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Exclusive: Hitler not a mormon
Proxy baptism causes a growing rift between Mormons and Jews; and the strange connection between a recent suicide bomber and Padraig Pearse’s ma.
Eamonn McCann, 10 Feb 2004
Hitler is no longer a Mormon. Neither are 380,000 of the Jews he murdered. But more and more Russian Christians are Mormons. Read on.
A few years back, this column provided one of the few media spaces in which posthumous baptisms into the Church of Latter Day Saints were resolutely defended. It wasn’t that we thought any earthly good could come of the practice. But there was a twisted logic to it. And it was sorta fun.
Mormons believe, more or less, that outside their Church there is no salvation. They are not, of course, alone in entertaining this delusion. But Mormons also believe that every soul lives forever and retains across the aeons a capacity for change. So, it’s never too late to become a Mormon and make it into the inner sanctum of heaven. Posthumous baptism is the mechanism which makes this possible.
Mormons also differ from mainstream Christians in holding that valid baptism, whether of the living or the dead, is conditional on consent. The dead soul, upon learning it’s been baptised, is free to refuse. But, reasonably from their own point of view, Mormons reckon this rarely happens.
Buddhists, Baptists, Jews etc. may believe during their sojourn on earth that they are pre-booked into the VIP area of paradise. But, dead, they’ll know better. Having gazed for centuries across the celestial frontier upon millions of Mormons blissed out from beatific happiness while they remain coralled within the twilight zone reserved for wrong-religionists, who’s going to turn down the offer of an upgrade?
Objections to the scheme arose on earth, however, in 1995, when it was revealed that the the Elders of the Church, in a series of ceremonies in Salt Lake City, had baptised more than a million Germans who’d died in the 1940s, including Adolph Hitler and 380,000 Jews who had perished in the Holocaust, into the faith.
Holocaust survivors’ groups protested vehemently. Politicians and commentators joined in. Eventually, at a meeting in New York between the Mormon Church and the American Gathering of Jews, the Mormons agreed to unbaptise those whom it had posthumously inducted and to desist from the practice, at least as far as Jews were concerned. No more conversions of the Judaistic kaput. I wondered at the time how the Mormons rationalised the climbdown. Was it not their sacred duty to offer salvation to all?
I also wondered how the Mormons imagined the twice-chosen ex-Jews would react to the undoing of their induction. Having savoured the sweet nectar of the Latter Day Saints, would they have willingly gone back to the thin gruel of Mosaic superstition? Were Beelzebub’s bouncers brought in to give them the bums’ rush?
We may never know. Because word now comes that the issue wasn’t fully resolved anyway. On December 13 last, Associated Press reported that the Mormons had not only continued to offer dead Jews an upgrade, but had extended the service to Russian Orthodox Christians.
AP revealed that the “conversion unit” at Salt Lake City had been paying 10 cents a page to the Moscow-based Russian Society of Historians and Archivists for microfilm records of the 18th century membership lists of the Orthodox Church. The intention was to move on to the 19th as soon as all 18th century Orthodox souls had been issued with passes to the Mormon compound.
Church spokesman Dale Bills was forthright: “Proxy baptism is a caring expression of faith that provides deceased persons the opportunity to accept or reject what we believe to be a blessing. What can be wrong with that?” What indeed?
And the Mormons appear to be challenging the assumption that they ever actually promised to unbaptise the ex-Jews. Todd Christofferson, leader of the Church’s 1995 negotiating team, told AP: “We never had in mind that we would go in and ferret out the Jewish names. That would represent an intolerable burden.”
The Patriarch of Moscow has now been in touch with Salt Lake City to express “grave concern.” Ernest Michel, a member of the Jewish team in 1995, says that the cordial relations which had begun to develop between Jews and Mormons cannot survive the “betrayal” of the agreement. A suggestion that the Jews and the Russian Orthodox should combine forces to oppose Mormon soul-snatching has been rejected by both sides on the same ground: that the other lot are little better than Mormons themselves, being outwith the true faith and with no legitimate expectation of a position in heaven in the first place.
Years of bitter triangular eschatological aggro seem in prospect.
Let’s hope so, anyway.
Pea-brained clowns and shallow bigots on both sides of the Irish Sea have been in full cry defending Robert Kilroy-Silk’s “right” to tell racist lies about Arabs.
The former British Labour MP lost his BBC gig after writing in the Daily Express that Arabs had contributed nothing throughout history to human wisdom or advancement and currently contributed nothing to the contemporary world other than suicide bombers and hatred. The controversy which then arose has been well-enough publicised. But two aspects of the matter merit further brief comment.
It was plain from the Express piece that Kilroy Silk believed Iran was an Arab nation. This is a man who had served in the British parliament and who, through his daily television programme and newspaper and magazine articles, achieved a position of some influence in British society generally. Throughout all, we now discover, he elided religion and nationality, Islam and Arabism, and believed that Iran was Arab.
Iran is a country of more than 600,000 square miles, with a population of 70 million and, as many a school-child will know, a written history reaching back seven millennia, this history recorded in Farsi, one of the oldest languages still used in our world, not in Arabic. Robert Kilroy Silk didn’t know any of this.
How seriously would we take an Iranian on any subject under the sun if we discovered he or she believed that Ireland was Hispanic?
Was the cosmic scale of his ignorance not good enough ground on its own for sacking the wretch?
On the other hand, some surprising people have said, didn’t he at least have a point about suicide bombers? The suicide/martyrdom of mother-of-two Reem al-Reyashi on January 14 – four Israelis died with her in the blast at a Gaza check-point – prompted a spate of remarks along these lines.
What sort of religion is it which sanctifies the sacrifice of one’s own life and others’, even the lives of one’s children, for political ends?
I was pondering this question when I chanced on a report of a meeting in St. Columb’s Hall in Derry in January 1918, addressed by the mother of Patrick and Willie Pearse, executed by the British for their part in the Easter Rising two years earlier.
The Derry Journal told that Mrs. Pearse lunched with the superioress of the Mercy Order in the convent at Pump Street prior to the meeting, then was “greeted with voiciferous cheering” as, from a platform shared with senior clerics, she declared that, “Personally, she felt the proudest mother in Ireland, and though her sacrifice might be termed great in having lost two sons, she was sure there were hundreds, nay thousands, of Irish mothers capable of offering similar gifts on the altar of Irish unity.”