All Gain, No Pain in Mormon Heaven

The news that Mahatma Gandhi, Ann Frank and many other notable figures have been baptized as Mormons has led me to what the Church of Latter-Day Saints, as the Mormon religion is known, describes as the largest genealogy organization in the world. It can be found at https://www.familysearch.org/.

Rajan Zed, a Hindu spokesman, objected to the inclusion of the revered Hindu leader, complaining that “ancestors have always been highly important in Hinduism since ancient times. Hindus followed sraddha, pitryajna, pinda, etc., rituals for their ancestors. It would be really painful for Hindus if they came to know that somebody unrelated performed some rites on their ancestors without even asking them. Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly.”

That led me to input my own name and birthdate into www.familysearch.org. It seems I am in the Mormon database, along with two of my former wives. That would appear to put me on a glide path to the Mormon heaven despite the fact that I am an atheist, if they want to sneak up and baptize me after I am dead.

That is amazing news. For those of us who forsook all religion decades ago, it means no catechism, no hours spent on our knees in church pews, no confession, no holy rolling, no absolution, no repentance. Although Acts 3:19 of the Holy Bible demands that we must "repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord," it appears that the Mormons will just let us in.

No repent. No return. No holy undershirts. No years spent groveling before the pearly gates. We can get into a place we don’t believe exists – for free.

The official LDS website says that the foundation of the doctrine of baptism for the dead comes from an 1832 revelation by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

“By standing in as proxy for someone who has died — often one of his or her own ancestors — a Church member may be baptized on behalf of that deceased person…The Lord,” Smith said, “does not damn those people who, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity for baptism. He has therefore authorized baptisms to be performed by proxy for them...The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world.”

Baptisms for the dead are said to be performed only in temples because of the sacred nature of the business. The ceremony reportedly involves immersion in water for the proxy while dressed in white clothing.

Smith apparently had a vision in which he described the Afterlife as consisting of three degrees of kingdoms of glory, including the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom and the Telestial Kingdom, with varying degrees of glory.

So here we true heathens stand. I have spent the better part of seven decades assuming that my lack of belief in the Great One would send me to darkness, lights out period paragraph. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout.

But no. The Mormons have me in their Book. I do not know if they want to pick me for the Celestial, the Terrestrial or the Telestial Kingdom. Perhaps the Angel Moroni blows his Golden Trumpet in all three. But it appears I can have chats in one of the three Kingdoms– although no coffee, tea or alcohol -- with not just Mahatma Gandhi but Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, Genghis Khan, Mao Zedong, Al Capone and Mickey Mouse, the entire population of the World War II Holocaust and the population of Estonia, according to one Helen Radkey, who has searched the database and found their names. Apparently, according to Rajan Zed, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s father in law was baptized posthumously although he was an atheist, so we know that at least there will be others of our ilk up there to chat with. and agree that it and we don't exist. It should keep things lively.

Mark Twain could have been right. In his wondrous short story “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” he describes the captain’s arrival via comet at the Pearly Gates, which he found to be “miles high, made all of flashing jewels, and they pierced a wall of solid gold that you couldn't see the top of, nor yet the end of, in either direction. I was pointed straight for one of these gates, and a-coming like a house afire. Now I noticed that the skies were black with millions of people, pointed for those gates. What a roar they made, rushing through the air! The ground was as thick as ants with people, too - billions of them, I judge.”

Unable to get in immediately because he couldn’t tell the authorities for sure which earth he was from, having got off course for heaven while racing another comet and there being billions of earths, Captain Stormfield gave way temporarily so that “a sky-blue man with seven heads and only one leg hopped into my place.”

Call it schadenfreude, but you have to have some delight in all this. An atheist can swear, lie, drink coffee, tea and martinis, smoke Cuban cigars, chase members of the opposite sex, commit any of the seven deadly sins – gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride – which previously were an automatic ticket to Hell – and still join the sky-blue man with seven heads and only one leg.

In the meantime, there is the poor Mormon attending church every Sunday, turning the other cheek, practicing virtue, poverty, fidelity, chastity, honesty, humility, industriousness and moderation, tithing, eschewing coffee, tea and booze, having to spend anywhere from six months to three years as a missionary, perhaps riding the back of a jeepney on the Aguinaldo Highway in steaming tropical weather out of Manila, wearing a white shirt and a nametag and attempting to convert the faithless as the Roman Catholics are known.

And we atheists can just go to the head of the line without ever having done any of that. It’s like standing at the post office for an hour and having some guy with six packages march to the window and cut in. And worse. No matter how good a Mormon you are, you’d have to be really tempted to just give it up and walk over there and give that guy a smack in the back of the head.

(John Berthelsen is the editor of Asia Sentinel.)