view counter
Questions For Mormons
Tue, 11/29/2011

Gary Rosenblatt’s column (“Romney Or Not, We Can Learn From The Mormons,” Nov. 25) offering a Jewish perspective on Mitt Romney’s candidacy in next year’s presidential election is eminently timely, but begs for attention to some serious issues concerning Mormonism’s possible impingement on the candidate’s suitability for the highest political office.

Here are three questions among others that warrant consideration:

First, much of the Mormon faith is kept hidden even from most Mormons who are excluded from participation in rituals and observances conducted in the secluded and off-limits areas of its temples. How can the general public determine whether this faith will affect a person’s political life if it is not totally available for study and scrutiny? 

Second, since the supreme leader of the Mormon faith is considered by its adherents to be endowed with prophetic powers, might not the independence of a faithful Mormon elected to the presidency of the United States be compromised by his loyalty to his faith’s ultimate authority?

And third, Rosenblatt acknowledges that only victims of the Holocaust were exempted from the Mormon doctrine of baptizing the deceased, but that otherwise the practice continues unabated. How does such an approach to persons, although deceased, jibe with the principle of individual autonomy that is the very foundation of modern democratic society?

The successes of Mormonism in family life, with its youth, in growing demographically and in public relations may be admirable and even instructive, but questions about its worldviews and activities need be addressed openly and critically.

Manhattan

Get The Jewish Week Newsletter

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Comments

Thank you Rabbi, I enjoyed the article. I do hope that those who examine my people will understand that much of what they hear from non-LDS is misleading. There is a lot of hatred out there and some of the comments here are by anti-Mormons, who are intentionally dishonest, and have repeated the same dishonest things many places on the internet. Knowing what Mormons believe simply requires that we go to LDS org etc.
3 points: Mormons teach that Government of Nations is government by the voice of the People, not by the Church. Church leaders direct the Church in religious matters. As Gov. of Massachusetts, Mitt has not governed by what his Church teaches, but as a representative of those who elected him.
Several people discussed the temple. I add: They are creation dramas and passion plays as they always have been (a return to the tree of life, atonement etc). You can go to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, FAIR lds etc and read about ancient temples as well as modern. We make covenants there, but not as most non-LDS claim and interpret.
I'm sure someone has said this, but baptism for the deceased is not unlike praying, lighting candles, etc for the dead etc (except we don’t believe Jews are going to Hell or anything like that). It is an act of love, burying for new life. It can do no harm, and, as we worship the same God, it just might help : ). Feel free to perform any loving Jewish prayers, rituals etc you wish on behalf of my ancestors, even circumcision : )

As both a former Jew and former Mormon, I have to agree that the Rabbi's questions and concerns are legitimate.

The responses from LDS Church members are both predictable and disingenuous. For example:

The Church does actively involve itself in political issues - the most recent example is their heavy contribution to the Prop 8 vote in California. The Church always seems to be on the wrong side of human rights issues - first with the Blacks, next with its opposition to Equal Rights for Women, and now with Gay and Lesbian rights.

The Church is not forthcoming about the nature of the ceremonies performed in the Temples. I understand how their viewing these as sacred will limit how much they are willing to discuss publicly. But to say that there is nothing secret going on, and that they are open about these rituals, is completely disingenuous.

It can be readily determined that these rituals borrow quite heavily from Masonic practices. Further, even though they were declared to be restored by revelation by Joseph Smith, they have gone through extremely extensive modifications over time (the changes made in 1990 are dramatic and recent).

These issues are relevant to Romney's suitability as a President, because they speak to his basic worldview and use of logic and rational thought to decision making. For example:

Does Mitt believe that the Native populations of North and South America are descended from Middle Eastern Hebrew people, as taught by Joseph Smith, and all the Prophets and Apostles since that time?

Does Mitt believe that Polygamy is a legitimate, sacred practice, as documented in current LDS scripture?

To believe such things, ignoring legitimate evidence to the contrary, speaks to a thought and decision process I personally find troublesome.

The second question seems to me to be a reaplication of the anti-Kennedy as a Papal stooge idea.

The main principal in baptisms for the dead is that those who they are performed for can chose to either accept or reject them. The baptisms offer people a choice, they do not force anything on anyone.

Rabbi Schnaidman,

Thank you for expressing your concerns, so that there is an opportunity to address them. As a Latter-day Saint (Mormon), I would like to explain my perspective on your concerns:

1) The Mormon temples are open to any faithful Mormon adult, so it is not accurate to say that "most Mormons ... are excluded from participation." Also, before a new temple is dedicated, any person - Mormon or not - is welcome to go on a tour through the entire building. And if you want more details, lds.org provides quite a bit of information about temples (for a quick summary, see http://lds.org/church/temples/why-we-build-temples/what-happens-in-temples?lang=eng). There is absolutely nothing in the temple that would interfere with the ability of a President to fulfill his constitutional duties.

2) I believe that the significant differences in political opinions between radio personality Glenn Beck and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demonstrate that prominent Mormons are not - in any way - under the political direction of church leaders.

3) The Mormon practice of vicarious baptism for deceased individuals is in perfect harmony with individual autonomy. We believe that such a vicarious baptism is only an offer, which the deceased individual is perfectly free to accept or reject. Freedom of choice for the individual is actually quite central to Mormon belief.

And, in the end, even if you observe that Mormons don't always have theological views that match your own, I hope you will find that the average Mormon is very respectful of Judaism.

My guess is that everyone's faith impacts their decisions, but I would bet that Mitt Romney's politics will guide his decisions much more, just as Harry Reid's do. As an adherent to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I believe that every man or woman has a personal relationship with God and that each should be allowed to worship God according to their chosen faith.

The role of the president of the church is to teach of Jesus Christ and the principles and ordinances of Christ's gospel, NOT to direct the affairs of any government in the world. The church has an official statement on political neutrality. Some of these ordinances are performed in temples as explained by the leaders of the church themselves(http://newsroom.lds.org/article/temple-open-house). We believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected after 3 days and that by his grace ALL mankind will be resurrected and live eternally. This is our worldview. We believe that baptismal ordinances performed for those who were dead (as mentioned in the New Testament) can be accepted or rejected by those for whom they are performed.

As a Mormon, who like Mitt Romney served a mission in France, I am well aware that many do not believe our religous faith. God has granted us all our liberties in this life, one of which as Americans is to vote for the president of our country. And personally I don't care if you vote for Mitt Romney or not, but I do hope these thoughts help you understand my faith a little more.

We also believe that everyone has free agency, to choose for themselves, in all things. However, many people died without ever getting the choice to be baptized by propern priesthood authority. We believe that, even in the next life, everyone still has their free agency. They can learn the things they never knew in mortal life. They can then make an informed decision.
Since WE do not know what choice they made when vicarious baptism was performed for and in behalf of said dead person, we don't count them as baptised, or Mormons or anything like that. We merely record that the work was done for them, and move on.

Look at all of the good things you say about us, really look at them. Do you honestly believe that we could teach things that are evil or treacherous, and still turn out so good? Did you know that temple marriages in our church have a less than 10% chance of ending up in divorce? Non-temple marriages in our church have the same chance as any other church's marriages.

to sum up our beliefs, Joseph Smith wrote out thirteen Articles of Faith. My favorite is the 13th article of faith:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. Indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Only 2 people commented that temple ordinances performed for the deceased are not counted in church membership. I think this accurate statement is critical to answering the Rabbi's questionGs, concerns, and fears.

Rabbi,

With all due respect, I must whole-heartedly disagree with your analysis, which belies I general misunderstanding of the Mormon faith. First, being a Mormon for 30+ years, I can assure you that there is no secret doctrine that is painstakingly hidden from its adherents. The Mormon canon, conference addresses by church leaders (which are a foundation of Mormon doctrine), Sunday School manuals, handbooks, proclamations, historical records (including the original papers of church founder Joseph Smith), and others are found at lds.org and related church websites. This includes an explanation of the temple, temple worship, and your reference to the ordinance of vicarious baptism for the dead.

Further scholarly studies on Mormon doctrine are readily accessible at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, BYU Studies, the Mormon History Association, fairlds.org, and many other places. By chance, the Maxwell Institute even had an article posted today entitled "Baptism for the Dean in Early Christianity." See, http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=19&num=2&id=530 To say that these teachings and practices are invisible and unknown is completely untrue and leads me to ask the question, where did you get your information?

As to your assertion that the president of the Mormon Church will have some type of personal and/or direct influence over a Mormon president of the United States, would you likewise make the same assertion about a Catholic candidate, as the Pontiff in Rome is considered infallible and highly influential? Did you suppose that the very faithful and respected Joseph Lieberman was going to take his orders from Isreal, or from his local Jewish leaders when he was running for president? And what do you say of the past 100 years of history of Mormons of all political stripes working in Congress, as governors, as ambassadors, and as other high government officials? Where is your evidence of the Mormon leadership directing the political actions of such individuals? Is this same leadership presently directing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? I am sorry, but your position is unfounded. I would direct you to a response that Dr. Richard Bushman made to a similar accusation in 2007 in the New Republic. See, http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/mitt-romneys-mormonism#Bushman1

Finally, as to your concern about baptisms for the dead, I can understand and appreciate your apprehension because it is an unfamiliar doctrine to most people. Without going into the entire meaning and doctrine underlying this ordinance and practice, let me simply say that the Mormon understanding of baptism for the dead does not permit any person vicariously baptized person to lose any ounce of free agency in accepting or rejecting this baptism. In other words, Mormons believe that in the afterlife individuals for whom there was a vicarious baptism performed will have an opportunity to accept for reject that baptism. Today, Mormon faithful are encouraged to perform such ordinances for their ancestors. I recommend looking at a number of articles at lds.org for further explanation.

Why are so many folks demanding all of these answers from only one candidate who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.. Why do they fear this religion. It would seem to me that this is a political effort to destroy the one person with the integrity to do an honest job in the office of the precident. There is a simple explanation for most of the questions that have been asked by this author. If one is so intent on discovering what goes on in the temple all one has to do is read and study and ponder the Old & New Testaments of Bible.

As far as Mitt Romney's position on freedom of choice which is not pro abortion. One of the principle beliefs of the church is that Jesus Christ died that we might be blessed in choosing Christ and His gospel or rejecting him and his gospel rather than being forced by Satan this is called agency. It is not a matter of being pro choice ( pro abortion) and at the same time trying to be being pro life. A dedicated latter-day saint is pro life and is pro choice or pro freedom Not pro abortion.

As far as the so called supreme authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that authority would never force upon its members their will, all that they teach is by patience and long suffering concerning the Lord's instructions in the standard works (scriptures) and are neutral when it comes to politics. They never force a member to live the gospel against their will and never force their members to do their will in any government office. Harry Reid should be a prime example of that when compared to Glenn Beck or Ron Paul who many members support. There are members of all shades in both parties.

Everyone demands that Mitt Romney teach them what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe when if they were not to lazy they would research these beliefs themselves and become informed because it is generally ignorance that generates fear.

There is nothing going on in the temple that anyone with a sincere heart could not experience if they chose to talk the lessons and then decided to become a member and follow the commandments of Jesus Christ for a year. After a year of faithful attendance with a clear conscience they could could experience the temple for themselves and understand the difference between secret and sacred.

Good questions, with easy answers:

1. The Mormon temple ceremonies are not secret. They were broadcast on nationwide TV last year, and they can be found on the internet. They are sacred, and so the LDS Church does not publish them. As a member, I will not even watch or discuss them outside the temple.

2. Doctrine and Covenants (an LDS scriptural text) Section 134, verse 9, states: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” (http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/134?lang=eng)

3. I do not understand why vicarious work for the dead is bothersome. It is like saying a prayer for the deceased ones. Does a prayer bind the souls of the dead? These names are submitted by descendants of these people. As descendants, don’t they have a right to see and hear and speak these names with love and respect in the most holy and sacred places on earth? The participants and the rituals extend an INVITATION to accept what is dear and holy in their own lives. If the LDS Church is true, then many souls will be glad, and those interfering with temple ceremonies may make many other souls sorrowful. If the LDS Church is not true, the ordinances are nothing, and God ignores them, and at worst . . . well, who “can get rid of the justice of an offended God?” (Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 28:35 -- http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/134?lang=eng) Please, pray for me and all my ancestors anytime you feel like it.

Everyone says: Mormons are good people. Do not our fruits say something of our doctrine? The New Testament says so.

These are excellent questions. While I do not represent the church, I am a member and will attempt to respond. Responses are mine and mine alone.

1. It is true that rituals we consider sacred are not available to the general public, they are available to any who wishes to qualify for them. While the church does not publish them, its detractors do not have such inhibitions. The way to know how this faith will affect a person's political life is to look at how they live their life now. Are they moral and honest?

2. Yes, it very well could conceivably be compromised. Candidates owe their political existence to higher powers such as unions, businesses, and wealthy anonymous financiers. Given the choice between a religion which has been very open about its policies and incognito financiers, who is more dangerous? Romney has stated that he will not allow himself to be subject to such influence from his religious leaders, but he has not said the same of those anonymously backing his campaign. I would be more afraid of the financiers.

3. Mormons, in their minds, give individuals who are dead the opportunity to accept baptism (and therefore Jesus) after they have died. Mormons are not making anyone join their church by performing these baptisms. Imagine if you will, that you were to declare me Jewish and perform the rites on my behalf. That wouldn't, in my mind, make me any more Jewish than I am now unless I agreed to accept your efforts. Individual autonomy is left intact and is, in fact, one of the most precious gifts God has given us.

In my opinion, Mitt Romney is much more dangerous as a Republican and politician than he is as a Mormon.

As one Mormon, I can offer my answers to those questions.

1) All candidates for office have private beliefs; it is up to us as voters to surmise a candidate's private beliefs based on their prior actions. It seems unfair to imply that these particular private beliefs (if they exist) should be open to scrutiny and not also demand full access to every candidate's marital conversations, for example. Moreover, almost all adult Mormons participate in temple ordinances; those rituals just rituals and do not include any secret beliefs. Even if there are indeed secret rites that are not open to the general LDS adult membership they would not be open to Mitt Romney either, as he has no special standing in the church.

2) Mormons do not look to their prophet for political guidance (or how could Harry Reid and Mitt Romney be on opposite sides?). More importantly, Romney has already differed from LDS church policy on abortion and immigration, so it is clear that he, at least, is not compromised by that loyalty.

3) I appreciate your perspective, and it is an ongoing concern to many in the faith. But the LDS see baptisms for the dead as the ultimate in human autonomy; they believe that all persons in the next life have the right to decide which religion to follow, and the baptisms are performed just in case the deceased decides in favor. In Mormon theology, baptism has NO effect on the unwilling (which is part of why they don't baptize infants).

I hope my views are helpful.

Answer 1: See http://tinyurl.com/7eghzog for the soc.religion.mormon FAQ on Mormon Temples and Temple worship.

Answer 2: Mormons are the only modern Christian faith that believes in modern-day revelation. This not only applies to the prophet, but to each and every member, according to his/her responsibilities. Thus, each member is entitled to revelation pertaining to personal salvation. Parents are entitled to revelation pertaining to their family. Teachers to their students, pastors to their congregations, etc.

The head of the church is entitled to revelation pertaining to (1) the membership of the church (i.e. the "perfecting of the Saints"), (2) spreading the Gospel ("i.e. missionary work"), and (3) redeeming the dead.

Notice that "running the standing government" does not fall under that umbrella.

In fact, it could be argued that a Mormon president would be entitled to revelation from God (as opposed to the president of the Church) pertaining to guiding the country through perilous times. But that is only speculation - not doctrine.

Answer 3: Part and parcel of out doctrine of "redeeming the dead" is that the recipient is given the choice, in the Spirit World, if he wants to accept the baptism done in his/her behalf.

Thus autonomy is completely preserved.

Mormons should probably learn about the great evils done to Jewish people by well-meaning but horribly misguided Christians. For example, most (if not all) would react with horror at the kidnapping of Jewish children so that they could be raised as "good" Christians, and be saved. Perhaps this would help them understand why Jews have misgivings about out doctrine baptisms for the dead.

But this does not change the fact that recipients of this vicarious ordinance retain their Free Agency, and can accept or reject the ordinance, according to Mormon beliefs. They are not carried on the rolls of the Church as members, nor are they considered Mormons.

Conversely, if any Jew wants to perform a vicarious ordinance making me an Honorary Jew, please feel free to do so. Ditto Catholics, Protestants or Muslims. It doubles or triples my chances of standing before G_d with the proper credentials! ;0)

Bravo!

I frankly do not care what Mitt Romney’s religion is, but I care very much about the critical thinking skills of any presidential candidate.

Romney is well entrenched in the Mormon church. He has been a bishop and a stake president. That tells me he is a 100% believer. And that tells me he believes:

- A 19th century con artist was visited by an angel and given golden plates that later mysteriously disappeared

- That God lives near a star named Kolob

- Black people were spiritually inferior

- A man named Brigham Young spoke for God when he said unless people practiced polygamy they were damned

- The Mormons’ Book of Abraham was written by and about Abraham, despite numerous Egyptologists saying it's nonsense

- One needs secret handshakes to enter Heaven, the same handshakes Joseph Smith ripped off from Free Masonry

- It’s okay for a Utah church to spend big bucks fighting gay marriage in California

- A multi-billion church can keep its finances secret from even its own membership

No thanks. Romney is in a cult and if he can’t see through this nonsense in the era of the Internet he won’t get my vote.

Question 1: Of all people Jews should understand that the temple is "set apart", anciently unconverted Gentiles did not have access to Solomon or Herod's temples.
Question 2: Though mostly convservative, Mormons are very independent politically. I don't think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the "prophet" whispering in his ear. We keep politics and religion very separate. We want it that way.
Question 3: Baptisms for the dead by proxy only offer those on the other side, the option of accepting or rejecting the baptism. We do not believe in force and do not believe that because a baptism has been done by proxy, that the deceased are now Mormons.
I appreciate your words Rabbi, and those of all religious Jews everywhere. Shalom.

1. Mormons consider the temple ordinances and covenants to be very sacred, and we are instructed to not talk about them in depth outside of the temple itsself. That being said, any determined individual could probably find transcript or even video of the temple ceremonies. If you were to do so, you would discover that the temple ceremonies are very religious in nature, and are unrelated to politics. New converts to the LDS religion are generally expected to spend a lot of time studying the Bible and Book of Mormon in order to gain a thorough understanding of LDS doctrine before attending the temple. New converts are not allowed to attend the temple until they have been a member for at least a year or longer, in order to ensure they have sufficient time to understand the "basics" of Mormonism. With that in mind, a non-LDS person would not find the temple ceremonies to be offensive, but they would definitely find the rituals to be confusing. Kind of like a Hindu witnessing a baptism for the first time without knowing anything about Christianity, or the symbolism of burial and re-birth.

2. The same concern applies to any candidate who follows any religious leader, whether they claim to be a prophet or not. How can we be certain the religious leader(s) will not control the candidate's policies and decisions? Personally, I think you have to look at what the candidate and the religous leaders have said and done in the past. Is there any indication that Romney allowed LDS leadership to influence either his decisions as governor of Massechuesetts or his platform as presidential candidate? Is ther any indication that the LDS leadership has ever attempted to use Romney's political power to its own advantage? Romney is not the only high-profile LDS politician. Is there any common factor among Romney, Jon Huntsman or Harry Reid that indicates the Mormon church has used LDS politicians to further its own agenda?

3. Mormons believe that baptism is essential to salvation, and recognize that many virtuous and righteous people will never have the opportunity in this life to learn of and accept the gospel. According to LDS doctrine, everyone will be given the opportunity to learn of and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people will not be given that opportunity in this life, but they will have that opportunity in the hereafter. Although Mormon doctrine doesn't specifically outline how it will happen, it does make clear that individuals who accept the gospel in the post-mortal world must do so based on the same process as those who accept it in this life - faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Faith being essential to the conversion process, converts do not have an absolute knowledge of the truth in this life or the next. That knowledge can only come after faith is exercised. So Mormons do not believe that our ancestors are automatically admitted to the Lord's kingdom when we perform baptisms on their behalf. Performing baptisms for the deceased merely fulfills an essential component of the conversion process, but it is up to the individual to accept or reject the baptism that has been performed for them. LDS members are instructed to perform baptisms in behalf of their deceased ancestors. In the past, some overzealous LDS members have disregarded this instruction, and have performed baptisms for holocaust victims, dead celebrities, Hitler, President Obama's mother, etc.

About me: I am a 33 year-old Mormon, I served a two-year mission for the LDS church in Japan, I voted for President Obama in the 2008 elections, and I will probably vote for him again. While I disagree with Romney's politics, I am disturbed by implications that his candidacy should be rejected because of his faith.

The lives of millions of Mormons who have participated in temple ordinances demonstrate that the Rabbi has nothing to fear from them. They are law abiding people who serve in Congress and as heads of several Federal agencies, such as Agriculture, HUD, HHS, Education, Interior, EPA and the Burrau of Indian Affairs. Everyone knows that, unlike certain religious groups, you can insult Mormons and they do not retaluate. It is ridiculous to fear Mormons. It would be like fearing the Amish.

Each of the 130 Mormon temples worldwide, including the one by Lincoln Center in Manhattan, has been open for public tours after construction and before its dedication. Most of the millions of Mormons in the US have participated in temple ordinances, including the 25,000 new missionaries who enter the field each.year, most of them 19 or 20 years old. You can hardly think such.a large number of people could maintain any kind of conspiracy if there were juicy and scandalous things going on in the temples. Instead, Mormons make promises to God to live Christian lives of selfless service to their families and neighbors and be faithful to their spouses. Surely the lives of millions of good.Mormon citizens who work in every legal profession from doctor to bricklayer attests that they are no threat to anyone. Despite all of the calumny that is laid on Mormons, everyone knos, including the producers of the silly.musical that takes the name Mormon in vain, that Mormons do not lash out with violence, unlike certain other groups.

Romney and other Mormons in government like Harry Reid have never received directions from church leaders about how to do their jobs. The same is true.for the many other Mormons in government or public service, including leaders.of the departmenys of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Interior, Treasury, EPA, or Bureau of Indian Affairs. Such a silly.claim must be sustained by evidence, not bigoted prejudice.

The baptisms that some rogue Mormons performed for Holocaust victims were violations of clear direction that no one deceased within the preceding 100 years may be baptized vicariously, except by Mormons in their own family. If you do not believe Mormons have authority from God, then this is just prayers.on behalf of deceased persons, with.no effect on their status before God. If one of their descendants chooses to offer this ordinance to them, who are you to overrule that family member? The Mormon belief is that the deceased make their own choices about this, and performing a vicarious ordinance has no compelling effect.

Rabbi Schnaidman,

These are excellent questions. While I do not represent the church, I am a member and will attempt to respond to these questions. These responses are mine and mine alone.

1. It is true that rituals we consider sacred are not available to the general public, they are available to any who wishes to qualify for them. While the church does not publish them, it's detractors do not have such inhibitions. To answer your question however, the way to know how this faith will affect a person's political life is to look at how they live their life now. Are they a moral person? Are they honest? What do they value? As some other candidates have seen, it is difficult to hide your true nature in a political campaign. Romney, Huntsman, and even Harry Reid can all be measured by the men that they are.

2. The answer to your second question is yes, it very well could conceivably be compromised. In our current political situation candidates owe their political existence to higher powers such as unions, businesses, and wealthy financiers who have recently become completely anonymous. My question is, given the choice between a religion which has been very open about its policies and incognito financiers, who is more dangerous? Romney has stated that he will not allow himself to be subject to such influence from his religious leaders, but he has not said the same of those anonymously backing his campaign. I would be more afraid of the financiers.

3. Mormons, in their minds, give individuals who are dead the opportunity to accept baptism (and therefore Jesus) after they have died. To Mormons, they are not making anyone join their church by performing baptisms on behalf of others. Imagine if you will, that you were to declare me Jewish and perform the rites on my behalf. That wouldn't, in my mind, make me any more Jewish than I am now unless I agreed to accept your efforts. Individual autonomy is left in tact and is, in fact, one of the most precious gifts our Creator has given us.

In my opinion, Mitt Romney is much more dangerous as a Republican and a politician than he is as a Mormon.

Hi, I am LDS and will be happy to answer.
Q1. A lot of people have been to LDS temples and have posted all the "secret" things that happen on antimormon websites. They may be accurate, but could also be made to look sinister. Anti's, be it Mormon or Semite, they only try to defile the people.
Q2. Mormons have a failsafe on what you call the "faith's ultimate authority". It is called personal revelation. Any prophecy or statement from the Presidency of the church(from bishop to the Prophet) needs your own revelation from Hashem to confirm that it is right.
Q3. Mormons and all Christians believe if a person is not baptised, they will not be able to fulfill the scriptures instruction of how to get into heaven. All must be baptised. The LDS church is the only one trying to help all the world to get into heaven. A vicarious baptism does not make them change their religion or what happened to them while on this earth because of their beliefs. It fulfills the scriptures. They can in the afterlife either accept or reject the baptism because we will all have free will. The practise actually does NOT continue unabated. It is now very strict on who can be baptised. Only direct decendents from a Mormon can be baptised. Before it was unabated, and anyone could submit names. That is over! And I am sorry someone submitted names of Jewish victims not directly related to them.

First, much of the Mormon faith is kept hidden even from most Mormons who are excluded from participation in rituals and observances conducted in the secluded and off-limits areas of its temples. How can the general public determine whether this faith will affect a person’s political life if it is not totally available for study and scrutiny?

Latter-day Saints invite all people to qualify themselves to come to the Temple and receive instruction. It is not intended that anyone be left out. However, as taught by the Bible prophets, the early Christians, and Jesus Himself, sacred things are shared only when people are prepared for it. The responsibility to prepare and become qualified rests on each individual. If any do not come it is because they exclude themselves and not because they are not invited. It seems so ironic to me that some people complain about being left out when, all along, we have been pleading with them to come, qualify themselves, and join with us.

Jesus Christ preached in public and very seldom did He withhold information from people. However, on several occasions the teachings or events were so sacred that he did not want to discuss them openly. After Peter James and John saw Moses, and Elias, and heard God’s voice on the Mount of Transfigureation Jesus told them “tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead" (Matt. 17:9).

John's account tells us that "when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret."

To answer your questions:

-In spite of what some may say, NONE of our doctrines or theology is kept hidden from anyone, much less members. We are encouraged to discuss higher (temple) ordinances amongst ourselves, albeit in appropriate times and places, in order to preserve to us their sacredness and solemnity. Anyone with access to the Internet or Library of Congress can see exactly what we do inside temples and would probably not be particularly shocked. If you doubt the wisdom of this policy, note how HBO trivialized and mocked our sacred ordinances on their show Big Love

-The "supreme leader" you spoke of - President of the Church - adheres to the admonishon of Christ to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God which is God's". Any authority the leadership may have over the Church does not extend to the politics of any nation. On those rare occassions when the Church takes side in a political issue, members are still free to take an opposing stance without having their membership or standing threatened. In other words, yes I know Mormons who opposed Prop 8 and are still considered members in good standing, again, in spite of what you probably heard.

-We believe in baptisms for the dead to give everyone the chance to follow what we consider to be the teachings of Christ, but there are no forced conversions, in this life or the next. We do not have the power or authority to - as some have called it - "hijack" souls. It is basic doctrine that spirits who have passed on to the next life have the option to accept or reject the baptism.

1. There is nothing secret or hidden in LDS doctrine or practice. Our temple ordinances are sacred to us, and we do not discuss them lightly. But anyone who is honestly interested in them can find out about them - from LDS or other sources. I would suggest a visit to FAIRlds.org for information on these matters.

2. This question was answered 60 years ago when Kennedy was elected. No LDS leader is going to tell Romney how to run the country and Romney is not going to ask the Church President for political advice. The notion is ludicrous. Harry Reid is a Mormon. Hundreds of LDS men and women have served in the US congress and in State and local political office without conflict between their religion and their politics.

3. All of these questions are ridiculous and irrelevant but the third one is the silliest of all. Among the most basic LDS doctrines is that every homan being has agency - the right and responsibility to make his or her own moral choices, with accompanying consequences, whatever they may be. God does not interfere with that agency and man cannot. if I give you a piece of pie, you can choose to eat it or not. It is the same with proxy baptisms for the dead. The person for whom ithe ordinance is performed can accept or reject it. No force, coercion, or violation of agency is involved. It is a gift offered, which the recipient can choose to take or not. It is the very definition of the informed exercise of ndividual choice on which free societies are based.

Dear Rabbi Schnaidman,
Thank you for your questions regarding the Mormons. As a 32-year convert to the Church, I'm happy to answer your 3 questions. 1) There is essentially nothing hidden from the public about our faith. The Church is presently publishing all of the Joseph Smith papers it has in its collection. Even the very sacred temple endowment ceremony can be found in its entirety on the web; just Google "Mormon temple endowment". 2) Our faith's "supreme leader" and "ultimate authority" is God, not any living or dead prophet. You have just as much to fear from a Mormon president as any God-fearing person with regards to a possible conflicted scenario. 3) The practice of proxy baptisms done in Mormon temples in behalf of deceased persons is of no threat or disrespect to anyone for two reasons. First, the deceased individual still has their agency and can either accept or reject the proxy baptism. Second, to feel upset about another faith's ceremony done in complete privacy would imply that said ceremony is valid and certainly a Rabbi like yourself gives no credence to such an irrational ceremony as baptisms for the dead, right? I sincerely hope these responses to your questions are helpful.

As to your first point: you can find anything you want to know about Morman ordinances on the internet, these are not secret, but sacred.

On you second point: one of the main principals of Mormonism is the right and obligation of every person to make their own choice and be personally accountable for their own choices.

Third: you clearly do not understand baptism for the dead. This practice is based on individual autonomy. We do not believe that the deceased are forced into the Mormon church through this practice. Rather they are given the choice to accept or reject the baptism. Other churches say if you are not baptized , whether you had the chance to be or not, and whether you have even heard of Christ or not, you will go to hell. We say aloving God wants to give everyone the chance to choose for themselves and people will not be condemned to hell just because they were born in a time or place where the gospel was not offered to them.

Asked and answered, ad nauseum.

1. Nu, when the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt, shall the Kodesh HaKadishim be open to the public?

Holy Mormon secrets, Batman? Ex-Mormons have blabbed it all on the Internet. Oh, but you demand that the Church itself teach calculus to those unwilling to first learn arithmetic, or even to pay the Lord's tuition? Ain't gonna happen! ( 3 Nephi 14:6 http://bit.ly/vPbelZ , Malachi 3:10 http://bit.ly/smEX62 )

2. Gov. Romney: "I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law . . . I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest." ( http://bit.ly/vpqDor ). Nothing to fear, of course, from Ambassador Huntsman. ( http://bit.ly/rpOUAK ); Mormons can be as adept at ignoring their prophets as Jews. (2 Chron. 36:15-16 http://bit.ly/tRPGiW ) Here's the Church's plainly-stated policy: http://bit.ly/tYBkYo. As for the court of public opinion, I cite Reid (D. Nevada) v. Hatch (R., Utah). Mormon puppets? Not!

3. Thank you for invoking the fundamental Mormon teaching of individual autonomy in connection with our work for the dead! Mormons really, truly, believe "that G-d will force no man to heaven!" ( http://bit.ly/tl0YwY ) Our proxy ordinances have no validity without the fully-informed consent of the spirits of the dead.

When someone tells me that I'm going to hell, I answer, "why, Thank you. I'm looking forward to that mission! (http://bit.ly/iAE18u )

I would love to be a fly on the wall when the Jews who fought for the Mormon "exemption" for their dead pass through the veil into the spirit world and receive a gants righteous scolding from their ancestors for interfering with their freedom of choice!

Tracy Hall Jr
hthalljr'gmail'com

1. The LDS don't discuss sacred temple rituals which are primarily designed to reinforce doctrine and practice that are openly and eagerly discussed. Feel free to ask any Mormon about his beliefs - there are no secret doctrines.

2. The only issue that might impinge upon a public officer is whether his/her sacred commitment to God and devotion to church would supercede the oath of office. This is the same issue Kennedy faced. The best evidence is how Mormons have behaved in the past. If you examine the administrations of numerous governors, congressmen, senators, etc. you see they don't take orders from the church.

3. Mormon doctrine overtly commits the LDS to be subject to government in "obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." It publicly acknowledges that a public official's primary obligation is to the rule of law, and the desires of constituents.

4. Nor does the church attempt to give orders. Indeed it is one of the most apolitical churches in the country, involving itself almost exclusively in select moral issues.

As someone who works in the temple I can say with a surety that there are no unsupervised areas. Temples are enormously busy everyday with a myriad of people working in the temple as well as temple worthy patrons who enter the temple to do sacred work. These individuals are from all walks of life, political and cultural backgrounds. It would hubris to presume that something secretive is built into the temple. One would have better odds of presuming a “batcave” with the poles and bat-computer were in place.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not demand absolute adherence to the words of the prophets. A basic tenet of the Mormon Church is to have each and every member study in their own mind first, and then to pray directly to God for guidance. Indeed this doctrine is how the church was restored to the earth (from an LDS perspective). I would also suggest reading Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” address. It stresses the point of separation between church and state. Given the number of political leaders of the Mormon faith in America, many from different backgrounds (such as Harry Reid as leader of the US Senate), I find it difficult to justify or show conflicting loyalties politically to a church which is not partisan to political parties.
Finally in regard to baptisms for the deceased. A point should be made that such work is only done by the family of the deceased only or with permission from the more immediate family. I do not know personally how ownership of one’s ancestors can be established beyond that policy; nor does the ordinance itself take effect if the deceased individual chooses to reject it in the next life (the ordinance is tentative to the will of the deceased). The present policy does attempt to accommodate those who may not understand the ordinance.
I trust that answers the three questions presented.

Regarding world view and activities of adherents to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, let me give you a Mormon’s perspective.
First, “much” of the Mormon faith is not hidden from most Mormons. Most of the teaching within our Temples are Old Testament teachings and concepts backed up by scripture, I have become much more aware of OT passages regarding the Priesthood because of the Temple. The method of teaching, being highly symbolic, is different from regular Sunday worship. And it is in the symbolic nature of the teaching where critics enjoy spending their time on, and an area where biblical scripture is not sufficient to “back it up”. However, I don’t know too many Mormons who are concerned about that, since Mormons also believe in modern revelation. Which brings me to…

Second, regarding prophetic powers and our “supreme leader”, whom we either address as President or Prophet. Mormons, like other adherents of world religions, have varying degrees of orthodoxy. I know Mormons who fit into the hardline, letter of the law kind of people, however most of the Mormons I know are more spirit of the law kind of people and do not see our Prophet as perfect or as Lording over us. We see him as the head of the church organization here on earth, wise, and caring… as a spiritual leader should be. If you want to know how hard line Romney or Huntsman are, just look at their political records… how have they governed? Romney seems pragmatic (wishy washy to some), Huntsman seems close to the center.

Third, this is definitely a sensitive area. The bottom line from a Mormon perspective, a person’s “free agency” to choose does not end with death. We believe we were put here to exercise our right to choose. It is taught that baptisms for the dead do not automatically make a person Mormon, they are free to choose to accept it… or reject it. Those who have had this ordinance performed for them, are not added to the church member rolls.

For what it’s worth…

These three questions do warrant some consideration, but are pretty quickly dismissed by correcting some common misconceptions.

First, it's not true that "much" of what goes on in temples is secret, hidden, or seclusive. Those words are used to stir up fearful feelings, but in fact what goes on in the temple is worship of our creator and personal striving to grow closer to Him. This is what temples have been built for throughout history. Anyone who is faithful to the church and honestly striving to live the commandments may enter and participate.

Second, people who feel that the prophet would somehow "command" a political leader to act in a certain way do not understand the Mormon doctrine of "Stewardship" -- that is, that any person has a certain realm within which they may receive revelation from God, but other areas are off limit, and any claims to revelation in that sphere are incorrect. As a father, I may receive revelation for my family unit, but not for our Parish as a whole. The Prophet of the church receives revelation on behalf of the whole church and presents that guidance with "patience, longsuffering, and meekness" but would never command me to run my family in a certain way, nor command a political leader to act in a certain way. If Romney gets the office, that will be his stewardship and he will be held accountable to himself, to we the people, and to God for how he fulfills it. We believe in honoring, sustaining, and obeying the Law of the Land, so I'm sure he will take his oath to defend the constitution seriously.

Time to run the kids to school. I'll try to write more later.

First--- Since we have a precedent in that Jewish temples also had (and they are working with plans to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem with the same) restricted areas and rituals where the general public and even most Jews (but only High Priests) were forbidden to enter and participate does that mean that we can never have a Jewish US president? --- also since it is the work to get all LDS members to enjoy all the temple blessings which brings us closer to Christ, it seems a bit of a distortion to say "most Mormons who are excluded from participation" but more like those not married (yet) are "excluded" from the blessings of being married?
Second--- since also we have already precedents with MANY LDS in quite high positions in the US govt. where it has not shown to be any fact that politics are prescribed BY the LDS prophets (isn't Reid politically opposite of conservatives running for president while all are members in the faith?) then it seems that is not any problem. Also the prophets in Bible OT times were viewed the same as the LDS prophets are today by their members, while the latter-day prophets also have told their members that *each* needs to pray for the confirmation of the Holy Spirit if even the church teachings (which none are only political) are true--- it hardly holds merit in my view to be concerned or that some member is brainwashed to compliance to the prophet?
Third--- Since LDS teachings are that one who is dead still has to personally accept the baptism (or any temple work) done for them and that it is God who will judge who has repented and is ABLE to accept that work-- then it seems this will set any concerns any have at rest. It is like, just because someone might arrange for me to be included in a cruise, that does not mean I must go. LDS are nothing if not supportive of free agency (which is not a problem about being against abortion (except ((possibly but not automatically)) for times of rape, incest or total health threat to the mother) as most abortions are performed on those who choose the act that go them "with child" and now there is another life who should be considered.
I encourage all to check out what LDS believe at LDS.org or Mormon.org!

1.) Any one that is over 18 is able to go to the temple if they are living according to certain guidelines. Temples have open houses and there are multiple books published by the LDS Church that discuss what goes on in the temple in detail. Of course, if one is willing to ignore that the LDS consider the temple sacred, there are plenty of places online that have everything that happens in the temple in great detail.

2.) Article of Faith 12: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law". See also Doctrine and Covenants 134 (on Governments) and 101:77-80 (on the inspired nature of the US Constitution) (among others).

3.)Baptism for the dead is to give everyone the opportunity to accept the gospel if they so choose, it is not to force everyone to be LDS. We believe that the gospel is preached to those that are dead and that when baptized in proxy the dead have the ability to accept or reject the baptism. Baptism is necessary for salvation but is tied to the remission of sins that the dead have already repented of, if they have not repented and have not accepted the gospel then the baptism has no effect. The dead's individual autonomy is not violated in our view.

To tackle your three questions - the Church is not hiding its temple ordinances - in fact it is building as many temples as it can to let as many members as possible receive these blessings. The numbers have quadrupled in the 30 years I have been a member. Secondly, the ultimate head of the Church is Jesus Christ. On earth, we believe his representative to be President Thomas S. Monson, who exhorts Latter-day Saints to serve and love others ahead of themselves. (Although this question is akin to raising fears about the Pope controlling Washington if a Catholic is elected.) Third, we believe that every person has the ability to accept or reject temple work on the other side of the veil. Members are encouraged to do this work specifically for their own ancestors.

Answer #1: Many who have no respect for sacred things have posted the entire LDS temple ceremony on the Internet. Note that not all people were invited to the Holy of Holies anciently.
Answer #2: It is the "Supreme Leader" (your term) who publishes a directive at every election that LDS adherents are to carefully consider all points of view in politics and make the best informed decision that the INDIVIDUAL can make. There is no history at all among the hundreds of LDS politicians of any intent to impose LDS theology via politics. An example of LDS diversity in politics? Compare Romney and Harry Reid.
Answer #3: If a person does not take the principles of the LDS faith to be correct, baptism for the dead should not be considered any more efficacious than a gentile participating in the passover. Consider this: To an LDS ancestor of a Jew, he is performing an act of love (in his mind) for his ancestor. And, in fact, the LDS belief is that a person posthumously baptized by proxy must exercise his/her own option in the next life whether to accept the ordinance or not.
Before any Jew votes for another Democrat, consider Obama's actions and rhetoric toward Israel. And after that, do some honest research about the LDS point of view on Israel and the Jewish tradition. There is no other Christian tradition which has demonstrated the respect and reverence toward Judaism that the LDS have. I welcome your personal response: k0nod@yahoo.com

Actually, the Mormon practice of vicarious baptism fits squarely with the principle of individual autonomy because the Church teaches that ordinances performed on behalf of deceased persons are only *offered* to them, not forced upon them. It is up to the deceased individuals themselves to accept or reject any work done on their behalf.

Issue 1: There is nothing secret about what happens in the temples. We do baptisms for the dead (including giving the gift of the holy ghost and ordaining men to the priesthood) to make sure that everyone that has been born again is baptized by water and fire as Christ stated they must be in the New Testament, the washing of the feet, like Jesus did with his closest disciples at the last supper, and watch a movie that outlines the first few chapters in Genesis. If you read the Bible you can learn everything we do in the temple, but in the temple we make covenants with the Lord to keep his commandments, like a renewal of our baptismal convents. It's not a big deal, it is just very sacred.

Issue 2: The prophet/president of the church presides over the church, not us. As Joseph Smith said, "I teach correct principles and let them govern themselves." The prophet has no say in what job I take or how I preside in my home, though if there is abuse the local leaders are required to report it to the police. The president of the country must answer to his constituents, and the president of the LDS church is just one of his constituents. Worrying about the prophet controlling the president is just as valid, in my opinion, as worrying about the Pope for a Catholic president or for a Protestant what ever pastor that president decides to follow. And yes, I do worry about who is running the country with a Protestant president.

Issue 3: We are asked to ONLY present the names of our families. Yes, some zealots go beyond that and it is nearly impossible to stop them. If you do not want your family baptized in the name of Jesus, contact the LDS church and give them the names so they can prevent it. But, if there is a member in your family that turns in those names, you will not be able to stop it. In the end, it is their choice to accept or deny the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and if you do not believe that our baptisms can save them or dam them, there is really no reason to care either way.

Hope that helps.

In LDS (Mormon) theology we believe that everyone has Free Agency - which is the right to choose. Even after death this Free Agency still exists. Even if the ordinance of Baptism for the Dead takes place, we acknowledge that the deceased person still has the right (Free Agency) to accept or reject the work that has been done on their behalf. This is why the people who have had this work done for them are not counted in the official membership statistics of the Church. We have no way of knowing if they have accepted the work or not. Baptism is an earthly ordinance. It has to be done with a physical body. For those who did not have the opportunity to accept the the gospel in life are given the opportunity to do so in death. However, it is up to the deceased person to accept or reject the work that has been done on their behalf. If the deceased person does not accept the work that was done for them it has no effect on them. They remain as they were before. So non-LDS really have nothing to fear from Baptism for the Dead. If the deceased person doesn't accept it, it was just something that was done to no effect. The reason LDS do this work is that they want families to be together, as family units for eternity. The first step of which is baptism. It is done in love. It is not done with any form of malice or hatred. Only love.

As a practicing Mormon I'd like to address the questions.

First - I understand the concern here, but there is plenty of information from both LDS Church sources and others outside the faith (although some of this is outdated or out of context) regarding the temple ceremonies. Just because they are not observed by the public doesn't mean that they are not discussed or known. A good starting place is here: http://lds.org/church/temples/why-we-build-temples?lang=eng. It might be worth noting that almost a third of our US presidents (including Washington and, most recently, Ford) have belonged to another organization with closed ceremonies - the Masons.

Second - The same question was asked regarding Kennedy and the Pope. Do we really need to go over this again? Also, given the wide spread of political beliefs of high profile LDS politicians (See Romney, Huntsman, Reid) it wouldn't appear that Thomas Monson (current LDS prophet and church president) is dictating political positions.

Third - Again, I understand the sensitivity of the baptism issue with our Jewish friends. That said, Mormons DO NOT believe that proxy baptism forces conversion - only that it offers the deceased individual the opportunity to accept the ordinance. Individual autonomy and free will are preserved - and are in fact key to LDS doctrine. What is offered is an opportunity to choose - not a forced conversion.

For the record - I am not registered in either political party. I have voted for both Democrat and Republican presidential candidates. I voted for Obama last time around. The Republican who interests me most is Huntsman, not Romney. There is a strong possibility I will vote for Obama again in 2012.

Americans have a completely justified reason for not trusting a Mormon to be president. Given that Utah state legislators have admitted that the church tells them how to vote, we have no reason to disbelieve the notion that the church would be giving the president similar orders with the threat of revoking his temple recommend.

Why do they do this? Because when someone goes through the temple, he consecrates everything to "the church" and not to God. What does that mean? The church owns not only that person's body, time, talents and energy but also lays claim to the person's wealth, possessions and posterity!

1st: The Jewish tradition at one time had temple rites and only certain people could preform those rites. It was to keep them sacred. A greater number of LDS members have the opportunity to serve in our sacred rites. As an active member of the LDS faith, I have been to several temples and participated in all the different rituals. There is nothing secret about them, but they are sacred. If you really need to know, go look them up in the Library of Congress.

2nd: If you need to know how an active member will preform his duties in any given office you need to look no further than our Articles of Faith. "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." I Don't think it gets any clearer on how he will perform his duties as the President of the United States.

3rd: We believe that all people should have every opportunity to receive all that Heaven Father has for his children. We preform ordinances to ensure that all have that opportunity. But we have no power or authority to force anyone, living or dead, to be bound to these ordinances. They must choose to accept them. We call it free agency. Everyone who ever lived has it and no one can take it from them.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.