Mormonism, let’s be honest, is a strange faith.
Now, I don’t think it is substantially weirder than most of the religions we are used to, what with their talking animals, virgin births, and dead folks popping up here and there and eventually everywhere. But because it is a relatively modern faith, born in the 19th century, one would have expected it to be, well, a little more sophisticated.
And because a devout—is there any other kind?—Mormon has a good chance of becoming president this year, it is fair to note just how odd are some of the beliefs of Mormons, especially since there are only about 14 million of them in the world (there were only about 1 million when Mitt Romney was born) and they constitute a rather unique group of believers.
It is also fair to examine Mormonism because Romney has been a Mormon missionary, was partly educated in Mormon schools, has served as a Mormon bishop in Massachusetts, and gives a great deal of money to the Mormon Church.
While there are plenty of places on the web where one can check out the various bizarre beliefs tied to Mormonism—like Jesus making a pit stop in the Americas after his resurrection—I want to focus on one that I think reveals not only how creative Mormons can be, but how useful one of their doctrines can be for we liberals. It is called “baptism of the dead.”
Yep, that’s right. They do it. It is a religious ritual of the church, even though some non-Mormon folks want them to stop:
The point, I gather, of proxy baptism is to cut some long-distance slack to those unfortunate souls who passed away without the benefit of a real-time dip in the drink. You see, without that brief immersion in water, one cannot visit the Kingdom of God, or in the case of Mormonism, the Kingdoms of Gods. Apparently, our Higher Power(s) is (are) fond of folks who have taken the plunge, whether they actually took the plunge or conveniently had a descendant do it.
In any case, there is available a handy list of “Prominent People Mormons Have Baptized by Proxy,” should you want to know if your favorite hero of history got his or her belated bath. I am happy to report that Albert Einstein is on the list, although Elvis Presley is not, an oversight that perhaps Mitt Romney can help with, since he has actually done him some post-death baptizin':
When asked by NEWSWEEK if he has done baptisms for the dead—in which Mormons find the names of dead people of all faiths and baptize them, as an LDS spokesperson says, to “open the door” to the highest heaven—he looked slightly startled and answered, “I have in my life, but I haven’t recently.”
I just want to say that I think there is a kind of charm associated with baptizing people long dead, in hopes that they can get out of the nosebleed section in the hereafter. It is at least thoughtful of others, a kind of baptismal salute to socialism. As we discover in the Journal of Discourses:
The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.
Or how about the following socialistic spirituality, as expressed by founder Joseph Smith:
And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
You see how nice that is? It’s like saying, “If everyone can’t be saved, then none of us can be,” or “All for one and one for all.” Charming, caring, civilized.
And this is where this sentiment can prove useful to liberals: All we have to do is get Mitt Romney—who has baptized people on behalf of the dead—to take that same idea—”their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation“—and apply it to universal health care: if all can’t get coverage, then none of us gets it!
That ought to go over well in the GOP primary, don’t you think?