Mormons apologize for posthumous baptisms of Wiesenthal's parents
Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
February 15th, 2012
04:21 PM ET

Mormons apologize for posthumous baptisms of Wiesenthal's parents

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has apologized for "a serious breach of protocol" in which the parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized as Mormons.

The church also acknowledged that three relatives of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel were entered into the genealogy database, though not referred for baptism.

Asher Wiesenthal and Rosa Rapp were baptised in proxy ceremonies in temples in Utah and Arizona, according to the database records discovered by researcher Helen Radkey in Salt Lake City.

The Wiesenthal baptisms violated a 1995 pact in which the church agreed to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims.

"We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names," said church spokesman Michael Purdy.

"These submissions were clearly against the policy of the church. We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person's ability to access our genealogy records."

Mormons believe that they may be baptized by proxy for deceased ancestors who never had that opportunity.

Church members, however, are supposed to request such baptisms only for their own relatives, Purdy said.

The agreement over Holocaust victims came about after it was discovered that hundreds and thousands of names had been entered into Mormon records.

Jewish leaders said it was sacrilegious for Mormons to suggest Jews on their own were not worthy enough to receive God's eternal blessing. Radkey, who has been tracking Mormon genealogy records for a while for people who ought not to be there, said she inadvertently stumbled upon the Wiesenthal name a few weeks ago. Among others people she discovered had been baptized by proxy is President Barack Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the baptisms.

Wiesenthal's father died in combat in World War I. His mother perished at the Belzec concentration camp in 1942. Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal died in 2005 after spending years hunting down Nazis.

"We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon Temples," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who participated in many of the high-level meetings between Jews and Mormon officials.

"Such actions make a mockery of the many meetings with the top leadership of the Mormon Church dating back to 1995 that focused on the unwanted and unwarranted posthumous baptisms of Jewish Victims of the Nazi Holocaust," he said in a written statement.

He expressed gratitude to Radkey for "exposing the latest outrage."

Radkey also found the names of relatives of Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

"In this case, the Wiesel family names were not submitted for baptisms but simply entered into a genealogical database," Purdy said. "Our system would have rejected those names had they been submitted."

Purdy said it was "distressing" that church members had violated policy and regretted that "an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention."

Radkey said the church makes such breaches possible because any member can submit a name not connected to their own family.

"There are way too many entries slipping through the cracks, including Jewish Holocaust victims," she said. "It's (the Mormons') belief to save the dead that is causing the problem."

Wiesel, meanwhile, told the Huffington Post that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, should speak to his own church and tell them to stop the practice of proxy baptisms on Jews.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • Mormonism

soundoff (2,053 Responses)
  1. kmh

    As a mormon, I feel the need to clarify that those involved in this did so against church policy. Consent of living family members needs to be given. However, I think the timing of this issue is not coincidental. Liberal media knows how to bring about controversial subjects when it works in their favor. At this point, I imagine the media is hoping to link MItt Romney to this story so that he loses credibility and voter base. Not that I am a big fan of Romney, but I believe he is a better option than the current occupant of the WH. The article is silly to suggest that Romney call for the stoppage of such behavior. It is not Mormon policy to do so without consent and those involved should be penalized...

    February 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • AJW3

      If you baptize anyone against their will, descendant or not, then you are an arrogant narcissist.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  2. barbequebob

    I am sick of all these religious freaks and hypocrites, Mormons, Catheolics, Evangelicals, whatever.

    They are really all about power and enrichment of themsleves. May they all rot and hell and leave the rest of us alone here on earth.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  3. AJW3

    I am so happy to know I can commit all the sin and debauchery knowing I will be saved after I'm dead. Mormons.......help yourself to my soul.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      There you go!! Making lemonade.

      Too funny.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Gonzo Decadence

      That's genius! I am going to will the Mormon Church a small sum to do one of these zombie baptism thangies, and then I am going to spend the rest of my life indulging in the worst debauches I can do! This is even better than the Christian last-minute get-out-of-hell-free repentance, because you might miss that one!

      Now I have that Pascal's Wager thing totally covered, without giving up the things that make life livable!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Just so you know, we don't think this makes null and void anything you did in your life. So go ahead and do what you want, but nothing can save your soul if you do.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • AJW3

      Anonymous...........So then what's the point? Oh....I see now. You are solely doing these baptisms for you own selfish gains.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  4. jparker77

    I'm not a religious person i just came here after seeing the word ' mormon' i wanted to see all times people brought up Romney lol.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Deej59

      Funny thing is I hadn't even thought about ol' Mittens until you said that, and I hadn't seen anything in the comments about him yet, though I admit I was skim-reading them. I doubt Romney would be okay with this, but he might consider re-purposing the votes of dead Democrats. I'm not saying he would do it. Just that he might. Okay, I'm just being a troll. I thought it might be fun because so many here do it.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  5. Bill Mosby

    There may well be lots of people in the Salt Lake area related to Stanley Ann Dunham. One descendant of one of her ancestors became a Mormon in 1838 and ultimately had 10 wives; he was said to have around 10,000 descendants in the Salt Lake area back in the 70s. However, Ms. Dunham herself is not an ancestor of any Mormon.

    I had always been told that posthumous baptisms were not intended to make Mormons out of people, but rather to just give them the option of becoming Mormons in the afterlife if they want.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Mark

      You're right. I'm a recent convert to Mormonism. Tha baptisms they perform for the dead are not intended to make the deceased person a Mormon, but rather to somehow communicate to them that they can accept the Mormon faith if the deceased so chooses. We believe that the deceased does have a choice in the matter.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  6. Mama


    You really don't have a clue, do you? You're an idiot!

    February 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      Just a troll.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Mama...how typical for a little mormon to attack someone that challenges their beliefs. You just made yourself look bad by being a bully. All I'm telling people are the facts...since I grew up in the mormon church and served a mission and then had the sense to get the heck out of dodge!

      February 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  7. Eric of Reseda

    The Mormon Church is a racist organization. Always has been. Always will be. I grew up around 'em, and their public words are meaningless. This is a VERY dark organization at it's core. A vote for Romney would be un-American.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Anonymous


      February 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • JCT

      You are actually quite funny. Even though you are completely wrong, at least you are funny.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  8. Mitt R

    what's wrong with that? Darned jews

    February 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Nice try trying to make us believe you're Romney. Do you really have nothing better to do? Because he wouldn't say that.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Every comment I've read on this article has been ignorant and insulting. Have some respect for yourselves and do your research, meaning actually SPEAKING to people who are members of the LDS church, before you go make yourself look like an idiot.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • AJW3

      NO.........Don't look into their eyes! Damn......too late.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Reggae Reggie

      I know and have known quite a few Mormons. I have been to a number of Mormon functions. One was a play about a confused non-Mormon adolescent who sees the light and abandons his family for his "new family", the Mormon Church. Seriously. I am talking about maybe 1,000 in the audience, all clapping in support of the inhuman notion of dividing someone from their family for the sake of ideology.

      Oh, and the production values weere stunningly bad, which has been true of every Mormon performance i have ever seen. Terrible choreography and blocking, incredibly bad sound and lighting, stunningly insipid scripts, and acting that would make Brendan Frazier look like a Shakespearean genius. Really bad. Painful to sit through.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Look, if I wanted to know about the Hindu religion, I would speak to someone who practiced Hinduism. Same with any other faith, because that is the ONLY way I would get the truth. So why do people think they know the truth about my religion when they've never spoken to a mormon in their life??

      February 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Um, this has nothing to do with productions. And we do NOT want people to abandon their families at all. The family is the most important unit in society. The reason people were clapping was because the individual in the play had the strength to choose what he believed to be God's will for him over what his family wanted. Don't twist that into thinking we want to break up families, because that is the LAST thing we want to do.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      Reggie – I can't disagree with your second paragraph. Absolutely horribe and would definitely not pass that high standards of Hollywood. That same Hollywood that programs young people to rebel against their parents every single day, get knocked up, do drugs, booze, etc.

      Since when aren't libs for the disintegration of the family, anyway? I thought that was the only thing that stood between them and world domination?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  10. TownC

    The leadership of the church has denounced this. In addition, Mitt Romney has no say in official church policy matters. I also understand that baptizing the dead relatives of those whose families don't want it is insensitive and should not be done. However, if someone does not believe in Mormonism, why should they care?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Anonymous

      When someone asks the church not to baptize their relatives, we respect that wish. This was a mistake by one individual, and not something that members of the church (that really understand it) support.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • AJW3

      It does no harm to the deceased person that is baptized against his or her will, but it does say a lot about the arrogance and the narcissism of the person performing the baptism. If there truly is a hell then I am sure you will have a reservation waiting for you.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Um, the person performing the baptism does it out of love for the deceased. Even if my religion weren't true (which I believe it is), God would thank me for doing what I believed to be a service to His children. Do you have nothing better to do than condemn people to hell?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • AJW3

      Anonymous......you don't get it do you? If you truly loved the deceased then you would show respect for them and honor the the religion or non religion that they have chosen. Did they not have the same opportunities that you had, to make an educated decision? If not then your God must have failed them!

      February 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  11. JJ

    Oh, brother. Do these nimrods really have nothing better to do than bicker about people and their idiotic religious delusions? Please. Back under your rocks.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  12. VastRightWingConspiracy

    I love the selective outrage demonstrated by this article and the many posts.

    One religion trying to dictate to another what their beliefs/practices should be.

    The end was the best. Tell Romney to make his church stop, like the Mormon church is some populist club like these other windsock Christian churches.

    Good luck with all that.

    If you're so sure with your beliefs, who cares what anyone else is doing?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Anonymous

      We're not trying to dictate anything to anyone.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • JCT

      Haha! Couldn't agree with you more!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  13. oregonslee

    What else do Mormons do that's against their church's official policy? A little of this and a little of that.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Anonymous

      What do protestants, or catholics, or baptists, or methodists, or jews, or muslims, do against their church policy? Yeah, I thought so. People aren't perfect, no matter what they say they believe in. Don't judge a whole church based on the few who set a bad example. I know a Catholic who murdered his wife. Do I think all catholics are murderers? heck no. So shut up.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  14. Karen

    The Mormons have probably baptised my ancestors that they murdered at the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah in September 1857. I do not appreciate it.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      Nice. Some red-meat for the extreme left and the right simultaneously.

      Well played.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Reggae Reggie

      They also kept any children of those victims and made new cult members out of them.

      Early Mormon history is pretty violent and ugly. But of course, Mormons get the sanitized version today.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Mountain Meadows Massacre was a horrific event, but it was NOT done by the mormon church. It was misguided, evil individuals who I personally believe should rot in hell. You wouldn't condemn the catholic church if one catholic man murdered his family, would do? Don't do the same to the mormon church for what those evil people did.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  15. oversensitive

    can we possibly get more over sensitive!! good grief. This is such small potatoes to the rest of the worlds concerns. And the only reason CNN puts this stuff on is to link it to Romney.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  16. NoTags

    Over the years I have found out that 90% of LDS Church members don't really understand Mormonism. The 10% that do understand Mormonism have left the Church.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      And 90% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

      Nice try Jackwagon.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Cliff C

      It sounds like you are one of the 50% who does not understand Mormons

      February 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Wow you're an idiot. You must have a sad, sad life. I feel sorry for you.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Four Jumps to Insanity

    If people were destined to die from birth, sin did not cause death. So sad. Too bad.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chain of events

      We altered destiny only briefly and only because God allowed it in order to prove to all mankind we are not capable of governing ourselves with justice, no matter what form of Government we create. Now go and put your trust in man, who will fail to do right by you, pollute your environment, and allow you to do badness and call it good.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  18. Dana


    February 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  19. jma58

    The progress of civilation is being retarded by neanderthals who cling to the hope of having an afterlife.
    All that money and energy could got into making life better for everyone on this uncivilized planet. Just look at the corruption in large religions like the Catholic church. Are they any different than the priests in anchient Egypt who had so much wealth and power? Religion is and has always has been a means of controling people.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Dana


      February 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • yeahalright

      I agree. Same crock of bs, just different iterations throughout the ages.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • VastRightWingConspiracy

      Yes. Why let religion control people when we can have an ideologue control us instead? I'd much rather have my rights given and taken at the whim of a populist puppet than an imaginary man in the sky.

      Hooray for government control!!!!!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Wow, I feel sorry for your sad life. the LDS church is only the largest charitable organization on the planet. Geez, people.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  20. Chalene

    Regarding the last line, that he thinks Mitt Romney should somehow stop his church from doing something. Exactly how is he supposed to do that? Is this an argument to get rid of the separation of church and state?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • kman02

      Why can't Mitt do something? President Obama was supposed to plug the deepwater horizon well with his black az$. He was supposed to solve economic problems nearly as deep as the Great Depression in a year. He was supposed to end all wars in a year. He was supposed to do all these things with no cooperation from the idiots on the right. All of these things would amount to miracles. He's done well. Mitt, on the other hand has done nothing! Not one thing! Weak.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
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About this blog

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.