Redwood Forest

Trip Start Aug 04, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, August 21, 2008

This morning I crossed into California. Basically my memories or Oregon are as a cold, windy Hell. Sorry, Kevin & Paula, I guess I'll have to visit again to fully appreciate it. Anyway it was still raining, but I soldiered on to the Redwoods Hostel near the Redwood National Forest. This was a real family and older foreign tourist scene, all very nice but not that interesting.

I started talking to the young mother of one of the American families staying there, and she said that they were Mormons. I said that I had seem a truly fascinating documentary about the Mormons on PBS (which is true - you should see it, the story is amazing). She said that was great, and did I have any questions about what I had seen. Well I felt a little bad that I didn't have any written down, seeing how important the topic was to her, but I did actually have some - but I knew I had to tread lightly.

"Um, you know that baptism that you do of other people, who weren't Morons, but actually are..."
"Oh, you mean the baptism of the dead?"
"Yeah, that."

In case you didn't know, Mormons have been collecting the names and genealogies of every human that has ever lived, and has been baptizing them in absentia (to say the least), by the priest calling their name and a volunteer (living) Mormon getting dunked in a hot-tub sized tub of water. They volunteer for this and take turns, and it's happening in perhaps every Mormon church. This caused quite an uproar several years back when Jewish leaders found out that they were baptizing Jews who had died in the Holocaust - essentially because of their Judaism. The living Jewish leaders did not want these Jews baptized as Mormons, and the Mormons apologized and promised not to do it again. But let me assure you - they're still dunking away.

"Well," she said, "we just want people to have the choice to be Mormons, because we believe that that's the only way their souls will be saved. It was unfortunate about the Jews in the Holocaust, and I know that's mentioned in the documentary. But we certainly didn't mean to harm anyone, we just want to give all souls the choice to be Mormons, and they can accept it or not."

I wanted to ask how dead people (or souls) would go about making such a decision, but by doing so I would be tacitly agreeing to her premise that the scheme worked in presenting them the choice to begin with. Very clever. I decided on a defensive response.

"Oh. OK."

Then I told her about the other thing I had gotten from the documentary, which is that Mormons believe that souls are eternal, and that the family is eternal. Not as a concept, but, like, the people sitting around your breakfast table. So Mormons think VERY hard before marrying. And how they raise their kids. But in a way, this is a very powerful and beautiful idea.

Off to bed.
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