Mormons believe that all souls must be baptized on Earth in order to be accepted into Heaven. If a person dies without having been baptized (because baptism hadn’t been invented yet, because they weren’t Mormon or because they died before baptism), their soul will remain in limbo until they are baptized by proxy. After a baptism by proxy, their soul will be offered the choice of converting to Mormonism and entering Heaven. (Although I can’t imagine why they would choose to stay in purgatory once their options are clear.)
The Mormon’s famous genealogical research is for the purpose of enumerating all the dead. The official church policy is that you should only baptize dead people that you’re directly related to, but that has been broken many times in history to baptize famous dead people. Judaists have gotten upset that the Mormons have baptized famous Jews and Holocaust victims, so the Church of Latter Day Saints has tried to halt the practice.
I say there are only three logically consistent positions to take:
- The Mormons are right. Therefore the baptisms are doing the dead Jewish people a favour by getting them into Heaven.
- The Mormons are wrong. The baptisms are just mumbo-jumbo that happens to use the names of Jewish people. From the perspective outside Mormonism, the rituals are not materially different from prayers for “the souls of those who died in the Holocaust” that are done in other churches.
- Involving someone in another religion’s ritual is offensive regardless of the ritual.
As an atheist, I like the third position. I hereby object to prayers for “all the people of the world” or any other set that includes me. That includes saying “namaste” at the end of yoga class if there is any metaphysical intention. I also don’t appreciate having my property blessed.