I have to say that I don’t really “get” non-member indignation over the LDS practice of baptism for the dead, brought into the spotlight recently due to the fact that someone in the church had Barack Obama’s late mother baptized posthumously last summer.
When I married a Mormon, I gave some serious consideration to whether or not I should tell my LDS relatives that it’s okay to do ordinance work for me when I die. If the claims of my own faith are true, baptism and other ordinances for the dead are a colossal waste of time. Perhaps it can have some level of personal value to the people who participate in it as they come away from it with a sense of having served God and helped other people, but even that could be a bad thing. They think they’re serving God and helping other people when they’re not. Should I really encourage that level of self-delusion?
I was born in Arkansas in 1982 to parents who can best be described as “bad Protestant,” but my mother’s father was a bit more devout. He wanted to have me baptized as an infant into the Nazarene church, so it was done, and he died not long afterward in 1984 due to complications from diabetes. I never knew him. As I’ve grown into an adult and carved my own path on faith and theology, I’ve come to reject paedobaptism in favor of believer’s baptism. I was baptized by immersion by my own choice when I was 12, and I don’t believe infant baptism is the proper way to perform the ordinance. Should I be indignant at my dead grandfather that he had that done to me when I was too young to consent?
Maybe I should be, but I’m not. I understand what my grandfather meant by it. It was love.
It’s springtime right now, and sometimes when we’re outdoors, my two year-old daughter runs around picking dandelions and brings them to me. She thinks they’re beautiful flowers, so she brings them to her favorite person in the world as a gift. She doesn’t understand that they’re weeds. Should I encourage that level of self-delusion? Shouldn’t I be saying, “Sweetie, don’t be stupid. Mommy doesn’t want these, they’re weeds.”
Well, I don’t. I think every dandelion she gives me is precious.
I told my LDS relatives they could go ahead and do ordinance work for me when I die. I think it’s useless, and I would rather they weren’t doing it, but thankfully for them, I worship a God who sees love where everyone else sees weeds.
One last thing. What about the notion that Mormons are making dead people of other faiths into Mormons? Is it okay for people of other faiths to be indignant about that?
That is one of the stupidest lines of reasoning I have ever heard in my life. If you don’t believe the ordinance has any power (and you don’t or you would be Mormon), what’s the problem? Your relatives aren’t actually becoming LDS. Let the Mormons have their weeds.
UPDATE: Welcome T&S readers!