Sealed Without Your Consent–Mormon Ordinances by Proxy

The LDS Church performs a wide variety of ordinances, some of which are called saving ordinances, which they believe are required for salvation. One such ordinance is called sealing, and it seals you to spouses and other family members for all eternity. Fine and dandy and more power to them, I say. Everyone is entitled to their own sacred beliefs, and that is one of theirs. Even as someone who is outside their faith, I can respect that.

But wait. Hold on. It turns out that a whole group of my ancestors in Denmark have been sealed. And they passed away before the LDS even existed. How is that possible? It turns out that there’s this loophole called an ordinance by proxy.

According to Wikipedia,

“After Latter-day Saints enter the temple and receive temple ordinances for themselves, they may return and perform the saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased ancestors. These are performed vicariously or by “proxy” on behalf of the dead, and Latter-day Saints believe that it is up to the deceased to accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Only saving ordinances are performed on behalf of deceased persons.

“Ordinances on behalf of the dead may be performed only when a deceased person’s genealogical information has been submitted to a temple. Latter-day Saints complete genealogical work for deceased persons and if it is determined an individual has not received some or all of the saving ordinances, the individual’s name is submitted to the temple to receive these ordinances by proxy. Optimally, the proxy who stands in will be a descendant of the deceased person, but the ordinance proxy may also be an unrelated volunteer.”

Well, that certainly explains why the Mormons have the best, most detailed genealogical records in the world. They want to save as many people as they possibly can. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? Rumor has it they’ve even sealed Adolf Hitler, Anne Frank, and Mother Teresa. That’s a load off, knowing that their places in eternity are assured, because their actions in life didn’t already seal their fate for better or for worse, right? [Heavy sarcasm alert.]

But when I heard about this happening to my relatives I was disgusted, and my cousin and my late sister could not understand why. Here’s why. I take my spirituality very seriously. It has been hard won and required a great deal of soul searching. The thought that when I die some future relative who is a total stranger to me can perform this ordinance on my behalf, against my will, is offensive. If I wanted to be sealed, I’d do it while I was alive.

I suppose I could petition that my relatives to be “un-sealed”, but I feel I don’t have the right to do so for the same reason that the proxy sealer didn’t have the right to seal them in the first place. I have no idea what their wishes would have been, so I can’t in good conscience make that type of choice on their behalf.

My sister said, “But why do you care if you’re sealed? You’ll be dead.” I care, dammit, because we’re talking about my legacy. We’re talking about what other future family members will read about me and believe about my choices. Unless they make an effort to do their homework, they’d most likely assume that the choice was mine, and I’d hate to think that perceived choice might influence theirs. I don’t want my legacy, my hard won philosophy about this life and the next,  to be usurped and altered, no matter how well-intentioned the person who chooses to perform this rite may be.

It’s a certainty that I won’t completely agree, religiously, with the majority of my future relatives. Heaven knows I don’t agree with all my living ones. And, oh, by the way, there are some relatives that I’d rather not be sealed to for all eternity, thankyouverymuch. There. I’ve said it.

My sister also said, “What would it hurt to have all your bases covered?” To which I replied, “And what if one of those bases happened to be related to the Satanic Church? How would you feel then?”

I sincerely believe that every person has their own spiritual path to walk upon. I don’t want some “one size fits all” type of divine insurance policy. Not only does it lack sincerity, commitment and dedication, but it would deprive me of my free will. If that means I’ll be burning in hell, so be it.

So if any future ancestors are reading this and thinking of having an ordinance by proxy performed on me, thanks, but no thanks. Even if I were truly given the opportunity to accept or reject it in the spirit world, I plan on being busy, and will not want to be disturbed.

Latter_Day_Saint_confirmation_(Mayhew_1852)

18 thoughts on “Sealed Without Your Consent–Mormon Ordinances by Proxy

  1. Brian

    I’m a practicing Mormon, and there’s a few very essential points that the author failed to mention.
    (1) The proxy sealings do not force the deceased to be sealed, as the author implies. If the deceased (who we believe exist in a conscious state after death) do not wish to be sealed, they aren’t. Otherwise heaven would be a odd place for spouses who didn’t like one another.
    (2) It doesn’t count for people who don’t make it to heaven anyway, so no need to worry about Hitler et al.
    (3) If the LDS faith is not actually true, and I assume you believe it isn’t, then these proxy ordinances mean zilch. If, on the other hand, we happen to be right, then there’s be a lot of folks who would be angry at us if we didn’t do these proxy ordinances. Likewise, if some religion beside my own, be it Jewish, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, etc., believed that an ordinance was required after I died for me to be happy in the afterlife, I’d be very offended if they didn’t do it. Wouldn’t you?

    1. Hi Brian,

      Lovely to hear from you. In response:

      1) I do mention in the wikipedia quote that one can accept or reject the sealing, however, that only works if BOTH your belief in the sealing AND your belief in a person’s state after death are true, and what if one is, but the other isn’t?

      2) If it doesn’t work on Hitler, why bother sealing him in the first place? Just curious.

      3) If you do happen to be right, and believe me, I would think it was lovely if you were, I still wouldn’t want to be proxy sealed, because if I didn’t get my spirituality right in this life, I wouldn’t merit it, in my opinion. I genuinely believe that each person has to choose his or her own path, and for better or worse that is the path he or she has the right to be on.

      But I really am glad you commented. It is great to have your point of view.

      1. Brian

        Thanks for the reply.
        I don’t understand your hypothetical about #1. Are you suggesting that sealed spouses in the afterlife could be enslaved by Mormon ordinances, contradicting Mormon doctrine that states the ordinance is not binding unless accepted by the individuals. That would make God some from of a belligerent and deceptive “half-Mormon”. Please explain what you’re statement means.

        #2 comes because (1) We don’t believe it’s our place to judge (as that’s God’s job), so otherwise bad folk can get proxy ordinances done giving them the benefit of the doubt. For extreme outlier cases like Hitler, these ordinances are not perfectly prank-proof.

        We also believe that personal agency and religious liberty is a basic right, and that everybody can choose their own spiritual path. Again, if I (Mormons) happen to be right, (and this would be something likely not learned by most until after death) I’d bet that a lot of those non-Mormons would like to change their own religious paths with their new-found understanding. This is where the proxy ordinances come in. We don’t believe in some sort of South Parkesque “You chose the wrong religion- sucks to be you for eternity!” It allows everyone the choice, and if you still chose to reject it, that would be your right.

      2. Hi again Brian,

        I had to give your last comment a great deal of thought. I’m learning a lot from our exchange, both about your viewpoint and about myself. One thing I’ve learned is your sincerity and genuine positive beliefs in this rite, and that makes me feel somewhat better about the situation. At least the intentions are pure.

        Our confusion about Number 1 shows our fundamental differences in philosophy. I have been taught to think critically in the sense that even if there is one part of a religious philosophy that I genuinely believe, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll believe all parts of it. On the other hand, your faith in your religion is strong and all encompassing. I don’t think either avenue of approach is necessarily wrong or superior. It’s just a different point of view. I actually didn’t realize how strong my instincts with regard to critical thinking were until we started this conversation. It’s as natural to me as recoiling when I get too close to a flame. That’s an interesting thing to know about myself.

        What I meant by number one is that if your belief about sealing is right, but your belief about people being sentient and able and willing to make choices about the sealing in the after life is wrong, then they are sealed whether they like it or not. The more factors involved, the more opportunity for disaster, in my point of view. My belief about the afterlife is that we all go back to being part of the general energy source that makes up the universe. We return to being part of everything, basically, which means we wouldn’t be sitting there as ourselves in some other realm, waiting to make decisions about what someone has done to our memory in this one.

        As to God being a half-Mormon, maybe he’s Mormon, maybe he’s not. I don’t know. But whatever he is, I certainly don’t believe that we should presume that we have accurately defined all aspects of him. If we were able to do that, we would be the gods, and there’d be no need for him at all. So perhaps his half-Mormon self, if that what he turns out to be, is really as it should be.

        Thank you for the clarification about Hitler, but I have to say that if he does manage to squeak through the system, then whatever realm that he is in is not one in which I want to reside. Especially for all eternity.

        As for changing my mind after death with some new found understanding, I still can’t accept that. I truly believe that it’s the way we have lived in this world, the person that we choose to be right here, right now, that makes all the difference. So if I’m getting it wrong right now, I honestly wouldn’t feel right about suddenly getting a free pass after death. It would feel like cheating.

        And for all I know there is no afterlife as such. But whether there is or there isn’t, there is one thing in all of this that we can all be certain about. If someone seals me after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, there is an extremely good chance that future generations will believe I was a Mormon. You will have altered my history. You will have changed what people will perceive as having been my spiritual choices and beliefs in life. They will think things about me, for better or for worse, that are not true. You will have taken away the one thing I should have sole control of: my reputation. I work hard to be the person I think I should be, and spirituality is a big part of that, so thank you for your well meaning attempts to save me, but I want to be who I am, and if there are consequences for that, I will have to suffer them on my own.

        I’ve really enjoyed this conversation so far, though!

  2. I recently learned that my brother, grandmother, and grandfather were all proxy sealed. It really pisses me off. I’ve been having a difficult time putting into words why it makes me so angry. I do know that at least two of these three people, and likely the third, would _not_ have appreciated the arrogant and cowardly, posthumously offered ceremony.

    One fundamental aspect of this whole business that completely confounds me is how a kind, benevolent God would refuse entry into some celestial paradise, unless someone from the mortal world fills out the paperwork for them. WTF??? What an asshole that God must be.

    Thank you for putting into words the emotions that have been troubling me since having learned this happened for my passed relatives.

    1. You’re quite welcome, Doug. First of all, I’m sorry for your losses.

      I think there is a process by which you can protest a proxy sealing, and you might consider that for the two you’re sure about, if only for your own closure. I wish I could tell you how effective this is, or even how to go about it. I think it would do you good to write a letter at the very least, lodging your protest.

      And that brings up another interesting subject: Whose wishes would take priority, yours or the person’s who did the proxy sealing? Apparently some branch of your family is Mormon, so they would view this as your attempt to thrust someone back into hell, I’m sure.It’s a very dirty and writhing can of worms.

      If I were you, I’d try to find out who that proxy person was, if only to make sure this is not done to you upon your death. If they are closely related enough to qualify doing it to your brother, they’ll qualify doing it to you as well…

      I wish I could be more helpful. Please keep us informed if you decide to take further action.

      Believe me, my thoughts are with you.

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