Non-Mormon Mormon Movies (cont): “Contact”

As part of our continuing occasional series on Non-Mormon Mormon Movies (N-MMM), we consider today the case of the movie “Contact.” Huh? But wasn’t that based on the book by Carl Sagan, the well-known atheist and/or agnostic? Well, yes, he did author the book. I happen to think Carl Sagan makes a great case for religion in this book (perhaps unintentionally) and very indirectly makes a great case for Joseph Smith. Read on if you want to see my reasoning.

“Contact” is about the search for extra-terrestials. The main character, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is a brilliant scientist looking for extra-terrestial life using huge receiving antennae. The idea is that if you listen long enough you may hear a message from an extra-terrestial. And of course after many years Dr. Arroway does hear a message from ET.

The message has a very difficult to discern code that instructs earthlings to build a huge transporter. Ellie rides the transporter and has a very difficult to explain experience with extra-terrestials. Before she takes this trip, she is a “pure science” atheist. Afterwards, she begins to believe in the possibility of faith.

The best thing about this movie for me is the following exchange:

Dr. Arroway. You come to us with no evidence, no record, no artifacts, only a story that, to put it mildly, strains credibility. Over half a trillion dollars was spent, dozens of lives were lost, are you really gonna sit there and tell us we should just take this all on faith?
Ellie hesitates.
KITZ
Please answer the question, doctor.
ELLIE
Is it possible that it didn’t happen, yes. As a scientist I must concede that, I must volunteer that.
KITZ
Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You admit that you have absolutely no physical evidence to back up your story?
ELLIE
Yes.
KITZ
You admit that you very well may have hallucinated this whole thing.
ELLIE
Yes.
KITZ
You admit that if you were in our position, you will respond with exactly the same degree of incredulity and skepticism?
ELLIE
Yes.
KITZ
(Yelling) Then why don’t you simply withdraw your testimony and concede that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place?!
ELLIE
Because I can’t. I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniable how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but… that continues to be my wish.

I first saw “Contact” right after I began to have religious feelings, and this speech hit me right in the gut. After I had my first experience with the Holy Ghost, this speech became even more true. How do you explain to the skeptics, the agnostics, the atheists what it is like to be sure, I mean absolutely certain, that there is a God and that He has contacted you through the Holy Ghost and confirmed to you that all this Mormon stuff about angels and golden plates is true, really true? I think you feel a bit like Ellie trying to tell the world that she visited with extra-terrestials when many of the people in the world are not likely to believe her.

In fact, Ellie’s speech reminded me a lot of another testimony from Joseph Smith’s History (1:24-25):

24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision•. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.

When I read this in Joseph Smith’s history, it seemed so true to me. That is exactly how a person who has had a real experience would describe it. I, too, have had the beautiful spirit of the Holy Ghost confirm truths to me. I cannot deny it. No matter how much the world wants to make my experience unreal, I know it is real.

So, “Contact” for me is a movie that helps me remember that there are all kinds of visions and experiences that are difficult to explain to the skeptics. But that does not make them less real.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

45 thoughts on “Non-Mormon Mormon Movies (cont): “Contact”

  1. Bravo, Geoff. I had similar (if not nearly as well and deeply developed) thoughts myself when watching the movie. I have nothing insightful to add, just an expression of gratitude and a second vote for the principles you’ve so eloquently conveyed.

  2. It’s interesting how Carl Sagan is basically opposed to most religion yet ends up re-inventing it in many ways.

    Honestly, I didn’t care for the film for a variety of reasons. But it does raise the issue of public versus private evidence (so crucial for LDS epistemology) very well.

  3. I loved that movie, except for seeing a little too much of Jodie Foster. The part you quote is just beautiful.

  4. Clark, there is another part of my post that I didn’t add because it was getting too long. But I really think that the movie and book’s vision of a super-advanced extra-terrestial intelligence fits exactly with my vision of how the Earth was created. This is why the traditional Christian and Jewish view of God is so unattractive to me — they seem Him as an unknowable “Spirit.” Well, in my opinion, Elohim is just the smartest scientist of all, the one who figured out the Universe and created laws for us, just as the unnamed ETs in “Contact” figured out the worm holes and are involved in letting smaller intelligences get in contact with them (and deliberately do so in a way that involves the invocation of faith). Yes, Carl Sagan was secretly a Mormon (just kidding, all you snarkers).

  5. What struck ne about Contact (both the book,where he gets to take shots at conventional religion all the way through, and the movie) is that Sagen’s vision of alien contact draws so heavily on NDE experiences for its power. The tunnel, for example, and the Alien who takes the appearance of her father. Given Sagen’s skepticism, I find that irony particularly rich.

    -Kevin Christensen, PA

  6. Good one Geoff, one of my favorite movies. Though there is some irony in that I know some people who consider it an anti-Mormon movie because of the crazy religious fanatic from Utah.

  7. I think this post will get billions of comments.

    Billions, and billions, and billions….

    (I couldn’t resist)

  8. There is a huge difference in Ellie’s discussion of her experience and the average mormon testimony:

    ELLIE
    Is it possible that it didn’t happen, yes. As a scientist I must concede that, I must volunteer that.

    Most mormon’s with a “knowledge” testimony would not concede that there is a possibility that “it didn’t happen”

  9. It is interesting to note that Bushman concluded at the end of his book (JSRSR) the key driving force behind all that he did was “his experience”! “Contact” touched me in the same way helping not only to validate Joseph’s experience, but my own. Like others before me I have wrestled with the darkness of life trying to find the greater light. However, in trying to share my own experience with others, many seem to miss the witness and focus on what they think is a confused soul (me). I have learned to appreciate the words of JS which I will paraphrase: No man knows my history and if I hadn’t experienced these things myself I wouldn’t have believed it. So as a young man in the 60s I listened to Jimi Hendrix and sought to become experienced. “Are you experienced?” was his big question or “have you ever been experience?” And his answer was “well I have!” This lit the desire in my heart to find the true answer to the meaning of peace and love. My search led me to Woodstock and Woodstock led me to Christ and Christ led me to Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith has led me to you! Now the important point is it is not about me or JS, but it is about the witness that God gives to each one of us concerning his Son Jesus Christ and this great latter day work. Our experiences and testimonies cement us to the rock which is both Christ and the personal revelation we each can receive from the Father in Heaven to know the truth. In this we build a firm foundation against the storms, doubts and fears of this world. Together we stand with Peter whose witness we should emulate:

    When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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. (Matt. 16:13–19)

  10. Most mormon’s with a “knowledge” testimony would not concede that there is a possibility that “it didn’t happen”

    Because we’re not speaking as scientists. We’re not talking about demonstratable theories and experiments. Mormon invited us all to “experiment upon the word” but our experiments are not scientific. They can’t be. Scientific experiments involve trying to get the same conditions to produce the same results but we are humans, not lab beakers. Each individual soul is a different variable and the Spirit isn’t going to speak to us each the same way because we won’t all hear or respond in the same way.

    Those of us speaking of our knowledge of our testimony are saying the same thing Ellie said.

    I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniable how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but… that continues to be my wish.

  11. The scene that hit me hard was when Matthew (won’t even try to spell it) M’s character was questiong Ellie about faith, and he asked her: “do you love your father?” She replys “yes”, and then he says: “then prove it”.

    We can’t “prove” we love someone, at least not in the scientific method way of proving things. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t love someone. Some things can’t be proved empirically.

    Larry

  12. As a Mormon, Contact really pissed me off.

    First, and most obviously, there was the religious nut character that while not explicitly Mormon was from Southern Utah. His religious extremism was a overblown, and acted as one of the two “evil” and religious forces in the movie.

    The second thing that pissed me off is more subtle and it took me some time to put my finger on it. At the close of the movie we learn that Jodie Foster’s character’s recording device actually did record something: several hours of static. This information is however hidden from her and the world by the evil religious senator. So at the end of the movie her character is justified even though she doesn’t know it because the proof is hidden from her by others who are unable to prove their religious beliefs and see this proof as a threat.

    Finally, did they ever explain why they couldn’t just drop more people through the machine? The idea that you could generate proof at will if there were only the political will to do so is implied.

    While it was an enjoyable sci-fi flick, I found it insulting to me as a person of faith and thought that it had an anti-religious agenda. Rather than portraying science and religion as compatible or even on somewhat equal footing one is portrayed as truth and light and the other as violence, secret works, and fear.

  13. This is a subject for another post, but Aeon Flux is a great depiction of the war in heaven and humanity choosing to leave the Garden of Eden, almost as good as the Matrix series.

  14. I seem to remember hearing a General Authority or Prophet relate a story about being on a plane, and speaking with the person next to him about the Gospel. I forget the exact subjects, but the person asked him to describe a particular thing (faith, describe how you know God is real, or the church is true, or whatever), and the GA asked the guy to describe what salt tastes like, without using the word salt(y, etc.).

  15. sarebear – That was Boyd K. Packer.

    Aspen –

    There is a huge difference in Ellie’s discussion of her experience and the average mormon testimony:

    ELLIE
    Is it possible that it didn’t happen, yes. As a scientist I must concede that, I must volunteer that.

    Most mormon’s with a “knowledge” testimony would not concede that there is a possibility that “it didn’t happen”

    I concede that possibility as do many who understand the limits of knowledge. I discussed that here: http://www2.ljworld.com/forums/open/general/20/

    The way we use the language, I think there are two types of “know”. There is the ultimate KNOW, that none of us can ever have in this life, easily illustrated by the oft used analogy that we really could be in the Matrix and none of us would be the wiser. Then, there is the everyday “know” meaning I have sufficient evidence for me to be confident in my conclusion that such and such is.

  16. random John,
    I found the debate on faith vs science very even handed compared to most movies now days. However, you are right on the way some of the more religious characters appear to be either crazy or deceitful. In truth many of the religious people in the world actually act this way giving religion a bad name. I believe true religion and true science are one, but the world is full of false religions and false sciences clouding the issues. We are given our agency, hearts and minds along with our spirits to test the things of this world to figure out the truth with a little help from our friends the prophets. JS said, “I trust an honest cursing man more than a long smooth faced hypocrite.”

  17. I agree.

    If the scientific community sometimes seems hostile toward religious community, it’s because frankly, we’ve got some really boneheaded representatives.

    One of the most unfortunate things the Republican majority on Capital Hill did was abolishing the, more or less, politically neutral congressional science advisory body that used to inform our representatives on scientific topics.

    Now there is really no one playing referee. Every Senator totes out his own pet theories backed by his own pet scientists. Bush loves doing this, and many other Republicans do it regularly as well.

    But there’s no one on Capitol Hill to say: look, these scientists you’re touting really aren’t mainstream at all. They don’t even represent a “major part of the scientific debate.”

    This is how Republicans can actually claim with a straight face that global warming doesn’t exist, and that “intelligent design” is a major strain of scientific thought and debate. Neither is the case. But, by and large, Congress seems to have “turned away unto fables.”

    Yeah, science has been getting gut-punched by right-wing for a while now. I don’t blame them if they are a bit hostile.

    Mormons really ought to wise up to the fact that our political allies are really misrepresenting us in the eyes of the world.

  18. I just live there now, but I grew up in Bountiful (well, we moved there from NY state when I was 15, we moved to NY from CA when I was 5.)

    Did you grow up here? I love the feeling here (except we are SMACK DAB on the edge of the field the dang Wal-Mart is coming into. The field is about 10 steps straight west from my front door. Guess I’ll be breathing dust all year, and will never be able to get to the freeway just a block down the street anymore because it requires a left turn (and the stupid mayor says it won’t impact traffic . . . .ha!)

    Woops. Erm, besides that, I love it here. Although not our landlord, hoser that he is.

  19. Contact was powerful for me too, but for a different reason, I guess. I thought the part you quote was the screen writer (I started the book a few years back, and assume it continued to be very different from the movie) banging us over the head with the question: “just send another person!” Everything was built, just fire it up again. There won’t be any more proof for the world this time than the last, but each person can take the trip. I thought that was the “message” of the movie, scientific and religious experiences can be so real that the they are too personal (not private, necessarily, but in the sense of individual) to transfer to others. Again, no one else seems to watch the movie that way, but it just screams out to me.

  20. As a reader, Carl Sagan really pisses me off. I haven’t spoken to him in years, I was that mad.

    The movie was okay, and I agree with the sentiments, although I don’t think any of us really knows what it will be like in the spirit world or what we will discover about the nature of life.

    But Carl Sagan, that SOB. I could not get through that book because he used such big words they were not even in my dictionary. And I thought “what kind of egotistical stuck up jerk writes a book with an interesting premise and makes it so hard to read that only a select few can read it?”

  21. Carl Sagan seems to be much like Arthur C. Clarke-

    Both claim to be atheists, and are openly hostile to religion, but not to “spirituality.”

    For example, Clarke has actually advocated censoring all “art” that deals with religous themes. Yet in his fiction, he seems to believe there is a God of some sort. However, he seems rather certain that no earthly religions “got it right (or even close).”

    Sagan seems to be much the same – religion stinks, but its okay to believe in some sort of unknowable, Diest type of god that, in the end, doesn’t really matter to our everyday lives.

  22. “If the scientific community sometimes seems hostile toward religious community, it’s because frankly, we’ve got some really boneheaded representatives.”

    You’re dreaming, Seth R. The boneheads exacerbate things, but they aren’t the cause. You might as well say that if some scientists, Sagan among them, didn’t adopt village atheist arguments against religion then there’d be bad feelings either.

    And as for Senators, I percieve a selection bias in your sample. The truth is that Senators of every sort use science badly or cite to scientists who are not in the mainstream.

  23. Seth, I’m a Republican, but I fully agree that was a foolhardy decision by the congress.

    Regarding Contact, I too wondered why they didn’t send more people through or conduct further analysis. I don’t think the static was necessarily evidence of anything since presumably the contact was “telepathic” or something like that. i.e. why assume it was aural?

    Lots of things to annoy me.

  24. In the book, it was stated that some kind of nexus had been established between the alien world and the Earth, and that the purpose of the machine was to plug in the Earth end. It was also stated that the link had been removed after the visit (I can’t remember if they stated a reason), thus no further visits were possible.

    The point regarding private evidence is a little disturbing to me. Besides the static on the tape, there should have been other indications inside the machine that several hours had passed, and Ellie should have demanded an investigation of the machine’s interior. If this part of the story reminds us of the nature of religious experience, then it highlights the following oft-asked question: If our religious beliefs are objectively true, then why can’t we find objective evidence for them?

  25. Will, in the context of the story’s narrative the “aliens” basically said this was a step on human development. So the limited evidence then made ambiguous was done intentionally by them. The clear indication was that there wouldn’t be any evidence found. This is analogous to the situation many theists (including Mormons) postulate with regards to God.

    Still, it does seem that such an advanced technology would have spin offs. That is, the technology itself would raise issues. One could argue that is analogous to what apologists argue about the Book of Mormon. But I think such an advanced technology would be quite a bit more evidence than anything apologists can put forth with regards to the Book of Mormon unless some positive archaeological evidence in mesoAmerica surfaces.

  26. They’ve been working on that Rama movie for about a decade. It was supposed to be Fincher’s followup to Fight Club but then nothing happened with it. I’m not sure it’s a good choice for a movie myself.

  27. I recently finished reading the book Contact. I enjoyed it, big words and all… who would have ever guessed what an ecdysiast was… :)

    On a more serious note, I felt somewhat unnerved at Carl Sagan’s research on common relegion. For example, in the book, Ellie frustrated by the fact that there are two different accounts of Christ’s lineage in the New Testament. I was taught that Matthew’s account reflects Joseph’s lineage and Luke’s reflects Mary’s. (If I’m off, someone please correct me…) Carl Sagan doesn’t take this into account and uses the difference in between the two as an argument as to why the Bible can’t be true.

    Also, as it may interest readers on this blog, he states that the Mormons announce that the Message is a second message the angel Moroni. I had to laugh when I saw that. Even with only a basic knowledge of our faith and culture, you would not make a statement like that.

    Sagan obviously spends very little time studying religion, which is unsurprising coming from someone who hates it like he does. Sadly, sometimes he also makes the religious scholars in the book out to be idiots. Ellie critisizes that an all-powerful God could easily show Himself and clear up any doubts about His existence. The preachers don’t have a good answer for her… they never mention faith. Faith is the first principle and ordinance of the gospel. It is the principal part of many other faiths. I felt like yelling at Sagan through out the book, “God could show himself anytime! He chooses not to so we can walk in fatih!” However, at the conclusion of the novel, and movie, the aliens too choose too leave very little evidence, making Ellie rely on faith in her scientific pursuits. Sagan makes Ellie realize the importance of faith but never does tie it into religion.

    Finally, for Ellie (in the novel) the fact that there are so many different religions is part of what makes it so difficult for her to believe in any one of them. She does, however, call herself a Christian, but does not believe in God. She believed Christ was a great teacher and leader, but cannot reconcile the records about him or the many different views on how to worship. Interesting… and a different view than what you see of Ellie in the movie.

    I loved both the book and the movie… they are both very thought provoking and oddly enough, will probably strengthen your faith. They did mine. Probably not the effect Sagan wanted to have on religious folk; perhaps his message backfired.

  28. I didn’t know that, Clark, thanks!

    Yeah, the Rama series goes some places that it is probably best not to go.

    And talk about WIERD. If you ever get a chance, even if you aren’t a computer game person, the Rama computer game (which Clarke worked with them closely on), was THE hardest computer thing I’ve ever tried. Unlike any other. You could definitely feel Clarke’s influence; it was extremely challenging, with alot of unusual thinking involved.

    I’m not sure they could make a Rama movie anyway, and still have it appeal to the public, without playing up the more adventuresome aspects of it, and gutting the more intellectual/philosophical et. al aspects of it. Basically taking the Clarke-ness out of it.

    Back on to Contact, I always thought, too, that Sagan was being naive in the same way that many think religious people are naive . . .

  29. This is a little off the Contact track, but my friend a HP sent this puzzle to me which seems to read your mind. A mystery is it fate, faith, fake or science? Please tell me if you can figure it out.

  30. A cute, little puzzle. For those wishing an explanation:

    If the tens digit is x and the ones digit is y, then the final number will be (10x+y)-(x+y) = 9x. The result must be a multiple of nine, so all multiples of nine were given the same symbol. It seems something more could be made of how the puzzle construction makes one of the inputs irrelevant.

  31. Haven’t you watched enough movies to know that no one is really good? No one lives by all the standards. Any man, no matter how religious or spiritual will sleep with a good looking woman if given the chance. Listen to me, I’ve seen many movies and I almost never see a traditional good person without a major flaw. In fact I’ve seen many how movies were made and directors think those people are boring if not realistic.

    Why would you want a boring person who lives his religion in a movie? The only kind of moral courage we want to see in movies is the courage to stick it to the hypocritical intolerant majority.

    Contact was generally a good show IMHO. I was suprised that Sagan would give credence to the idea that truth can be discovered subjectively, even though there was objective evidence in the movie (static). The message of the movie can easily be taken to be faith can confirm truth, in spite of Ellie’s belief in what she sees, not just a feeling. So its a qualified endorsement of the importance of faith and subjective evidence. What else can you expect from a scientist. His work has probably already been done and if he meets some missionaries on the other side he might find that enough to believe. (Here’s to ya Carl, find some missionaries and listen to them)

  32. His work has probably already been done and if he meets some missionaries on the other side he might find that enough to believe. (Here’s to ya Carl, find some missionaries and listen to them)

    Carl Sagan’s work has been done.
    Baptism: 13 Mar 1998 Provo Temple
    Endowment: 10 Jul 1998 Provo Temple

    From the International Genealogical Index (IGI).

  33. enochville:

    ‘The way we use the language, I think there are two types of “know”. There is the ultimate KNOW, that none of us can ever have in this life, easily illustrated by the oft used analogy that we really could be in the Matrix and none of us would be the wiser. Then, there is the everyday “know” meaning I have sufficient evidence for me to be confident in my conclusion that such and such is.’

    I agree that there may be an “ultimate know” that goes beyond the sensing of our own existence, a la the Matrix analogy.

    But I also believe there is a “know” that goes beyond the “sufficient evidence for me to be confident” level.

    JS said that one can “feel pure knowledge flowing into you” when receiving revelation. Page 38 of the current edition of Gospel Principles describes a spiritual “knowing” that is greater than seeing or hearing with the physical senses. I’ve been there, and can attest to both JS’s statement and page 38. The rare but powerful transfers of pure knowledge that I have received do indeed go beyond “sufficient to be confident”.

    Confidence can be shaken or lost, beliefs can change, faith can be lost. But there is a “knowing” available to mortals that cannot be erased. I left the church having such as “knowing” in me, and it ate at me like a cancer for years until I came back.

  34. I have Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World on my bookshelf and I enjoy it very much. It appears to contain some of the same themes but without fictional characters.

    As movies go, it’s one worth seeing.

  35. Carl Sagan’s work has been done.
    Baptism: 13 Mar 1998 Provo Temple
    Endowment: 10 Jul 1998 Provo Temple
    From the International Genealogical Index (IGI).

    Interesting. I wonder if his declaration of atheism or his celebrity status or name-submission by a relative generated the exception to the rule about not doing temple work for Jewish people. His parents were Jewish according to Wiki.

  36. I believe the exception for Jewish people referred to people who died in the holocaust. 1998 was potentially before that change took place.

    Why are people offended by Baptisms for the Dead? If there is nothing to it then it doesn’t affect anyone and if there is something to it then you’d be sure to want it. Its like at work when an atheist gets very angry at anyone who states they know God exists. Why do you care that someone else believes if you don’t? I don’t believe in the Hindu religion but I have absolutely no qualms if someone practices Hinduism.

  37. Heli,
    I can understand why doing vicarious baptism for deceased Jews is offensive to living Jews. It can be as bad as intentionally eating pork in front of a kosher-keeping Jew just to tick him off.

    The history of persecution against Jews and forced conversions to Christianity is still in the mind of devout Jews, as it is taught in synagogues and in Jewish schools. It is still forefront in the mind of many Zionist Jews.

    In the Russian and European pogroms (organized persecutions) Jews would be killed on the street and a sausage stuffed in their mouth.

    During the Inquisition, Jews were often horribly tortured and maimed until they confessed Christianity.

    Baptism for the dead is seen as symbolic of forced conversions, since we can’t obviously ask the deceased person if they really want it. Yes, of course modern living Jews believe that the temple ceremony has no effectiveness. Yes, of course many think it’s just stupid. But to them, it’s an “in your face” kind of thing. They take it as if we are thumbing our nose at them, and saying “See! We’re going to make you all Christians anyway!”

    Vicarious baptism can be seen as an insult in that it implies there is a problem with their religion, and that it must be fixed by making everyone Christian after they’re dead.

    Are they being a bit oversensitive? I think so. I’m Jewish on my dad’s side, and Tribe of Judah, thank-you-very-much. I had dad’s temple work done last year. :-)

  38. Bookslinger

    I don’t think you can compare Baptism for the Dead with forced conversions. And to bring up torture or maiming is needless, though maybe you’re simply trying to show that when people get emotional they are no longer logical and having suffered much makes them over sensitive. Its like comparing a Catholic praying for someone to the Inquisitions torture to save souls. They may be similar in alleged intent, but they are inconnectibly different in method and degree.

    There is no logical reason to be offended by Baptism for the Dead. Saying its symbolic of force conversion doesn’t pass the rational argument test for several reasons. Of course the most important is there is no force involved; no one is hurt or coerced. Also in heaven they get a choice. Furthermore, there is no effect on any living person. The jews who suffered these acts were hurt or forced not to live their religion. Baptism for the Dead does not affect how any non-member lives.

    Again if I pray for your soul to my God, how in the world can that hurt you?

  39. Heli,
    I agree with you in that the Jews shouldn’t be offended at what we do in the temples. But the reality is, they are. Baptism for the dead really is _symbolic_ (to people who don’t fully understand it) of forced conversions. Baptism for the dead brings the idea of forced conversions and persecution smack dab into the forefront of the mind of many Jews. Baptizing proxies for deceased Jews is tantamount to saying “Jews need to be baptized or else they’re going to hell.” It’s tanatamount to saying “Jews are bad, so we’re going to symbolically make them Christians and make it all better.” That’s what baptism, pretty much by definition, is: it makes someone a Christian. That’s what they are thinking, or that’s what the Jews think we’re saying. To them, it’s offensive on the order of putting crosses on Jewish graves.

    Praying is one thing, but baptism for the dead is an outward act, a statement, we RECORD it. So to many modern Jews it’s an outward statment that the church is making. In fact, we publish the records of the baptisms on the Internet and on those IGI CD’s. That statement is an insult to them.

    Of course modern Jews don’t understand it. Yes, they should (we hope) understand baptism for the dead as you and I do. But they don’t.

    And yes, it is emotional. When your close relatives, people of your father’s and grandfather’s generation were the ones slaughtered by Hitler and the Russians just for being Jewish, then any statements or acts, symoblic or not, that smack of anti-semitism get very PERSONAL and EMOTIONAL!

    People of my father’s and grandfather’s generation were SLAUGHTERED like animals for their religion, culture, and ethnicity. I saw the tatooed numbers on the arm of my 2nd cousin’s husband who was interned and survived. (My dad’s family came here prior to WW I.) And now you say there’s NO LOGICAL REASON TO BE OFFENDED by Christians who “pretend” to “make Jews into Christians” ? Good grief! That’s what baptism, pretty much by definition, is: it makes someone a Christian.

    Heli, I think you just don’t get it. Perhaps you don’t understand what it’s like to be part of a people who’ve been persecuted and SLAUGHTERED LIKE ANIMALS for THOUSANDS of years for their religion and their ethnicity. You think the early saints of this dispensation were persecuted? That was NOTHING compared to the MILLENNIA of persecution, pogroms, torture, and mass slaughter of Jews.

    Bringing up past torture and maiming DOES apply because it went part-and-parcel with the forced conversions. Torture was justified with the “Jews = bad, Christians = Good” belief of the evil persecutors. Our baptism for the dead reminds sensitive Jews of the reationalization used by the torturers.

    You’re DANG RIGHT it’s EMOTIONAL! And no, baptism for the dead and publishing the records of such activities is not the same as praying for someone’s soul.

    I’m not arguing against baptism for the dead. I’m arguing for understanding and sensitivity towards my people, who are often specifically mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, whom the Lord will gather again and establish in the lands of their inheritance. They are Abraham’s literal seed, to whom the many and glorious promises apply.

    Now, having said that, I’m still going to try to get the temple work done for as many of my deceased Jewish ancestors and relatives as possible. But I’m trying to be “sensitive” about it. :-)

    Oy vey, sure love ya!

  40. Bookslinger,

    The smashing of idols by Jews (or Israel under the leadership of the Jews) in times past was an open symbolic assault on the faiths of other nations where those idols originated. It could even be seen as reminiscent of the slaughter Israel enacted against those nations they usurped in their obtainment of the promised land. If the Jews are to take offense, and think it right to fight us, legaly or otherwise, in inadvertantly doing something that does them no harm, then how could they ever have claim to justification in their piety or that of their forefathers, those they hold to be as just as men can be? With a claim to things Kosher how could they not be offering similar judgements and assaults to those who honorably raise hogs for a living? Or those who work in any honorable job that renders them outside of the realm of Mosaic proclamations?

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