Did you know that the Mormons do, or once did, baptize the dead retroactively into the Mormon faith? I had forgotten about this until Maureen Dowd reminded me in her column today:
Hitchens noted that they “got hold of a list of those put to death by the Nazis’ Final Solution” and “began making these massacred Jews into honorary LDS members as well.” He called it “a crass attempt at mass identity theft from the deceased.”
The Mormons even baptized Anne Frank.
It took Ernest Michel, then chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, three years to get Mormons to agree to stop proxy-baptizing Holocaust victims.
Mormons desisted in 1995 after Michel, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, “discovered that his own mother, father, grandmother and best childhood friend, all from Mannheim, Germany, had been posthumously baptized.”
Michel told the news agency that “I was hurt that my parents, who were killed as Jews in Auschwitz, were being listed as members of the Mormon faith.”
Richard Bushman, a Mormon who is a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, said that after “the Jewish dust-up,” Mormons “backed away” from “going to extravagant lengths to collect the names of every last person who ever lived and baptize them — even George Washington.” Now they will do it for Mormons who bring a relative or ancestor’s name into the temple, he said.
Well, that’s big of them. But seriously, I’m trying to find a reason to care about this, but I can’t. If I found out that the Mormons had posthumously made my old grand-pap into a Latter-Day Saint, my reaction would be, “Mmmph,” and, if I had been drinking milk when I learned that, I’d probably have to get a napkin to dab the stuff off my beard and waistcoat. I mean, honestly: who cares? I think Mormonism, as a theology, is nonsense on stilts, and if they want to go into their temples and baptize my deceased relations, I can’t say that it makes me happy, but I can’t say either that it bothers me one way or another. I don’t believe it has any effect at all on the souls of my dead relatives.
There is a degree of disrespect for other religious traditions present here, but if you really believed that this was necessary to help the souls of the departed move on to a better place in the afterlife, would it really be worth it to condemn them to suffering to respect the misguided views of non-LDS mortals? Again, I think Mormonism’s teachings about the afterlife, and most everything else, are untrue, and posthumous baptism of non-Mormons nothing more than a fond hope and gesture by Mormons. Why am I supposed to be scandalized by this? If a Mormon takes a picture of me with a camera, is he going to steal my soul? Help me out here.