Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Notice to the Mormon Church Leadership

As you may know, word has gotten out that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons, have been baptizing deceased Jews, including Holocaust survivors. Worse, they’ve been doing so even after promising to stop the practice; in the case of Anne Frank, they did so nine times.

The news is now filled with discussion of the Mormon practice of “vicarious baptism,” especially with Mitt Romney’s campaign for President. And, quite frankly, I don’t think this is going to end so long as the LDS church continues to record people as members against their will.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to take a proactive approach. Below is a communication to the Mormon church leadership, transmitted through their website’s feedback form:

To the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

In light of your continued practice of baptizing deceased individuals into your church, and given my strong personal beliefs that religious commitment and affiliation demands fully informed consent, I hereby give notice that I am withholding consent to be baptized by proxy following my demise, and prohibit any and all members of your church from performing said rite on my behalf.

In the event that this notice is ignored by any member of your church, I hereby empower any and all concerned individuals to take action in response, up to and including legal action on behalf of my estate.

Please note receipt of this notice forthwith, including a summary of measures to be taken by your church to assure compliance with my wishes.

Most respectfully and sincerely,

Desmond Ravenstone

Now I’m sure there will be those who ask: “What possible good can this do?” At the very least, it will let them know that this person does not wish to be put on their membership rolls without consent. And if enough people do so, perhaps they will get get the hint and rethink how they do this practice, all good intentions aside.

But it’s not just about peculiar practices or membership rolls. It’s also about respect for other people’s beliefs. Consider how the LDS church leadership has responded to the issue of marriage equality. No one wants to use government to force them to perform same-sex unions, but they feel it’s their right to use their church organization to raise millions towards imposing their prohibition on everyone else. Yes, I respect the right of Mormons or anyone else to believe what they wish, and to engage in the political sphere as fellow citizens. But respect is a two-way street, and it seems rather bizarre that I would have to give another church explicit notice to respect my beliefs even after I’m long dead.

So, if you’d like to join me, go to the official website of the Mormon church. Click on “Submit Feedback” in the lower left corner. Fill out the feedback form (for Feedback Type, choose “Suggestion”; under Regarding, choose “Other” at the bottom of the dropdown menu). Copy and paste the above notice into the message section, with your name at the bottom. Then press “Submit” and there you have it. Who knows? They might even listen!

UPDATE: MARCH 4th, 2012

Jusr received the following response in my email today:

Dear Desmond,

May I share the following statement made by the First Presidency regarding the baptism of deceased persons:

Baptism for the Dead
Jesus Christ taught that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). For those who have passed on without the ordinance of baptism, proxy baptism for the deceased is a free will offering. According to Church doctrine, a departed soul in the afterlife is completely free to accept or reject such a baptism — the offering is freely given and must be freely received. The ordinance does not force deceased persons to become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or “Mormons,” nor does the Church list deceased persons as members of the Church. In short, there is no change in the religion or heritage of the recipient or of the recipient's descendants — the notion of coerced conversion is utterly contrary to Church doctrine.

Of course, proxy baptism for the deceased is nothing new. It was mentioned by Paul in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 15:29) and was practiced by groups of early Christians. As part of a restoration of New Testament Christianity, Latter-day Saints continue this practice. All Church members are instructed to perform proxy baptism only for their own deceased relatives as an offering of familial love to one’s ancestors — any other practice is not sanctioned by the Church.

Your request will be submitted to the individual in charge of such requests.

Thank you for your communication. We wish you the best in all your endeavors.


  1. It's meant to be a ceremony for dead ancestors, so you're unlikely to be in much danger. And what if you were the object of a posthumous baptismal ceremony? Do you believe it has any efficacy? Would you object their praying for you? Do you object to friends, family, or acquaintances of other faiths praying for you? If so, why? How does it affect you in any way?

  2. LdeG:

    If it's intended for "dead ancestors" they sure aren't being careful determining who is and isn't an ancestor.

    Comparing a prayer with baptism is like comparing sending a condolence card with performing a funeral rite. Prayers and condolences are simple well-wishes, and doesn't disrespect the receiver's own beliefs or identity. But it is disrespectful to subject someone, living or dead, to a rite of passage which would identify them with a religion they never consented to join.

  3. I have just sent the same communication via the LDS website. I'm glad to hear that you got a response, but if they really have done Anne Frank nine times, that's not "perform[ing] proxy baptism only for their own deceased relatives as an offering of familial love to one’s ancestors".