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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. Don

    I've been going to the genealogy library for years. Every time I go hear someone coughing. I have went from floor to floor and I always hear someone coughing. This has went on consistently for over a year every time I go to the library it is the same. Sometime I can see that the person is visibly sick and coughing. I have gotten sick on more than one occasion. Besides be distracting, apparently there is an organized effort to make people sick at the library. With these fanatical people I am wondering when they unleash an infectious disease. Since the elderly often go to the library I am wondering how many people they have killed. These anti -Mormon people are up to no good. I'm surprised this has not gotten any attention.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Visitor from Andromeda

      Can you say raving paranoia.

      March 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  2. Visitor from Andromeda

    What the hell is going on over here ? We heard there was intelligent life on Earth. I guess not.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  3. I see dead people!

    eek!
    lol people will believe the most ludicrous bullsh!t imaginable.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  4. Cowcharge

    I wish we'd had a hottub in church when i was little...

    March 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  5. Hales

    Its nice to see sane articles on baptism for the dead. In pracitce it is a great way to help people form a sense of connection between the past and the present–between themselves and God and their families.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      And a great way to trample all over the memories of people who were slaughtered for their beliefs.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bizarre

      "sane articles on baptism for the dead."

      Impossible.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • sam

      Oh, this is going to be epic.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • guest

      IamDeadlySerious - If I sit down and write on a piece of paper that you are now a communist, and I fill out the forms and sign them for you (proxy), then does that make you a communist?

      If you are not a Mormon, what difference does it make what they do. You don't believe they are anything meaningful so anything they do is meaningless and null. All this whining is meaningless energy going towards nothing at all.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • sam

      @guest: Reading your nonsense is a waste of time. And since time is all we have in this life, then you are a thief of my life.

      LOL

      March 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      guest-

      How would you feel if NAMBLA added you to their roll books after you died?

      March 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • sam

      I just wrote down on a piece of paper that guest is a communist. Welcome, comrade!

      March 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I don't think the Mormons are claiming any of these posthumous baptisms as members of LDS. It's perhaps like praying for someone of another religion, just a little more weird.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • guest

      imdeadlyserious - I'm not surprised to hear you are a NAMBLA fan.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Bizarre

      @guest,

      I'm not surprised that @deadly's point flew right over your ^^^^^ head ^^^^^.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  6. jj

    Religion is just children whistling in the dark, trying to explain the great mysteries.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  7. Peter Johnson

    This article is really much about nothing. So, the Mormons do vicarious work, big freaking deal. Catholics turn normal people into Saints, millions of other people believe in reincarnation, now you're a man tomorrow a dog, not much of stretch there, but that's what they believe, then you have those who don't believe in ANYTHING, those are the dangerous ones. They can pick up a gun and shot anyone that crosses their path and have no guilt at all for taking someone's life. So, Mrs. Ravitz, what is your freaking point? Jews are also kinda wackos themselves with their celebrations and rituals, so why take it up with Mormons??? WELL, I THINK WE ALL KNOW WHY, BECAUSE OF MITT ROMNEY.... If you guys weren't so obvious about your bias, it would even be interesting to read about this stuff. Most Christians should know about this kind of stuff IT'S IN THE BIBLE, yep, I just read the link posted here and voila. It shouldn't be something new to Christians, but then again, most people are not very good Christians anyway. But please, if you're going to be so bias against Mormons, don't even bother, if you're gonna write something for our benefit, try to be true to your writing and impartial. THAT'S THE LEAST YOU CAN DO... Unless of course you're supporting Obama, which I think that's what you're "hinting" at here!! wink, wink!! 😉

    March 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Tano

      ... Amen to that!!

      March 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • UtahNative

      You're a fool if you think "this stuff is in the Bible." Mormons follow the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, etc, etc. Mormon belief is that the Bible is incorrect; thus, the Book of Mo' corrects all teachings and is not profoundly correct. Just like blacks not being allowed into the Mormon Priest Hood until 1978. Come on Peter, it's clear you know very little about Mormonism...

      March 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jason

      Utah Native: Mormons belive Paul referenced this practice being performed in the early church.

      1 Cor 15:29 "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

      March 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • GodPot

      "those who don't believe in ANYTHING, those are the dangerous ones. They can pick up a gun and shot anyone that crosses their path and have no guilt at all for taking someone's life."

      How and why would a person who does not believe in an afterlife not have guilt? Is that where guilt is derived? From a belief in an afterlife? Is that the only reason you behave? So as not to burn or be tortured in some afterlife? If so then I feel sorry for you that you are so void of human empathy that the only reason you are not out shooting people in the head is because of the fear of eternal torture or a promise of eternal ecstasy.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • frank

      Mormons are not christians-fact they are MORMONS!

      March 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  8. Ungodly Discipline

    That fat Clemenza on Proxy Baptism:

    Come on, don't fool around. Just let your hand drop to your side and the holy water will slip out. Everyone will still think you've got it. They're gonna be staring at your face. So walk out of the place real fast, but you don't run. Don't look nobody directly in the eye, but don't look away either. They're gonna be scared of you, believe me, so don't worry about nothing.

    And don't forget the cannoli.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  9. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find this.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • guest

      Reading your nonsense is a waste of time. And since time is all we have in this life, then you are a thief of my life.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Moelips

      Hey guest...no one is making you read this but you. So, you are the one wasting your life. Unreal.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  10. LORD HAVE MERCY

    I'm not religious....sometimes I feel that it is unfortunate....and i generally am jealous of those who believe and gain something from it....BUT....i really wish people would keep their beliefs to themselves and stop pushing it onto people....If people want to follow a code built thousands of years ago...more power to you....if you don't....great........please leave everyone else out of it.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  11. iamdeadlyserious

    There's a new website that's been established: All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay. It gives dead Mormons that final chance to convert to being gay, and since they're dead, we can just say they are anyway.

    Convert away!

    March 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  12. McJesus

    Fairies are real, because I believe in them. If you sing, spin around twice, click your heels, and say the word amen... they'll appear and sprinkle magic dust on you and giggle.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • LORD HAVE MERCY

      So has Jerry Sandusky been taking stage acting classes?

      March 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  13. AnnieR.

    mitt romney had his father-in-law, (a scientist, and lifelong atheist) baptized 14 months after his death....i believe this is a true reflection of romney's character (or lack thereof)...and if he and his wife are christians and not cult members, are they aware of the fourth commandment? (Honor thy father and thy mother...)

    March 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • guest

      The Romney's believe they are honoring their parents by performing these ordinances for them. And who are you to say they are or are not honoring them. You have no standing in any decision they make about anything.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Baptized him 14 months after he died? What took them so long?

      March 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • sam

      They had to make sure he would stay down, first.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Jason

      And according to their beliefs... he can still continue to reject the baptism if that is what he wants.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Pete

    I pledge a couple of hours every week to baptising dead mormorns into the Church Of Satan's Butt hole. Awarm, moist place in which to enjoy the rest of eternity.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  15. McJesus

    Magic spells are real. So are witches. They float because they are made of wood. So if a witch downs when forced underwater, she isn't a witch.

    This was once acceptable 'common knowledge' by the so-called faithful. Plenty more where that came from, and most of it continues to be spewed as 'truth' today.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Reload

    Mormons have been doing this since the 1800's. The only reason there is a story on CNN about this is Mitt Romney. And the only reason CNN would continue running story after story on this is that they are carrying the water for Obamajama. Two years ago no one cared. Now CNN runs about one story a week on this subject. Pympn for the prez.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Michael

      No the reason this is happening is because the Mormons do not respect other peoples beliefs. There may or may not be a political aspect to this story because of Romney but the fact remains that this has happened and the more people who know the better. The Mormons are converting the dead by proxy into their religion regardless of what that person believed when he or she was alive. I find that abhorrent and disgusting beyond belief. I am an atheist. When I die will the Mormons convert me to?

      March 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Moelips

      Come on, reload, these people are obviously a little looney. Baptizing dead people is, well, not effective because when you do so....it's only to the shell of what used to be a person. The soul, spirit or their essence is what is cleansed through baptism and, if I'm not mistaken, requires the person's free will to give themselves. For the Mormons to assume that their tradition is what's best for the dead person is actually like the government telling you to go to church. So...I do see something inherently wrong with their beliefs. Its odd, disrespectful, if not downright arrogant for them to assume to know better.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jason

      Micheal and Moelips. Mormons don't believe they are converting anybody with these baptisms. Rather, they believe that baptism is an ordinance all people need to have the opportunity to accept or reject... even if they didn't know about it in this life. According to LDS theology... those who have passed on have the free will to reject the baptisms performed for them on their behalf... if so... the ordinance is null and void for that individual anyway.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Moelips

      Jason, again, in your own words... "Rather, they believe that baptism is an ordinance all people need to have the opportunity to accept or reject"...the key here is THEY BELIEVE what all people need. That is assuming that they know better than the rest of us, meaning they are right and we are wrong. You made my point. I don't mean to sound aggressive in defense of my perspective, I am merely stating that it is arrogant to assume you know what is better or right for other people.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  17. athesguy

    what to say about a religious cult that was started by a conman?

    March 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • McJesus

      The problem is.. the conman was rid of by a rampaging mob. The religion wasn't.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Pete

      What a pity to have so many people infected by such a ridiculous faith.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ..

    March 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • McJesus

      Leprechauns change everything they touch into gold. Your Jesus can't do that. So there!

      March 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~~.......

      March 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      My OCD demands I do these things

      March 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Someone

    So much hate over something so stupid. Consider this: There are two possible outcomes here. Either the Mormons are right, in which case what they're doing is God's will, or they're wrong, in which case they use a name when they dunk someone else underwater in their temples. In the latter case...who gives a crap? Really, does it somehow crap on someone's memory because the Mormons have a database that says so-and-so had their name read aloud in a baptism ceremony decades after they died? Does that somehow diminish that person's time while they were here? So many small people in here are obviously looking for a reason to hate. I pity you. Quite frankly, I don't give a crap what Mormons do in regard to the names of dead people within the walls of their temple. It has zero effect on me and it has zero effect on the dead. Give it a rest already and save your outrage for something that actually affects you instead of leaping on a group of people for doing something that really has no effect on anyone but them.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Someone,

      I appreciate that you don't feel that it would have the least bit of effect on you if history recorded you as a willing convert to the LDS church. You may want to consider, however, that the people in question here are Holocaust victims. They died for their religion. Saying a few magic words and giving them a posthumous conversion without their consent or the consent of their loved ones is beyond disrespectful.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Someone

      Do tell, how exactly is history going to say that ANYONE was a willing convert to the LDS church when they are baptized by proxy? It's a record in an LDS database. That's it. They don't send this off to history books, they don't stuff this into government census records, they don't change the person's life history to say that they were baptized during their lifetime. They don't use this data outside of their church.Ergo, it has no effect on the dead. It has no effect on anyone. I don't care if fifty churches posthumously baptize me after I'm gone. It won't make the slightest difference as to what I did in my lifetime, and no piece of history will ever say that I joined said church while alive.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      But the church's actual membership logs will show you as a converted member.

      Again, you don't care, but since you have so much respect for a religious ritual, have some respect for the people who don't want their memories dishonored by it.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jason

      iamdeadlyserious: You are mistaken. The church's logs only show that the person had a baptism performed for them.... it says nothing on if they were "converted" or not. LDS theology is that everybody should have an opportunity to accept or reject baptism, including those who did not have the opportunity in this life. Such should be afforded them by their relatives according to the LDS church. If the person who has passed on chooses not to accept the baptism done on their behalf... it is null and void anyway.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  20. sp2011

    Seems the power of Jewish media forced the Mormons to rein in these baptism. Seriously, otherwise this would go unnoticed.

    March 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jason

      No... this was reported YEARSSSS ago.... and the church took a stand on this YEARSSS ago...... it is only coming up THIS week because elections are being held in the south NEXT week.

      March 9, 2012 at 5:22 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.