I frequently get some blowback comments in response to my posts talking about the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Sometimes those comments are merely expressions of frustration but occasionally they are angry tirades basically against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am used to being attacked for my beliefs. As an experienced trial attorney, I spent the greater part of my life involved in bitter conflict as I handled thousands of court cases over the years. It turns out that my personal beliefs seem to annoy both liberals and conservatives as well as a goodly number of people from other religious denominations.
The FamilySearch.org Family Tree is a work that has essentially been in progress since about 1894. Active, participating members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the following taken from the Church's General Handbook.
Member and Leader Participation in Temple and Family History Work
Church members have the privilege and responsibility to help unite their families for eternity. They prepare themselves to make covenants as they receive temple ordinances, and they strive to keep those covenants. They also help family members understand, receive, and strive to keep temple covenants. Parents have the primary responsibility to help their children experience the blessings of temple and family history service for deceased family members.
Church members are encouraged to identify their deceased relatives who have not received temple ordinances. Members then perform the ordinances on behalf of those relatives (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:18). In the spirit world, deceased individuals can choose to accept or reject the ordinances that have been performed for them.
Members also invite family and friends to learn about their ancestors and discover their stories. (Emphasis added)
Most of the religiously based anger expressed in blog comments centers around the idea that members of the Church "baptize other people's ancestors into the Church." Like many common beliefs today, this is a false conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.
It is amazing to me how many otherwise seemingly rational people believe the huge reservoir of pure drivel in the form of conspiracy theories today. No matter how thoroughly the real "facts" are presented some people refuse to change their beliefs and what is more serious, they act on their pet conspiracy theories.
Now, what do members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe and why is that belief offensive to those who are not members (or who are former members) that causes some people to send me derogatory comments?
If I were addressing that issue in the setting of a court of law, my case would look something like this:
#1 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in an afterlife. This is not just a general sort-of vague belief, this is a concrete and fundamental belief that people who die are still, as spirits, rational, active, individuals who can learn, make decisions, and are part of a complex spirit world. See Doctrine and Covenants 128:18. See also, Doctrine and Covenants 138.
#2 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe that what we do here during our lives in this physical world will have a direct impact on our status and opportunities we will have once we die and move to the Spirit World. See Doctrine and Covenants 138: 6 -19.
#3 Now, let's suppose that you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Can you presently make a choice as to whether to listen to the missionaries of the Church and either accept or reject what they teach? Granted, there are those who, because of their own conspiracy beliefs would persecute and even kill the Church's missionaries simply because of their beliefs. My own ancestors were so persecuted. If the Church's missionaries contact you, you can rail against them, spit on them, curse them, slam doors in their faces, and in many ways refuse to listen to them. I received this kind of treatment on my mission for the church and members of my own family have been physically assaulted and injured during their missionary service.
#4 Now, we believe that the agency you have during this life continues to exist in what we call the Spirit World. Your relatives and ancestors are still alive in the spirit. They can still make their own decisions. They still have their own agency. You may not believe this but we do.
#5 If we are correct and you are wrong, you really can't do anything about whether your ancestors and relatives accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ and if we are wrong, then there is no problem. Your ancestors and relatives have their agency and can make their own decisions. If we are wrong and the Spirit World and all we say does not exist then what we do here makes no difference.
#6 We use the information in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and anywhere else we can find information about our families to pursue the work we do for our kindred dead. We are only supposed to do the work for our own ancestors. The fact that some of my ancestors and some of your ancestors happen to be the same people is a fact of genealogy so you should not be at all surprised that I may be baptizing some of "your" ancestors because they are also "my" ancestors.
#7 Keeping your own private "family tree" and not sharing it with me or anyone else will have absolutely no effect on whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do baptisms for the dead or other Temple ordinances. See Temple and Family History Work in the Ward and Stake,
#8 You may hate the Church. You may persecute me or any other member of the Church. You may refuse to share your genealogical research with anyone you think might possibly be a member of the Church. You may write, preach against, and physically assault members of the Church but here is the response:
33 How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 121: 33.
#9 I rest my case. It is your loss. Your failure to take advantage of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and all its free benefits will not prevent me from doing my own genealogical research. As has already happened, your complaints and comments have made Facebook block my posts in my other blog. A fact, given the present controversy, is unbelievable. But I will still do my genealogical research and if I happen to be related to you, I will be doing research into your family as well as my own. I am grateful for the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and all of the other wonderful genealogical resources we have today. My motivation may be different than yours but I am sincere in my beliefs and well-founded in logic and my own personal experience and I appreciate and defend your right to believe and you wish to believe. See the following:
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may. Articles of Faith Number 11.
Additional note. If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and refuse to do your own genealogy and/or refuse to participate in the Family Tree for whatever reason. You have many of the same issues as if you were not a member at all. You might want to consider what you actually believe. No one said the work was going to be easy.