Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Mormon Prez Good for the Jews?

He probably won't be any worse than the last one, but I'm particularly curious about my own pet Mormon issue, baptizing dead Jews. Every few years someone catches the Mormons on this, and they always issue a mealy-mouthed apology and keep on doing it. I first discovered this several years ago while tracing a friend's family on the LDS genealogy website and found ancestors of his had been included in something called the International Genealogy Index- Mormon code for LDS Baptismal Rolls. Before I could gloat, though, I did some checking on my own family. Karma's a bitch. I had two g.grandparents and a set of g.g.aunts/uncles (apparently they found them via a marriage certificate- my g.grandfather put his brother down as a witness. Damn you, crafty Mormons!)

Particularly galling is just how duplicitous and cynical the Mormons seem to be every time this comes up. They always say it's their "right" to have proxy baptisms in which they "seal" individuals and families to the Mormon Church and then say they can't stop individual members of their Church from submitting names and don't have the resources to check them. Which just seems stupid, because a simple search in the IGI shows that some people have been baptized dozens of times. Check out any remotely famous Founding Father- say George Washington. There are 19 G.W.s with the same birthday. Another 7 have the same marriage date, and 22 have the same death date.

But let's get back to the Jewish stuff. How about the Baal Shem Tov? Presumably even someone who's spent their whole life in Utah and never met a Jew might be able to tell that someone named Israel ben Eliezer might be Jewish.

And yet...

Ok. What about the prestigious Halberstam family?


But so what, some might say. Who cares about Hasidim anyway? Good point. Here's a Litvisher family some of you may have heard of.


They've got the Gerrers too. As well as Rashi (3 times), Rabbenu Tam, the Maharshal (5 times), the Maharal (3 times), R. Joshua Falk, and plenty of others. Menachem Begin's family (his father 5 times, his brother 2 times), and so on.

If the Mormons really cared about this, they would re-vamp their entire system and run names through a database to avoid: A- baptizing the same person more than once (or, say, 20) times, or B- baptizing people on a "do not touch" list. Seriously, it's ridiculous how many historical figures they've got here. Lief Ericson, Gandhi, Al Capone, Genghis Khan, Shakespeare, various Kennedys, a good half-dozen Popes, MLK, Thomas Paine, Roger Williams, William Penn, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc. Apparently some members of the Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Churches are starting to get annoyed as well.

The exasperating thing is that the LDS Church's usual response is to either dismiss the problem as "water under the bridge" (to whom?) or simply delete the most famous Jews in their system- you won't find Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud, for instance, but you'll find their entire extended families several times over. And in the meantime, the Church leadership continues to pretend like they give a damn about Jewish concerns while not bothering to explain the issue to their flock (who are at least honest about the fact that they don't understand or care about our issues), and perpetuating a pretty mixed message about honesty and principles. If the LDS Church isn't going to stop doing this, I'd rather they just told us all to shove it. But don't act like you really care and are going to do something and then keep on doing the same thing. We don't like being lied to anymore than we like our dead being desecrated.

I guess we're just funny that way.

P.S. Check out the Church's take on the whole thing here. Given how oblivious they seem to be about how many other Jews (including Holocaust victims like the Begins) are still in the IGI, I think we can safely guess not too much is going to change anytime soon.

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