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. W0ofie

    I hereby unbaptize everyone.

    We are all going to hell together.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Kyle Michel Sullivan


      February 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  2. Kyle Michel Sullivan

    What bothers me is that the Mormons do this to the dead whether they wanted it or not. Even those who specifically disparaged the Mormon "faith." Apparently these people don't believe in free will. They don't believe in self-determination. They only believe that you go their way if they want you to, and that's all there is to it. It's a sick religion that claims to be based in God but acts like spawn of the devil.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jim

      Mormons do these baptisms so that people can have to opportunity to accept or reject the baptism done on the other side. They believe that the baptisms are only valid if the diseased person accepts it, which they won't know. So yes these people so have a choice according to Mormon doctrine.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Kyle Michel Sullivan

      Excuse me, but what part of "NO" do you not understand? Romney's fathe-in-law did not want to be Mormon but was baptized despite his wishes. What is it about that fascistic behavior that you do not get? That is like communism. You do it because we want you to, and you have no say in it. Why is that not a concern to you?

      February 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • AJW3

      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 8:07 pm |
    • JCT

      Kyle, do you believe in baptisms for the dead? Is baptisms for the dead a true doctrine?

      February 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • xeno

      Jim–the diseased? Freudian slip much? It's disrespectful. Stop trying to make decisions for other people!

      February 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  3. Emperor Vadik, CA

    I think Muslims should go into Salt Lake City and start converting the dead Mormons into Muslims...

    ...just to put things in perspective for those Mormon freaks who think that this is all just innocent and not a big deal...

    February 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • JCT

      Emperor Vadik, CA....I would love it if that happened...cause I am guessing that Mormons wouldn't believe in Muslim baptisms...so it wouldn't have any affect on them in the afterlife. Haha! I say have at it! It would be awesome!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  4. Ron in California

    kman02 are you flipping serious? Those were his own words when elected. He stated he would cut the deficit in half, bring home all our troops, close Guantanamo. "He has done well", give me a break!! All he did was spend more money in 4yrs compared to 8yrs under Bush. When our country looks like Greece in 5yrs from now, don't complain, cause you voted for this yahoo.
    Mitt Romney 2012!!!!!!

    February 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • JCT

      Love it! Keep it coming!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Kyle Michel Sullivan

      Stupid is as stupid does, and usually stupid ignores fact in order to chase fantasy. Bush started two unfunded wars, gave away trillions in tax breaks, crashed the economy then gave away another trillion bucks to keep the world's financial markets from imploding, set the stage for millions to lose their jobs and homes...and it's all Obama's fault. Right. And you want to replace O with a sociopathic freak who doesn't know what his position is on any subject from one minute to the next, and who is so stupid, he actually contradicts himself within the same sentence. Yeah. Great. If Romney wins, this country is dead.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Codej

      @Ron in California

      Are you kidding? If you think Romney's going to dig us out of this ditch, you'd better think again. The same money that lines Obama's pockets lines Romney's. Don't you realize that they're basically 2 sides to the same coin? Mitt Romney is about as out-of-touch with the average American as Obama is. Just like Obama, he will say and do anything to get to the white house, with little regard of the truth and for actual follow-through. The Red vs. Blue, Conservative vs. Liberal, US vs. THEM mentality this country has been dealing with for the last several decades is what is destroying America.

      “A house divided against itself cannot stand”

      Ron Paul 2012!

      February 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  5. KeithTexas

    Somebody needs to baptize the Jews. The christians learned it from the jews after all.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  6. moonster

    I do find it offensive that Mormons baptize the dead without asking. I can understand why a Jew would be disgusted with this practice.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • JCT

      They only baptize members of their own family and as the article points out, baptizing Jews is not a Mormon practice–it happened inadvertently.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  7. Rodrick

    If Mormons are only baptizing people while saying just a name, why are Jewish people so upset over this. Its not like they believe it will do anything. If Jews don't believe that baptisms for the dead is a real ordinance I don't see why they are so upset they mentioned their families name in their temple. Its like if a baptist minister were to mention Mother Teresa in one of his sermons and how good a woman she was, if that minister just mentioned her name what does that do. If he were to say that he thinks that she is in Heaven, would Catholics be outraged? No. Im not agreeing with what these Mormons did, but its not like everybody from every religion is perfect.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • JCT

      I love your comment...I agree with ya!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Doomguy

      Because they are putting the name in a publically searchable place. If it was just words mumbled into air, then no one would care. But its the fact they are adding these names to a record which the public can look at and making it look like these people converted when they did not. Its just more religious crap that causes the world more trouble than it is worth.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • tat

      Jews get upset just about anything

      February 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Jim

      They do have files that the work is done, but they don't believe that they are converted, they just have public records to show that the baptism has been done and so that the person isn't double baptized. Mormons believe that baptism is essential, and that we need to be baptized to live with God. They also believe that they can accept or reject the baptism done in the temple.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  8. Emperor Vadik, CA

    I'm just waiting for Zeus to say...


    ...on Salt Lake City....

    February 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  9. Tom Adams

    What nonsence. I think the Mormons should baptize all jews, the dead and the living, whether they like it or not. See if that does any good. What a waist of time.

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

    If you don't believe in baptisms for the dead, then should it really matter whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint members do it? In my opinion, no, but out of respect for a particular religion who expresses that concern, then obviously, it should not proceed. What happened here, is not a revolt by the Latter-day Saint church (despite the angry Rabbi's words), but a couple of people who unfortunately slipped through the system. They instruct to only submit information for family names. This is not an affront to the Jewish religion or community.

    You can learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint belief in baptism for the dead here: http://www.lds.org/study/topics/baptisms-for-the-dead?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead and here: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/08/i-have-a-question/i-have-a-question?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead. But in short. Latter-day Saints believe that Baptism is essential for salvation (John 3:5 KJV: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."). Some may wonder why it still is necessary if they were baptized in other churches, then why would they still need to be baptized by the LDS church members through proxy. The reason is because they believe that Christ's original church in both form and doctrine, unaltered in any way, was restored to the earth again after a long time of being gone through apostasy (or a falling away –2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 KJV). Because the church believes it has the priesthood authority to baptize in his name. They believe that only through the correct Priesthood authority can the ordinance of baptism be performed. So, there are many in the world who have died not knowing Christ or having the opportunity to accept or reject His gospel and therefore, by baptizing for the dead, the Church believes that it is giving those people an opportunity in the spirit world to either accept or reject the full gospel of Jesus Christ. They use as support for their belief also the scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:29 KJV. This chapter shows how Paul was trying to convince the Corinthians that the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually occured...in his support, he said in verse 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?" Basically saying that there would be no purpose in baptizing for the dead if there wasn't a resurrection in the first place.

    Most people on here have not educated themselves to be able to make the claims on here. Instead they spew hate and anger toward things they have not even attempted to understand...often times believing what people tell them instead of researching for themselves what the church believes. I would challenge people who are responding to research the church, ask a member instead of a preacher of another faith concerning the exact beliefs of the church. I don't claim to know everything about every religion, but one thing is for sure, I am first going to try to understand them before I begin launching attacks at them for being false. Take in all the information–information from actual members or sources not biased one way or another.

    I wouldn't go to a chevy dealership to talk learn about a Ford truck would I? Nope. I would talk to someone who knows most about the product and then decide for myself than have someone tell me what to think. Become educated at the very least! Even if you despise the particular religion afterwards or you think the Baptists are just plain wrong or the Mormons are wrong–maybe you should learn about them, tolerate their beliefs and believe whatever you want to believe, but do it with some respect. Is that too much to ask?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      What a bunch of nonsense...

      ...I'm just waiting for Germans to outlaw Mormonism, like they did Scientology, be cause its an EVIL CULT...

      February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • All Seeing Eye

      JCT – I think your magical underwear is on a little too tight.

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

      Haha! These are the exact comments that I am talking about. Thanks for making me laugh!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      Because my name is Emperor Vadik from California!


      February 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • longtooth

      Your comment is well thought out and sincere, I'm sure. As someone who is non-religious but who feels God's presence every time I walk in the woods, I must say your defense of baptizing the dead, especially those of another religion, is weak, to say the least. The more the spotlight shines on Mormonism, the sadder it appears, which is true of so many other beliefs.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Teach Evolution in Church

      Please don't try to defend the whaco cult.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Relictus

      The Mormons' practice of baptizing the dead could be considered spiritual desecration of the dead. The dead are generally treated with respect by most civilized peoples. Baptising them into another faith is sacrilegious and extremely offensive. If I was a Jew, there would be a civil suit. "Oh, sorry, our mistake" would not cut it.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • JCT

      See, I will respond to Longtooth's comment, not Teach Evolution in Church's. Longtooth, you say that it is "weak", but have you researched it and know the tenants of your faith. I think it is great that you feel God in the woods. Even if I didn't agree that you felt God was in the woods, I would still tolerate your belief...I guess that is my main jist here is that people paint labels on other people's ideas with 1) not having researched it and attempted to understand and 2) not given the other person respect and decency within this forum...I think your comment is the right tone that everyone should have, but I wish you would give reasons why you think it is weak.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • JCT

      Relictus, and just what would your legal claim be? Just curious? Didn't know there was such a legal right? Second of all, you compare desecration of the dead with using someone's name in a building while someone else is baptized in proxy as the same? While there definitely is room for disagreement, to me these two things are quite far apart. Furthermore, if they didn't believe in religion or this particular Mormon practice, then why would it matter to them? They don't believe in it anyways. Furthermore, it does not indicate that then a member of the church or even that in the spirit world that they are forced to accept the baptism...only that they have the opportunity to accept or reject it.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Please please take some advise

      I grew up with one side of my family telling me I am Irish as Irish can be and how important it is to be confirmed Catholic and my other side of the family telling me I am Jewish, born of a Jewish mother and will always be Jewish.
      I get that people who are Mormon feel threatened by other Christians making fun of them at there own expense. It is not nice, nor is it “Christianly”. After all people, it doesn’t matter whether you are Mormon or Catholic or Baptist, you all believe in one fundamental thing: Jesus Christ is your Savior. Isn’t this correct?
      One thing most of you do fail to realize is that like Christians, there are many different beliefs that Jewish people have except for one fundamental thing: God will send us the messiah. He hasn’t come yet. Some Jewish people believe that Jesus Christ was a prophet, but they do not believe that he is their Savior.
      So, when I read all this garble about why is it such a big deal to the Jewish people, it irritates the hell of me (pun sort of intended). Just as you do not appreciate others making remarks about your beliefs, you think that somehow you understand what is best for someone else, or that it isn’t a big deal to them- those who you don’t know- who do not have the same fundamental belief system that you do? Really? You know what it would be like for someone who was murdered for their own religion to be baptized after their dead into a religion that they don’t and never would believe in? A religion fundamentally different then theirs? Really?
      I can’t say that I haven’t been the type of person in my life to make snide remarks or comments to others before. I can’t say I am Christian nor can I say I am Jewish really. I will just say this, I am religious. So please take a piece of advise from a religious Irish Catholic Jew, it is okay to believe in whatever you want but once you start forcing your religion down others – the living and dead -you sometimes reap what you sow my friend.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  11. w w

    How about an apology for proxy baptisms of everyone else? This is why Church of Latter Day Saints is so big into genealogy. They make their members research their family trees, stand in line in a room where there is a big tank of water, and spend all day going in and out of the tank, getting dunked for every member of their family they have records for. And yet we're not supposed to call this religion a cult. I'M SICK OF THE "I'M A MORMON.COM" COMMERCIALS! Fake, fake, fake.

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

      Haha! Your'e funny. It bothers you that Mormons are actually real people? I can understand that.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • w w

      As a matter of fact, how about an apology from everyone in the entire whole world! I just need an apology, people!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Rodrick

      Haha you want an apology from everyone in the world because Mormons and everyone else bothers you?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • DPCA

      Yes the Mormons are forced to be nice to people and help them out whenever they can. They also are forced to ride bicycles everywhere and wear only white dress shirts.

      Grow up people and find something else to worry about like breathing.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  12. candy

    If they share the same heaven and hell, why would anyone care whether one's enrolled in Mormonism of Judaism? Maybe they don't, then which one is better?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  13. Trevor

    Ahhh more insanity brought to you by religion.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  14. Gary D.

    OK, I'm confused because this makes no sense at all. Precisely how, does someone who died in WW I (~1914-1918) and someone else who died in 1942, get "Baptised"....by proxy? Did they exhume the bodies and hold a secret, dead body, swimming ceremony, or was it just a prayer said on their behalf?

    February 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Sherri

      They do their own little ceremony and do it 'by proxy'. The deceased is not present. This is what they do. I've heard about this for years. YOU could even be baptised, by proxy by them.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • JCT

      They have baptismal fonts (comparable to a hot tub) and they baptize the person in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and then baptize a person as proxy. They do not exhume the bodies.....really man? Haha!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • JCT

      Sherri is correct only in that it would only be after you are dead. Furthermore, if you don't believe it is true, then it really should have no affect on you....but if you are miffed about what you may think is not true...be assured you will be able to accept or reject the baptism. Haha!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  15. sadie

    I live in SLC and the Mormon culture is very rigid. If you drink coffee, you go to hell, if you smoke you go to hell, if you swear, you go to hell, just about everything their male authorities say, Mormons believe. I never could understand this strange ritual of baptism of the dead, however Mormons are instructed to do this. Mormons are sheep. they do not know how to think for themselves, they do not question authority, and please explain why they think their religion if the true religion?

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

      Apparently you haven't actually done much research or talked to many Mormons...cause...****SPOILER ALERT**** They don't.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • sadie

      Never mind...I can't think for myself, either.

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


      You should be on Jay Leno. You crack me up!! Maybe she is on crack actually. Yep Mormons also slaughter animals as ritual sacrafices too. LOL

      Do us all a favor and think before you speak.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  16. Pete/Ark

    "Anonymous" is actually Donnie Osmand writing on behalf of Mitt Romney...it's sad they won't own up to defending thier church.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Emperor Vadik, CA

    And then they say Mormonism is not a CULT...

    ...ohhhhh the things I want to say but I cant....

    February 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Beadles


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

      Oh NO!!! Not the things you can't say!!! No! Really?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • r8q2hqrfieregqgnbqerg

      Do they corn-hole the altar boys?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Lewtwo

      All religious groups are cults.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  18. RJK

    I can't for the life of me figure out why this would bother anybody? Where is the harm? I am not a mormon but I do understand that they consider it something that can be accepted or rejected by the "person" that the btizm was done for. If you dont believe the mormons are correct in their beliefs then it really should not bother anybody. Its not like they are dragging someone kicking and screaming into the faith. My jewish boss says "hey why not btiz the dead cuz the mormons might be right, who knows (nobody really). Better safe than sorry."
    BTW the mormons dont btiz their members at birth (ie children born into the faith) like most religions, they actually wait until they are 8 years old so that they can at least have some understanding of what is going on.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      You are either joking our OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Baptizing a Holocaust survivor after his death is not a big deal???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      A men and women who held on to his faith so strongly that 9 MILLION of them were gassed to death???!!!!
      Now MORMONS want to Baptize them in the Mormon faith???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      NOT A BIG DEAL??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      AUUUUGH! Oh my! AUUUUGH!

      February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Ted

    As church officials said, proxy baptisms of anyone other than the requester's relatives is just plain offensively wrong. Beyond that, out of respect for LDS friends and others on this comment forum, I'll keep my personal thoughts about LDS doctrine and administration to myself.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Deej59

      While oh so slyly letting on that you have strong opinions against it. Subtle. I have Mormon relatives and I don't mind saying I think it's one of the craziest religions of them all, and that takes some doing because, well, just trying to out-crazy the Catholics is a nearly impossible, full-time job. Yet they do it. However, let's not all lose sight of the fact that this was an individual and not the entire religion. It's clear from the comments of the Mormon spokesperson that they don't agree with that person's actions, so let's just call all this idiot's baptisms null and void and get back to our lives.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  20. Fritz Hohenheim

    Last week Bill Maher unbaptized Mitt Romney s father in law on his show. I suggest the Wiesenthal family contacts Bill Maher. I'm sure he is willing to help out for a small fee. I don't know by which authority he did it but probably by the same authority that gives the power of baptizing to the mormons: None 😀

    February 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Please please take some advise

      Oh my God!! That is awesome. I am going to have to try to find that episode. Thanks for sharing!!

      February 15, 2012 at 8:31 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.