Monday, February 13, 2012

LDS Member Performs Proxy Baptism On Simon Wiesenthal's Parents, Simon Wiesenthal Center Erupts And Demands LDS Church Abandon Proxy Baptism

A professional Jewish lobby is howling about another proxy baptism of a Jew by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An unidentified LDS member apparently performed a proxy baptism, or baptism for the dead, for the parents of Holocaust icon Simon Wiesenthal; Wiesenthal's mother was murdered at the Belzec concentration camp in 1942. The baptism was performed sometime during January 2012. Proxy baptism does not make the deceased a member of the Church nor add the decedent's name to the rolls; the ordinance becomes valid only if the beneficiary in the spirit world accepts it.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center found out about it, but instead of quietly notifying the LDS Church of the problem and resolving it behind the scenes, decided to transform the minor drama into a full-blown crisis. On February 9th, 2012, the Center issued an inflammatory and hysterical statement in which they lashed out at the Church, claiming further communication was useless, and impetuously demanding that the Church change their doctrine and stop all proxy baptisms period. Here's the applicable part of the statement:

“We note that these rites were undertaken and confirmed in Mormon Temples in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho. Further meetings with Church leaders on this matter are useless. The only way such insensitive practices would finally stop is if Church leaders finally decided to change their practices and policies on posthumous baptisms, a move which this latest outrage proves that they are unwilling to do. We are grateful to activist Helen Radkey for exposing the latest outrage.”

Note that the Simon Wiesenthal Center expresses gratitude to a sworn enemy of the LDS Church, Helen Radkey. Radkey has participated enthusiastically in the witch hunt against the Church over the proxy baptism issue, which heretofore had been led by the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors. Also note the phrase "if Church leaders finally decided to change their practices and policies on posthumous baptisms"; since the LDS Church already changed its policy to require Mormons to agree not to submit names of Holocaust victims or celebrities for proxy baptism unless those names are direct ancestors of the submitters, I can only interpret the Center's statement to mean that they want us to change our doctrine and abandon the practice of proxy baptism altogether.

Update February 15th: The Anti-Defamation League also issued its own statement, although their rhetoric was milder. They welcomed the LDS apology, and were willing to acknowledge that the Church is making an honest attempt to live up to their previous agreements with the Holocaust lobby. But they, too, call upon the LDS Church to revisit its theological position on posthumously baptizing Jews and other believers outside the Church, just as other religions have reconsidered centuries-old beliefs.

But before Jews start dictating to us about our religious doctrine, maybe they should clean their own theological house first. For example, in the Talmud, which is the second holiest book in Judaism behind the Torah, one rabbi promotes pedophilia. The following is recorded in Sanhedrin 55b:

R. Joseph said: Come and hear! A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition, and if her deceased husband's brother cohabits with her, she becomes his.

And get a load of this from Kethuboth 11b:

Raba said, It means this: When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing, for when the girl is less than this [less than three years old], it is as if one puts the finger into the eye [tears come to the eye again and again, so does virginity come back to the little girl under three years];

Absolutely disgusting. Other problems with the Talmud were documented by Rev. Ted Pike back in 2006. This is the type of stuff that sows the seeds of genuine anti-Semitism. But considering all this baggage carried around in the Talmud, I question what moral right Jews have to pass judgment upon our doctrine and practices. Fortunately, the attitudes of the Simon Wiesenthal Center towards Mormonism does not appear to be representative of the greater Jewish community.

The LDS Church chose to placate the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In an official statement, LDS spokesman Scott Trotter apologized, saying that the LDS Church sincerely regretted that the actions of an individual member led to the inappropriate submission of these names in violation of Church policy. Trotter characterized it as a serious breach of protocol, and said the Church has indefinitely suspended the member's ability to access genealogy records.

Here was one good comment posted to the Tribune story:

Bill Kilpatrick February 13th 5:00 P.M:
I find it hard to get worked up about Mormons baptizing other Mormons in the name of non-Mormons who are dead and gone. I understand the argument that doing so is disrespectful - both of the dead, whose consent was never obtained, as well as of their families. On the other hand, it seems a little silly to get so worked up over something Mormons are doing to one another within their own sacred precincts. They're not robbing graves. They're not adding the names to the membership numbers. They're simply checking off that they have performed the perfunctory rite for and in behalf of each person they know of, on the hopes that if that person should change their mind in the afterlife, they'll be able to claim the baptism as their own. It's wishful thinking and the intent is simply to satisfy themselves that the offer was made. How narrow-minded does one have to be to demand that Mormons not practice their faith, particularly upon one another? How weak-minded is it to lose sleep over the possibility that in the afterlife, everybody secretly joins the Mormons?


Brett Cottrell said...

Can you blame the Mormons? They're just efficient: dead people (zombies) make the easiest converts.

Taylor Smith said...

It is very tiresome that people keep thinking that we are adding those baptized by proxy as members to the rolls for the numbers we announce to the world. We have no way of knowing for sure if somebody accepts the ordinance preformed for them, and would never presume to count them forever.

As for the silly charge often made that people in the future will somehow thing that these people were really Mormons when alive, the death date coming years before the baptism date should be a clue.

Finally, I am very amused about one important thing left out of the story: people often criticize the church for being too authoritarian and centralized, but in cases like these they demand more centralization and authoritarianism in forcing members to abide by Church policy. Anybody else see the irony?