This post is not an answer to the broader and really altogether different question “Do Mormons baptized dead people?” which I’ve already answered here. Rather it’s a question I’m asking. In recent years there has been some controversy over posthumous baptisms being performed by Mormons on behalf of deceased Jewish persons, including Anne Frank.
I’ve tried to understand why anyone would be offended by this, and I still struggle somewhat with understanding it. In my discussions with others on this matter one person asked me “Wouldn’t you be offended if Catholics told you that they baptized your grandmother into their church after she died, and that she’s now a Catholic?”
First off, this question misrepresents what we Mormons do in our baptisms. We do not baptize the dead into our religion. We perform a baptism, but it could be rejected by the dead person. They are not forced into being a Mormon. They are not automatically members of our church. Your ancestors could be on the other side watching us perform their baptism and be saying “Naw…I’m good.” We Mormons, as we see it, are merely making the baptism available to those who have passed on. It’s up to them to accept it.
But second, and more to my point, why would anyone be offended by the acts of a religion they don’t believe is true, and which are done in a private, non-confrontational way. Sure, I don’t believe the Westboro Baptist Church is the true church of God, but the only thing that offends me about them is that they get in people’s faces and disturb funeral ceremonies that should be private, solemn affairs. If they want to preach hate in their congregation amongst themselves I think they’re wrong, but to each his own.
Mormons don’t perform baptisms and then rub it in the face of anyone saying “Hey, guess what? Your grandma’s a Mormon now!” Nobody would know if it weren’t for people who are trying to stir up controversy going and digging up the info. If someone in the Catholic Church told me they had baptized my dead grandmother and she was now a Catholic, I’d recognize that they think they’ve done something to help my grandmother, and I would honor their intent by thanking them for their kindness and concern. It’s the same if someone not of my faith tells me they’re praying on my behalf that I might leave the Mormonism and come to a knowledge of the truth. I thank them for their concern, even if I believe it to be unfounded. And so I’m puzzled as to why anyone would get offended over Mormons performing baptisms on behalf of Jews. It seems that rather than getting offended they would say “Aw, those crazy Mormons, what will they think of next? Well, bless their hearts, at least they have good intentions and make good cookies, even if many of them seem to be baking with alternative sweeteners these days.”
Even though I don’t understand the reasons for taking offense I understand that people are offended and so I agree with the LDS Church’s decision to restrict the process. One doesn’t have to understand another’s position in order to be sensitive to it, and I am. But I would like to understand, and if you think you can clarify things for me please do.