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Jan 29 2012

Mitt Romney, ghoul

Mormons have some disgustingly repulsive habits. One of them is their obsession with the dead.

It seems Mitt Romney’s father-in-law was smarter and stronger than he was, and didn’t live his life with the crutch of superstition to hold him up. He’s related by marriage to a goddamned atheist, which is a plus in Romney’s favor: he’s at least brushed up against reason a few times in his life.

Ann Romney’s Welsh-born father (who Mitt mentioned in last night’s debate to shore up his pro-immigrant bona fides) was an engineer, inventor, and resolute atheist who disdained all organized religion and raised his children accordingly. Davies, his son Roderick told the Boston Globe in 2007, regarded the faithful as "weak in the knees."

The brush up with reason didn’t help: the Romneys actively worked to convert the Davies family, and succeeded, except in the case of Edward Davies. But like all good Mormons, they had a sneaky last ditch attack they could make: they just waited until Davies died. Once your brain stops working, it turns out, you’re much more susceptible to Mormonism.

According to this entry in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ genealogical database, Davies was baptized as a Mormon at a “special family meeting” 14 months after his death: “All ordinances except sealing to spouse performed in Salt Lake Temple on 19 Nov 1993 in special family meeting,” the entry says. (When we previously asked the church whether Davies had been baptized, a spokesperson told us that the information was available only to his family and church members. But it’s apparently right there on the internet for those who know what to look for.)

Mormons deserve some kind of special prize for intellectual and moral cowardice. That is one creepy religion.

Special note to my kids: don’t you dare pull this crap on my corpse after I’m dead. I raised you better than that.

111 comments

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  1. 1
    Dick the Damned

    PZ, i thought you were gonna say, “…Special note to my kids: don’t you dare pull this crap on my corpse after I’m dead, or I’ll come back & haunt you.”

    But, of course, you didn’t let us down.

  2. 2
    Tualha

    Sorry for the off-topic posting – I would use the open thread if there were a recent one – but how do I contact the site administrators? I’m trying to change my email address here and I keep getting an error message.

  3. 3
    sometimeszero

    This disgusts me. Although I’m confident that Edward Davies doesn’t (i.e. can’t) give a damn, it just goes to show how little respect the Romneys had for the man and his beliefs. And of course it shows by comparison the level of respect he’d also have for atheists if he were ever president.

    If only Romney had any sense of reason, he could consider how he’d feel if a family member had him de-baptized after his death. Guarantee he’d rethink his creepy posthumous baptisms.

  4. 4
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    So their ancestor’s accomplishments — an inventor and engineer — mean nothing if he doesn’t have (retroactively) the magic underwear? Says lots about Mormonism. Or theism in general. All a persons work is meaningless unless they believe the right lies.

  5. 5
    Tualha

    Hey, why not? Let’s retroactively declare Brigham Young to have been a staunch atheist. It won’t bother him, and if the Mormons object, point out it’s exactly what they’re doing.

  6. 6
    Dick the Damned

    Tualha, it won’t work. We don’t have the magic rituals.

  7. 7
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Tualha, it won’t work. We don’t have the magic rituals.

    BBQ’ing babies aren’t a magic ritual?

  8. 8
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Creepy.
    How is that even supposed to work? He’s dead and presumably in hell, but then his sentence gets repealed?

  9. 9
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    BBQ’ing babies aren’t a magic ritual?

    No matter how magical that first bite, fresh of the grill, feels, I’m afraid not.

  10. 10
    sc_0ac2afbfbbc5f266286bdefd472cfb22

    I had an ancestor who practiced medicine in colonial Vermont. While he wasn’t overly educated (in those days, a few months of medical training in the Army made you a doctor), what little we know of him was that he was a quick-witted man, wasn’t a church-goer and married a woman whom he trained in medicine (treated as an equal partner). Some of their descendants migrated westward and some of them became Mormons. I understand he was retroactively baptized, which probably would have horrified him. I hope I never have descendants with so little respect for my beliefs.

  11. 11
    I'm_not

    My ex-mother-in-law is Welsh. She’s the reason it’s known as “the land of the dragon”.

  12. 12
    mike0301

    Now some folks in France are trying to unbaptise themselves.

  13. 13
    culchpile

  14. 14
    culchpile

    I was trying to link to “Atheize the dead”, http://www.iamanatheist.com/atheize.php

  15. 15
    Nick Gotts

    I’m much less bothered by this than by the way the Mor[m]on Church treats the living. Yes, it’s creepy, but less so than the belief of the majority of Christians and Muslims in Hell.

  16. 16
    Glen Davidson

    “I’ll die before I become Mormon.”

    Mormons take that literally.

    Glen Davidson

  17. 17
    Pteryxx

    Tualha: re the site admins, you can email either Greg Laden (Xblog in the sidebar) or Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars in the sidebar)… honestly I don’t remember which one is the main site admin. Help?

    Also, PZ’s sidebar has a link to TET (The Endless Thread) where nothing is off-topic and some of the regulars could maybe help you troubleshoot. (I know you mentioned it already, just giving As You Know Bob for any lurkers.)

  18. 18
    jamessweet

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (even though last time I said it on Pharyngula it got me bizarrely accused of being a Mormon sympathizer): Given the massive amounts of money that the LDS church poured into ensuring the passage of Prop 8, their nefarious dealings in Hawaii regarding domestic partnerships there, their association with shockingly dangerous “ex-gay” camps and clinics, the very successful techniques for indoctrination (e.g. fast and testimony meeting: look it up), the fact that family members who are not members in good standing (including being up to date on giving the church 10% of your gross, not net, income) cannot attend their own children’s or siblings’ weddings at temples, and the intense and sometimes bizarre pressure put on living former members who have tried to leave the church, just to name a few — given all that, I think it’s utterly silly to get all up in arms over them saying a few magic words over the names of some dead people.

    I’ve participated in baptisms for the dead. In practice, they are not so much creepy and ghoulish as they are banal, stupid, and boring. They are usually trying to get as many done in as short a time as possible, so they rattle off this stupid prayer really fast with no emotion, then DUNK, then another name… It’s only ghoulish from a distance; up close, it’s just LAME.

    It’s particularly strange to me that fellow atheists, of all people, would take so much offense at this pointless and stupid practice, when after all it affects nobody. The LDS church does all sorts of horrible shit, stuff that is literally killing people right here and now… and we get our rage on over some silly little mutterings about dead people? Very silly.

    Baptism for the dead is a bit ghoulish, but it’s mostly just stupid.

  19. 19
    Mr Ed

    On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my daughter will bring home some sort of religious wingnut.

  20. 20
    cry4turtles

    I wonder if the press will touch this when Romney wins the main GOP clown contest?

  21. 21
    pinkboi

    Mormonism is a good example of how religions behave more like life forms, with more fit life forms spreading more. No, Mormonism doesn’t confer additional benefit on humans, just on itself. It hypnotizes its host victim into a bizarre belief that he or she must spread it to others. I re-remember why I despise religion, especially of the evangelical kind, when I’m in a foreign land and I see a Mormon on the train, ready to go around destroying the native culture.

    I have a lot of Mormon friends, having come from a rural area so I sometimes don’t feel comfortable insulting LSD. But when I remember that most of my friends are poor and the Mormon ones have to sacrifice so much of their income to that racist old church, my resolve strengthens once again.

  22. 22
    madtom1999

    The Death rule: Once you’re dead you’re dead.
    They can baptise me all they like after I’m dead – I’d rather the sad bastards were wasting their time on my foetid corpse than sucking life out of the living. When I’m dead I wont give a fuck but while I’m alive I’m not going to give any weight to the action of lunatics by pretending to be offended by their totaly innefectual actions. Get a grip FFS.

  23. 23
    jemimacole

    Carl Sagan was a Mormon, and not even he realized:

    http://famousdeadmormons.com/index.php?id=208

    Personally … let them do this. As an atheist, I think it’s exactly as effective as waving a stick over me and saying I’m now a rabbit.

    It disgusts believers of other religions, and this is good. You know how atheists were accused this week of ‘colonialism’? Well … how does posthumous conversion strike the people who’d say that? Respectful and tolerant?

    More to the point, whenever someone from a ‘real’ religion kicks up a fuss, I think most people now genuinely look at, say, a man in a dress who believes he can use magic to make biscuits into bite-sized pieces of Jesus because he was touched by someone who was touched by someone … touched by someone who touched Jesus, and conclude that *all* religion is silly.

    There is no religious test for office, and there shouldn’t be. There ought to be a values and judgment test, though. Mitt Romney believes that Jesus ascended to Heaven in 33AD, then did a handbrake turn and landed in America. An America with horses, pigs and silk. He donates more to the Church that teaches that than he pays in tax.

    He, in other words, believes in things that are insane, even by the standards of these things.

  24. 24
    Larry

    If I understand it correctly, the primary purpose of the Morman genealogical database is to allow members to research their family history to find long dead ancestors so they can be baptized into the church.

    I think for every 5 relatives you find, you get some kind of award and a decoration you can sew on your magic underware.

  25. 25
    evilDoug

    “We don’t have the magic rituals.”

    That’s because we don’t have a proper place to hold them. When that lovely tower in London is ready, we can hold them there. I’m sure Al de Bo will be thrilled at the prospect.

  26. 26
    Lynna, OM

    LDS Church leaders could slow the flow of ewww reactions to their necrodunking habits by making one simple change to their system.

    All they have to do is create an opt-out method. Online or in writing, one should be able to opt-out of proxy baptism. If your name is in the opt-out database, then no one should be able to baptize you, not even your mormon relatives.

  27. 27
    had3

    You cease to exist upon your death, so you don’t have a corpse. There, now you don’t have to worry what your children do.

  28. 28
    Erp

    I agree it is insulting to the memory (which in effect means to the living non-Mormon relatives and friends of the deceased) though far less dangerous than other practices (e.g., the work against the equal rights amendment, against civil marriage for same-sex couples, etc.). I have a couple of relatives (by marriage) who I suspect have been multiply baptized by the Mormons (both were well-known agnostics {one self-identified as such, the other probably did}) though neither of them have, as far as I know, any Mormon descendents [I just checked, one of them was baptized at least 6 times according to one site].

  29. 29
    stonyground

    This stuff really is incredibly silly, they can’t change what sombody believed when they were alive no matter what rituals they perform. Although the Mormons are taking this to extremes, who hasn’t attended an overtly religious funeral for some one who was not in the least religious?

  30. 30
    Lynna, OM

    Ex-mormons are discussing the issue of dead dunking here:
    http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,402170

  31. 31
    Brother Yam

    Once your brain stops working, it turns out, you’re much more susceptible to Mormonism.

    Pure, unadulterated, win. I can stop reading blogs for the rest of the day…

  32. 32
    Lynna, OM

    The Romney family’s necrodunking of an atheist relative was also covered in the Daily Mail. Link.

    Excerpt:

    Mitt’s wife Ann converted to Mormonism when she was 17 years old, shortly after she had started dating her husband-to-be.
    Because Mitt was in France doing his missionary work at the time, his father George Romney helped usher Ann into the religion and arranged for missionaries to teach her about the faith.

    Shortly after Ann converted, her two brothers followed suit and converted as well.
    Mr Davies died in 1992 and his wife died a year later. When she was on her deathbed, however, she asked her sons to help her convert to Mormonism, and she was baptised just before she died.
    Unlike his wife, Mr Davies had no such last-minute requests for religious salvation.
    He remained true to his convictions and considered organized religion ‘drudgery’ and ‘hogwash’.

    There’s a photo of the “staunch atheist” accompanying the article.

  33. 33
    Lynna, OM

    There’s also a photo of the oxen-supported baptismal font in the Daily Mail article. That’s one ugly piece. They need to hire an interior decorator who is not mormon.

    Scroll down to end of article to see the white oxen.
    Link.

  34. 34
    anuran

    I’d like to retroactively convert all American troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to Islam. Even though they killed thousands they can still go to Heaven. Glad nobody objects to that.

    Right.

    They’d probably lynch me for that in large parts of the US

  35. 35
    anuran

    #33 Lynna,

    I was in the local Temple before it was consecrated. Nowhere have I been in the presence of so much money spent to so little aesthetic result.

  36. 36
    Tualha

    Thanks Pteryxx!

  37. 37
    Matt Penfold

    A quick glance at the comments on that Daily Mail piece I am pleasantly surprised. Some of the comments are actually pretty sane by normal standards, let alone Daily Mail standards1.

    1. Sane by Daily Mail standards is barking mad but not actually frothing at the mouth.

  38. 38
    raven

    Rituals for the dead are actually aimed at and are rituals for the living. The dead are…dead and aren’t going to care one way or another.

    Not sure what Mormons get out of being ghouls and baptizing everyone dead. Maybe the smug satisfaction of getting back at the 7 billion people who either haven’t heard of the cult or think Mormonism is a made up religion of obnoxious kooks.

    If I/we really cared, we could just debaptize them.

    On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my daughter will bring home some sort of religious wingnut.

    Yeah, I know the feeling. It hasn’t really happened to too many people in my circle but it’s not unheard of.

    Mormon leaders call marrying a nonMormon, “the greatest mistake you can make.” I do agree with that but for the exact opposite reasons from them.

  39. 39
    Dick the Damned

    evilDoug @ #25. i heard Al de Bo on Radio 4 Saturday morning. What he was saying boiled down to:

    Religions use a form of social engineering on their congregations to the benefit of the believers, & former believers who still get involved.

    Atheists should have a similar system of social engineering, to garner similar benefits.

    Except, he didn’t refer to it as social engineering.

  40. 40
    christopherwebb

    So they went against his will and converted him after he died.
    Not to worry. The old man will be coming back as a zombie anytime now.
    And he’ll want to eat Mitt’s brains.

  41. 41
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    And he’ll want to eat Mitt’s brains.

    Would that count as ‘Dim son’?

  42. 42
    Matt Penfold

    And he’ll want to eat Mitt’s brains.

    Let’s hope he is not very hungry then.

  43. 43
    Lynna, OM

    Seems to be a snafu in mormon baptism office. Both Harpo and Chico were posthumously baptized 5 times each, but poor neglected Groucho has only been dunked twice. Come on mormons, get with the program. Famous jews all need to be baptized at least 5 times.

    The above quote is from a reader who commented on this site:
    http://famousdeadmormons.com/

    When I went to the site today, Richard Feynman was on the home page as “saved after death” guy. From the Feynman entry:

    …What is truly tragic in the case of Dr. Feynman is that, while he was married 3 times, he is only sealed to two of his wives. According to mormon doctrine, then, he will be denied his rightful place in the Celestial Kingdom, not having the requisite number of wives.

    Individual Ordinances
    Baptism Completed
    20 November 1991
    Oakland California Temple

    Endowment Completed
    13 December 1991
    Oakland California Temple

    Sealing to Parents

    Completed
    5 May 1993
    Oakland California Temple

    Sealing to Spouse

    Completed 23 February 2011
    Oakland California Temple
    Arline Greenbaum

    Completed 29 March 2011
    Los Angeles California Temple
    Gweneth Margaret Howarth

  44. 44
    Lynna, OM

    Here’s dead dunking info for Carl Sagan: http://famousdeadmormons.com/index.php?id=208

    Excerpt:

    …given that he believed that it was just a matter of time before we found people living on other planets, he must be thrilled now, to be living near the planet Kolob.

    Individual Ordinances
    Baptism
    Completed 13 March 1998
    Provo Utah Temple

    Confirmation
    Completed 23 April 1998
    Provo Utah Temple

    Initiatory
    Completed 26 May 1998
    Provo Utah Temple

    Endowment
    Completed 10 July 1998
    Provo Utah Temple

  45. 45
    Lynna, OM

    If Mitt Romney becomes President of the United States, he will be but one in a long line of mormon Presidents.

    Thanks to the miracle of mormon necrodunking, many Presidents have been offered the chance to become mormon in the after life.

    The Founding Fathers were proxy baptized in 1877.

    In 1877, the Founding Fathers of the United States and other eminent men and women appeared in vision to Wilford Woodruff, president of the St. George Temple, for the purpose of completing their temple work. President Woodruff, assisted by others, immediately went forth and had the ordinances performed for these men and women.

    Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.
    I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others.
    When Brother McAllister had baptized me for the 100 names I baptized him for 21, including General Washington and his forefathers and all the Presidents of the United States–except three. Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and wa baptized for Martha Washington and her family and 70 of the ‘eminent women’ of the world. (Wilford Woodruff, in a Conference Report, April 10, 1898; Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 160-61; Wilford Woodruff Journal, August 21, 1877)

    That’s a different spin on the “Christian nation” meme.
    Link to Joseph Smith Foundation page documenting mormon claims to having baptized the Founding Fathers and bunches of Presidents and their wives.

  46. 46
    raven

    Not sure what Mormons get out of being ghouls and baptizing everyone dead.

    What is the difference between baptizing the dead, sealing them, marrying them and so one,…and witchcraft?

    Seems to me this is just practicing sympathetic magic in a religious temple.

    What’s next for the Mormons, making little dolls that represent people they don’t like and torturing the dolls. Hmmm, don’t tell me they already do that, I don’t want to know.

  47. 47
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    And he’ll want to eat Mitt’s brains.

    Which raises the question: Can a zombie die of starvation?

  48. 48
    rogerfirth

    Mormonism is a good example of how religions behave more like life forms, with more fit life forms spreading more. No, Mormonism doesn’t confer additional benefit on humans, just on itself. It hypnotizes its host victim into a bizarre belief that he or she must spread it to others.

    Mormonism, like any other religion, is a mind virus. Its sole purpose is to propagate itself. The rituals, rules, and tithing are just human beings exploiting the mind virus for personal gain.

  49. 49
    Drolfe

    Baptism for the dead is a bit ghoulish, but it’s mostly just stupid.

    And fraudulent, no? I mean isn’t this basically lying about the beliefs of a now-dead person that can no longer defend those beliefs?

    (Or is space-family planet-ownership stuff not a matter of belief?)

  50. 50
    Drolfe

    Sheesh, I guess I could have previewed. You get the idea.

  51. 51
    rogerfirth

    On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my daughter will bring home some sort of religious wingnut.

    My cousin’s daughter married a mormon when she was 21. My cousin and his wife weren’t allowed inside the temple to attend the wedding.

    The daughter dropped out of college less than a year after the wedding to have a baby. (“I only have a couple semesters to go. I’ll go back and finish after the baby’s born.”) She’s 25 now, never finished her degree, has pounded out four puppies already and they’re proudly trying for another one.

  52. 52
    raven

    The Truth Shall Set You Free: Mormonism – fastest growing?religionnewsblog.blogspot.com/…/mormonism-fastest-growing.htmlCached

    30 Apr 2007 – The CUNY American Religious Identification Survey … found that the LDS … Because of high turnover, the actual growth rate in the number of Americans … population growth rate, for a proportional net growth rate of close to zero. …

    Well, there is a bright side. The Mormon church growth rate isn’t as high as they claim. One survey found that it is around zero, CUNY, referenced above.

    Retention of converts is low and some estimates are that half of all Mormons are apathetic, inactive, or just gone.

    It’s a bit hard to get accurate statistics. The Mormon church itself, to appear more powerful, inflates and cooks its results as much as possible.

  53. 53
    Lynna, OM

    On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my daughter will bring home some sort of religious wingnut.

    All of those 19 year old mormon missionary boys depend on hormonal conversions. Good looking, outgoing missionaries always have the best stats when it comes to baptizing new converts.

    Then they go home and marry a born-in-the-convenant Molly Mormon.

  54. 54
    desoto

    While i realize it makes no difference, i would find it highly disrespectful to me to be posthumously baptized by anyone who knew me after my demise. The LDS, they can baptize me all they want for all i care.

  55. 55
    RFW

    Stop for a moment, assume it’s all true, and consider what “vicarious baptism” (and other temple ordinances) look like to the dear departed who are subjected to them.

    There you are in a paradise of sorts. Maybe not the best grade paradise, but it’s not too bad: utility grade or grade C, say. (Remember, even the cheapest, toughest cut of meat can be made into a delicious dish by astute tenderizing with a meat hammer, marinating,. and slow simmering.) You get necrodunked. In the theory, this means you now have the option of accepting The Truth or not.

    Sounds to me like the dead souls of non-Mormons end up subjected to endless knockings on the door by lame-brain missionaries. Or, perhaps even worse, JW-style missionaries who won’t take no for an answer. Hardly an attractive prospect! They’re bad enough in this life, those fresh-faced boys who have barely begun to shave, wearing a badge saying “elder”. Excuse me? Is that anything like the Elder Gods?

    [Do ultra-orthodox Jews wear their spit curls as pseudo-tentacles in imitation of Cthulhu?]

  56. 56
    raven

    religionnews.blogspot.com:

    The basic dishonesty here is that Mormons count anyone they baptized as a member, and also any child born to a Mormon parent.

    However, their retention ratios from baptism into real church membership are atrocious, and the apostasy rates for their young ones are astronomical.

    In fact, their real church growth is stagnant if not falling. Maybe the Mormons are growing if they count the number of deceased ancestors they baptize, but that is about it. Hard numbers and unbiased analysis put the number of worldwide Mormons around 3 million, with the vast majority still concentrated in Utah, where the cult remains strongest.

    “In fact, their real church growth is stagnant if not falling.”

    This is despite the fact that all male kids are expected to spend two years converting the pagans, heathens, and gentiles to Mormonism.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Lynna, OM

    raven @52 is correct. LDS Church leaders repeat the “fastest growing religion” canard frequently, as if they think that repetition equals truth.

    The Pew and ARIS/CUNY surveys documented about 1.6% of the United States population as self-identifying as mormons. This total includes those that identify as mormon even though they no longer attend church.

    That 1.6 percent number is exactly the same as was documented in 1980. So, yes, that does indicate zero growth.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/
    http://www.gc.cuny.edu/CUNY_GC/media/CUNY-Graduate-Center/PDF/ARIS/ARIS-PDF-version.pdf?ext=.pdf

    Ex-mormons who used to be Ward Clerks note that the inactive rates are increasing. The LDS Church could honestly advertise growing numbers of inactive members. For an example, see http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,207594,207594

  59. 59
    timgueguen

    Baptising the dead was probably intended to help conversions. It may have been more effective in that role when the rate of death for mothers in childbirth and deaths from communicable diseases and accidents were higher. If your wife, kids, or other relatively young family members died before you could convince them to convert you didn’t have to worry. The Elders would baptise them and you’d still get a chance to be with them.

  60. 60
    Snoof

    Mormonism, like any other religion, is a mind virus. Its sole purpose is to propagate itself. The rituals, rules, and tithing are just human beings exploiting the mind virus for personal gain.

    I have to disagree. Mormonism is not an organic folk religion that developed over the course of centuries. It was explicitly constructed as a method of gaining wealth and power. The rituals, rules and tithings are deliberate, premeditated and part of it right from the beginning, not something tacked on later.

    It’s similar to Scientology that way.

  61. 61
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    That 1.6 percent number is exactly the same as was documented in 1980. So, yes, that does indicate zero growth.

    Erm, no, it doesn’t. In 1980, the US population was about 227 million. Today it is around 300 million. This would indicate (to me (and I am frequently wrong, remember)), that the number of Mormons in the US has gone from about 3.6 million to about 4.8 million. Their population as a percentage of the US population is stagnant, but as a real number I think it has gone up.

    Keep in mind, though, that the Mormon Church claims to have had 4.6 million adherents in 1980, growing to 14.1 million in 2010. Of course, this includes ‘children of record’, which includes any child born to a member or a lapsed member, whether that child is baptised into the LDS at age 8. So take these numbers with a three-pound box of salt.

  62. 62
    raven

    same link as comment 52:

    The study found that just fewer than 2.8 million Americans age eighteen and over identified themselves as Latter-day Saints. There are 5.3 million U.S. citizens officially on LDS membership rolls, although this includes a declining percentage of minors under age eighteen as well as many inactive and disengaged adults. “

    It’s hard to say what is really happening with their membership exactly. But just about all the statistics and surveys indicate that active membership is stagnant at best and may be going down.

  63. 63
    Lynna, OM

    Erm, no, it doesn’t. In 1980, the US population was about 227 million. Today it is around 300 million. This would indicate (to me (and I am frequently wrong, remember)), that the number of Mormons in the US has gone from about 3.6 million to about 4.8 million. Their population as a percentage of the US population is stagnant, but as a real number I think it has gone up.

    Thanks for correction. I hadn’t thought that through properly.

    I still think the number of active members has gone down, but as raven noted, it’s very difficult to get hard data from the LDS Church. Quote from a mormon:

    My ward is only about 20% active and I live in a highly dense LDS area. There’s like 500 members on the roles but only about 100 are active. That’s just my ward. Seems pretty typical though.

    More information here: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,400258
    The discussion began on January 25, 2012

    The 14 million number is anyone who has ever been baptized and anyone who is born to a member whether they get baptized eventually or not. In my mission, we only knew where maybe 25% of our members were. Most went to other churches or were dead. We never took them off the rolls.

    the 20-25% activity rate is an Anglo thing from North America and New Zealand and the like. Anywhere in Europe and most of Latin America, it’s single digits, and in some places has collapsed under 1%! A friend of mine served a mission in Brazil and visited a ward with less than 20 active members and more than 2,000 members living nearby. A branch I visited in Portugal had 70 members living in the town, and not one still came to church. And then there was the small town in Spain with one single very active member. Sexually active, that was. She had sex with a mishie.

    Or as I heard my own bishop here in Spain mutter to his wife (they were from California, so they said it in English) “so many members, so little tithing”

    “I’m not a member, I resigned my membership.” Yes, but we’ve had enough of an inside glimpse here over the years to know for a fact that we’re still counted in the numbers. They move your name to an “unaffiliated members” list, but they can’t purge it because what if, gawdforbid, you decide to get back in when you realize that the mor(m)on church really is true and that if you’re not a member you’ll party in hell for all eternity? They can’t let all of us get re-baptized without the power play, so they have to keep info on us to check the database before someone dunks us unknowingly. And, oh, they just haven’t been able to find a programmer yet who knows how to fix the system so the unaffiliated people are no longer counted. Well, or the people who haven’t been to church in decades who they can’t find and wouldn’t be 110 yet, or the ones who flat out told them to go F*** themselves or the ones who were so drunk when the mishies dunked them after 1 lesson that they don’t even remember being a member or never knew that little refreshing dip in the small pool made them a member.

    But to answer your question, yes that number is probably correct. It does NOT make them one of the fastest growing churches in the country, however, it only makes them the laughing stock of the vast inter-faith church record keepers across the universe.

    http://packham.n4m.org/morexmos.htm

  64. 64
    robro

    “Unbaptizing”…what a great idea! If they can baptize the dead, seems we could unbaptize anybody and make them atheists. We could send a nice certificate to announce to folks like Romney, Santorum, Perry, the Pope, etc that they have been unbaptized and are now reason-loving atheists. Amen!

    And, like the LDS refusing to let people out of the church, once you’ve be unbaptized you are permanently unbaptized. No backsliding allowed.

  65. 65
    Pierce R. Butler

    The Latter Day Saints still have so much more work to be done.

    Remember: corporations are people, my friends.

  66. 66
    raven

    A lot of sects inflate their membership numbers to appear more powerful than they are.

    They stole that from the cats. Everyone has seen a cat arch its back and fluff out its fur to look larger than it is.

    The RCC is notorious for this. According to Catholic sources, 22 million people have left in the last few years due to the scandals and other issues.

    The RCC just counts baptisms, won’t take anyone off their roles, and last year claimed to have grown by 1% USA.

    One of my Catholic relatives is now a mid-level lay church official in a Protestant church. He is still counted as a Catholic.

  67. 67
    LykeX

    How is that even supposed to work? He’s dead and presumably in hell, but then his sentence gets repealed?

    For those interested, here’s what I learned from some (very nice, but kinda airheaded) Mormon missionaries.

    The Mormon afterlife is not strictly heaven and hell. Once you die, you go into the spiritual waiting-room, where you get another chance to be taught the “true doctrine” and convert. You only go to hell if you stubbornly refuse, all the way. Even if you’re of a different religion, you get to go to one of the lesser levels of heaven. Hell is specifically kept as the dwelling of Satan and his minions.

    However, the top level of heaven is reserved to the true Mormons, who have gone through all the rituals. Even if you convert in the afterlife, you can’t get to the best place… unless somebody on earth does the ritual for you. That’s what it’s all about. If the living believers do the rituals on behalf of the dead buy, he gets the chance to go to the highest heaven, the celestial kingdom.

    While the other kingdoms are nice, you only get to be with your earthly family members if you go to the top tier, so it’s kinda important whether you get the rituals done or not. Failure to perform the ritual will mean that you’ll be separated from them for eternity. And, of course, these proxy rituals can only be done by someone in good standing, with permission to enter the temple. One of the requirements for temple access is to pay tithing.

    Starts to make sense now, doesn’t it?

  68. 68
    LykeX

    Hell is specifically kept as the dwelling of Satan and his minions.

    Which may or may not include atheists. I could never get a straight answer on that.

  69. 69
    LykeX

    So take these numbers with a three-pound box of salt.

    Especially since they’re happy to count you even if you haven’t been to the church for years. The numbers are grossly inflated.

    For those interested, check out Irreligiosophy, a, now defunct, podcast run by two ex-mormons. They discuss religion in general, but they especially go into detail with mormonism.

  70. 70
    phoenicianromans

    Myself, I’m adding a middle name of Mormansaresuperstitiousassholes by deed poll. Okay kiddies, go right ahead.

  71. 71
    bobtmarley

    @LukeX #68
    Straight answer from an exmo:
    Mormons don’t know. The doctrine is whatever the current prophet says it is, since he receives revelation from God. Newer prophets have overridden former prophets many times. Polygamy was disavowed, blacks were given equal standing, etc.

    That said, most generally do not consider hell (or outer-darkness in Mormonspeak) a place for atheists. In order to get to hell, you have to commit the “unpardonable sin” which is to “deny the holy ghost.” That has been interpreted by church leaders to mean “know God, and then deny him.” Since Satan knew god and Jeebus in the “pre-mortal” life and rebelled, they committed the unpardonable sin. For you to do so, you’d have to have some sort of witness that God was real, and then turn your back on him (like, for example, seeing him face-to-face).

    Of course, none of this matters because it’s all a bunch of pointless mythology, but hopefully I’ve cleared it up for you.

  72. 72
    LykeX

    Thanks for the clarification. I find the theology fascinating, even if it is a mess :)

  73. 73
    Jerry

    I’m tempted to put into my will that any money a descendent gets from me, directly or indirectly, will have to be used to defend my reputation from them trying to re-baptize me after my death. Lawyer vs. Mormon. Kind of like Predator vs. Alien, but uglier.

  74. 74
    kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith

    Once your brain stops working, it turns out, you’re much more susceptible to Mormonism.

    Well, isn’t that the case with most religions ?

  75. 75
    feralboy12

    So take these numbers with a three-pound box of salt.

    Many do, which might explain that big lake in Utah.

  76. 76
    unclefrogy

    no need to De-baptize or De-convert the dead they are all atheists now.

    all the dead Popes, cardinals, saints and profits, sages and “Hollymen”,Gurus, masters and believers that ever were are now unbelievers regardless of what anybody does now.

    the only eternal life there is is that life seems to go on. No matter who dies life goes on without them.

    uncle frogy

  77. 77
    Ichthyic

    You only go to hell if you stubbornly refuse, all the way.

    damn, how tedious.

    Isn’t there like a button or something you can press just to skip to the end?

    In fact, I want that right now, for ALL evangelical morons.

    I want to be able to press one button that makes it so they never fucking try to tell me the “good news” ever again.

    I would pay good money for that button.

  78. 78
    Ichthyic

    It’s similar to Scientology that way.

    vice versa, actually.

    I’m sure Mormonism was a very useful model for those developing the organizational workings of Scientology.

  79. 79
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    After I have died, any religion that cares to convert me is free to do so. I will not be around to object. But I do hope that living people who knew me realize what a joke that baptism of the dead is.

  80. 80
    epikt

    robro says:

    “Unbaptizing”…what a great idea! If they can baptize the dead, seems we could unbaptize anybody and make them atheists. We could send a nice certificate to announce to folks like Romney, Santorum, Perry, the Pope, etc that they have been unbaptized and are now reason-loving atheists. Amen!

    Imagine the comedic potential if every religion did this–hundreds of religious groups, all baptizing and counter-baptizing and counter-counter-baptizing each other. I’ll bet the thought of stealth-converting members of other sects to the One True Religion–all of ‘em–would be like chum in the water for these clowns. And it would be great fun to watch all the lawsuits. Maybe there’d even be a religious war.

  81. 81
    tomh

    @ #2
    I’m trying to change my email address here and I keep getting an error message.

    I’ve been trying for a month, without success. I don’t think it is possible.

  82. 82
    Ichthyic

    Many do, which might explain that big lake in Utah.

    HA!

  83. 83
    chigau (違う)

    When I changed my email address in my profile, the system sent an email message to the new address for confirmation.
    I didn’t go any farther.
    Doesn’t it work?

  84. 84
    Midnight Rambler

    I find it funny that even PZ and a lot of the commenters here are disturbed by this. Honestly, I don’t give a shit, especially given all the other horrendousness the Mormon church is responsible for. Their dedication to microfilming and digitizing vital records (which are all publically available for genealogical research) is about the only good thing they ever produced, so if they want to babble a bit of nonsense in exchange, I couldn’t care less.

  85. 85
    tomh

    @ #83 chigau

    Not for me. I got the email, with the link to click on to verify the change, but clicking on it brings the error message, (probably the same one Tualha got),

    “You attempted to access the “Freethought Blogs” dashboard, but you do not currently have privileges on this site. If you believe you should be able to access the “Freethought Blogs” dashboard, please contact your network administrator.”

    I figured it had something to do with my old, decrepit system, since I hadn’t seen anyone else mention it.

  86. 86
    M can help you with that.

    epikt@80

    Imagine the comedic potential if every religion did this–hundreds of religious groups, all baptizing and counter-baptizing and counter-counter-baptizing each other.

    Why the “if”? You are all Discordian popes (other than me; I excommunicated myself), and are thus all free to declare your own explicitly or implicitly atheistic sects of Discordianism and then baptize people as fully-recognized Discordians. Even the fundamentalist sects of Discordianism recognize the authority of Discordian popes to perform baptisms without the consent of the deceased (as well as to unilaterally declare the significance of said baptisms); why shouldn’t we let the media know that Joseph Smith, for instance, has posthumously converted to a particular sect of Discordianism? Any number of competing atheist and/or Discordian sects (remember — the number of Discordian sects is somewhat larger than the number of Discordians; I’m currently affiliated with seven sects involving a total of three not-yet-deceased members) could then publicly contest ownership of the approval of Joseph Smith. Of course, the Mormons could similarly contest ownership, but since the current practice of the media is to simply report claims rather than evaluating them, the media must be forced to conclude that there’s only a tiny probability that Joseph Smith should now be considered a Mormon rather than a Discordian and/or atheist.

  87. 87
    Ermine

    Yeah, as one who was raised Mormon, and who lived all along the Pioneer trail, from Missouri to Salt Lake City and a dozen other places in the US, I think I’ve got a reasonably-good notion of what they’re really teaching and what the average Mormon really believes. As Lykex mentions, it’s the ritual that’s important. I honestly don’t know the answer to one question though – Do the online pages that list people who have had baptism by proxy performed for them actually list the people as LDS members afterward? I know that they aren’t generally thought of as members by the other LDS folk.

    The concept is that there are certain rituals that MUST be performed if one is to achieve the highest level of heaven – The top of the Celestial Kingdom, godhood, your own planet, eternity with your family, etc. The two vital rituals are Baptism by immersion, (by an authorized Priesthood holder), and the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Ghost. (Same authority requirements) There are also the temple endowments, but the baptism is the one that’s most strongly stressed to -everyone- in the Church.

    The idea is that all of those people who died without hearing the gospel still need to have the rituals performed for them, though they’ll have an opportunity to accept or reject it once they’ve “heard the truth” for themselves in the Afterlife. I have to admit, it manages to answer what can be a serious theological sticky wicket for other Christian denominations; How could God condemn all the people who never heard of Jesus to Hell?

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike the LDS church, but I really don’t think they’re guilty of listing dead people who have been baptized by proxy on their membership rolls. I understand that many people may not see a difference between “having the Baptism ritual performed for them by proxy” and “baptizing them by proxy as Mormons“.

    Raven @ #38

    Not sure what Mormons get out of being ghouls and baptizing everyone dead.

    What they think they are getting out of it is giving their ancestors (And it IS generally Church policy to only do the ordinances for one’s deceased relatives, not for any names you like – Obviously there have been exceptions.) a chance at heaven that they would otherwise (By their beliefs) not be getting. To them it’s a noble purpose and effort, and it can be quite difficult to get through to them how offensive it can be to other people if they discover that the rituals have been done for a relative of theirs. However, how often has it been said here: “You do not have any right to not be offended.”?

    While I totally agree that they (and all other religions) are just plain nuts, I don’t share the outrage over the meaningless ritual that many here seem to have. It’s just a meaningless ritual that doesn’t actually affect anyone at all. Not the dead, nor their families. Why all the upset? I find I have to agree with Jamessweet’s comment:

    It’s particularly strange to me that fellow atheists, of all people, would take so much offense at this pointless and stupid practice, when after all it affects nobody. The LDS church does all sorts of horrible shit, stuff that is literally killing people right here and now… and we get our rage on over some silly little mutterings about dead people? Very silly.

    Raven again:

    What is the difference between baptizing the dead, sealing them, marrying them and so one,…and witchcraft?

    Seems to me this is just practicing sympathetic magic in a religious temple.

    What is the difference between prayer and witchcraft? You’re attempting to affect the world via supernatural means with incantations and (in the case of Holy Water or Blessed oil) sympathetic magic. It’s all part and parcel of the same superstitious crock. I don’t see the Mormons as any worse than anyone else on this specific front.

    Rogerfirth:

    The daughter dropped out of college less than a year after the wedding to have a baby. (“I only have a couple semesters to go. I’ll go back and finish after the baby’s born.”) She’s 25 now, never finished her degree, has pounded out four puppies already and they’re proudly trying for another one.

    Ugh! Yeah, this one I can sympathize with completely. I’m from a Mormon family (9 kids!), and I’ve already got well over 20 nieces & nephews. Two of my brothers and their wives account for at least 10 or 11 of those kids all by themselves. *shudder* And they’re both still going strong, with the other still-LDS sibs catching up rapidly, and the few of us who have come to our senses having only one or no children at all.

    It’s also easy to see (from outside) how the Church gets its hooks into the whole family, and the larger the family, the more hooks it can get in, until the Church has become ALL of the family’s social life. That’s why the shunning can work so well. Once the Church is the entire social circle, the threat of withdrawing all of it at once can be a powerful threat indeed.

    Fortunately for me, I don’t respond well to threats. ;)

    Raven again:

    “In fact, their real church growth is stagnant if not falling.”

    This is despite the fact that all male kids are expected to spend two years converting the pagans, heathens, and gentiles to Mormonism.

    Yep! As a returned missionary myself, I got to hear straight from the top the statistics for retention rates. If not married within 6 months after returning from their mission, 70% of LDS males go inactive (at best). So they try -very hard- to get returned missionaries married off as quickly upon their return as possible. The returnee is usually desperate for marriage after two years of not just celibacy, but total abstention from dating or interacting with the opposite sex in any way besides formal church functions. If they can get them married and get a family started, they have a hold on that family for life, so they’re -very- gung-ho to get that to happen.

    I’ll admit that my figures are over 20 years old, but I can only assume from what I can see that the numbers of people leaving the church has only increased over those years, never decreasing at any time.

    …This has probably grown long enough! Time to read all the posts that have come through since I started writing this..

  88. 88
    Ichthyic

    “You do not have any right to not be offended.”?

    that goes, up to point, and that point is where what is claimed directly interferes with your life or your estate.

    Say I made a living writing books as an atheist, and gave my children the rights to those books. Then say a Mormon or Catholic were to claim I was really a Mormon or a Catholic, because they had baptized me in the faith after I died, that could be interpreted as harming my estate.

    not a matter of being personally offended; it would then be a matter of being slandered.

    It sounds like Mormons themselves don’t make these claims personally, but if someone saw me, a “renounced atheist”, listed as being a Mormon or a Catholic, people thinking about buying my books might conclude I was a hypocrite.

    In short, no, there is no defense for this behavior, and it can be actionable under circumstances like those I have described above.

    best to discourage the practice, period, don’t you think?

  89. 89
    Ichthyic

    man, too many typos.

    renounced = renowned

    because they had baptized me in the faith after I died. That could be interpreted as harming my estate.

    should have been an end of sentence instead of a comma.

  90. 90
    Ichthyic

    It’s also easy to see (from outside) how the Church gets its hooks into the whole family, and the larger the family, the more hooks it can get in, until the Church has become ALL of the family’s social life.

    This is very similar to what I have seen with Jehova’s Witness groups as well.

    I still shudder to see my cousin’s family mired in that shit.

  91. 91
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I stay away from the Mormon genealogy site, because I’ve heard it’s there to gather information about everyone’s family tree so they can all be baptized as Mormons as far back as possible. The Jews, in particular, object to this but the Mormons are so sure they’re conferring a benefit that they probably go right ahead.

  92. 92
    Ermine

    It sounds like Mormons themselves don’t make these claims personally, but if someone saw me, a “renounced atheist”, listed as being a Mormon or a Catholic, people thinking about buying my books might conclude I was a hypocrite.

    Now wait – Even if the mormons themselves AREN’T claiming that those people who have have proxy baptisms performed in their name are LDS members, you think it would somehow still be actionable if someone else somehow insinuated that you were one, due to the baptism-by-proxy being listed in LDS records? I think that it’d be damned hard to prosecute the LDS church along those lines, but maybe I’m not understanding what you’re saying.

    To the best of my knowledge, neither the LDS church nor its members make any claims that the baptized-by-proxy dead are now LDS members. I’ve never seen any bishop or General Authority make even hints to that effect, because no one could know whether or not any of those (dead) people “accepted God once they learned the truth in the Afterlife”. If they actually DO make that claim anywhere, they’re wrong and you’re absolutely right, but I don’t believe they do. to the best of my knowledge, Proxy Baptism records are not and never have been entered into LDS membership records.

    If some individual did so, you’d have to prosecute that individual for slander, not the LDS church, which never made the claim in the first place.

    If you can show me anywhere that any LDS-sponsored writing claims the baptized-by-proxy dead as members, I will agree with you completely, but until then, I personally think that people are getting upset over over trifles when there are far better things to be mad at them over.

    I have to agree with Jamessweet, it’s a practice that doesn’t *actually* affect either the dead or their non-LDS families anymore than… Than having a neighbor, relative, or friend put your name on a prayer roll at their local congregation. Do you really think that it would/should be possible to prosecute to get your name (or a deceased relative’s) taken off such a prayer list if you found out about it somehow?

    Whether you -want- them praying about you or not, we of all people know that their prayers can’t actually do anything whatsoever, right? So as long as they aren’t actually making any claims about you, what is there that you think you could prosecute? The only claim that the LDS church makes is that “X (dead)person had Y rituals performed in their name on Z date”. What they believe the rituals accomplished is their business, silly as it may be. Contrary to what several here seem to think, the LDS church does -not- claim that the baptised-by-proxy dead are now LDS, so why get upset over -that- when there are so many things that they do that demonstrably can, will, and ARE affecting real people, right now? Why get upset over something they don’t actually believe or claim?

    I know, I know, I shouldn’t tell anyone to STFU about one problem just because another problem is bigger,(I’m not telling -anyone- to STFU at all, I’ve just been surprised at just how mad some people seem to be over something so totally harmless in effect!), but in this case, even the baptism-by-proxy of everyone on the planet* will have ZERO effect on reality, while quite a few of their other practices have already had large and very harmful affects on quite a lot of people.

    *(And that global BBP IS the eventual goal, whether they are clear about that in their public claims or not. The whole point is to see that -everyone- gets the chance at heaven. A laudable goal, if entirely misguided.)

    Gah – company! I’ll be back later to catch up!

  93. 93
    Ichthyic

    Now wait – Even if the mormons themselves AREN’T claiming that those people who have have proxy baptisms performed in their name are LDS members, you think it would somehow still be actionable if someone else somehow insinuated that you were one, due to the baptism-by-proxy being listed in LDS records? I think that it’d be damned hard to prosecute the LDS church along those lines, but maybe I’m not understanding what you’re saying.

    no, you got it. My point was exactly that:

    the actions of the LDS in that case wouldn’t have been intended to cause slander, but they could easily be used that way, so the idea that all they do is “just cause a little offense” is not actually completely accurate.

    they can indeed cause actual damages, and you clearly see that it is not farfetched to think so, even if the applicability might be on the smallish side.

  94. 94
    Ichthyic

    So as long as they aren’t actually making any claims about you, what is there that you think you could prosecute? The only claim that the LDS church makes is that “X (dead)person had Y rituals performed in their name on Z date”.

    I’m still unclear then. Do, or do not, mormons claim posthumous baptism as giving you membership in their faith?

    If they do, then there is indeed a claim there than has an affect, both on the person, and wrt to the general claims of the church itself, which has impact (ask any Catholic if the stated number of Catholics has a political impact or not).

    If not, if Mormons in NO WAY WHATSOEVER, claim that posthumous baptism grants anything whatsoever other than a token gesture, then yeah, there’s only the taking of personal offense issue.

    But it has never been presented that way that I have seen. Mormons I have met consider you’re on their rolls once baptized, regardless of the situation or your personal beliefs, much like you are always a catholic if you were baptized one.

    so, which is it then?

  95. 95
    Ichthyic

    again, all the evidence I have, suggests that if you are posthumously baptized by a member of the LDS, then your name goes in their roles, permanently.

    Jewish groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center spoke out against the vicarious baptism of Holocaust perpetrators and victims in the mid-1990s and again in the 2000s when they discovered the practice, which they consider insensitive to the living and the dead, was continuing.[43][44] The associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Abraham Cooper, complained that infamous figures such as Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun appeared on LDS genealogical records: “Whether official or not, the fact remains that this is exactly the kind of activity that enraged and hurt, really, so many victims of the Holocaust and caused alarm in the Jewish community.”[45][46]

    In 2008, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, announced that, since the Church had repeatedly violated previous agreements, it would no longer negotiate with the Church to try to prevent vicarious baptism. Speaking on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Ernest Michel, a Holocaust survivor who reported on the Nuremberg Trials, [47][dead link] speaking as the honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, called on the LDS Church to “implement a mechanism to undo what [they] have done”, and declared that the LDS Church had repeatedly violated their agreements, and that talks with Mormon leaders were now ended. Jewish groups, he said, would now turn to the court of public opinion for justice.[48] Michel called the practice a revision of history that plays into the hands of Holocaust deniers, stating: “They tell me, that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered but … 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?”[49]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_for_the_dead

  96. 96
    bobtmarley

    @Ichthyic

    I think the confusion stems from the church having multiple databases. People who are posthumously baptized DO show up on church genealogy records as such, mainly for keeping tabs on who has been been necrodunked and who hasn’t. The mormons have a genealogy website called FamilySearch, and while it’s generally not shown to the public, which people have been processed does show up to Mormons who use the site (I can verify this with a screenshot if you’d like, I have an account still from when I was mormon).

    However, those massive genealogy databases are NOT the same ones that contain church membership information. The church keeps records about tithing, attendance, rituals performed, positions held, DOB, names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. for members as well. Granted, there IS a significant amount of overlap between the systems, since those from the membership database are entered into the genealogy one automatically.

    Mormons believe that everyone on the planet must go through all the rituals (with some exceptions, such as young children) in order to have a chance at salvation. Obviously billions of people have never gone through the rituals, so unless someone does the rituals for them, they don’t have a chance to be saved. Mormons see performing the rituals as granting dead people the opportunity to choose whether they want to be Mormon or not. They believe that in the afterlife, dead people are learning about Jesus and will want to accept him to be saved. Since they no longer have a body, living people have to be baptized for them (I know… it doesn’t really make any sense… Why in the hell would god, if such a person existed, do such a thing??). In other words, necrodunking dunking them doesn’t automatically make them Mormon, but it gives them the chance to be Mormon.

    Necrodunkees are NOT counted as Mormons in the church’s own census, nor are they counted as such on the churchs’ memberships records. But they DO show up as baptized on genealogy records. Of course, mormons like to believe that the vast majority of those posthumously baptized will become mormons, but there are no guarantees.

    Anyway… So here’s what happened with the Jews. Someone started doing their genealogy, and since the Mormon genealogy database is what shows who’s been dead-baptized in order to keep track, someone thought the mormons were claiming them as mormons, and lots of people got offended. In reality, the mormons were claiming them as “potential” mormons. There was a big to-do about it, and the Mormons agreed to remove the records of the Jewish people. But, since the data for the baptisms and genealogical index is crowdsourced from the members (and other people using church indices for genealogy), church members just thought “Uncle Jew hasn’t been baptized yet. That’s funny, better get him dunked” and put the names right back on the list, pissing people off even more. Since the bumbling idiots who run the church hadn’t thought things through, they had no way to control which names were put on, or really to tell who was who (how do you remove someone from an index without retaining their information to make sure the same person doesn’t get put back on again?), so a bunch of Jews and then some Catholics basically said “Fuck you, you can’t have our records.”

  97. 97
    Ermine

    Yeah, what Bobtmarley said. I cannot think of any time EVER where I’ve seen a mormon claim that a deceased person who had their ordinances done was then automatically considered a member of the church, nor have I ever heard even a hint of a credible rumor that those names have ever been counted on the membership files for census or advertising purposes.

    I can see how it’s easy to misunderstand just what the LDS claim, especially when many conversations on the subject go like this one has, with many people angry about things they’ve read about second or third-hand, or who don’t know how the records for baptism-by-proxy and membership are kept separate. I can totally understand why people would go totally *apeshit* if the LDS were actually claiming those names as converts/members -anywhere- in their documentation or advertising, but I really don’t think that they are.

    I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone to shut up about it, I just.. I grew up as a mormon in the very heart of the Church, so I can look it it from their point of view quite clearly, and I’ve been inside the LDS membership system and doctrine well enough to be reasonably sure that they just aren’t using those names like some people seem to think they’re using them. It’s a silly and meaningless ritual regardless, but I don’t -think- they’re doing anything that you could actually bring any sort of legal action on.

    Let me clearly state that I am totally open to changing that point of view if anyone has a convincing argument or compelling evidence that I’m wrong here.

    Eeeerrgh.. Goodnight, Pharyngula! It’s gotten late on me again, hasn’t it?

  98. 98
    birgerjohansson

    “On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my daughter will bring home some sort of religious wingnut”
    .
    Got me thinking of the big, genetically engineered feline in “Watchmen”
    .
    “On a related note this is one of my biggest fears, my cat will bring home some sort of religious wingnut”

    (Especially creepy if he is not quite dead)

  99. 99
    birgerjohansson

    Addendum
    “Somebody left a dead bishop on the stairs again!”
    “Call the Church!”
    “Call the Police!”
    “Call the Church-Police!”
    — — — — —
    (OK, I will stop writing now)

  100. 100
    julietdefarge

    I played with genealogy for a while, and I want to caution everyone about accepting LDS records as reliable. In most cases the research has been pretty good- but once a wife is “sealed” to a husband, the records will not be corrected, even if subsequent research shows that two people were not actually married. And of course, just like the DAR, Mormons are eager to “find” important historical figures in their family trees.
    I also learned that in the UK, many vicars will deny LDS researchers access to church records because of the posthumous rituals.

  101. 101
    Lynna, OM

    A bit more on the claims made by LDS Church leaders to be fast-growing religion, and to have more than 14 million members: http://packham.n4m.org/morexmos.htm

    There are over three times as many ex-mormons as there are mormons.

  102. 102
    kp71

    Mormons deserve some kind of special prize for intellectual and moral cowardice. That is one creepy religion.

    Someone may have already pointed this out, but actually this practice is quite clever on the part of Mormons. A Big Theological Problem for all Christians is that sooner or later, some loved one is going to leave the faith or refuse to enter it. Eventually that person will die, as did Edward Davies, and will be headed to tender n’ meek Jesus’ Furnace o’ Fire for eternal torture (e.g., Matthew 13:49-50). This should be an unpleasant thought for a Christian who puts two minutes of thought into the situation – Ann Romney’s poor broken heart might not be able to stand the thought of dad in the torture chamber. So the Mormons invented an end-around for it.

    The cowardice lies not in making up a way to get around one of the most unsavory parts of Christian Theology, the cowardice is the existence of the unsavory theology to begin with.

  103. 103
    rextex

    jamessweet writes:

    “…In practice, they {baptisms for the dead} are not so much creepy and ghoulish as they are banal, stupid, and boring.”

    James, I don’t disagree with anything you wrote in your post, but is it possible that the very essence of Mormon posthumous baptism has escaped you?

    It’s not about the dead, it’s a tool for reinforcing the faith of the living.

    Not only is the practice “banal, stupid, and boring,” it also suggests a disturbing mindset among the faithful, who exhibit a most infantile notion of religious exclusivity and privilege: so “privileged” that no other rites of baptism are as authentic/powerful/genuine as their own, giving them a “moral” duty to reprogram/rebaptize all of mankind.

    That is not “ghoulish”, rather it is just plain self-stimulatory, indeed of the most infantile kind – not behavior we wish to see in a Presidential candidate or his would-be First Lady.

  104. 104
    leonpeyre

    Once your brain stops working, it turns out, you’re much more susceptible to Mormonism

    Hahaha! +1

  105. 105
    charlessoto

    Well, now that you can un-baptize (at least in France), we should start un-baptizing everyone posthumously.

  106. 106
    Lynna, OM

    From ex-mormon R Packman comes this advice for resigning from mormonism via an email procedure:

    To: Confidential Records
    Subject: Resignation of membership in LDS church

    My full name is ______; my date of birth is ____________ . [I was baptized on ___(date). My membership number is ______.] My residence address is _______ [in the ________ ward/branch].

    I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately, and request you to remove my name permanently from your membership records. I wish no further contact from representatives of your church except to confirm that my name has been removed from your records. I expect to receive that confirmation within a reasonably short time.

  107. 107
    m8ry

    Some more Romney family history: the amazing life of Sarah M. Bates Pratt.

    Sara Pratt was the first wife of Orson Pratt, Mitt Romney’s great great granduncle. She was excommunicated by the Mormon Church for her public condemnation of polygamy and the Church, apostasy, and her role in a sex scandal involving Romney’s relative and Joseph Smith himself!

    In 1840, Joseph Smith told Sarah Bates he was attracted to her and intended to make her “one of his spiritual wives.” Bates refused Smith’s proposition, “I have one good husband, and that is enough for me”, and delivered an ultimatum to Smith: “Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will tell Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it.” Joseph Smith countered with a threat of personal destruction against Pratt:

    Sister Pratt, I hope you will not expose me; if I am to suffer, all suffer; so do not expose me. … If you should tell, I will ruin your reputation, remember that.

    Sarah told her husband about the incident; Orson took Sarah’s side and confronted Smith, who denied Sarah’s allegation and responded that she was the lover of his doctor, John Bennett. Numerous affidavits were then printed in the pro-Mormon Nauvoo, MO press denouncing Sarah Pratt as an adulteress.

    After Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob for his scandalous polygamy, Sarah Pratt migrated with her husband and the other Mormons to Utah. Her personal experience with polygamy led her to be a founder of the Anti-Polygamy Society. Sarah Bates called herself a Mormon apostate because “I have not been a believer in the Mormon doctrines for thirty years.” She resolved to “rear my children so that they should never espouse the Mormon faith while concealing from my neighbors and the church authorities that I was thus rearing them.” Of her own husband Orson Pratt’s polygamy she said,

    Here was my husband, gray headed, taking to his bed young girls in mockery of marriage. Of course there could be no joy for him in such an intercourse except for the indulgence of his fanaticism and of something else, perhaps, which I hesitate to mention.

    Sarah Pratt also furnished an explanation of why Joseph Smith left no children from his plural wives. According to Pratt, Joseph Smith allowed his doctor John Bennett to perform abortions on Smith’s polygamous wives who were officially single. In a public charge “that was likely true,” according to author Andrew Smith, Bennett was accused by many of performing abortions, including Jospeh Smith’s older brother, Hyrum Smith. John Bennett said “that he could cause abortion with perfect safety to the mother at any stage of pregnancy, and that he had frequently destroyed and removed infants before their time to prevent exposure of the parties, and that he had instruments for that purpose.” If the women refused, Bennett stated that he came with Joseph Smith’s approval. Sarah Pratt recounted an incident in which

    Bennett was en route to do ‘a little job for Joseph because one of his women was in trouble.’ Saying this, he took out a pretty long instrument of a kind I had never seen before. It seemed to be of steel and was crooked at one end. I heard afterwards that the operation had been performed; that the woman was very sick, and that Joseph was very much afraid that she might die, but she recovered.

    These facts all explain why the Sarah Pratt’s remarkable life is suppressed by the Mormons and undoubtedly the Romney family, as she is an important part of their family tree.

  108. 108
    Lynna, OM

    @107, Excellent history lesson. Thank you.

    It’s interesting to see that when women call Joseph Smith on his bullshit, he takes revenge. That’s ugly.

  109. 109
    Lynna, OM

    Since we’re into mormon history here, let’s take a look at some official mormonese from official documents. Which no mormon can deny.

    The excerpt below comes from Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, p. 166
    Here’s a link: http://www.journalofdiscourses.org/volume-16/

    This doctrine of baptism for the dead is a great doctrine, one of the most glorious doctrines that was ever revealed to the human family; and there are light, power, glory, honor and immortality in it.

    After this doctrine was received, Joseph received a revelation on celestial marriage. You will recollect, brethren and sisters, that it was in July, 1843, that he received this revelation concerning celestial marriage. This doctrine was explained and many received it as far as they could understand it. Some apostatized on account of it; but others did not, and received it in their faith. This, also, is a great and noble doctrine. I have not time to give you many items upon the subject, but there are a few hints that I can throw in here that perhaps may be interesting.

    As far as this pertains to our natural lives here, there are some who say it is very hard. They say, “This is rather a hard business; I don’t like my husband to take a plurality of wives in the flesh.”

    Just a few words upon this. We would believe this doctrine entirely different from what it is presented to us, if we could do so. If we could make every man upon the earth get him a wife, live righteously and serve God, we would not be under the necessity, perhaps, of taking more than one wife. But they will not do this; the people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives. The women are entitled to salvation if they live according to the word that is given to them; and if their husbands are good men, and they are obedient to them, they are entitled to certain blessings, and they will have the privilege of receiving certain blessings that they cannot receive unless they are sealed to men who will be exalted.

    Now, where a man in this Church says, “I don’t want but one wife, I will live my religion with one,” he will perhaps be saved in the celestial kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has hid up. He will come forward and say, “Here is that which thou gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent,” and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single for ever and ever.

    But if the woman is determined not to enter into a plural marriage, that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. Well, that is very good, a very nice place to be a minister to the wants of others.

    I recollect a sister conversing with Joseph Smith on this subject. She told him: “Now, don’t talk to me; when I get into the celestial kingdom, if I ever do get there, I shall request the privilege of being a ministering angel; that is the labor that I wish to perform. I don’t want any companion in that world; and if the Lord will make me a ministering angel, it is all I want.”

    Joseph said, “Sister, you talk very foolishly, you do not know what you will want.” He then said to me: “Here, brother Brigham, you seal this lady to me.” I sealed her to him. This was my own sister according to the flesh. Now, sisters, do not say, “I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection.” You do not know what you will want.

    I tell this so that you can get the idea. If in the resurrection you really want to be single and alone, and live so forever and ever, and be made servants, while others receive the highest order of intelligence and are bringing worlds into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants and you can be servants to them.

    Okay then. It was all done for the good of the women, polygamy that is.

    (Why is it that practices devised by Patriarchies are always for the good of the women, but always turn out to be such an effing disaster on earth?)

    And now that polygamy is semi-officially frowned upon in these latter days on earth, we can look forward to it in heaven. Thank you Heavenly Father.

    Ditto for proxy baptism, which is also done for the good of everyone. We should thank the mormons for showing no respect whatsoever for the principles by which a person lived his or her life.

    No venal motives, no power plays, no sexual motives … just pure altruism all the way.

    And the fact that mormons have to be full tithe payers before they can enter the temple and take part in proxy baptisms and receive the blessings thereof, and avoid the threats and punishments thereto … that has nothing to do with money. Right.

  110. 110
    Lynna, OM

    The black man pictured with his son on this mormon marketing page, http://mormon.org/choice/ is not mormon. He and the boy are subjects in a stock photo from Getty Images. Link to Getty photo.

    LDS Church members in the USA have always been a sea of white with very brown or black faces. Now, with their “I’m a Mormon” advertising campaign, and with their revamped online presence, they are presenting themselves as having a significant number of members with dark skin.

    Not true.

    The PEW survey shows that about 2% of mormons were blacks in the USA up until a few years ago. Now the number in the PEW survey (last year) is 1%.

    Church leaders are using advertising and websites to lie about their organization.

    PEW research that focused in more detail on mormons can be read here:
    http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Mormon/mormons-in-america-executive-summary.aspx

  111. 111
    Lynna, OM

    video of Bill Maher unbaptizing Mitt Romney’s dead father-in-law.

    http://gawker.com/5882215/watch-bill-maher-unbaptize-mitt-romneys-dead-father+in+law

    “I call upon the mormon spirits to leave your body the fuck alone…”

    The opening monologue for this video consists of Mr. Maher destroying the false equivalence of reason with unreason, of science with religion.

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