September 2nd, 2010
06:39 PM ET

Mormons and Jews reach agreement on posthumous proxy baptism

CNN's Kelly Marshall submitted this report from Washington:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. product technology

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    April 9, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  2. Kenneth

    I have already said elsewhere that i believe that those (ANYONE ANYWHERE) who want to avoid baptisms for the dead should not have to be subjected to it.

    i agree...how much clearer do i have to make it ?

    February 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  3. Trollface

    I just converted the whole Mormon database over to Church of Troll by taking the ceremonial morning pizz. Lets see them do something about it!

    October 9, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  4. Mike

    As an active Mormon, it is always so interesting to me to read these comments and see how I am viewed by others and by the media. For anyone who is interested in knowing why one dude is standing by his religion, I have a sort of profile which explains why I am a Mormon: http://mormon.org/me/2G66/

    October 9, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  5. John

    Ask yourself why the Mormons want all those souls converted, when only Mormons can have their own planets and be godlets. One word: servants. Most of us might think we're on the way to heaven, or hope so anyway, but the Mormons have a different plan for us.

    October 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Most of us??? Speak for yourself dufus. Most of us think the earth will end when the sun exapands into a red giant in 4 or 5 billion years. You religious delusionists all have different futures from us sane people, with some of you going to fairy tale heaven, and some going to other fairy tale places. Please, don't think for a second that your delusions are any less whacked out than the mor(m)ons, it's just one kook-cult stacked on top of another. Your particular delusion has built-in protection measures to ensure that you don't see the absurdities of your delusions, while, ironically, finding all the absurdities in any other persons competing delusion.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  6. Michelle

    Here's what I object to... not like anyone will see this, since it's been almost a year... but religion is about GOD. When one religion decides for anyone of any *other* faith that they will baptise them after death so they can go to THEIR religion, it's arrogant and offensive. Choice after you die? I was born Jewish, I AM Jewish, and Jewish is how I will remain throughout eternity. Baptise your own, and leave everyone else alone!

    October 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. hallel

    All this attacking each other isn't helping the rest of the human race, shows we are willing to argue about petty stuff just to keep us from finding the truth. so ask YHVWH/God abt what is true here, let him lead you.

    December 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Some people, like yourself, are obviously too stupid to see that it's because you can't keep your pie hole shut about your religious delusions that is causing all of our problems. At least you agree that your beliefs are "petty stuff". Since your delusions are "petty stuff", why you would still hold on to them, especially since that's what's causing the problems? You are sick with severe mental delusions and should be committed to an insane asylum, thank you.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:56 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.