04 May, 2006

BBC - Religion & Ethics - Baptism of the dead

Link: BBC - Religion & Ethics - Baptism of the dead

In much of the Islamic world, it is illegal to prostelitize, Islam excepted. I wonder if that includes baptism of the dead? If not, the Mormons have a fertile mission field amongst departed Muslims.

Quote from BBC link above:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that a dead person can be baptised by proxy, which means that a Mormon can be baptised on behalf of someone who has already died.
. . .
Confirmation and higher ordinances can also be performed by proxy.
. . .
Mormons believe that this doctrine ends the injustice [of] millions of people being damned just because they died without learning of the gospel of Christ.
. . .
There have been complaints that particularly enthusiastic Mormons have been carrying out proxy baptisms for prominent historical and religious figures including the members of other faiths.

For example the Ba'al Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of the Hasidic Jewish movement, was baptised a Mormon. In 1995 the Church agreed to halt proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews, and to remove the names of all Holocaust victims from the files. Such names are now only accepted if they are resubmitted by a direct descendant or if consent is obtained from the dead person's immediate family.
. . .
Members of other faiths argue that it is just plain wrong to baptise dead people and make them Mormons when they can't have any say in the matter.

Mormons say that this is a fundamental error. No-one has to accept a proxy baptism. Just as the soul in paradise has a free choice to accept or reject the true gospel, they have a free choice to accept or reject the baptism. If they choose to accept the gospel, the proxy baptism means that they are fully equipped to move on in their spiritual life.
One quote from this Guardian article expresses how I feel about the practice:
'Any Christian will tell you that these rituals do not harm the soul of the dead. But it hurts the feelings of the believers who see these rituals with the names of the deceased as equal to the desecration of graves by Satanists.'

I wonder if Muslims feel the way I do.


el condo said...

John: apparently I have as much time on my hands as you do, seeing that I'm actually commenting on this.

Will a proxy baptism turn a dead person into a Christian? (Or a Mormon, as the case may be.)

We are speaking of physical death, aren't we?

Even the Mormons agree it won't, but apparently it will help with the paperwork in case he decides to accept the Gospel after he's dead. Wow. Talk about reasoning.

So what the Mormons are preaching is that after living a life of rejecting the Gospel, one goes up there (or down there), finds out he was so wrong after all, and has the option yet again of choosing between heaven and hell...AFTER BetterHomes has shown him around both places. Only problem then is the baptism bit, which is where the Mormons come in. And again I say: WOW.

Seeing as (in my opinion) it won't make the slightest difference to the dead guy, who gives a...well...toss. Except the dead guy's relatives, I suppose, who will be well entitled to their chagrin.

What would the Muslims think of this? I wonder. Let's hope some Ayatollah is reading this blog.

a Mormon girl said...

Well, since it is only the "overenthusiastic" and misguided Mormons who had performed these rites for non-relatives, and they've been officially told to knock it off, it shouldn't matter a whole lot. Mormons respect other religions, and that includes Islam. Muslims and Mormons make good partners, in fact, when we work for good causes we agree on.

Are you trying to create some anti-Mormon sentiment here, or do you truly wonder how Muslims would feel about this issue if it were an issue? (I am quite sympathetic to those who would be offended by such a thing, btw.)

John B. Chilton said...

I truly wonder. Although I acknowledge there could be an unintended side effect to my raising the subject.

It is good to hear that Mormons have "been officially told" not to perform "rites for non-relatives" but would appreciate documentation on that point.

a Mormon girl said...

The best I can do is provide links to a few news releases.

This news release explains (at the end) that an official letter was read to members worldwide in June 1995, asking them to submit the names of their own ancestors for temple work and not celebrities or holocaust victims.

This news release clarifies the reasons for doing archival work and microfilming of records in Russia, as mentioned in the Guardian article you linked to. It's really all about preserving records, so that everyone will have access to them in the future, regardless of religion. Mormons love genealogy and family history, and they are happy to help everyone find their ancestors and preserve their family history.

I can also say that growing up in the Mormon culture, I always had the understanding that genealogy and submitting names for temple work was something we could do for our own ancestors, that's all.

This news release gives an overview of the reasons Mormons practice baptism for the dead.

Anyway, I'm sure most Muslims will be able to understand quite well the frustration that comes when a few "overenthusiastic" adherants to a religion tarnish the image of the religion as a whole.

Now, can we all just love each other and be friends? :)

John B. Chilton said...

Sorry, but I find these press releases alarming. They are not clear statesments to desist from the practice, and they are defensive of the practice and show little understanding of why other cultures, and not just Jews, find it offensive.

Convincing someone to convert when they are alive is one thing. Baptising them when they have no power to stop it is another. It doesn't matter what Mormons say it means (that it removes a barrier to a post death decision); it matters what I think it means for me. Is there some place I can go to ask Mormons not to desecrate my soul after I am dead?

Mohamed Elzubeir said...

I think it's simply stupid. Then again, I find the Mormon religion and its application more entertaining than serious.

I remember when in college, we had the constant weekly visit from a couple mormon kids (hardly 17 year olds) who wanted to sell me their religion.

I do recall this clearly, because my brother and I would invite them in and challenge their entire belief system to the point that they walk out of our apartment completely confused.

I say this because, if the Mormon religion were a business, I would say you would seriously need to train your sales people. But they send those kids who hardly understand the product to begin with.

Muslim feeling about this? "They're crazy" was the sentence I got from 3 people with varying convictions when asked about this story ;)

Anonymous said...

Mormons have real passion for missionary work. many people interested ingenealogy and tat stuff but don't need to be mormon or jewish. I think thsi baptism thing is very wierd and even scary. Why dont they just let the dead rip?

Anonymous said...

first question i ask is do you believe in a life after death? if you do read on, if you don't what you worrying about. 2nd do you believe mormons are christs true church. if you don't then again shut up, because you must then believe that what they are doing has know effect anyway. if you do believe they are the true church then you need to be baptised too!

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