French translation here
Mormons believe that the spirits of the dead can be baptized, allowing them to accept Jesus as their savior and thus enter heaven. Mormons think this is an improvement over mainstream Christianity, which teaches that those who do not accept Jesus as their savior are condemned to hell even if they merely lived in the wrong place at the wrong time and thus never even heard of Christianity.
Furthermore, Mormons believe that people living today can baptize the spirits of the dead, or accept baptism for them. The primary recipients of posthumous baptism are the ancestors of living Mormons, hence the Mormon genealogical database.
Finally, Mormons believe that the spirits of the dead have the power to reject Jesus. So posthumous baptism does not conscript people into heaven. It merely offers them a chance to receive salvation, which they can reject if they wish.
Personally, I am not too concerned what happens to me after I die. I would like my body to be cremated. I would like there to be a memorial service, and I don’t want it to be a “celebration of life” either. I want it to be somber, because I rather hope that I will be missed. Eventually, my name will be forgotten, just like Marcus Aurelius says it will. But it would be nice to delay oblivion as long as the Sage Emperor has. On matters spiritual, I confess that I am very interested in the possible survival of the spirit after death. But I remain an agnostic on the matter. All told, I don’t worry too much about what will happen to me after death, because I suspect that I really will be dead.
The last thing I am worried about is being posthumously baptized in a Mormon temple somewhere. I have been dodging Mormon missionaries my whole life. But I can’t really get mad at them for trying one last time. After all, I don’t really think they can send me to heaven. If I believed that, I would be a Mormon today. So I really think that posthumous baptism is all in their heads. It is just one more quaint religious belief, like Buddhist prayer wheels and Egyptian gods with the heads of crocodiles and dogs. This this does not alter the fact that Mormons are among the finest people I know.
Although posthumous baptism cannot affect me in the next life, what do I think of it in this life? Frankly, I think the idea is rather sweet. It is an act of kindness. I don’t care if people try to baptize me after I am dead or pray for my salvation while I am living. That’s their opinion. It doesn’t affect me. And they have every right to go on believing what they do.
After all, it would be churlish to get angry at people who wish me well, even if their happy thoughts make no difference one way or another. It is also stupid to get angry about such things when there are people who wish me ill, and who are very effective at putting their thoughts into action. There is far too much real evil in this world.
Frankly, I would have to be hypersensitive, narcissistic, and aggressive — and have far too much time on my hands — to get excited about the menace of posthumous baptism. Only an asshole would make an issue of it.
But assholes are in plentiful supply. For instance, in a CBS News article from February 14, 2012, “Mormons Apologize for Baptizing Dead Jews,” we learn that the Mormon church has apologized to the family of Simon Wiesenthal for posthumously baptizing his parents. We also learn that this is not the first time that Jews have protested posthumous baptism. Apparently, in 1995 the Mormon church actually reached an agreement with Jewry promising not to baptize the spirits of dead Jews.
But this did not prevent Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal from being baptized by proxy in Mormon temples in Arizona and Utah in late January. “We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which operates a Museum of Tolerance.
In its apology, the Mormon church blamed the posthumous baptism on overzealous individuals who have been barred from future use of the Mormon genealogical database. Being entered into the database is the first step toward posthumous baptism. In 2010, the Mormon church made changes to its genealogical database to prevent Holocaust victims from being put on the queue for eternal salvation. But that is not enough.
The database is carefully monitored by a renegade ex-Mormon, Helen Radkey, who tattles to Jewish organizations when Jews are threatened with salvation. It was she who discovered the Wiesenthal outrage. And she also discovered that Elie Wiesel and several of his relatives have been placed in the database. (Wiesel, of course, is still alive, so perhaps he is at risk of being cast alive into the bliss of heaven.)
Jewish genealogist Gary Mokotoff thinks there need to be “consequences” for renegade Mormons who try to save Jews from hell: “If the word gets out that there are consequences, they’ll stop.” (When Jews start talking about consequences, I start thinking of the Gulag.)
Of course, no Jew believes that his departed relatives are actually being saved by Mormon posthumous baptism. Jews think that the whole thing is merely a silly belief that Mormons cooked up. So for Jews, the issue is not preventing fellow Jews from going to heaven. The issue is controlling what Mormons think about Jews. (In fairness to Jews, the Catholic church has also protested posthumous baptism, but apparently Catholics have not gone nearly as far as Jews.)
Unfortunately, the Mormon church is all too willing to let Jews control their thoughts. If the leaders of the Mormon church actually believe their theology, then their ban on posthumous baptism of Jews means that these individuals are being condemned to hell. By banning Mormons who try to save Jews from using the church’s genealogical database, they are surely preventing the posthumous salvation of non-Jews as well. But apparently the Mormon church thinks that this is a small price to pay to appease the lords of this world.
The only sincere people in this whole fiasco are the renegade Mormons who apparently believe their church’s teachings about posthumous baptism and are also innocent enough to believe the teachings of Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal that Jews, especially Holocaust victims and survivors, are such select and holy people that they deserve special treatment to get them into heaven.