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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. Jonathan

    Honestly, you would think from the reaction to all this that they were abducting people off the street, holding them under water till they nearly drown, and forcing them to be a member of the church. If you believe in the Mormon faith, then you honestly want to give people the most opportunity to reach Heaven that you can. If you don't believe in the Mormon faith, but you believe some other religion, then why should you care what they do? You don't believe that what they do has any real power, so let them have their lists if it makes them feel better. It doesn't change the standing of that person in the afterlife. And if you don't believe in religion at all, then it's just another crazy religion doing a crazy thing for someone who's now nothing more than a pile of dirt. Either way, lighten up everyone.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • VinoBianco

      agreed.

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

      Well said

      March 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • The Truth

      If you're Mormon, you just insist you're right and encourage people to "find out for themselves." If you're not Mormon and are most any other type of Christian your duty revolves around condemning people to Hell, especially Mormons (cuz your preacher's livelihood is threathened by their existance and they dedicate entire sermons to the Mormon Problem). If you're atheist and you're also unintelligent, then you spend ridiculous amounts of time bashing on people's beliefs because this somehow makes you seem like a better and more intelligent person. This is pretty much all you need to know about CCN Belief Blogs.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Cindy

      Jonathan,

      You seem to miss the entire point. The LDS church baptizes the dead without the preapproval or permission. They don't have the right to do that. It's wrong. It's disgusting. And it's so incredibly disrespectful. The Mormon church, and it's missionaries, and it's members, don't have any respect for personal boundaries. I have the FREE AGENCY to choose my lfie and spiritual path, while alive and after physical death. YOUR church doesn't have the right to impose THEIR beliefs on me and make me a member after death on their membership rolls that literally would make me roll over in my grave over. I wouldn't give you my consent while I was alive. Why on earth do you think it's ok to arbitrarily take my good name and legacy and do it after my death?

      You also miss the "bigger" reason why the LDS church wants all it's "worthy" members to devote their time to temple work. They instill in them they HAVE to do this to memorize the chants, handshakes, tapping, etc., to get into the Celestial Kingdom. Just like they have to give 10% of their gross income to the church. Nothing like buying your way into heaven! Stop thinking everyone wants to be like you, and stop thinking YOU know more than anyone else. I'm exercising my free agency right now by thoroughly rejecting your church. That won't be change for all the eternities, so back off my soul, buddy!

      March 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  2. VinoBianco

    This is all so stupid. Baptism is just a dumb religious ritual. Who cares?

    March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  3. Ron

    To all believers out there (of any religion), are you so insecure about your faith that you care at all about what rituals Mormons perform? I'm an atheist and I couldn't care less if someone decided to perform a "virtual baptism" on me, my relatives, or anyone else, living or dead. If that's what makes Mormons feel good about themselves, then, heck, go for it. It's not like other religions don't have any silly rituals-oh, wait...

    March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  4. TJeff1776

    Cville2Cville.....a lesson to ya..........Christ said to the thief on the cross "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise"..........BUT
    Peter answered later in the New Testiment "Being put to death in the flesh Christ went and preached to the spirits in the prison world." SO where did the thief go ??? The answer is obvious, BUT unlikely to come from you.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • dalai dalai dalai

      DEAR GOD, PLEASE CONVERT ALL MORMONS TO GAY NOW! Please make it happen immediately in the most peaceful and loving way. Please convert all mormons to gay in the name of father, son and holy ghost. Amen.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam

      Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

      March 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  5. dalai dalai dalai

    Everybody, please join me in my prayer. DEAR GOD, PLEASE CONVERT ALL MORMONS TO GAY NOW! Please make it happen immediately in the most peaceful and loving way. Please convert all mormons to gay in the name of father, son and holy ghost. Amen.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • VinoBianco

      please, shh. this comment is ignorant and makes no sense.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Atheism is bad for children and other living things

      This is my troll space!! You move along!

      March 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  6. Calvin

    The impoetant issue here is that by doing so, they believe that others will no be saved unless they are Mormon . So they want everybody to be baptized , but this is not new to any religion. Isn't every religion on earth tell it's followers that

    March 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. dalai dalai dalai

    Everybody, lets pray together! Dear god, please turn all mormons to gay right now!!! Please make it happen in the most happy and peaceful way! God, please convert all mormons to gay now!!!

    March 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Tigh

    How nice for them.

    How many people would want to be baptized against their will AT ALL? 99.99999999% you say?

    No credit for quitting only a small portion of their dumb creepy behavior.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  9. dalai dalai dalai

    So if prayer changes things, can I really change all mormons to gay just praying for it? I will give it a try. If you guys can mess with us, so can we. Right?

    March 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  10. Tom Roll

    I don't see what the fuss is about. They can proxy baptize anyone they want – it won't make a difference because Mormonism is a false religion.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Tom Roll,
      Ah, good to know. Everyone can to searching, now. Tom knows which religions are true and which are false.

      All hail Tom.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • JT

      False religion as in it's all complete BS? You mean there's one that is not?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Nonimus

      to -> stop

      March 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Ryan

      I wonder Tom, how it is that you define religion? The word "religion" means to re-connect. So by pure definition, what you believe to be as a "false" religion, is a very ignorant statement. To dismiss a religion just because you don't agree with it - well I ask you what that sounds like........

      March 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • terre08

      "I don't see what the fuss is about. They can proxy baptize anyone they want – it won't make a difference because Mormonism is a false religion."

      No doubt about that, but so are all the other religions as well.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Saying false religion is way too redundant.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  11. Ryan

    I am very concerned about the eternal soul of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. So I baptized both them as pagans. Your welcome.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Correct123

      God bless you.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  12. oneSTARman

    Even if you are an ATHEIST there are Social Implications. We have a Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, who has been Taught (Mormon D&C 132) that because he Performed all the Temple rituals – he will be EXALTED to a GOD in Heaven. The REST of the 99% can ONLY at BEST – because they have been given the Blessing by Proxy – become 'ministering angels' of the 1% GODS.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • elwood

      I want to see those "Golden plates" of Elmira, NY! And I also want to see
      the "Domino Effect" of Southeast Asia. And of Course I want to see the
      "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Mitt believes in the "Golden Plates"
      so I will pray for him after he loses the election. Yeeepeeeeeee!

      March 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Correct123

    Did you know the Mormons are monitoring all of these comments! Anyone leaving a comment in this discussion will be baptized as a Mormon. See you on planet Kolob.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  14. Organized Religion

    Can anyone answer what good comes from Religion? How many lives have been lost over the ages in the name of Religion, Religious Crusading Wars and Religious Persecution? After all, it was the Catholic Church who cut and pasted at the First Council of Nicaea the religious doctrine that the entire Christian world was expected to adopt.
    In our western society today it has been decided by the United States Supreme Court that freedom of speech can include the actions of burning of books (Bibles, Books of Mormon and Korans), flags and religious edifices such as portraits and likeness of persons (Jesus, the Pope, Muhammad, and Joseph Smith). Is this good conduct?
    One of the major problems on our collective table today is an Islamic Society located in Iran who would use nuclear weapons to destroy anyone burning their version of Religious Fiction. Perhaps all the surviving Mormons can baptize all the dead non-Mormons after this event has been played out.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      Establishing MOST American Hospitals and Schools – Fighting for Abolition of Slavery – Things like that

      March 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Almost everyone fighting against the abolition of slavery was religious as well so that's a bad example. Hospitals and schools would have probably been put in place anyway except the schools would have been teaching real science from day one instead of biblical science which isn't science at all.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • terre08

      @Starman

      ROTFL. They have also been the cause of hundreds of millions killed in religious wars, they have put down women for centuries and frankly anyone who goes to a religious school is asking to be indoctrinated. Btw, while some religious people were against slavery, as many were for slavery.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  15. keeth

    My family members are dead. You cannot touch them and baptize them. You might think you are baptizing "by proxy," but you are not. Your baptisms of my dead relatives are not real, and I will not recognize them. I feel in my heart and soul that my dead relatives and God himself do not recognize these sham "proxy" baptisms because you have not touched the bodies, alive or dead. Mormons are indeed sick and twisted people.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • terre08

      So are you if you believe in any of that nonsense.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  16. smm

    i wondered myself, in spite of the denial, if the radkey woman wasn't responsible for at least some of the names found, and clearly, at least some mormons have a sense of humor, why else enter mickey mouse? in a way, the whole thing is a little silly: the mormons act on the behalf of dead ppl to offer them the chance to be baptized, other people are offended on the behalf of the dead ppl who may not have wanted to be baptized, and the dead ppl are still dead, and the only ones who would be in the way of knowing whether there is an after life to even need to be baptized to access anyway. we can't ask them if they mind the proxy baptisms until WE are dead, and since i do not intend to hasten that outcome just to find out, i choose not to get my panties in a wad over it. i can see why ppl find it offensive, but i do think that for the most part, these proxy baptisms are done with no ill intent. they are trying to extend a courteous invitation to the souls of those in their family who have passed, that they did not get the opportunity to while they were alive. for a lot of ppl, that's like closing the barn door after the horse gets out, but their belief system is such that they truly think that these dead folks will GET the invitation, rather like those postcards that turn up 50 years late. most established religions have some wackiness or other they try to foist on others, this is hardly the worst thing a religious group has done for the sake of the souls of the departed. some of the church members are a little...overly fervent...perhaps? every religion also has it's fair share of really nutty folk, if the worst they are doing is baptizing dead folks they never knew, meh. it could be worse. at least they are not denying a problem exists, as we have seen with ONE religion in recent history.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Doc

      First, I am not a mormon. If you don't believe that, check out my postings at Salon.com – user name MTGrizzly.

      Kolob, the existence of which has been disproven by astronomers, is either a planet or a solar system. lds doctrine isn't definitive. Like most other concepts in mormon theology, everything is subject to change. That's the good part of having a religion based on "continuing revelation." You can change things when it is politically, (African Americans admitted to the priesthood in 1978), or for any other reason you desire. And blame it on God.

      mormons think that God was once a man. Then he became an exalted man. And all lds males can strive to be 'exalted.' The church doesn't say, explicitly, that mormon males become 'God', just exalted men. This really means that men will become "as God," which reasonably translates to them being Gods, (after all, they will be exalted men, just as God was an exalted manc

      There are enough reasons to be concerned about the mormons, but repeating untrue facts doesn't add anything to the discussion.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  17. BFD

    Do they baptize the Un-Dead too?

    March 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  18. James

    Not sure how this even work theologically. Baptism is an acceptance of Jesus, e.g. exercise of freewill in acceptance, how can you do so by proxy without the person actually accepting Jesus is ludicrous. It is akin to say you will be saved if you just mouth the words and follow the rituals but do not believe in Jesus.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • smm

      "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." in theory, great aunt hilda who was a heathen in life can "hear" the invitation in death. apparently. it's what they believe.*shrug* lots of non-mormons believe in ghosts. i guess it's not the craziest thing to ever be done.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Gab

      Mormons believe the spirit keeps on existing after death -waiting for resurection. On the other side, people who received this baptism have a chance on the other side to accept or decline the gospel of Jesus Christ... But the baptism has to be done on this side of the veil...If they refuse it, the baptism is null... So in a way... free agency is still in action and you still need to accept JC as your savior

      March 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Cville2Cville

    Just one problem with this story. As an evangelical, I dispute the claim that "Jesus taught that baptism is essential to 'enter the kingdom of God' (John 3:5)." In fact, Jesus commanded baptism, but the only requirement for entry into the kingdom of God is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

    Baptism's an important act of obedience, but it doesn't get a person into the door of paradise. Remember that one thief on the cross next to Jesus' was promised heaven, although it's really unlikely the he had been baptized.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      As an evangelical, you are as much of a nut bag as the mormons so who cares what you think? Your insane.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Gopherit

      Your comment hits the nail squarely on the head! Also the article notes that Paul had somehting to say about baptising the dead in his letter to the church in Corinth, but Paul simply noted that the practice took place without making any further comment. The practice is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.

      The practice of baptising the dead by proxy or otherwise actually could be seen as impinging upon a person's right to decide for themselves whether they wish to be a part of the household of fiath. Jesus indicates that the decision has to be a conscious one and to be taken in one's earthly life and involves picking up and carrying one's own cross, enduring suffering for one's belief, which strongly implies that it involves one's phyisical as well as spiritual aspects..

      March 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jerry

      you cant be sure of that though, just because someone has sinned does not mean he was never baptized. if Christ was baptized and commanded us all to be baptized, then shouldn't everyone have a need to be baptized? our practice of proxy baptisms is just to perform the ordinance of baptism for those who have dies without having done it themselves. it is then up to them to accept the baptism, read 1 Peter 4:6 "For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." this tells us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught to the spirits in the spirit world, to those who have not had the opportunity to hear it and accept it and be baptized. this is why we do proxy baptisms.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. Nonimus

    If they baptize the dead, what about the pre-born? I'd like to get my great-great-grandchildren baptized.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      I can take care of that fer ya. Just send me your VISA #, and some names. 🙄

      March 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Who is in charge of baptizing aborted fetuses by proxy?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Don't Understand

      I know you don't actually care, but Mormons believe children to be pure and innocent, without need of baptism, before the age of 8. This, naturally, means that young children and the unborn go to Heaven. Amazing what you can find out with 5 seconds of brain power generated into making a Google search. Certainly more productive than bashing on something I don't believe in for the irrational joy of being a jerk.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I don't actually care.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Wow, I didn't know that. So much for Original Sin, and the salvation paradigm.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Tanya

      Mormons don't baptize those under the age of 8 because they believe that children are born into the world pure and do not have a full knowledge of making choices between right and wrong until they reach the age of 8 (what is also known as the age of accountability). If I child dies before this age there is no need for them to be baptized because they are guaranteed to enter into heaven. I am a practicing Mormon and there are guidelines that must be followed when submitting names, especially if there are living relatives, relatives are suppose to be contacted and asked to do a proxy baptism. Unfortunately, a small group of people do not follow that and it is both unfortunate and disrespectful. But so is virally bashing ones religion they you simply do not agree with it. Tolerance of religion couldn't be further from a lot of these posts. I am grateful this crackdown has happened, it prevents abuse from a small group of people who do not want to follow the church's guidelines that have been in place for the last 17 years.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Tanya, that was fascinating.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Tanya, you DO realize that makes Mormons essentially unchristian, and heretical, right. So what exactly happens when they are 8, if they are "born pure" ? Do they all listen to their own snakes and eat an apple ? How odd.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:51 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.