taking of offense on anything other than unfair characterizations of the religion's beliefs. People don't care what Mormons actually believe - collectively or individually. They care about their own interpretation of what they heard or read somewhere and they care that it is possible to construct a characterization that allows them to remain outraged.

I find that offensive in its stupidity and ignorance and its tendency to needlessly create conflict among people where there need not be any. I've a Horse Outside, I find your conduct offensive, precisely because you are using your own willful ignorance of Doleful Creature's wife's personal beliefs as a bludgeon for the enforcement of your own desire to cast her as an "other," rather than achieving any sort of meaningful communication.
posted by The World Famous at 8:40 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


which reads to me (though I don't know what "endowments or sealings" mean to Mormons) as "I need to use other people's ancestors so my daughter can advance in her religion". I don't know what it says about God's purported idiocy, but it makes this person sound more like a grave robber.

There's a significant conflict of interest with regard to temple attendance in the church, especially for endowments and sealings. Chances are, unless you get excommunicated and then re-instated later, you're only going to go to the temple for your own ordinances once. And yet the "temple mystery" (to borrow an antiquated phrase) is considered an essential aspect of spiritual progression in the church, so the proxy work is indeed considered beneficial to the proxy actor. It's troubling but I've yet to see anyone within the church have an open conversation about it. There's also a vague implication among some of us heretics that temple attendance is a lever to keep the coffers filled (only full tithe payers can get temple recommend cards).

It's a real bummer that your wife is upset by learning that her offensive behavior, and that of her associates, offends people. It turns out, though, that that's not my problem! It's hers. It's not my responsibility to hide my feelings for fear that someone might feel bad about misbehaving.

I didn't say it was wrong to make mormons feel bad about proxy baptism, and it's not wrong to call people out on their bad behavior, but it sure as hell isn't effective to bloody their nose while doing it. That's all I was saying. Nor was I asking you hide your feelings about. Just don't be surprised when the people you're pissed at won't even give you the time of day. Are they wrong? Sure! Are you right? Yeah! But your well-placed anger isn't going to get you the results you want...unless I'm misunderstanding your intent here. I'm not disputing your right to be pissed about it, or to complain loudly about it, but based on your response it seems like you're more interested in picking a fight than in righting a wrong.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


My earlier comment was ill-considered, and I apologize for it.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 8:47 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's troubling but I've yet to see anyone within the church have an open conversation about it.

I have open conversations about it all the time. We should hang out. Seriously, read the BCC article and discussion I linked. Read comments 11 and 12, in particular.
posted by The World Famous at 8:48 PM on February 22, 2012


Oh hey, um, someone just baptized you. Do you accept?

Oh yeah? Well, what does that mean?

Well, you get to be Jesus of your own planet, and have like 1,000 wives.

Nah.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:50 PM on February 22, 2012


You're right, TWF, I'd LOVE to hang out with you. In my neck of the woods, every time I've ever tried to bring up stuff like this I've been met with cold, suspicious stares. I almost got thrown out of a lesson that I was teaching because I dared suggest that a quote of questionable origin in a manual might not be the best resource when discussing concepts of life after death (actually I was release shortly after that episode and now I just play piano in primary. Much less controversial there).

I've lived in CA and now I live in UT. Members act differently here. Maybe there's something in the water.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:53 PM on February 22, 2012


I mean, I've always screamed from the hilltops that their end was neigh, but tHese crazies seem bound and determined to auger in. Intellectually I saw it, but can it really be true?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2012


Whatever the theological implications (and if you're not religious, there aren't any), it's an act of claiming someone, or the record someone left behind, for your "team" as it were. Which I do find offensive, because who the hell does the Mormon church think they are to blur the historical records we leave behind?

Mormon proxy baptisms do not claim that someone was part of the "team" or purport to change the history of their life in any way -- in fact, they're an explicit admission that someone never joined the Mormon church during their lifetime.

no other human can make that decision for another. If it were I would snap my fingers right now and make every one of you a charismatic christian; and that makes exactly as much sense as these proxy baptisms. In other words, zero.

Mormon proxy baptisms don't claim to make *any* decision for another; they purport to make a choice to accept them available.

"I need to use other people's ancestors so my daughter can advance in her religion". I don't know what it says about God's purported idiocy, but it makes this person sound more like a grave robber.

There's an element in what you're saying that *everybody* who's religious or even who does charity/social justice work needs to process: as great as it is that the problems of the world give us all opportunities to do good, other people aren't just props for your good deeds. But if you want to understand the person you're comparing to a grave robber, think of a literacy volunteer instead, someone who's part of an organization that actually succeeds in achieving effectively complete literacy for a community. They could legitimately be both satisfied at the good that'd been done and perhaps nostalgic and sad knowing the experience of being involved the work is over.
posted by weston at 9:00 PM on February 22, 2012


read the BCC article and discussion I linked. Read comments 11 and 12, in particular.

I forgot to mention I did read the article, and it is good. I especially liked the idea presented in comment 11...it feels like a throwback to the good old days when Joseph Smith was figuring all this stuff out.

But, again, based on my personal experience I have to disagree with you that this constitutes a serious discussion of the issue within the Church as understood by most people (for a given definition of the Church which necessarily involves the leaders based in SLC). I suspect this has more to do with our geography, as I said before, but 99% of members I talk to have no idea that BCC exists. Of the 1% who do know about BCC, at least half think it's a dangerous, totally not-kosher website and any true member wouldn't spend time on such rubbish, the other half are clandestine kindred spirits.

The culture really is different here in the shadow of the temple, as it were. I'll believe that the Church really cares about this issue when I see a policy change similar to comment 11. Until that time comment 11 is just a great idea that nobody has the resources or political will to act on.

Oh and I've a Horse Outside: apology accepted, carry on
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:06 PM on February 22, 2012


For whatever it's worth, Doleful Creature, I've had conversations along those lines with people in very high positions in church leadership. They do happen.
posted by The World Famous at 9:26 PM on February 22, 2012


I read it as "Are you bothered by the LSD practice .." at first, and for a minute was like no, not really...
posted by c13 at 10:08 PM on February 22, 2012


This is all fine and good but we need a converter that will convert dead people to gay voters.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:35 PM on February 22, 2012


They never talked about some of their, ahem, more esoteric beliefs.

Eponyignorant?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:43 PM on February 22, 2012


Mormon proxy baptisms don't claim to make *any* decision for another; they purport to make a choice to accept them available.

The thing is, doesn't baptism in most Christian sects—at least adult baptism—involve some kind of volition or consent on the part of the baptized? Like, you can't just go around with a squirt gun and do drive-by baptisms, can you?

Wikipedia says that infant baptism is rejected by the LDS; I would wonder what the theological basis for that is.

Also, looking at other ordinances, the ones involving people all seem to be things that involve volition on the part of the, um, ordinanced.

So... can baptism of the living be validly performed without the consent of the baptized? And if it can be demonstrated that a person was baptized without their consent is that ever basis for the baptism being theologically judged invalid?

More generally... what's the theological or scriptural basis for asserting that baptism of the dead is simply the offering of a choice if that isn't consistent with the meaning and significance of baptism of the living and the other ordinances? (If it isn't consistent, a cursory search doesn't seem to indicate it is.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:46 PM on February 22, 2012


XMLicious, I've been through that one. According to the Mormons on MeFi, although they call it a 'baptism', it's really 'an offer of baptism'. I've asked why they call it a baptism, but never gotten a good answer. Honestly, if they stop calling it baptism they would save themselves a lot of grief.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:53 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does the proxy baptism involve the proxy actually going through the same ritual that someone being baptised does? It sounds sort of like that from comments people have made.
posted by XMLicious at 11:00 PM on February 22, 2012


Regardless of what ceremony is, they frequently emphasize that the dead still have a choice to accept or not.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:03 PM on February 22, 2012


World Famous, I went and read more of the article you linked. I've tried to compose a polite response, but I really can't get beyond the anger some of the comments stirred in me. Good night.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:05 PM on February 22, 2012


Oh, I can see that they emphasize that - it's obvious from the comments people have made and the media reports. I'm interested in knowing what the theological or scriptural basis is of this particular ritual being an offer rather than something like a consecration, if anyone knows, and whether or not any other ordinances are ever construed the same way.
posted by XMLicious at 11:09 PM on February 22, 2012


benito.strauss, I, too, am angered by some of those comments. If you have the time and inclination at some point, I would be curious to know whether you and I are bothered by the same things or for the same reasons. Feel free to Mefimail if you want.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 PM on February 22, 2012


"My beloved wife, who is still very faithful, said it to me the other day: 'I don't like reading arguments against the church because everyone just sounds so mean and pissed off and it always makes me feel really stupid and small when I read it.' Nobody wants to be told they're a dope or an asshole for believing in their religion (even if it's true)."

Nobody wants to be told they're a dope or an asshole for their beliefs, in general, but that doesn't stop people from telling other people that they're dopes or assholes for their beliefs, or being deeply offended when other people tell them that they're dopes or assholes for their beliefs.

Apparently, one of the most difficult things for any individual human being to do is to imagine that they, perhaps, are the person with the false or harmful belief—indeed, are certainly someone who has at least a few false or harmful beliefs—and therefore to treat others, suspected of having false or harmful beliefs, with humility and generosity and sensitivity.

Because vindictive self-righteousness is way more fun, of course. Nowhere is this more strongly and consistently demonstrated than with matters of religious belief.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


On re-reading the article TWF linked to above I noticed something I'd missed that seems to answer many of my questions, in the absence of direct responses at least:
We do not really understand why these ordinances are necessary: for example, is there some ontological change in the recipient as result of their performance or why cannot God forgive without these ordinances received by proxy? Because we lack answers to these and other questions perhaps there is space to rethink our approach.
So I guess even if people did care about what Mormons actually believe, there aren't answers in many cases... the "just a choice" thing seems to be a matter of policy rather than taught doctrine or belief?

If that is the case it makes sense to me that the answers given to non-LDS people for why the baptisms are performed or what's happening are coming across as unsatisfying and not being given a great deal of credence, nor resolving the offence felt.
posted by XMLicious at 12:33 AM on February 23, 2012


btw from the tenth comment in that article:
That said, my last time to help with baptisms…okay so I’ m a girl, so that means I handed out towels…but I was in the area of the ordinance ;P
Does this mean that when the individual being baptised is dead the proxy must be male?
posted by XMLicious at 12:42 AM on February 23, 2012


I don't know what it says about God's purported idiocy, but it makes this person sound more like a grave robber.

Oh, come on. Nobody's robbing graves. You just cast a spell and the XP kinds floats above them.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:54 AM on February 23, 2012


because being gay is something to make a joke out of and not like a real thing

it's a thing you can convert dead people to and that's funny
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:32 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that what's going on, TOCATY, is that at a high-level, the most commonly understood pattern in the LDS proxy baptisms is this: to a Mormon, the desire to be good with God and Jesus and devotedly putting in your daily workout on holy treadmill of all of these steps and ordinances and whatnot that a soul can go through, both in yourlife and in the life afterwords, i.e. a desire to improve oneself and become more like God and Jesus, is universal. Once anyone knows the same metaphysical truths, they're all going to want to pursue this given part of our existence, indeed a part of our nature due to our human birth.

So, to go through what is essentially red tape and paperwork for a deceased person and wish people on their way, with a wave and good luck, is a noble and virtuous act on the part of any Mormon carrying out this sort of temple work in innocence and pureness of heart.

The site in the OP goes on the premise that in part of/much of our broader culture sexuality brings great richness and value and goodness; and also there's a sphere of thought that regards sexuality as a broad and multi-axised spectrum within the human condition, that in our nature we are all part gay and part hetero and part other stuff besides.

Through much of history, our history in particular, having any teeny element of gayness in one's identity, or even any notion of openness one had to the gayness of others, has been something shamed and reviled and which people have been punished if they didn't conceal it.

From that viewpoint and with an earnest, honest, and generous attitude towards making wholer people of any persons in what real afterlives may exist, or in our memory of them in a purely material world, formally acknowleging the gay part of the sexuality of one of our honored dead is a gesture of respect and hope for a better humanity and for better human souls.

tl;dr So it's a joke satirizing the proxy baptisms, and a sarcastic one, but in good humor; and the comparison of gayness to the gift given in Mormon Redemption of the Dead, so valuable that it's a top-level bullet point in the four-fold mission of the Church, is not denigrating.
posted by XMLicious at 2:27 AM on February 23, 2012


XMLicious - i'm a woman and i did baptisms for the dead as a teenager.
posted by nadawi at 2:35 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Old'n'Busted: "Confirmed: Rick Santorum is now converted! Congrats, Rick!
disclaimer: Rick may or may not be dead nor a mormon
"

So Santorum will soon be able to taste the forbidden santoric joys?
posted by Samizdata at 4:15 AM on February 23, 2012


the comparison of gayness to the gift given in Mormon Redemption of the Dead, so valuable that it's a top-level bullet point in the four-fold mission of the Church, is not denigrating.

it looks pretty innocent from that perspective but isn't the point kind of to mock the whole idea of 'redemption of the dead' as being absurd and to troll the mormons with something people think they'd consider repulsive?

having a sexual identity that is nontypical and being used as a thing that some people are now, without their consent (as punishment for something) could possibly feel a little alienating?

or maybe this is the product of oversensitivity, idk.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:29 AM on February 23, 2012


All dead Mormons are now Popes. Hail Eris!
posted by Foosnark at 5:36 AM on February 23, 2012


TOCATY: I suppose it could be intended to portray redeeming the dead, in itself even for dead Mormons, as absurd but I don't see any explicit mention of that on the site.

This is asking, is what's good for the goose good for the gander? Can they accept other people embracing their own ancestors into a group as blithely as they embrace the ancestors of others into Mormonism? Some Mormons suggest that it makes no sense for non-LDS descendants of those they baptise to take offense, can they muster the same diffidence when they're treated that way themselves? That's not trolling, that's a question that damn well ought to be asked.

(Obviously applying a theological identity that is nontypical like Mormonism to people without their consent—or simply an identity they would consider radically different from their own, as in the case of someone who died for refusing to deny their Jewish identity in Nazi Germany—is alienating too, I'm surprised you phrased it that way.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:07 AM on February 23, 2012


XMLicious, one of the most difficult aspects of discussing mormon belief is the ambiguity, which you picked up from the article linked by TWF. That ambiguity exists because mormon doctrine has a number of connotations:

1. Doctrine as taught on Sundays in mormon churches. This will vary geographically and by age group but tends to be based on what's written in official manuals and canonized church scripture

2. Doctrine as accepted and practiced by mormons. Again, varies by location and age, tends to start from the manuals and the scriptures but deviates in various ways which come down to popular modes of interpretation, traditional practices, etc... this is why you'll go to some mormon communities and find that everyone believes drinking a Diet Coke is considered against the word of wisdom but then you'll go to another congregation and no one really has a problem with it.

3. Doctrine as practiced on an institutional level. This, again, starts from official policy manuals published by the church, but tends to deviate in usually small ways based on the Bishop or other church leader enforcing the policy. For example, where one bishop might unceremoniously start the excommunication process of a gay couple (who are members of record) living in his area, another might choose to do nothing about it at all.

3. Doctrine as written in the "founding texts". By which I mean the Book of Mormon, the Book of Commandments (now called the Doctrine and Covenants), the Bible and various other writings of Joseph smith. This is where it gets murkier, because the delineation between doctrine and opinion isn't always clear, though it tends to favor scriptural decrees. When you have a religion where one of the founding principles is the concept of continuing revelation and that continuing revelation can supercede ancient revelation, the mechanism for recognizing and accepting that revelation should be very clear. Unfortunately in the modern church that mechanism isn't well defined or understood by a lot of mormons. For example, many mormons accept the idea that everything published in the April and October General Conference Reports constitues "new revelation," while others do not accept that idea. Official church policy hasn't made a clear distinction on this in either direction.

Hence: policy is interpreted as doctrine, and it is a de facto kind of doctrine because it's what the majority of church members adhere to. Traditions are accepted as doctrine, because "that's how it's always been done", even if the tradition fails to recognize key nuances in the founding texts. Finally the utterances of the living president of the church and the quorum of apostles are often considered doctrine, even when those utterances are made in a non-official capacity. And on and on it goes.

Here's another example: when I got married my dad took me aside and explained to me that I should never have oral sex with my wife because it is "unnatural" and a grave sin. I listened politely to his well-intentioned but creepy advice. My wife and I engage in oral sex from time to time, and even she, in her much stronger adherence to "traditional" beliefs in the church, never viewed it as sinful.

Another example where written doctrine, stated policy, and accepted culture clash is in the topic of tithing. The most recent official church statement (published in 1970 and hasn't really changed since then) on tithing is very basic:

"For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this."

Most folks interpret 'income' to mean 'wage', as in your monthly paycheck. But do you pay on net income or gross income? To which I've often heard the statement "do you want net blessings or gross blessings?" Going further back, to the Doctrine and Covenants, back in 1838, you have scripture which states

"...those who have been thus tithed shall pay one-tenth of al their interest annually..."

AND

"...shall be tithed on their surplus properties..." (Doctrine and Covenants 119: 4-5)

Words like 'interest' and 'surplus' seem to mean something other than 'income', but the real point is that it's entirely up to the individual. This is generally understood by the local Bishops and such, yet you still have a lot of mormons interpreting this concept above and beyond.

So getting to the actual doctrine of proxy baptism really is quite tricky. But the doctrine as disseminated from the founding texts probably goes something like this:

John 3:5 - Except that a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"

1 Corinthians 15: 29 - "Else what shall they do, which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?"

Doctrine and Covenants 124:29 - "For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, maybe be baptized for those who are dead"

Doctrine and Covenants 127:5-7 - "And again, I give unto you a word in relation to the baptism for your dead. Verily thus saith the Lord unto you concerning your dead: When any of you are baptized for the dead, let there be a recorder, and let him be eye-witness of your baptisms; let him hear with his ears, tha hey may testify of a truth, saith the Lord; That in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven; whatsoever you bind on earth, may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven;"

That's the basic gist in the canonized scriptures. Everything else, from policy to practice to what's preached over the pulpits is an interpretation and result of these words. There's obviously room for other kinds of interpretations, as the folks at BCC have demonstrated.

But the bottom line as many here have already said: the current practice, which is in effect only one exegesis of the written doctrine, is offensive and should be stopped immediately.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's ok to use "gay" as a stand-in for a consequence, because this thing that people are doing that we don't believe in offends us SO BAD that we're going to go ahead and lean on that whole very real "Gay = Pejorative" thing to get under someone else's skin!

Don't worry homos, we're doing this to HELP!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:23 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up mormon. Now I'm not mormon and out of the closet.

I understand the good intentions behind baptisms for the dead, and why it's hard for mormons to grasp why they might be offensive. This doesn't excuse the lack of understanding, most mormons could do with more understanding of outside perspectives, but I get where it comes from.

In a pretty real way, baptism for the dead is like getting paperwork in order. From the perspective of the religion, what you're doing is making sure all of the forms are properly filled out in triplicate. The idea being that if someone dies, and in the afterlife decides to convert (or "receive the gospel") all they have to do is sign off on the paperwork.

From the mormon perspective, it sure would be awful if someone ran into problems in the afterlife because of missing paperwork! (paperwork being ordinances and other such stuff) Mormons don't perceive the baptism as an actual conversion or entry into the fold, so they don't understand how it might be seen as coercive or disrespectful of someone's wishes.

That being said, even if it comes from a place of goodwill, it's their responsibility to understand and explore the worlds history of forced conversion, and to understand how such an act can be disrespectful of someone's agency.

And, for mormons, the ideal of baptisms for the dead is one that centers much more on geneology and connection to ones family and past, and the experience of doing the religious work in a sacred environment, than it does on the subject of the baptism. At least in my experience. Even when I had doubts and was questioning, the experience of completing an ordinance for a relation of mine felt very deep and spiritual. I felt connected to my ancestors, in a way. It was very moving, even thinking back on it now.
posted by f_panda at 8:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


you should realize that the side benefit to that is the most detailed and authoritative database of genealogy yet created, worldwide.

As an historian and genealogist, I beg to differ. While what you say can be applied to the preservation of *original records* on microfilm, etc., the family trees that these folks draw up are often filled with woefully inaccurate and poorly researched genealogies.

there's at least one ancestor of mine who, in Mormon terms, was born in 1808. Hardly likely since he was at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. His wife, whom he married when she was about 14, fares even worse. She's always being made the grand daughter of a pathological liar who claimed to be some Revolutionary War Super Hero who happened to be at all the key battles and knew all the right people from Washington on down when in fact he was a child (sort of the opposite of the Battle of Waterloo guy!). They share a surname, nothing more. They are not even distantly related, as the surname is common enough and they lived in entirely different countries to boot!

Those are just two examples I could cite. Don't get me started on the "baptize everyone, let them sort it out in the afterlife" crap. My deceased Evangelical German Lutheran grandparents would never have wanted to be Mormons, but some far flung cousin of a cousin married a Mormon and converted/baptized everyone who was dead in my family. I don't buy this story that these dead people get to choose whether to accept or decline this offer of post-mortem Mormonism. I frankly feel it is an attempt to "convert" people and since they are dead, seldom is a fuss raised until they do despicable things like converting Jewish people who died during the 20th Century Holocaust.

I'll revisit All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay whenever I get angry about all of the above topics I've mentioned.
posted by kuppajava at 9:02 AM on February 23, 2012


Thanks for such a detailed reply, Doleful Creature. That's pretty much what I expected after Googling and reading through a few of the other things people have linked to and I appreciate the confirmation. I wish it was more apparent that there are a solid number of Mormons who think it's offensive and consider stopping this from happening to be paramount over other considerations. A comment in TWF's article linked to this post again demonstrating the same thing.

Uther Bentrazor, as muddgirl said I should think that more than getting under anyone's skin, making the point with sexuality works because it's also a mere choice on the part of the individual, according to official LDS doctrine and legislative action. Plus there's the Kinsey evidence that jeffburges mentioned: when regarding sexuality as a spectrum there likely are few exclusively heterosexual individuals. You have a point though and maybe it would have been better to say "bisexual" instead of "gay".
posted by XMLicious at 9:10 AM on February 23, 2012


Uther Bentrazor, as muddgirl said I should think that more than getting under anyone's skin, making the point with sexuality works because it's also a mere choice on the part of the individual, according to official LDS doctrine and legislative action.

The language quoted by muddgirl indicates that sexual conduct is a choice.
posted by The World Famous at 9:40 AM on February 23, 2012


there's a lot I don't understand about baptism by proxy. baptism as a ritual doesn't seem to offer any benefit to one's spiritual progression other than as an example of obedience. ok, so in order to get into the club you have to jump through some hoops. but how do you show your obedience when someone else does the ritual for you and all you have to do is say yea or nay? I'm obviously missing something because that doesn't make sense to me.

considering that the numbers of mormons who have been baptized properly is almost negligibly small compared to the number of people who have ever lived or will live it seems that almost all baptisms will be done by proxy. so why is requiring everyone to be baptized a good obedience ritual?

the mormons are going to be very busy. my understanding is that they believe there will be a period of 1,000 years where no one will die and there will be time to perform all the proxy baptisms and endowments (and sealings/marriages?) for almost everyone who ever died. and they will need help. no matter how hard they work they will never be able to create an accurate geneology for everyone who ever lived by themselves. so heavenly father will need to give them a list of the people they're missing and then sit back and wait for them to perform all those rituals by proxy. I suppose time is infinite but 1,000 years of busy work doesn't seem like a good use of it.

I understand that mormons think it would be a great shame if anyone was denied the chance to choose to join the church because they were never baptized. but I wonder if they question the motives of a heavenly father who would deny someone their eternal salvation because of a missed ritual?

apologies in advance if I've misrepresented doctrine due to my misunderstandings.
posted by sineater at 9:49 AM on February 23, 2012


but I wonder if they question the motives of a heavenly father who would deny someone their eternal salvation because of a missed ritual?

Won't they just go to the Telestial Kingdom then?
posted by elsietheeel at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2012


I've asked why they call it a baptism, but never gotten a good answer. Honestly, if they stop calling it baptism they would save themselves a lot of grief.

I've pretty much come to the same conclusion that it'd be much better if the word "offered" was used instead of "performed" for the sake of clarity when describing the practice. But like I said in the earlier thread, I don't think anyone can fairly claim the term baptism or some single set of associated spiritual mechanics and meaning. Nor do I really think it'd be helpful if it were left out -- the ordinance offered is pretty clearly a baptism, calling it something else would simply obscure that, not usually a good tactic when the problem by and large is misunderstanding.

I don't buy this story that these dead people get to choose whether to accept or decline this offer of post-mortem Mormonism.

I'm having trouble working out exactly what the claim here is. The closest thing I can work out is that you imagine Mormons are publicly professing belief that accepting proxy baptisms is a choice but privately high-fiving each other over how they totally forced Mormonism onto Anne Frank *again*.
posted by weston at 10:26 AM on February 23, 2012


Oh, and this just in ... you don't have to be a Jew to be a Mormon in the afterlife! You can be a Polish Catholic Resistance member, too! This article is from *yesterday* :(
posted by kuppajava at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2012


But, based on my own experience participating in these discussions on MeFi, it is clear to me that, at least where Mormonism is concerned, it is unrealistic to expect most people here to care about basing their analysis or taking of offense on anything other than unfair characterizations of the religion's beliefs. People don't care what Mormons actually believe - collectively or individually. They care about their own interpretation of what they heard or read somewhere and they care that it is possible to construct a characterization that allows them to remain outraged.

It ain't just Mormons....

baptism as a ritual doesn't seem to offer any benefit to one's spiritual progression other than as an example of obedience. ok, so in order to get into the club you have to jump through some hoops. but how do you show your obedience when someone else does the ritual for you and all you have to do is say yea or nay? I'm obviously missing something because that doesn't make sense to me.

The origins of Baptism weren't as such about "obedience." They were about ritual cleanliness; in the early days of Christianity, it was about cleansing one's soul from "original sin" (meaning, the state of spiritual imperfection we were all born into thanks to Adam and Eve). It's meant to bring about a state of spiritual purity so you can then go on and get more holy. Think of it like this: say you've got a room in your house that's painted red, and you want to paint it green. You wouldn't do too well if you painted the green paint over the red, so you paint it with some primer first to get it ready for the green paint. Baptism is like the coat of primer.

That's why they started baptizing babies -- when there was a high infant death rate, they wanted to make sure the kid had gotten at least THAT ritual taken care of. Yeah, your 18-month-old died too young to have ever gone to church, but at least he'd been baptized. There were adult baptisms too, for people who converted from another religion TO Christianity, but mostly it was babies.

Then the dissents started showing up -- first the Anabaptists who believed that only people who understood what baptism was all about should be baptized, so babies shouldn't be yet. Then the different denominations who started getting all territorial about it ("okay, maybe you were baptized Catholic when you were one year old, but you weren't baptized by OUR denomination so it doesn't count"). At the other end of the spectrum you also have some denominations who don't baptize because they don't think it matters (the Quakers don't baptize -- they don't have any of the traditional sacraments, either; their faith practice is very no-frills and independent).

In the Mormon church (I'll admit this is what I've just looked up now on Wikipedia), they don't believe in "original sin," but Baptism is still necessary for washing off the sin you may have done up to that point (it's still the coat of primer). After Baptism, you still need to be confirmed in the faith (you still need to put on the coat of green paint) in order to be a full member.

So effectively: this post-mortem Baptism is just a way of posthumously putting on the coat of primer. It's still up to the spirit of the deceased individual to decide, "okay, yeah, I'll become Mormon" and take it the rest of the way into painting the room green. However, that still is a pretty big assumption that the deceased didn't like that red room just the way it was, thank you very much, and so someone slapping primer over their nice red room isn't helping after all.


(I've just compared a religious sacrament to interior decorating. That's either kind of genius, or a sign I need some fresh air.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The language quoted by muddgirl indicates that sexual conduct is a choice.

Well then, I guess the LDS should condemn this by saying "Being gay is an inherent trait that isn't a matter of choice, this really should refer to whether our ancestors are men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women."

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the choice of the word "gay" was influenced by a desire to make the URL shorter.
posted by XMLicious at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2012


"...baptism as a ritual doesn't seem to offer any benefit to one's spiritual progression other than as an example of obedience. ok, so in order to get into the club you have to jump through some hoops."

That's a falsely...narrow...view of religious ritual. Not just baptism, but any such ritual. But with regard to baptism, it's doubly narrow—it's a non-believer's view of anabaptist baptism. For, say, infant baptism it can't possibly be about "obediance". And for the credobaptism traditions, it's not about obedience but rather an actual metaphysical alteration that takes place.

You can't just reason about these sorts of things on the basis of a few secondhand facts and from first principles and think you understand something.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


sineater, my own understanding of the matter is that proxy baptism, as a doctrinal matter, serves a "greater" purpose than merely ticking off a name and making sure some sort of celestial paperwork is done for salvation, with that "greater" purpose being the fulfillment of Malachi 4:6 - the turning of the hearts of the fathers to their childrena dn the hearts of the children to their fathers, with the idea being that genealogy and proxy ordinances are the vehicle by which Mormons create a connection between themselves and their own ancestors.

That significance underscores the offensive nature - both outside Mormonism and within the framework of Mormon doctrine - of proxy baptism of someone other than the direct ancestor of the person doing the ordinance or at least submitting the name. There has developed, over the years, a culture within Mormonism of believing the spiritual benefit of proxy baptisms derives from the notion of needing to get the work done for every deceased person, no matter who they are, and from the feeling among some Mormons that they benefit spiritually from participating in temple ordinances regardless of any connection with the deceased person for whom they are performing an ordinance.

I imagine that it is difficult for the church leadership to consider "correcting" that misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the doctrine, since it leads to enthusiastic participation in church rites and greater devotion among the members. And there is certainly a sense of spiritual peace and contemplation that can come from being in the temple in the right frame of mind, and participating in proxy ordinances does serve to remind the participant of the content of the ordinances themselves. Those are real benefits to the individual, and it is likely difficult for the church to contemplate telling those people that they are doing it wrong and that, because they are causing offense to the living descendants of those who are not their ancestors, they are not allowed to go to the temple more than the one time that they do so for their own ordinances unless they do so on behalf of their own direct ancestors.

As far as the notion that God will deny people salvation if the Mormons don't get around to proxy baptizing them, there is a lot of emphasis in the Mormon faith on the concept that God is infinitely loving and just and that proxy baptism is one small example of a mechanism for his love and mercy to offer salvation to all and to never deny blessings to anyone based on a technicality. So I don't think that's really an issue, doctrinally.

In response to your comment: but I wonder if they question the motives of a heavenly father who would deny someone their eternal salvation because of a missed ritual?, the answer is that an enormous part of the point of proxy baptism is that Mormons do not believe that God would deny someone their eternal salvation because of a missed ritual, and that, therefore, God has instituted an ordinance for the purpose of facilitating that ritual for everyone. That same aspect of Mormon belief underpins the Mormon practice of not baptizing infants, based on the belief that a) Mormons reject the idea of Original Sin (the 2nd Article of Faith); and b) infants are not capable of sinning and do not, therefore, need to be baptized as infants.
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking as an atheist, I've never really understood why anyone cares one way or the other about this. Either you're a Mormon--in which case you presumably think it's a Good Thing--or you're not a Mormon, in which case you think it's a load of meaningless (if well-intentioned) mumbo-jumbo. Ask an observant Jew if he thinks that some Morman person's ancestors are enjoying the Morman version of the afterlife right now and I'm pretty sure that if he's honest he'll have to say no. That doesn't mean he suddenly cast all the Mormon dead out of their heaven. Mormon postmortem baptism doesn't turn a dead Jew (or a dead Muslim or a dead Catholic or a dead Hindu) into a dead Mormon unless the Mormons happen to be right about the afterlife and everyone else happens to be wrong. In which case, it's all to the good.

I do see the "this kinda sorta reminds me of forced conversion" aspect of this, but while I can sympathize with not wanting to be reminded of the past sins of the Christian church, that doesn't really seem to warrant the "OMG this is an OUTRAGE!" response the practice engenders. Because whatever else this is, forced conversion it ain't.
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So effectively: this post-mortem Baptism is just a way of posthumously putting on the coat of primer.

oops, sorry, I wasn't very clear what I meant. I understand that the act of baptism for mormons wipes the slate clean and that aspect of it is a real spiritual benefit. I was thinking more along the lines of a spiritually educational benefit, i.e. what do I learn from performing the ritual that I wouldn't have learned if I never was baptized? Now that I think about it a bit more I would guess that what I was thinking of actually happens during the time leading up to the decision to get baptized. (whether or not 8 year olds are at a good age to make such a decision is another matter). So thanks for your reply Empress because it helped me think things through a bit more.
posted by sineater at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2012


I understand that the act of baptism for mormons wipes the slate clean and that aspect of it is a real spiritual benefit. I was thinking more along the lines of a spiritually educational benefit, i.e. what do I learn from performing the ritual that I wouldn't have learned if I never was baptized? Now that I think about it a bit more I would guess that what I was thinking of actually happens during the time leading up to the decision to get baptized. (whether or not 8 year olds are at a good age to make such a decision is another matter).

I'm not sure I understand your question, I suppose. Are you asking what the logic is for waiting until you're older vs. doing it when you're a baby?

If that's the case, it's not so much a matter of "what educational benefit" there is; it's a matter of "whether you have the mental ability to have free will and the ability to make your own decisions." You could make the baby and the 8-year-old both go through the same pre-Baptism classes; it may be questionable how much the 8-year-old "gets" what's going on, yeah, but a baby REALLY doesn't. It doesn't have anything to do with what you learn about Baptism, it has to do with whether you are CAPABLE of learning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on February 23, 2012


"Speaking as an atheist, I've never really understood why anyone cares one way or the other about this."

Yeah, that's usually my reaction, too. I've always felt this way about the whole "they believe we're all going to hell?!?!" outrage, for example.

But, you know, part of it is that, on the one hand, liberals tend to be relativists and so naturally dislike anything that smacks of absolutism (which does, certainly, actually acting upon, in any way, absolutist/universalist ideas about metaphysics...such as proselytizing or, really, just anything more than being reasonably quiet about one's absolutism) and, on the other hand, conservatives tend to be absolutists who don't all share the same absolutist beliefs and so the other guy's absolutism is inherently offensive; and certainly acting upon it or not being quiet about it very definitely is offensive. You really have to be the rare sort of relativist I am, or apparently you are, to not be that bothered by people having religious beliefs that one doesn't share and which those other people don't keep entirely private.

And then the other thing is that, really, people are just really darned sensitive about this stuff. It's just human nature. It's not really about any actual reasoning through the implications of someone else's beliefs and finding incompatibilities that are somehow offensive to one's own beliefs. It might be partly that. Probably is partly that. But, mostly, it's an unconscious xenophbobia that is piqued when that otherness impinges upon things that reside deep inside someone's sense of self and who they are in the context of society.

So, the reason that these proxy baptisms are particularly vexing to many is because they are simultaneously familiar enough to provide a point of reference (even non-christians pretty much have some idea of what baptism is and entails) and alien enough to be threatening (proxy baptism of the dead into a poorly understood and sometimes frightening alien religion). That's why the "going to Hell" thing bothers many people, too. And why the "being reincarnated" generally doesn't. The latter is too alien to be that threatening—it's a monster that can't really find its way inside the home. The former is not—it's a monster that finds an open window and climbs into the bedroom.

And then there's the forced conversion association.

From my perspective as an atheist, it's just not realistic to expect almost anyone to be rational about their metaphysics, especially if it's anything that could even remotely be called a religious belief. One's beliefs about a "higher power", an afterlife, and all that's related is deeply tied into one's personal and social identities. And values. And aspirations. My inclination, as a certain kind of atheist, is to ask how, if someone doesn't believe in Hell, that someone's else's belief that one is destined for Hell could be offensive to one? But that's really to sort of miss about 95% of what's really going on in this stuff. The same is true for proxy baptism.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:20 AM on February 23, 2012


elsietheeel, yes they'll just go to the telestial kingdom. Which isn't a "bad" place to go. Mormons believe that in order to go to the highest level of the highest kingdom, several key ordinances must be in place. So, from a mormon point of view, proxy ordinances are a way of giving everyone a shot at that.

I've seen some implications here that mormons are being disingenuous by saying that the subject of the baptism has a choice in accepting that. I'm not sure how to respond to disbelief of a clear assertion rather than to say that, yes, the choice of the person receiving a proxy ordinance is considered vitally important. I might go as far as to say it's sacred.

None of this dismisses the ways this practice can be offensive. And there's a reason that I'm no longer mormon myself. I have a pretty huge area of disagreement there, in areas that sometimes make me feel furious. I think it's important to be clear on what the beliefs we're discussing actually are, and the reasons they actually are offensive.
posted by f_panda at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


TWF, thanks for your long reply. I'm not sure what to make of your suggestion that the church leaders are reluctant to correct such a large misunderstanding by the members doing the proxy ordinances. I do understand that the mormons doing the proxy work receive spiritual benefit, I was more questioning what spiritual lessons are learned by the dead person. It seems to me, the spiritual work is in making the decision whether or not to join the church and the ritual itself is arbitrary. So my confusion about the importance of proxy baptisms comes from not understanding why the ritual itself must actually be performed by someone else when the real important stuff, making the decision, is separate from the ritual.

there is a lot of emphasis in the Mormon faith on the concept that God is infinitely loving and just and that proxy baptism is one small example of a mechanism for his love and mercy to offer salvation to all and to never deny blessings to anyone based on a technicality

This doesn't seem to gibe with baptism being such a strong requirement that proxy baptisms must be performed for almost everyone. If God won't deny blessings based on a technicality then when is the ritual required?

Mormons do not believe that God would deny someone their eternal salvation because of a missed ritual, and that, therefore, God has instituted an ordinance for the purpose of facilitating that ritual for everyone.

God providing a way to ensure your own salvation (i.e. meet the baptism requirement) does seem like a good thing except that isn't it also God who made the requirement in the first place? Isn't that like locking the door and then telling everyone you've made a way for them to get a key?
posted by sineater at 11:31 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm not sure I understand your question, I suppose. Are you asking what the logic is for waiting until you're older vs. doing it when you're a baby?

no, sorry, I'm comparing the potential lives of a believer and a non-believer. For example, if I'm a good person then what does performing a ritual teach me that I wouldn't otherwise be able to learn? If the church has access to some knowledge that is unavailable to me, knowledge that is necessary for me to progress, then what is that knowledge? As a non-believer I try to understand the reasons for things as a way of evaluating what a religion has to offer. I try and think about why a loving god would make such a requirement, because it seems that with a religion like mormonism that is so structured with necessary rituals, God would have a purpose for the requirements.
posted by sineater at 11:39 AM on February 23, 2012


@Uther Bentrazor

also they did it first
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm comparing the potential lives of a believer and a non-believer. For example, if I'm a good person then what does performing a ritual teach me that I wouldn't otherwise be able to learn?

You're assuming that the purpose of a ritual is to "teach" you something. It's not. A ritual is a symbolic affirmation of something. It's like -- when you graduate from high school, the actual act of going up and physically taking hold of your diploma isn't anything you "learn from." It's a symbolic affirmation that you have learned things prior to that date.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on February 23, 2012


God providing a way to ensure your own salvation (i.e. meet the baptism requirement) does seem like a good thing except that isn't it also God who made the requirement in the first place? Isn't that like locking the door and then telling everyone you've made a way for them to get a key?

I agree with your example here of locking the door and giving everyone a key. I think it's a little circular in nature, but I think that about many questions related to god. Part of why I'm non-religious now. Dealing with these questions is part of a lot of people's religious existence.

These sorts of ordinances that are done in the temple are considered important in and of themselves. I posed, and heard many others pose the "why is this even necessary" question. The answer is that we don't entirely know at this time. Participating in a religion often involves religious mysteries.

When I was in my apologetics phase, my answer would have been two-fold. First, the strenthening of bonds between myself and my ancestors, which I did feel and was powerful for me. Second, performing ceremony and work in the temple is valuable. Ceremony can be a valuable thing, and for many mormons, the temple is a place of spiritual comfort and rest. A supportive environment that helps spiritual learning.
posted by f_panda at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm not sure what to make of your suggestion that the church leaders are reluctant to correct such a large misunderstanding by the members doing the proxy ordinances.

I'm not sure they're reluctant to correct the misunderstanding - there are lessons in church meetings all the time that underscore the actual doctrinal basis for work for the dead, and those lessons put quite a lot of emphasis on correcting the misunderstanding. I think the reluctance is in regard to putting in place some enforcement mechanism to prevent anyone from performing an ordinance that is not perfectly in keeping with that particular doctrine. Contrary to popular belief, Mormonism does not strictly enforce very many of its doctrines.

I was more questioning what spiritual lessons are learned by the dead person.

I'm not sure the point of baptism is to teach, as much as it is a symbolic gesture. Mormons do believe, however, that one's understanding of God's truth (as well as all other truth, like science, etc.) can increase after death into the eternities.

It seems to me, the spiritual work is in making the decision whether or not to join the church and the ritual itself is arbitrary.

Yeah, I'd agree with that. The ritual is a symbolic gesture - an exercise of faith. I'm not sure I'd call it "arbitrary," given the symbolism of the ritual itself (immersion, rebirth, washing) and the scriptural reference to Christ being baptized "to fulfill all righteousness."

This doesn't seem to gibe with baptism being such a strong requirement that proxy baptisms must be performed for almost everyone. If God won't deny blessings based on a technicality then when is the ritual required?

Because the ritual is not a technicality, and because the performance of the ritual as an exercise of faith acts to create a bond between the proxy and their ancestor.

God providing a way to ensure your own salvation (i.e. meet the baptism requirement) does seem like a good thing except that isn't it also God who made the requirement in the first place? Isn't that like locking the door and then telling everyone you've made a way for them to get a key?

Mormonism believes that God's law was not created by God (I'm getting a little bit out there with that one, and I'm over-simplifying). The idea is that sin, human frailty, our human errors, etc. necessarily prevent us from achieving what God wants for us unless we can find some way to overcome those things. Christ's message, according to Mormonism, is that sin need not be such an impediment, because Christ offered himself as an atoning proxy for the consequences of all humanity's sins. Baptism exists as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate one's faith and acceptance of that atonement.
posted by The World Famous at 11:47 AM on February 23, 2012


"A ritual is a symbolic affirmation of something."

Well, it can be that. It can also be something that is actually consequential in some intrinsic way. Seeing a ritual as a teaching moment, as sineater is doing, or seeing it as symbolic of something else, as you're doing, are both unnecessarily limiting what a religious ritual could possibly be and, in fact, are being insufficiently inclusive of what actual believers actually believe their various rituals actually are.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:47 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there's the forced conversion association.

Yes. I suspect that is really the essence of the matter. If this were a story about, say, some Native American tribe offering a blessing to the dead of all races that would permit them to enter the Happy Hunting Ground I think the response of the vast majority of people would be to be rather charmed. That's because there's no long, ugly history of Native Americans forcibly converting Jews.

It remains a matter of fact rather than belief, however, that whatever else the Mormon church is or is not doing, it is not forcibly converting anyone. Anyone, at least, who is currently dead.
posted by yoink at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2012


If God won't deny blessings based on a technicality then when is the ritual required?

in all stripes of christianity (and really, any religion), god requires things he doesn't explain. if you're looking for utterly logically consistent, you'll have to look outside of religion all together. the mormons aren't alone in this. when questions like these come up within the church, the story of abraham and his son is usually told.

whether or not 8 year olds are at a good age to make such a decision is another matter

i struggled with this when i was still a member of the church. one of the purposes of baptism, as it was explained to me when i was going through it as an eight year old, is that it's the first ordinance you get to opt into. mormons do childhood dedications, basically giving a kid a name and a special blessing, and if you're sick you get a blessing by priesthood holders - but baptism is the first you really get a say in. one of the reasons to do it for eight year olds is that somewhere around that time kids really start pulling away from their parents and becoming more a part of their social environment. i think it's also around 8 that they start really teaching CTR (choose the right, like the precursor to WWJD). you get a lot of lessons about choices and how tell if you're making the right ones and how the wrong ones feel. the actual or metaphorical washing of sins and starting fresh at 8 is part of this - it's an acknowledgement that the child has their own mind and can make choices independent of their parents.

so, while i disagree about the age of 8 for personal reasons (i was abused from 7-10 or so and because my baptism happened in the middle of all of that it got a little murky), i do understand it as a good option. i do remember feeling very grown up around mine - like, you get special lessons in church and you get your first alone meeting with the bishop and your parents set aside special time. i was the first to wear my baptismal gown (made from my grandmother's wedding dress). i got a special dress to wear directly afterwards for my confirmation. i very much felt a part of the whole process.

besides, 8 also makes sense for the mormons because the boys receive the priesthood at 12. i don't think people really understand how ritual heavy the mormons are. it's like i said upthread - everyone talks about the proxy baptisms, but few talk about the other proxy work done in the temple. i guess what i'm saying is it seems a lot stranger outside the church than inside it. as a member you're sort of constantly doing sacrament and seminary and being called to positions in the church and tithing and fast offerings. temple work fits into all that. the mormons are a service oriented people, they serve god and they serve their community/congregation and both of those are sort of a full time job.
posted by nadawi at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2012


You have a point, Ivan, but I'm meeting Sineater where he is now, which is believing that a ritual is supposed to be "a teaching moment" exclusively, and I'm pointing out "not so much."

(And I am a theist, so I am one such "actual believer.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2012


EmpressCallipygos and Ivan Fyodorovich, I see how what I said sounds like my view of baptism is limited. I can see that there is more to it spiritually for the believer. Which I guess means I'm more confused about proxy baptism. Why require a ritual that can be quite important and moving to the baptizee when for almost all of us we won't gain that spiritual benefit of the ritual because someone else did it for us? For example, if we die and are in Limbo (or whatever mormons call it) why can't we be baptized there? Why does it need to be performed by someone with a physical body? Couldn't a substitute ritual be devised for dead people that contains the same spiritual potential?
posted by sineater at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2012


Ohhhh. Okay, that I don't know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:26 PM on February 23, 2012


because the performance of the ritual as an exercise of faith acts to create a bond between the proxy and their ancestor

out of curiosity, why is this necessary? why are the bonds broken or non existent? aren't we all related to one another anyway?

Mormonism believes that God's law was not created by God

I know you don't want to get into this, but doesn't that beg the question who did create God's law? So if I'm trying to understand why physical baptism is a requirement then it doesn't really matter to me if the God of this world is the one insisting on that requirement or if someone else is. Do mormons believe that some earlier God made the laws? Or that they just happen to exist as they are as part of the nature of the Universe? Or something else?
posted by sineater at 12:37 PM on February 23, 2012


sineater, within mormon doctrine the entire point of this existence on earth is to receive a physical body. It has a huge place in doctrine and culture, and spirit without body is considered a very limited eternal existence. In fact, the mormon concept of "damnation" has a whole lot to do with losing the chance to gain a physical body. The marriage of spiritual and physical, followed by the exaltation of the two, is the entire point.

The body is just as sacred as the spirit. It's one of the things I always liked about mormonism.
posted by f_panda at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know you don't want to get into this, but doesn't that beg the question who did create God's law? So if I'm trying to understand why physical baptism is a requirement then it doesn't really matter to me if the God of this world is the one insisting on that requirement or if someone else is. Do mormons believe that some earlier God made the laws? Or that they just happen to exist as they are as part of the nature of the Universe? Or something else?

Universal law is probably the closest fit. At some point it all dissolves into "well then who created god? Why is there ANYTHING?". It's a basic metaphysical question for just about anyone. I, personally, don't think it's an answerable question.
posted by f_panda at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2012


out of curiosity, why is this necessary? why are the bonds broken or non existent? aren't we all related to one another anyway?

I don't know about you, but I feel a lot stronger kinship and bond with my ancestors when I devote time to learning about them than when I don't think about them at all. I'm not trying to wax poetic here, but from both a religious and non-religious perspective, there can be real value in viewing one's own life and progress as being connected to and following from that of generations of humans going back through the history of mankind. In that context, I think it's important that any such exercise be done in a way that is respectful to those who have gone before.

I know you don't want to get into this, but doesn't that beg the question who did create God's law?

Only if you believe that everything has to have been created by someone.

Do mormons believe that some earlier God made the laws?

Not that I know of. I certainly do not.

Or that they just happen to exist as they are as part of the nature of the Universe?

That's a bit closer to my own belief, yeah. I also assume that every doctrine, law, etc. is only known by way of necessarily-flawed human interpretation and understanding and that symbolic rituals often (or perhaps always) are human and/or temporal constructs designed to express deeper meanings, and not necessarily immutable universe laws in and of themselves.
posted by The World Famous at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2012


"And I am a theist, so I am one such 'actual believer.'"

Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that you're not. What I meant was that what believers think happens in religious rituals is extremely varied. That you're a believer doesn't imply that your view of what other believers believe happens in various religious ritual is any more (or less) complete than what sineater believes. Or me. Or anyone. But I happen to know that I can point to believers who believe that religious ritual involves more/other than either teaching moments or symbolic affirmation.

Honestly, I wouldn't know where to begin to describe what all religious ritual "is" unless I were discussing this with someone who was willing to share my particular assumptions. Which would defeat the point of having this conversation in anything like the context in which it's happening here, because obviously everyone involved here doesn't share those assumptions.

Which was my point in my initial response to sineater. Sineater seems to me to be, from the comments, most likely a non-believer. And yet sineater's view of baptism seems, in my estimation, to be through, first, the prism of a particular variety of protestant baptism, and then, second, through the prism of someone who is a non-believer of that protestantism. Infant baptism can't be a form of ritualized submission to authority. And, also, a baptism can be understood as a transformative act in itself, not symbolic or for the sake of something else.

When people look at religious beliefs unlike their own, they tend to do this sort of thing without realizing it. There's a host of assumptions we bring to bear on the very idea of religion. Is it possible that someone could believe an absolutist, universal theology and yet not feel the need to proselytize? Yes. But this is hard for Christians to understand. And it's not merely because maybe the other belief invalidates the very goal of proselytizing...that is, that conversion isn't possible. Conversion could be very possible and very desirable and still proselytization is an alien concept. But the point of this is that this one value, this one assumption, goes to the very heart of what religion means in both personal and social respects and when two religions, two cultures, two people don't share that value, they each look across that divide bringing with them assumptions from their perspective that very likely don't apply.

Where people's sensibilities and feelings are most often, and most badly, hurt is when, as I wrote earlier, there is both similarity and dissimilarity at the same time. There's enough similarity so that one person can bring their assumptions to bear on a different faith in a way that seems, to them, to be a sensible application of their unexamined assumptions. But then that creates an even greater conflict than if there were no point of (supposed) similarity at all. Heaven and baptism are ideas that are so central to Christianity, that even non-Christians are pretty confident of what they entail. But while that's not entirely justified within conventional Christianity, it's far less justified with regard to Mormonism.

I think that yoink is largely correct about the importance of forced conversions in this instance, but I do also think the apparent ability to map what people think they understand about baptism onto this also plays a very important role. That is, if it were called something other than baptism, I don't think there would be as great a sensitivity, even if the effect of the ritual were supposed to be exactly the same.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:11 PM on February 23, 2012


"I know you don't want to get into this, but doesn't that beg the question who did create God's law?"

Aside from The World Famous's point that you're assuming that this Law had to have been made, that it had to have come into existence from non-existence and, furthermore, that it was designed, you're also assuming A) omnipotence, and B) a certain definition of omnipotence. For example, the scholastics, and some contemporary theologians, don't see "limiting" an omnipotent deity to what is rationally possible to be less than omnipotence. They make a good case for this, I think, whatever else you think of Aquinas.

For an interesting non-Christian view of this sort of thing, read logician philosopher and Taoist Raymond Smullyan's amusing dialogue about free-will, Is God a Taoist?

Some things may simply be necessary. Or not.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:25 PM on February 23, 2012


And yet sineater's view of baptism seems, in my estimation, to be through, first, the prism of a particular variety of protestant baptism, and then, second, through the prism of someone who is a non-believer of that protestantism.

Ivan, sorry if my comments led you to believe that I was commenting on baptism generally. My comments are only concerned with mormon baptisms. Your point about infant baptism is interesting, and something I hadn't thought much about, but doesn't apply to the mormons. People born into the church are baptized at age 8. Since the church has a strong missionary focus there are also plenty of baptisms of teenagers and adults, not to mention the proxy baptisms of people who are already done living their lives. As has been mentioned by others above, mormon baptism is presented as a choice to the individual in the context that a physical baptism is the first of several required rituals. I understand that there's lots more to it but it's the requirement aspect that interests me because that seems to be connected the practice of baptisms for the dead.
posted by sineater at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2012


Ah, okay.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2012


Ivan, sure, but the context in which my question about who created God's law was made was specifically about the law that physical baptism is required for eternal progression. Since the particular ritual and the requirement of it both seem somewhat arbitrary to me (many other arrangements are possible) I guess I do think that this particular law does need to have been "made". It doesn't really make sense to me that this kind of law would just "be necessary". So I do see what you're saying but I'm having trouble seeing how it applies in this case.

thanks for the Smullyan link. I'd read that about a year ago and enjoyed it a lot. I also really enjoyed his logic puzzles when I was a kid. I also was really interested in Taoism when I was a teenager. I've been thinking that 30 years later I should check it out again and see what my adult brain thinks about it now.
posted by sineater at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2012


The contrast between this thread and the recent necrophilia one is pretty amazing. It turns out that for at least seeral MeFites it is ok to fuck grandma's corpse regardless of whether she would be horrified at the idea, but it is not ok to call out her name from a teleprompter while dunking some kid in a jumpsuit.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:03 PM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


May I ask a serious question? Once a soul is anywhere near Heaven, isn't it a given that they know that God exists? And if that is a given, as it must be, why have an issue about who baptized them? Once you're there, you're there, no? Or does the Mormon Church believe that you get just that close to God and you could say, no screw this. Wrong place.
posted by Splunge at 10:35 PM on February 23, 2012


It's not a given, no. Based on your use of the term "heaven" and your hypothetical involving proximity to someplace called that, as well as your non-Mormon usage of the term "soul," I wonder if you're basing your question on an incomplete or inaccurate conception of Mormon beliefs with regard to the afterlife. Could you possibly rephrase the question in terms of Mormon theological concepts?
posted by The World Famous at 11:04 PM on February 23, 2012


Having read all the links, including TWF's one, I'm still not happy about this baptism ritual for dead people. It has all the same vague handwaviness (it's a mystery!) as any other religious ritual, with added presumption and high-handedness. Limiting it to ancestors or close friends doesn't make that any less arrogant or blinkered. It's like giving a gift that you really wanted for yourself - good intentions are claimed, but it takes no account of the other person's needs, wants or opinions and assumes that your own desires are more important than theirs.

Plus, there's the usual difference between what the official doctrine says and how it's actually practiced by the congregation. When members of the church feel that they have to baptise the dead in order to get something they want for themselves, even if that's a desire for spiritual rather than worldly reward, the process will inevitably become debased and grubby.
posted by harriet vane at 11:10 PM on February 23, 2012


Harriet Vane, yes, I can see your point, but on the other hand standard Christian doctrine is that people who are not baptised into the Church will burn eternally in Hell. I prefer the Mormon doctrine not because I believe that either is true, but because the standard Christian doctrine justifies almost any temporal act that may save an eternal soul. As for high-handedness, surely the idea that a non-Mormon is potentially saved is much better than the idea that a non-Christian is necessarily damned?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:49 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Saga Of Biorn appears relevant to your interests (previously).
posted by jeffburdges at 1:53 AM on February 24, 2012


As for high-handedness, surely the idea that a non-Mormon is potentially saved is much better than the idea that a non-Christian is necessarily damned?

But considering that according to Mormon doctrine, very few people are ever eternally damned, is the potential saving really necessary?
posted by elsietheeel at 9:46 AM on February 24, 2012


But considering that according to Mormon doctrine, very few people are ever eternally damned, is the potential saving really necessary?

Yeah, it is.
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2012


Colbert converts all the dead Mormons to Judaism (with bonus cigar cutter!)
posted by Burhanistan at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It turns out that for at least seeral MeFites it is ok to fuck grandma's corpse regardless of whether she would be horrified at the idea, but it is not ok to call out her name from a teleprompter while dunking some kid in a jumpsuit."

I'll assume, because of some recent discussions and how you phrased it, that you actually identified individual people who hold those two beliefs. That's the case, right? I could check for myself, of course, but it sounds very unpleasant both because I'm not interested in reading that thread and I'm not thrilled with the idea of actually knowing those identities.

"It has all the same vague handwaviness (it's a mystery!) as any other religious ritual, with added presumption and high-handedness. Limiting it to ancestors or close friends doesn't make that any less arrogant or blinkered. It's like giving a gift that you really wanted for yourself - good intentions are claimed, but it takes no account of the other person's needs, wants or opinions and assumes that your own desires are more important than theirs. "

Aside from JiA's objection, with which I agree, this seems odd and, well, "blinkered" to me.

For one thing, if it's not actually reality, then it's not giving anyone a gift at all. It's meaningless, unless there's some non-Mormon belief that incorporates this aspect of Mormon belief in a negative way and that non-Mormon belief represents reality—a particular string of connected probabilities that seem to me to be collectively extremely improbable. And if it is actual reality, then it wouldn't be an unwanted gift. It would be very wanted.

For another, and related to JiA's point, it's hard for me to understand why this practice is exceptional. Admittedly, many people seem to make a distinction between the implications of beliefs that they don't share and rituals based upon beliefs they don't share which, by definition (as they don't share those beliefs) have no consequences whatsoever. That is to say, many people seem to intuitively discern a difference between an inconsequential (for others) false belief and an inconsequential (for others) ritual based upon a false belief. Which, while I can sort of get my head around this being about the difference between a belief and an act, still seems to me to be a rational error because both, for non-believers, absolutely do not differ in their consequence for non-believers.

Specifically, as the ritual has no direct practical consequence (assuming it doesn't reflect reality), then whatever consequence it presumably might have is of the same character as the consequence the mere false belief has—most likely, that it's somehow offensive to non-believers in itself. Just as in JiA's example: the Chistian belief that non-believers are going to Hell doesn't rely upon a ritual that affects the non-believers, but it's offensive to many non-believers for reasons that are difficult to pin down, but which are nevertheless real for many non-believers. But since the ritual involving a false belief has no consequences for the non-believer other than the idea of the belief they don't share, then those two examples are basically similar in their offensiveness.

And if that's so, and I think it is (I'm not denying that people intuit and feel that they two are different, but in this case I think it is an error to do so), then all sorts of other beliefs which non-believers share are similarly offensive. Which, in fact, I think they often are. Yet they don't provoke the same outrage as Mormon proxy baptism nor, for that matter, the outrage as the Christian belief that non-Christians are bound for (or in) Hell.

Which, though I'm sorry to belabor the point, I think has everything to do with how some things are both familiar enough to make something personal, and unfamiliar enough to make it especially threatening. The very good and useful example above of a hypothetical aboriginal ritual that escorts the spirits of deceased outsiders into the aboriginal "Happy Hunting Grounds" would, I feel certain, not provoke anything at all resembling this outrage, if it even provoked outrage at all. That's because essentially no non-believers would take it seriously enough to be offended by it. So why are non-believers taking the Mormon belief in proxy baptism this seriously?

Well, frankly, I think a big part of it is that Mormonism is wrongly thought to be pretty much a Christian belief system, which it really isn't. It's related, and similar in some respects, but it's got so many points of enormous divergence (and some of those are absolutely fundamental to how conventional Christianity understands itself) that it's just not accurate to call it a Christian sect. It's a new religion, an offshoot of Christianity, like Christianity is to Judaism. Yet Christianity is so familiar to so many people, and the same is true for baptism, that this makes this particular ritual familiar enough, yet unfamiliar enough, to be especially threatening.

And that's a understandable human response, but it's not necessarily based upon anything rational that justifies an outraged response to it and not to many, many other beliefs and rituals from non-believers.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:25 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Joe in Australia, I find the Christian idea that non-believers will burn in hell equally presumptious. The biblical support seems fuzzy to me. And I find it weird that some people reckon God rates non-belief lower than gleeful anticipation of a non-believer's suffering. Motes and beams in eyes, and all that. I like your point about neccessarily damned vs potentially saved; the Mormon point of view is much more optimistic and generous.

Ivan, I'm not particularly outraged by the Mormon proxy baptisms. At least, not more than any other religious practice, although I can't speak for others in this thread. But there was a discussion about it, and the unfamiliar aspect makes it more interesting to me than the Catholic beliefs I found offensive enough to walk away from and now actively campaign against. I definitely agree with you that it's more like an offshoot of Christianity - shared roots, but going in different directions from there.

I'm happy to abandon the gift analogy. I wasn't thinking of Homer giving Marge a bowling ball for her birthday, but more along the lines of people who have good intentions yet completely fail to understand the real needs or wants of the people they're trying to help, or the feelings of others around them. Maybe it's like telling a grieving widow that there's plenty more fish in the sea, or offering icecream to a depressive to cheer them up. To me, it shows a lack of understanding or sensitivity. But there are worse things in the world than insensitivity (persisting in insensitivity after Jewish representatives have explained it to you and asked you to stop, for one).

I would like to know, if anyone who knows is still reading now, what the majority Mormon belief is regarding what happens to non-Mormons who die then realise in the afterlife that the Mormon idea of God is the correct one and that God is pretty great. Does their willingness to change their minds in face of the evidence (say, as opposed to wilful obstruction or refusal to acknowledge) count for anything? How does this reconcile with the fact that the ancestor died years ago and has presumably already met God before the proxy baptism took place? I'm guessing it's a God is outside of our conceptions of space/time thing, but am interested to know if there are more details than that.
posted by harriet vane at 3:33 AM on February 26, 2012


Mormonism is wrongly thought to be pretty much a Christian belief system... it's just not accurate to call it a Christian sect. It's a new religion, an offshoot of Christianity, like Christianity is to Judaism. Yet Christianity is so familiar to so many people, and the same is true for baptism, that this makes this particular ritual familiar enough, yet unfamiliar enough, to be especially threatening.

I think your fundamental point about the changed familiar is really good -- the idea that Mormonism falls in a sort of religious analog to the uncanny valley is an interesting one and I suspect it's at least partially correct. On one hand, you have a practical theology which would be in the ballpark most Christian sects play within -- Jesus as a divine personal savior, exemplar, and teacher, and a code of ethics and personal behavior that's recognizable in a number of Christian communities, maybe minus the tea & coffee prohibitions. On the other hand, you do have a cosmology that varies dramatically in things like the rejection of a literally triune godhead and even more anthropomorphized diety. Some of the cosmological differences are definitely enough to freak people out, but given the common practical theology and the fact that Mormons identify as Christian (and indeed, believe Mormonism to be true Christianity), are those really enough to classify Mormonism as something else?

Does their willingness to change their minds in face of the evidence (say, as opposed to wilful obstruction or refusal to acknowledge) count for anything?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: I think of the Mormon conception of the afterlife as having a higher degree of relief and detail than many Christian conceptions, and there's even a few somewhat vivid purported accounts, but there's enough vagueness and contradiction that I'd bet if you surveyed 30 Mormons you'd get some varying answers.

The most common thing I think you'd encounter is a traditional rough sketch of post-mortal trajectory. The immediate afterlife is supposed to be a roughly limbo-ish spirit world divided into "paradise" (apparently nice, but not heaven) and "prison" (somehow less nice, but not hell). Which side of the divide someone is one depends on what kind of a person they were and whether they received saving ordinances. Any stay here is temporary one, eventually followed by a literal resurrection (including everybody) and then a final judgment, leading to an eternity in some final state of varying grace/glory (usually divided into 3-4 states ranging from the presence of God along with the kind/quality of life he has down to a complete separation from God and pretty much hell).

So the first question is *when* would Mormons say the change you're describing make a difference. Definitely before the final judgment: I think all would agree that one way or another, before that event, everyone will have been offered both saving ordinances (including the baptism, either in person or by proxy) and the chance to consider the evidence and their choice. Divine record-keeping would be involved, nobody would slip through the cracks, everybody has a chance before then.

Would it make a difference before final judgment -- maybe even in the spirit world? Here's where I think you'd get varying answers based on a few concepts. There's the simplest explanation like the short one I gave above: paradise if you're "good" and received baptism, prison if not.

But on the other hand, in Mormonism, consignments tend to be very much about personal internal states rather than places -- certainly a concept circulating in Christianity and other religions as well, but pretty strongly emphasized in Mormon theology. I think some Mormons might say the post-moral shift from prison to paradise happens upon internalization of the gospel and looking to Christ as a savior, and I suspect even those who believe the ordinances are critical for a thorough transition would say that some kind of partial transition would be possible before. So I suspect many would say it'd make some kind of difference there as well.

There might be some who would also invoke the idea you mentioned about God being outside our timeline, or possibly even a different timeflow for the entire spirit world itself, as that's certainly an idea in the cosmology, but I don't know how common it would be as an explanation for how things would work out for the situation you're describing.
posted by weston at 12:55 PM on February 26, 2012


Some of the cosmological differences are definitely enough to freak people out, but given the common practical theology and the fact that Mormons identify as Christian (and indeed, believe Mormonism to be true Christianity), are those really enough to classify Mormonism as something else?

One of the key differentiators to me is embodied in this quote from Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the LDS church:
Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand.
I mean, that's not monotheism by a long shot. I think it's really cool - it seems like a fusion of Christian or earlier Abrahamic cosmology and Hindu and other Eastern cosmology - but it seems pretty radically divergent from Christianity, such that I would agree with Ivan that it isn't really appropriate to call it a sect of Christianity. (I don't have any problem with Mormons calling themselves Christian descriptively, I'm an atheist, but it doesn't fit in taxonomically with what has been referred to as Christianity.)

A really great characterization that I came across, I can't remember where, is that Mormonism is the fourth major Abrahamic religion. I think that's a good way to classify it, since it does share quite a bit of religious DNA, as it were, with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. I really wish I was going to be around in a thousand years to see how it evolves.
posted by XMLicious at 1:47 PM on February 26, 2012


Thanks for the explanation, weston, I appreciate it. That's a bit different from what I was imagining but makes a proxy baptism more understandable from my point of view. I can see how it's the kind of thing where Mormons could differ on the details but still feel that a proxy baptism is a good idea in general.
posted by harriet vane at 5:35 AM on February 27, 2012


Daniel Pearl Posthumously Baptized by Mormon Church
posted by homunculus at 10:22 AM on March 1, 2012


Good lord WTF... the craziest part of that article?

"The announcement follows an uproar last month about the discovery that Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel had also been posthumously baptized, despite the fact that the 83-year-old Nobel Laureate is still very much alive."
posted by Blasdelb at 10:39 AM on March 1, 2012


Good lord WTF

TF is that the "church" didn't posthumously baptize either of them - individual members of the church did, in plain violation of the church's policies and internal rules.
posted by The World Famous at 10:41 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"TF is that the "church" didn't posthumously baptize either of them - individual members of the church did, in plain violation of the church's policies and internal rules."

The World Famous, forgive me if this is a misunderstanding, but my impression is that all of these posthumous baptisms required church employees as a part of the process to perform, occurred on church property, and were discovered when recorded into official church records. I get how a preisthood that allows any eligible male lay Mormon over 16 to do the actual baptizing might hinder the stopping of this kind of thing, but the church is hardly uninvolved here.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2012


my impression is that all of these posthumous baptisms required church employees as a part of the process to perform, occurred on church property, and were discovered when recorded into official church records. I get how a preisthood that allows any eligible male lay Mormon over 16 to do the actual baptizing might hinder the stopping of this kind of thing, but the church is hardly uninvolved here.

A defense of sorts, regarding the "occurred on church property" angle - not everything that happens on the property of a religious institution is necessarily thereby "official." I am reminded of an old acquaintance who was a minister's daughter; she said she used to break into her father's office in the church basement to have sex there because her boyfriends always found it wildly kinky.* I'm fairly certain that few people would consider the church itself to have been officially "involved" in those instances.

* Apparently once when she and a guy were getting ready to leave, they walked up into the lobby, and straight into the middle of a board of directors' meeting at which the board was preparing to vote on the issue "Should The Church Building Be Used For Non-Church Functions." She said they stayed in the room long enough to both cast "yes" votes, and then left.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, d'oh -- ultimately, my point (which got buried in there somewhere) was: "Just because something happened on church property doesn't necessarily mean the church was 'involved' as such."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on March 1, 2012


The World Famous, forgive me if this is a misunderstanding, but my impression is that all of these posthumous baptisms required church employees as a part of the process to perform, occurred on church property, and were discovered when recorded into official church records.

Church employees? I don't think so, no.

I do think it would be good to at least have some sort of system in place whereby people would have to submit names for review and approval, along with an explanation of the submitting party's familial connection to the individual whose name is submitted. Such a system would necessarily add a substantial lag time between the submission of a name and the time when someone could perform the proxy ordinance. And I can see how people might not like that waiting time. But eternity's a long time, too, so I'm not sure what doctrinal harm could come of such a system under current Mormon theological views.

I get how a preisthood that allows any eligible male lay Mormon over 16 to do the actual baptizing might hinder the stopping of this kind of thing, but the church is hardly uninvolved here.

As I see it, the Church's "involvement" in this particular instance seems primarily to be the Church's failure, as an institution, to put in place some sort of system that would prevent the proxy baptism of anyone not related to the individual performing the ordinance. By the time someone arrives at the temple with a list of names longer than their arm, it's really too late to expect some elderly volunteer in Idaho to recognize a particular name as being that of someone who is unlikely to be the proxy's own dead relative. There are, of course, policies and procedures in place that are designed to avoid that sort of thing, and I would expect them to have been effective enough to at least notice and stop the proxy baptism of someone who lived so recently, given that the individual's dates of birth and death are part of the submissions currently made.

That said, I find the statement of Daniel Pearl's parents to be extremely thoughtful. From the linked Slate article:
"We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld," the pair wrote in an email to the Globe. "He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew.... For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this un-called-for ritual.”
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm fairly certain that few people would consider the church itself to have been officially "involved" in those instances.

They might if those instances archived in the church records.
posted by the_artificer at 12:08 PM on March 1, 2012


They might if those instances archived in the church records.

On the other hand, it's probably good that the church keeps a record of what its members do in the temples, don't you think? Without a record, the church could not have discovered that its policy had been violated.
posted by The World Famous at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2012


They might if those instances archived in the church records.

Depends who did the archiving. What I mean is: if "any eligible lay Mormon over the age of 16" can do the baptizing in question, I can envision a scenario in which 16-year-old Sid stays late after church one day, or stays late one evening after youth group or something, sneaks into the office, conducts a proxy baptism and then records it in the archives himself - perhaps sticking the official paperwork somewhere hidden in the midst of a lot of other things in a file drawer, so as not to be conspicuous -- and then leaves, satisfied in a job well done to his own mind.

Mind you, I'm not defending the event as a thing in and of itself, I'm just extrapolating a scenario in which an individual could have done this without the church itself being officially "involved" in a cognizant way is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on March 1, 2012


As long as it's not a 16-year-old woman. That would be ghastly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2012


Looking at it from the edges and these media reports - without having seen how this sort of stuff is discussed internally - it also seems like there might be a failure of the church to move this beyond a discussion of policy to one of right and wrong or at least to the ontological meaning of what's being done that per the bit I quoted above seems to be lacking.
posted by XMLicious at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2012


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