Monday, September 6, 2010

Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Protests LDS Church's Use Of Deceased Records To Perform Vicarious Ordinances For The Dead

On September 6th, 2010, Hurriyet Daily News reports that the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is criticizing the Estonian Ministry of the Interior for allowing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints access to records that may be being used to perform baptisms or other vicarious ordinances on behalf of deceased Estonians. This was also published on August 31st by the Baltic Reports website.

The Estonian government has had a cooperation agreement with the LDS Church in place since the early 1990s that allows the Church to copy Estonian state archives to Mormon databases. The Ministry of the Interior reportedly receives millions of Estonian krooni from the Church in exchange for the access. The Interior Ministry and the Tallinn City Archive and Estonian Historical Archives both signed a contract with the LDS-run non-profit Genealogical Society of Utah, which is dedicated to preserving the records of the families to help people connect with their ancestors by facilitating easy access to historical records.

But money was not the only benefit, since the LDS Church also did all the legwork to digitalize the data and make it available for Estonians to trace their ancestry and find out about their family histories. In addition, state archivist Priit Pirsko said that the Mormons’ technological capability is tens of times greater than Estonia's own capability, leading to the proposal to exchange digital copies.

But Arho Tuhkru, a spokesman for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, thinks the motive of the Mormons in keeping the records is dubious. “The reason that they committed their activities for the dead as well is not justified,” Tuhkru told Baltic Reports. “Their theological justification and appeal to free will is clumsy.” Tuhkru further explained that as church records belonged to their congregations previously before being archived by the state under the Soviet regime, it would have been natural for the government to ask permission from the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as Roman Catholic Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the most attended in Estonia, with 15 percent of the population currently members.

Estonian LDS spokesman Erki Koiv said, “We believe that all people should be baptized and one opportunity is to do it on Earth”. According to official LDS statistics as of December 31st, 2009, there are 1,010 members of the LDS Church in Estonia scattered among five congregations. An official Estonian-language LDS website is also available HERE.

To help clear up consistent confusion about this process, I've added some additional information. The following ordinances are performed vicariously for the dead in an LDS temple:

1. Baptism
2. Confirmation and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost
3. Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men)
4. Washing and anointing (initiatory)
5. Endowment
6. Marriage sealing

These ordinances do NOT result in the deceased becoming actual members of the LDS Church. Their names are NOT added to the membership rolls. Furthermore, we believe the ordinances themselves are not effective unless or until the persons for whom they are performed accept them in the spirit world. As LDS members, we are counseled not to try to determine their worthiness, whether they will accept the ordinances, or the feelings of other deceased persons affected by the ordinances. In order to be binding in eternity, any ordinance in behalf of the dead must be accepted by the people involved, merited by individual worthiness, and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (see D&C 132:7, 18). These determinations must be made beyond the veil.


Carla said...

Just another sad example of the lds institution disrespecting and refusing to acknowledge the religious choices people made while they were alive.

Jack Mormon said...

Carla - you blew right past my explanation at the end. It doesn't change their religion. Their names are NOT added to LDS rolls. The ordinances are of no effect unless the deceased accept them in the spirit world.

Now, what is so difficult about that concept to grasp?

Carla said...

I know what the lds belief is. I comprehend and understand it. I disagree with your opinion about it. That perspective and opinion about what the practice of proxy rituals means, and how it affects other people and their living loved ones, is not the only perspective and opinion, nor is it the only valid view. How something makes other people feel is not up for debate; it's just a fact.

How I would feel, for instance, if I found out my in-laws had performed those rituals on my deceased grandpa or grandma, is that they were saying my grandparents' choices in regards to faith and religion were all a big mistake that needed to be corrected by the mormons. It's no different than if, when/if my husband dies, I tried to give him a Catholic funeral when he's explicitly made it clear that he does not believe in the Catholic church. Even if I had that kind of faith in Catholicism, which I don't, I would respect the beliefs I know my husband has and give him a non-religious burial.

Obviously you feel differently, that's fine. You can believe and feel however you want and do whatever makes you happy, just don't expect people to agree when they feel they've been wronged.

Jack Mormon said...

I just wanted to make it clear for the record that no disrespect for the deceased is intended by the practice of proxy ordinances.

If you continue to object notwithstanding, there's obviously nothing I can do about that. But as a society, we have been taught to become easily offended. That does not serve us well in the long run.