How Can We Help the Dead Find Life?
So what’s the big deal about posthumous baptisms the Mormon’s are doing: Does it save dead people, is it something to get mad about, is it a scam or is it a huge yawn?
What they are doing
They have been holding ritual baptisms for people who are dead. Recently there has been controversy about some prominent people who have been processed by the church, much to the annoyance of their family members. For example: Mormons conducted a proxy baptism for the Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl last year. This follows earlier disclosures about baptisms for Jewish victims of the Holocaust - including Anne Frank and a parent of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
Why they are doing it
“For Mormons, baptizing the dead solves a big theological problem: How do billions of people who never had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ – including those who lived before Jesus walked the earth – receive salvation? By baptizing the dead, a practice known as posthumous proxy baptism, Mormons believe they are giving every person who ever lived the chance at everlasting life. That includes Muslims, Hindus, atheists, pagans, whoever.
“Mormons believe that there is a place the dead go where they are in ‘spirit prison’ and where they have the chance to accept the Christian baptism,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. “But it’s a duty to actually perform Christian ordinance of baptism, so Mormons seek out every last person who ever lived and baptize them.”
The church also has teams at headquarters in Salt Lake City that travel around the world to identify as many people as possible to baptize, whether or not they’re in the lineage of present-day Mormons. “The church is constantly going through parish records, wills, deeds and every other genealogical source so they can extract names and put these people through the temple process,” says Bushman.”
Their practice dates from their founder, Joseph Smith, and is based on their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. The problem with this “biblical basis” is that, apart from the vagueness of the reference and our complete lack on knowledge as to what Paul was referring, it is incredibly stupid to base any doctrine on only one verse in the bible. If it can’t be found in other places it is not a foundation for a doctrine and trying to make it so will lead into heresy and lunacy – which goes some way to explain why Joseph Smith was considered a heretic.There is no record of the early church doing what the Mormons are doing and there is no reason for them to have done so – the church is for the living, the dead can’t participate in it.
Why it ticks some people
The baptism struck a nerve with Pearl’s mother, Ruth Pearl. She said in a statement that while she knew Mormons had good intentions, and meant the baptism as a way to offer salvation, “rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled for ritual.” Pearl’s widow, Mariane Pearl, told CNN’s Brian Todd that whoever conducted the proxy baptism should have contacted the family out of respect. “I’m shocked by the fact anyone would do something like this,” she said.
Why it is meaningless
What is baptism all about anyway and does it mean anything if you are dead? Every baptism recorded in the bible involved people who were alive and who personally chose to be baptized. They clearly understood what they were doing and their baptism was a clear statement to all that they had chosen to repent of their sins and to follow Christ. There were no exceptions. A “baptism by proxy” is meaningless since the choice of the individual is required and it is the individuals who must act for themselves. You may have noticed that dead people have some difficulty making decisions – they are unable to choose baptism and they have difficulty authorizing a proxy! The harsh reality is that a dead person is exactly that, dead. The time for choices is past. It is appointed for humans to die once and after that comes judgment [Hebrews 9:27] There is no second chance, there can be no re-runs on life. Death works that way.
So: the dead individual can’t make a choice and no one can make the choice for them. Whatever someone says they are doing, their action can have no effect on the dead nor on the state of their salvation. The matter is entirely in God’s hands, it is absolute folly to think otherwise.
The Mormon’s can claim (or deny) they have baptized someone but it’s irrelevant. They are unable to change anything and their action (despite what they are claiming) does not make dead people members of their church nor does it bring them salvation. The fact that they even try to make such insane claims is a fair warning to all that their doctrines are wacky. This is the realm of fable and fairy tale, or spiritism and voodoo. Mormonism is a religion but, despite their claims about being Christians, their doctrines and beliefs are not based on the bible.
Whatever wacky things they claim to be doing it is in their own little world – it does not impact on the memory, heritage or wishes of the dead person. While their action is far out, it doesn’t change anything nor does it have any impact on the legacy of the dead. The dead have not really become members of the Mormon church. Nothing has happened. There’s no point being offended about nothing – better to laugh off their misguided stupidity and get on with life. Their action is disrespectful and it can add anguish to grieving families – feeling like a personal violation of the dead one – but in reality it is better dismissed as misguided, freeing the grieving to focus on things that matter.
Where do we land?
We recognize that many Mormons are sincere people who are diligently searching for truth. We see from their actions in such things as posthumous proxy baptisms that their beliefs are seriously out of line with scripture. We have nothing to fear from their rituals and claims. If it wasn’t such a hurtful notion for bereaved families we’d be able to treat this baptizing of the dead as a huge joke.
Posted on March 4, 2012, in Communicating faith and tagged Baptism for the dead, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Daniel Pearl, deception and false doctrine, empty ritual, finality of death, Mormon, salvation, spiritual confusion. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.