Posthumous Jewish baptisms

Apparently, there will be a new meeting between Church representatives and Jewish leaders this weekend over the issue of posthumous Jewish baptisms. Jewish leaders say they have new evidence that the Church is still baptizing the Jewish dead despite a 1995 agreement on the issue.

Here is the AP story on this:

Jews, Mormons to Meet Over Baptisms

By MARK THIESSEN

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Jewish leaders claim Mormons continue to posthumously baptize Jews and Holocaust victims, and will confront church leaders with a decade of frustration over what they call broken promises.

“We have proof, and we are bringing that,” said Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

The Mormon church has long collected names from government documents and other records worldwide for posthumous baptisms. Church members stand in for the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for the dead to reach heaven. The church believes individuals’ ability to choose a religion continues beyond the grave.

Michel plans to show posthumous baptism records to church officials in meetings Sunday and Monday (meaning April 10 and 11). He says the records prove tens of thousands of Jews, including some who died in Nazi concentration camps, were posthumously baptized over the past 10 years and as recently as last month.

A 1995 agreement signed by Jewish leaders and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for an immediate halt to unwanted proxy baptisms. After evidence was found in the church’s massive International Genealogical Index that the baptisms for many Jews – including Anne Frank – continued, the two faiths reaffirmed the agreement in 2002.

Jewish leaders in New York have bitterly complained the baptisms never stopped, and last year asked Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton to intervene. She met with Sen. Orrin Hatch, an Utah Republican and active Mormon, though neither side would discuss what was said.

The church, too, declined comment Thursday. “The church won’t be commenting at all on this issue for the moment. We are looking forward to discussions with our Jewish guests,” spokeswoman Kim Farah said.

Under the Mormon practice, most Catholic popes have been proxy baptized, as have historical figures like Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha, according to Helen Radkey, an independent genealogical researcher in Salt Lake City.

However, the church directed its members after 1995 to not include for baptism the names of Jewish Holocaust victims, celebrities and people who aren’t relatives.

The church also assumes the closest living relative of the deceased being offered for proxy baptism has consented.

Carol Skydell, also a researcher, said that didn’t happen when her paternal grandparents and aunt and uncle apparently were given a baptism by proxy. She found their proxy baptism records in 2002.

“Nobody asked me, nobody asked my cousin. It’s ridiculous,” Skydell said.

As a convert to the Church, I have found this controversy somewhat difficult to understand. If you are not a Church member, and don’t believe that the Church has sealing power, who cares what a bunch of weird Mormons do with your relative’s name? Some Jews don’t believe in resurrection and have a very different idea of the afterlife than Mormons do. So, if the Mormon idea of the afterlife is not correct, any proxy baptism done on this Earth will have no effect at all.

This web page gives another viewpoint. It points out that Catholics forced Jews to be baptized for hundreds of years and says it is an attempt to rewrite the history of people who are Jewish. They fear that over time people who are offered proxy baptism will have their Jewish nature erased and will go down in history as Mormons, not Jews. It also points out that other churches, including Armenians and the Russian Orthodox church, have objected to posthumous baptism of their people.

There are several issues here. The first is that the Church made a commitment in 1995 and should stick to that commitment. The Church reaffirmed in 2002 that it was sticking to that commitment. But there is another, more difficult issue. Baptismal records in the temple don’t include the faith of the person who is being baptized. Anybody who has preformed baptisms in the temple may have been baptized for a Jewish person — there’s no way of knowing for sure. I’m pretty sure the Church is not going to start insisting that only people whose faith is known — and is not Jewish, Armenian or Russian Orthodox — can be baptized. How are you going to know for sure the faith of somebody born in Germany in 1784?

The other issue is that there appears to be a grave misunderstanding on the part of most people about the Church’s belief of the process of baptism. Baptizing somebody in the temple doesn’t mean the dead person suddenly becomes a Mormon (which is what I’m sure 99 percent of the people opposed to the Church policy believe). It means that the person will be given the opportunity of joining the Church of Jesus Christ in the spirit world. I see a process where a missionary and representative of the Church in the spirit world visits the deceased person and offers him or her the possibility of being taught about the Church and accepting the posthumous baptism that has been performed. But of course this person can also say, “I’m Jewish” and turn down this opportunity. So in effect opposing posthumous baptism is an attempt to limit the free choice of those in the spirit world.

But, again, if you don’t buy the Mormon view of the world, the baptism has no effect at all.

I’d be curious what others in the bloggernacle think about this issue.

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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.

37 thoughts on “Posthumous Jewish baptisms

  1. I agree, I’ve never understood why they should care. I’ve read similar articles to the one you link to, but I still don’t get it. If you don’t believe it, then don’t worry about it. If I found out that my grandparents were being “baptized” into some other Church, I may think it useless, but since I don’t believe it was effective, I’d ignore it.
    What if I’m Jewish and I convert. My grandparents were in a concentration camp. They are family so I do the temple work for them? Is that allowed?
    What if I’m not Jewish, but my wife’s sister’s (she’s a member) husband (he’s not a member) is and we do work for his family? Is that allowed?
    Since the only check that is done when temple work is submitted is if it’s been done before, I just don’t see how we can stop this from happening.

  2. Love this part:

    Jewish leaders in New York have bitterly complained the baptisms never stopped, and last year asked Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton to intervene. She met with Sen. Orrin Hatch, an Utah Republican and active Mormon, though neither side would discuss what was said.

    Do they REALLY think it’s wise to get lawmakers involved in approving or condemning items of doctrine, and practices which have absolutely no earthly effect? Given the long and sad history that Jews have had the world over with unsympathetic governments more than willing to make articles of faith a stumbling block for citizenship and recognition of human rights, it seems a bad precedent for Jewish leaders to attempt to use government as a lever in resolving religion issues.

  3. It boils down to what is called in Family History circles as rights of precedence. Everyone who works with Family History should be well aware of this principle. Every Priesthood leader needs to be very familiar with it. The Church should probably make more of an effort to teach it as a matter of routine.

    The rights of precedence basically control who can perform vicarious work, and what descendent’s rights precede others. If everyone understood and followed this principle, Elvis would not have had his work done 30+ times, a huge waste of resources and precious Temple time. Basically, the hierarchy looks like:

    spouse
    children
    parents
    siblings
    extended relatives, e.g. nieces, nephews, cousins

    Thus, if you are a widow/widower who wants to have your spouses work done in the Temple, but your children are non-members and oppose, it doesn’t matter since your rights of precedence trump theirs.

    If you are not at all related, you basically have no right to perform vicarious work in the Temple. This is what occurs with extracted names that some people pick up at the desk in the Temple.

    So, if a person is a descendent of a Holocaust survivor, and desires to have that person’s vicarious work done, you have every right to do it. However, extraction work is not performed on certain classes individuals, including Holocaust Jews.

    Graham’s sister-in-law and husband would have the same right to perform work for his ancestors as any other descendent. However, Graham basically has no right to perform those ordinances without permission from a blood relative.

    I expect this new meeting is because the Jewish organization(s) don’t understand this concept of precedence and/or do not accept it as justification. If it is a misunderstanding, then that should be easy to clear up. If they reject a descendent’s right to perform vicarious work and insist on claiming all dead Jews as their own, then there will be problem.

  4. I believe the Church will make a great effort to be sensitive on this issue. Ephraim and Judah need to get along, even if Judah (for the most part) isn’t currently recognizing Ephraim’s familial relation. Just remember that what seems obvious to us often seems completely absurd to them, and perhaps sometimes vice-versa as well.

    This part of the article is just a little galling:

    Under the Mormon practice, most Catholic popes have been proxy baptized, as have historical figures like Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha, according to Helen Radkey, an independent genealogical researcher in Salt Lake City.

    I wonder what kind of a schmuck you would have to be to willingly do the ordinance work for Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. Unless these cruel tyrants have direct descendants who are LDS (which I seriously doubt) I don’t want to hear about it. Yes, I know the work has to be done for everyone … but what real harm would come about if we put some on hold for awhile? But maybe I’m wrong and I’m not understanding the gospel’s message of forgiveness. Quick, someone check to see if Pol Pot’s work has been done yet. I call dibs.

  5. Geoff B.

    I have a rather unique perspective on this issue as my grandparents were Jewish holocausr survivors — my great-grandparents, on the other hand, died in Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen. I am the only convert in my family. My mother has explicitly asked me not to do the work of these ancestors — a request that I honour. While she doesn’t seem to buy into the doctrines of the LDS church, she really doesn’t like the idea of baptism for the dead, because she finds the idea of “disturbing” the souls of these tormented and traumatized relatives upsetting. She may not acknowledge the authority of the ordinance, but somehow seems to recognize the possibility of contact beyond the veil. Within the context of the site you mentioned, I can see how this would be offensive to Jews and hope the Church re-commits to do their best to accomodate their request.

  6. Danithew, I was going to say exactly the opposite. I think it’s great that someone thought to do the work for them, because it shows that person was not so naive to think he understands how Hitler and Stalin will be judged. Sure, it’s most likely they’re hellbound, but can’t be certain what’s in store for them. Thus, it’s a charitable thing to do, to assume that they may still merit some grace, and desire the chance to accept the atonement.

    The only downside to this is P.R., but frankly, I think it would be very bad policy for everyone in the church to have to examine the P.R. implications of ordinance work for every proxy they consider. The eternal significane of these ordinances is far more important than some little hit we take for having offered covenants to Hitler.

  7. Danithew, there’s some reason to doubt this information from Radkey. Take a look here. Until the Church confirms it — rather than Radkey — I remain skeptical that baptisms have been done for Hitler and Stalin.

  8. The AP article refers to Helen Radkey as “an independent genealogical researcher in Salt Lake City,” when in fact she is a militant athiest and anti-Mormon who has been pushing this issue for some time. A quick Google search turns up lots of interesting information on her.

    Don’t these people have anything better to do?

  9. Hitler’s work has been done multiple times.

    It is a major problem with Family History and Temple work. Celebrities, historical figures, etc. Temple work being duplicated.

    Trust me… you don’t have to worry about Elvis’s Temple work. He’s been to the Temple more often than half your ward has been so far this year.

  10. I have already called dibs on doing the work for any members of the cast of the OC whom I outlive.

  11. Thanks for the link Geoff. I had never heard Helen Radkey’s story before. Clearly she has some kind of agenda.

    Ryan, I don’t want to argue with you. I am sorely tempted to. But you are such a nice guy.

    I’m going to try and dial-down my sarcastic rhetoric a little bit and use a little bit of reasoning. I’m not aiming this at Ryan. We’ve broken bread (or pie) together.

    I think people should really be strongly encouraged to limit their genealogical work to their own lines. Seeking out famous or infamous names should be discouraged unless some kind of direct revelation is received — a real possibility.

    Recently there was some kind of news blip about Scott Peterson — how he has had droves of women writing him letters in prison, many seeking a romantic relationship and even marriage. I find myself deeply questioning the reasoning capabilities and bad taste these women are showing. In a greater way yet I think those who would seek to do the genealogy and ordinance work for vicious tyrants are demonstrating a foolish and repugnant mindset.

    There is one way I could see the work of these men being done and it wouldn’t completely raise my hackles. If a direct descendant of Hitler or Stalin did their genealogy work and personally made the effort to do the ordinance work, then I would say that person (for better or worse) is simply pursuing his/her sacred responsibilities to do family ordinance work.

  12. Geoff,

    Dave at DMI did a write-up a month ago, which I thought gave a pretty good analogy for why this might be offensive to Jews. He posted it at http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2005/02/some_mormons_ju.html . His analogy was this:

    Let’s say descendants of the men who served in the Carthage Greys militia unit decide to do something nice for the Mormons of 19th-century Illinois. The best way then can think of to show their sincere love for Mormons is to make all deceased Mormons honorary Carthage Greys, accomplished by a short, official ceremony for each dead Mormon so inducted. Joseph and Hyrum, of course, would be included as “proxy inductees,” as would their children, etc. These well-behaved Illinoisians think it a great honor to be a Grey or a descendant of a Grey, and are sure that those not so blessed in this life may want to enjoy the benefits of membership in the next life . . . assuming the deceased voluntarily accept the correctness of abiding by and, if necessary, defending the laws of the fine state of Illinois rather than rebelling against state laws and officials (still apparently an option in the hereafter). No proxy inductee will be forced to join the Greys in the hereafter, but they are positive that a fair percentage of people, including many Mormon proxy inductees, will take the opportunity to do so voluntarily.

    Dave points out that it’s not about being proxy baptized _Mormon_, but about being proxy baptized _Christian_, since Christians have been forcing Jews to convert-or-be-killed for much of the past two millenia.

  13. Kaimi, Dave brings up an interesting point, but you have to believe that the Carthage Greys have this power before it is meaningful to you. Even though I am a convert, I have relatives who lived in Nauvoo and were LDS. If the Carthage Greys wanted to perform this act, it would be meaningless to me because I know they don’t have this power. In fact, I would probably be more likely to acknowledge it as an act of contrition — they are sorry for what they did to Joseph Smith and at least are willing to acknowledge it — than anything else.

    This is not an attempt to minimize the horrors that have been done to the people of Judah in the last 1900 years in the name of Christianity. Nothing can excuse that behavior, and I am sure that the purveyors of these horrors are suffering for their actions.

  14. In addition to Kris’ (#5) and Kaimi’s (#12) comments, another reason why some may feel the ordinance is out of line is the appearance of arrogance or hubris — in many ways, proxy baptisms give off a “I’m better/holier than you, na na na!” vibe. Perhaps they shouldn’t feel that way, but I’m sympathetic to it.

  15. Jim, it genuinely makes me sad to hear that Hitler’s ordinance work has been done multiple times. Even if there are those who believe its a necessary task, why the rush?!?! I’m afraid to ask but I guess I am anyway. Is there any way to confirm this?

    I’m trying to imagine which would be worse — 1) that the name was submitted and ordinance work happened smoothly without a hitch or 2) that leadership was consulted and it was authorized. Remember that the temple ordinances require every name to go through so many steps. Baptism. Priesthood. Initiatory. Endowment. Sealing. Every step of the way I would hope that someone raised an eyebrow, that there was hesitation, that there were phone calls made. If someone was so offended they left the temple, I wouldn’t blame them.

    I’m trying to imagine how one such conversation would have gone.

    “Hello, we have Adolf Hitler’s and Eva Braun’s names here. Just thought we’d ask. Can we go ahead with this proxy sealing?” Reply: “Sure, no problem.”

    God forbid.

    I wonder if the LDS Church needs to do more to get its general membership to appreciate the significance and meaning of the Holocaust. If any of my Jewish friends are reading this I am even more ashamed.

    I keep remembering the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the swastika on the box holding the Ark of the Covenant is burned off by the holy presence of this fabled temple instrument. If Hollywood recognizes the travesty and the absurdity of temple and Hitler together, so should we.

  16. Last week Sgt. Paul Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions two years ago on the day he died. His family and the nation were moved by the posthumous recognition of his valor. Power of the living over the memory of the dead is exercised frequently, and sometimes contraversially, without power extending into the afterlife entering into the matter.

  17. If there was a massive nuclear holocaust tomorrow, records such as those in the LDS granite vault might indeed be some of the only written documents that survive. Future archaeologists might dig up the record and conclude that all these people were “Mormons”. It is this scenario, admittedly extreme, that worries Jews and others.

  18. I’m not sure I understand the sentiment behind the statement that you have to believe in the power of Christians to baptize and convert non-Christians in order to be offended that Mormons are baptizing Jews. I’ve spoken with a few Jewish friends about this, and they very politely explain that baptizing their dead relatives into a Christian religion shows a lack of respect for the Jewish culture and religion.

    Even though Mormons can explain the practice of baptizing people after they die and emphasize that each individual may accept or reject Christ after baptism, from a Jewish perspective, you’re still baptizing someone and entering their names into a Christian church who, for their entire life, considered themselves to be Jewish, and, if this person were still alive, would vehemently oppose any sort of baptism – alive or dead.

    If someone baptized my grandmother a Christian who died because she was a Jew, I think I’d be upset as well.

  19. To check for Temple work, you just check the IGI. You can do this online. I checked Hitler, and though we have his ancestry information, his IGI info did not come up. I suspect that there is some special treatment for his name.

    I was told his work had been done in a Family History class. It was used as an extreme example of both duplicate work and not prejudging worthiness. Elvis is the other name frequently brought up as an example of duplicate work. If you search his name on familysearch.org, you get 10+ entries.

    Nevertheless, the point made about Family History work being confined to one’s own ancestors, governed by the rights of precedence, is a good one. It saddens me that Bishops and other leaders don’t really know anything about Family History work. Issues like the Holocaust Jews are not really controversial, as we have rules in place to take care of them, just nobody knows/understands them.

    As far as extraction work goes, the prior agreement of the Church binding. No extraction work should consciously be taking place for groups who have requested that the vicarious work not be done.

  20. Regarding work for Hitler and his associates, I quote the following news articles:

    According to data from the index provided by [Ernest] Michel [chairman of the
    American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors], Adolph Eichmann was baptized in September 1991. Joseph Goebbels was baptized in January 1990. Heinrich Himmler was baptized in May 1990 and Hermann Goering in March 1991. Hitler, however, was apparently not baptized.

    “We would try and control the baptism of any person like Hitler, who would be considered an evil person and would not be an officially approved candidate for baptism,” said [Elder Monte] Brough. Perhaps the others “had a descendant who felt that the ordinances of baptism would be helpful,” he said.

    Source: Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “Mormons vow to end practice of baptizing Holocaust victims,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 30, 1995, p. 1

    Another article:

    Four years after the LDS Church agreed to stop posthumous baptisms for Jewish Holocaust victims, perhaps the best-known of death camp martyrs — Anne Frank and members of her family — continue to pop up in Mormon temple and genealogical records.

    Further, the records show temple work has also been done vicariously for the Holocaust’s chief perpetrator, Adolf Hitler, and many of his Nazi henchmen.

    Church officials acknowledge the renegade records are thorns in the flesh, but they insist they have done their best to honor their 1995 agreement to keep Holocaust victims out of temple rites — and to eradicate records for “fictitious or inappropriate” figures, like Hitler, when they are discovered.
    ….
    It took only seconds recently to retrieve Der Fuehrer’s record — and that of wife Eva Braun — from the LDS Church’s Ancestral File via the FamilySearch Internet site ( http://www.familysearch.org ). The records also listed two men as having provided the most recent of recurring Hitler-Braun files.

    One, a Salt Lake City man, insisted he had neither submitted nor done proxy temple work for Hitler and Braun, and that his name was being used by someone else. The second man, however, acknowledged having been baptized for Hitler and several of his lieutenants — among them Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhardt Heydrich and Joseph Goebbels — in the Los Angeles Temple.

    “I firmly believe [Hitler] will be in Outer Darkness [the Mormon equivalent of hell],” said the man, a longtime LDS Church member who agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity. “But I’m not the judge.”

    The man said any doubts he had about the submissions eased when, riding up a temple elevator, he saw a plaque containing a quotation from the church’s canonical Doctrine and Covenants: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

    Apparently, that decision has already been made in the case of Hitler and his minions. While their names may still pop up, periodically submitted by diehard genealogists, Purdy said any temple work done for them is for naught.

    Recognizing their crimes against humanity, particularly Holocaust victims, submissions for Nazi leaders are deemed inappropriate to a rite originated out of members’ love for, and desire to perform sacred temple rites for, their ancestral dead.

    “Policy is to remove them as soon as possible. Moreover, in the case of the names in question, Hitler, Eichmann, etc., the temple ordinance work for these individuals has already been nullified,” Purdy said.

    Source: Bob Mims, “LDS Struggle to Keep Proxy Baptisms Appropriate,” Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 9, 1999, p. C1

  21. Justin, thanks for that extensive article quote. Personally it is a relief to know the Church policy on the matter. And thanks to Jim Richens for his thoughts too. They’ve been helpful.

  22. Cool… thanks for those articles.

    Just a little clarification, however. Ancestral File is not the record of Temple work – the IGI (International Genealogical Index) is. Ancestral File is made up of voluntary submissions by genealogists from around the world. It normally does not include any ordinance data. The IGI, however, is made up specifically of records of Temple ordinances. When you get a card scanned at the Temple, the record eventually winds up in the IGI. The ordinance data itself, however, is not normally available online.

  23. Jim Richens: Trust me… you don’t have to worry about Elvis’s Temple work. He’s been to the Temple more often than half your ward has been so far this year.

    And he’s not even dead yet. That’s amazing!

  24. The IGI, however, is made up specifically of records of Temple ordinances. When you get a card scanned at the Temple, the record eventually winds up in the IGI. The ordinance data itself, however, is not normally available online.

    The IGI ordinance data is available online if you are an LDS church member and have registered at http://www.familysearch.org using your confirmation date and unique LDS membership number which is available from your ward membership clerk.

  25. Tess, #18, isn’t it ironic that one of the things that has been a factor in the persecution of the Jews for centuries, their insistence that they are God’s Chosen, that they have some insight into the truth that others don’t, is the same thing that gives offense to them about the LDS practice of proxy baptism.

    We always risk offending when we preach the gospel. Look at the connotations of the word “preach” itself. Our missionary work, for both the living and the dead,is so easily perceived by those we preach to as showing our audacity, being presumptuous. And it is presumptuous. But if we believe the Gospel is true and restored, our burden to preach is self-evident, no?

    That’s not to say we should necessarily plow ahead regardless of what our Jewish friends think. But it illustrates the quandry this issue presents.

  26. Brian- I find it unfortunate that you insinuate that the Jewish people themselves were responsible for the murderous persecutions committed against them for centuries because of the Jewish belief that they are God’s chosen people. Don’t Mormons also believe that their religion is the “only true” religion on the earth today? By your reasoning, the Mormons themselves were then responsible for the persecutions against them which drove them out of Illinois and Missouri to seek refuge in Utah. We should never assume these persecutions are justfied solely because a particular religion has unusual or offensive religious beliefs.

    We are not “preaching the gospel” to dead Jews, we are converting dead Jews to Christianity, without their consent (because they are dead), and over the objections of their living relatives. From a Jewish perspective, this crosses the line from preaching the gospel to imposing the gospel on those who cannot make the decision whether or not to accept it.

    We could continue on in this argument, but I think it’s fairly clear that the Church should institute processes to stop this from happening.

  27. Tess,

    Brain mentioned “one of the things that has been a factor in the persecution of the Jews.” Under that reasoning, yes, it is also true that the Mormon invasion of lands in Missouri and Illinois played a factor in their persecution.

    And that is actually a good point Brian about the irony.

    Whether we baptize Jews or not, I sense that their problem is really with our very beliefs. We can put off baptizing Jews till later, that’s not a problem. Millions of other people in the spirit world have to wait, the Jews can wait too. (Especially since it’s their own descendants making them wait.)

    But whether or not we actually baptize, we still believe that Jews – even Holocaust victims – are being converted to Christianity up there. And that’s a belief that’s simply not going to change, however upset other people get about it.

  28. If you find it troubling that proxy ordinances have been performed for Hitler and Stalin and other notorious sinners, just stop and consider that we believe that all of them are already beneficiaries of the greatest proxy ordinance ever performed, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    As Paul wrote, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t (and still doesn’t complain) that we don’t deserve that ordinance. He simply said “Father, thy will be done.”

  29. My understanding is that the atonement does not (always?) cover the sin of murder and that consequently someone who has committed murder might be refused the ordinance of baptism. Of course I am speaking of the living. Does anyone have information about this policy? I only have very limited anecdotal evidence (i.e., one mission experience) to base this on.

    If this is true (and I’m willing to admit I’m wrong) then I’m not sure why this sort of policy wouldn’t also apply to those who are dead — most especially those who are guilty of genocide. Barring personalities such as Hitler or Stalin from temple ordinances, in my opinion, would mean that we are setting the threshold very very low. One doesn’t necessarily have to be full of the spirit of malice and anger to do this — it might simply be a matter of common sense. Even if one does have anger in his/her heart it seems to me that when facing certain realities, righteous indignation is the only appropriate response.

    We shouldn’t forget that Jesus refused to speak to Herod and that in certain circumstances prophets have been commanded to be silent in the face of unusual barbarity and cruelty. For example, once atrocities at Ammonihah took place I don’t believe Alma or Zeezrom had any notion in their minds at all that the souls of perpetrators (those that burned the Saints alive) were saveable.

  30. The church handbook states: “A person who has been convicted of, or who has confessed to, murder (even in private confessions to a priesthood leader) may not be baptized unless the First Presidency gives permission.”

  31. Thanks Justin. My response to that then is that anyone who is proven to have deliberately killed millions of people should not receive proxy temple ordinances without express permission from the First Presidency. Of course only the First Presidency could determine that … but it seems to be a logical corollary to the Church baptism policy for the living.

  32. I think Jesus’s brief interactions with Herod are significant in the manner that we should deal with cruel tyrants. Jesus contemptuously referred to Herod as “that fox.” When brought into Herod’s presence, Jesus refused to even speak with him. Here are the two references:

    Luke 13:31-33
    31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
    32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be aperfected.
    33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

    Luke 23:8-9
    8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some amiracle done by him.
    9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

    If Jesus would refuse to even speak with Herod, how much less then would Jesus be inclined to proffer Herod the ordinance of baptism or other sacred ordinances? I don’t doubt at all that Jesus would feel the same contempt towards cruel figures such as Hitler and Stalin.

  33. There’s certainly precedent for delay in performing the work for individuals well outside the category that would include folks like Hitler and Stalin. Witness the fact that in August 1877, Wilford Woodruff acted as proxy in vicarious baptisms for all dead U.S. presidents except Buchanan and Van Buren. Their work was not done until the 1930s.

  34. “Wilford Woodruff acted as proxy in vicarious baptisms for all dead U.S. presidents except Buchanan and Van Buren”

    The reason why WW didn’t want Presidents Buchanan and Van Buren to be baptized is because these presidents opposed polygamy, and sat idly by while the Church was being persecuted.

    However, given time and perspective, we have a more charitable view of these men.

    This is a telling example of why we should not be in charge of judging who is and who is not worthy to be baptized posthumously.

  35. The Church has provided a news release on the results of their meetings with Jewish leaders. The net upshot is the formation of an LDS/Jewish committee to oversee or audit Church Family History efforts. The newsroom web page also has links to other interesting material related to this topic.

    One interesting point that I saw in some of the linked information was that in 1995, the Church committed to removing the names of Holocaust victims from the IGI, but there was not indicattion that the ordinances themselves were not rescinded. If this is true, then Mormons could conclude that those Holocaust victims still have opportunity to accept those ordinances – no Eternal damage has been done. On the other hand, removal “from public display” of those records might be understood by some Jews to be deceptive on the part of the Church.

    I also detected a stronger sense that the Church feels that it is bending over backwards to assuage Jewish concerns, but that it will only bend so far. It may have been that some Jews felt that the Church had changed its policies – perhaps even its doctrine – about never baptizing another deceased Jew again. But this is not the case, and so long as the submitter is a direct descendent, deceased Jews will continue to be baptized for the dead.

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