Having been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and involved in geneaology, I’ve heard several misconceptions over the years about genealogy and the related subject of Mormon temple work. Hopefully this article will help clarify some of these items for non-church member readers of the blog.
Myth 1: “Baptism for the Dead” means Mormons dig up dead people and baptize them in our temples.
I thought that I would start out with the most eccentric of rumors about why Mormons are so into genealogy and what we use genealogical information for: “baptism for the dead.”
Many have no doubt wondered if Mormons disturb the final resting places of deceased persons to somehow baptize them. This is 100% not the case. In temples, only the name of a deceased individual is used by the proxy individual standing in their place to be baptized (nothing more). For more information about this subject, please visit the church’s website about the subject.
Myth 2: Mormons do temple work because they believe that when temple work is done for a person, they automatically become Mormon and are saved in the afterlife.
One very fundamental and core doctrine to Mormonism is a person’s “agency.” According to LDS.org, agency is defined as:
The ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves.
When a person’s name is submitted to the temple and they are baptized, they do not automatically become a member of the LDS Church.
The best way I have heard it described is that the person receives an offer to join the church. The decision is always theirs to make whether they want to accept or reject it. After they have accepted missionaries to teach them in the world of spirits and understand the doctrine enough to understand the importance of what was done for them by proxy, they have the opportunity accept the ordinance. A person’s right to choose is never infringed.
Entering your relatives information into FamilySearch does not automatically submit them for temple work. In fact, it is the LDS Church’s policy that you need to be related to a deceased person before you can submit them for temple work to be done.
It is also important to note that the data entered into FamilySearch is completely separate from the membership record database. You can think of the temple databases like a list of people who received offers to accept the LDS Church (here or in the Spirit World) and the membership record database list those people who decided to join the church during their lives.
Myth 3: Mormons pray to or worship their ancestors.
The only entities worshipped by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We pray only to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
We reverence and respect our ancestors and family who have died and moved on in their existence, but do not worship them. Salvation comes only in and through the sacrifice and atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
Myth 4: The genealogical data Mormons collect are just for their own use.
FamilySearch is free to use and open to anybody wanting to know more about their families. For more information about the mission and vision of FamilySearch, you can visit: https://familysearch.org/about.
Myth 5: If I use free Mormon genealogical resources, there will be strings attached (an obligation to submit your research, have Mormon missionaries visit your home, etc.)
There are seriously no strings attached for using the resources available at FamilySearch (whether you’re searching online or visiting a LDS Family History Center.) Nobody will ask you for money (other than maybe a nominal fee for printouts depending on the location). Someone could invite you to learn more about the teachings of the church. If you’re not interested, just politely decline — we would still love to help you with your genealogy though! Also, you are under no obligation to submit any of your information or research to the LDS Church or to FamilySearch at any time. Let us help you with your research
In conclusion, I sometime sense a bit of a rift between some LDS and non-LDS genealogists for whatever reason. I strive to be a friend, respectful, and as inclusive as possible to all. A united and amicable genealogical community is a strong and healthy community. After all, isn’t genealogy and family history all about family and collaboration? Understanding others and their beliefs is often the first step.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions or would like clarification about a subject.