Policing Submissions for Baptisms for the Dead

March 7, 2012 | 44 comments
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And it’s in the news again. We have Elie Wiesel’s name slated for baptism, baptisms performed for Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal’s parents, baptism performed for Anne Frank (for the ninth time!), baptism performed for Daniel Pearl (who was killed in part, at least, because he was Jewish), and baptism performed for Gandhi. This in spite of the Church’s agreement (in 1995!) to remove Holocaust victims from the database.[fn1]

And, apparently, the Church has now sent out a strongly-worded letter to be read in Sacrament meetings.[fn2] In the letter, the Church (strongly) reiterates the prohibition on submitting celebrity and Holocaust victim names, with potential penalties to follow for improper submissions.

Will this work? Hopefully.[fn3] But I’ve been thinking about possible ways to police the submissions as a backstop.[fn4] Note that I’m perfectly aware that there is debate over whether we should, as a normative matter, care about others’ perception of baptisms for the dead.[fn5] And there’s debate among those not of our faith about whether proxy baptisms are, in fact, offensive. I have no interest in rehashing those arguments, though. Let’s assume that the Church is serious about its policy statement (which I believe it is), and, just for fun, let’s brainstorm how it can implement the policy. A couple ground rules:[fn6]

  1. Any solution needs to be administratively feasible. Having a bureaucratic level that looks at every name submission is not administratively feasible.
  2. The solution shouldn’t unreasonably burden people who are submitting names in accordance with the Church’s current policy and otherwise participating in temple worship.
  3. The enforcement procedure should be effective both with respect to people aware of the policy and with respect to those unaware (because people constantly join the Church, get older, etc.)
  4. I’d just as soon that the enforcement be prophylactic; I’m not a big fan of threatening discipline for violations, if we can prevent the violations from happening.

My proposal has two parts. Step one would be to only permit people to submit their direct ancestors for proxy baptism. Until recently, this probably wasn’t technologically feasible, but I suspect it is today. On the new FamilySearch, when I’m logged in, I can only see my direct line of ancestors. I can’t even see my wife’s; if I wanted to look at her family tree, I would need to log in as her.

Step two would be to time-limit this limitation. If a person has been dead for, say, 100 or 150 years (or however many years the Church determines is appropriate), a member could submit even a non-ancestor’s name for temple work.

Step one is in line with the First Presidency letter, which states that our “preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter.” If that’s the program—and it’s how I understand the program to be—then such a limitation (again, that wasn’t technologically feasible until recently) doesn’t impinge on our spiritual duties or growth.[fn7]

Step 2 provides two things. First, time. Time to educate members, and time for the celebrities to no longer burn as brightly in our minds. And time to educate our neighbors about what we understand baptism for the dead to represent. It also gives us time to make affirmative statements, ones that might be taken seriously, rather than defensive statements, when an improper name is discovered and the Church is forced to respond. Second, it meets the needs of temple attendees. Most of us (meaning, me, and I’m universalizing my experience) don’t submit enough names to the temple.[fn8] In order to provide a temple experience to all of the patrons who come, the Family History of the Church extracts names from old records.[fn9] Step 2 will allow this extraction work to continue; it would make ineligible a swath of names, but a new group would become available every year.

It’s clearly not foolproof; if you really wanted to do the 10th baptism for Anne Frank, you could find a way. But it would force you to be affirmatively deceptive, and to work to run counter to Church policy; that provides a mens rea that, in my mind, is more conducive to loss of privileges or discipline or some other stick.

So what do you think?

[fn1] Yes, I know Gandhi isn’t a Holocaust victim, so he’s not technically covered by the agreement.

[fn2] I say “apparently” because the letter doesn’t seem to have reached Chicago yet; still, I assume it’s coming.

[fn3] At least in the short-term. Letters are read, and then disappear (seriously, there’s no archive that I know of, although the existence of the Newsroom may be changing that for the future). So if you’re not in Sacrament meeting the week it’s read, or your kids are noisy, it may not stick. Moreover, remember that this comes 17 years after the prior letter: in 17 years, we may have people submitting who were those noisy kids when it was originally read.

[fn4] And I’m not the only one.

[fn5] Illustration: read some of the comments.

[fn6] Note that these are my criteria, not the Church’s.

[fn7] With luck, it would also limit the number of times ordinances are performed for the same person.

[fn8] Yes, I know some people do, but I imagine it’s a relatively small percentage of the overall Church membership.

[fn9] You can do it too, if you’d like.

44 Responses to Policing Submissions for Baptisms for the Dead

  1. Dan on March 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    also, make the practice of baptizing and the rest of the whole process be worth more to the person doing the proxy baptism. Right now, if you go to the temple to do work, you get baptized for like 20 people. You don’t know who they are, what their story is, and you have no general value to the baptism, because it’s too mechanical. We make baptizing a new member of the ward a special event. How can a dead person in the afterlife view his or her baptism as something special if it is merely one of 20 to be done in 5 minutes?

  2. Frank Pellett on March 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I wouldn’t mind a way to be able to help Ward and Stake members who have large numbers of relations that need work. Even if you can’t get to your own ancestors, you could at least strengthen the bonds of your ward by helping with theirs.

  3. Robert Ricks on March 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Nice post, Sam. I’m not sure that your step 1 (relationship verification) would be as easy to implement as it might seem, but others more knowledgeable than I might be able to address that.

    My suggestions would be (1) a safeguard that prevents the submission of specific names (excluded groups and celebrities) that can only be overridden if kinship can be demonstrated, and (2) a dialogue box that forces one to agree to the terms and conditions of submission (viz., one affirms a kinship relation to the names submitted). (For all I know this may be the exact system already in place—I’m chagrined to say I’ve never submitted a name.) The individual in this scenario is morally responsible for her choice and any circumvention of the rules would quite clearly evince a mens rea of recalcitrance.

  4. the eyes have it on March 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with number 1, but I’m not sure that number 2 is necessary. I would favor a system that requires demonstration of kinship, and where the time lapse between death and baptism is dependent on the proximity of the relationship. I think that would prevent the celebrity-type baptism of distantly related contemporaries, while still allowing people to do work for their close relatives. There should also be a system in place for special permission granted when the next of kin agrees, even if the name is submitted by a non- or distant relative.

    While this may lead to fewer baptisms done by youth, I think it is in the spirit of what Dan (above) is talking about.

  5. Marie on March 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    On your footnote #9: To prevent a freakout by those non-members involved in the FHL indexing program who are suspicious of the Church’s mass-extracting names for temple proxy work, a clarification is needed–the current record indexing project that LDS and non-LDS people around the world are being encouraged to participate in online is *not* the same thing as the extraction program. It is being performed simply to make digitized record images easier for everyone to use–*not* to obtain lists of names for LDS temple patrons who come to the temple without their own family names.

    And I assume when you say “direct ancestors” in your proposal, you really mean anyone from a previous generation who is your blood relation and not just direct-line ancestors, right? Because the church has encouraged us to work on the “low-hanging fruit” when we run into walls on our direct lines, by which they mean relatives in collateral lines who lived more recently and therefore are better documented in the surviving records, particularly census records, which in most locations only became really useful genealogically in the mid-19th Century. Whatever the time limitation included in such a proposal, I’d think collateral relatives should still be exempt for that reason. Else how will all the dead Victorian spinsters be redeemed in a timely fashion? Here’s a 2007 Ensign article encouraging collateral research.

    And if collateral relatives were included in that exemption from the time restriction, you run right back into the Holocaust victim problem: the Church has specified that we are to only submit names for Holocaust victims if we are *direct* descendents of them. So that would set up a place for collateral relatives Holocaust victims’ names to slip through the system–unless the system can be automated to stop anyone submitting the name of any collateral relative who died in eastern Europe 1939-1945 and ask for further clarification about the circumstances of their death before proceeding with the submission. Currently you don’t have to provide a place of death on a submission, so that would be a problem.

  6. Steve O on March 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Nothing of substance in this comment; just a point of clarification.

    It’s not actually true that you have to log in as your spouse to see his/her family tree. The information does not come up automatically, but you can add it “manually” (meaning that once you add the first deceased ancestor, the entire line will show up as well).

  7. Ardis E. Parshall on March 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I don’t know what the immediate practical solution is (Marie notes why Sam’s proposal doesn’t quite work), but I favor a longer-term, more basic solution … which I know from the get-go isn’t going to happen.

    Dan and “the eyes have it” are right when they talk about the mechanical, impersonal process that is in place now. Perhaps in a twisted way, the desire to do celebrity baptisms, even Holocaust victims, comes from a yearning to have a personal connection, however, slight, to the person whose name you are carrying — I may not know anything more about Elisabeta Schwartzkauf than that she was a victim of the Holocaust, but that’s more than I know about Elizabeth Blackhead whose name was given to me at the desk.

    The answer is for people to know and care about the people behind the names. That means we have to lessen the emphasis on “I’ve done X names” and “my lines go back to Lady Godiva” and “All you have to do is sit down at the computer and print out a bunch of names that NFS says are related to you.” That claim that “it’s easy! you can do it with no preparation!” that we hear at stake conference and even occasionally at General Conference misleads people to the point where they’re not willing to put any effort into doing it right. That’s reinforced by missionaries I hear at the FHL all the time: “Oh, go ahead and do it — it’ll all be straightened out in the Millennium” and “It doesn’t matter if it’s been done before — sometimes you have to baptize somebody several times before it ‘takes’.” {scream}

    We need to quit being so selfish, stop thinking of temple attendance as being for US. It’s for THEM. If our minds were more on THEM and less on US, then there’d be incentive to do it right.

  8. Sam Brunson on March 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for the comments and clarifications, everyone.

    Robert, I’m also not sure about the technological feasibility. I’m assuming, though, that since they can limit me to seeing my direct line (with Steve O’s clarification), they could also say that I can only submit names for temple work that show up automatically. I don’t know how hard it would be, but it has to be at least within the realm of reason (I say with my fingers crossed).

    Marie, thanks for the clarification on indexing. And actually, I think I did mean direct ancestors. That’s purely for purposes of easy administration. The Victorian spinster problem is solved through Step 2, which says that, after 100 or 150 or some other number of years pass, we’re no longer limited to our direct line. That makes temple submission harder for some (looking on FamilySearch, most of my ancestors for a long way back have been taken care of), but I presumably could still do research on auxiliary family members.

    Eyes and Dan, I understand where you guys are coming from. As I was writing, I thought about whether Step 2 was necessary. I think it is, though, unless we radically rethink the place of temple worship in Mormon life (and by “we,” I mean someone who isn’t me). Right now, if I want to do temple work, I can go, even if I haven’t submitted any names (or even if everybody in my direct line has been taken care of), and there will be a name waiting for me. Without the ability to look outside of our direct line, regular temple worship would have to become much less regular. Potentially, how we see the temple could change, but my project here is much more modest: how can we enforce our aspirational promise, while not disrupting overmuch temple practice?

  9. Sam Brunson on March 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks, Ardis. I agree about the long-term direction; I still think we can implement a short-term solution while we pursue the longer-term attitude. I’m not saying it’s my solution, but there has to be a way.

  10. Ray on March 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I have nothing of substance to add about suggestions beyond what is in the OP, but I want to thank you for this post. There is a real issue here, and it relates directly to your and Ardis’ points about moving beyond the mindless rote.

    To follow up on Ardis’ comment about actually making a heart-connection (actually turning our hearts to our ancestral parents, not just “taking a name through the temple” – a phrase I hate), Jacob wrote a wonderful post over on BCC about temple work that relates very well:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/03/07/generational-translation-and-work-for-the-dead/

  11. KLC on March 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    “We need to quit being so selfish, stop thinking of temple attendance as being for US. It’s for THEM. If our minds were more on THEM and less on US, then there’d be incentive to do it right.”

    Ardis, I remember a while ago we had a brief exchange about this, I don’t remember if it was at Keepa or somewhere else. The big problem I see is that in my stake temple work is ALL about us. We are constantly reminded, I mean almost every week, about how the temple is a place for us to draw closer to the Lord, to get answers to our questions, to accumulate more personal blessings. As I said before, it is presented as a spiritual spa treatment while never a word is said about being saviors on Mt. Zion, about the mission of temple work itself.

  12. dave on March 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    “1.Any solution needs to be administratively feasible. Having a bureaucratic level that looks at every name submission is not administratively feasible”

    i disagree. with the databases available now, as soon as any submission that comes in with the name or any variation of “wiesel” “wiesenthal” or “ann, anne ane frank franke frenk”…etc can be instantly flagged. a further iteration of the program then checks any dates. any direct match of any date gets immediately rejected. any “close” matches instantly sends a letter to the submitter saying “prove without a doubt to us you’re related.” while “innocent” names may get rejected, a delay to get irrefutable proof that a submission does not violate our agreement seems reasonable.

  13. NewlyHousewife on March 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Get rid of names all together. Have all baptisms other than those where the recipient is alive (and hopefully the one being baptized) be to anonymous. Instead have each baptism be an offering for someone on the other side to partake if they choose so.

  14. Mark D. on March 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    As a practical matter, the restriction to should be to direct ancestors and their immediate first generation children who have been dead for more than fifty years. That should satisfy the requirement while making it possible to do temple work for a family at a time.

  15. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I seem to be alone in suggesting that the Church, as well as the families of Daniel Pearl, the Wiesenthals, the Wiesels, and other Jews are being victimized by a scam conducted by Mormons In Name Only (MINOs) who are conspiring with certain individuals who are ex-Mormons or others who are in the business of having Jewish clients pay them to discover whether their relatives have been baptized by the Mormons. The fact that there has been a burst of such instances, all “discovered” within a few days of their occurrence, after a long spell of no known instances, suggests to me that the names are being sbmitted deliberately in defiance of announced Church policy, for the specific purpose of arousing resentment by Jews and others toward the Church and its members, and more specifically to a certain presidential candidate to whom has been directed demands that HE somehow tell the Church to stop doing baptisms for the dead. I think there is a combination of these motives, and it would not take more than a handful of people who met through a dissident Mormons web site to pull it off. It may be my suspicious nature as a former prosecutor, but I sincerely doubt that there is an innocent reason why these particular famous Jews are popping up in the system within a few days of each other.

    The history of the Mark Hoffman forgeries is just one instance where bad news about the Church was manufactured for a combination of motives to both embarrass the Church and to make money. There are always a few MINOs like Hoffman around who will take advantage of such opportunities.

    Another aspect of the controversy that only a few people seem to have understood (including some Jewish bloggers) is that other Christian churches do NOT perform vicarious baptims for deceased Jews for the simple reason that their doctrines state that people who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Savior prior to their death are condemned to suffer in hell for eternity, and they are beyond rescue. So while most Christians are literally telling dead Jews to “Go to hell, go directly to hell, do not collect a baptism, do not ever get out of hell”, it is uniquerly we Mormons who are attacked because we actually believe that Jews can be redeemed after death.

    Most people arguing in the blogosphere ALSO don’t realize that the Mormon scheme of “degrees of glory” in the resurrection means that even WITHOUT vicarious baptism, a deceased Jew who lived righteously on earth is going to live ultimately in the Terrestrial Kingdom, alongside righteous Christians, where all of the standard tropes about heaven will be theirs.

    I admit that in fact most Christians actually reject their own churches’ dogma and believe that good people can go to heaven even if they don’t “accept Jesus”. The research in the book American Grace, shows this, a surprise to many Christian pastors confronted with the data.

    So Mormons teach “Jews go to heaven” regardless of baptism, while most Christians teach “Jews go to hell” after all they can do, which turns out to be nothing. Which belief is more offensive?

  16. Ben P on March 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    “I seem to be alone in suggesting…”

    Yes, you are. And there is a reason for that.

  17. John Taber on March 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    No, Raymond, I think you’re on to something.

    Meanwhile, the Church is taking some direct action – see http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/53667482-78/church-names-radkey-mormon.html.csp .

    I do think a 50- or 100-year wait for non-relatives might do some good. But while it would keep John Denver’s work from being done six times (as of the last time I looked him up in the IGI), I don’t think such a policy decision can be made right now, in the heat of the moment.

  18. Jax on March 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Potentially, how we see the temple could change

    I would love to see a change in the temple services to include much more of an atmosphere for teaching/discussion. Since moving from Utah I now visit one of the smaller temples and their is ZERO space to just sit and hold a personal conversation with someone about the things we can only talk about in temples. But even in Utah where there was space in the temples, I never saw anyone use it. They put couches and chairs in the hallways but I never saw people sitting and discussing what they had been taught in the endowment or the meaning of the cleansing, etc. I know my whole point is off topic, so I apologize Sam, but when you mentioned change I thought I could squeeze it in.

  19. rae keck on March 8, 2012 at 1:31 am

    a return to an older system where all names being submitted for temple work had to first be directed to a stake or ward family history leader would solve this problem. One of the things these individuals were directed to do was to see that unrelated and improper names were not actually sent in and loving educate the preparers about the importance of their personal family work. However, it required active training and participation of local priesthood authorities. It is clear that the recent problem was created for the purpose of public embarrassment only.

  20. John Mansfield on March 8, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I had the same thought as Rae Keck above. In past decades submissions were examined by local examiners. We have to get out of the mindset that because computers exist, human judgement is now too costly and has to be thrown out the window. Once a person has gone to the work of establishing a genealogical connection with the dead, presenting that work to a stake examiner for approval is a marginal additional step.

  21. Researcher on March 8, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Rae keck’s solution sounds good, and the church already has a similar structure in place for arbitrators to judge and approve volunteer indexing efforts. Perhaps the Church could move the system of approval back to the stakes.

    “And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6)

    “For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:36)

  22. Cydlawenhau on March 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Just to clarify, the First Presindency letter states that Bishops only need display the letter in a prominent place on the ward noticeoard. I know it is common practice for all open letters to be read aloud in sacrament meeting, but it’s not necessary. This might be why you have had it read out in Chicago.

  23. Nate R on March 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    The solution to this problem seems to me to be completely obvious; my proposal is similar to some suggestions above.

    Step 1: create a database of Holocaust victims (I’m quite sure that this would not be hard to do; there has got to be such lists on the internet, and certainly in some libraries)

    Step 2: put a “block” on those names so that it requires special permission to submit those names for temple work. (or perhaps, as suggested above, only people whose FamilySearch tree connects to those name; though I would be opposed to making that a general requirement.)

    done.

    So why doesn’t the Church do this?

  24. Nate R on March 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Let me add that I don’t think any amount of well-intended encouragement from the GAs is going to solve this problem. Members (or conspirators, as Raymond suggested) have already demonstrated that encouragement will NOT work.

  25. Velikiye Kniaz on March 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    This recent imbroglio has thrown a minor ‘monkey wrench’ in my plans for some family genealogical Temple work. My maternal grandmother was married three times, and she outlived all three husbands. Her second husband, a Chicago police officer, caught his wife with her ‘lover’ while they were sitting in a parked car in downtown Chicago. He tried to talk them both out of seeing each other again and his wife just laughed at him. Incensed, he pulled his service revolver and shot her and then her lover. Both appeared to have died instantly. He then calmly walked to the police call box and reported what he had done. Fellow officers soon arrived, disarmed and arrested him. A grand jury was convened and the facts of the case were reviewed. He was acquitted because the grand jury saw this as “justifiable homocide”. I have always felt bad about this double murder. The police officer died before I was born and so I never personally knew him, but he was a good and kind husband to my grandmother and step-father to my mother and aunt.So I have always strongly felt, (after learning of this incident), that I at least “owed” it to these people to do their work for them. Although they* were committing adultery, they could still repent while in the spirit world. Now, with these new restrictions, I’m now not sure that I will be allowed to do this work, although none of the parties involved were Jewish or famous. Realizing that this kind of situation is rare in vast majority of genealogical histories, I feel that I can’t be entirely alone in having ancestors who wronged other people and whose descendants would like to make amends. Therefore, I do believe that there is a place for some charitable flexibility of the rules.

    *The officer’s wife was the adulterer, the man was unmarried nad thus committing fornication with a married woman.

  26. rae keck on March 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    there is already build into the family history system a special desk where you may address any unusual situations. Their answer will probably be to do all possible combinations of temple work. You are providing a service, the individuals involved will work out the details, They do not lose control or freedom of choice just because they have died.

  27. meg on March 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    #15 Ray,so baptism only pertains to the CK?

  28. Ray on March 9, 2012 at 1:07 am

    meg, I’ll let RTS answer, but I was tempted. *grin*

  29. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

    The Salt Lake Yribune interview with Helen Radkey reports that she lives in Utah and that she has been using the computer identities of Mormon confederates to access temple ordinance records. She complains that the new security measures are preventing her brand of research, which currently involves tracing all the relatives of Mitt Romney. Apparently her outrage about the privacy of family records being invaded by third parties is selective in its application.

  30. Hosea on March 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

    The solution is to find the identities used by Radkey and find who gave her those identities and out them as mere ill-willed troublemakers.

  31. Meldrum the Less on March 9, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Might I suggest that we just stop doing proxy work for the dead? I realize this sounds earth-shattering coming from an active member of the LDS church. But think about it.

    Our church leaders have requested (for over a decade) that proxy temple work is not to be done for Jewish holocaust victims. The reason seems to be that it is disrespectful to them. (Argue this point with them.) Logically, I can’t see why the principles are any different for Jews than they are for Baptists or Buddists or anyone else.

    I understand that thinking and teaching the idea that a group of people who believe and behave differently might be going to a place called hell. But to take it to the next level and perform rituals (secret no less) without consent is disturbing to many people.

    In an effort to try and comprehend exactly why Jews find our practice so obnoxious, I have done a bit of reading of their reasons and I think I get it. I also have generalized their reasoning and realized that it is equally disrespectful to be doing it to anyone else.

    Recently one of my geneology-devoted relatives discovered a son of an ancestor who was never baptised. This lost son grew up in pioneer Utah in a polygamist family and his father died when he was very young. His mother was economically neglected to the point of near starvation and treated badly by the more senior wives. He disliked going to church and was never baptised. He somehow obtained a decent education and left Utah and lived a good life entirely disconnected from his family and church heritage.

    So now the question for you. My relatives want to rush his name through the temple under the assumption he must be anxiously waiting for his work to be done. But I now think this shows extreme disrespect for the decisions he made in this life! He was treated badly because of the tension and animosity created by plural marriage, a fundamental characteristic of the Mormon religion of his time. Why can’t we have any respect for his choice? How can we sit here a hundred years later and say he made a poor choice getting away from the horrible circumstances in his family and church? Where can I protest the proxy baptism of this ancestor? What if I can identify any of living descendants and get them to lodge a protest? Hey, if he was Jewish then I would have no problem stopping this ordinance.

  32. Hosea on March 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Meldrum: What if your relative changes his mind after seeing the other side?

  33. Manuel on March 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

    What happens when one of these names is submitted legitimately? Say for example, (hypothetically speaking) a real descendant of Anne Frank turns out to be a member of the Church and wants to submit her name?

    I think the issue is very complex even if we were to have the technology in place, how can you really clear a name 100% so that nobody will be offended they are being proxy baptized???

  34. Marie on March 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Ack! Just noticed that in my earlier comment I linked to an Ensign article about indexing, and not the article on collateral-line research. Here’s the article I meant to link.

    While I’m here tidying up, let me register an A-MEN to what Ardis said about our frequently backward attitude toward temple worship. Members who don’t live near enough a temple for a return visit manage to get the added spiritual guidance they need outside temples. To the degree that we entitle ourselves to additional spiritual blessings in our temple service it is as a side benefit of our sacrifices for our dead turning the hearts, etc, etc., and not the other way around. And if we rarely sacrifice much more than our warm body to that serving the dead, how is the primary goal of return temple visits being accomplished in our hearts? “Spiritual spa treatment,” indeed.

  35. Meldrum the Less on March 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Response to #32:

    Changes his mind about what? He lived a life of awareness for many decades. Will he change who he was? Since we are completely in the realm of speculation I will construct (make up) some details that I think are reasonable guesses about this relative to illustrate my point.

    Call my relative Ed. Ed as a small boy is habitually bullied and physically assaulted by his older half-brothers and their friends from church. His mother is hated and insulted by her sister wives to the point she will not endure their presence. She has no inheritance and no way to earn much money and several children to try and raise. Ed does not get enough to eat, his cloths are dirty and he stinks because he doesn’t have the opportunity to bath very often. He hates everything about church and religion. His only friends are a few other outcasts like himself. He avoids church at all costs. He fights with his mother and sibling over church and withdraws emotionally from them.

    He gets older and realizes that polygamy is not what everyone else on earth is doing. He wishes he had a father and he blames the Mormons for most of his plight. When the wind blows his used coat is not warm enough, although he has managed to figure out how to get enough to eat. He eventually is able to go to the academy and he scrubs outhouses or mucks out stables at night to make enough money to survive.

    He leaves Utah, the happiest day of his life. He kisses his weaping mother good-bye knowing he will probably never see her and her crazy co-religionists who ruined her life again and he is glad of it. He is tired of fighting with them. They are blubbering; if only you were leaving to serve a mission, but no you are going off to hell.

    Eventually Ed marries a nice girl and for the rest of his life he is glad he escaped from the Mormons. He laughs often while reading the paper about all the national attention surrounding the struggle to eliminate polygamy both before and after 1890. Deep down he hates the Mormons and wishes them every ill. But mostly he ignores them and doesn’t waste time on them. He feel sorry for the missionary pair he passes once on the street a few decades later, thinking they are poor deluded fools.

    He accepts Jesus as his Savior and gets involved with his wife’s church but never gives any church his heart and soul. He spoils his own children and attempts to give them everything he never had. He reads the Bible often until he knows it well and he never walks by a starving beggar without giving them something. He has a special place in his heart for those who start out life with severe disadvantages.

    A few days before his death he realizes that he hasn’t even thought about the Mormons for over a decade. He mildly wonders what he is going to say to his Mormon mother and father, if he is to meet them soon. Will he tell them the truth (his perspective of it) that they deserve to be in hell as they probably are? Perhaps he will forgive them since the damage they did, he has largely undone. Yes, that is his final assessment of the Mormons: forgiveness.

    After Ed dies his entire 80 year life is suddenly going to be viewed in a different and highly distorted light? Ed is going to rush at the opportunity to have the very people who almost ruined his life save his soul through proxy baptism? What kind of unjust and capricious God is going to weight decades of his good life including his faith in Christ and say it is meaningless until he accepts proxy baptism many decades following his death through the efforts of the descendants of his relatives who a hated him? Rather might Ed think they should be baptising their own ancestors and the Mormon church leaders who were the authors of a social system that inflicted such misery upon him.

    You know perhaps Ed says, we need to do proxy baptism for everyone regardless of how many times they had it done in this life. Maybe the recycling of names in the temple is not as ridiculous as we think. Maybe some of our relatives really do need to be baptised more than once. Everything makes sense now, when the absurd is allowed.

    J Golden Kimball said: “You can baptise a man a hundred times and if he doesn’t repent it won’t do him a damnded bit of good, that is unless you hold him under.” It might be sort of hard for Ed to repent of things he is glad he did and for good reason.

  36. Heather B in SC on March 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I think it’s rather hilarious that there are folks who are a)very zealous about doing temple work who are b)not understanding that as the Lord is no respecter of persons, there are no celebrities in paradise. There is no point in going off of your own line in order to be baptized for any celebrated person, as we are responsible for our own line. I’m sure those celebrated in their earthly lives are waiting patiently, but there are just as many thousands of deserving and good folks who wait as well.

    I was not particularly stunned that the First Presidency had to say this AGAIN….but still disappointed, seeing as it should be a moot point. I know that we who are LDS understand that even after the work is done, if it’s not accepted by those in the spirit world then it is of no matter to them, them having their agency in that place the same as they did here, but after a previously “strongly worded” letter, and then the addition of this one, nothing will change unless our people actually BELIEVE in doing their OWN work. Otherwise there’s no point,strongly worded letter or not.

    I think the author’s reasoning is extremely sound… nobody is having a panic attack if Queen Elizabeth II’s work has been done, or King what’s his name the somethingth from 1409. Memory fades. Likewise,do our memories of our good ancestors who were not rich, not prosperous, not famous, and yet no less deserving of the chance. If we are doing otherwise, just to be able to say “I was baptized for such and such,” or, “in MY work, I did THIS name,” we have missed entirely the point of our own work and need to go back to remedial learning of those principles of temple worship.

    What an immature, selfish, and conceited way to do temple worship….which is a true oxymoron.

  37. jader3rd on March 11, 2012 at 1:39 am

    Why is it so difficult for the church to prevent repeat baptisms for an individual?

  38. Cameron on March 12, 2012 at 12:16 am

    @ Ben (16) This has happened consistently ever since 1820 until the present, why would today be any different?

    @ jader3rd (37), I imagine managing such a task without inhibiting all legit family history work and maximizing accessibility to lay members is not as simple as it may seem.

  39. jader3rd on March 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

    How would having a website say “sorry, you can’t print out a temple card for this person, because their work has already been done” prevent legit family history work?

  40. Last Lemming on March 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    How would having a website say “sorry, you can’t print out a temple card for this person, because their work has already been done” prevent legit family history work?

    When you submit a name, the system automatically kicks into “Find Possible Duplicates” mode and lists all of the people in the system who could be the same person as the one you are submitting. When such duplicates are identified, it frequently turns out that the temple work has already been done and the submitter aborts the request. But just as frequently, there are discrepancies between the submitted name and the possible duplicates that allow people to believe that they might not be the same person. In that case, they ignore the duplicates and the request goes through. Until the system incorporates an algorithm that makes a firm determination of what is a legitimate duplicate and what is not (instead of the probability ratings it now provides), the problem will persist.

  41. Ray on March 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Part of the problem also is in the allowance of names to be processed without all of the relevant identifying information – like if the exact DOB is unknown, but everything else identifies the person well enough to be confident she was a real person. In that situation, how many Marys or Johns could have been born in the same year in the same town? If one person discovers a particular Mary or John in the ancestry but doesn’t know the last name, and if another person does the exact same thing, and if another person discovers the same person but has a last name but no middle name, and if another person discovers the same person but has a middle and last name . . . the same person can look like possibly multiple people to those doing the research – and, therefore, the work gets done multiple times.

    I think the Church generally has taken the position that it’s better to do the work for the same person more than once than risk mistaking multiple people for the same person and not doing the work for all of them. Iow, the current problem could be solved with a strict algorithm, but it might create what the Church would see as an even bigger problem – given the difficulty of finding all the information requested for each person.

  42. Sharee Hughes on March 13, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Last Lemming #40, you are right. I have had this happen more than once, where it was obvious some of the “possible duplicates” really were, and some were questionable. I submitted paperwork for some triple-great-grandparents one time where I knew only the first name of the grandmother. I have since discovered her maiden name, but hopefully no one will decide her work needs to be re-done. I guess I could go into New Family Search and add her maiden name. I’m not sure. Does anyone know if I can do that?

  43. Meldrum the Less on March 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Reply to #37

    “Why is it so difficult for the church to prevent repeat baptisms for an individual?”

    Excellent question.

    Back in the good old days, genealogy was the preoccupation of only a few and it was extremely difficult. You had to almost be a professional to do it. Genealogy then might not have been efficient and entirely accurate, but it was consistent and precise. Then the LDS church leaders wanted more people involved and so they took steps to simplify the entire process. The result is that today more of us are collecting more information; but it is of less reliability and some of it is rather dubious.

    We are instructed to write things down. But this is not enough. You would be amazed at the inaccuracies in written records. Even official information on birth and death certificates is not always correct. My father accidently(?) misspelled his own middle name on his own headstone when he buried my mother and for some reason he doesn’t want to correct it. My sibling have offered to pay for it and that isn’t the reason.

    We have always had with us those individuals who wish to change or hide their identities while alive, for a variety of reasons not always nefarious. I think this might have been worse in prior generations than now. The police departments of any major city have on file many cases of unique finger prints clearly from one person that are associated with 20 or 30 alias names, birthdays, social security numbers, etc. When even modern law enforcement professionals can’t figure out who someone is while they are alive standing right there in front of them, then how can you hope to answer the same question 200 years later?

    Add to this the tendency for those most motivated to write down family histories to also have a moralistic agenda; to use the events in the lives of their ancestors to preach valuable lessons to the youth. If you think the church has a problem bowdlerizing its history, wait until you see what a gaggle of well-meaning elderly aunts, convinced the world is going to hell in a hand cart, can do to a family history.

    Then there is the simple mathematical implication of exponental growth. I have but 2 parents, 1024 grandparents back 10 generations and well over a million grandparents back 20 generations. So going back in time; as family history reliability plunges, the extent of the task explodes. The same principle applies in reverse. One of my 4th great-grandfathers has at least 10,000 descendants. Many of them are members of the church actively working to mostly foul up the family history so painstakingly assembled by the generations of genealogy professionals.

    In the future DNA technology will probably further muddle the picture. Over 80% of children in certain socio-economic groups are being born to unmarried women. Has that ever happend before? What are we going to do when we find that our biological parents are not our social parents? What does a divorce rate of 40% and “mixed families” over multiple generations look like to future genealogists?
    Chaos, even if perfectly accurate.

    It is mathematically impossilbe to establish criteria that would separate absolutely reliable information from information of every other hue of uncertainity. It would be a major undertaking to line up 100 living people at the ward picnic and get all of their names and birthdays written down correctly. How can we expect to establish these facts indisputably across the ages? As long as there are unpredictable discrepancies, it will be impossible to differentiate separate individuals from the same individual associated with different pieces of mistaken information. That is a fundamental characteristic of the landscape of genealogy.

    A little voice deep inside of me has always thought this genealogy work excessively complex and unnecessary, diverted too much energy that could better be allocated to the problems of the present and future. I guess I don’t really have the “spirit” of genealogy.

  44. Amy T on March 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Sharee (comment 42) — of course you can go in and add information. If you don’t know how, ask your ward family history consultant. A few things to remember:

    1) Don’t change or add information in NewFamilySearch unless you have documentation for each person. (No exceptions!) I’m looking at one of my ancestors and see that someone has recently added his mother as his spouse and had the two sealed. What a joke.

    2) When you add information to NewFamilySearch, there are places to add your sources for the information. Do it! If it’s worth remembering your ancestors, it’s worth remembering them right.

    3) The best sources are primary documents, which are documents created at the time of the event.

    If you need to know more about any topic related to genealogy, FamilySearch has some good tutorials and other information:

    https://www.familysearch.org/learn