I lived in Utah during a couple of points in my life. It is a beautiful state, with numerous outdoor activities available like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking…I’m not being funded by the Utah Chamber of Commerce, so you get the point. Living in Utah is an interesting proposition for someone like me who considers religion nothing more than myths carried from the Bronze Age (3000-500 BCE approximately), when human culture had barely left the last Glacial Maximum, and science was starting a fire. Utah is essentially a theocracy, where government is mostly run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as LDS or Mormons). If you’re a non-Mormon (whom they call Gentiles) living in Utah, you sort of learn about the religion just by osmosis. And you mostly ignore them (there is a de facto segregation of neighborhoods between Mormons and non-Mormons for a lot of complex reasons).
Mormons have a lot of odd practices (all religions do) and beliefs (all religions do) including the fact that, they think that empires of Near East peoples (semitic tribes) were located in the Americas thousands of years ago. This belief is despite the total lack of linguistic, archeological, genetic and historical evidence. Oh well, hard to pick on them for strange beliefs, since all religions have the same.
But, there’s one practice I’ve always found to be a bit daft, baptism by proxy or baptism of the dead. It’s a very strange practice, but whatever Bronze Age belief is acceptable to the religion, as long as it doesn’t harm those of us who think it’s just a myth for ancient illiterate peoples. Essentially, baptism of the dead is just what it appears to be–living Mormons baptize dead family members (usually), or whomever they want. Honestly, most of us don’t care.
I always find it amusing that they have baptized Albert Einstein, a secular Jew, who by all accounts, writing, speeches, and general knowledge, was a devout atheist. Apparently, they’ve baptized over 200 million dead people. They must have a lot of time for this practice.
Sadly, this past week, some Mormon adherent decided to baptize Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank (see screenshot from the Mormon baptism registry), the young Dutch-Jewish girl who was famous for writing a wonderful diary of her life hiding in a wall, evading capture by Nazis during World War II. She lived Jewish, and died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (just a few weeks before it was liberated by British soldiers). She died because she was Jewish, not because she decided suddenly to be a Mormon. She died because of the Nazi hatred of Jews, not as a religion (though I’m sure it was part of it), but because of Jewish ethnicity.
Anne Frank was a Jew who was one of six million who died at the hand of the Germans, and who represents all of the Jewish children who died because of their ethnicity, not because they were combatants, murdered Germans, or designed bad looking BMW’s or Mercedes. Again, ignoring all of the religious silliness, it is offensive and disgusting that Mormons, who had agreed not to baptize Holocaust victims, continue to do so.
Mass genocides, of which the Holocaust was one of the largest, become a part of the cultural DNA of a group. It matters at the deepest core level of the group, because of the shared pain. Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs almost always include reverence to the Holocaust dead and survivors. Every Jewish family includes elderly survivors and swaths of missing relatives who died merely because they were Jews. The Mormons are always feigning insults to their religion, yet they haven’t got a clue as to how appalling it is for some clueless Mormon, who is so brainwashed by their religion, that they cannot see how painful it would be to Jews when they find out that Anne Frank got “baptized” for no logical reason whatsoever. Of course, we’re talking about religions.
I wonder how Mitt Romney’s Mormonism will mesh with Jews who make up a significant part of the vote in New York, California and Florida. Will he show some intestinal fortitude and say “this was a bad thing.” Doubtful, since Romney seems to float wherever the wind blows to get elected, and lacks any backbone whatsoever.
Since baptisms are quite silly, a Roman era practice that does nothing for humans, I could dismiss the whole baptism of the dead as another crazy practice of another crazy religion. It’s the symbolism that matters here.