Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baptisms for the Dead

The Members of the LDS Church (or as we gentiles call them, Mormons) believe that salvation is not possible without baptism, but that the unbaptised can be baptised after death. Hence, the great interest in geneology, and their very useful web sites. They are building a huge family tree in order to baptise everybody who's ever been.

Strange and beautiful is the baptismal font for the dead. I find it strange that I find it beautiful because, to be honest, I don't really find any of the Mormon artifacts beautiful. They can be strange or impressive, but always conventional or derivative of somethign else. This thing, though, blew my mind:

There's one of these in every Temple, apparently. Each font is held up by 12 golden oxen. This comes from something in the book of Solomon, I think the exhibit said. At the top is the bathtub where the dead are baptised. How this is done, I have no idea. Do they use a living person as proxy? Do they make believe that the dead person is there? Hand puppets? I would be interested in knowing.

This font is in the Museum of Church History and Art, which has a fascinating permanent exhibit of the pioneer Mormon history. I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of it, but the items are remarkable and tell a strange and important American story. At the very least, it actually has historical items and panels written in full sentences, unlike the glitzy dioramas and big paintings of the caucasian movie star Jesus in the visitor's center.

Beside a painting of the "martyrdom" of Joseph and Hyram Smith are their death masks.

Death masks are cool and they should come back into fashion again. There should be a law requiring them, actually.

1 comment:

Fred Wickham said...

My dad was baptized by the Mormons after he died.

I do believe it is by proxy. (but man they needed a lot of proxies to baptize all those Holocaust victims -- which they did).