Religion and Genealogy

Today Craig at Geneablogie posted about a new the crisis with Catholics, Mormons at Odds Over Genealogical Records?  In his post, Craig mentions the news report about Catholic dioceses forbidding LDS access to church records for fear of the Mormon practice often referred to as baptizing the dead.  Craig notes that several of us genea-bloggers are Catholic, so I’d like to offer my thoughts as well.

I saw the story on some Catholic blogs I read before it made it to the genealogy blogs, and I struggled with how to address it here.  Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long for this to happen – I was surprised that records were made available at all after I learned that the Mormons use them for their faith, so to speak, in addition to their genealogy.  Other faith groups have often complained about the “re-baptism” of deceased ancestors into the Mormon faith, most especially Jews, who were greatly (and rightly) offended by this practice. 

As a genealogist, I am saddened to think that one day records may not be available – for without them, I would know very little about my ancestors.  That is to say, without the Mormons taking those records, microfilming them, and making them available for me to look at. 

As a Catholic, I can sort of understand why the Church, or why other faith groups, find offense in the Mormon tenent that they can baptize any deceased person into their faith.  When I first heard of this, I was somewhat taken aback.  What?  They can make my great-grandfather Mormon?  He’d “roll over” as the expression goes.  I think my great-grandmother was Protestant, but I haven’t prayed to “make” her accept my faith today!  It was her life to live, and I respect her choices and her life.

I say I “sort of” understand because I find it more humorous than offensive.  To me, my faith is very important.  I love being Catholic, and I love the Church.  Because I have accepted this particular faith as “my” faith, I obviously think it’s better – at least for me – than other faiths.  If you can’t believe in your particular faith all the way, what’s the point of believing it?  As such, it doesn’t matter to me if some other faith decides to make me one of their own long after I’m gone.  Why?  Because my faith is chosen by me and nothing will change that unless it’s my decision.  If any Jew, Muslim, Mormon, or Protestant wants to pray for me or if they want to pray to convert me, okay!  I doubt I’ll be leaving my faith any time soon, but I’ll accept your prayers on my behalf.  I respect other religions, but they can’t change me or my faith whethere through prayer, re-baptism, or any other practice.  

As Kimberly Powell points out, the Mormom re-baptism isn’t “valid” in the sense of the Catholic faith – so denying them access to the records to prevent this is only hurting those of us who use them to enrich our understanding of our family history.  Can’t we all just get along and respect that we all believe different things?  I think the Mormons need to separate their religion from their genealogical efforts…for them, the two may be intertwined, but for others it is confusing.  As Craig said, we all need each other.  And we’re likely all related, too. 

On a completely unrelated note, this is my first-ever post written remotely on a laptop.  And I like it!  I think I have to get one of these…

6 thoughts on “Religion and Genealogy

  1. Donna, Well said. Thanks for addressing this important issue.

  2. Donna,

    An interesting take on the subject.

    But to say that Mormons “need” to separate their religion from their genealogy is like saying the Pope needs to separate his religion from his vestiments. Mormons believe that they cannot be saved without their ancestors AND that their ancestors cannot be saved without them.

    Still, it is sad that the Pope wishes to separate their church records from the rest of the world. “Wait,” you say, “he’s only keeping them from the LDS church.” Ahh, but then why not post them publicly on the Internet for others?

    The LDS church has made it clear that a simple request not to perform their ordinances in behalf of selected individuals will be honored.

    I really enjoy your Blog. I also enjoy the I believe that the Catholic church has done much good in the world, too. I just find that the Pope’s decision is unfortunate.

    Happy Dae.

  3. It could work both ways

    if a living person, now secular, found his ancestors were catholic, he or she might consider learning more about the church of his family

    Hugh W

  4. “The LDS church has made it clear that a simple request not to perform their ordinances in behalf of selected individuals will be honored.”

    In fairness to Non Mormon groups, this policy appears to have only been spradicaly enforced. I agree, though, the decision to deny access is unfortuante as the collected records serve as a historical data base for all people. Another poster raised the possibility that the Pope was angered by the theological implications of Catholic Saints being Baptized and celibate nuns, monks and priests being “wed”.

    Perhaps a compromise can be reached. Catholic Church allows Mormons to digitalize records, Mormons agree to enforce existing policy (dont Baptize Catholic saints, martyrs) and also takes a pledge not to knowingly perform post death marriages for lesser known religous celibates.

  5. I grew up in the Catholic faith and join the Mormon Church ( I am no longer a member). The genealogical work is a universal work that benefits everyone.

    I truly believe that the proxy baptisms performed by the Mormons do no harm to others. If the Catholics believe the Mormon Faith has no credence from God these acts are for naught. I mean I cannot tell you how many times my mother has sent my name to be prayed for at some Shrine to Mary. Same thing in the long run.

    The Mormons are doing a good thing in documenting the parentage of human kind. Let’s look at the big picture and stopped getting tangled up in our ecclesiastical robes over things that in the long run mean nothing.

    Perhaps the world would be a better place if the Churches of this planet would stop bickering first. Then maybe, just maybe, the governments of the world, will follow. Peace.

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