Thursday, May 7, 2009

Genealogy and History Thoughts Column 17 - My Thoughts on the IGI and LDS Rite, Baptism of the Dead, Controversy

Last year, when the controversy between the Catholic church and LDS occurred over Catholic parish records, I thought about writing a column on, but I eventually chose to not do so because I waited too long to write my column. So, when I happened to notice Schelly's post on the news about the baptism of the President's mother, I thought I would write about my thoughts on this issue. (But, before I continue with my column, I just want to mention that I understand that the LDS rite, baptism of the dead, does not mean the deceased person becomes a Mormon after the rite or being listed on the IGI.)

So, what I think about this controversy? Well, to be honest, I am torn between two different views on the rite and IGI listings. On the one hand, I am bothered by the rite but my issue with the rite is due to the fact that I am an Evangelical Christian. On the other hand, I do not have a problem with deceased people's names being listed in the IGI as the IGI has been useful in my research. For instance, I would not have uncovered the birth date for my great-grandfather as quickly as I did if someone had not entered the put the information on the FamilySearch website. I have also found other information on many other ancestors, such as marriage and birth dates, on the site and was able to confirm that information by using it as a guide in my search for sources and further research. The IGI has been a wonderful tool in researching my family's history.

With that said, I also understand that other people might object to their ancestors being listed in the IGI. Do I believe that it is insensitive for a person to have non-related people baptized in this rite? Yes. Those who object to having their deceased relatives listed probably do so out of privacy, religious or other concerns, and I think it is rude for someone who is not connected to a person to have the rite done. (Of course, I have not had a problem with finding any of my ancestors in the IGI only because the ancestors listed are at least separated by a generation from my living relatives, and thus, I haven't had to worry about any privacy concerns.) I realize that the person doing so may be doing it out of the goodness of their heart, but if that person is not connected to the person baptized, I think it would be best for that person to not submit the person's name unless the family has given him or her permission to do so. (I do not have as much of a problem if that person is descended from an ancestor, although I think he or she should consider the feelings of other family members before submitting a name.)

So, what does one do if one wants to memorialize the deceased? Well, in the case of uncovering the names of Holocaust victims, I think the proper procedure would be to donate the research uncovered on victims to a Holocaust survivor group or museum, and allow the members of those groups to decide if and how they would like to memorialize the victims. In other cases, I would avoid baptizing anyone who isn't connected to the person doing the research, and for those are having dead relatives baptized, I would check with relatives before having the names posted on the internet. I think depends on the situation of each case.

Should one donate the names of their ancestors to the IGI, if the IGI has been useful to their research? I think it depends upon the feelings of the researcher and his or her family. As to whether or not I will ever submit ancestors whose names are not listed in the IGI, I am not completely sure what I'll do. Right now, I believe my answer is no due to the fact that I do not want to offend any family members and that I want to respect the privacy of my relatives. Of course, I might change my feelings in the future, but I don't know for sure. Of course, I do not believe there are easy answers or guidelines for all of the issues connected to this controversy.

So, what do you think? Am I right or Wrong? As always, you can leave your thoughts in the comments section.


Lori E said...

Hello Jessica. Thanks for coming by my site and following along.
I agree that the LDS has aided in the research many of us do. The only reason they have this information is that they sought it out all over the world in order to perform these "dead baptisms".
I think that it is disrespectful of them not to honor the choices that these people and their families may have made in the past about their own beliefs and religions. Rather omnipotent. We are right and whatever you chose was wrong.
Once a group has come out in vocal disagreement with this practice such as the Jewish people did then this practice should stop.
Was I greedy enough to use their information in my research? Yes I was and I am. I have even transcribed records being used by them in conjunction with in a team effort to have indexes of the events.
I also think that whatever religion someone followed and practiced will be the one that would prevail in their afterlife because they can't be punished later for something they had nothing to do with.

Greta Koehl said...

Very thoughtful post, Jessica. This is definitely an issue that poses a thorny problem for genealogists. I believe that if the wishes of a particular community or individual regarding this issue are known, they should be respected.

Jennifer said...

As a Non-Latter-Day Saint (LDS), I would not be offended if an LDS individual entered one of my ancestors' names for baptism. One reason is that, as a Non-LDS, I don't really think the practice has any kind of effect on my ancestor in the after-life. I understand that some may see it as insulting to an ancestor because the LDS church is essentially calling their religious beliefs they adhered to during life inferior, but that doesn't bother me. They have a right to believe what they want about others' religious beliefs. And since I don't believe their baptism has any effect, I have no problem with them baptizing my ancestors.


Hi, Jessica. Thank you for commenting on this issue. As I have always said - the Holocaust and other listings of Jewish individuals in the IGI is the result of non-related people doing this in direct contradiction of the church's rules. It is a quality-control issue that I understand is being addressed now. The problem remains that even if it is addressed and quality control put into play (requiring documentation of the relationship), we will still have trouble removing those previously "inappropriately entered" individuals and "unringing" the bell of posthumous baptism. Many people still do not know what the IGI is - it is a database of people whose names have been submitted for specific rites and who have had rites performed on them.

with best wishes
Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Tracing the Tribe

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I admit that I do not really understand the Mormon rites so maybe my seeing them as merely an invitation to those already gone is wrong. I do not believe that whatever they do harms me or my ancestors. I have found dozens of relatives in the IGI and as far as I know they are there because various family members joined the Mormon church. I have no problem with a 2nd cousin following their chosen religion.

I have no idea why they'd want to add someone else's relatives and if that is against the church doctrine they should stop but it's not going to upset me if my father (with no Mormon descendants) gets added.