Estonian Lutherans lash out at Mormons

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the most attended in Estonia with 15 percent of the population currently members. After its experience under Soviet communism, Estonia is one of the most irreligious countries in Europe. Photo by Jeroen Moes.

TALLINN — The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is lambasting the Ministry of the Interior for allowing the Mormon Church access to records that may be being used to re-baptize deceased Estonians.

Estonian Lutherans are not happy with the state’s cooperation agreement with the U.S.-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that allows the copying of Estonian state archives to Mormon databases.

The arrangement has been in place since the early 1990s, with the ministry receiving millions of krooni from the Mormon Church in exchange for the access. The ministry, Tallinn City Archive and Estonian Historical Archives signed a contract with the Genealogical Society of Utah, a nonprofit run by the Mormon Church that is dedicated to preserving the records of the families to help people connect with their ancestors by facilitating easy access to historical records.

Money was not the only benefit to Estonia, as the Mormon Church did all the legwork to digitalize the data and put it online for Estonians to use to trace their ancestry and find out about their family’s past.

State archivist Priit Pirsko told the Postimees newspaper that the state had started an online archive but concluded that “the Mormons’ technological capability is tens of times greater, so we made them a proposal to exchange digital copies.”

So the Mormons got the materials that were already digitalized by the state, but also made the rest of the digital archiving saving the archive three years of work.

Erki Kõiv, director of Estonian branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the Postimees newspaper that his church is doing “services for those who are dead.”

“We believe that all people should be baptized and one opportunity is to do it on Earth,” Kõiv said, adding that baptism services are done for the dead as well as the living.

The prospect of re-baptizing deceased Estonian Lutherans has the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in uproar.

Arho Tuhkru, a spokesman for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church said on Wednesday that the motive of the Mormons in keeping the records is dubious.

“The reason that they committed their activities for the dead as well is not justified,” Tuhkru told Baltic Reports. “Their theological justification and appeal to free will is clumsy.”

Tuhkru explained that as church records belonged to their congregations previously before being archived by the state under the Soviet regime, it would have been natural for the government to ask permission from the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as Roman Catholic Church.

“Who would want that our grandmothers and grandfathers would be re-baptized or used in other unclear methods?” Tuhkru said.

The Mormon practice of baptizing deceased people of other religions is controversial internationally and has been decried by Jewish groups, among others.

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10 Responses for “Estonian Lutherans lash out at Mormons”

  1. Rob Hansen says:

    This is kind of a silly article. Anyone who really knows anything about the Church of Jesus Christ (aka: Mormons) knows that baptisms for the dead may sound weird, but really it’s no different from people praying for their dead ancestors.

    A prayer is said and a person is baptized in behalf of another. It doesn’t mean that ancestor is suddenly a “mormon.” The LDS theology suggests only that the baptism only represents an opportunity that ancestors did not have when they were on the earth.

  2. DB says:

    What are Lutherans afraid of? These people are dead. Do they suppose that an earthly baptism somehow changes their eternal destiny for the worse? Without the consent of the deceased? I don’t understand the logic.

    Besides, in most cases, it’s Mormons doing baptisms on behalf of their own ancestors. How can the Lutherans lay stronger claim to those individuals than their own descendants can?

  3. Dave Crea says:

    This seems to be an overreaction by the Estonian Lutherans. From what I understand, the Mormon Church is digitizing vast quantities of records that would be irretrievable in the near future due to record degradation or lost from courts and libraries disposing of old records that are taking up too much space. They are saving vital pieces of history that otherwise would be lost and making it publicly available to everyone. This is amazing. I have found so much interesting information about my family in these digitized records. So what if they decide to do proxy baptisms for the dead. The dead person can make their own decision whether to accept the proxy ordinance or not in the afterlife. It is all about freedom of choice even for the dead.

  4. Kendall Grant says:

    There’s nothing ‘silly’ about this article at all, Mr. Hansen. The people of Estonia are rightfully incensed by Mormonism’s bait and switch tactics (which they use worldwide) to secure names of people from religious and government records. They then use the identity of those deceased relatives as guinea pigs for meaningless temple ceremonies; vicarious baptisms, endowments and temple marriages. It’s a postmortem invasion of privacy, pure and simple.

    What’s the harm in all of this? It is an AFFRONT to the dignity and privacy of those who have died. The Mormon church is telling the people of Estonia that NONE of you have lived a proper religious life, your sins were not washed away through a Lutheran Church baptism. Unless these names are taken to a Mormon temple where a proxy is baptized on their behalf, the deceased Estonian will never go to heaven. In fact, Mormonism teaches that those deceased Estonians are being taught the Mormon religion by their missionaries in the afterlife.

    Do yourselves a huge favor: keep this religion out of your country.

  5. Henry says:

    People love to fight for no reason. If you do not have a relative that is a mormon the baptisms can not be performed. Since you submit names for your ancestors only We also believe that the people in the afterlife can accept it or reject the ordinance. It is an opportunity for those who have died without the ordinances. we are doing something they can not do for themselves in the spirit of love.
    The redeemer of the world Jesus Christ did that for us as he paid and suffer for our sins, and conquered death. Those obstacles He could only over come. in the bible it talks about baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
    God is fair and gives all his children a chance to accept Christ, get baptized and repent so that when the last judgment comes everyone that would have accepted Christ in this life, have a chance. An opportunity to go and live with him forever and be happy.
    That is a small explanation as to why we do this.
    The prophet Elijah would come to return the heart of the children to the parent and vice-versa. Read the last two pages in the old testament.
    Read the promise that God made to Abraham, where all the families f the earth would be blessed.
    At the end He, God is our father, He will not let people that dies in ignorance of his son and his plan go to hell.
    WHat did jesus do in the three days his spirit left his body. read 1 peter 4 and see how merciful he is to al God’s children. Every soul is precious to him.
    Some day we will all be in his presence and this will all make sense to everyone.

  6. Kelly says:

    Kendall,

    Like you said. It doesn’t mean so it doesn’t matter. Your supposition of a postmortem invasion of privacy is ludicrous. That makes it sound like the LDS church is posting naked pictures of corpses. The deceased that are baptized are not added to church membership rolls and are not counted as members of the church. So from an outsider perspective it’s no different than someone taking a bath in the name of the deceased. Unless you really believe deep down that the church is actually causing something to happen in the next life. Otherwise, just be honest and say you hate mormons, that you have a religiously-based animosity for the mormon church and leave it at that.

  7. AU says:

    Mormons are disgusting fools, pure and simple.

  8. [...] vicarious ordinances on behalf of deceased Estonians. This was also published on August 31st by the Baltic Reports website.The Estonian government has had a cooperation agreement with the LDS Church in place since the [...]

  9. ted says:

    What harm can any of this do.You should be gratefull that someone cares enough for your dead relatives to honor them with baptism and other rights. Be gratefull that you will have better access to your country’s historical records. The Mormons are not fools, they are a very bright and industrious people. Thank you Mormon Church for your work in getting the records out for public use.

  10. ex-lutheran says:

    To be honest, there are some very sensitive issues with this, including the post-mortem baptizing of Holocaust victims who clearly lived during the a time when the LDS Church existed and probably knew enough about it to say “I’m just fine being Jewish, thank you very much”. But the fact is that individual families “sharing” ancestors may actually be Mormon believers and trying to do right by their own ancestors. In fact, if they actually DO believe in their religion, we can assume that there is a burning desire and urgency in their minds to do this. On the other hand, most of the records are simply searched and used by non-Mormons doing family genealogies. Like Estonia, we have a Canadian genealogy database project being run by Library and Archives Canada. It has some interesting records, but pales in comparison to what can be found in the LDS archives.

    A third point of view has to do with the transfer of family records outside of Estonia and the EU. Do we want our family records and pedigrees being housed in a country with very different privacy perceptions from the EU norm? The people are dead, but they are part of our pedigrees which can be used for or against us by the unscrupulous (i.e. journalists).

    However, the Lutherans are throwing rocks in a glass house when making any claims that the postmortem use of the records or rituals are meaningless. One can just as validly argue that any ordinances performed by Lutheran clergy are meaningless and invalid, since studies have shown that large percentages of the clergy are outright agnostic or atheist and the members appear not to believe even in many of the main tenets of the religion they outwardly profess. All of this, the result of years of critical “German theology”. If the Mormons actually believe and try to follow their own religion, then their actions, however misinformed are more “meaningful” than those carried out by adherents who could care less about what their own religion teaches or doesn’t teach.

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