Over the last week or so I’ve noticed that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints (Mormons or LDS for short) have been taking a lot more heat than usual. This has been due in large part to their practice of doing baptisms for the dead. Particularly for baptising individuals of Jewish descent.
Because I was raised in the LDS faith this practice is not foreign to me and I even accept it. However, I can also understand why this practice would be disconcerting to many individuals. If I had not been raised in this faith I would probably think it was strange (and invasive) as well. But because of my upbringing I feel the need to shed a little light on the practice and the belief system that LDS individuals take part in.
It is the belief of LDS individuals (as well as many other Christians) that baptism is necessary to achieve exaltation. Within LDS doctrine it is believed that baptism by the proper authority will allow you to go to the Celestial Kingdom. The belief is that there are three levels of “heaven” (and in fact, hell isn’t even part of the equation) and the Celestial is the highest of the three. However, the other two levels are also pretty excellent. I believe at one point Joseph Smith had a vision of the Telestial Kingdom (the lowest of the three) and reported that it was so amazing that you would kill yourself to get there.
It is also the belief that baptism can only be performed on Earth and that after you have died another person has to participate in a very special and sacred ceremony for you to be baptised. It is due to the sacred nature of this ceremony that I will not be talking about it. I hope you understand. Of course, if you are the person being baptised for this person you may not have any idea as to whether or not they want to be baptised. This is where my third point comes into play.
You have the option, even after death, to accept the baptism. In the media the spin has been that the LDS church is “forcing” dead people to be Mormons. That is not the case. All this ceremony does is allow the desceased individual the option of accepting this baptism. They still have the ability to choose and nobody is forcing anything on anyone.
Again, I can totally understand why this practice may seem to be invasive (and even a little creepy.) I hope my short entry here has helped you to make sense of this media blowout and to be more educated about what individuals in the media are talking about.