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I'm hoping I can get some insight from my friends of different beliefs. For some background, in my faith, we believe that everyone needs to be baptized in order to reach the highest levels of heaven. But there's a little problem-most people in the history of the world haven't had a chance to be baptized. Rather than automatically excluding them, we believe that they can learn of our beliefs after they die and choose to accept them at that point. However, they still need to be baptized, and that's something that needs to happen with a physical body. So we do proxy baptisms using names of dead people so that they're covered if they do choose to accept our beliefs, since we have no way of knowing who has and hasn't chosen to accept our beliefs. This does nothing under our beliefs unless they do make that choice. They don't become Mormon. They don't get put on our list of members. They just get put in a database saying it's been done so people don't do it over and over for the same people. And if we really are the nutjobs people think we are and everything we believe is wrong, obviously it does nothing in that case either.

Some people are apparently very, very offended by this. I've always had a very hard time understanding why. Obviously, if they're offended, they don't think our beliefs are correct, so why would they think it does anything? Some people have even recently made a website listing names of dead church leaders and declaring that they are now gay, apparently to try to make us see how offensive we are. I still don't get it. I'm not offended by that website, because I don't believe the people maintaining it have the power to make Joseph Smith and Brigham Young gay. So do these people really think we have the power to make dead people, who might not even exist anymore in any form, Mormon? If not, what's there to be offended about?

I'm genuinely trying to understand the problem here, because every time this becomes a controversy, I'm very confused. Now, I absolutely think the Church should follow the agreements it has made (and my understanding is they've revoked the privileges of doing proxy work for the guy responsible for the latest group of Holocaust victims who had work done). I just don't get why anyone cares at all. It seems to me if we're right, it means people have a chance to progress farther in the next life, and if we're wrong, then we've wasted our time with a meaningless prayer. What am I missing here?

Date: 2012-03-16 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Frankly, people need to get over themselves. If someone wants to perform a proxy baptism, let them. If someone wants to pray for a friend or a neighbor, let them. If someone wants to do a little ritual to bless someone else, let them. Why is any of this offensive? It's not. It's not their business. It's someone else following their own beliefs, and if that bothers you, just ignore it. It affects you in no way whatsoever. If nothing else, it's a kind gesture on the part of whoever is doing whatever it is that they're doing - they obviously care enough to be doing something they view as beneficial. It's not malicious, it's quite the opposite. So why on earth is that a bad thing?

People get way too uppity over religious stuff. It's like a conversation I had with a friend just last night, about how they want to change the dating system so it doesn't refer to religious figures. Which is completed idiotic, since the dates are still based off said religious figure, but the terminology is different. But, y'know, heaven forbid we refer to Christ! It's so offense! Dude. It's how it's been done for hundreds of years. Get the fuck over it. Same goes for stuff like Christmas trees and all that. Yes, I see where you're coming. Suddenly deciding that oh noes, it's so offensive, blah blah blah... whatever. Call it what you want, but don't get all offended by me calling it what I want either. I'm not forcing anything on you, I'm calling it what I was raised to call it, because people have been doing it for years and years and years. It has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Or at least, that's my opinion on the matter.

Now, to be completely objective about it, I might understand someone having concerns if they were part of a religion that was super strict about... like, I dunno, conflicting stuff done. I can't even go into detail on that, because I can't think of anything off the top of my head (and I'm admittedly doing a really quick reply since I shouldn't be replying at all, I should be doing schoolwork...) but there is that. Although even that leaves me a bit skeptical, because, as you said, it's not like you're forcing anything on anyone. You don't ninja turn anybody Mormon, or Christian, or Buddhist, or whatever, without their knowledge and consent. Or at least, most "common" religions don't work like that. In the situation of one that... I don't know, is very superficial? or something like that, maybe you can theoretically be that religion just because JimmyBob says you are. But again, I'm not familiar with anything of the sort so the idea seems rather bizarre to me. That might be a legit reason to have concern about other people "tampering" with your beliefs.

On a whole, though, it seems like whatever anybody does in their own personal time as far as religions go is their business and only their business. It's one thing if someone is on their deathbed and specifically states that they don't want anybody praying over them. Yes, that's a respect thing. If someone else decides to pray, or whatever, for someone in the privacy of their own home or religious building or whatnot, who cares? As I said before, if nothing else it's a nice gesture, even if the recipient doesn't agree with it.

Long and ranty and probably not very coherent, I apologize.

Date: 2012-03-17 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! While I still don't have an understanding of why people have a problem with it, it's nice to hear a similar viewpoint on the matter from someone without my inherent positive bias towards the practice.

Date: 2012-03-16 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't really like the idea, but as you said, I know (or think!) it does nothing, so what's the harm? It's like when people say they'll pray for me, it makes me frown in my head, but I don't verbally attack them for it, since what's it going to do? If they want to waste their time... it's their time to waste.

There's always the chance I'm wrong, too. In which case: Thanks! Not just to you folks, but to any group that cared and tried.

Live and let live. So long as it's something like proxy baptisms that I don't even have to know about, I don't care. Someone gets in my face and tells me I'm going to hell because of X reasons? Totally different. I can't really see why anyone would be offended by the baptism thing.

Date: 2012-03-17 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thistle, you said exactly what I was trying to say... only much better. Heh. Thank you.

Date: 2012-03-17 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ha ha, I thought your comment was better-written than mine! So I guess we're even? :D

Date: 2012-03-17 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I liked and appreciated both comments, so it's all good, right? :)

Date: 2012-03-17 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That works for me! :)

Date: 2012-03-17 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, the people who harass others and declare they're hellbound and such are highly irritating. But the proxy work only even happens for dead people, so if we're wrong, the people it's being done for probably never know anyway, since they're either are gone entirely or in a totally different state from what we believe in. And technically, we're only supposed to do it for people we're related to, even if distantly. People being people, that isn't always adhered to (hence the on again off again controversy that happens regarding Holocaust victims), but that's the actual rule, so in many cases, it's not like it's going to happen for a lot of the offended people anyway.

Date: 2012-03-17 09:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I might be able to shed a little light on this one; the answer is 'boundaries'.

The best way to answer it, though, is by asking 'Would you like it if someone decided to convert you to Shi'ite Islam without your permission?'

Date: 2012-03-17 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I don't believe that someone could convert me to anything without my permission. Conversion implies a conscious choice on the part of the individual involved. If someone decides to declare that I'm now a Shi'ite Muslim, I honestly don't care, because someone else can't change my beliefs. We don't believe that we're changing people's beliefs at all or forcing them to join the Mormon church. We don't count the people we do this for on any lists of members. We don't believe them to be part of the church unless they choose to accept it, and since we don't know if they have or not, we don't consider them Mormon.

Date: 2012-03-17 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Before I start, please forgive me. Religion is one of those topics never discussed in polite company in case offense is given; if I offend, it was in an attempt to explain. Your faith gives you strength and a particular worldview, and is just as valid as mine, however this comes across.


The way I was raised - Church of England, which is quite close to Catholicism in some ways - a baptism is very much an indoctrination. A baby can't agree to be baptised, but it's done with the consent of the guardian so the child's soul will go to heaven if it dies. It's a very potent ritual if you actually look at and believe in the spiritual implications, it's usually performed on those unable to comprehend the ramifications, and in my view it is not something that should be done to an adult without that adult's express permission.

Seyrah made my point far eloquently than I can, not least because post-mortem baptism is a practice I find instinctively abhorrent. To me, you're interfering with someone's immortal soul because you think you know what's best for it, and even with the best of intentions, that comes off as a little arrogant.

Praying for me is something different, it's asking a favour of your deity on my behalf; that sort of thing is mildly embarrassing to me, but I'm always embarrassed when people ask favours of others on my behalf. The formal rituals of a church, however, are reordering the spiritual world to align something with the particular version of God that you follow - but I have my own version of the power known as 'deity', and I know that mine is 'right', in the same way you know yours is 'right'. I'm not going to get offended if someone prays for me, but if someone tries to directly intercede on my behalf and realign my soul to something that's not my deity when I haven't said they can, I'm going to get annoyed whether they can achieve it or not, and whether I'm alive or not.

I understand why you do it for those who died in ignorance of your faith, and who cannot consent because they're already dea - the intent of helping them to heaven is entirely laudable - but that doesn't mean I can agree with the practice. I see the belief that it's a contract between two willing parties that you're offering as intercession - if you have to do it, I believe that's the least abhorrent way to go about it - but one of the key tenets of my own personal faith is that I trust a truly loving God to have contingency plans for the massively overwhelming majority of souls who never got the chance to hear The Message, not just those who're related to Mormons.

Date: 2012-03-17 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You mention God's contingency plan for those who never had the chance to hear The Message, and for Mormons, baptisms for the dead is the contingency plan. The Bible is quite clear that those who don't believe and aren't baptized will be damned, with no qualifying exceptions. But how could a God who is just and fair allow so many billions of people to live on the earth without a chance to believe and be baptized? Baptism for the dead is the answer. Paul mentions it while teaching the universality of the resurrection; Peter said that Jesus taught the spirits in prison between the time of his crucifixion and resurrection. The practice is completely in harmony with Biblical doctrines.

Mormons also don't believe in infant baptism. It's an ordinance intended for those who are capable of believing and repenting; the minimum age has been set at eight years old. Certainly an infant isn't capable of consenting to baptism and all that comes with it, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from making that choice for their own children.

I wouldn't be offended if someone declared me to be a member of their church, posthumously or not. I don't think other churches have the divine authority to make binding priesthood ordinances, so my reaction to their attempts to include me would range from amusement to indifference.

Date: 2012-03-18 12:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you again. No offense has been taken, and I hope I have not given any in turn.

Thank you for the reminder about infant baptism. The idea is so abhorrent to what we believe I had forgotten about it when thinking about the issue, because we believe agency and choice is so important in this life. We don't baptize anyone without consent. In fact, for the mentally disabled who are judged unable to give that consent, we wait to do so until after they have died, when we believe they will have the ability to decide whether to accept it or not. As Eric stated, we believe this is the contingency plan set in place by God, because just as you state, we trust a loving God to ensure everyone has a chance for eternal happiness. The relatives policy in place now is due to people of other faiths being uncomfortable with the practice. We believe when Christ comes again and the Millenium begins that those sort of issues will be sorted out, as well as getting the information for those who existed before written records.

Date: 2012-03-18 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eh, I was baptized as an infant and I'm still going to hell, for what it's worth. ;-)

This is why churches that practice infant baptism do generally have mechanisms in place for confirming or rejecting the sacrament later in life. So, I was baptized Catholic. I even got my first communion. But before it came time for me to confirm myself as a member of the church, I made use of my free will and got the heck out of there.

Date: 2012-03-17 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, so I'll try to be as respectful as possible while still addressing your question. I can only speak for myself, as an agnostic. To clarify my beliefs, I do not know if there's an afterlife, or a God, etc. I'm willing to entertain theories, but that doesn't mean I accept any given one. I haven't found one that I totally agree with yet.

You're right that I think it doesn't do anything when you baptise a dead person. Similarly, you could stuff communal wafers into my kid's mouth all day and I wouldn't feel she's eaten the body of Christ, but I still don't want her being stuffed with wafers; and you could baptize everyone on earth and it wouldn't change a thing about our immortal destinies, or whatever. I don't object to my Dad praying for me, which he often says he's doing. I wouldn't object to people in your church praying for me. I would not like them to baptise me, however, alive or dead.

This may seem identical to you--prayer and baptism--but it's not. The concept of baptism feels different to those outside your faith because to most religions, baptism is a sacrament that is willingly undergone, and that changes them. You feel it changes them, too, or you wouldn't be doing it. So, it's offensive not because the baptised person would have felt that it had power over them, but rather that you think it has power over them and you're doing it without their consent, which in many cases they would not give. I don't want to be on a list of Mormons even if that list has no power to actually make me a Mormon. I similarly don't want to be on a list of, say, people who voted for Obama, or people who support the NRA, or people who bought Justin Beiber's album, even if I know the list is wrong. I'd politely ask to be removed. If I'm dead, I can't even politely ask.

If you have a chance to spread the good news to people during their lifetime, and they accept it, fine. But for the rest of us, assume we've heard the pitch, don't like it, and leave us and our immortal souls alone, please.

Date: 2012-03-17 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you very much for your comment. I think I've figured out why I've had such a hard time understanding. You see, we don't think the baptisms have power unless the person in question accepts it. Since baptism is a covenant with God, if one party refuses to accept the agreement, it doesn't happen. From our perspective, we're just writing up the contract, so to speak, and handing it to the person to sign or not. If they don't sign, the contract means nothing. To clarify, the names we do this with are not put on a list of Mormons. In the database of geneological work we keep, a notation is just added if the work has been done.

As an aside, I'd also like to note that the vast majority of names we do this with were born and died before our church existed, so they /didn't/ have a chance to hear about it. That's the whole point, to give those who didn't have a chance before a chance. Unless you have Mormon relatives at some point, it shouldn't be done for you anyway. I really couldn't say what our policies are going to be in another two hundred years. Obviously at that point, plenty of people will have had a chance and chosen otherwise. Hopefully my descendents will take that into account.

Date: 2012-03-18 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe if you gave people a chance to be on a do-not-baptize list, that would be nice. I'd sign up. :-)

I was thinking a little more about this, and it occurred to me that there's also a problem with the notion of a "proxy" in this case. Whether you're talking about board meetings or Magic: the Gathering, a proxy is a stand-in for the real thing that can be treated, for all intents and purposes, as the real thing. That implies some obligation of the proxy to know the will of the person they are standing in for. A proxy for me would say "no, thank you." I suppose it might be one thing for a person's child and heir, who knew them intimately, to say, "Dad would've wanted to be baptized, but never got a chance." But to do this for people long dead whom you never knew, or even a long-lost, recently-deceased relative, feels wrong.

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