Sunday, February 17, 2008

A touch of theology

"Families are, as Latter-day Saints like to say, forever. What they don't say is that the church is not forever."

That's historian of religion Kathleen Flake of Vanderbilt University, writing at "Sightings," an occasional web publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago. As genealogists we benefit from the long-standing and highly motivated work of the Mormons, but few of us non-believers know the beliefs undergirding that work. Here's a taste of Flake's account of prophet Gordon Hinckley's recent funeral, but read the whole thing:

Cameras followed the mourners, focusing on his five children, twenty-five grandchildren and sixty-two great-grandchildren who formed the cortege to the cemetery. There, possibly most surprisingly, the eldest son dedicated the grave without fanfare. Notwithstanding the presence of the entire church hierarchy, the son stepped forward to pronounce: "By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, I dedicate this grave for the remains of Gordon B. Hinckley, until such time as thou shall call him forth." Then, church leaders were "dismissed" ..... As the church teaches is the case in the afterlife, only the family remained.

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