The LDS Church is in trouble – again – with the Jewish community over the Church’s continuing posthumous baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims. (See here and here for background on the 13 year struggle regarding this issue.)
Monday (November 10, 2008) marked the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against the Jews, considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust. Some survivors of the Holocaust and their families gathered in Manhattan to remember this important date. NPR reported,
“At the event names of the victims were read out loud. But these weren’t from the history books. The names came from the official records of the Mormon Church.”
The Mormon baptism of Jewish Holocaust victims is a very emotional and sensitive issue for their descendants, primarily because these Jews were murdered because they were Jewish. A Fox News article reported that Ernest Michel, the honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said,
“We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion. We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough.”
LDS spokesman Seventy Lance B. Wickman has a very different perspective on the question. He told reporters,
“We don’t think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines,. If our work for the dead is properly understood … it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It’s merely a freewill offering.”
But Mr. Michel, whose parents died in the Auschwitz concentration camp, has a deeper concern:
“They tell me, that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered but … 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?”
This is a complicated problem, and I certainly don’t know the best solution. Yet one aspect of this situation that I find particularly troubling is the Mormon lack of sensitivity toward the Jews’ concerns. I can understand LDS frustration over the unending and perhaps unsolvable dispute, but how is it that Mormons can’t seem to understand why the Jews even care about this? Consider a few comments left at the Deseret News web site:
“Why does it matter if you don’t believe in it anyway?”
“Perhaps, the Jews ought to stop playing victim, and realize other religions have legitimate and sacred intentions and purposes which they believe are necessary for the salvation of the dead.”
“I think this is foolishness on the part of the Jewish people that want to stop the baptisms…I think the living Jewish people should be glad that the Mormons care enough to bestow blessing on their dead”
I do not mean to trivialize Jewish history and the horrors heaped on Jews through the Holocaust, but I’d like to invite Mormons to think about something else that is in the news right now. Opponents of California’s Proposition 8 (the recently passed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman) have instituted an online initiative to raise money for the overturn of the amendment. On November 6th PR Newswire reported that, due to the “leading role” the LDS Church played in funding the campaign to pass Proposition 8, a Los Angeles opposition group planned to “send a message to the Mormon Church”:
“For each donation of $5 or more…the Center will send [LDS President Thomas S.] Monson a postcard to let him know a donation was made in his name to fund legal organizations fighting Prop 8…”
I think it would be safe to say that President Monson and those who call him prophet would prefer that this initiative be stopped – or at least changed to keep President Monson’s name out of it. But why should Mormons care? President Monson isn’t really supporting an effort to redefine marriage to include same-gender unions. He doesn’t really believe in it. Shouldn’t everyone be glad that people who believe differently than President Monson still care enough to honor his name via vicarious support of an effort they believe is good and right?
But President Monson is not honored by this initiative. Those who care about him care about the dishonor they believe is being attached to his name. And, perhaps someday, clouding his memory.
One might argue that there are vastly different motivations driving these two proxy situations, making them impossible to compare. The baptisms are done in loving service; the donations in disrespect. But I submit that though the motivations are different, the principle is the same. “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1), and “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
Why should the Jews care about Mormon baptisms that they don’t believe in anyway? Because protecting a cherished name and memory is how we honor those we love.
I found this article in the Sydney Morning Herald today. Its topic is similar to the one being discussed here – ie one religion’s belief offending another. In this case it’s a Baptist minister here in Australia that spoke to a Jewish group and said that they were going to hell and would face something worse than the Holocaust.
Now once you have read the article, if you agree with what the minister said, then what is wrong with us offending others, including you, with our belief of vicarious baptisms to allow all a chance to get to heaven? At least we are trying to get people there rather than just condemning them because they do not belong to or heard about Christianity.
Ralph: thanks for the post and the link; Mr.Harris seems like a solid guy with a genuine love for the lost. Lost people, including lost Jews, do indeed (according to the bible) go to hell. Nothing dramatically new here. I don’t expect Jews who reject Jesus to like this message.
Yours is still an apples to oranges comparison and you still don’t get it: it’s NOT your beliefs and practices or even whacky dunk the dead theology that is offending, it’s dragging an unwitting, noncooperative, DEAD person into the mix, and creating an association where none existed while the dead soul was with us. I find that dishonest and therefore offensive. And STILL an offense against free agency, yes, I know they can choose or deny as they will, it’s still a step WAY beyond prayer or simple outreach. The LDS connection may be more perceived than real (depending on what they do in the afterlife), but perceptions still count. This is not at all the same , to me, as the offense of the cross, the offense of the truth of the gospel….it’s just false, and therefore wrong.
Something well intended and false is still false, I’m pretty sure. thanks for your efforts at putting the best face on this thingie…..germit
Perceptions still count? In terms of practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ- whose perception matters? I’m sure from your perspective and the pastor in Australia, the only perspective that matters is what the bible/Christ teach…
I wasn’t offended by what he said, I’m not Jewish, but I can see how you can love Jews and also not step away from what you believe to be truth. (I certainly don’t think the bible teaches that Jews are going to hell- but that’s not the point.)
God does not allow others to take away agency of the dead anymore than he does while they are living. So it would then be impossible to ‘drag an unwitting, non-cooperative, dead person into the mix’ (paraphrase). You say this practice is an “offense against free agency” then in that same sentence negate your own assertion by saying “I know they can choose or deny as they will”. So what is it then? They either have their agency or they don’t…do you think that God would allow such a “stripping” of agency? From your chair, it seems more fitting to simply let LDS reap the consequences of this practice because it would be impossible for anyone else (non-mormon) to suffer for these actions. I don’t see how anyone suffers from a practice that “goes way beyond prayer or simple outreach”. I’d like to think, however, that something that goes beyond prayer and simple outreach is certainly feasible under the power and organization of an Almighty God.
Grace, Peace, and baptisms for the dead,
So allow me to get this straight, post-mortem a non-mormon who frankly would never have been temple recommended can be sealed, something that only temple recommended Mormons can participate in? Also when they are sealed to another person, who chose which person said deceased person would be sealed to? Did they (the deceased) or did a living person? If the former how can they, that is the deceased, not be considered a Mormon, if the latter then are the living forcing the dead to either choose to be sealed to x person or not be able to gain exaltation? Essentially if the second were true wouldn’t sealing someone post-mortem be limiting a persons agency, not conserving or even expanding it?
You have it wrong. The person who is dead has never entered the temple, so that still upholds the ‘only worthy LDS members allowed’ scenario. Their work is done by proxy so they will never have to enter the temple. As we do not and will not know who has accepted baptism, all the ordinances are allowed to be performed just in case, again they are not considered members and they have never entered the temple.
As far as sealings go, from what I understand, and someone can correct me if I am wrong, a person is sealed to their spouse that they had whilst alive. So they did make their choice at that point in time, but they still have the free agency to accept or reject the sealing, even if they accept the baptism. However, if someone had more than one spouse (ie their first partner died while they were married) then that person is sealed to both (or more) partners and then they have the choice who they will be sealed to in the eternities.
I am afraid that you are wrong about the ‘praying for someone’. I can remember one or two people comment on this site a while ago that they would not like an LDS to pray for them as we pray to a false god and it would be an offense to them. I also know that the Baptist chaplains at the Uni here do not join in prayer if the LDS chaplains are joining in, or especially when the LDS chaplains pray, for much the same reason. People will find offense at any thing they want. In this case as I said earlier, the scriptures tell us it is better to offend man than God. So while I agree it wise to go forward with sensitivity, it does not work in all cases.
I appreciate your attempts to understand. We simply do not know the procedures that are followed after we die- are there recommends? I don’t know. So in order to fully answer your question, I would have to know in what capacity one accepts the offering of the baptism by proxy ordinance. And my knowledge is certainly limited there.
When sealings are done, they seal based on marriage records that are available. Again, this is also an ordinance that is to be “accepted” or “denied” through agency by the involved parties. And if one does not want to be sealed to their spouse in this life (of course there are a million scenarios)- Our job is to simply do the work that we can with our mortal abilities, and our belief is that when the Savior comes to reign again, in the millennium, He will literally reign and organize his Kingdom, and faith in Christ would then suggest that these ? marks you raise can all be answered through Him. Interesting points to note- certainly relevant to the ordinances and it will be fascinating to find out how it will all play out. Your questions are asked even by LDS members.
We do know that God is a loving God right? I doubt he would suffer anyone to be sealed to someone they don’t want to be sealed to…agency is at play here. The work we do is simply facilitating blessings for those who could not facilitate them in this life. Through Christ, it will all come together because it is my belief that He has commanded this work to commence in these latter days.
Luke 1: 17
Mal. 4: 6
Oh, I really should have mentioned that the sealing itself goes far beyond what it seems at face value. Sealing is really a sealing to the Lord, first and foremost. So if someone is married in the temple…their spouse wants to divorce them…in many cases, the priesthood would advise them not to cancel that sealing until they desire to be sealed to someone else because there are blessings involved with that sealing. Does that mean, oh shoot, if I die before I find someone else am I doomed to be with that person forever? Certainly not- and this belief completely misunderstands the sealing itself. It’s a sealing unto the Lord.
Grace, Goodnight and Goodbye
Arrogance. That’s what this is about. Arrogance arrogance arrogance. The LDS claim that if they are wrong, what does it matter? It’s arrogance. Because they “know” that they are not wrong, they are right. And so it is religious arrogance. Mantis mutu said “Just cranky, powerful people trying to impose their will on others for no good reason but ethnic pride and power.” Agreed, just cranky, powerful people just trying to impose their will on others for no good reason but RELIGIOUS pride and power.” Oh but we’re just giving them a choice. Guess what, they made that choice when it mattered, ON THIS EARTH. For God is not the god of the dead, but of the living.
Ralph you really need to study your NT better. You said regarding “the scripture in the Bible stating where there is no law there is no sin or punishment. Many have lived without knowing the laws of God, so they either get no punishment, which is unfair on those who had the law, or they get a chance to learn about God and His law and accept or reject it like everyone else.” Wrong. Rom 2:14-16 shows that they will be judged by their HEARTS and their THOUGHTS. Remember that the Law wasn’t given to obey and receive a reward, but to show that we are all sinners. People who lived w/o knowledge of Christ are judged by their adherence to God’s laws w/o even knowing them. This is why baptism for the dead is NOT needed.
You also said “However, if someone had more than one spouse (ie their first partner died while they were married) then that person is sealed to both (or more) partners and then they have the choice who they will be sealed to in the eternities.” Please please please PLEASE read Matt 22:25-30. There is NO marriage in the resurrection!
Herein lies the problem: only worthy LDS members allowed’
You are not made worthy by keeping commandments, Ralph. You’re a sinner, as filthy in sin and sinfulness as anyone else on this earth. Your thinking has been infected by the teachings of JS et al. We are made worthy through Christ’s work on the cross. We are made righteous because His righteousness is imputed to us.
The problem with LDS reasoning and baptism for the dead is that you all think that God operates within time as we know it. He doesn’t. This is critical in understanding this heathen ritual of baptizing for the dead. The Corinthians were practicing a non-Christian ritual. Paul’s reasoning with them does not condone this pagan ritual, but he merely uses their line of thinking to help them come to understand about resurrection. You see, the gospel message is simply Christ crucified and raised from the dead. Study the sermons of Peter in Acts, and you will see the emphasis on these two points, that there is no mention of baptism for the dead, and that baptism mentioned is not in the imperative verb tense, but in the Aorist Passive Imperative, which means that it most definitely was not a command, and that it is in no way linked to the command to repent, which is in the imperative verb tense.
I’m still waiting for Cluff to respond to this from an earlier post.
I love your spunk! 🙂
Grace, Peace, and Christ crucified and raised again!!
Name a heathen group that performed baptisms for the dead. You cannot. Eleusis? I went down this road with Berean, and there is nothing in their practice that resembles baptism for the dead. This is a myth created by LDS critics who fudge on 1 Cor 15:29 to make it sound like the practice is being condemned. Not so my friend. Paul is appealing to this practice to testify of the resurrection. How often do you relate a pagan practice to support the reality of Christ’s mission? I’m guessing never.
While you are right that our works do not make us worthy, we cannot be worthy without keeping the commandments.
And we do understand that “time only is measured unto man.” Alma 40:8 In fact, I think that is the only verse that teaches such a principle!
Keep the faith!
Thanks for responding and for the reference to Alma 40:8. But, that would be another discussion. 🙂
It’s my opinion that Paul is not condoning baptism for the dead. This is the only place in the Bible where it is mentioned, and it is used to argue for an understanding of resurrection–that’s the focus of the passage; that’s the truth being proclaimed. But, let’s turn to the BOM, which has been said to be the most correct book on earth. Mormons are constantly telling us that the Bible is missing many precious truths, and baptism for the dead is one of them. Okay, let’s suppose that you are right and that the BOM is indeed true. Where in the BOM does it teach me about baptism for the dead? You see, if this is something that evil men took out of the Bible over the centuries, then obviously it will be contained in the BOM. Is that a fair assumption? Now, I have read the BOM many times, and do not see that. Perhaps, I have missed it, and you can show me where it is. Until then, let’s examine this BOM passage: “Now, they were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; yea, and this was not all–they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God” (Alma 48:23). So, why is the BOM missing this important doctrinal truth? Did evil men take out this important truth, as is suggested about the Bible? I think the truth is that JS got confused about his theology. Can you at least see why I would come to this conclusion?
I know you mean well but you might consider the beam in your own eye, regarding the arrogance comments.
Who is imposing anything on anyone? Does Christ impose His gospel on anyone? Yet He declares it without apologies. You can declare truth without imposing and without arrogance. Ironically, your accusations are better thrown at those who are critical of how we (LDS) practice our religion. This website itself, and those who post, are commenting under the pretense that the LDS faith has to prove itself. So when we make doctrinal claims and share testimony, we are doing so in this context. I found your comments to be completely off base and ill-founded…however, I have to agree with jack, you do have spunk.
You are correct- the BOM does not talk directly about baptisms for the dead. Or eternal marriage, and a host of other things. Nobody ever said it contained every doctrine or all truth.
Not all truth is of the same value. So to say the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth, or that it is the most true book means that it has the greatest convincing power in bringing people to Christ. The truths associated with the atonement of Christ are the most important truths in the world. And the BOM outlines those doctrines more clearly and powerfully than any other book, including the Bible. The BOM does suggest people will have a chance to accept the gospel after this life if they had no chance here.
I don’t necessarily believe baptism for the dead was taken out of the Bible. This was likely one of many topics discussed and taught by Christ during His 40 day visit with the apostles after His resurrection. The things He taught were closely controlled and shared with His closest disciples. This was nothing new- He shared truths only as people could comprehend and accept them before His crucifixion. But this is a whole other topic.
I think people here overstate the “corrupt” bible idea. Not every doctrine that we disagree upon is attributed to a “corrupt” Bible by LDS.
FoF: Just want to make sure I understand the point you are making: the OT and NT believers practiced baptism for the dead, even though it was nOT taught in the OT, not at all in gospels, and the one verse only in corinthians ?? The Lamanites, and perhaps others practiced it, even though it was NOT taught in the BofM ??
God pretty much waited till the 1830’s to spell this out to HIS children, a teaching that has eternal consequences, for good or for ill ?? Am I missing anything here ?? Thanks, GERMIT
AndreaSpunkmeyer: I can see your point about the arrogance thing; to me, it’s a classic case of “I know you say I poked you in the eye, but get over it” or maybe worse “God told me to poke you in the eye….” And we heard a little of the obligatory: “you guys have poked us in our eyes worse than that before….”
The Jews, for SOME weird reason get some kind of “oh, sorry…” and some (incomplete) action. The rest of us get: “shut up and get over it…” not sure HOW to get what they (the JEWS ) got…not that I begrudge them what they got, maybe it was an early Hannekuh (sp??) present.
Will you be coming out with a new line of cookies ?? GERMIT
Baptisms for the dead were not practiced before the resurrection of Christ. It was introduced after that event. We don’t find it explicitly taught in any known ancient scripture. God has a reason for everything. He did not share every sacred practice and doctrine with all people. There is plenty in the record to suggest that He and His apostles used great discretion in choosing who they shared sacred things.
And there is evidence to also suggest this practice existed in the ancient church- after the resurrection. But you are right- nowhere in the known ancient texts is this practice clearly elucidated and explained.
There was a relatively short period of time the authorized church existed with this practice after Christ’s life, before the apostasy. Shortly after the restoration of Christ’s church in 1830, this doctrine and practice was also restored. While you would say 2000 years of church history fail to show this practice, I say Christ’s church has really never been without this doctrine for any significant length of time.
You say “the church,” with no authorized servants has survived 2000 years and retained the pure doctrines and practices of Christ. I say that is 100% inconsistent with mankind’s history of repeated apostasy- we have always fallen away, “changed the ordinances” as Isaiah lamented, and rejected God’s servants. This is why God has started over so many times in new dispensations with new prophets- Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Joseph Smith. There has never been the continuity in gospel organization many people assume.
You say the Bible was given to man and prevents such apostasy. I say this again is completely inconsistent with history. Possessing holy writ did not keep the ancient peoples from falling away. And it didn’t after Christ’s resurrection.
As far as the Holocaust victim issue, check out the church’s newsroom and read the church’s side of this whole issue. It’s worth looking at.
Thank you for your well thought-out responses and respect. I just wish you could see that the BOM does not stand up to biblical scrutiny. That’s really an important thing, FOF. I just don’t think Mormonism holds a high view of God’s revealed word in the Bible. To me, it reveals that Mormonism just can’t teach the concept of an all powerfull, all sovereign God who is capable of preserving His message of redemption throughout all time and despite the fact that He has chosen to work through a broken humanity. I don’t really think your arguments about God waiting for the right time in history to reveal something like baptism for the dead is strong. I know that whenever I used the same argument when I was a Mormon that I always felt inadequate after presenting it. To make the claim that the BOM outlines the doctrine of the atonement more powerfully and clearly than the Bible is rather presumptios, because if you really believed the Bible to be the word of God, you are then saying that God has waited for centuries to give us the newest and best edition of the salvation message. Sorry, FOF, but that kind of reasoning is incongruent with the God who reveals His redemptive nature and purposes in everything He does. The Israelites looked forward to the promise of the Messiah. There is never a case where God’s people have looked forward to a book. God bless you, FOF.
Grace and peace!
FoF: thanks for the detailed post and explanation. I’ll try to get over to your LDS newsroom and check that out this weekend or sooner.
I can’t, or won’t, speak for all ev christians, but I would say the consensus would lean toward: it’s not so much that the BIBLE would prevent an apostasy, but GOD HIMSELF, Who promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against HIS church, would prevent a TOTAL apostasy; and of course the Bible was and is quite useful in accomplishing HIS aim and purpose. I would emphasize TOTAL in regards to any part of this debate, because christians (as far as I know) have no problem believing and recognizing times of partial apostasy and decline. Church history is riddled with it, the OT particularly is full of it, there is no part of our belief or teaching that denies this obvious state of affairs in both records. A TOTAL apostasy is a very different kettle of fish.
“There is plenty in the record to suggest that He and His apostles used great discretion in choosing who they shared sacred things. ”
While I recognize that Peter,James, and John were sometimes privy to things the 12 didn’t recieve, the 12 were privy to things the 70 didn’t receive, etc…. this statement TO ME still has the aroma of gnosticism about it and your God’s very selective use and application of doctrine POST RESURRECTION strikes me as…….well, gnostic. I’ll try to make some kind of connection with the ‘truth’ you are suggesting to the world of Jesus and the NT and see what shakes loose.
Again….thanks for the post(s).
jackg and germit,
Good points and questions.
The reason baptism for the dead was not performed before Christ’s resurrection is because it is something required of every soul before resurrection and judgment. And before Christ, there was no resurrection.
“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt 16:18
This is a great verse. And I think few people understand it. We assume the phrase “gates of hell” was used then as it is now to mean “the influence of the devil.” But in no other place was this term used anciently to mean the realm of satan, or his dominions. Sheol, or Hades in Greek, was the waiting place of the departed spirits. The gates were literally something holding people in that prison, or pit.
So Christ is saying that the gates holding souls in prison, or Sheol, Hades, will not prevail against His work and church. He was soon to visit that place, teach the gospel there, and break the bands of death.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” 1 Peter 3:18-9.
“For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” 1 Peter 4:6
It is further interesting that after He made the statement above to Peter, He then said “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Peter was given some power that was binding beyond this world. The Priesthood is the power to perform these baptisms.
I am sure you have different iinterpretations for these verses, and I understand. Can you see our take?
Yes, I see where you are coming from. And, yes, we will differ in the interpretation. However, the Peter passages are specific to the people who were destroyed prior to the flood. There are really just some things that won’t make sense. However, I don’t think we can “fix” those things with prophecy that, when measured against the Bible, don’t really add up. The main thing to remember is that the Way to salvation is Jesus Christ, and everything else is really on the periphery until one comes into a true relationship with Jesus Christ and empowered with the Holy Spirit to live lives that reflect true faith. That message has never been lost. And with regard to priesthood, even Peter understood the universality of the priesthood–the priesthood of all believers. It’s not what the Mormons teach it to be. Read 1 Peter specifically 2:9, but it helps with context to read before and beyond. The base questions still remain: Do you believe the Bible to be the word of God without the qualifier JS added in the 8th AOF? Do you believe baptism to be regenerative, making it a work that creates the salvation equation as: salvation equals Jesus Christ PLUS something else. It’s the PLUS part that destroys the veracity of JS claims. Thanks again for your response, FOF.
Grace and Peace!
Even if the reference to the dead only refers to those before Noah, what is the implication? In other words, wouldn’t it seem from this passage that Christ went and preached to them? The point is that Christ went some place called prison and preached His gospel to the souls there. What is the EV explanation for this prison clearly referred to in the New Testament?
Another thought- Christ was the first one resurrected, correct? What of the righteous who lived before Christ? There was a period of time after their deaths and before their resurrection (which happened after Christ’s resurrection). What was their status and where were they during that period?
I could not agree more that Jesus is the ONLY means of salvation and all else is peripheral. A common criticism of our church is that we have so many “peripheral” ordinances or doctrines. The key is that they ALL point to Christ and serve to strengthen our commitment to follow Him. Each is connected to a covenant wherein we promise to serve and obey Him.
As far as the apostasy and truths lost- you don’t know what you don’t know. Follow? I do not see any scripture that states that God will not prevent a total apostasy or that He will “protect” the Bible or the church from man. Man has his agency. They rejected Christ. No reason in my opinion to believe those same generations (or those that followed) wouldn’t also eventually reject or fumble the gospel that was left. Just look at the fate of the apostles. There is an almost pessimistic feeling that is evident in much of the writing of the early church, preparing for persecution, and the feeling that the end was near. We of course argue that they were warned and knew that the apostasy was approaching. But I suppose that is another topic.