Contradictions

Baptism For the Dead Family

In this post, I wrote that I was really happy for the older relative of mine who wanted to work in the temple.

And in the comments to this post, Jonathan compared baptism for the dead to flag desecration, which I agree with. I think his comparison has merit.


So here we have a contradiction (on the same blog, no less). On the one hand I’m happy for my relative, but on the other hand, I disagree on a philosophical level about what she might be doing (baptisms for the dead). It reminds me of the line in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” where Teyve says “They can’t both be right!”.

I believe there are contradictions inherent in modern everyday life. I try to be the best person I can be. I try not to make decisions that will negatively impact other people. I try to not purchase clothing made in sweat shops. I try to consume locally grown food. I serve jury duty and encourage non registered friends to register and vote.

But with that said, modern life is not simple. There are times when I’m not able to live up to these standards. If my clothing is made here in the United States, the fabric (or dye) might be made in a different country. It’s difficult to live a life of integrity – and from my experience, even more difficult to live a life full of integrity with little ones.

The best any of us can do is to try and be the best person possible, and to take self-inventories on a regular basis.

I have lots of friends with many different beliefs. They may also be members of many different organizations. I may disagree with their organizations. As an example, I’ll take the ACLU. The ACLU defends many people who wouldn’t have a voice otherwise, but they defend some groups I disagree with. I may disagree with some of those groups (the neo-nazis come to mind) but I realize why someone has to defend them.

There are all sorts of groups and organizations that I may disagree with the premise of. Those groups may take actions that I disagree with strongly.

And I can still support and care about my loved ones who may be involved in groups or organizations. Some may be as harmless as the local PTA (parent teacher association). Others are not so harmless.

In the end, my opinion is just my opinion. I believe each person has to live by the dictates of their own conscience, and I want to give others that freedom.

I don’t think that I arrogantly have to tell a relative of mine NOT to light a candle for me in a Roman Catholic church because I disagree with it. I’ll spend my time and energy on something I can actually change or impact.

16 thoughts on “Contradictions

  1. As for living with contradictions, Andrew linked to an essay once by Eugene England that argued that contradictions are essential for proper moral and spiritual growth.

  2. The funny thing about baptism for the dead is that if you don’t believe in it, what does it matter? My mom has mentioned to my ste-dad that she plans to have him baptized & sealed to her in the temple after he dies. He is atheist, so he just laughs.

    I would be happy for a relative too if they were excited about working in the temple. I don’t think that it will make a difference in eternity, but it makes them feel good.

  3. #1 – Seth, true, the motivations are different. But they both are symbolic. And have to do with belief systems. As mentioned in the comments from the prior post that I linked to, by baptizing someone (in proxy) for the dead, one is saying that whatever beliefs/faiths they held in life are not worthy of respect. By burning a flag, a person is saying that the countries’ policy/policies is/are not worthy of respect.

    #2 – I looked for the article (both IG’s search engine and a popular search engine) and can’t find it. Can you post the link?

    I can only control my own beliefs and actions – I can’t control someone else’s. So I’m not sure that a contradiction about someone else’s beliefs (that person and I disagree) would be necessary for *my* personal and spiritual growth.

    #3 – thanks FFG. You have a point. It’s true that I will (no doubt) be baptized LDS by proxy by well-meaning family members after I die. And I’m not a believing mormon so it really shouldn’t matter. It is a symbolic gesture (some of which was discussed on that prior thread).

    On the other hand, if a close relative mentioned they were really happy about going to a flag- burning rally, I can’t see myself being particularly happy about that (even happy for them). So there you are.

  4. I think Seth may be referring to “Why the church is as true as the gospel.” I’m thinking about writing a post about it later, but I’m laaaaazyyyy. I think the talk needs a little bit of retooling for this discussion.

    You know my position on this…it’s like FFG’s. If you don’t believe in it, then don’t believe in it. Don’t be a slave, half believing in the ordinance (enough to be indignant). Don’t give the church any more power by getting indignant over a ceremony that you don’t believe has any efficacy.

    Mormons believe they are doing it for a good intention, even if an outsider would see their intention as hopelessly ethnocentric (and thus objectionable — they know best and they have the truth, so they claim the right to enact this ceremony, so to speak). So, while I guess I could see being indignant over the ethnocentrism (the nerve of someone to be so imperialistic with their spiritual beliefs!), in the end they are claiming land and taking hostages in the name of a kingdom whose authority we don’t recognize.

    If we make the analogy to flag desecration, then it would have to be the flag burners have good, even if zealous, ethnocentric intentions. They believe in the country and they want to offer improvement, but the way they make their mark is through something controversial.

  5. I think the thing that is objectionable about baptisms for the dead as done by Mormons has nothing to do with whether or not it is “real” or means anything on an objective level.

    Obviously, if you don’t believe in it (which is my position), it doesn’t really matter if it happens.

    On the other hand, going ahead and performing a proxy baptism for someone who has died and who didn’t believe in it and perhaps wouldn’t have approved of it certainly shows a lack of respect for that person’s wishes. And that, I think is what is objectionable about it.

    Of course, it isn’t surprising that Mormons will do such proxy baptisms for individuals who either had overtly said they didn’t want it done or whose accumulated body of statements and actions show that they likely wouldn’t have approved. It has been my experience that believing Mormons don’t have a firm grasp of the concept of personal boundaries. Proxy baptisms, as far as I’m concerned, step hugely over such boundaries.

    I guess I should say, in the spirit of full disclosure, that the one time I participated as a young adult in baptisms for the dead, back in the 1970s in the Los Angeles temple, I was so creeped out by the whole thing that I never wanted to go near a temple again. And didn’t.

  6. Don’t get me started again. I’ll leave it at “what Elaine said”.

    BTW, I actually compared BftD to grave desecration, showing disrespect for the memory of the dead.

  7. I don’t consider it any more disrespectful to the dead’s wishes than sending a couple of guys in dorky white shirts and ties to knock on a living person’s door.

    The baptisms are a mere offer that can be accepted or rejected.

    I don’t see performing such a baptism as being any more disrespectful as it is for people here to insist on sheltering the departed from the choice.

    If grandma wants to sign up for the LDS Church on the other side, that’s frankly her own damn business.

  8. Seth, for me it’s the fact that a Mormon relative thought so little of my convictions that they thought that I might even consider (re)joining.

    It’s kind of like people come to my funeral and get up to speak about their memories of me, and “That atheist phase was so silly. I know that in his heart, he really wanted to be Mormon.”

    Perhaps some of us have a Buddha-like non-attachment to how we’re remembered, but I would like to believe that my family and friends know me and respect me enough to take my decision to leave the LDS church as final. It’s part of my desire to be known by other human beings and accepted for who I am.

  9. And for other people like relatives of Holocaust victims, that’s a fine point of doctrine that is hard to explain. Even if you explain it, and they understand it, you’re still implying that devotedly Catholic grandma might even consider joining that strange cult from Utah.

    If it’s not disrespectful, it’s tone-deaf. I understand that it’s done with honorable intentions, but it shows ignorance of the feelings of others and assumes that they’ll have no qualms about being associated in any way with your church.

  10. Sorry for the triple (!) post, but one more thought before I must leave for work, some people do think that sending missionaries to their door is disrespectful for and some of the same reasons. I certainly ran into my fair share.

  11. No one is ever completely understood Jonathan. I’m misunderstood all the time.

    Life’s hard.

    But anyway, it’s possible that your relatives are fully aware that you aren’t going to sign up either now or then. But they feel there’s a small off-chance you just might.

    There. Feel more understood now?

  12. In my original post, I wasn’t trying to get into a discussion of the validity or offensive nature of baptisms for the dead. I think we’ve had this discussion before.

    I was trying to better understand the personal vs. the political, when a political opinion comes into contact with a personal belief. And how to maintain relationships despite those political/religious conflicts. When should the line be drawn? Where someone’s political/religious belief becomes too much to keep up a relationship? And when that belief can be overlooked…

  13. Seth,

    If I should simply accept that I will be misunderstood sometimes, then why do you complain when people misunderstand BftD? Just accept that people will be peeved about it.

    So why are we having a discussion if we don’t care if we understand each other?

  14. “When should the line be drawn? Where someones political/religious belief becomes too much to keep up a relationship?”

    I don’t think I consider this factor to even be all that relevant to whether I have a relationship with someone to begin with. I’ve had pleasant chats with racists, Bible-thumpers, intolerant BYU students, the uneducated, the educated (but big-headed), people who support abortion, people who oppose it, Republicans, Democrats… all sorts of people.

    I never really felt like their views had much to do with whether there was going to be a relationship.

    One guy in my own family believes all Indians are worthless, lousy drunks. Very prejudiced guy.

    But I’d spend an afternoon fishing with him in a heartbeat. It’s just not a factor really.

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