In response to the news in recent days that Holocaust victim Anne Frank has been posthumously baptized nine times by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have several observations on the subject of proxy baptisms.
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and other Jewish organizations have made objection to proxy baptismal work for deceased Jews. Ernest Michel, himself a Holocaust survivor, said it was “a revision of history” to lessen a deceased’s Jewishness by baptizing him/her Mormon.
As a Jewish convert to the LDS church, I do understand the mindset of many Jews in that regard, for they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Mashiach (Messiah) and therefore eschew all Christian churches and practices.
Unfortunately, the Jewish view is incomplete. First of all, Jews in ancient times practiced tevilah – a full body immersion in a mikveh (font). These references are found in the Hebrew Bible and elaborated in the Mishnah and Talmud (commentaries on the Bible). These practices are observed in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism congregations. These washings were performed as a symbol of cleansing oneself (and many foods) of many forms of impure actions as well as insuring increased sanctity of the person before God. These rituals were and are considered ways in which mortals can become closer to their Creator, but these rituals are not in any way connected to an acceptance of or belief in Jesus Christ.
In the absence of a Hebrew temple, these cleansing rites are considered to remain in force in the world and out of it. Jewish rituals are concerned essentially with issues of health of one’s body.
Similarly, the Greek verb in Paul’s phrase “baptized for the dead” also refers to ritual washings and cleansings but includes a cleansing of the spirit of the inner man or woman from sinfulness when repentance is fully gained.
Baptisms for the dead, on the other hand, are based upon the truth of the death, resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
1 Cor 15:22-23, 29:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 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?”
Proxy baptisms are offered as a service to those who have passed beyond the veil of mortality, a gift and token of an essential gospel ordinance on earth for salvation.
Baptism is a commandment of God and required for all who desire to come unto Christ, have reached the age of accountability and are capable of sinning. For scriptures verifying this statement, please email me at: [email protected] Baptism for the remission of sins brings rebirth and is an integral part of the “doctrine of Christ” a(2NE 31:17-21 and others).
Jews do not believe Jesus is the Christ or that he is the Jewish Mashiach. They do not agree with the concept of resurrection through Christ or with the doctrine of the Fall as taught in LDS canon. They do not read or study the New Testament and therefore do not accept that baptism with water for forgiveness or penance for the remission of sins. They wish their departed to retain their Hebraic heritage in the Olam Haba, the spirit world, and not become Christianized, or “lessened” –in any way following death. The LDS ordinance of proxy baptism offends the Jewish sense of identity and community.
It is true that in the time of Jesus many Jews accepted him and were baptized, but after Jesus was crucified the apostles founded the Church of Christ, preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. Many Jewish converts felt that the Law of Moses was being forsaken and drew away from the church.
Following the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, all tribal priesthoods were lost, the temple destroyed and the tribes of Israel scattered.
Belief in Jesus as the Savior declined as dispossessed rabbis worked to establish emblematic worship of Jewish rituals and Messianic Christianity eventually disappeared among the Jewish people of the time.
Many Jews have come to know Jesus as their personal savior and as savior of the world, and they continue in some ways to live the Law of Moses. These are Messianic Jews and they also disapprove of the church’s proxy baptism ordinances.
One crucial element of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Mormon church is that each individual spirit lives forever – our personality progresses through time because we have always lived and we are each and all spiritual children of our Heavenly Father. We survive mortal death. Our identities are ours forever and they are changeless in nature. As we progress in the spirit world after death many truths not available on earth are made known to them – depending upon the state of their soul.
In a CNN article dated March 9, this explanation is given: “In doing proxy baptisms, Mormons do not claim to make anyone Mormon. They believe spirits in the afterlife are being exposed to the gospel, and a proxy baptism provides an opportunity to the dead to either accept or turn down the invitation to believe and find salvation.
Central to LDS Church teachings is the belief that families across generations can be united for eternity. Performing proxy baptisms for the dead is what makes eternal togetherness in heaven possible. Family history research for Mormons, as a result, is of sacred importance.”
We on earth are not aware of things that happen after death. To offer a departed spirit the teachings of God through His angels and His Son, our Redeemer and Savior, is the greatest of gifts. They may well be accepted throughout our eternity, which is timeless. Certainly, most Jews have never heard the Gospel. Once off the earth and away from family, worldly traditions, expectations, etc., their hearts are open, their free agency clearly available to them, they will likely be very receptive to further spiritual teachings.
It is also true that Jewishness cannot be lessened. We are a race of blood identification. That cannot be compromised. Our Hebraic roots are secure. Our traditions are continuous and noteworthy of celebration. But there is so much more than being Jewish. Our leader, our example, our Savior, our Mashiach is that Jew who came to this earth so long ago and reaffirmed the teachings of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Lehi, Nephi, Alma, Mormon and so many others in all generations.
We Jews do not need to wait until we have passed this life to learn the true reasons for our lives here. That marvelous knowledge is availabe to us today, through the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the entire biblical writings, and other sources. The past is only the beginning. There are more steps to the ladder that leads to perfection.
Without a sure knowledge of Christ as the Begotten Son of God, the ministrations of the Holy Ghost and the realization that proxy baptisms are just that – offerings to the deceased of eternal opportunities to live in the presence of the Father and eventually become like Him – Jews will continue to oppose the doctrine of proxy baptisms. The tribe of Ephraim has been given that great privilege of bringing Judah to Christ in his church. I plead with you: Do not discount it. Do not deny it. Do not avoid it.
Finally, as a child of the tribe of Judah, I offer my personal testimony that the ordinances of proxy baptism are true and correct. As a temple ordinance worker I am weekly involved with this and other ordinances for the deceased relatives of all races and religions of mankind and I know for a fact that our departed receive and accept these sacred covenants with great joy and thanksgiving.
Marlena Tanya Muchnick