Jews, Mitt Romney, and Baptism for the Dead

This week, Nobel prize-winning author of Night Elie Wiesel asked the LDS Church to stop doing proxy baptisms in its temples for Jewish Holocaust victims.  Apparently, an errant church member erroneously entered such a name into our database, though no baptism was actually performed, as that would have violated a church policy that already bars such work for Holocaust victims.

  • Baptism for the dead is being described in some places as an “obscure” practice (such as in this First Thoughts piece here), perhaps in an effort to make something so strange seem less embarrassing to Mormons, or to shield Mitt Romney’s faith from criticism.  On the contrary, baptism for the dead is so mainstream that congregations frequently organize trips for groups of teens to go to the temple to do them.  There’s no reason to hide a belief that’s actually quite wonderful.
  • The Mormon practice of baptizing people on behalf of those who have died is a means of answering the question, “Since Christ said everybody had to be baptized to be saved, what happens to people who died without the opportunity?”  This practice is the world’s only real answer to that: an attempt to offer a chance of salvation to those in the next world who would like it.  No wonder Joseph Smith wrote of baptism for the dead, “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of” but that it constitutes “a voice of gladness for the living and the dead.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 128:9, 19).