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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. Benjamin Nagurski

    I would hope all Indian tribes in the US would be immune from this atrocity. Can't speak for all the dead Utes, but I don't think it would be advantageous for Mormons to baptize the Native Americans they murdered and stole land from.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yes..yes we are all well aware that “Native Americans” got their backside handed to them by a superior force. Time to move on.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      Really, Benjamin? What corner of the universe do you live in?? The Ute tribe has a very positive relationship with the LDS church in Utah. There were a few isolated cases of people involved in skirmishes with the native peoples of Utah, but to say there was widespread murder and relocation is not factual.

      I'm just blown away by the ignorance of so many in this "information age". How in the world are we supposed to understand any people of another part of the world if we can't do more to understand a group right here in the USA who speak our language and who are open for dialog. You'd think Salt Lake was in Mongolia.

      I challenge all these people who label us a "cult" or "crazy" to get to know an actual Mormon and see how we live. No, I don't lie to anyone about what I believe in or do. You can just watch us and judge for yourself. But don't do it from a distance (e.g. the web) or take the hearsay of anyone else.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  2. Mark

    I have met a lot of Mormons and they are nice people as long as you leave religion out of the conversation. My wife converted to LDS many years ago and the mormon church tried very hard to convert me, they just couldn't get it through their head I was an agnostic. Now I an atheist and my wife decided being mormon was all that great and she has left the church but the missionaries still keep coming to the front door. I have asked many time to stay away & they don't listen, so now I have to get mean. I give them a copy of my Atheist newspaper every time they come now.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Authority Zero

      I’m an atheist also but I had no idea we had a newspaper. Seems odd to have a paper over the lack of something but hey.. more power to you.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Splash water of them and chant in Greek

      REALLY freaks them out.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • dkinabq

      Have her name officially removed. http://www.exmormon.org has directions.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  3. Sick

    Did CNN delete my comments? Maybe it was going against the narrative they wanted.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Or maybe you typed one of their banned words? For instance, if you type the word consti-tution. There's a t-i-t in it so they would automatically keep your comment from posting.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Then how is this comment here?

      A little thought would be encouraged.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  4. to jason h

    You sound like you take this crap seriously, so I'll just give you 2 words... South Park.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  5. I Can't Believe This Headline. Nasty Mormons

    Mor-ons crack down on pro– –p-is-s; ---blow-- access blocked

    March 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  6. michael

    no, please keep doing it. it really brings credibility to your cu...religion.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  7. markd

    Thank you! Good to see you are stopping this practice which gives your religion a bad name!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  8. Kate

    People BELIEVE all this baloney? Really, truly, in the 21st century?

    We may as well be seriously debating the rules by which Santa Claus decides which chimneys to come down.

    That we have a presidential candidate who believes in any of this is horrifying. That we have a population of Jews and Christians who truly believe their silly little rituals are somehow threatened by Mormonism's silly little rituals – yep, also horrifying.

    Folks, I hate to say it, but deluding yourself that dunking your kid in water while saying incantations somehow appeases some guy who sits up in the sky running the lives of everyone on the planet, is...well, flat out crazy. Understandable mythology for a primitive caveman, perhaps, but I would hope we've moved on.

    These kinds of stories remind me why I fear for our future as humans.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Madder

      Really?! To date their hasn't been an atheist president. The majority of Christians believe in baptism for the salvation of their soul why would the beliefs of Mormons be any different? Most religions enact some sort of ritual to save their souls. Do Jews get attacked because they believe in cutting off the tip of their penis as part of their religious beliefs?? Do Catholics get attacked because they think babies will go to Hell if a priest can't sprinkle water on them before they die. How about we just learn to respect others religious differences.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Speaking of moving on ... great Science Friday on NPR today. Hour 1 :great ape DNA sequence more like to human than thought, hour 2, interesting new observations of Dark Matter when galaxies collide.
      http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201203091
      🙄

      March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • MohaBear

      Exactly, this is yet another example of religious stupidity, who cares if they are doing this mambo-jumbo?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • MohaBear

      "Really?! To date their hasn't been an atheist president. " –> This is a proof most people can't overcome all religious brain-washing they suffered since their early infancy. She made a very good point: religion, including LDS, should have no place in the 21st century.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • dkinabq

      Mormons are welcome to their mumbo-jumbo temple rituals, JUST LEAVE MY DECEASED RELATIVES OUT OF YOUR $%@^* RELIGION!!!! Actual names are not needed for proxy baptisms.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  9. Su Lynn

    Who the he11 are they to baptize anyone without their permission. Romney can kiss my vote good-bye!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  10. carl

    A House divided can not stand and this is the House of Israel the disperse ! These are those ten tribes that wanted their own King under Solomon and those two tribes and some Levites stayed in Jerusalem got a nickname Jew.How were they divided ? By different beliefs such as catholic , protestant ,mormons and the list goes on and NO ,these are not Jews.Afterall , it is said it would take the end of the Age to go over the House of Israel ,the dispered, the lost sheep of the House of Israel.In a parable of the husbandman the Lord finally sent His son after they killed the prophets sent unto them and the Jews knew he was talking of them. ........ Their are many that become Masons because the money flows, many say they are Jews because the money flows,many go to washington because the money flows,many go to hollywood because the money flows,many go to LONDON because the money flows and many news people will not tell the truth because the money will stop flowing. Black is White and white is black in all such places.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      LET's Religiosity Law #1 – If you use words and phrases like: "EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID IN THIS POST."

      Then you are definitely mentally retarded.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  11. MK

    "Mormons believe they are giving every person who ever lived the chance at everlasting life. Many Mormons are proud of the fact that they attempt to make their faith universal through baptizing the dead."

    How can they not see how arrogant it is that in no other religion can you be saved??

    March 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  12. Pure Gold

    Mormon cracks are down on proxy baptisms; access to pants blocked

    March 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  13. Jason H

    "Helen Radkey, Touted as a whistleblower,"??? How can this Helen Radkey be a "whistleblower" when she hasn't been a member of the LDS Church for nearly 40 years now? The term "whistleblower" infers that somebody, as an integral part of an organization, provides information that the organization is trying to cover up. 1) She hasn't been a member of the LDS Church for almost 40 years, let alone a major player in the Church. 2) The LDS Church does not try to cover up these infractions, but instead actively works with the Jewish community and those of other faiths to remedy problems as they surface. Plus, they know it's a problem. They do all they can to prevent mistakes like this, and they do their best to inform its members of the proper policies and procedures for practicing their faith.

    This is undeniable proof that those who "leave" the LDS Church can never "leave it alone." For some reason they have an urge to fight against it in any way they can. Joseph Smith said it right when he said "...my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." That's a bold statement to make about oneself at such a young age of 14 years old. Turns out he was right. There will always be people who speak good of him and the the LDS Church, and of course, there will always be those who speak evil of the same.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Pure Gold

      Hardly prophetic. The statement is so general that much the same could have been said about almost anyone. Smith was a con man, nothin more, and a lot of people fell for his jive.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Joe T.

      She was closely associated with it. She's got all the nasty little details. Doesn't matter if it was 40 weeks ago, or 40 years ago.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Yes Jason...he was so prophetic that he "wrote" the "perfect" Book of Mormon (that has had thousands of corrections since then) that the Smithsonian says is NOT a historical book since there is NO proof of the Nehphite or Lamanite civilizations.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      His criminal records must be part of the bad talk about him. lolI have to admit, he was one he!! of a con man looking at how and what he created. Props to him for that. He created a self perpetuating con.

      ps Prayer never works

      March 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Su Lynn

      Joseph Smith is a perfect example of the self-centered arrogance of teen-agers, hence a religion which is so self-centered and arrogant that its followers believe they have the right to baptize non-believers!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Joseph Smith

      Yes Jason...he was so prophetic that he "wrote" the "perfect" Book of Mormon (that has had thousands of corrections since then) that the Smithsonian says is NOT a historical book since there is NO proof of the Nehphite or Lamanite civilizations.
      >
      Not to mention his criminal record, magic sticks and stones that he said could find gold, no historical or physical evidence (DNA) as to his created tribe that lived with the indians. But you know BYU is working hard to prove the DNA...which they cant lol

      March 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  14. The Afterlife

    If Mormons are right:

    God:Well Daniel, a Mormon was baptized for you. Would you like to accept it to enter into my kingdom?
    Daniel Pearl: Gee, that was nice of them. Um... yes.

    If Jews are right:

    God: Daniel, welcome.
    Daniel Pearl: It's good to be home.
    years later...
    Daniel's wife: You know, Daniel. Some Mormons were baptized for you.
    Daniel: That's nice for them. I don't really care.

    CONCLUSION: Who cares?

    March 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • MohaBear

      Science is right, he is dead, therefore doesn't care.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  15. Kenny

    Interesting how people can leave The LDS Church, but they cannot leave it alone.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Joe T.

      It is not uncommon. It is typical of all cult members who leave their cult. A big part of your life has been impacted by the cult. Out of anger for all the lies and deceit, they tend to go on a crusade against the cult.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      And pedophiles can't forget about children once they're "cured" either...hmmm.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Mookie

      You'd behave the same way if you'd given endless hours, years, and thousands of dollars... only to find out that you had been deceived. Now that actual (not anti-mormon sites) Mormon history is available online for all to read, this sad story is playing itself out over and over again. Book of Abraham for a small start.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      When you figure out something is nonsense, and they have been fooling you for a long time, I would say holding a grudge is a pretty normal response.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Kenny, "people can leave The LDS Church, but they cannot leave it alone."

      Interesting that I have seen ( & heard) that line for many years. It is always roundly refuted and the reasons explained, but you guys keep using it!?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  16. Ex-mormon

    I think people talk so surely of what they know nothing about. You can find plenty of false mormon "facts" or taken out of context information on websites and anti-mormon books. Instead of being ignorant and believing everything you read, maybe actually find out what the LDS church is about before you people run your mouth. The religion is vast and complicated, so none of you can begin to understand the things that you find "bizarre." Quite frankly, from a religious stand point... the religion has a lot of solid practices that make sense. Also, clearly you don't know anything about this church if you make such bold statements such as they are a cult. Maybe, learn the actual definition of a cult, then learn the actual beliefs and practices of mormons before you run your mouth. And as for the baptism for the dead, it makes sense, and was clearly stated right in the bible. They aren't forcing anyone to join the church, as they said they are giving the dead the option. So instead of making fun of things you clearly do not understand, shut your mouth, or learn the facts.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Learn the facts from who? Mormons who would surely not be 100% honest?

      You might be an ex-mormon but your mind is still held by the Mormon cult.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      The Book of Mormon has been proven false, and there is NO proof of Nephites or Lamanites (check with the Smithsonian). So, POOF!, there goes the LDS religion. Uh-oh!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Ex-mormon

      Yeah because non members know the truth? Don't be so ignorant. And learn what a cult actually is. The number of uneducated, and intolerant people are is disgusting.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Ex-mormon

      Actually there is plenty of scientific proof that supports the theory of people in the Americas at that time. Just like there are opposing facts on any other scientific theory or discovery. Don't be so closed minded. If you don't believe in the religion, great nothing wrong with that. But leave it alone. It's dumb to attack or pretend to understand something you know nothing about.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Hey Ex-Mormon, what TRUTH are you talking about? You sure are defensive for an "EX"-Mormon.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      "or learn the facts."

      And there is your problem lol The religion is not based on facts...however I do think Joseph Smith did really carry around magic rocks with his hat while scamming people.

      "The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a ***new"** religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre."

      Note NEW...200 year old bizarre religion = cult. Deal with it.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      "Actually there is plenty of scientific proof that supports the theory of people in the Americas at that time" I await this proof??? lol

      March 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Also this "proof" is it independent or linked to BYU?????

      March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Ex-mormon

      I'm an atheist. But I understand why mormons believe what they believe. And clearly you don't. And II don't care if I'm defensive, I just hate ignorant people, you guys believe everything you read, but don't read both sides. So like in any other argument, you need to know both side before you statements have any validity to them. Cause quite honestly, you sound like a hostile idiot.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      I am sure the people behind it are not associated whats so ever with BYU or Mormons lol

      March 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      Nothing has been proven about the Book of Mormon. Travel to Central and South America and there are plenty of ruins of advanced civilizations from the time period of the Book of Mormon (600 BC – 400 AD). The people there believed in a bearded white god who healed them and promised to return (see Diego Rivera mural in Palacio Nacional in Mexico City). I can prove my beliefs with or without the scriptures.

      I've been to plenty of museums around the world. Never seen anything that disproves my religion. On the contrary. You need to read and get out more and spend less time on the internet and in "cult classes" with your minister. Learn what a cult is.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Mookie

      An Ex-Mormon would never say that. As a rule ex-Mormons know a great deal more about this religion because they have studied vast amounts of Mormon history... which led them to the truth... which is why they aren't Mormon now.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Joe T.

      I would sooner trust secular sources about Mormonism than a brainwashed Mormon, which you clearly are. You know how they say "History is written by the winners"? The point is, Mormons will say whatever to not make their religion look good. They want to convert people.

      Merriam Webster lists these as several definitions for a cult:
      "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents"
      "great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad"

      Sounds like Mormonism to me. I was in a cult and escaped so I have a pretty good idea of what one looks like. Mormonism fits the bill. There are so many levels of mental control that are exercised. If you knew the truth, it would make you angry for having been played like a fiddle. I suggest reading the Steve Hassan book "Combating Cult Mind Control". It would do you some good.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Ex-mormon

      If you want facts, go research it yourself. But actually look up non biased stuff.

      And there is no rule to leaving a church. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I don't believe in God, or organized religion. But I feel people are free to worship what they want. And not every mormon leaves for the same reason. That doesn't even make sense. And just like in any religion there are things that are backed up by scientific proof. DO I believe that it means the religion is true? No, but I understand why each religion believes what they believe.

      oh and by the way, there are always large amounts of people that think each religion is bizarre. So I guess every religion is a cult.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      MormonChristian (there is no such thing by the way): you ignore the facts: cult or not, NO ONE has ever proven anything about the Nephites and Lamanites and all investigation, even by the LDS church, has shown this to be the case. It's ok to be wrong sometimes.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      From a Mormon (see MormonChristian's post): "Nothing has been proven about the Book of Mormon". I rest my case 🙂

      March 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Yeah exactly, I would rather trust non-bias sources. Mormons certainly would be biased. I would trust secular sources who have nothing to lose/gain from talking truth about the Mormon faith.

      Do you ever talk badly about Scientology? I'm sure you have. Everybody who isn't a member has. What do you really know about it though? Are you sure you aren't trusting biased sources?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • MK

      Every religion IS a cult.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Ex-mormon

      Actually, I don't talk about any religion. Besides the lds church because my family is still Mormon. And they are kind, loving, non culting people. So no I've never said a word about that religion, because honestly, I have no idea what it's about. And quite frankly I don't care. I don't care about any religion. I just don't think people should talk about being disrespectful and then be the most disrespectful people I have ever seen. When they don't even understand anything about what the mormons actually believes. They hear one thing and run with it. Ignorant

      And ps mormonchristian was restating what you all said and then disproving it. He wasn't actually saying nothing has been proven.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Itsacult

      itsacult

      March 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  17. ruducky2

    Learning the dogma (and motivation) of this Mormon practice has quelled the ire of the Recovering Catholic in me. As a Catholic (as for most Christians) on the surface this practice looks like a self-righteous grasping get famous names into the religion. That's simply not the case. The belief is that the practice allows someone who is already dead to convert if they chose to do so. Whether that happens is between the dead person and God.

    I won't list the all reasons that I label myself a 'recovering Catholic' or even a 'recovering Christian.' But I will share that the exclusive nature of religious salvation has always bothered me. The question of how a benign and loving creator could say, "That Christian child-molesting axe-murderer who spent 99% of his life making people's experience in the world worse can repent and still obtain salvation. But that Buddhist who spends his whole life making the world a better place, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, basically all the acts (sans miracles) that Christ lived by has no chance of salvation because he did not believe in the creator (the way he was supposed to). To me this idea has always turned the benevolent loving creator into a cruel self-serving egomaniac, not even close to my idea of a supreme being. It does sound like people manipulating people.....

    Now I learn that the Mormons have a way for that Buddhist to achieve salvation and everybody is upset because it somehow diminishes their faith..... There simply is no end to the exclusion.....

    March 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      At last. Someone who finally understands how we see it. It wouldn't be fair to the 99% of people who have lived without a chance to accept Christ as their Savior to never have that chance just because they were born in a certain place or time. There is no forcing them to accept it – it is only a gift. I never thought of it "making someone Mormon" until I read it here. Besides, there are no sects or divisions of any kind in the next life. Only children of God, brothers and sisters.

      Proxy baptism is also an affirmation of our faith that God lives and Jesus' atonement is for all men and women of all ages. We always have our freedom to choose. And there are so many people of all backgrounds who have lived such great lives. God doesn't force us into anything.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @MormonChristian – Do you really believe all of the crap you just said, because I have to say i'd rather have my nads smashed by a hammer than sit next to you on an airplane or bus, etc.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  18. Jason

    Something not really dwelt upon in this article is also the Mormon belief that these "proxy baptisms" only allow the individual on the other side to accept the baptism as if they had the opportunity to be baptised in this life. According to LDS beliefs, if the person that has passed on chooses not to accept the baptism... it is not of any efficacy anyway. This is in no way under their belief system some kind of "forced" conversion.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  19. Andy Daniel

    The very wording of this controversy is strange. The Mormons did NOT baptize Anne Frank or any other Jewish person who died long ago. If a living Jew decides to convert to a Christian faith, and chooses to be baptized, that person is baptized. The Mormons performed a ritual of their own that they believe changed the soul of these departed Jews, though I don't subscribe to that belief.

    The practice is somewhat offensive because it tells living Jews (and other non-Mormons) that they have failed the departed but the Mormon church is stepping in to save them. I would be far more offended by this if I believed that it had any effect, but with all due resoect to my Mormon friends, I don't subscribe to the belief so my offense taken is far less.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  20. bob

    This is crazy their religion is out of bounds on this matter. Religion is a choice the dead don't make choices so they don't need it presented to them. Keep you hands in your own lap mormonism has to be the most disrespectful religion i have ever seen.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Madder

      In Mormon theology- the dead do make choices and the can choose to reject the baptism.. Mormonism is the most disrespectful religion you have ever seen? Are you seriously joking? So the fundamentalist Muslims that kill innocent Americans in the name of the religion is less disrespectful? Get a life and stop being so judgmental.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • MormonChristian

      If you don't believe in an afterlife or that we go on living (making choices) then it doesn't matter. I find it far more offensive to say unless you're in the 1% that gets baptized in this life, you're damned. We believe everyone goes to some eternal reward (less pleasant for those who have made poor choices here e.g. murderers, etc.) and you go to a place to be with people that you feel comfortable with. Same as here for the most part.

      If you're a Christian and you believe that faith in Christ can wipe away your sins, then why not make it available to everyone.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:50 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.