A recent order from the Vatican prevents the release of parish records to the LDS Church.
CNS reported the Vatican had "grave reservations" about the LDS Church's practice of posthumous baptisms by proxy, a practice in which the names of the deceased are baptized into the LDS faith so that they may be united in the afterlife with LDS families, if they so choose.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I feel the need to comment on this issue.
"Posthumous baptisms by proxy" is called "baptisms for the dead" within the LDS faith. The definition given above is accurate, but I've run across a lot of confusion about the practice.
We believe everyone needs to be baptized to return to live with God. Jesus taught, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
Many of God's children have been born and died without ever having the opportunity to hear about Jesus, let alone be baptized. In God's mercy, He gives everyone a chance to do both.
After death, those who have not heard about Jesus or been baptized will be taught the gospel and then given the choice as to whether they want to accept Him and baptism or not. Because after death we don't have bodies, those individuals who want to be baptized after they die cannot receive the ordinance themselves.
That's where baptism for the dead comes in. Members of the LDS church can be baptized in proxy for those who have already passed on. Those who accept this baptism receive all the blessings that come from that, and can return to live with God.
Thos who don't accept Christ or baptism are not required to do so. Freedom to choose is sacred.
Now, here's where I don't get what the Catholic church is doing.
Why bring it up now? Baptism for the dead has been going on for over 150 years. LDS church members have been using Catholic parish records for this practice for almost as long. Suddenly it is offensive to Catholics?
Where's the harm? The Catholic church obviously doesn't believe baptism for the dead has any efficacy. For them to have "grave reservations" about what we're doing makes no sense unless they think baptisms for the dead actually mean something in the afterlife.
This isn't about adding to our membership numbers. Official records of the LDS church never count dead individuals as part of the living membership.
If someone wanted to make my great-great-grandpa a Wiccan or Muslim by performing some kind of ritual, this wouldn't bother me in the least. In my opinion, such a ritual would make no difference in my great-great-grandfather's eternal salvation.
So I don't get it. And to a lot of LDS church members with Catholic ancestors, this is a major problem. They want to be the ones to help their family members have this opportunity to be baptized. And the Catholic church is preventing them from doing that.
Today is not a good day in Mormon/Catholic relations.