I realize I may be the only Jew in America who feels this way, but if the Mormons want to perform provisional proxy baptism ceremonies for my dead forebears, abi gezunt. I write this on the first Yahrzeit of my mother, may she rest in peace. I'm reasonably confident that should a couple of LDS brothers come knocking on her celestial door and politely ask if she'd like to avail herself of the opportunity, Mom would politely decline and go back to her piano. That's what she did in this world.
And this world is really what this long-simmering controversy is about. With appreciation to fellow RNS blogger Janna Riess, Jews do not have a very well developed sense of the relationship between this world and the next, and how actions here may effect existences there. Naturally, we are sensitive to the idea of involuntary initiation into another faith, smacking as it does of the occasional practice of forced conversion in pre-modern Christianity and Islam. But truth to tell, plain old violent persecution looms far larger in Jewish collective memory than forced conversion.
No, what's really going on here is the Jewish need to have Christians (i.e. baptizers) acknowledge--or at least not publicly deny--that our Covenant remains as intact as ever. Let a Southern Baptist say that God does not hear the prayers of a Jew and we go nuts. Likewise when a Mainline Protestant denies our right to the Holy Land or the Vatican seems to back off Nostra Aetate. So we feel dissed by Mormon proxy baptism, which is based on the conviction that there's no other way for non-Mormons to make it to the top. As LDS apostle Quentin Cook told NPR's Howard Berkes a couple of years ago:
The savior said that everybody had to be baptized to enter into kingdom of heaven and so, by proxy, there is a baptism for all of those who are deceased. Now, we concentrate, first of all, on our ancestors and then for the people in the world at large.
This baptism is not binding on them unless they accept it, so we consider this a great effort of love and accomplish our Father in heaven's plan for his children that are deceased.
As I said, abi gezunt. It's a free country.