I have had a lot of trouble finding answers to my questions concerning proxy baptism over the years. As it has become a prevalent news story in the past few days, comment boards have been flooded with tainted comments with little to no viable answers. An information page, or better yet a blog post allowing for visitor posting would be absolutely fantastic for this site. I would love to read valid explanations from your visitors, as I know comments will be informative and respectful. This cannot be done in a public forum. While I am atheist, I have respect for all religions. I do not wish to pose these questions to incite hate. I try to be as honest as I can while respecting the beliefs of others. Please allow me to keep my email from the missionaries. I want to learn all I can from the people that visit the website. If you have trepidation about posing the questions as a blog post I would appreciate any response with a clarification on:Why proxy baptisms are done?; How many people have been proxy baptized?; How many people are baptized at once?; Is a proxy baptism kept separate from other Mormon baptisms? If so Why?; Who chooses the proxy? How?; and, Would I be allowed to attend a family members proxy baptism? These are just a few of the questions I have asked on public forums to no avail. I am not writing a paper. I do not work in journalism. I have no ulterior motive. I am inquisitive. Thank you for your time. I anxiously await your response.

Keith from San Antonio, Texas,



4 Responses to “I have had a lot of trouble finding answers to my questions …”


El Santo Gringo
February 27, 2012
For Mormons, Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer through whom salvation is made possible. (Reflections of Christ)

Hi Keith. I appreciate your sincere interest and open mindedness. As you can imagine, it’s very frustrating for us Mormons to see how our beliefs are misrepresented and misunderstood on the internet and elsewhere. Let me clarify some of your questions.

Why do Mormons perform vicarious baptisms? Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential for salvation. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5) However, millions of people have lived and died without ever learning about Jesus Christ. Others may have heard of Christ but were not culturally prepared to be baptized in His name. Many Christians believe that people who do not accept Christ are going to hell, regardless of the circumstances. Mormons cannot accept the notion that God would be so restrictive.

How do Mormons rectify Christ’s baptismal requirement with the concept of an all-inclusive, loving God? 1 Corinthians 15:29 provides a clue: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” Basically, Mormons are baptized vicariously for those who have died without having received baptism at the hands of one with proper authority (priesthood). This ordinance doesn’t “turn the dead into Mormons,” as some allege. It simply gives those who have passed on the opportunity to accept or reject this essential ordinance. When Mormons vicariously baptize those who have passed on, they aren’t thinking, “I’m turning this person into a Mormon.” They’re thinking, “I’m giving this person an opportunity they didn’t have in life as a way of honoring their memory.”

Why Mormons Build Temples

That’s the real irony of the current debate over vicarious baptisms. Some allege that Mormons perform vicarious baptisms because they are exclusionary, thinking you have to be Mormon to get into heaven. In fact, just the opposite is true. We baptize for the dead because we believe that someone who is Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, non-mormon Christian, or Atheist CAN make it to heaven.

How many people have been vicariously baptized? I’m not sure of the exact number, but it’s certainly in the millions. Vicarious baptism has been a part of our theology for nearly two centuries.

How many people are baptized at once? As with the living, baptism for the dead is an individual ordinance. Each vicarious baptism is performed on behalf of a single person.

Is a proxy baptism kept separate from other Mormon baptisms? I’m not certain what you mean by “kept separate.” When Mormons report church growth every year, only living baptisms are considered. Please feel free to clarify this question if you’d like additional details.

Who chooses the proxy? The Church has made it very clear that we should focus on our own ancestors. Many Mormons perform genealogical research to identify their kindred ancestors. They then take the names of those ancestors to the temple and perform the ordinance for them. In some cases when a diligent researcher discovers the names of many ancestors, these names can be submitted to a general file. Other members of the Church who wish to participate in the sacred ordinance but have no names of their own can draw from this general file.

Would I be allowed to attend a family member’s proxy baptism? Proxy baptisms are performed inside Mormon temples. While Mormon chapels are open to the public, a lot of preparation is required before one can enter the temple. Certainly, though, you could witness your ancestor’s proxy baptism if you were willing to prepare yourself. Mormon families often go to the temple together to perform the proxy baptisms of their ancestors.

A few comments on the current controversy: Mormons vicariously baptizing Jewish holocaust victims

It is wrong to baptize others’ ancestors without their permission. However, some few members of the LDS Church unfortunately violate this rule and foolishly submit unauthorized names to our database. The Church has put in place specific algorithms to try to prevent the the vicarious baptisms of Jewish holocaust victims, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who submit names. Every once in a while an improperly submitted name inevitably gets through. It’s actually quite similar to the problem websites like YouTube face. With so many people uploading videos, it’s hard to identify and remove all the copyrighted content.

I’m certain there are some well-intentioned but misguided members of the LDS Church who mistakenly submit unauthorized names, but it may well be that anti-Mormons also submit unauthorized names with the intent of creating bad PR for the church. The church has said that it takes a lot of effort to circumvent the safeguards put in place to prevent the submission of the names of holocaust victims, for example. This required effort supports the theory that some of these names are submitted by anti-Mormons who are actively seeking to damage the church rather than by members of the Church itself, who are more inclined to honor the Church’s stated policies. This idea of online vandalism is hardly conspiratorial; names like “Mickey Mouse” are also occasionally submitted to our database for baptism. No faithful member of the Church would take so sacred an ordinance so lightly. It is unfortunate that policing so large and dynamic a database is so difficult.

Concerned Jews should also keep in mind who is providing them with information regarding the rare and mistaken vicarious baptisms of holocaust victims. Helen Radkey, the woman who usually stirs up this controversy, is an ex-mormon who clearly hates the LDS Church. If she really cared about preventing the vicarious baptisms of holocaust victims, she would let the church know whenever she discovers an unauthorized name in the database so that name could be removed. But that’s not what she does. Instead, she ignores the church and goes straight to the press. It’s a clear effort to defame the LDS Church, and Ms. Radkey is essentially using Jews to achieve her anti-mormon ends. If I were Jewish, that would make me very uncomfortable.

Complicating this issue even further, there are Jewish Mormons who have every right to vicariously baptize their own ancestors. For example, one of the congressmen from Utah is a Jewish convert.

Hope this answer helps! You’re right in thinking this needed to be addressed on the site. Thanks for the excellent question.

Richard
March 2, 2012

First off really you should talk to missionaries as they are authorized from God to teach you truths better than the internet.

From my understanding and Scripture:

Why proxy baptisms are done? “59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified”

(Moses 6:59 – 60)

How many people have been proxy baptized? Lots. I don’t think there is a way to track that number as many proxy ordanances have been duplicated by zealos temple goers, etc. In fact that is one of the biggest problems the church has is too many duplicate baptisms.

How many people are baptized at once? One. Each person can only do work for another single person at a time. Yes they can do many people in a row, but each person is a seperate individual, and salvation is accomplished one person at a time.

Is a proxy baptism kept separate from other Mormon baptisms? Yes and No

If so Why? If you are baptised for yourself you get baptised

If you are doing baptisms in the temple than it is the exact same ordanance for another.

Who chooses the proxy? Usually a relitive How? By sending a name to the temple so it can be accomplished

Would I be allowed to attend a family members proxy baptism? Yes if you meet the requirments to enter a Holy Temple as stated by the Church, and in fact if you were to meet all the requirements to enter the temple, the YOU could actualy stand as the proxy for your relative.

I you are truly curious go find President Boyd K. Packer’s book “The Holy Temple” and learn for yourself.

Just an FYI – God is really there, all the planets and their orbits, and the plants, animals after their kind, your own body and it’s magnificence is just the tip of the screams of an Eternal Creator and Father. Each of us is born with the light of Christ in us, and if you ponder and allow the thoughts to flow freely, you will come to accept that you know it also, and have always known it. Thanks Brother.

Keith
March 5, 2012

Thank you for the swift response.  I must say, well stated.  I truly appreciate your candor and assessment of the outside views of the Mormon faith. I apologize for the ambiguity of my question (Is a proxy baptism kept separate from other Mormon baptisms?). I believe you may have already answered my question with your response to this earlier question: “How many people are baptized at once? As with the living, baptism for the dead is an individual ordinance. Each vicarious baptism is performed on behalf of a single person. ” To be honest, I am having trouble reworking my question, but I was attempting to ask: Are vicarious baptisms allowed to be done in the same place as baptisms done at birth, or are they done in another part of the Temple? Your answer provided me with further insight, as many people believe those vicariously baptized are used to inflate church membership. Thank you. The comments below your answers concerning the vicarious baptism of Jewish Holocaust victims raised a few more questions, however. If you don’t mind, I would like to ask a few more.  

Why is it that these algorithms have been put in place to prevent Jewish Holocaust victims from vicarious baptisms? Are there other algorithms in place that prevent others from being posthumously baptized? Who?; Would it be possible for me to obtain my genealogical records from your database? Can non-mormon family members of the vicariously baptized choose a specific Mormon proxy if they know a willing member of the Church? If not, Why?

Again, I appreciate your fantastic response, as well as your time. I hope your weekend went well, and have a wonderful week. -Keith

El Santo Gringo
March 5, 2012
Temples are considered houses of God, places of holiness and peace separate from the preoccupations of the world.

Hi again Keith. Sorry for my delay in responding this time around. Your question is still on my mind, though, because today in Church a letter from Salt Lake City was read once again emphasizing the importance of doing vicarious work only for our own ancestors, not celebrities or Jewish holocaust victims. My understanding is that this same letter was read in every Mormon congregation in the world.

Let me answer your additional questions:

1. Vicarious baptisms and other vicarious ordinances are performed in Mormon temples. Non-vicarious baptisms are typically performed in Mormon chapels, so yes, the two ordinances are in that sense kept separate.

2. It is true that vicarious baptisms are not performed to inflate church membership. In fact, someone recently pointed out to me that this is explicitly stated on the church’s official website.

3. I’m not familiar with the specific algorithms the church uses to prevent the baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims; however, as a computer programmer myself, I think I could make a pretty educated guess. The church has probably compiled a list of known holocaust victims. Whenever someone submits a name for baptism, that name is probably compared to the names on the do-not-baptize list to see if it should be excluded. It’s complicated, however, because the algorithm would have to consider alternate name spelling and the possibility that some information (birthday, for example) might not be exact. It’s easy to imagine how someone who is really set on submitting a name might keep “tweaking” and resubmitting the data until the algorithm could no longer match it to any of the names on the do-not-baptize list.

4. Because I don’t have any details about how the algorithm works, I can’t say what specific names are on the do-not-baptize list, beyond the names of Jewish holocaust victims.

5. Actually, to help its members learn more about their ancestors, the LDS Church has compiled the largest genealogical database on earth. Others are also free to use the database if they want to learn more about their family history as well. The Church’s genealogical records and baptismal records are kept separate; there are far more names in the genealogical database than there are in the baptismal database. The names included in the genealogical database should only be submitted for baptism by Mormon descendants doing their own family work. If you’re interested in doing your family history, feel free to access the genealogical database for free at familysearch.org.

6. I imagine a non-mormon family member could choose a specific Mormon proxy if they wanted their ancestor to be baptized vicariously, though that obviously doesn’t happen very often. Most Mormons would be honored at such a request. The interested non-mormon would have to provide explicit authorization for the baptism, however, since Mormons should typically only baptize their own ancestors.

Thanks again for your interesting questions. It’s nice to meet someone so friendly on the internet. :)

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