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March 9th, 2012
07:50 AM ET

Mormons crack down on proxy baptisms; whistleblower’s access blocked

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - In response to recent media reports that well-known Jewish Holocaust victims and slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl were baptized by proxy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is renewing and revamping efforts to crack down on the practice and, some believe, stop the attention.

The church said this week it had implemented a “new technological barrier” to prevent abuse of its massive genealogical database, parts of which have been used to carry out – as well as expose - proxy baptisms.

"The church is committed to preventing the misguided practice of submitting the names of Holocaust victims and prominent individuals for proxy baptism,” spokesman Michael Purdy said in a written statement.

“Anyone trying to access names that have been restricted will have their account suspended and be required to contact [the church] to establish their family relationship in order to have their access reinstated. Abuse of the system will result in the permanent loss of database access."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Whistle-blowing ex-Mormon researcher Helen Radkey, who uncovered the proxy baptism records that made headlines recently, says an account she was surreptitiously using to gain access to the database has been blocked.

“I have been effectively stopped,” Radkey told The Salt Lake Tribune. She said the church was “of course” targeting her.

The church, though, says Radkey’s blocked account was part of its effort to stop inappropriate proxy baptisms and not about Radkey.

“It is ironic for someone to claim they are being targeted by the measures we have taken to prevent unauthorized submissions for baptism,” Purdy said. “We are doing exactly what we have been asked to do and what we said we would do - denying access to names that should not be submitted because they are against our policy.”

Purdy said no one by the name of Helen Radkey has an account with the church’s database, known as New FamilySearch.

“If she, or anyone else, is misusing a church member’s identity to search for Holocaust names, then the system is set up to block those kinds of activities. There have been a handful of accounts blocked so far.

“We have said before that no system is foolproof but that we were committed to improving our ability to prevent unauthorized names from being submitted for baptism,” he continued. “To complain about us doing just that is baseless."

Explainer: How and why do Mormons baptize the dead?

Word of the new measures and blocked accounts comes on the heels of a statement from top church officials that was read to congregations across the globe last weekend clarifying what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to proxy baptisms.

The statement said Mormons’ “pre-eminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.”

“Without exception, church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances [rituals] any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims,” the statement read. It warned that members who violate the rules could lose access to the system and added, “other corrective action may also be taken.”

Efforts to deal with proxy baptisms are nothing new. Instructions on how to use and contribute to the database grew out of a 1995 agreement with Jewish groups that were horrified to find that people who died because of their faith were being baptized by proxy in Mormon ceremonies.

After the recent flood of stories, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel appeared on CNN and called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to reprimand his church.

Romney, meantime, has been asked if he has ever partaken in proxy baptisms. He says that he has, but so have most Mormons who are eligible to participate in temple ordinances. Also referred to as temple work, ordinances are the sacred ceremonies performed within LDS temples for the living and the dead.

Explain it to me: Mormonism

Proxy baptisms are part of that work, and Romney's participation was likely decades ago. The baptisms are generally completed by younger Latter-day Saints, between the ages of 12 and 20, with males and females being vicariously submerged for deceased persons of the same gender, explains senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune.

“A white-clothed young man or woman, standing in a font of water about waist-high, represents the dead person,” she writes. “He or she is then immersed after the adult male baptizer (also wearing white) says these words: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you for and in behalf of [name of the deceased] in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Mormons, usually ages 12 to 20, are baptized for the dead in LDS temples.

To be sure, for the Jewish people, who have experienced their fair share of forced conversions over the centuries (think the Spanish Inquisition), the suggestion that victims like Holocaust victim Anne Frank or Pearl might be baptized after death can be horribly offensive.

Others might view the practice of proxy baptism as simply strange or utterly meaningless. If you don't subscribe to the Mormon belief system, some might say, why does the practice matter to you?

Still others view the practice as nothing short of laughable and have made a mockery of what Latter-day Saints view as sacrosanct. The website “All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay” lets users enter the name of a dead Mormon and click the "Convert!" button to make them gay. Comedian Stephen Colbert responded on his show by slicing off the tips of hot dogs, thereby proxy-circumcising dead Mormons to make them Jewish.

A special invitation, attendance optional

This isn’t a laughing matter to Mormons, not least of all church officials, who say they wish 100% of its members would abide by their instructions. Putting a definitive stop to inappropriate proxy baptisms, however, is complicated, if not impossible.

“With more than 14 million members around the globe, the church is no more able to guarantee compliance of every member with its policies than other worldwide faiths are able to guarantee theirs,” Michael Otterson, who heads up LDS Church public affairs, wrote in a piece for the Washington Post.

The practice of performing proxy baptisms isn't one that's going away.

Believing as Jesus taught that baptism is essential to “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), Mormons believe they are extending a loving invitation to those who died without having the opportunity for this rite. They point to 1 Cornthians 15:29, in which Paul spoke of baptizing the dead, a message LDS Church founder Joseph Smith took to heart.

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In doing proxy baptisms, Mormons do not claim to make anyone Mormon. They believe spirits in the afterlife are being exposed to the gospel, and a proxy baptism provides an opportunity to the dead to either accept or turn down the invitation to believe and find salvation.

Central to LDS Church teachings is the belief that families across generations can be united for eternity. Performing proxy baptisms for the dead is what makes eternal togetherness in heaven possible. Family history research for Mormons, as a result, is of sacred importance.

Members have been in the business of family research since the 1840s, writes Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune. So it’s no coincidence, then, that the LDS Church boasts the most comprehensive genealogical records available.

The church has compiled more than 2.64 billion searchable names in its online historic records collection, and more than 250 million names are added to the database each year, LDS Church officials say. Every year, FamilySearch produces more than 160 million digital images from source documents.

The database is accessible to the public online or at more than 4,850 LDS Church family history centers and libraries in 126 countries.

LDS Church members are given special accounts that allow them, in a separate process, to submit names for temple rites by proxy, as well as see other names that have been submitted and baptized. Such details are off-limits in the public version of the database.

“Our doctrine is for members of the church to submit names of their own relatives for temple work,” church spokesman Purdy wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “Over the years the church has provided eligible names to take to the temple [for ordinances], but it is the primary responsibility of members to submit family names.”

In baptismal fonts in the 136 LDS Church temples that span the globe, temple ordinances for the dead take place every day but Sunday. So an overzealous or troublemaking Mormon in Sydney, Australia, for instance, might ignore instructions and enter a slew of names of people he’s not related to into the system. And then, sometime later at the temple in, say, Accra, Ghana, the people on that list might get baptized by proxy.

Because officials back at LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, can’t monitor what each member does, whether with good intentions or not, names slip through – names like Daniel Pearl, Mickey Mouse and Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother.

Understanding 'the messenger’

Often at the center of breaking proxy baptism stories is Helen Radkey. Touted as a whistleblower, the 69-year-old researcher has shamed the LDS Church time and again for objectionable or embarrassing baptisms.

An ex-Mormon who was excommunicated from the church, she is often seen by some observers as an obsessive agitator. Others praise her for her dogged commitment.

Radkey says she was active in the church for less than five years in the 1970s. In a 2009 profile in The Salt Lake Tribune, it was reported that this “Catholic-turned-Mormon-turned-New-Ager” left her first husband and children to join the church because she wanted in so badly.

A grown son from a later marriage was quoted as saying, “She was on a crusade … to single-handedly take down the Mormon religion. She was so consumed by that, we had a hard time relating to it.”

But the Australian-born Radkey, who lives in Salt Lake City, points out that it’s often others who come to her looking for names, because she has found ways to get access to records and knows how to navigate the system. She suggests journalists, hungry for anything Mormon-related during this election season, have brought her down.

She says someone from a British newspaper asked her to look up Princess Diana, who was baptized in 1999. A wire service reporter called, she adds, wanting to check to see if there’d been a proxy baptism for Gandhi; there had in 1996. And it was a reporter from The Boston Globe, at the prodding of his editor who had once worked with Pearl, who reached out seeking info on his status, the results of which created the latest hubbub.

Helen Radkey is often at the center of proxy baptism stories.

Though Radkey says the church blocked the account she most recently had been using, she hints that she has other accounts available, though she won't divulge details or confirm anything. She also says, “I’m not looking up any more names.” This, however, is a claim she's made before, as she did in the 2009 Salt Lake Tribune profile.

Over the years, she says she’s heard people accuse her of trying to get rich off her efforts. “I don’t make a living,” she says. “I have to do other work, and I get Social Security.”

At one point, about 10 years ago, the head of a Holocaust survivors group paid for her time to accumulate a list of 1,000 Holocaust victims who had been baptized, after the LDS Church claimed the Jewish community was “overreacting to the problem,” says Gary Mokotoff, a Jewish genealogist in New Jersey who has been following the issue for 22 years, long before it made headlines.

Besides being compensated by the same group for her time and expenses in appearing at a news conference in New York a few years ago, “that is the only time [she] received compensation for her effort,” Mokotoff wrote in an e-mail. “Helen puts in hundreds of hours per year on the matter without compensation (and she complains to me about it).”

Others, Radkey says, have speculated that she’s entered the names of those she later finds in LDS records, a charge she denies, calling it “out of date and out of line.”

“The inference that I enter names into the Mormon system, which I never have, usually comes from a Utah mindset that would ‘kill the messenger’ rather than deal with the results of my work,” she wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “Not only have I never done this, I should not have to explain away this false charge because there is not one shred of evidence that I have ever done such a thing.”

The upside for others, including Jews

For Mokotoff, a professional genealogist, there’s an irony to this issue that isn’t lost on him.

The past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and co-owner of Avotaynu, which publishes resources for Jewish genealogists, Mokotoff is beyond grateful to the LDS Church. He leads trips to Salt Lake City, ground zero for family research. He has benefited directly from the care Mormons take in gathering, preserving and sharing records.

“They have 2.5 million microfilm rolls that represent billions of names,” he says. “I traced back my ancestry to 1727 in Poland because they had made copies of birth, marriage and death records in Warka, Poland, the ancestral town of the Mokotoff family.”

But even so, he remains firm in his belief that the LDS Church must stop baptizing Holocaust victims, and preferably deceased Jews in general, by proxy.

Granted, he respects the caveat that the church has always maintained, that if a Mormon is descended from Jews or Holocaust victims, those names are fair game.

Mokotoff says he recently got an e-mail from someone who was concerned that a niece was marrying a Mormon, would likely convert and would then potentially baptize others in the family.

“She has that right,” Mokotoff answered. “It’s her religion.”

But just as she has that right, the Jewish community has a right to remain concerned about what's happening in a Mormon-only system it can't access.

Blocking a whistleblower like Radkey may slow the ability to keep tabs on proxy baptisms, but it's not insurmountable, Mokotoff says.

“The Mormon church thinks they have found a way to end the controversy between the church and the Jewish community: stop Helen Radkey,” Mokotoff wrote late Thursday in an e-mail. “Ten years ago, their religious database, then called the International Genealogical Index, was accessible to the public. Now it is a secret database that can be used only by password. Helen Radkey has found ways of getting around the church's barriers in the past. She is a resourceful woman. I am sure she will find ways in the future.”

‘It’ll never be perfect’

There are outsiders who wish the LDS Church would just stop the proxy baptisms altogether. But that’s both unrealistic and disrespectful, says Rabbi Gary Greenebaum of Los Angeles.

Greenebaum is intimately involved in the issue as a liaison between the LDS Church and the Jewish community.

“I can work with [the church], and I can suggest strongly what kind of actions they can take,” he says. “But when it comes to their own theology, I don’t have much of a place to tell them what they should believe.”

What the former American Jewish Committee director of interreligious and intergroup affairs can do is take his cues from Holocaust survivors.

“The issue is their relatives lived as Jews and were murdered because they were Jews,” he says. “The whole Jewish sense of never forgetting means remembering who died and why they died.”

To that end, he has worked with LDS Church insiders to alleviate concerns.

He also has seen up close the frustration within the church. He feels for the officials. He applauds them for the statement they issued to members on Sunday and the reminders of guidelines that appear on FamilySearch. He sees how they have made tweaks to the system, established safeguards and how entries are flagged for review, for example, if deaths were during World War II and in places bearing names of Nazi death camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka.

He has observed the new hires, the additional hours and money spent. With several million submissions of names in FamilySearch each month, he says he persuaded the church to do computer runs more frequently to help prevent inappropriate proxy baptism requests from seeping through. When violations appear, someone phones the submitter for a discussion.

When the church first worked out an agreement on the proxy baptism of Holocaust victims back in 1995, there were 8.5 million LDS Church members, Greenebaum says. Now that number is 14 million, and between Internet access and computer advances, the system is enormous and not easy to control.

As a result and despite the hard work, mistakes are bound to happen.

“It’s moving closer to being figured out,” Greenebaum says. “But it’ll never be perfect because it’s just too vast. And it’s important to appreciate the problem they’re dealing with.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Holocaust • Judaism • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Utah

soundoff (1,493 Responses)
  1. Kurt Kammeyer

    I have known quite a number of (living) Jews who have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just because they join the LDS Church, they don't lose their ethnic and cultural Jewishness. They have a rich heritage and are a chosen lineage, as the Bible states. When they add a belief in Christ to that heritage, it is a beautiful thing to see.

    I understand (a little) the antipathy of many Jews to the concept of forced conversion to Christianity. They have been persecuted for centuries, driven from country to country, and blamed for the Crucifixion. There is absolutely no excuse for the Inquisition, the pogroms, and the other horrors that were inflicted on the Jews by the so-called Christian world.

    The LDS practice of proxy baptisms is not a "forced" conversion. There is no coercion in the Kingdom of God. If a Jew in the afterlife chooses to accept this ordinance in his behalf, he does not lose any of his Jewishness – he is still a member of the House of Israel, a royal lineage, a chosen race. That can never be taken away from him, even after death.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      Of course the bible says they are "chosen". What did you think it was going to say ? Using the bible to prove the bible is CIRCULAR ! Please take a course in Logic. My book says your car was granted to me, as my chosen vehicle. Please bring it over by noon.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • not chosen

      I have issue whenever a race calls themselves "the chosen people". Didn't Hitler believe the aryan race were the "chosen"

      March 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Kurt Kammeyer

      Four Jumps:
      Speaking of logic... If you don't believe in the Bible, then we have nothing to discuss in the first place. Ipso fatso, there is no God, no afterlife, and no point in doing proxy baptisms.
      On the other hand, if the Bible IS true, then you are obliged to believe in the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead as mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Not to mention, all the promises made to the House of Israel.
      See how it all fits together? How's that for logic?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      "Ipso fatso, there is no God, no afterlife, and no point in doing proxy baptisms." "Ipso Fatso" is Latin for "Vote for Newt," right?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      The thing is, saying the bible is "true", is a meaningless sentence. (How EXACTLY is it "true"). You really need to learn some history, and science and linguistics.
      How about starting with the history of your god ?
      ...
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg&w=640&h=360]

      March 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Kurt – So the "bible is true"?

      That's a bit of an open ended statement. Is the entire bible true? Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word? Are just parts of the bible true?

      If just parts of the bible are true – which parts? And who decided which parts are true?

      And if every word of the bible is true, then you are tasked with trying to spin it so the parts that are wrong, are not, well, wrong. And that starts with the very first verse in the bible. See, your god was such a terrible scientist that he didn't have the ability to understand that the earth was not created first. The earth is actually relatively recent in cosmological history. The first stars – which supposedly were created 4 days after the earth formed – were actually formed 9,000,000,000 (9 BILLION YEARS) years before the earth came together.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Religion

      Chosen people. Conversion. You LDS cult members have a lot in common with Al Qaeda.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Todd E.

      Kurt,
      Galatians 1:6-9, "II am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!"

      How does it feel to be living under God's curse? You separate yourself from Christ by your belief in the fraudulent gospel of Joseph Smith.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Lucas

      ( Ipso fatso, there is no God, no afterlife, and no point in doing proxy baptisms.) Excuse me?????

      The after life is based on Natural Laws. It has nothing to do with the bible ,religion or your anthropomorphic God. The afterlife exists eons of time before any religion and any bible. I used to be a Mormon. Today, I do not follow any religion ideas because they are all created by men to control and manipulate the mass. Your bible which teaches you to perform baptism for the dead, also shows that your anthropomorphic God is a blood thirsty man. Read I Samuel 15 2-3.Thus saith the Lord of hosts [to King Saul]… Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. The bible, the book of Mormon and all other scriptural books are nothing but wars and destruction. If you wring out your book of Mormon you will get nothing but blood. The world will be a much more spiritual place for all of us when mankind has evolved beyond religion.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Cindy

      Kurt,

      If the LDS church baptizes a person without their permission, dead or alive, it's against their will and therefore is FORCED regardless of how you try to sugar-coat it.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • conrad

      Kurt,
      God visited me in my soul and told me that everyone ever born is chosen and of divine royal lineage and that in heaven there is no race or religion only universal perfection and peace. No need to put some higher and some lower – that is what leads to strife in this world.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • LifeLong Student

      @Kurt

      I've seen 1 Corinthians 15:29 mentioned several times in this discussion; this warrants some clarification. Chapter 15 is Paul reminding the Corinthians about Christ's death and resurrection. in verse 12 he addresses some in Corinth who believed that there was no resurrection of the dead. By the time we get to verse 29, Paul makes a point about those in Corinth who apparently were making baptism arrangements for the dead, but didn't even believe in resurrection.

      That baptism-of-the-dead practice was a quirk of Corinth, it was something that wasn't widespread in the early Christian community. If you reread the verse, notice the use of "we" and "they." Paul doesn't include himself as a proponent of the practice, he is commenting on what others were doing.

      Just because the bible mentions something that was occuring in a particular culture at the time, doesn't mean it's a command from God or was intended to become doctrine. Take for example polygamy or slavery; people have tried to justify both, because it's in the bible. However, God didn't command those sort of practices, they were mentioned because they were a part of life at the time it was written.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  2. Nora

    The Romneys did it to Mitt's atheist father-in-law, didn't they?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Rebeckah

      Yep. They couldn't get him to convert while he still had a functioning brain.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  3. Robert

    It's amazing that more rank and file Christians don't embrace this Biblical doctrine, as found in 1 Cornthians 15:29. It would once and for all answer the question they cannot answer: If Jesus said that NO ONE can enter into the kingdom of heaven without being born of the water (John 3:5), then what about those folks born in China 4000 years ago who never heard of Jesus, or those born in Africa 1000 years ago, etc., etc.? Their present doctrine offers them no hope and a lot of shrugged shoulders.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Primewonk

      It's kind of sad that this sick, twisted, psychotic putz of a god purposefully creates 10's of billions of humans for the solw purpose of sending them to hell to be tortured for all eternity.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • LifeLong Student

      1 Cor. 15:29 isn't a doctrine. Nor is it a suggestion, or command.

      It's a point Paul was trying to make to the church in Corinth, who were apparently baptising the dead, yet weren't in agreement about the resurrection. Paul the apostle was not a participant, nor proponent of the practice.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • LifeLong Student

      Humans naturally want to know all the answers, don't we? There are some questions we will just not know the answers to in this life.

      However in my studies so far I have learned that God loves each and every person, all those that have ever lived. God has ALL the details handled. So I conclude that people performing these works to try to get the dead into heaven, is like telling God that you have a better plan than He does.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Warvet55

      You limit God. Who says they didn't know. Read the old testament and see how many times God made His name known.

      March 10, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  4. Daniel Webster

    Reign? A double entendre or just a poor grasp of word meanings? Did you mean, in the headline to say "Mormons rule". To slow or stop a horse, one "reins" the horse in. Just sayin'

    March 9, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  5. justaman

    Baptizing the living for the dead (if baptizing sanctified, which it does not) makes them a child of God just as much as taking a shower in their behalf makes their corpse clean.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Robert

      Uh, excuse me? Are you forgetting that each person in the spirit world is given the choice to accept or reject the baptism that is performed for them? No one is forced against their will to do anything.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Randi

      Robert's point makes sense. When Jesus spent three days in hades, He didn't go down there and bring them out of it, He went down and preached to them the Good News of His victory over death.

      I believe that water baptism is just a symbol of the baptism of the Spirit from the Holy Spirit, that purifies and washes us clean. Just like the other sacraments join us in Christ when we perform them. The bottom line is that we believe in Jesus as our Savior and that we follow Him, as He has taught us in the Bible.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  6. pastmorm

    When I was twelve I did my first baptisms by proxy in the Swiss temple. It was creepy, disturbing and never explained to me. Even though the mormon beliefs are pounded into our heads as children, we're never told the WHY of the things we did/do. This is something childcare services should look into.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Spence

      Of course you are told. Your failure to listen is your own fault, not your teachers.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Brad Cole

      Not sure, but I think what YOU ought to look into is re-investigating why they do it. There has to be a doctrinal or scriptural foundation. Be real, not just some Obama voter.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • pastmorm

      Typical responses from two ultra-mormons....I can only expect to be kicked by mules huh? The mormons are creepy and I can't be thankful enough for learning on my mission what a cult it really was. The reason romney is loosing is because the truth of the blood rituals, joe smith wanting to form a theocratic monarchy with him as the head over the American Government and also the fact that he married a 13 year old girl (pedo) WHILE he was still married to his wife Emma...is going to come out and your membership is going to plummet. By the way...that 14 million membership, does that include the people you've baptized by proxy?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Robert

      There's a very definite Biblical and doctrinal foundation for it. Try John 3:5 and 1 Cornthians 15:29 for starters.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • lorne

      spence- you are giving the standard answer of the mormon leaders. whenever a mormon has the nerve to question their faith they are told to go back to the teachings and study harder instead of being provided with an "answer".
      if anyone wants to get an idea read the books (true story) about the master forger who conned the leaders into buying his forgeries, murdered several people who discovered what he was up to, and accidentally blew off his own hands with one of his pipe bombs. great stuff in there showing the contempt the leaders have for their flock. happened in the 70's or 80's in Salat Lake City. great read.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Spence

      I was right. Pastmorm just doesn't pay attention.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • pastmorm

      Well said Lorne...it's interesting that mormons do have a stereotypical response to everything. So I "challenge" them to look up the information that both you and I posted.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Spence

      Lorne – There are goofballs and dingleberries in any organization. The broad brush you are using has no meaning or value in a discussion.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • pastmorm

      What spence? You're not paying attention to the fact that your own leader was a pedo? You're ignoring the secret temple rituals? You're willing to tell people your secret temple name? What am I not paying attention to spence? Can you give me an example or just try to belittle me with your "I'll dust my shoes of you" comment?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • pastmorm

      Ah, now spence is getting scared so he's resorting to name calling....typical.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Ryan

      Haha, your comments kill me they are just like any bitter exmember would say. You should at least know how to be respectable of other peoples belief. If you really feel the need to bash the Church go ahead and do it, everytime time someone goes out and does this it only helps the church. Because people go out and find out what the church is really about and they come to see that it is a good thing. So I would like to say thanks for all of your help.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Lee

      pastmorm- The 14 million members are people living today who were personally baptized. I would guess that about a third have not set foot in church in many years. If you have not been excommunicated or sent a letter to your bishop asking to have your name removed from the records of the church, you are one of the 14 million.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • pastmorm

      Ryan, I grew up hearing what you just said...that the more negative things there are about the mormon church, the more people are attracted to finding out the glorious truth of the mormon church. Well that was 40 years ago and at the time there were 11 million members....there's only 14 million now. NOT a big increase. And I'm not mocking your belief. Every single thing I said in my postings can be found with research and I don't mean anti-mormon sites, I mean REAL history. You know it and every mormon knows it. That's why you respond with so much anger. I'm not the angry one here...

      March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Spence

      Pastmorm – You obviously have deep issues, but you can believe anything you want. But it doesn't mean your hate filled words have any truth or meaning in your imaginary context. You are free to hate and misdirected all you want. But in the end it's your life to spend.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • not chosen

      Write On!

      March 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Ryan

      Just did some research like you told me 40 years ago was 1972 church membership was 3,218,908 today 14 million I was say that is a big growth not sure where you got your numbers at. maybe you should go back and checkout all your "facts" that you spit out.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • pastmorm

      Wow! Look at the hate-filled mormons unite! See, you're angry because you know what I'm saying about your church history is true. People that have a true faith in something don't care what other people believe.
      As far as the numbers in 1972...we were told in church there were 11 million members at that time. So it was the church that lied, not me. I have no reason to make things like that up.
      Now stop getting so angry guys, you know you're hurting your chance at becoming a god after this life even if you are using righteous indignation....

      March 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Spence

      Pasrmorm – You have been unhappy most of your life, especially when it comes to Mormons. You will continue to be unhappy and miserable and that's ok. I'm glad I don't have to know you. You are just way more trouble than you are worth.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Ryan

      I am very angry as I sit here and read all your comments. Just keep posting your "facts" and I keep laughing. And doesn't it stink when you post some numbers up here and you are about 7 million off.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • pastmorm

      spence and ryan...I'm not unhappy at all. Actually I'm very successful in life with a loving family (non-mormon) and a thriving business in Psychology. It seems like your continued attempt to discount the issues I've brought up about the mormon church has proven to be a big stress factor for you both today. I do feel sad for you both and your continued battle against anyone who would dare to challenge your beliefs.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Spence

      postmorm – Psychology....well that explains it. Talk about a cult and a pseudo science. All the whining you have been doing and now it all makes sense. You got some kind of angst going on and somehow some goofball headshrinker saved you so now you are a convert to psychology. Now you have identified yourself as a true hypocrite and fraud.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • pastmorm

      I love it spence! You just proved to non-mormons what crack-pots you mormons are. To ACTUALLY call Psychology a pseudo science that caters to crack-pots...I forgot that you mormons don't accept science or mental health options. Well thank you for signing your name to that comment my friend and good luck with that. It's often the ones that balk against Psychology that need it the most. Now I understand where all of your anger is coming from...

      March 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Spence

      pastmorm - Yeah, let's not talk about the fraud of repressed memories that destroyed families, and the drug experimentation that still goes on that psychologist drug addicts are pushing and calling it research, or the excuses that psychologists give all kinds of sick and evil people so they don't have to feel bad for the kinds of things they do. And the fraud that psychologists pushed on the Catholic Church when the Church needed help dealing with homer priests and child molesters. Homers are an evil in the world and psychologists give them a reason not to stop spreading disease and death in their wake. And then the psychologists just pretend they are not doing anything wrong.

      Psychology is a perverse and childish pseudo science. People think a thought that pops up between their ears is meaningful and then spread that thought. No matter how dangerous it is. For the most part, psychologists are fraudulent and childish people that are more in need of medication than any of their patients are.

      March 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  7. John Q. Public Sr.

    The Mormon's have made promises in the past and failed to ensure compliance by over-enthusiastic believers. Unless this process of proxy baptism is made transparent with adequate checks and balances, I as a non-Mormon do not feel their assurances are again worth more than empty promises. The LDS needs to do more than issue a letter amongst their flock and privately excommunicate a few offenders. Church leadership at the top needs to be accountable this time to ensure there are no more repeat incidents.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • realitybites

      I'd like to suggest to anyone who maybe bothered by this practice, as I am, that you put it in your will that It not be done on your behalf, and if it is done, that the the Momon church be held legally responsible to recant the baptism or be sued on the behalf of all those that have been so transgressed upon.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • conrad

      They never said they were going to stop and they won't because they believe they are doing God's work. It is one of the major aspects of their religion. It would be like asking Catholics to destroy all their images of Mary – it would be profoundly hurtful to them.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Slovensko

    Gotta love when verses are taken out of context. Jesus is saying that everyone is born of water(I.E. being born from your mother's womb) but that you have to be born of the Spirit(I.E. accepting Christ as your savior and being filled with the Holy Spirit).

    John 3:4-8
    4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    March 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      "he wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes" I can look at a satellite weather map and see exactly where it came from and where it went.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Spence

      Jesus was referring to baptism by water when he said born again. Otherwise why did He seek out John the Baptist? If He who is without sin needs to experience Baptism by one with authority to baptize then it must be important.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • LifeLong Student

      Jesus sought out John to be baptized show humanity what true obedience looks like, and marked the beginning of his active ministry. Jesus is God, (not anything less) so really he didn't need to be baptized for his own salvation.

      Baptism is important. It's the outward demonstration of an inward surrender to God, accepting Jesus as our savior. One can accept Jesus by simply, truthfully speaking or thinking it. Baptism follows as action of obedience.

      However, humanity seems to have made a routine mechanism of baptism, believed to ensure salvation, like some magic formula. Those are our ways, not God's. God looks at our heart and intentions. Are we seeking Him, or going through the ritualistic steps to achieve "n" goal?

      As far as the question posed about what about salvation for people who died before Jesus came, or the people of other faiths who died already? I'm sure God has it covered. As if He needs us humans to come up with policy and procedure to make sure that every human that ever lived gets into heaven, via this massive to-do list of posthumous rituals.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  9. Floyd Thursby

    Somebody should baptise all the Chinese people, they are in dire need of salvation. That should keep the Mormons busy for the next few centuries.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • T-Mugg

      I'm glad you brought that up. Does God hate the Chinese since they haven't been baptized. I'm not religious, but when Christians say that you must be baptized to be saved, the basically say that God hate the Chinese and the Arabs, who don't know who Jesus is.
      At least the Mormons pretend to care about those who are off the map, so to speak. Also, Jews must think that God hates people if he allows them to be "converted" against their will.
      I find it offensive that Jews are lending validity to the practice by asking them to stop. Didn't Andy Richter have something funny to say about this practice?

      March 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  10. Brad Cole

    Looks like Helen Radke is a poser, liar and deceiver who has decided to take delusions of personal hurt to new levels of poor conduct. Wah!!!!!! Looks like the LDS Church can't please anyone. Evangelical whiners on the right; Libdog perverts and liars on the left. Geez, it's just a Christian church, for heaven's sake. Reminds me of the Catholic hassle days.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • realitybites

      Hassle days. Are you referring to recent hassle days or the past hassle days? The days when the church was hassled by those who were disgusted w/ their practices of treating women like 2nd rate citizens and moving pedophiles around to harm more children or when there was public backlash against a massive, money grubbing, authoritarian organization that tortured and executed people for believing you like you do? By the way, what's with all the secrecy w/ your One True Religion? (Catholic's arleady claim that). If it's so awesome, why should everyone interested in joining it be subjected to fraternity like initiation rituals steeped in secrecy? Got something to hide?

      March 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  11. Spence

    Why do these people even care? They don't even think religion generally or Mormonism specifically has any meaning anyway. Is this really a meaningful use of whatever life they still have left? Wouldn't these whiners better serve life by feeding the hungry or providing for the less fortunate like Mormons do? Generously, without complaint?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  12. oneSTARman

    I am Actually MORE Concerned about a Mormon who Purchased ClearChannel Communications in 2008 and is Therefore responsible for the HATE SPEECH its 'Rodeo Clowns' – Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and RUSH LIMBAUGH fling like Sacred BULL Feces at AMERICA Every Day – He of Course is Bain Capital's – Willard Mittens Romney.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Brad Cole

      YOU need to go back on your meds, OneBrainCellMan.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. snowdogg

    What could be more pompous than assuming everybody needs to be "baptized"?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Slow Moe

      I'm a Mormon... The Jewish community has every right to be upset and we have the collective responsibility, as members of the church, to adhere to their wishes and to the instructions of our church's leaders regarding the matter. It's not a theological question – it's a question of respect for other's beliefs.

      As for the baptisms for the dead – what I have yet to see is ANY article makes clear is WHY we do it. Simply put – we believe that we come to earth for a number of reasons, among which are to complete certain steps (we refer to them as ordinances) that enable us achieve our full eternal potential. The first of those ordinances is baptism. We do baptisms for the dead to complete that ordinance for people who have passed away. We believe that once we have all passed away that we will have the opportunity to accept the Gospel or not. If a person who has died decides to accept it, then their earthly ordinances have been completed for them – enabling them to obtain their full eternal potential. It doesn't mean that people on the other side are now Mormons or whatever the accusations are. It only means that their earthly work is done. If a person decides to NOT choose it – then no harm, no foul.

      Surely people like Helen Radkey have better things to do with their time then to create controversy when it's not necessary. Might I suggest she spend some time in a beauty salon to work on that hair. That's one afternoon that would be beneficial and well-spent.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Robert

      I guess Jesus was pompous then. In John 3:5 He says that NO ONE can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the water. That's authoritative enough for me.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • LifeLong Student

      The whole picture must be considered. It seems as if we have a tendency to focus on one narrow aspect, and then the Word get's misunderstood.

      There are several other interpretations of "born of the water and the Spirit. " Water is used in the bible to symbolize the 1) Holy Spirit, or 2) the Word of God. 3) Jesus was referring to "born of the water" as physical birth, and then to the second spiritual birth.

      There is more, that's just an excerpt from the NKJV study bible I'm referencing. Anyone interested in foundational knowledge would greatly benefit from having a thorough study bible. Just ask God for guidance before you dig in, and see what He does!

      🙂

      March 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  14. Elizabeth in Mi

    So what if they baptize me a hundred times? Does that mean I HAVE to accept it? I don't think so. Find something else to get your panties in a twist about.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Brad Cole

      Yep. Your post is the essence of the whole uproar. Think you can get the hard-heads in the Jewish world to read your thoughts?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Robert

      Those people who ASSUME a person has to accept the baptism performed for them have not done their research. If you TRULY investigate the entire doctrine, you will find that each person in the spirit world has the choice to accept or reject that which was been done for them.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  15. C from Iowa

    Wait - so this woman first complained that people were being granted access to certain names through the LDS church databases. Now she is complaining because the LDS church took action and is preventing people from improperly accessing those same names?

    It sounds like she got what she wanted. Just goes to show that some people can never be satisfied, even if they get what they want.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  16. jefflazrn

    If they truly believe in this they shouldn't stop the practice for politic's sake. How hypocritical is that?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • wvg

      the mainstream lds church would not have stopped polygamy if it had not been due to political pressure..... this is why a man can still seal to up to 7 women in the temple... for the after life. of course the church yields to political pressure.... whether it has to do with getting rid of the appearance of polygamy to help get Utah statehood years ago... or handling this proxy baptism problem to possibly help get its first mormon president of the US.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  17. happilyeverafter

    The Baptists believe that you should make that choice yourself and that it is between you and God. They also believe that you should live your life expecting the unexpected and not wait for the Daniel Pearl moments to come to God.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  18. Bryan in IN

    Who wants to bet that they're just saying this publicly to try and deflect attention away from this and by proxy, Romney? It seems rather smarmy to abandon a core practice of your faith just because it's shedding light on what most consider to be a bizarre and cult-like practice. If this is their true conviction, why wouldn't they defend it despite it's unpopularity?

    How very like organized religion to try and snow everyone and manipulate the political narrative to protect their own interests. I suspect this will be a huge problem for Romney should he become the nominee. Evangelicals aren't going to be enthusiastic about supporting a guy who they believe is part of a cult.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Hypatia

      yup

      March 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Dave

      Who said we are abandoning a core practice of our faith?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  19. ian

    yep, we should def elect one of those sickos as miss el-presidente of the usa!
    romny for president!
    vote now and vote often!

    March 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Spence

      Why not Ian, you guys already elected Bozo the Brain Damaged Clown.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Brad Cole

      I guess we're better off with a Chicago Thug Marxist Kenyan in the White House instead?????

      March 9, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Bible Clown™

      Have they baptized Osama bin Laden yet? I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. Mattski

    I am Paul Bunyon, leader of the Church of latter-day hippies – the Tokers. I hereby baptise you all, by proxy, in the name of my faith. You should feel much cleaner now.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      Why thank you for granting me salvation from that apple thing about 2600 years ago. Now the angry desert god will leave me alone. That is, of course, if your baptism wasn't for the non-atoning brand, and then one would have to keep repeating it all the time. Do they offer a lifetime plan ?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Kev

      It's not just by proxy, dumba$$. It's for the dead! And it's done this way because clearly there is no water with which a dead guy, Jewish or otherwise, may be baptized in spirit prison (which looks a lot like Cleveland, Ohio).

      March 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
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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.