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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Posthumous Baptism, Infant Baptism, Circumcision

Are we depriving persons of their right to choose their own religion?

There's been so much chatter, and not only among the chattering classes, lately about baptism for the dead, I began to wonder about some of the practices of other religions. The main objection seems to be that the dead have no opportunity to decide for themselves. Of course we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see that differently. We believe the dead do have the opportunity to accept or reject the rite of baptism. And BTW, posthumous baptism, even if accepted by the deceased person, does NOT make anyone a Mormon!

Infant Baptism. Mormons don't do this, but many denominations do, because they read in John 3:5:
 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
 Mormons baptize at the "age of accountability", which is generally set at eight years. Converts to the Church are baptized at that time, no matter how old they may be. Now whether an eight-year-old really has the ability to knowingly choose to enter into baptismal covenants is debatable, and parents may decide to wait a little while if they think it best.

The rationale for infant baptism, as I understand it, is that unbaptized persons, though they have committed no sins, will automatically burn in hell.

So what is hell? Actually, it's the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, or the Hinnom Valley, which runs along the side of Jerusalem, opposite the Chidron Valley, which in turn runs between the city and the Mount of Olives.
 "Hinnom" became "Gehenna" in Greek, and "hell" in King James English. So if you tell someone to "go to hell," you're sending him on a trip to the Holy Land.

The burnings came about because pagans, and sadly, some early Jews, burned their children alive there as offerings to their gods. Imagine the screams and sufferings of the sacrificed infants, not to mention their mothers. Later on, the Hinnom Valley became the trash dump for the city, and emitted its malodorous smoke as the offal smouldered.

This, in the eyes of many Christians, is the never-ending fate of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Scientologists and Mormons, along with anyone else outside the charmed circle.

The Fires of Hell. Eternal torment. And these same people purport to find posthumous baptism shocking!

Now ask yourself: would you do this to your child, no matter what he had done? Of course not. So give God credit for being at least as good a parent as you are.

Circumcision. This is a ritual not practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so not being a Jew, I cannot comment on it, beyond acknowledging its relevance to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Baptism for the Dead. Now we come to what seems to be the sticking-point for all this: choice. Do we deprive people of their free agency in performing this sacrament for them?

How many squawling infants have ASKED to be baptized? How many are saying, "May I have a bris please? Please Mama PLease! I want to be like my friend....puh-lease!"

So who makes these decisions? Not the person being baptized or circumcised, obviously. No; it's the FAMILY who decides.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints baptize their own relatives. In the absence of informed consent, the FAMILY members decide this matter.

Now infants grow up; some will remain Christians after their infant baptism. Some will grow up to be practicing Jews. Some will choose another path entirely. But it's their choice. Just as in the hereafter, persons will accept or reject the teachings preferred by their relatives. Mormons simply want to give them that opportunity.

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