Understanding Strangeness

I did not start to blog in order to react to news. This week there’s some news that I want to comment. This AP article on CNN’s web site tells about how the honorary chair of American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors is not happy with how the Church has implemented the 1995 agreement to limit proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims.

Every time there is a news story about baptism for the dead, I try to picture the image in someone’s mind of some mystical rite involving cadavers or desecrating graves or otherwise disturbing acts involved. From the very concise article about the subject that I linked to in the beginning of this paragraph, I quote here the portion most acutely relevant to this flap:

Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church. (emphasis added)

On Newsvine there was a “discussion” (the quotes are appropriately used here) about this issue. There someone suggested that we could just pray for the deceased people that we now perform proxy baptisms for. For all practical purposes, that is what we do. Forget for a moment, that some living person is immersed in water in behalf of a deceased one. The rest of the ordinance is a prayer. Don’t believe that baptism is necessary? That’s okay, then nothing has really changed for you. This only makes sense if you believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be applied to people in the hereafter and that baptism as a token of covenant is essential.

I have much respect for the children of Judah. Some of my ancestors also belonged to a group that Hitler wanted to eradicate (the Roma), so I think I can see myself in a position of a “racial enemy” and know how it feels. I do wish that the people, who are offended by the practice, could see that there is no intended slight, only a wish to bless those who didn’t have the options we have. “For 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)

For what it’s worth, I would say that there is no thought of “converting” these people. Wherever they are (however your belief allows you to picture them), we are not intervening there. But we have been told that there is some activity going on (see D&C 137 and 138). Currently we don’t know who has accepted what so we can only hope.

I want to apologize for the perceived slight. Also, as a Family History Consultant in my local unit, I am in a position to educate people about the guidelines for temple names submission. We should not be submitting pools of strangers’ names anyway. In Family History work in general, we are building the family tree of mankind, as far as is recorded, because we believe that family plays an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan. Many people who are not LDS have found joy in being able to link themselves to their ancestors with the help of LDS Family History Centers.

And to leave this on a positive note, read this article about how a Jewish family made peace with this. Or Jeff Lindsay’s blog post about our ancestors wanting to be pro-choice.

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