Political Animal

Blog

February 15, 2012 2:14 PM A Controversy From Hell for Mitt Romney

By Ed Kilgore

If, God forbid, I were part of Mitt Romney’s press operation, this headline from HuffPost popping up in my inbox would make me strongly consider calling it a day and reporting myself sick:

Elie Wiesel: Mitt Romney Should Tell Mormon Church To Stop Performing Posthumous Proxy Baptisms On Jews

Yes, spurring a sudden burst of high-profile attention for a long-simmering controversy, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Holocaust survivor has called out America’s most famous Mormon not named Osmond to try to change an exotic (and to outsiders, a tad bizarre) LDS practice that has drifted into the toxic territory of Christian insensitivity to Jews. Here’s the brief summary from Andrea Stone:

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke to The Huffington Post Tuesday soon after HuffPost reported that according to a formerly-Mormon researcher, Helen Radkey, some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had submitted Wiesel’s name to a restricted genealogy website as “ready” for posthumous proxy baptism….
The incident follows years of controversy and efforts by Jewish leaders, including Wiesel, to get the Mormon Church to stop the practice of posthumous proxy baptism that many find objectionable.
“I think it’s scandalous. Not only objectionable, it’s scandalous,” Wiesel said of the baptisms.
Negotiations between Mormon and Jewish leaders led to an agreement in 1995 for the church to stop the posthumous baptism of all Jews, except in the case of direct ancestors of Mormons, but Radkey says she found that some Mormons had failed to adhere to the agreement. Wiesel was among a group of Jewish leaders who campaigned against the practice and prompted a 2010 pact by which the Mormon Church promised to at least prevent proxy baptism requests for Holocaust victims. Wiesel said that proxy baptisms have been performed on behalf of 650,000 Holocaust dead.

Wiesel’s complaint comes on the very heels of an apology from LDS officials for an unauthorized posthumous baptism of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Totally aside from issues involving Jews generally and Holocaust victims specifically, the controversy is likely to draw unwelcome and potentially hostile attention to the whole LDS practice of posthumous proxy baptisms (baptism of the dead, particularly ancestors of LDS members) an important Mormon rite that is closely connected to the better-known Mormon interest in genealogy.

Presumably Mitt Romney will try very hard to ignore the whole controversy, and/or defer to LDS officials. But if it blows up into a major public discussion, it will obviously be difficult for him to avoid or to address without wading into the weeds of strange-sounding (to “Gentiles,” as Mormons call non-believers) practices or looking disloyal to his Church. I’m sure his campaign would love to see a very active news day to bury—no pun intended—the story.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • bigtuna on February 15, 2012 2:27 PM:

    Please do not equate the Mormon practice of baptising dead people into the Mormon faith a "Christian" practice. I know of no mainstream Christian faiths that do this.

  • Lauren on February 15, 2012 2:32 PM:

    That's funny. I've always been told that gentile refers to a non-Jew. At least, that's what my formerly Orthodox Jewish father told me.

  • shortstop on February 15, 2012 2:36 PM:

    Presumably Mitt Romney will try very hard to ignore the whole controversy, and/or defer to LDS officials

    You forgot to mention this from the HuffPo story:

    HuffPost reached out via email to the Romney campaign for comment. In an email accidentally sent to the reporter, spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request.

    Also worth mentioning: Mittens has admitted performing posthumous baptisms himself.

  • jjm on February 15, 2012 2:43 PM:

    Didn't Mitt baptise his atheist father in law after his death.

    I'm sorry, I am all for religious freedom and tolerance, but the plain fact is that the Mormons are not! You will be forced to convert to Mormonism after you die! How fanatical is that?

    The same perverted version of religious freedom applies to the nutcake white evangelicals, they of the poke our nose in your behavior type: the want political power to make you conform to their bizarre ideas.

  • wahoofive on February 15, 2012 2:43 PM:

    Pretty much all Christian denominations believe that Jews are not "saved" and are thus headed for Hell. At least the Mormons are trying to do something to help them. I honestly don't see why Jews are so exercised about this. If the Mormons are wrong in their beliefs, this posthumous baptism will have no effect.

  • T2 on February 15, 2012 2:46 PM:

    "America’s most famous Mormon " see, I don't agree at all. First, Romney is, I guess, known in that he is in most papers these days and on the News at night....so maybe he's "famous" or maybe he's just "that Republican guy" to lots of people not so political as Political Animals. And to those, many (if not most) don't realize he's not only Mormon, but a very high "ranking" Mormon at that. And even then, most Americans don't really know much about Mormons anyway, and those that do might not have such a great opinion of them (see Evangelicals).
    And believe me, that's the way Mitt Romney and his campaign (lots of Mormons) want to keep it. So its not so much what Wiesel said, it's that it reveals Mitt to be a Mormon. That is the reason he'll have little if no comment.

  • stormskies on February 15, 2012 2:47 PM:

    And let's remember too in the Book Of Mormon that African Americans and all other races are inferior to Caucasians ...

    Wonder if some corporate media cum slut like David Gregory will have Mittens on to ask him about this ?

  • Josef K on February 15, 2012 2:48 PM:

    Yesterday I was bemoaning the Republican's choices being between "a lunatic and a fop". Now its looking like a contest between a Christian lunatic and a Mormon lunatic.

    I still kinda feel sorry for the voters. Kinda.

  • Gandalf on February 15, 2012 2:49 PM:

    Man thos emormons have a lot og extra time on their hands. Baptizing dead people? Isn't that a litlle late I mean the horses have already left the barn. Oh yea and it' real weird too.

  • Phil O. on February 15, 2012 2:49 PM:

    I think this issue is unfair to Romney. Wiesel can ask the church to respond, sure. If he wants to pick on a prominent Mormon, why not Harry Reid? Why not the Marriott family? What about Rep. Flake? What about Glenn Beck? Etc. There are plenty of prominent Mormons. Why single-out Romney?

    Or should we start asking Obama to "tell" things to Rev. Wright?

  • Werewolf on February 15, 2012 2:50 PM:

    @Wahoofive:
    I don't believe that posthumous baptism will make me or my ancestors Mormon. I believe that the practice shows an appalling lack of respect to me and my ancestors.

  • Daryl McCullough on February 15, 2012 2:52 PM:

    As much as I relish problems for the presumptive Republican nominee, I really don't think that Romney should be held accountable for the practices of Mormons, any more than a Catholic politician should be held accountable for the numerous priest scandals.

  • shortstop on February 15, 2012 2:56 PM:

    Daryl: As much as I relish problems for the presumptive Republican nominee, I really don't think that Romney should be held accountable for the practices of Mormons, any more than a Catholic politician should be held accountable for the numerous priest scandals.

    A Catholic politician who is himself raping children deserves the same criticism the pedophilic priests get. Romney has performed posthumous baptisms himself (see my link above).

  • Danp on February 15, 2012 3:00 PM:

    I'd be more worried about the story re-emerging about his brother-in-law's sister who died as a result of an illegal abortion. Apparently Romney used her story to explain why he was once in favor of safe abortions. Now that he isn't any more, her name comes out.

  • memekiller on February 15, 2012 3:03 PM:

    What makes this so volatile is how closely it parallels the GOP plan to have employers proxy-baptize their employee's health plan so that employee's health choices are kosher for the religious practices of the board room.

  • Bob B. on February 15, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Here's my understanding. Mormons believe that to make it into heaven (the Celestial Kingdom), a person must be baptized. A spirit cannot be baptized. A physical body must be baptized. (I'm not sure why a resurrected being can't be baptized, but let's not go down that road.)

    If a person dies and decides to accept, um, the Mormon way of things, that person needs to be baptized. That's the reason Mormons baptize dead people by proxy -- in case they decide to become Mormons in the next life. If the dead person does not accept the Mormon way in the afterlife, then the baptism is meaningless.

    In other words, Mormons aren't baptizing dead people to make them Mormons. They're baptizing dead people so that if they want to become Mormons in the next world, they can do so. That's why Mormons are so interested in geneology.

    By the way, there is at least one reference to baptisms for the dead in the New Testament.

  • chopin on February 15, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Why is posthumous baptism any weirder than consuming your god’s body and drinking his blood?

  • scott_m on February 15, 2012 3:13 PM:

    I'm not a Mormon either, but if some of the Mormons I know want to proxy-baptize me after I'm dead, I don't care-- from my perspective, it's a ceremony that does afterlife-me no harm but might bring comfort to people of that faith.

    It's staggering to think on the many and horrific wrongs Jews have suffered over the years, but this one has to come way, way down the list.

    As for Mitt Romney personally, this seems to me to be one of those quirky things that each religion has that's really out-of-bounds to call an individual follower on. Of the myriad reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney, I wouldn't say this is one of them.

  • The obvious Joke on February 15, 2012 3:13 PM:

    Luckily, if the Romney staffers manage to "bury" this story, they can afterwards baptize it posthumously.

  • memekiller on February 15, 2012 3:16 PM:

    Chopin:
    As a non-believer, it doesn't matter much to me, but if you take it from the Mormon POV, it does demonstrate an incredible willingness to impose their religions on others in the most intrusive way. If you lived your life as a Catholic, they have no problem forcing you to be a Mormon after it's no longer a choice for you.

    So proxy-baptisms of employee helth plans isn't much of a stretch. Your private health choice infringe on their religious freedom to baptize you Mormon!

  • Josef K on February 15, 2012 3:18 PM:

    From chopin at 3:06 PM:

    Why is posthumous baptism any weirder than consuming your god’s body and drinking his blood?

    Communion is a metaphorical re-enactment of the Last Supper; I know of no-one who actually believes those tasteless waffers and bad grape juice is the body and blood of Christ or The Almighty itself.

    Posthumous baptism, in contrast, is anything but a metaphorical ceremony. I've little doubt those practicing it honestly think its necessary to ensure one reaches heaven.

  • Memekiller on February 15, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Then consider this from the evangelical perspective - do you think those people like the idea of getting baptized Mormon after death, just as the GOP is talking about a "War on Faith" that forces employers to offer health coverage choices to differing faiths? If a Mormon is in charge, who gets to decide what choices violates their religious principles for those under him?

  • Peter C on February 15, 2012 3:20 PM:

    Hey, it's not as if the dead people didn't WANT to become Mormons; they were all in hell! EVERYONE who died and isn't a Mormon is in hell. Who in hell WOULDN'T want to be a Mormon in heaven when all they have to do is reach over and sign the paperwork that their ancestor filled out? This is why they are so keen on geneology - so they can save dead people from hell when they convert you (or your great-grandson who finds your family tree lying around after you've snuffed it).

    Perfectly decent people who had never heard of Mormonism and died are now in hell. Saintly people from ancient times who died long before Joseph Smith founded Mormonism in the 1820s are now in hell (sorry guys, you were born too early! Hope your ancestors remember your name). The Good Samaritan? - probably in hell. If they weren't in hell, Mormonism wouldn't be much of a religion, and certainly not the one true religion as they believe. The best thing is, they don't have to prove that their religion is better than yours; hell will do that for them.

    But, if you're not a Mormon, it's a safe bet that Mitt thinks your going to hell.

    Insulted yet?

    The more people understand Mormonism, the more trouble Mitt is going to have with super-religious Evangelicals (who, needless to say are going to hell in Mitt's mind as a Mormon Bishop, at least).

  • rh on February 15, 2012 3:29 PM:

    I was outraged by the LDS practice when I first read this story, but now I don't believe my outrage was justified.

    For the benefit of commenters like wahoofive, my outrage was based on reports that the LDS purported to convert the objects of its proxy baptisms. Millions of Jews (including many members of my family) were murdered because their Jewishness was judged to be a fault by their murderers. Now it appeared that another group, who shared that judgment, was purporting to "cure" these Jews, without regard to their own desires.

    (I'd also suggest to Phil O. that he is the one applying the double standard. Obama was criticized for not objecting to his pastor's speeches. If that was fair, why isn't it fair to criticize Romney for failing to object to his church's practices--especially since Romney himself cites his allegiance to his church as one of his qualifications?)

    But that does not appear to be what the LDS is doing. Here's what it says on the LDS website:

    "Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5). Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. . . . By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf."

    I'm not thrilled with the notion that Mormons believe salvation is closed to Jews who don't accept their faith, but, as another commenter noted, that's a belief they share with most Christian denominations. The belief seems especially mean-spirited when it's manifested in this way--that is, when it highlights the belief that salvation is closed to Jews, but potentially open to the (professed) Christians who murdered them.

    Nevertheless, it doesn't seem to me that the practice of proxy baptism, as explained on the LDS website, is more offensive than the doctrines of other churches.

    I give this one to Romney.

  • g on February 15, 2012 3:34 PM:

    I don't get this, honestly. I can kind of understand someone having an impulse to "save" their unbaptised ancestor or loved one, however misguided and weird that is. But why would anyone want to "save" a total stranger of another faith?

    Does anyone know why they do this?

  • Anonymous on February 15, 2012 3:34 PM:

    "Communion is a metaphorical re-enactment of the Last Supper; I know of no-one who actually believes those tasteless waffers and bad grape juice is the body and blood of Christ or The Almighty itself."- Josef K


    Check out "Transubstantiation" in your wikipedia, Josef.

  • booch221 on February 15, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Negotiations between Mormon and Jewish leaders led to an agreement in 1995 for the church to stop the posthumous baptism of all Jews, except in the case of direct ancestors of Mormons, but Radkey says she found that some Mormons had failed to adhere to the agreement.

    Just like some Mormons fail to adhere to the law regarding practice polygamy.

  • j on February 15, 2012 3:35 PM:

    I think I read somewhere that they baptized Obama's mother
    after her death, anyone else hear this?

  • rea on February 15, 2012 3:45 PM:

    Communion is a metaphorical re-enactment of the Last Supper; I know of no-one who actually believes those tasteless waffers and bad grape juice is the body and blood of Christ

    Know any Catholics?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation

  • Memekiller on February 15, 2012 3:52 PM:

    If this election is going to turn on whether Obama is waging a war on faith, then Romney's belief in his right to convert non-believers to his religion against their will is very much an issue. As is enforcing the employer's religion on employee health plans.

  • scott_m on February 15, 2012 3:54 PM:

    g at 3:34 asks

    I don't get this, honestly. I can kind of understand someone having an impulse to "save" their unbaptised ancestor or loved one, however misguided and weird that is. But why would anyone want to "save" a total stranger of another faith?

    Does anyone know why they do this?

    I was raised in an evangelical faith--every service is all about the importance of getting people "saved". You would get a stranger "saved" for the same reason you would pull that stranger back from stepping into the path of a car--they desperately need saving if they don't think they do.

    Back when I believed in Hell, I prayed for the soul of Jack Germond.

  • memekiller on February 15, 2012 3:57 PM:

    scott_m:
    The difference to me is evangelicals are attempting to get people to see of their own free will the path to salvation. Not imposing it post-humously against their wishes.

  • SadOldVet on February 15, 2012 3:57 PM:

    ...LDS practice that has drifted into the toxic territory of Christian insensitivity to Jews...

    Can only be considered Christian insensitivity to Jews if you consider Mormons to be Christians!

    As the lawyer would say, this requires evidence not submitted. Unless Christians believe that Jesus is the 3rd most important prophet behind Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Or, unless wearing 'magic underwear' makes you a Christian.

    About the only thing that the theocratic reich-wing and I agree upon is that Mormonism is a cult and not a Christian religion.

    Or, as Craptcha says deceiveth viandar.

  • TCinLA on February 15, 2012 4:19 PM:

    I remember when my at-the-time Converted Moron, er, I mean Mormon, sister (she's since moved on in her search for whatever she's in search of) let it be known she was going to have all the ancestors we know of (through a Quaker bible that's been in the family since 1680) baptized and she was officially read out of the family by my father. Her husband, who is some sort of "Jewish" (nobody's been able to figure his particular variety) received an even more negative reaction from his family, who had "sat shiva" for him when they discovered he had converted.

    But what do you expect for a cult founded by a con artist, populated by idiots?

    Since all "religions" are cults founded by con artists and populated by idiots, I didn't pay much attention to the controversy at the time other than to note it was another event in the Crazy Family Show.

  • cld on February 15, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Holocaust in Heaven!

  • Ken on February 15, 2012 4:39 PM:

    We discussed just this issue at our last Sabbat, and after performing the Third Invocation of Dyzan and consulting with an avatar of the Dark Pharaoh Nyarlathotep, the cult decided to proactively perform the Dark Baptism of Mu on Mitt Romney. So he's no longer a Mormon, but a faithful servitor of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, and upon his death his tortured soul will service Her carnal will for all eternity. Iä Cthulhu! You're welcome.

  • Ron Byers on February 15, 2012 4:43 PM:

    I am thinking about the silliness of this entire discussion. It is most amusing, but theologically it goes back to a passage in Acts. I guess if a Centurian can acknowledge the baptism of his entire household and a Catholic can baptise his infant child, a Morman can "baptize" his deceased ancestors.

    I don't take any of this seriously because God, if there is a God, can and will do whatever God wants to do regardless of the pious intentions of any religious leader.

  • Ron Byers on February 15, 2012 4:52 PM:

    Actually this whole thing goes back to something I was taught by one of the nice sisters in religion class. We debated what happens to an innocent infant who dies without being baptized. She was crystal clear, that innocent goes to hell. At the same time she was equally crystal clear that all of the children of God who died before being baptized went to hell as well. That means everybody in the Old Testament as well as all deeply religious non-Catholic people since Jesus' death were consigned to hell.

    Of course, that interpretatioin is very Catholic, (or Baptist) but not grounded biblically.

  • zandru on February 15, 2012 5:09 PM:

    So apparently Jews think the Mormon god is stronger than the one they worship. Otherwise they'd be laughing this off.

    That Jews are giving this posthumous baptism thing so much credibility says they no longer have much faith in their own god anymore. He can be overridden by the pagan deity of some off-brand christian sect. And, as "chosen people", they are no big deal.

    That's what this means. Don't be blaming the Mormons.

  • smartalek on February 15, 2012 5:10 PM:

    "Or should we start asking Obama to "tell" things to Rev. Wright?" Phil O. on February 15, 2012 2:49 PM

    Goose, meet gander.
    While "they started it!" may sound like little more than a schoolyard excuse, it bears notice that the Publicans, and their tools in the corporate media, have gotten considerable mileage out of behaviors just like Mr Weisel's, and worse.
    How many times have pols-of-color have been forced to "refudiate" whatever stupid thing some random Black person somewhere might have said or done?
    How many times has Rep Ellison been required to disavow "Muslim terrorism"?
    I'm perfectly happy to see them encountering their own petards in this way.

    As a Member of the Tribe myself, I can see both sides of this argument. I usually accept the various and sundry outreachs to me by religions other than that of my heritage (and sometimes from those within my heritage; those Lubavitchers can be pretty hardcore) as well-intentioned efforts to better my spiritual state, and I usually thank them for caring enough about a stranger to do so.
    OTOH, most people of any faith -- but especially those that posit an afterlife with restricted access -- would be, and obviously are, horrified and offended, and I see no possible basis for discounting their sensitivities.
    I've often wondered what impact it would have, if any, if we started circumcizing dead Mormons by proxy?
    Y'know, every now and again, that knife slips a bit.
    And, IIRC, the LDSers believe (as I think most Christians and Muslims do) in the literal resurrection of the body.
    If they actually believe in the efficacy of posthumous rites of any kind, that threat might give them pause.
    I sure wouldn't want to have to live in eternity without my unit -- and the Mormons are way more prolific in procreation than most of my people are. If we did start doing posthunous proxy brisses on Mormons, or even threatening to, I suspect they'd see the error of their ways damn quick.

  • smartalek on February 15, 2012 5:22 PM:

    "That's what this means." zandru on February 15, 2012 5:09 PM

    No, that's not what it means at all.
    If you truly believe that posthumous acts of disrespect only matter if they have "material" impact (in the immaterial, spiritual realms, if any), then send me the locations of the graves of all of your ancestors, that I may send someone to p!$$ and $#!t on them, and desecrate their gravestones. And when I've done so, tell me that it truly means nothing offensive to you, nor to their memories.
    The only question here is -- as it so often comes down to when dealing with the right-wing of our polity -- are you truly so unintelligent and/or ignorant of normal human emotion as to think what you imputed to Jews offended by these Mormon behaviors is an accurate reflection of their thinking?
    Or are you perfectly aware of the reality, and lying about it?

    Mod's, I know it's not up to me -- but if you might be tempted to delete Zandu's little screed, I suggest it's of greater value to let people see what's out there.
    Hiding it from view only helps them.

  • N.Wells on February 15, 2012 5:25 PM:

    For anyone who has bought into the pile of nonsense that makes up the Mormon religion, posthumous baptism makes perfect sense. They consider that theirs is the only route to heaven, so it is their duty to convert the living (hence the Mormon missionary responsibilities, just like the Catholic & Protestant missionaries of old), and they additionally want to retroactively save anyone who missed the message, lived too early, didn't pay attention at the time, or so forth. In theory, it is therefore actually a great kindness (a good deal more so than the Catholic dogma about what happens to unsaved pagans and pre-Christian era people).

    A note to 'regular' christians: "regular" christian baptism doesn't count as being baptized (baptism "without proper authority"), hence all the christian gentiles are supposedly in need of mormon baptism. This goes a little way to explaining why fundamentalists who take their baptisms seriously can be more than a little put off by the prospect of being posthumously rebaptized.


    However, this cannot possibly be a problem as they've been doing it for a few generations now and they haven't yet had a single dead person complain about being posthumously and retroactively baptised. :)


    Also, to Ron Byers: there's a twist to the Catholic "unbaptized babies go to hell" inference: supposedly they go to the outer rim of hell, aka Limbo, where they supposedly exist in happiness in pleasant conditions, just not in a state of grace and thus without god (thus in hell). If this seems less silly and contrived than mormonism, it is only because mainstream christianity is familiar and mormonism is not.

  • zandru on February 15, 2012 5:34 PM:

    @Not-so-smart alek:

    Go ahead and commit all the property crimes you want. Civil authorities may have something to say about your public defacation activities. Meanwhile, my dead ancestors aren't around anymore to care. And, assuming they have "souls", some penny-ante quack "gawd" shouldn't be able to somehow "steal" them via posthumous baptism.

    Unless, like I said, you doubt the uniqueness or power of your own g-d.

    Grow up. Laugh it off.

  • Maroc on February 15, 2012 5:42 PM:

    I suppose it could hurt Mittens politically, for no reason other than it sounds bizarre and disrespectful to outsiders. But as a secular Jew, I've never really understood why this particular practice is an issue.

    Either you believe Mormon doctrine or you don't. If you don't, you laugh this off because where's the problem? If you have another belief system, you presumably don't believe that Mormon post-mortem baptism is going to have any effect on your relationship with the spiritual powers of your choice -- it's not anything you did. If you don't, you're dead anyway, and it still doesn't affect you.

    But if you do believe in Mormon doctrine, as one must assume the baptizers do, how is this anything but a kind gesture? They think your salvation depends on this, they're taking a little trouble to try to give you a shot at eternal happiness, and under their rules you can still reject the favor if it wasn't what you wanted. They're not even asking for money for it.

    Sure, it's a little weird. But it seems like a nice enough thing to do for your neighbors. I'd give them a pass on it. Even Mittens, much as it pains me.

  • zandru on February 15, 2012 5:59 PM:

    Thank you Maroc. You expressed, articulately and kindly, what I was trying to, with somewhat less success.

  • JM917 on February 15, 2012 6:02 PM:

    Utah is the only place on Earth--not counting Mormon heaven--where a Jew gets called a gentile.

    Captcha: rarehe covenented. Does that refer to posthumously baptized Jews?

  • Varecia on February 15, 2012 6:14 PM:

    I'm having difficulty understanding exactly how these posthumous baptisms are actually carried out-? Is it a concrete ritual they perform over a grave site or is it merely a Mormon 'thought baptism?' Where they select a deceased individual and just declare they have 'baptized' them and that's that? Regardless, it's a pointless exercise since I don't think you can make that kind of spiritual commitment for someone else, only for yourself. It is meaningless. The more I learn about Mormons the more I think they are pretty odd ducks.

  • st john on February 15, 2012 6:17 PM:

    May I disavow all here of the belief that God has any input as to what happens to the "soul" after physical death? We are, each and every one of us, including plants, animals and so-called non-sentient beings such as rocks and minerals, formed of the same substance from the same source. Just as a drop of water taken from the ocean still maintains the nature of its source, all of creation, visible and invisible, is an emanation of the source. Though Roman Catholics are taught that they are created by God, but are not the same as God but lesser, the truth is that we are all one. Whether Mormon, Baptist, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Nativist or you-name-it, we all come from the same place and are made of the same stuff. You can call it an apple or a pair or a blot; the name matters not. It is what it is and will ever be so. Energy and matter are the same thing with a different appearance to the observer. To me, the argument appears to be over interpretation of What Is. Pray for me, baptize me, christen me, or condemn me to the everlasting fire of Hell. It matters not to me. As the famous philosopher, Popeye, said: "I am what I am."

  • navamske on February 15, 2012 6:31 PM:

    "But if it blows up into a major public discussion, it will obviously be difficult for him to avoid or to address without wading into the weeds of strange-sounding (to 'Gentiles,' as Mormons call non-believers) practices or looking disloyal to his Church."

    Clearly the Mormon Church is not in favor of a kinder, more Gentile nation.

  • hamletta on February 15, 2012 6:50 PM:

    If I were Jewish, and my grandparents had died in the Holocaust, I'd be mad as hell.

    These people were yanked out of their homes, tortured, and murdered because of their faith. To baptize them into another without consent is beyond presumptuous.

    I know the reasoning, that the baptizee can reject it, blah, blah, blah...doesn't make it any less offensive.

  • hamletta on February 15, 2012 6:54 PM:

    Communion is a metaphorical re-enactment of the Last Supper; I know of no-one who actually believes those tasteless wafers and bad grape juice is the body and blood of Christ

    Know any Catholics?

    Or Lutherans? Or Episcopalians?

  • MobiusKlein on February 15, 2012 7:05 PM:

    Posthumous baptism is just creepy in my mind.

    It's one thing for Mormons, or other religious folks, to pray to their god to have mercy on the dead. To claim their soul as one of yours is akin to desecrating a grave. Sure, the rational me knows my grave is where my dead body is, but the emotional side believes differently.

  • bobster on February 15, 2012 7:18 PM:

    A reporter needs to ask Romney if he repudiates the Mormon Prophets preceding the 1978 decision to allow blacks to fully participate in the church, including holding the lay priesthood.

  • Bob B on February 15, 2012 7:34 PM:

    Varecia - These posthumous baptisms are carried out in Mormon temples. I did it myself back when I was a Mormon teenager. There is a baptismal font that's kind of like a hot tub without the hot water -- Mormons believe in baptism by immersion. There is a person doing the baptizing and the person being baptized.

    Both are dressed in white and standing in water. The baptizer receives a list of names of dead people who may end up choosing the Mormon way in the next life. He then recites a quick prayer with that person's name, and then dunks the person standing in as proxy. After being baptized for about 15 dead people, the proxy climbs out of the font and a new proxy hops in.

    When I did baptisms for the dead, I understood that it didn't mean that all these people were necessarily becoming Mormons or being saved automatically. It only meant that if they accepted the "truth" in the next life, they met the requirements of baptism. That's a key point that a lot of people aren't grasping.

    It was all fairly logical in a religious context. Besides, is there any western religion this doesn't have bizarre beliefs and rituals? When you look closely at the religious beliefs of anyone who treats the Bible as holy scripture, who isn't an odd duck? Read Leviticus to learn about bizarre people and a lunatic God.

  • Doug on February 15, 2012 7:41 PM:

    I believe hamletta got closest to what it is: presumptuous AND offensive.
    Not only are these "baptisms" being done without the consent of those being "baptised", but often (usually?) in contravention to their known religious preferences. I'm sorry, but for most religious people, telling them that "Moroni knows best" just isn't going to cut it when it comes to forcibly being baptised into another religion.
    Come to think of it, that this practive is done "forcibly"; ie, WITHOUT the consent of the person being "baptised", is also the reason for considering it to be offensive. I'm not a Christian, but I've always undestood that "free will" was involved in the believer's acceptance of Jesus as their Savior. Of course, if Jesus ISN'T considered to be one's savior by the LDS, then they have a lot more to worry about than baptising dead people.
    Southern Baptists, I'd like to introduce you to some LDS theology...

  • Nancy Beck on February 15, 2012 8:14 PM:

    Another incidence of the arrogance of mormons.

  • katmom on February 15, 2012 9:15 PM:

    But why can't they be baptized in the next life, if that's what they want? Are Mormons who are alive now assumed to have been baptized in a previous life?

  • Texas Aggie on February 15, 2012 11:52 PM:

    “I think it’s scandalous. Not only objectionable, it’s scandalous,” Wiesel said.

    It's also totally meaningless. If you assume that there is an afterlife, then whatever goes there still has its own autonomy and can decide for itself what it wants. If it doesn't want to be baptized Mormon, then whatever the Mormons do here is of absolutely no consequence whatsoever.

    The same with saints in the catholic church. Making the same assumption, if God decides that the particular individual doesn't deserve to be a saint, the Vatican's ceremonies and pronouncements are irrelevant. If God decides that someone is a saint even if the catholic church has expelled them (Dom Helder comes to mind), then that is all that matters.

    And if there is no afterlife, then it's all just a word game anyhow.

  • Anonymous on February 15, 2012 11:55 PM:

    " I know of no-one who actually believes those tasteless waffers and bad grape juice is the body and blood of Christ or The Almighty itself."

    Josef K, never met my ex, did you?

  • thebewilderness on February 16, 2012 1:04 AM:

    It creates problems among families.
    If you came from a religious tradition what would you do when suddenly one of your family members converted to Mormonism and started quizzing members of the family for info on the correct spelling of this or that relatives name that has passed away in order to get them baptized by the correct authority.
    It is extremely disrespectful to the religious traditions of others.

  • zandru on February 16, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Baptism without the Consent of the Baptized

    Doug, you might come from a protestant tradition that only baptizes adults. In most of the Christian sects, however, infants are baptized as soon as it's safe to take them out in public.

    Thus, the dead "not giving their consent" is not necessarily relevant, and it's clear that baptism is not necessarily a matter of belief, either.

    Frankly, I'm concerned that so many of you take all this mumbo-jumbo seriously...

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on February 16, 2012 12:32 PM:

    Ken @ 16:39 wins the internets for a week.

    Varecia @ 18:14
    ... The more I learn about Mormons the more I think they are pretty odd ducks.

    By all means, read up, it gets better.

    Josh. rtnDisco And Mormons aren't even against dancing. Go figure.

  • Martin Timothy on March 09, 2012 4:15 AM:

    Brigham Young and the entire Mormon hierarchy would have been hanged in 1857, had the Mountain Meadows Massacre been prosecuted to its fullest potential .. Whence some one hundred and forty, California bound Arkansas men and women..

    Were slaughtered under a flag of truce, after Mormons decked out as Indians attacked their wagons .. Forty two white men were hanged at Gainesville Texas in 1862, for failing to support the Confederacy, the same year thirty eight Santee Sioux were hanged in Minnesota,

    After five American settlers were killed by Indians, whose case rested on their assertion that the settlers had fired first, while eighty five Irish traitors, were justly hanged in New Mexico in 1846, they had deserted General Taylor’s command, and joined Santa Anna’s forces in Mexico.

    Then crossing back into Texas, slew eleven of their former comrades from ambush, on the northern banks of the Rio Grande .. Fifty four Mormons took part in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, of whom thirty two were from England .. Brigham Y was up to his neck in it all.

    As well he received livestock and property looted from the wagons! John D Lee Mormon Bishop and adopted son of BY, was the single Mormon executed by firing squad in 1877, twenty yrs after the event!

    Provo Utah is the site of at least one FEMA camp – picture inbred descendants of the massacre perpetrators, having their way with the thousands of internees, using the same rationale that fueled the MMM, that the victims are “Gentiles!”