Earlier in the week, Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor found out that his name and the names of his father and grandfather were on a genealogical list kept by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. Wiesel, and his family members had been selected to receive posthumous baptisms from the LDS church. Considering all that Wiesel and his family went through in the name of their faith, they remain inclined to keep it in the now and the hereafter.
According to latter-day revelation through Joseph Smith, a deceased person will not be permitted to make choices in or enter God’s celestial kingdom without being baptised. Thus, church members may stand in for the deceased and be baptised on their behalf. It sounds a bit confusing but fortunately Big Think was able to speak with religious history expert Matthew Bowman, author of The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith. Mr. Bowman describes how and why the LDS church is relating to the dead:
“In the very early 20th century the Utah Genealogical Society was organized. This was, essentially, an attempt to gather up records of birth records, death records, birth notices, anything that could trace families back in time and this effort has only grown over the past 100 years. There is now a large vault carved into the side of a mountain in Salt Lake City, which contains millions and millions and millions of these records. It may be the largest collection of genealogical history in the world at this point”.
“This is done for the primary purpose and only the primary, the secondary is their more kind of an interest in genealogy in general and a sense the Mormons ha(ve) that families are important. This has cosmic and heavenly significance and the Mormons believe that sacred rites have to be done for everybody, so baptism is required for everybody to enter heaven and if our ancestors died without baptism that work can still be done today. Then they will go and be baptized in the name of their grandparents or their great grandparents or whoever it is all the way back as long as they can take it.”
“They’ll often cite a verse from the Bible from Malachi, which says, “Before the Lord comes again, before Jesus returns to earth the hearts of the fathers must be return to the children and the hearts of the children must return to the fathers.” And this is the idea that they’re trying to enact, that is the construction of this great chain of family that reaches all the way back and which will then again be present in heaven.”
Mitt Romney has yet to address the request of Mr. Wiesel to denounce the practice.