Originally posted HERE on Monday, April 11, 2005
People I talk to when I visit Salt Lake City often wonder if I'm a member of the LDS church. For those who don't know, the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, research their genealogy as a part of their religion. They believe that they can baptize and perform other ordinances for their ancestors to make sure they go to heaven. In order to make this easier for their church members, they have created a huge collection of Family History resources. The center of this is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which is the largest genealogy library in the world. And to make this information more accessible to people who can't get to Salt Lake, they have a system of Family History Centers all over the world where they make microfilms of their documents and books available, either as part of their permanent collection, or for a fee, they can have any film sent from the FHL. And the best part is, one doesn't have to be Mormon to use it!
Occasionally, the Mormons upset some people with their practice of baptizing the dead. I belong to several Rootsweb mailing lists, and every once in a while a discussion will start up about exactly WHY the LDS church collects family history information. And predictably, there will be someone who will be VERY upset at the idea that their ancestors may have been baptized by a church they probably had never heard of. According to the head of their church, "We serve in behalf of those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel. Theirs is the option to accept or reject the ordinance which is performed." I think of myself as a practical person, though. If our ancestors who are long dead are even aware of what we're doing here on Earth, they must find us pretty amusing, and I have a hard time believing that anything we do now can affect their condition in Heaven or elsewhere. I just feel grateful that there is a very rich organization willing to spend so much money on my hobby and they're willing to share it with me!
That being said, I do find the following article somewhat disturbing. (Jews, Mormons to meet over baptism for the dead) I was under the impression that Mormons were only performing ordinances for their own ancestors. According to the article, this is not always true. However, it doesn't change my appreciation of the resources available to me from the LDS Church.
*Note: The link in the last paragraph is no longer valid, but you can read an archived version of the article (along with the blogger's commentary) at:
*New Note: Neither the specific article nor the blog entry that I've referenced above exists on the web anymore.