Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Was Harpo a Mormon?

In a fit of tabloid journalism, I just thought I'd see if the headline of this post would lure curious readers.

Harpo Marx was, of course, Jewish.

But, while casting about in the blogosphere for tidbits of information about the Marx Brothers, I happened upon the blog Famous Dead Mormons, which includes a post about Harpo. The author of FDM, who identifies himself as Nom de Cypher, explains:
Some time in 1842, the prophet Joseph Smith introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a temple ceremony called Baptism for the Dead, followed shortly by a full complement of salvific ordinances by proxy for dead ancestors. But as these things often do, the original purpose of the ordinances seemed to be forgotten by some members of the church and they began trying to ‘redeem’ everyone they could identify. Since this was quite a daunting genealogical task in the days before computers, (and for several years afterward) it seems that some members took a shortcut and performed proxy baptisms and other ordinances for any name they could find, which meant a lot of famous people got baptized. It appears that some time in the early 1990’s there was a fad, or at least a hobby, of finding famous people to baptize. In fact, many times, ordinances were duplicated. This web log is a tribute to that fad.
Mormons, as I understand it, believe they are stuck with their family members throughout eternity, and go to great lengths to insure that happens. They expend a lot of effort in genealogical documentation. For information on Harpo's posthumous baptism, click on this link.


  1. It would be funny if it were not so obscenely disrespectful. How dare they!