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September 2nd, 2010
06:39 PM ET

Mormons and Jews reach agreement on posthumous proxy baptism

CNN's Kelly Marshall submitted this report from Washington:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a group of Jewish leaders have had come to an agreement on the Mormon practice of posthumous proxy baptisms.

The practice has been a source of contention between the Mormon church and Jewish groups, most notably The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, which complained that the names of Holocaust victims have repeatedly shown up in church databases despite repeated requests for the names to be removed.

A joint statement issued by the groups on Wednesday said that, “Over the years, survivors of the Holocaust have pointed out to the Church that its practice of posthumous proxy baptism has unintentionally caused pain due to the inclusion of names of those who perished in the Holocaust."

"As a result of dialogue and extraordinary efforts of the Church, computer systems and policy initiatives have been put in place that resolve this issue," the statement continued, "which is greatly appreciated by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, the result of which will be felt throughout the world.”

Mormons routinely perform proxy baptisms for the dead, though, according to the church's beliefs, the dead have the choice to accept or reject the services performed for them.

“Holocaust victims perished only because of the crime of being Jewish," said Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. "If you then convert them posthumously you’ll even take away why they died.”

It is one of the church’s core beliefs that families can be united forever after death, a major reason why genealogical research is so important many Mormons.

In the past, any church member could submit any name for proxy baptism. Although the church tried to avoid the names of Holocaust victims from being included, it couldn't guarantee it.

Now, improved computer software will make it less likely for any Holocaust victims’ names to be submitted again in the future.

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, Director for Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said he is glad the problem–which has been an issue for nearly 15 years–can be put to rest.

“I think that there was never a question of positive intent on the part of the church," he said. "Now finally the technology has caught up with the desire to fully rectify the situation.”

Bob Abrams, a former New York Attorney General who helped to mediate the recent discussions between Jewish leaders and church, agreed.

"This was a much heralded resolution and everyone in the delegation is extremely happy," he said. "This is a very generous and significant effort by the LDS Church to display enormous sensitivity to the Jewish community for victims of the holocaust and I think members of the Jewish community recognize what the church has done.”

Foxman said the Church deserves credit for being sensitive to Jewish pain and history. “They were sensitive enough to understand the Jewish faith and they made an exception to their basic principle,” he said.


soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. FYI

    @ELB
    you said:To sum it up, the gospel is preached to the spirits of the dead if they did not get a chance to hear it during there lifetime. If they beleive and have faith in Christ unto repentance of there sins, the ordinance of baptizim can be preformed in the temple on there behalf. If they refuse to beleive what they are taught and do not repent of there sins, then they reject the work. This is how they "will hear the gospel somehow."

    Now I hope you can see that proxy baptizim is scriptural, and will believe in it.

    It is not scriptual.
    Behold, the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice, and come forth, they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation. ~~Jesus Christ (John 5:28-29)

    So far it has been proven from the Bible that when a man dies, he is dead, asleep and unconscious in the grave until the resurrection when Jesus Christ comes again.
    Ecclesiastes 9:5 “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten
    Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither you goest

    September 10, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  2. FYI

    @ELB

    Please note, your scripture of 1 Corinthians v1-2
    Speaks of the spiritual deliverance of the Jews,

    http://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/1cor24.shtml

    Regarding 1 Corinthians 15 :29
    Each person will be judged and eternally rewarded for his own conduct, not the conduct of others – Rom. 2:6-11; Rev. 22:12; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 14:10-12
    each individual who believes in Jesus as a result of hearing the gospel must also himself obey the gospel.No one can do it for himfor him. See Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:15,16; Gal. 3:26,27;
    2 Corinthians 5:10 – Each one will be judged for what HE has done in the body.

    Hebrews 9:27 – After death comes, not another chance, but judgment.

    Jesus went down and preached the gospel BECAUSE they died BEFORE Jesus death and Resurrection...

    September 10, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  3. FYI

    Siobhan

    Jesus went down into Hades and spoke the gospel of Salvation to all that died up to the time he died on the cross, and was ressurrected.
    The thief on the cross, asked Jesus to remeber him that day, and Jesus did. He was not water Baptised. Here is what water baptism does:
    The practise of water baptism appears in the Bible first with the appearance of John the Baptist. "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism for the remission of sins. And all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:4,5)

    Baptism in those days was understood to be a rite of initiation into something new. To be water baptised was a sign of adherence to the teachings of the respective teacher. John taught repentance for the remission of sins. Those who received his teaching had to repent (turn from sin), confess their sins (Mark 1:5) and "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:7,8). Their had to be a change of heart before John would willingly baptise the people coming to him for baptism.

    Christian baptism is a dedication to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and to be His disciple. (Mathew 28.19). To be baptised you must do something practical. You must humble yourself. In Christian baptism you must identify yourself with Jesus Christ. As He dedicated himself "thus to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15) so must you when you are baptised in water. You make a covenant with God to submit yourself to obey the Spirit of God to the point of death, dying to the deeds and lusts of the body and all that is old, to let the past be buried and to rise up to live to fulfil all righteousness – not through your old life but in the new life given by God.
    In order to make this dedication, it is obvious that first there must exist real repentance in your heart. You must also have confessed your sins to God. With this baptism you commit yourself through the power of the new life of Jesus within you to "bear fruits worthy of repentance".
    It is a death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:11,12). Death to the old nature, the old ways, habits and lifestyle. Burial of all these things. A new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what baptism is about.
    It is identification with Jesus Christ, and a recognition of Him as your master and you as his disciple (Matthew 28:19). It means you commit yourself to obey Jesus Christ. If you have never been baptised in water as a believer and you do not want to be, it shows that you are either ignorant of the nature and meaning of water baptism, or that, more simply, you do not wish to humble yourself and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism is a separation between the old life of disobedience and the new life of obedience through the Spirit.
    "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of the Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38).

    But what about the Philippian Jailor? He was baptised with all his family! Yes, but from a careful examination of the passage (Read Acts 16:30-34) we observe the following:

    1. Paul's instruction was first, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household". (Acts 16:31). Believing on Jesus had to precede water baptism.

    2. Paul then preached to the whole household the word of the Lord. (Acts 16:32). There had to be a foundation for faith in Jesus. All the household heard the word of the Lord.

    3. There were fruits of repentance. "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes." (vs 33)

    4. Next they were all baptised. It says nothing of babies here. Rather, in verse 34, it says, "having believed in God with all his household." It is clear then that ALL BELIEVED before they were baptised. Since babies cannot believe, it is clear that here is no example of the baptism of babies. We see rather a model for the salvation of whole households. This is the way God would like to work today!

    In the first and most significant day of the church, Peter, having preached the gospel to the people, was asked, "What must be do?" And the response?

    "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of the Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38). Repentance had to precede baptism. And clearly, faith in Jesus also preceded this baptism, since no-one would have allowed himself to be baptised in the controversial name of Jesus if he did not indeed believe the message of Peter and put his trust in Jesus for salvation.
    Acts 10:44-48: The conversion of Cornelius, his relatives and close friends. *
    * In the case of Cornelius, we can know that these people believed the message of Peter about Jesus, since God sovereignly poured the Holy Spirit out upon them and they were baptised in the Holy Spirit. These people, especially Cornelius were already god-fearing people and obviously God had prepared their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit. Other Jewish believers recognised what God did as proving that these Romans had been granted "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). It is clear from this passage that someone who is genuinely baptised in the Holy Spirit is a candidate also for water-baptism.

    For those who never heard the gospel,
    John 6.45 is very clear in stating that if someone has a relationship with God the Father, will come to Christ. This implies that those who have responded favorably to God's revelation (given in nature, etc.–and maybe even in sub-segments of other religions), they will become Christians eventually. This implies that they will hear the gospel somehow

    Given all this..I do not see how Baptism by proxy is scriptural. I do not believe in it.

    God's judgment is completely fair and His kindness is communicated (and operative) to all. God reveals Himself to humanity through several non-linguistic forms (nature, anthropology, morality, patterns, emotions), and even linguistic data (in the form of tradition) has been preserved for all the descendants of the original pair of humans.

    God deals with people according to the information they have–with specific focus on how they welcome or resist that truth. God's moral judgment is based on actual deeds and actual motives–a very fair standard for everyone.

    With those that respond to God's revelation in nature and extra-biblical tradition, seeking grace and His activity on their behalf, God initiates a relationship with them, that typically eventuates in additional disclosures of God's special, special love–His Son.

    September 9, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • ELB

      to FYI:

      You stated that the first Biblical mention of baptizim in water was when John the Baptist was preaching. Actually, this is not what Paul taught. See 1st Corinthians 10:1-2 which states, "Moreover, brethern, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how much that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Paul says that Moses baptized the childern of Isreal (all 12 tribes, not just the tribe of Judah) in the Red Sea after leaving Eygpt. (The Old Testiment does not have the word "baptizim" in it, showing that somethings somehow were taken out of it.)

      Furthermore, as far as baptizim for the dead, Paul said in 1st Corinthians 15:29, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?" Paul made it clear that there would be a physical resurection of all by pointing out that baptizim for the dead who had not heard of Christ in mortality was needed for those people to enjoy the full blessings of salvation.

      Concerning those people who died before the gospel could be preached to them, Peter said (1st Peter 3:18-19 and 1st Peter 4:6) "For Chirst also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison....For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."

      To sum it up, the gospel is preached to the spirits of the dead if they did not get a chance to hear it during there lifetime. If they beleive and have faith in Christ unto repentance of there sins, the ordinance of baptizim can be preformed in the temple on there behalf. If they refuse to beleive what they are taught and do not repent of there sins, then they reject the work. This is how they "will hear the gospel somehow."

      Now I hope you can see that proxy baptizim is scriptural, and will believe in it.

      September 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
  4. Diane

    Posts are moderated because the filter catches certain words ot lettering. For instance to say T-i-t-l-e, you have to separate by dashes, or it will be picked up. Same with circ-u-m-stance, and so on.
    Seems my moderated posts never appear, even at later dates. So, I have learned to dissect my posts if I want to see them at all.

    September 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  5. Siobhan

    Thank you for the apology Andy, it's good to know that someone else is disturbed by cnn censor posts. My comment about prop 8 was in response to Atheist Kyle, I did not clarify that but appreciate your opinion.

    I have no idea what you posted on that day and time, the only post I see is from ringo. I did not ask for any post to be put into moderation.

    I was enjoying participating in this discussion and reading the opinions and information provided by others until things started getting screwy with cnn.com. Idk what is going on with the moderators here but I don't feel like I can trust them not to censor or manipulate comments. Besides that, I've made my position on this matter very clear, I think, and it's time to just sit back and let others continue the debate. Thank you for explaining your comment "hell to pay", you may be right in that there are people who would try to do physical harm to the LDS church. I believe that could be said about many religions right now and it makes me very sad. We have the opportunity here to educate ourselves about other cultures and religions and I feel there is no excuse for violence whether it involves burning churches, bomb threats, physical attacks on individuals, etc. We should be better than this.

    Your apology to me is very important to this discussion, I think, and to me personally. We were both very persistent in getting our views expressed. I would like to follow your example and apologize if my comments have offended you or anyone else. Having said that I'm leaving this discussion but I hope that it continues to be respectful and educational.

    September 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  6. Aaron

    Unless the LDS advertises to its members that there are spiritual repercussions - "No planets for you!" - there is nothing to prevent "well-meaning" members from continuing this practice.

    September 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  7. Andy

    To CNN staff:

    What is your objection to my comment that was submitted on September 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm? Why is it still awaiting moderation?

    The courtesy of a reply would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    September 6, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  8. Andy

    First of all, Siobhan, I would like to apologize to you, since, it seems, you're not the one censoring out the sensitive content on this blog. I was not aware that CNN would even censor out your own posts—or any posts! What kind of journalism would that be? What is America coming to? Second, my warning to Mormons was NOT a threat that I would need to carry out myself. Mormons, like everyone, need only wait for divine retribution, and most need not wait long. The ones I know have lives filled with prejudice, vice, betrayal, contention and an all-pervasive spiritual emptiness that drives them to excesses of religious practice. Third, Mormons can live in whichever way they choose to, as long as they do not start infringing upon others' rights for the same. In other words, the separation between Church and State must be enforced for the protection and well-being of all. Fourth, I did not mention anything about Prop 8, but, since you brought it up, my view is "if you're against gay marriage, don't marry a gay person." Lastly and returning to the main point of this discussion, I reiterate that Mormons live in their own, magical world filled with delusional misconceptions. In my case, since I'm not and never will be their brother, they need not concern themselves in being my keeper.

    September 6, 2010 at 7:28 am |
  9. Siobhan

    Again, wow. CNN finally posted my comment with the web address, but they put it way back in the discussion right below Andy's threat to Mormons that if they don't stop their stunts there will be hell to pay- where it is clearly out of context. ??? What is going on here??? And if that comment by Andy had been made to any other religion what would all of you had said? There is an underlying double standard and hypocrisy going on here that makes me sick, and the irony is that I don't even like the LDS church. I guess some churches are more equal than others.

    In this comment I wrote, "For the last time, please post the official website for the Mormons in it's proper place chronologically in this discussion, CNN." I then typed in the web address. This comment was not posted anywhere in the discussion. So that I don't have to post another comment, if this posts I would like to say that this has been very enlightening.

    September 6, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  10. Siobhan

    wow. That's very disappointing and just plain wrong. I was wondering where the posts from the Mormons had gone, are they also being disallowed because the commenters are Mormon? My turn to be angry, Andy.
    So much for CNN being more fair and balanced than foxnews. And this only serves to reinforce what I said earlier, than people don't treat the LDS church the same way they treat other churches. I'm curious to see if those who were so upset about the insensitivity of the Mormons toward the Jews will be just as angry that information about the LDS church is being censored. I guess CNN is not subjected to the same ethics as other organizations/governments to whom they decry for censoring material from the people.

    September 6, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  11. Siobhan

    Huh, that is weird and now has finally made me angry. I tried posting a reply that had the official website for the LDS church and it was not allowed. Then I posted a website for an arthritis support group and it posted, no problem. It's the one posted above. Let me try one for the Lutheran church. http://www.lcms.org. And now that I'm thinking about this, ringo put a web address for the Jewish church in response to one of my posts.

    September 6, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  12. Siobhan

    http://www.rbfbb.org

    September 6, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  13. Siobhan

    And my other question as well, Andy, from several posts back, why are you so angry about a religion that you have no part in? Do you have equally angry feelings toward other churches and the mistakes the have made. One thing I have observed in my exploration of other churches is that there is so much more anger and even hatred toward a church that seems to mostly want families to stay together forever. This has been going on since the church organized so it's not just about the latest issue of prop 8. And ex-Mormons seem to have the angriest feelings and many disperse anti-Mormon material. Why doesn't this happen with other churches? When someone decides that church isn't for them they simply stop going. I've gone off on a tangent but I guess it is part of the debate going on here, as far as the level of anger toward Mormons is concerned.

    September 6, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  14. Siobhan

    I have not disallowed any replies from you or anyone else, but 2 of my replies have also not been posted. Rather than jump to a bad conclusion I tried some different things to try and see what I (not someone else) was doing wrong. In my first 2 posts I had included the official web address for the LDS church, in my 3rd reply I did not put it in my post and voila! it was allowed.

    You're right I'm biased and it shows in my moderating attempts; I have not training in moderation other than raising 3 boys and I'm sure I've offended some people. I should probably apologize but I don't feel that my comments are any more biased than anybody else; altho most of those comments were not meant for moderation so perhaps I shouldn't compare with them. There is bias in every article, paper interview, etc, it's not possible to disengage completely from one's beliefs. I was baptized into a protestant church but as a teenager I began to see doctrine that bothered me. My family wasn't real active in their church so I took the opportunity to go to different churches with my friends. But the same issues kept coming up for me no matter where I went; Catholic, 2 different Baptist, Lutheran, RLDS and LDS. I grew in a white bread middle class town, I'm not even sure we had a synagogue, so obviously I knew no one of the Jewish faith or ethnicity (is that correct? I'm not quite sure how to phrase that correctly since one of the replies explained the differences). My bias is not one of favoring one religion over another but one of knowing more about Christianity than Judaism. I've been trying to give the Mormons the benefit of the doubt when they say that there was no malicious intent, but the fact is that the Jews have a much bigger task than the Mormons; it's much easier to apologize than to forgive, and trust needs to be earned not automatically restored. I'm sorry that's the way it is.

    Prop 8 is a separate issue but I was disappointed that the church would so flagrantly ignore the separation of church and state. I have a sister who is gay and my oldest son is gay, 28 y/o, he came out about 8 yrs ago. He wants to marry someday and have a family and I want that for him as well. I have no problem with his or my sister's preference but I do insist that they are responsible and get tested for HIV every 6 mths. I'm happy to say that they are both responsible.

    Your point with their involvement with prop 8 is exactly why I don't belong to any church, I have yet to find one that doesn't have their own agenda or manipulative doctrine. Anad again, just so everyone knows I'm not the villian you paint me out to be, I DID NOT DISALLOW YOUR REPLIES, NOR DID I REPORT ANYBODY ELSE.

    You have not answered my question btw. I see 3 options, Universal Salvation, universal baptism, or Judaism that doesn't practice baptism for repentence and to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Has anyone come up wit anything else. I've been searching for over 25 yrs and still have not found an equitable solution. Where HAVE the Mormons gone anyway? I really wanted to hear their view on this.

    September 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  15. Andy

    Siobhan, your moderating skills are biased toward your own views, as you will not allow my last reply to be posted onto the blog. One can only wonder how many postings from other people you decided to censor out. Good luck to you on your self-righteous quest!

    September 5, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  16. Atheist Kyle

    Foxman said the Church deserves credit for being sensitive to Jewish pain and history. “They were sensitive enough to understand the Jewish faith and they made an exception to their basic principle,” he said.

    The Mormons sure weren't very sensitive when they supported Prop. 8 in California. They're more interested in the dead than they are the living. Pitiable, that. I'm glad that, as of 27 August this year, I'm no longer officially in their records. So long and don't let the big golden doors hit you on the way out.

    September 5, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  17. Siobhan

    Thank you, but no. I have no idea what happens after we die, but as I stated much earlier, people who think they have all or at least most of the answers scare me. I admire those who can combine faith with humility and use their religion to try and become a better person, but I have found that those people are usually the minority. Meh, oh well.

    But I'm glad you took the time to respond to my post. I asked a tough question but it bothers me that so many spiritual people either have never thought about it or don't want to think about it. Kind of like when we walk past the homeless and pretend they don't exist.

    September 5, 2010 at 2:54 am |
  18. Siobhan

    I've had the same thought as Bob, that there are a lot of angry people fighting over something they don't even think is real. Even so, I still understand why it's an offensive practice. But it's offensive to me for any religion to practice a doctrine that robs individuals of free agency and excludes billions of people who were not fortunate enough to have heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ or had the opportunity to be baptized. They can't be baptized after they die even if they want to because we're judged by our earthly works, right? Talk about arrogant! No one has mentioned anything about what happens to those people, but I would love to know what anyone thinks is a fair solution to this problem. It is one of the problems not addressed by any religions that I know of, except the LDS church, that causes me not to belong to any church.

    My Mormon friend showed me a scripture that they use to justify this practice, 1 Corinthians 15:29, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" But I don't put much stock in any kind of scripture because they are all open to interpretation. I do know that somebody in the ancient church was doing it because the Gnostics tried to copy it but didn't know how; they would actually dig up the dead bodies and baptize them. Major ick factor there.

    But the issue here is not whether it is a practice acknowledged by God or if it actually disturbs the dead, the issue is that it is being done to people who lived their lives practicing another religion, and this is offensive to their descendants. When confronted by enough of these people the LDS church put a stop to it.

    I'm on the side that their descendants had a right to be offended. But I would also love to hear thoughts on what should be done for those who never had a chance to be baptized. How would you feel if you had a grandparent that you loved dearly, or a child that died before they were baptized, but were told that they would not be allowed in Heaven because they were not baptized? Can you honestly say that you would not have a right to be offended by that doctrine?

    September 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
    • ringo

      I would find another religion. There are several that believe in universal salvation. Some are even xtian.

      September 5, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  19. Jeana

    Are you kidding??? Utter ridiculousness!! I'm still pissed off over being strong armed into my own baptism at age 12. I'd seriously haunt and possess the person or people responsible for baptizing me AGAIN after my death. Sheesh...will the fundamentalists ever understand it's about CHOICE? They just want to shove it down everyone's throat at any given opportunity. Thoroughly disgusting and so NOT what God intended, I'm certain.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  20. TAHA RASHID

    NO DOUBT, ISLAM BEGINNING OF THE END, AN END TO FALSEHOOD NOW I CAN SAY APPARENTLY ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE TODAY, REALY HE IS ALL POWERFUL AND ISLAM HIS POWER GIVEN BY HIM(THE ALMIGHTY ALLAH) TO ALL THE MANKIND. MAY THE MERCY OF ALLAH BE ON ALL OF HIS MANKIND. THANKS

    September 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • ringo

      Pray to allah for a capslock key, please.

      September 4, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.