Catholic parish registers belong to humanity

According to various news outlets the Catholic Church has ordered its dioceses to not allow Mormons access to parish registers any more. For decades, our Church has copied and preserved millions of pages of parish registers around the world, as part of the injunction to seek out ancestors and perform ordinances in their behalf. There are probably still millions of pages out there, uncopied.

As Mormons we will probably react in disbelief: what would it harm present-day Catholics if Mormons seek out their Catholic ancestors? Millions of Mormons indeed have Catholic ancestors. So do I. The temple work performed is viewed as an act of love and respect, feeding a holy bond with spirits beyond the grave. Besides, in our faith those ordinances have no value unless the deceased accepts them. Catholics who believe in the continuation of personal life beyond the grave and who have confidence in the religious steadfastness of their ancestors, what would they have to worry?

Other reactions from our side will point at the value of this immense informative work, with the vast network of freely accessible Genealogy centers around the world, for the tens of thousands of non-Mormon genealogists who can profit from this unique endeavor. Our efforts, which the Church heavily finances, also guarantee the preservation of masses of documents that are vulnerable to decay, fire, floods. Others may point at the cooperation our Church has established with Catholic organizations like Caritas Catholica and the substantial help Mormons are giving to Catholics in humanitarian work. Is this the way to work together in mutual respect?

It is unclear what prompted the Vatican to give its order. Complaints from Catholics that some of their ancestors were being baptized “Mormon” on the basis of information belonging to the Catholic Church? A calculated offensive to force to some kind of negotiations? Or just some narrow-mindedness from one or the other Vatican official? We can of course easily answer with arguments why our work should not worry them. The fact is that it does bother some. If they view Mormonism as a dreadful sect, or if they feel the religious identity of their ancestors is being tampered with, I think we must try to understand their concerns if they are genuine. We should also concede that the free extraction program goes beyond temple work only for known ancestors of living Mormons. We have already restricted this for people in Jewish ancestry.

From a Catholic doctrinal point of view, the matter seems somewhat ironical. On June 5, 2001, the Vatican Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not valid. Signed by the prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now the present pope. For the Catholic Church, a Mormon baptism is invalid, for the living or the dead. Why should they bother?

But for Mormons, the matter has deep value. Parish records, at some point the only traces to distant forebears, belong to humanity, to each of us, not only to a diocese.

112 comments for “Catholic parish registers belong to humanity

  1. Question from a non-Mormon: Are people who undergo the baptism for the dead recorded as “Mormons” by the Church?

  2. Thanks for the question, Doug. Appreciate your visiting here.

    The fact that the ordinance has been performed is administratively recorded (to avoid repetition of the work), but since it is conditional upon an “acceptance” we do not know about, I don’t think we can speak of recorded membership. The official membership count has always only pertained to living Mormons.

    To compare to a certain extent: I was baptized as a Catholic, without my permission asked (I was a few days old… ). Was I recorded as a “Catholic”? Yes. I understand why it was done that way, but I kept my freedom to accept or reject it later in life. I have deep, personal and grateful memories to the Catholicism of my childhood. I choose to become Mormon. I have done the “work” for many of my ancestors, because I felt prompted to do so, with gratitude for their lives. And therefore I am thankful for those precious parish registers where also my name is found.

  3. Answer for the non-Mormon:

    The question doesn’t really make sense in Mormon terminology or way of thinking about the matter.

    I think what you are asking is if they are listed as “members of the church:. I believe the answer to that is no. Membership records are for those that have either been baptized while living or blessed as a baby.

    Baptisms for the Dead are indeed listed on a persons ordinance worksheet (so that we don’t end up duplicating the ordinances), but I don’t think we’d think about it as being a “member of the church”.

    Understand I’m trying to answer your question by interpreting it in the closest analogy I can think of.

    I hope that helps.

  4. A google search revealed some articles about this. I guess the pope is afraid of the power of the LDS priesthood. Maybe he’s jealous that our power actually comes from God?

  5. Thank you, NoS, for the link.

    However, I would encourage to refrain from subjective remarks about the pope and the Catholic church as such, which would hurt our Catholic friends. I don’t think it will help our case to go into that direction. I trust positive and diplomatic responses will help ease the tension and perhaps help provide solutions. But objective criticism will of course also be welcome.

  6. It certainly seems illogical to lend credence to ordinances they “shouldn’t” believe have power. If they don’t recognize our baptism or priesthood, then anything we do should be completely irrevelant. Just like I ignored a Catholic Priest in Germany for cursing me and damning me to hell (because I didn’t recognize any of his power or authority, I figure, God doesn’t, why should I?). [next sentence deleted by admin.]

  7. The Catholic position can make sense, it seems to me, only if the ordinances are truly a threat to the status of the deceased as catholic — or saved in virtue of their baptism as a catholic. Yet no catholic could coherently maintain that ordinances by Mormons actually have an effect on the status of those who have died. Thus, this position is a colossal failure in theological reasoning — it is non-sense. It is also an affront to love of the kind commanded by Jesus — whether neighbor love or enemy love. It seems to me that the Catholics have now declared that they choose not to have any ecumenical dialog or even any sort of relationship with the LDS Church. It is a way of reducing us to “Other” and unacceptable outsider from their point of view.

    This action is anti-Christian in addition to being anti-Mormon. It is an affront to civility and openness and the type of freedom of access to information that is the enemy of the open state. It is a throwback to an era when the catholic hierarchy (with loose use of hieros in this context) operated as a repressive and evil regime in many ways despite the wonderful and good done by local priests and parishioners. This action is an affront to charity and all that Christ stood for. This act is a reflection of a Pope who has a long history of questionable theological exclusivism and defining doctrine so narrowly that it becomes literally offensive.

    I served my mission in Italy and came to love many catholics qua catholics and for what their faith meant in their lives. This act, however, has reduced my respect for their Pope and American clergy who took the act — American acting against freedom of access and openness and charity. They have shamed themselves.

    Further, how will this work in practice? Everyone but a professing member of the LDS Church will be allowed access. Will they deny access to Mormons on the basis that they are Mormons rather than their stated purpose? If I want to check the records on my brother-in-law’s family in Puglia, Italy, will I be excluded just because I am a Mormon. This position has just adopted religious discrimination in a grand way. And this act was done by Americans – priests no less who have studied the history of ethics and human rights in a natural law tradition. Are they simply blind to this open door for religious bigotry? Can’t they see that any such door always swings both ways? Are they blind? Do they stand at the entrance to the kingdom blocking entry and not only refuse to enter in themselves but also block the way for others to enter? Yes!

  8. Thank you, Blake. Clearly and strongly worded and, as far as I can feel, valid remarks.

    The issue of how it would work in practice is interesting. It’s even more complex: in quite a few countries (Belgium for instance), the older parish registers have been entrusted to town, provincial or state archives (paid for by taxes) and are freely accessible by the public. Some archives have made the registers directly accessible on the internet. Will the Catholic Church ask those archives to ban Mormons if they come to consult parish registers? In theory, I presume, the copyright to the registers still belongs to the Catholic Church.

  9. While this is disappointing on so many levels and indicative of deep-seated ignorance, dealing with it is best left to church diplomats. If the recent Catholic order interferes with your own research on a practical level, there are practical — if inconvenient — solutions that I have learned from experience in seeking Greek Orthodox records (there’s another church that refuses to share records) and in securing records from New York, where presumably contrary to law I have a difficult time securing copies of public records:

    1. Write directly to the diocese or parish whose information you need.

    2. Indicate that you are researching your heritage; avoid terms like “genealogy” and “family history.”

    3. Use a non-Utah address. This last is the most important. Records ordered from New York to my Salt Lake City address never seem to arrive. The same records ordered from New York to the address of a brother or friend in another state arrive promptly.

    Of course that’s a short-term individual fix. Correcting the problem on a larger scale is going to take the patient cultivation of relationships at levels far above us. Either that, or some natural/man-made disaster that wipes out records on a grand scale. The governments and churches who have shared their records with us get them back by return mail on microfilm; the Catholic Church loses its unfilmed registers permanently.

  10. I agree with Blake that there is a theological inconsistency with denying the records.

    At the same time, the Catholic Church does hold the rights to these records and I wonder how willing we would be to release our own proprietary information to a group that was working at cross purposes (in some matters) to us. Would we release the ward roster to evangelicals so they could knock on *our* doors? I seem to recall (although I may be wrong about this) that _Preach My Gospel_ was available from as a PDF but is no longer–perhaps because we were uncomfortable with potential investigators seeing the “method” being used on them? And need I mention the GHI–which we won’t even let our own members read?

  11. One more thought: I know that lots of people have used some of the techniques that Ardis describes (i.e., no references to “family history work”) in making requests in the past, when the policy was murky. Now that the policy is clear, I don’t think it is being honest with your fellow men to ask for parish records under false pretenses.

  12. Julie M. Smith wrote: “I seem to recall (although I may be wrong about this) that _Preach My Gospel_ was available from as a PDF but is no longer

    You’re wrong about this. It’s still there.

  13. “The Catholic Church does hold the rights to these records” (#11)

    You made me think, Julie: Is that so all over the world? In many countries the Catholic priests are paid by the State. Their work in keeping parish registers is part of their paid job, financed by all people’s taxes, as a public obligation to keep records of who was born, married, died. I presume that is why in some countries the State was entitled to request parish registers to be turned over to civil archives.

  14. I like Julie’s point. Our church membership is confidential. After I leave this life, I wouldn’t want my church info being used by some other religion, for instance, I wouldn’t want to be baptized after this life into another Church.

    I respect that we realize performing these baptism is part of our Savior’s work. But we have to respect their right to decline this at this time. Some day things will work out.

    Also, if people wish to buy Preach My Gospel, they can buy it online. To me it is a beautiful book that explains the gospel well. I think it would be great if potential investigators wish to study it.

  15. nita,

    Your church membership information is NOT confidential, however, when you are dead (at least, the record of your ordinances).

  16. I should clarify that last comment. Yes, the actual ordinance information is available only to Church members — but we could honestly wonder why anyone else would care. Other information (name, birth date, death date, places, etc.) which are associated with your church membership ARE available to anyone after you die.

  17. Wilfried, for old records, say before the 20th century in order to ignore a bunch of complexities, copyright is no longer an issue. Access to old records is controlled by the archive who owns them, and I can’t imagine that the Lower Saxony State Archive, for example, is going to start checking their patron’s religion before granting access.

    Blocking access to parish-owned records strikes me as petty on the one hand, but on the other it makes a certain sense. Genealogy is how Mormons build a connection to their dead ancestors, while Catholicism lets people build that connection through various rituals and a continuity of faith tradition. In line with a recent assertiveness about the place of the Catholic Church with respect to other churches and especially Protestantism, Benedict is saying: no, by leaving the Catholic Church, you are breaking the connection to your ancestors, and we won’t help you restore it after your fashion. That’s unfortunate for conducting family history research, but it also raises the stakes on what Christianity, and the Reformation, and the Restoration actually mean, in a way that may overall be healthy in the long run.

  18. Thank you for the clarifications, Dennis.

    Nita, it is also important to realize that in many countries the old parish registers are often the only source of information on birth dates, marriage, death. It seems any person, whatever the purpose, would be entitled to that information about his own ancestors. Those data are “genetically” his or hers. Refusing to provide that information about people long passed away, to the own descendants, seems unacceptable from a simple human perspective.

  19. I don’t mean to threadjack too much, but there was a line in the Catholic News Services article provided by Nos (#5) that says:

    “Latter-day Saints regard Jesus and the Holy Spirit as children of the Father and the Heavenly Mother. They believe that baptism was instituted by the Father, not Christ, and that it goes back to Adam and Eve.”

    Sounds like there is more than one reason for dialogue…

  20. We probably could do better in explaining the purpose of proxy baptism. There is a common misconception that proxy baptisms are intended to “make Mormons of dead people.” Obviously, Mormons and Catholics will disagree about what constitutes a valid baptism. However, the intent of a proxy baptism is very similar to a “conditional baptism” performed by Catholics. Both are intended to ensure that a valid baptism has been performed. Both are conditional and are considered by their practitioners to be ineffective if the conditions are not met.

    In the case of proxy baptism, the ceremony is considered valid only if accepted by the principal. Mormons do not know who might have accepted a posthumous baptism, and we have never counted or regarded any deceased person as a church member unless they accepted baptism during their lifetime. Furthermore, I would argue that even if accepted, the baptism does not make a person a Mormon in any meaningful sense. The intent of proxy baptisms is simply to provide (what we see as) a valid Christian baptism. Acceptance of a valid baptism initiates a person into a religious community that transcends current “denominational” lines and includes far more than just what can be considered as “Mormon.”

    According to Mormon belief, Adam, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and many others received valid baptism during their lifetime. None of them can reasonably be considered to be a Mormon. By Mormon belief, a deceased person who accepts a proxy baptism is thus initiated into a community that includes Adam, Jesus, Paul, etc. That is a group that is considerably broader than what would be contemplated if the intent were simply to make dead people into Mormons. The baptism cannot therefore be construed as pigeonholing a person into a denomination or into any subset of Christianity. It simply acknowledges the obvious and undisputed fact that Mormons and Catholics disagree on what makes a baptism valid.

  21. Preach My Gospel may be back on the church web site, but I know for a fact that it was taken down for quite a while.

    I think we need someone with experience in intellectual property rights to handle some of these questions. The courts are still litigating over the question of when a digital copy of a work constitutes copyright infringement and when it can be seen, in the eyes of the law, as something fundamentally different. Has this question been settled for microfilm copies of records?

    This debate also leaves me with some ethical questions. Just the other day I was at the New Mexico State Archives in Santa Fe. I was using the LDS Version of Catholic baptism registers to look up birth information about Pueblo Indians during the first half of the twentieth century. Should I, in good conscience, return my notes from these records? Or should I justify keeping them because I used the LDS copy of the microfilm rather than the original microfilm produced with parish records? In the next few days I was planning on contacting the Gallup Archdiocese to ask for access to the same kind of records. Should I interpret the 11th article of faith to mean that I should allow Catholics the privilege to worship however they want? Or is this one of those instances where I should follow the scripture which says people are free to worship as they choose, except when their “religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others” (D&C 134:4)? Should I reveal to the parish record keepers that I am a historian studying Native Americans who happens to be Mormon, and then see what they say? Or should I hide this fact from them because in my heart I can rationalize and say that my plans are to use their records for historical research, rather than for temple ordinances?

  22. Jonathan #18,

    “In line with a recent assertiveness about the place of the Catholic Church with respect to other churches and especially Protestantism, Benedict is saying: no, by leaving the Catholic Church, you are breaking the connection to your ancestors, and we won’t help you restore it after your fashion.”

    Excellent point, but why, then, the singling out of Latter-day Saints? Shouldn’t the records be available only to Catholics then?

  23. I agree with Left Field\’s comment (#21). A clear and respectful dialog with Catholic leaders about LDS beliefs about baptism for the dead might be very helpful.

    Baptism for the dead answers questions raised about Catholic baptism for a long time. Here is a brief literary example. I helped teach a class in which we studied Dante\’s Inferno this fall. One of the difficult circles of hell for Dante to face emotionally is the first, where those who never had the opportunity to be baptized are found. Members of the class expressed how it seemed that the question of what will or should happen to the unbaptized seems to be something that Dante leaves open– he doesn\’t know quite what to do with it and really struggles. He suggests that Christ will rescue some of the virtuous (and accomplished) pagans, but Dante doesn\’t offer answers for why God with his just and merciful ways would make things so (in later circles he is very concerned with showing how consequences are just. Ultimately, however, in Paradiso, God\’s justice is often described as eternally surpassing men\’s understanding, but nevertheless perfect, correcting Dante\’s doubts).

    I can sympathize with Catholic leaders if part of these recent decisions is made out of feelings of intimidation at LDS beliefs that their baptism lacks God\’s authority and that the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can provide answers that some members of The Catholic Church have sought for a long time. But a mistake is made when dialog about religious meaning and beliefs is cut off out of fear of authority being threatened. Those who hold rituals and ordinances sacred know better than to disrespect and prevent what others hold as sacred.

  24. Thanks for the answer [# 2, 3 & 4], I was wondering if that was the source of the complaint (if the dead were being listed as “Mormons” after the fact, so to speak.) That would irritate me, a bit. Otherwise, though, it wouldn’t bother me if I or my relatives received baptism for the dead–if I am right, it doesn’t matter, and if you guys are right, then it is a great thing!

    I have seen (particularly on Jewish sites) a great deal of anger and hostility about the baptism for the dead, though, so I guess not everyone feels the way I do. I can understand the Jewish perspective, since for centuries Jews were forced to receive Christian baptism (often at swordpoint), but I wonder why the Catholics feel so strongly?

  25. I lean towards the Catholics on this. 1) Mormons are not limiting this to “Baptism” are they? Would not the Catholic Church be at least ‘tolerating’ the Mormon idea that Catholic Authority is no good? Maybe the average Catholic does think Mormons are trying to steal their dead, and want their Church to stand against it?
    This is the same argument the Mormon Church used for a hundred years: “Well, if Mormon Priesthood isn’t true, then we are not denying Blacks anything.”

  26. I can understand where they are coming from. If the southern baptists announced that because all Mormons are going to hell, they want to baptize our dead relatives in the spirit of love so they could save them. It would sound a bit nuts and I don’t think I would want to turn over my records to them to assist them in that work, even thought I don’t believe it makes a difference. The inference that their ancestors can recieve salvation only if the Mormons perform their baptism sounds arrogant on our part and I don’t know how to relieve those fears.

  27. There’s a good commentary on this issue at American Chronicle:

    The author raises several important questions:

    “Do people, regardless of religious affiliation, have a right to obtain the religious vital records of their ancestors, particularly when civil records of those ancestors may not be available?

    If a Mormon obtains the records of an ancestor who was a Catholic, do they have the right to perform a proxy baptism of that ancestor in a Latter-day Saint temple?

    Does a dead person, who was a Catholic or member of any other faith, have a right to accept or reject a proxy baptism performed for them by a Mormon?

    Catholics and others believe the proxy baptisms by Mormons have no justification or value, so if such baptisms make no difference why not let Mormons do as they wish and reap the side benefits of free record preservation and free genealogical research for all people?

    Who should make decisions on behalf of my ancestors, the Catholic Church or living family members?”

  28. This is very similar to the way many Jews feels about the LDS church using Jewish records as source material for proxy-baptisms.

    By performing our proxy-baptisms, we are saying that the Catholic baptism (or baptism of any other church) isn’t good enough, that it’s not valid. It’s an insult to them. We’re in effect saying “You Catholic priests and your baptisms don’t really count.”

    By performing our proxy-baptisms on behalf of deceased Jews, we are saying that their Abrahamic covenant, which they have celebrated for thousands of years, “isn’t good enough for salvation.” We’re in effect saying “Your Jewish religion along with the Law of Moses doesn’t really count.”

    I’m very confident that the catholic leadership isn’t worried one iota about us as “competition” for the departed souls. Julie’s right, this is not at all about doctrinal envy or fear.

    But this is about cultural and religious respect. This is about respecting the memory of the departed souls, and respecting the traditions and beliefs of sincere believers who are not of our faith.

    Our proxy-baptisms are taken by them (the Jews and Catholics who don’t want us doing proxy-baptisms on behalf of their deceased congregants) as a great disrespect. To respond to them on a logical basis (ie, “If you Catholics and Jews think our proxy-baptisms have no real ecclesiastical validity or effect, they why worry?”) shows that we don’t understand their concern, and merely adds additional insult.

    To respond “It’s only valid if the soul on the other side of the veil actually accepts it” does nothing to allay the offense. That’s a moot point, because of course the living Catholic or Jew doesn’t even accept our premises (1, that our baptisms are the only valid ones, and 2, that our proxy baptisms actually “work” or have an effect on the other side.)

    Culturally and diplomatically speaking, both the Catholics and Jews have every right to be upset at the “disrespect” we are showing to their traditions and doctrines.

    That said, I’ve had the temple work done for my deceased Jewish father. :-) Now I have to submit names for the previous generations.

  29. Re #14, I suppose if the understanding were “We’ll pay you to keep these records so that they are accessible to everyone” then, yes, the Catholic Church would have an obligation to keep their end of the deal. But where that is not the case, then I would assume they control who gets to use the records. Maybe some lawyers can weigh in? (ack. I can’t believe I just asked that.) It seems to me that if they don’t have control over the records, then this is all about nothing. If they do control the records, then we need to respect their property.

  30. Combine #21 and #27 and you have my “religious” answer. There’s no theological reason to restrict access, but if some evangelicals were going to “save me and my ancestors from Hell” by demanding I give them all my genealogical records, I would tell them to take a flying leap – unless it was an individual asking to see his own ancestors records and then save them from Hell. In that case, I would provide them.

    So, if these are or should be considered public records, or if sharing of them is limited to actual descendants, I have no sympathy for the Catholic stance. I have a right to know who my ancestors are. They obviously don’t see the work as we do, but even if they don’t understand “the spirit of Elijah”, they are directly subverting Malachi’s prophecy of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers and contributing to a situation that, according to prophecy, would cause God to “smite the earth with a curse” (make the entire creation a “waste” [D&C]). Even if they reject the validity of our ordinances, that is a very serious action in light of what the Bible itself says.

  31. Ray, I don’t think they understand that verse in Malachi the same way that we do.

  32. Bookslinger, it seems to be the actual practice of proxy baptism (or their understanding of it) that Catholics object to, not just the fact that we don’t recognize Catholic baptisms. It would seem overreaching for the Catholics to expect their baptisms to be accepted by all other religions, and to be offended if they are not. We’re different churches. Aren’t we entitled to respectfully decline to recognize actions taken by another church? South Dakota might issue a fishing license with the expectation that it will be valid in other states, but it is perfectly reasonable that Georgia might refuse to recognize it. Even if Connecticut and New Mexico accept ND’s license, I don’t see how ND can be offended if GA chooses not to.

  33. #31: Ray, you are talking more than Baptism of the Dead. You are talking Sealing, Linking, Blood Lines.
    “I have a right to know who my ancestors are.” Why? Everyone is your ancestor, you are related to all.

  34. Bookslinger: “Culturally and diplomatically speaking, both the Catholics and Jews have every right to be upset at the “disrespect” we are showing to their traditions and doctrines.”

    I could hardly disagree with you more regarding your viewpoint. I regard your view as simple non-sense. Indeed, the insistence at taking offense where none is intended and none is given is the worst in human behavior. How, pray tell, is it disrespectful to claim that the gospel has been restored and it holds the keys to exaltation? You seem to think that disagreeing means being disrespectful and it is this confusion which is nonsense.

    Further, it shows no disrespect at all for us to claim that we offer something of consummate value out of love and seek to make it available — as Wilfried has written very ably. I have never agreed with the Church’s capitulation to thin-sinned Jews who think we show dishonor to them by baptizing the dead. Indeed, the ultimate respect and love is to allow each to make his or her own decision and to honor that decision when made. That is what we claim to make available — a simple decision. To take the paternalistic view that living Jews and catholics have the right to bar others from granting and offering such opportunities is the ultimate disrespect.

    Bookslinger: “This is about respecting the memory of the departed souls, and respecting the traditions and beliefs of sincere believers who are not of our faith.”

    Huuh? Are you serious? It follows from your assertions that missionary work is disrespectful to other traditions so we ought not do it. Your position is absurd from the stance that it assumes we have some duty to show respect by simply capitulating and agreeing that the restored gospel offers nothing that their own traditions haven’t already provided. What is it that you claim underwrites this claim of duty, or that we give offense and show disrespect? We have no duty to agree with other religious traditions about the way to salvation and how it is accomplished. We have no moral or other kind of duty to agree that their traditions are the ultimate or that ours is wrong to claim that we have something more to offer.

    Here is the ultimate disrespect: a gift of love is offered, and a distant family member takes offense and calls the gift offensive and decides for the one to whom the gift is offered not merely that they cannot accept it, but that the gift cannot even be offered in the first place. What is beyond disrespectful is to shut off availability to information, engage in bigoted conduct and purposefully take an action to marginalize another religious tradition. It is not merely disrespectful and offensive, it is hateful. The church has done an immense amount of good by preserving catholic records and making them available to all without regard t religious affiliation.

    So In conclude that you have an amazing ability to take vicarious offense for others, to call what is against freedom disrespectful, to call what is an offense against love somehow offensive, and to try to justify the view that although what we do does them absolutely no harm, they are justified in taking offense and barring us from records that belong to the human family as a whole.

  35. Sally: “The inference that their ancestors can recieve salvation only if the Mormons perform their baptism sounds arrogant on our part and I don’t know how to relieve those fears.”

    It follows from your charge of arrogance that anyone who claims to offer anything of value that another religious tradition doesn’t offer is being arrogant. On this measure, Christ and Paul were both arrogant. On the other hand, it is a failure to even engage LDS theology at a a minimal level. We claim that all are saved, regardless of baptism. Yep, even those who reject Christ in this life and who are murderers, adulterurs and molesters will be saved eventually. Salvation is dependent on acknowledge Christ, not on Mormon baptism. Exlatation is avialable only to the baptized. (Look at D&C 76). We we aren’t claiming that anyone is denied salvation if they aren’t baptized. We do claim that we are offering something we don’t believe that their tradition cannot provide to them — exaltation. However, how is that arrogant. Again, a disagreement is no disrespect and is not necessarily arrogance. It seems that folks have imbibed the assumptions of religious pluralism (the view that all religious traditions are equal in terms of truth and salvific import) that anyone who disagrees is branded as arrogant or disrespectful. Such views amount to a failure to make important distinctions and to make judgments and take offense where it simply isn’t warranted.

  36. #35,36: What you don’t understand, disrespect, offense, arrogance, can either be delivered by one, or FELT, by another. Even if it was not intended to be by the deliverer.

  37. Bob: What you don’t understand is that offense cannot be given, it can only be chosen freely. I don’t have power to offend you if you choose not be offended. Your view entails that if someone unjustifiably chooses to take offense out of thin-skinned arrogance; nevertheless, that I am obligated to stop what I am doing. I have no obligation to avoid your unjustified choice to take offense or to walk on eggshells worrying that you may be thin skinned. So tell me what U believe justifies Jews and Catholics taking offense at our offering a gift of love to their ancestors.

  38. Does the Catholic directive prohibit individual Latter-day Saints from obtaining information on the LDS individual’s ancestors, does it just prohibit the microfilming or other mass copying of records by the Church or its agents?

  39. I’m Catholic, and I have no quarrel with the idea that LDS members have a right to do proxy baptisms for the dead. But if my church believe the practice is insulting and pointless, for whatever reason, why on earth should it have a duty to actively help anyone do it?

    I find it rather surprising that members of any religion would feel entitled to the obtain records owned by another religion (assuming the Catholics own these records) for purposes of converting people. Should the LDS Church turn over member records to anti-mormon evangelicals, just so that everyone has all possible information and can make a free choice?

    As for the insult/arrogance issue, it is insulting and annoying when someone tells me that they know how to achieve salvation or exaltation and I don’t, just as it’s insulting when someone I don’t know offers me unsolicited advice about how I should run any other important aspect of my life, like how I should be raising my children. The insult comes because that person assumes that they know better than I do how to run my life, thereby implying that there is a deficiency in the way I have researched my options and reached by conclusions.

    Of course, proselytizing, even if it can be insulting, is essential to the spread of religions, and it’s something believers should have the right to do. But they shouldn’t expect other religions to help them do it, and they shouldn’t be surprised when people are annoyed and insulted by it.

  40. re: #36

    Blake, I think you meant religious universalism. As a political matter, religious pluralism, or the idea that multiple religions may exist on equal footing in the same political sphere, is critical not only to freedom, but also to the growth of the Church. Furthermore, it is an article of faith with us. That said, I don’t think you meant to criticize religious liberty. Carry on.

  41. To extend further upon Wilfried’s point regarding the possible parallel to Jewish records being used by Mormon genealogists (and temple workers), commented on further by Bookslinger (#29) and Blake (#35), see this three-year-old post, here.

  42. I was under the impression this was just a “don’t send parish records to the Genealogical Society of Utah” sort of prohibition. I really, seriously, doubt that going to the appropriate parish in Galway to find records of the birth and ancestry of James Molloy or Sarah Feeny would be any harder today for me than it was last week.

    I mean, I think it’s relatively petty, pointless, somewhat insulting, and generally pretty unfortunate, but only in the same way that I think it’s a shame that access to all kinds of historical records are restricted to “scholars” of various types (e.g. the Library of Congress Reader Card rules limiting high school students,) or that Egypt thinks it can copyright the pyramids.

    Plus, hey, we can all feel free to mutter something about millstones and the Pope now. I mean, if we’re right and he’s wrong, this will be worth all kinds of guilt in the afterlife.

    (For the record: the connection in my case was broken well before I was born… my grandmother dropped Roman Catholicism for her Jewish husband back in the 1940s. It seems extra counterproductive to be vindictive towards people who had no part in the actual severing of ties. I suspect most Mormons looking to do temple work for Catholic ancestors are in the same boat.)

  43. Ugly: I disagree. We are inclusivists (just like catholics). We believe that everyone has some truth; but we have more. Political pluralism with respect to religion is not the same as pluralism in the philosophy of religion where one’s stance regarding the truth claims of religions is at issue and not their political rights. Religious universalism is the view that all will be saved. Mormons may be a sort of religious universalist in a qualified sense. Check out this link in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Anna: “why on earth should it [the catholic church] have a duty to actively help anyone do it?” You’ve missed the point entirely. We’re not asking the catholic church to assist us or actively help us in our work. We’re asking it not to get in our way of doing it and barring our work. We’re asking it to simply not bar access; not to grant access that others don’t have already. Look, if you believe that the ordinances I perform from collecting records has no effect (as you must), then what difference does it make to you? If a Baptist wanted the same access that everyone else gets, even if they want to use the data for purposes I don’t accept, but it won’t interfere at all with what I am doing as a Mormon, then I have no basis to discriminate against the Baptist.

    It is ironic that you, as a catholic, would assert that: “it is insulting and annoying when someone tells me that they know how to achieve salvation or exaltation and I don’t, just as it’s insulting when someone I don’t know offers me unsolicited advice about how I should run any other important aspect of my life, like how I should be raising my children.” First, perhaps you’re unaware that the catholic church for centuries maintained that there is no salvation outside the catholic church. It seems that if catholics believed that, and truly loved others, they would at least do their best to bring people to catholicism. Your religion espouses the same arrogance you seem to reject. Further, how is work for the dead anything like “unsolicited advice” about raising children? If those who have passed don’t choose to accept the ordinances, they are not forced to do so any more than you are.

  44. #32 – I know, Julie. I said so in my comment. *grin*

    #34 – Bob: No, Bob, everyone is not my ancestor. My ancestors are part of who I am; I am who I am because they were who they were; I cannot understand myself fully without understanding my ancestors – particularly what I inherited from them.

    In order to repent and grow toward perfection (completion and wholeness), we need to understand ourselves. Much of that understanding comes as we understand our ancestors – and often learning of our ancestors helps us “remember how merciful the Lord has been unto the children of men”, thus softening our hearts and allowing us to feel the confirming power of the Holy Ghost.

    I have a right to know my ancestors, because I have a right to know myself and my God.

  45. #38: Blake, I must be missing your ‘base’ for your views. It’s not Law. In Law, harassment, stacking, molesting, defamation, places the accountability on the giver, not the “thin skinned” receiver. It appears, Jews and Catholic don’t see this as an ‘act of love’. Then, as you say “I am obligated to stop what I am doing.”

  46. Bob: That isn’t the law. We adopt a reasonableness standard for things like harassment, defamation and so forth. I don’t have to accommodate the thin-skinned. Are you suggesting that Mormons have some legal duty to avoid offending catholics just because they disagree with us? That is way beyond absurd.

    My “base” for the claim that catholics are not justified in being offended is the simple fact that we have done nothing to offend them. Further, I don’t have it in my power to offend you if you choose not to take offense because taking offense is a free action for which the one who takes offense is accountable. Thus, I ask what is the basis for taking offense. Is it something for which one could justifiably take offense by some standard of reason?

    I claim that catholics are not theologically justified in taking offense and that their action is a petty, thin-skinned justification for unjustified offense. So answer the question: “tell me what U believe justifies Jews and Catholics taking offense at our offering a gift of love to their ancestors.”

  47. Blake:

    First, perhaps we have a disagreement about what constitutes active help in doing work for the dead. Tthese are records kept by the Catholic Church and owned and maintained by the Catholic Church, and it has no duty to give them out to anyone. I think that to the extent that it allows access to its own records, it is actively helping people do research. And I think they have every right to allow access to their records to some groups and not others, just as I assume the LDS church and any number of other organizations also allow access to their ecords to some people and for some purposes, (Personally, it does make no difference to me whether the Catholic church allows Mormons access to the these records out or not, and if it were up to me, I’d say they should give them out).

    Second, I didn’t say it was wrong to proselytize; I said it was insulting. Those are different. Something might be insulting but nevertheless necessary or desirable because of the importance of the message being presented. I realize that Catholic proselytizing missionary work insults people, but I think it’s worth it. And I have no problem with Mormon missionaries (or any others) bringing their message, because I respect that given their beliefs, the possibility of insult it is worth it.

    Third, you’re correct that work for the dead is not really analogous to unsolicited advice about raising children, which I think is more analogous to missionary work. But it also carries with it the assumption that the person doing the work knows better than, say, my grandmother did. That’s a little offensive. Again, I get that it’s worth it from the LDS perspective, and I don’t fault anyone for doing it. But it’s offensive anyway.

  48. Anna: I don’t disagree that the catholics have the legal right to bar others from their properties. However, I agree with Wiflried that these records belong to humanity. In most countries, the keepers of the records were paid by tax monies to keep them. They belong to history and those who keep history have a duty to make it available in a responsible manner to scholars and others who will agree to preserve the historical value of the records. I agree that the catholic church can reject those who won’t agree to abide by such directives based on preserving the historical integrity of the records. What I disagree with is that barring access to some based on religious beliefs that you don’t like when it does you no harm is justifiable. I believe that you even agree with me on that based on what you have said. No one is asking the catholic church to take steps to make records available in a way that they won’t do for others. I believe that the catholic church is following a very well established approach for Cardinal Ratzinger to adopt a very narrow view of doctrine and salvation, a very uncharitable view of other religions, and a very unjustifiable stance vis a vis Mormons. I’m far from the only one to notice such tendencies in your pope. However, I am most disappointed in the American catholics who adopted this view — they are acting against openness and history. They are being unAmerican.

    Finally, why is it insulting to proselytize? Why not admit that we have a lot to learn from each other? I believe that I was well paid by paying close attention to modern catholics theologians like Schillebeekx, and medieval theologians like Aquinas, de Molina, Suarez and others (going so far as to read them in Latin). If I proselytize in a respectful manner that always respects your right to say, “just not interested,” then I don’t see how it follows in the least that we are being insulting to proselytize. Such a view seems to be uncharitable in extremis. Why not engage the assumption that, however misguided, this is their way of showing their love? Your approach lacks charity in my view and simply misanalyzes the ethical issues we are discussing to that extent.

  49. Russell re: #42: I had forgotten your earlier post. It is relevant and more of the same. Well done BTW.

  50. Blake, I just don’t go in for this idea that if I call you a big fat stinking cheesehead and you are offended, it is your fault. If my behavior is offensive, I deserve some lumps for it, regardless of how you choose to react to it.

  51. Blake, I don’t disagree with you about why it shouldn’t be insulting to proselytize–I merely observe that it is. Saying people shouldn’t be insulted doesn’t change the fact that telling people that you know more than they do (even respectfully), often triggers the emotional reaction of being insulted. Not recognizing that lacks charity, in my view.

  52. #45: Ray, I just looked at my Family Tree. I now have about 4,500 names inside my personal database. says they can give me another 70,000 if I want. (Don’t worry, you’re not in there). The thing is, on my father’s line ( Swedes back to 1500s), I can’t even say their names, or relate to them. We can learn from people of the past, but it has nothing to do with our DNA.

  53. Re: 44

    Blake, fair enough. Thank you for distinguishing between political and philosophical religious pluralism. Like I said, I see the first as mightily important to our liberty, and am unqualified as to speak to the second. Thanks for the education.

  54. #48: The standard in trial will be “perceived hard”, not the reasonableness viewed by the doer. I hope you take more than: my client feels
    “I don’t have to accommodate the thin-skinned.” to trial with you.

  55. “We can learn from people of the past, but it has nothing to do with our DNA.”

    I believe there is a *real and powerful* benefit from connecting with our ancestors and learning about and from them. You apparently don’t. Fine. On that, we simply disagree.

  56. Julie M. Right, if I do something reasonably offensive I have accountability. If you choose to take offense, you are accountable for your choice. I never said that we can escape accountability for offensive behavior — I said that we don’t do anything reasonably offensive in baptizing the dead.

  57. Our proxy-baptisms are taken by them (the Jews and Catholics who don’t want us doing proxy-baptisms on behalf of their deceased congregants) as a great disrespect

    When my grandmother–who was a lifelong member of the church–died in 1973, we got a letter from a group of nuns in a convent in Salt Lake City. They did not know my grandmother at all–had only seen her obituary. The letter informed us that they would give X number of prayers for my grandmother’s soul every day for X days.

    My mother was touched at this show of concern.

    Why was this not seen as “a great disrespect”?

    As for the insult/arrogance issue, it is insulting and annoying when someone tells me that they know how to achieve salvation or exaltation and I don’t

    But why? Does the Catholic church–and most every other church–not make the same claim in regard to religions with which they have points of disagreement?

    The whole offense to “the only true church” has always seemed most odd to me, in light of the fact that EVERY church thinks they are “truer” than any others they know and EVERY person thinks their world view is most accurate.

  58. Elder Christofferson’s story of the man who wanted to talk to him in order to save his soul comes to mind. Offense really is in the eyes of the potential offended.

  59. Sorry: My bad.
    Faithful Catholics should NEVER accept that our baptism ever works.

  60. NoS, can we be gentle in our responses? Bookslinger is an active, believing, “TBM” in every sense of the word of which I’m aware. Hyperbolic statements disparaging his faith don’t do any good in a setting like this.

  61. I have and will continue to put blatantly anti-Catholic remarks in moderation until Wilfried is back online and can take charge of his discussion. We do nothing to advance our own cause by reviling others.

  62. Thanks, Ardis, for moderating! I’m back (different time zone here in Belgium). Indeed, blatant anti-Catholic or anti-Mormon comments are not in order here (nor anywhere for that matter). Even as we are convinced of the truth of our respective claims, no reason to disparage the other. There is an Article of Faith that says we respect …

    To all: much gratitude for the lively and thoughtful discussion, even with differing opinions. Let’s keep it that way.

  63. #58: Ray, I have no idea the time you spend on your ancestors. Me, I spend hours and hours, weeks and weeks, years and years. I have a room full of the stuff. I have files, databases, and books, (so many that others laugh). I have personally visited every the graves (but one), of the 32 ancestors directly above me. I have their photos, I have the photos of the ships they came over on. I have the wagon train lists with their names on them, I have visited most of their Mormon Villages. But these are only simple and hard lives that I try to keep from disappearing. Other than that………..

  64. In my most charitable moments pondering this news, while still troubled, I have wondered if part of the reason for withholding records might be to save the souls of Mormons themselves. If the Catholics really believe that some of the things we do are heretical, and therefore damning, should they not try to prevent us where they legitimately can do so? We see this in other areas. If any minister or priest is aware that a member of his flock is studying with LDS missionaries, won’t he try to talk them out of it if he really believes that we are wrong and he cares about the souls of those he ministers to?

    Now, this doesn’t make it fun for missionaries or family history researchers, but it certainly changes perception of those who make things challenging.

  65. Reviewing the comments, there are various sides to the questions raised. Much has been said about arrogance and disrespect in relation to each other’s beliefs and in relation to the exclusivity of claims.

    Perhaps it should be stressed that Mormonism is an all-inclusive religion when it comes to its faith in the salvation of mankind. We believe ordinances are necessary for salvation, as mentioned in the New Testament, but we also believe no person will ever be excluded from the possibility to receive those ordinances, here or in the hereafter, whatever his or her background, and can thus be saved and reach the highest glory – except by personal deliberate rejection. Few religions stress this openness and this promise to all so clearly. Even after death, all is still possible. Our temple work is preparatory in that perspective, tied, moreover, to a wonderful belief in the eternal reunion of families.

    Catholic doctrine, however, professes after-life restrictions on those who were not validly baptized before their death. In that respect the painful doctrine related to unbaptized babies has only recently been revised. The Catholic Encyclopedia still mentions, at the end of the topic on unbaptized infants, the “discipline of the Catholic Church in regard to unbaptized persons”. As far as I understand, the following is still valid according to Catholic doctrine: unbaptized persons, “dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone (…). They are excluded eternally from the vision of God”.

    Since the Catholic Church does not recognize Mormon baptism, the Catholic view on Mormons’ eternal future looks dim. Should we therefore be offended? Of course not. We recognize the right of anyone to belief what he or she wants. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (11th Article of Fatih).

    But in light of the preceding, it seems indeed a little ironic that some Catholics would view as arrogant and disrespectful the Mormon desire to administer ordinances to ancestors by proxy, while Catholic doctrine excludes Mormons forever from the highest glory, because their baptism is invalid.

    Bottomline, as has been said above: each Church has its views and its arguments. We can argue indefinitely who is right or wrong, but at least we should be able to understand and respect each other’s viewpoints from within the realm they come from. Anno 2008 is not the 16th century any more. In that sense, the Vatican’s decision seems to take us a few centuries back.

  66. Julie Smith wrote: “I don’t think it is being honest with your fellow men to ask for parish records under false pretenses.”(12)

    Alma 43:30 “And he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take.”

    Don’t forget the secrecy which the Church had to employ in order to carry a copy of the first temple film to Europe back in the Sixties. I don’t know if they broke any international laws or not, but they certainly didn’t advertise what they had in their possession.

    The point is, there are greater laws and lesser laws – Jesus eating corn from a field on the Sabbath and healing on the Sabbath, the Spirit commanding Nephi to slay Laban. Temple work is about the highest law I can imagine, thus, I don’t consider not divulging our intent to an archivist as particularly troubling. However, if we are specifically asked if our intent is to do temple work with the information, I believe we must be forthcoming.

  67. Here\’s the deal. Members of the Catholic church, as well as other religious faiths have the right to restrict access to their records, period. As a member of a non-LDS church, I do not want the LDS church performing any religious rites for any of my ancestors because in my mind, the LDS faith does not have the franchise on eternity. How would LDS people feel if it was discovered Islam or Hindu or Buddhists were performing religious rites for their deceased relatives?

  68. Thank you, David, we appreciate your concerns.

    As to your question: “How would LDS people feel if it was discovered Islam or Hindu or Buddhists were performing religious rites for their deceased relatives?

    I don’t think any Mormon would have a problem with that. It would be viewed as a token of concern and love for all humans and it would be appreciated. What you suggest as an impossibility is actually happening. Monks and nuns in various monasteries and communities, Buddhist, Catholic, and others, offer prayers accompanied by rituals for deceased persons, regardless of their religious background. E.g. anyone can send names of deceased friends and relatives to the Friends of the Poor Souls “for the purpose of helping release souls from Purgatory”:

    “The names are enrolled in the Golden Book and when the prayer warriors say their prayers, they remember to “pray for all those enrolled in the Golden Book.” Imagine hundreds of people praying for your deceased husband, wife, child, parent, friend or neighbor. Masses are also offered for all the living who are enrolled in the Golden Book.”

    Since in the Catholic view deceased Mormons are probably in Purgatory, I respect the well-meant intentions and ritual prayers from Catholics to free these souls.

  69. Here\’s the deal.
    \”No unhallowed hand will stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assembly, calumny may defame, but the TRUTH of God will go forth boldly, nobly and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God are accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say, \”THE WORK IS DONE\”.–Joseph Smith

    This is yet another setback that will be but a temporary setback, and God can do his own work, and it will go forth with or without the access to these records. The view that we need access to these records right now to do our temple work is short sighted. These people\’s work will be done one way or the other, now or in the millennium, either by miracles or by old records and undoubtedly, those that sought to thwart the Church\’s access to these records will be held responsible by the Lord. This isn\’t the end of this by any means. If records are destroyed before we get access to them, the people aren\’t lost, because those on the other side know their own names, and will find other ways to make their names manifest in due time. The timing of the second coming and millennium was never contingent on our finishing every singe piece of vicarious temple work there ever was to do. Thats primarily the whole point of the millennium, to finish that work. So we will just go forward with the records that we can get access to, and the Lord will handle the rest. This is like the Iron Curtain being set up, and that came tumbling down in the Lord\’s own due time. So also will the opposition from the Catholics in due time.

  70. I would ask not to make comments that pit Mormons against Catholics and vice-versa in offensive terms. This thread is not about the “truest” church. It is about the decision regarding parish registers, about reasons why we search for our ancestors, about mutual understanding of our respective reasons and doctrines. Objective criticism and straightforward questions are of course welcome. But let’s keep the discussion civil.

  71. I hope this is sufficiently on-topic—I’m still just trying to explain why Catholics might find the practice offensive.

    I’m just not sure that saying that a practice is done with good intentions and has no practical impact unless it was correct is enough to stop it from being reasonably offensive. For example, suppose I were babysitting for my good Mormon friend’s infant, and purely out of love and concern, I decided that the baby should have the benefits of Catholic baptism so that she could receive God’s grace as I understand it. So I get a tiny amount of holy water and pour it on the baby’s head (in a way the baby doesn’t even notice) and say “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” (Catholic baptism can be done without a priest in some circumstances; let’s assume for simplicity that this is one of those circumstances). Then my friend comes home and I tell her what I’ve done.* Is it reasonable for her to be offended and think I’ve acted inappropriately?

    If her taking offense is reasonable but someone taking offense at the baptizing of dead relatives is not, there needs to be an additional explanation beyond “it’s done out of love” and “if you disagree with us, it had no effect.”

    *In case any of my Mormon friends for whom I have babysat are reading this—I have never done and never would do this. :)

  72. I see your logic, Anna, and it would probably be offensive as you do this to a living person, a minor, without the parents’ consent, misusing a position of trust (Mormons are not allowed to baptize minors without parents’ consent).

    I realize you made up a hypothetical situation to make a point, but, in your example, you would also go against the baptism rules of the Catholic Church, because the circumstances really do not warrant it.

  73. This restriction on LDS filming will be an obstacle for some Catholic genealogists. I’m thinking in particular of a Catholic man who volunteered a regular shift in our stake’s family history library. I also remember him discussing his technique for obtaining co-operative access to records that interested him in Poland: begin by handing over a $50 bill as a donation to the parish.

  74. Wilfried, you’re right that baptism wouldn’t be proper under those circumstances—I was just trying to avoid a more complicated hypothetical involving a religion with different rules or a dying infant. But whether it was procedurally proper doesn’t seem to me to affect whether it’s offensive.

    My point was to raise the question of why, if taking offense in that situation is reasonable (even though the baptism was done out of love and has no actual effect from the mother’s point of view), taking offense to the baptism of one’s deceased mother or deceased child is unreasonable. There is probably an explanation, but it’s not one I’ve yet seen articulated.

  75. Ray, I’ll try harder to be gentle, yet we must also be firm. Too often, some members confuse being tolerant with dilution of doctrine. That we must not do. To do so is to be unfaithful in our testimonies because the doctrines are unpopular to the world. Unfortuneatly, I have noticed a trend with some to try and understand the other person’s doctrine by giving up some of ours. In this situation, we have scripture that designates our church as the only true and living. One can either accept or reject it, but as a Latter-day Saint, they are required to accept doctrine which comes from canonized sources, e.i. DC 1. I include believing the scriptures to be required to be TBM. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d like to see someone point out the opposite viewpoint before I’ll believe it. This shouldn’t be seen as a character assault though. Indeed, other than what Bookslinger wrote, I know nothing about this person, and have only made a judgement about what they said, and compared that to what scripture says.

    Wilfried: Thank you for agreeing in the irony and the apparent papl-driven-time travel. Here I am not trying to argue Catholic vs LDS. Nor am I trying to argue that the LDS is the truest church. However, any discussion of why the LDS do what they do is incomplete. The problem begins with members trying to dilute our doctrine, concede, well maybe we aren’t the only authorized church. Then they begin to concede other points, “Well, I guess even though Jesus has commanded us to perform temple work, because the mormoliberalbloggocrats say this is offensive to Catholics, I shouldn’t do it, because I know the doctrine better than the brethren. In essence, the reason why we research our ancestors is because we believe we are the truest church. I haven’t read anywhere in Catholic doctrine that allowing someone else to use anyone elses name for any purpose to be a sin. True, Catholics can add to their doctrine, but this appears to still be a policy rather than a new catholic doctrine.

    Dear David,
    While the church respects the wishes of the descendants of those who have died most recently (like within 110 years), we really don’t believe that anyone has the right to deny anyone else a chance at accepting these blessings, particularly because these individuals are supposed to have been submitted by their descendants, anyway. That’s the problem with the latest Jewish/Mormon debate about this. Some Jewish groups say, “You can’t ever perform baptisms for any holocaust victim”, the church says, “We won’t let them be performed UNLESS a descendant requests it.” A descendant requests it (sometimes, sometimes some LDS members do the wrong thing) and the Jewish group still gets upset. I feel the church did a good job of trying to be respectful, but still enabling descendants to perform their religious obligation to their ancestors. Let’s pretend that you and I are both descendants of John Archibald born 1800. If I’m Mormon and you’re not, what gives you the right to deny me the right to practice my religion and have this work performed? If you’re not Mormon, you shouldn’t accept our ordinances or priesthood. If you do accept our priesthood as being efficacious, you should already be Mormon. We understand that you do not accept what LDS believe that Jesus does have a franchise on eternity, and that he has placed that authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because we believe Jesus HAS commanded us to do this work, to impede it is to keep us from following our faith. It would be like if I tried to pass a law making it illegal to pray in your own home, for my soul. Our temples are private, the work isn’t publicized by us, we do it because we think it’s right, just like you might pray for us. To place certain rules against LDS people and not others is religious based descrimination, and does take us back to the dark ages.

    “How would LDS people feel if it was discovered Islam or Hindu or Buddhists were performing religious rites for their deceased relatives? ” No problem at all, In fact, if their religion told them to do it, and they weren’t, I’d be more upset with them. If they believed they could help someone, and that they were supposed to, and chose not to, then I would be more upset. But then, allowing them to practice (or not practice) their religion is really their constiutional right, not mine, so I would butt-out and let them practice, “How, Where, and What they may.”

  76. Anna, my biggest concerns are not for situation like you describe, but rather for situation where the records are either public records by nature or are provided to everyone *but* Mormons or are records of my own ancestors. Those are very specific instances where I do not believe records should be restricted – where I think there is no logical way to justify restricting them from Mormons.

    As to other situations, I believe they should be made available to all or none without distinction. Whatever the decision, I want consistency.

    (I also believe if you did that to my child, I would thank you for your concern – and never ask you to babysit again.)

  77. I’m sorry, I missed that you mentioned the abuse of trust in my hypothetical, which is certainly relevant. But would it really be less offensive had I been a casual acquaintance who encountered the child in a public place, sprinkled holy water on her (again, in a way that was not perceptible–maybe at the swimming pool?), and baptized her?

  78. Anna,
    One thing you should be aware of is that a letter is not sent out informing people that work has been done for their ancestors. As I’ve already alluded to in my incredibly lengthy post, often people share ancestors. If any branch of your family is LDS (however far removed) there’s a chance that some of your ancestor’s work has already been done.

    Furthermore, I think the comparison of a deceased ancestor with a living breathing, agency-less child is contrived and unfair. In order to be completely fair, you would have to compare proxy baptism against proxy baptism. The Catholic church would have to instruct you that it is your duty to provide proxy Catholic baptism for unbaptized babies. That would be, while the child is still at home with its parents, you (or your priest) proxy baptize your own daughter for the child. Then, when the child reached some age of accountability (we choose 8 years old), the law chooses 14,16,18,21, etc. you tell the child and let them choose if they want to accept it. That would be a fair comparison. Also, you wouldn’t tell the parents what you did unless they asked about it. Then let’s see how you would people calling you arrogant for performing your “religious duty”. Anna, how about the more fair comparison?

  79. Re #70: Interesting scripture citation. The question is whether it is applicable here and I don’t think it is. If we have agreed not to do proxy work for Jews because they don’t want it done, then I’m not sure why the policy would be any different for Catholics who don’t want their parish registers used for that purpose. You cite the importance of temple work as superseding the normal need for integrity here, but (again, by analogy with the situation with Jewish names), apparently the church has felt that the need to have good relations with other groups (and/or the need to respect the wishes of other groups) supersedes the need to do the temple work.

  80. NoS, I would do my religious duty in that scenario, but I would not be surprised if my friends and neighbors were irritated or offended when they found out about it, nor would I call them “thin-skinned” or unreasonable. And I would not be surprised if people in the neighborhood who might otherwise be open about telling me the names of all the children on my block became a bit less willing to share that information with me once they knew why I wanted it.

    Again, I respect the right of Mormons to do proxy baptisms. And I respect that people have a right to feel offended by it and object to it.

    (As for the allegation that my hypothetical was contrived and unfair, I never claimed it was a perfect comparison and indeed acknowledged that there were distinctions—I merely used it to point out that something can be offensive even if it is done with love and with no supposed religious effect.)

  81. Maybe I didn’t read closely enough, but I’m still not clear on whether this policy is intended to apply to individual researchers or to the mass copying of records by agents of the Church. Either way, the policy is likely to cause enough bad will outside of the Church, that it will fall of its own weight. Lots of nonmormons do genealogy work. If the Catholic policy is aimed at individual researchers, nonmormon genealogists are going to get awfully tired of being asked their religious affiliation every time they want to access Catholic records. If it is aimed at mass copying, the Catholics must either decide to ban all mass copying and alienate all the nonmember genealogists who have been counting on accessing the records copied by our Church, or allow other parties to engage in mass copying, in which case we can just get access through those other parties.

  82. Very interesting discussion. Thanks for keeping it civil, all.

    I think I side with the Catholics on this one.

    One thing that comes to mind is that the church spent four decades actively concealing its own parish records, so to speak — marriage and sealing records — from inquisitive outsiders.

    Of course, we saw this as avoiding persecution. The inquisitive outsiders in question saw their actions as saving Mormons, though. Overall, this raises doubts as to whether the outsider’s judgment on “this action won’t be harmful” should be dispositive.

    Even today, the church actively prevents some people, who it views as its enemies, from access to information. For instance, I saw a news report that the Tanners and their associates were banned from the genealogical records. They had been finding genealogical records that would embarrass or discredit the church.

    (The Tanners would no doubt characterize their own actions as “a gift of love” — saving Mormons from the heresy of Mormonism. Does this mean, under Blake’s theory, that they ought to be given full access to church records?)

  83. BTW, I have no problem with my fair comparison. If any group wants to perform vicarious ordinances, prayers, whatever, I’m OK with it. I feel better about doing it for people who are already dead than living.

  84. I think Anna hit on the crux of the matter. It is not about access to records, it is about the state of souls – real, living-if-not-necessarily-breathing persons. Furthermore, it is about the sweetest, most important connections between generations. Bob’s dismissive comments aside, it is about the strongest emotional ties that pull on our hearts, the longing we have for love, for family, for connection and place.

    Parents have a responsibility for and authority over their children. Parents are charged with protecting and raising their offspring, and may do so largely (not that – I am not saying completely) as they see fit. Thus, the offense conceivable in baptizing an infant either in secret or against parental wishes is an offense against the authority parents rightfully exercise over their children. The comparison is especially apt in that no claim is made that by or following such a symbolic act the child is taken from his or her parents either in this life or the next. Likewise, Latter-day Saints do not believe that the ordinance of baptism for the dead, by itself, takes a deceased individual away from the faith professed by such individual in life.

    If the comparison is apt, then, the question of offense must turn on who has authority, not over the records, but over the person of the dead. It seems to me (and, please, correct me if I am wrong; I am no expert here) that the Catholic position must be that LDS baptisms for the dead are meaningless, not only because the ordinance itself is done wrongly, i.e. without authority and against the will of God, but also because no power on earth has authority over the dead, at least not insofar as baptism is concerned. In contrast, the Latter-day Saint position is that the dead have an adult’s power to accept or reject the ordinance.

    Thus, in the end, while I understand the emotional power behind the concern, I do not understand the root of the offense. Latter-day Saints do not claim to sever ties between generations, and Catholics do not accept that baptism for the dead has any meaning. Neither side claims authority over the person of the dead.

    Unless the living do have authority over the dead akin to that of parents over children, then I cannot accept that Latter-day Saints should cease performing baptisms for the dead. It is an act of love, and an act of faith not only in God, but also in the family of mankind. I think the comparison between baptism for the dead and prayers for the dead is more appropriate than that of baptizing a child. Hopefully, with increased dialogue, Latter-day Saints will come to understand Catholic concerns, and we will be able to explain ourselves sufficiently clearly as to assuage their honest concerns.

  85. Kaimi,
    Please don’t mistake the public records of birth dates, death dates and marriage dates for confidential data such as baptismal and ordination dates. If the Catholic church were to hold back baptismal dates while releasing birth dates, that would be one thing.

    Furthermore, let’s not confuse the motives of professional anti-Mormons with well intentioned members. Now, if instead, the Tanners were going to perform some sort of proxy renunciation of Mormon baptism, as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t give a darn.

    Question, what do you refer to in our “actively concealing parish records”. Do you mean Genealogical data of living persons? The IGI. What? I hardly thinking starting the family search website is concealing, but I guess mormoliberbloggocrats have a different definition of concealing than I do. I don’t consider providing a web-based search engine concealment. There’s a HUGE difference between looking for ways to harm the catholic church (professional anti-Catholics) and performing the labor of love that is temple work, and it is demeaning to Catholics and LDS to even bring up such people in this discussion.

  86. Wilfried, are they denying access to parish records of persons living or just deceased?

  87. NoS,

    I mean, in the 1800s, the Feds showed up and said, “where are the marriage records?” And the church said, “what marriage records?” This continued for about four decades.

  88. NoS,

    A Catholic person could go into Deseret Book today and buy a book written by an apostle which describes the Roman Catholic church as the whore of the earth. I think we need to realize they might have some difficulty deciding whether we are professional anti-Catholics or not.

    By the way, you might help yourself by refraining from calling names. “mormoliberbloggocrat” might sound clever to you, but I doubt it does to anybody else.

  89. I do sort of think it’s weird and off-putting for the Catholic Church to say, “We’ll give our records to anyone but Mormons.” What if they said, instead, “We’ll give our records to anyone who’s not using them in a way that’s inconsistent with our goals and teachings.” Would that be fair?

    Here’s an analogy (warning: this hypo is somewhat nonsensical; bear with me). Suppose I’m a wealthy person and have a policy of giving out free paper to anyone that asks, because I think writing and art and things that people use paper for are generally valuable. Then I find out that some people who keep asking me for quite a lot of paper are using the paper to put up flyers in support of some political cause they know I don’t agree with. Can’t I stop giving paper out to those people specifically, yet continue giving it out to others?

  90. Kaimi: I love your reasoning (or lack of it). It amounts to the conclusion that two wrongs make a right. Do you do trial work? That argument never works for me for some reason.

    Comparing what the Tanners did to baptism for the dead has got to be the moral misadventure of all time. Really? You think that taking any opportunity to cast another person’s religion in the worst light possible, having only one possible outcome of any dialog against your avowed enemies, is really comparable to baptism for the dead? I question your moral compass on this one. Forgive me if I see them as not only nothing alike (assuming it happened), but you’ll have to explain for me the Church’s longstanding attempt to make all geneological records available. I was involved in copyrighting the first programs for Family History and the concern was to make everything as widely available as possible. Come on Kaimi, you really just wanted to sound ridiculously outrageous and beyond the pale, right? Please say so that I am not forced into reassessing my opinion of you and the resulting cognitive dissonance from one of my heroes coming off like someone who cannot grasp basic differences that anyone with a half-way functioning moral compass could pick up. PPleeasee!

    In my view, the most analogous practice to baptism for the dead is the one Wilfried already identified — the centuries long-standing Catholic practice of prayers for the dead to liberate their souls from Purgatory (which apparently no longer exists) based on anems they place on the their altars. That is why the catholic position is so blind and mean-spirited. Who in their right mind would take offense at such a loving practice? Apparently, catholics.

  91. What is ironic here is the LDS Temple Records of baptisms, etc (original document) are confidential and not available even to church members. So why should the other churches make this info available if the LDS won’t?

  92. Dear Ugly:
    As outlined above, I do not think that the comparison is apt.
    There’s a huge difference between washing person A’s hair (Anna’s comparison) and washing person B’s hair (in the name of person A). If you don’t believe it is transferrable, than there is nothing to be upset about. If you do believe it is transferrable, then you have to automatically assume it’s right. Only if the situations match can a valid comparison be drawn.

  93. Roland: Apparently making a copy isn’t good enough for you? We have to make originals available? Find, I’d be happy if the Catholics just preserved and copies their records and put them on the net. That ought to do it.

  94. I can’t copies either of LDS Temple ordinance work performed at the Logan Temple in the year 1921. I would be happy if they provided even copies of the record.

    Someone did ordinance work for some ancestors of mine and I can’t find out who did it and why.

  95. Mark IV, should probably know better about what Mormon Doctrine currently says. In fact, I think he’s been corrected on this in the past and continues to selectively say false things. Mark, that was the first edition, which was corrected, and was never (EVER) sanctioned by the church, and in fact, severly troubled church leaders when it was released. Professional anti-Catholics, be serious, for once, Mark. Mormon’s don’t make their living off of tearing down Catholicism. None of the 200+ catholics that I have ever met have been confused into thinking this. Hm, statistically, 200>35, therefore the central limit theorem (look it up) applies, and in order for your argument to be valid, this s an observable that should have been observed.

    Mormo= Mormon. Liberal, = self explanatory. bloggocrat = What the majority of the bloggers say is truth, instead of the Church/Scriptures/God. I did think it’s pretty clever. Just like, I work in a place called. I respect your right to share your opinions, Mark, allow me the same priviledge. Thank you.

  96. Roland, Temple records do not indicate who did the work or why it was done. It only lists that it was done. So really, if you know that it was done, there isn’t anything else to uncover. As Blake notes, information on who has received proxy ordinance work is publicly available. There really isn’t any irony here.

  97. I guess that I am just really confused at to what the argument is about here? “LDS church needs to keep parish records on computer for the Catholic Church.”

    The Vatican ordered Bishops not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons’ Genealogical Society of Utah — even the Msgr. Fitzgerald (SLC) didn’t have all the facts as to why the Vatican singled out the Society.

    It is also my understanding that it is (Catholic) policy not to give out the baptismal records to ANY person unless they are entitled to have them. I guess it just depends on what you plan to do with the records?? LDS re-baptism (for the dead) goes against Catholic teaching AND revelation. Re-baptising is a disrespect to Catholics — they are already baptised.

    Any practicing LDS member knows that it is his or her duty to fellowship and convert everyone — even the dead. So they know what your “motive” is for the records.

    Believe it or not, the Catholics also use computers to keep records — they have come a long way since the Dark Ages.

    You would have all of us believe that the Catholic church is standing in the way of “free and public information” by using your arguments of historical preservation.

    Ardis #10, I am not buying that you use the records for purely historical reasons and preservation. Nice way to go around the system.

  98. Thanks for the Rosetta Stone on that translation, NoS. I’m sure that Mark’s main concern was that he didn’t understand the underlying words in your neologism. I assume that you’re applying the term as an “act of love” . . .

  99. It is correct that the church has moved away from Elder McConkie’s 1960s views. The latest edition of Mormon Doctrine does not contain the same anti-Catholic language. And there has been at least one Ensign article that I’m aware of ( ) which directly contradicts Elder McConkie’s earlier position.

  100. Quite right, Kaimi. The second edition refers to both Catholics and Protestants as the whore of Babylon.

    Given that fact, we ought to be able to accept their ambivalence about the way NoS seeks to impose his “act of love” upon them.

  101. Preach My Gospel is available in pdf. It can also be ordered online. I can assure you that the missionaries would like nothing better than for everyone they are teaching (and every member) to read and study this book. What a wonderful resource. Everyone would benefit from reading it. It is not about a \”method\” of conversion. It emphasizes the importance of the Holy Ghost and that conversion has nothing to do with \”convincing\” or \”a method\”.

    The Church has over time been adding more books and magazines that can be downloaded as pdf – many (most) were always available for purchase and now they are offered free as pdf (e.g. Ensign magazine).

    Yes, some things are not accessible to all members but only can be ordered by a Ward or Branch – these are mainly forms and administrative things that no member would actually want.

    As far as the Church Handbook of Instructions (incorrectly called GHI above), it does not contain anything \”secret\” or earth shattering. I was a Bishop and am currently a High Councilor so I don\’t even get a copy now, just the portion of the second book (it has two volumes) that pertains to my calling (e.g. Sunday School). Volume 1 of CHI is mainly for Bishoprics (including Ward Clerk and Executive Secretary) who get 5 copies, Stake Presidencies and Mission Presidencies. It very much helps these people do their calling (if they read and follow it). Every 3-5 years it is revised – things are added; things are deleted. It does have a lot of gospel discussion, but certainly has a lot of administrative stuff that would bore most members…The trend in the last two decades has been to greatly shorten it, leaving leaders to lead by the Spirit more (my opinion) and be less inclined to want to \”look things up\”.

  102. NoS, You might think it’s clever, but it is **incredibly** inaccurate. Use it all you want, but Mark IV is correct that it automatically pits you against many here – both those who might fit your description AND those who do not but you assume do – as well as those who simply don’t like condescending labels.

    “Mormon” was quite clever when it was coined by those who despised the Church, but I don’t think the early saints chuckled when they first heard it used to claim they weren’t Christain. “J Dubs” might be clever, but I don’t call ANY of my Jehovah’s Witness friends that – behind their backs or to their faces. There are numerous derogatory terms that are “clever” – but simply insensitive to a great degree. I heard all kinds of clever terms to describe racial differences when I lived in the Deep South, but I wouldn’t defend a single one due to its cleverness.

    Sorry, Wilfried. I won’t continue this threadjack further.

  103. Will, why do you think that PMG was removed from the website for awhile? (And, after having read it cover to cover, my opinion is that there are several things in there that would be embarrassing for investigators to see.)

    Re: your comments on the GHI or CHI or whatever we want to call it: I completely disagree with your assessment of vol 1–there is a LOT of material in there that I think (some) church members would be interested in knowing. At the same time, I support the right of the church to limit access to that information if they so choose, and that was my only point here–that we should allow Catholics to do the same.

  104. Not sure what you’d find embarrassing in the book ….. I’d give any investigator a copy. I became a missionary when I was younger only 2 years after being an investigator.

    I know that one problem with “handbooks” is that they get outdated as administrative policies change (everything from confirmation of converts now taking place in sacrament meeting to how many days before you turn 19 you can submit your missionary application) or a myriad of miscellaneous topics (e.g. whether Bishops should ever discuss “family size” with couples – they’re told not to BTW). Can you imagine if there were 10’s of thousands of copies of “handbooks” floating around from 2, 3 or 4 versions ago?? It’s much easier to issue the 5 copies each ward gets and tell them to get rid of the old ones. The “time lapse” between announcing a new policy and its acceptance and knowledge is much quicker than if the handbook has been widely disseminated to 20,000 wards and branches.

    I don’t remember everything in Volume 1. If I have a question, I just ask my Bishop.

    And I agree, if the Catholic Church wants to limit access, by all means. I’m sure the Church won’t say too much on it and certainly won’t get in some “tit for tat” thing. I’m sure our Catholic genealogical friends will do a lot of talking and complaining. The Church clearly has two motives for collecting data, the important one being to help members complete proxy work for their ancestors. The second is providing a service to individuals throughout the world – I’d put that in the PR/Missionary category and really a NICE thing to do, when you think about it. The Church and its volunteers scanning records have helped millions. My dad was not a member, and he enjoyed visiting the local Family History Center and helping him with his resource, long before I became involved in it. He really appreciated it as to so many friends of the Church.

  105. Julie, If I go ask the Bishop to show me something from the CHI, he wil show it to me. There’s nothing secret. The problem is that anti-Mormons (e.i. Sandra and Gerald Tanner) were breaking copyright, taking things out of context, etc.

    As was pointed out earlier, there is no copyright on this information, and it should now exist in the public domain as a historical record. The only thing embarrasing in PMG is that the scholarship quality is still very low, even though it isn’t “meant” to be a scholarly book. It is a guide, and no more.

    Kaimi thank you so much for including the link to that Ensign article. Having the link so close to Mark’s misrepresentation will go a long way in helping to stop his false promogulation of true mormon doctrine (as opposed to someone’s opinion from the 60’s). It’s a great article, and I higly recommend it to all people reading this blog: MLBC’s (previously defined) and CBB (consevatve blogging bullies).

  106. I’ve been away from my computer for some five hours — teaching. Just browsed through all the comments and noticed several side threads developing — not always focused on the topic, but nevertheless interesting. I know I should comment on all your contributions, but will limit to a heartfelt thanks for the input.

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