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. Alan

    Get this straight – the Mormons are not sorry at all for this. They may be sorry that it made the headlines and might hurt their darling Mitt, but any apology should be taken with a boulder of salt.

    And by the way, has CNN and its readers done any research at all into Wiesenthal and his shady and disingenuous past? This guy is as phony as the proverbial three-dollar bill.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      Actually I am a "Mormon" and I am voting for President Obama.

      February 15, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  2. Marcia4444

    Let's see if I understand this.

    Elie Wiesel's father has been languishing in he// or wherever because he died without being baptized. Then God opens up the trap door, or however you get in there, and says, "Hey, you're cleared for entry! Come on up!"

    Even for those who DO believe in God, this has got to seem ludicrous. Isn't God supposed to be pretty smart? Do these Mormons really think He's not going to figure this out?

    The real point is that whoever did this thinks he's going to earn some kind of celestial brownie points for putting names on a list. NOT.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Alan

      No, we understand this heretical doctrine much more than you think. It's you, sister, who is deluded and in a cult.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • reminj1

      You don't quite have it correct here. Mormons believe that all who die "pass on" to a place we call the "Spirit World". The spirit world is divided into just 2 places; Paradise for those who "died in Christ" (those faithful followers of Christ who've been baptised and remained faithful) and the Spirit Prison for everyone else. As our Heavenly Father is a just, loving Father, but also must abide by the "rules" which He gave to us by His son, Jesus Christ, all who would return to His presence must "enter in at the straight gate" meaning baptism. Since this "earthly" ordinace has not always been available on the earth, God has provided this solution to provide "proxy baptisms" for those who have died without the knowledge of Christ's Gospel. The Gospel was preached to those in the spirit prison (1 Peter 3:18-19), but without having the ordinance of baptism available, their acceptance of the Gospel message couldn't be completed. That's why we provide these proxy baptisms, to as many as we can find who've passed on, so, if they accept that message that's been preached to them (and they have the choice to accept or reject it) in the spirit world, the proxy baptism performed for them will be in affect as though they'd had it done for themselves while here on earth. All will have the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ and enter into "His Kingdom" by baptism if they so choose.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  3. SRH

    It's funny how ignorant people can be. All of the posts so far show an extreme lack of understanding of Mormonism and it's doctrines about baptisms for the dead. Before you go posting nonsense, try to understand what you're talking about.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Hung Jesus

      I find this interesting...lack of understanding of ignorance

      February 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Anonymous II

      I do know what I am talking about.....my sister converted to Mormonism in her teens, while our family has always been Catholic. She has been forbidden by all of us and other relatives to baptize us after our death...but who's to say that her offspring will honor this request..I think not. This specific practice should STOP!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • bravante

      I know that mormons get to use cool magical underwear

      February 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • andymosity

      Well let's see how silly things are.
      -The Book of Mormon is considered the most correct and accurate religious book on Earth yet it has been revised more than 10 times.
      -Mormons believe God lives on a planet called Kolob
      -Mormons believe that if they lead good lives they will become Gods on their own planets which completely contradicts that there are no other gods but God himself.
      -Mormons disavow polygamy but is still in the Doctrines and Covenants section 132.
      -Mormons must accept that the Joseph Smith trumps Jesus and that they alone are the TRUE CHRISTIANS
      – Blacks were allowed to survive the great flood to give Satan representation on Earth.
      -Other botanical problems are encountered when 3 Nephi 18:18 speaks of wheat in the Americas in 34 A.D. 1 Nephi 13:7, Alma 1:29 and 4:6, Helaman 6:13, and Ether 10:24 speak of linen (cloth made from flax). Barley is mentioned in Moshiah 9:9; figs in 3 Nephi 14:16, and olives in Jacob 5, 1 Nephi 17:14, 15:7, 12, 16. None of these existed here at that time. "Neas" and "sheum" are mentioned in Mosiah 9:9 as two food plants that were prominent, and grew in abundance. Yet, if they were so prominent and important, why are there no references to them in Old World literature, and why have they not survived?
      -Contrary to what 1 Nephi 18:25 asserts, North America had no cows, oxen, asses, horses, or goats "for the use of man" between 600 B.C. and the time European colonists brought them.
      -2 Nephi 17:15 lists two foods at that time, butter and honey. But Indians had no milk animals or honey bees.
      -The Book of Mormon teaches that Indians originated from Jewish settlers in the Americas that wandered away from the Lord. 1 Nephi 12:11 says that as the Jews wandered away in unbelief, "they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people." 1 Nephi 13:15 praises future Americans as being "white, and exceeding fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain." But Palestinian Jews did not have pale skin like the British.
      Need I say more? What a crock!

      February 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • GetReal

      I did baptize for the dead when I was 12. I did work in the halls of Temples. I did give my testimony. I did give sacrament. I did every thing the church asked of me. When Did I realize these people are making sense? Believe me it doesn't stop there, something as simple as not being able to press an elevator button on the Jewish Sabbath makes as much sense as baptizing for the dead. Been there done that, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, and Mormon...done em all. Studied religion because I was curious. Conclusion? Truthfully? I have not seen a miracle or God touch once in all my years. It's MEN and tradition that keeps this rolling along.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. Dan W

    It's interesting that they would apologize for this travesty, but honorable none the less. It would also be nice to hear them apologize to African Americans for insisting for so long that they had no souls.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  5. CyberV

    It's unfortunate that some religions don't respect one another. This instance was clearly a mistake, but the fact that it had happened for so long prior is just sad.

    Honestly, I've got no use for religion. I'll allow that it helps many people find guidence or inner strength, but it's just as often used as a weapon and an excuse for bigotry (see Gay or bi-racial Marriage for a couple examples). Like a punch, I have no problem with someone throwing one... as long as it stops before it hits someone.

    It seems mostly that the problem here is that the mormons aren't respecting the other religions. If the families or the deceased wanted them baptized, the families would have asked or the deceased would have listed it in their final wishes. It's like I said... You can have your religion... Just don't inflict it on the unwilling.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      What nonsense. I suppose one should get permission to pray for someone????? The mormon belief re baptism for the dead is 100% unbiblical. But that is what they believe. Cant see how it harms anyone at all. Wonders why they dont do it for everyone...that would even be better than the typical (not all) evangelical belief of once saved always saved, which is equally unbiblical, as is Catholicism's purgatory. All of these "second" chance save ideas are 100% unbiblical.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      @Bible Truth....."100% Unbiblical"??? Read 1 Corinthians 15:29; "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead crise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

      February 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  6. Anonymous II

    It is every Mormons "task" to posthumously baptize all deceased relatives into the Mormon faith, no matter what the deceased relative's faith happened to be or when they died. They don't need anyone's permission to do this as well, the request comes from a Mormon relative, even distant ones.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  7. anonymous

    Don't bother asking Mitt Romney to talk to Mormon leaders about this. His own father-in-law was posthumously baptized, so he's not about to do anything to stop this pathetic practice. Seriously, with all the problems in this country, the best thing Mormons can do with their time is retroactively baptize the dead?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Portland tony

    Although not from the movie OZ, the quote "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" seems to apply in this article. "Much ado about nothing" I'd say!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  9. innkahoots

    And POOF, your a Mormon. Now give us 10% of everything you have, or will ever have.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm |


    February 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  11. murpis

    I don't think it's Mitt Romney's job to tell the church what to do. BTW, the LDS church is not a cult.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Brooke Willson

      Not a cult? One of the definitions of a cult is that it believes that only its members are saved. Another is the possession of secret knowledge and rituals not available to outsiders. Joseph Smith's golden plates were conveniently taken back to heaven so no one could check the translations; outsiders are not permitted in Mormon temples after the temples are consecrated; outsiders may not witness marriage sealings and posthumous baptisms. Yes, it is certainly a cult.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Ron

      Not a cult? Can Mormons easily and willing leave the group? If not, they are a cult.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • TJS

      yes it is.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • John Turner

      I was raised in the mormon church in Utah in the 70's and 80's. The church has changed quite a bit in the last three or four decades. They are trying to become more mainstream and improve their image. But looking back, at least in Utah, it was a cult then. Maybe not so much now.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Brooke Willson

      BTW, Joseph Smith translated the golden plates (which were written in what he insisted was "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics - something no other linguist in history has ever heard of) behind a curtain while dictating the translation to a secretary on the other side of the curtain. Only Smith could look at the plates without being struck dead. He fashioned the Urim and the Thummim - which in the Old Testament were "divine dice" the priests used to cast lots but Smith insisted were "see-er stones" - into spectacles through which he looked and the hieroglyphics were magically translated into mangled King James English. When the first four books translated were stolen, Smith was mysteriously unable to replicate them, and declared that God said they weren't necessary anyhow.

      I'm not making this up: this is Mormon history.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • andymosity

      When a person of Mormon faith is taking a crap, and the crap pieces fall in a manner that makes this person believe their feces is the one true prophet, heir to Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, leader of men and receiver of revelation. The Mormon then takes the crap pieces from the toilet and studies them in a special baseball cap made of yak pubes, and quotes the text from the crap pieces to another who writes them down on legal note pads. The crap pieces are then named, and saved in sweet pickle jars under the bed.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • burgermeister

      Brooke, please go read an official definition of "cult", and then try again.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • murpis

      You all are funny. Maybe you should do a little research before you pass judgment. Ron- yes, Mormons can leave anytime they want.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  12. blaqb0x

    I have a great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great (great^8) grandfather. Can the mormon's baptize him?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • innkahoots

      You Bet. For a small fee, But if you call in the next ten minutes, you will recieve everlasting peace and harmony, at not extra charge. Just pay for the shipping and handling.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • MdawgMike

      Only if he's still wearing his caveman clothes.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  13. The Phist

    Mormons should apologize for being mormons. What a stupid cult.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • murpis

      I'm sorry for being a Mormon.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. JAM

    This is disgusting! Can't Christians just leave those who don't believe in their crap alone! You know Jews don't go around to other religions and say you have to convert to Judaism. Jews believe if you are not jewish you can be what ever you like so long as you live by the laws of Noah. But Christians think they have all the answers. So unaccepting and unholy!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

      JAM IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      A Christian is a follower of Christ. Jesus was very involved in telling the truth of salvation to anyone that would hear. However, the acceptance of His truths of Salvation and Holy Spirit living were and are always on a "whosoever will" basis. And the speaking of these truths is always on the basis of love for fellow man. Anyone who lays out threats, coercion, persecution, etc. is doing the work of Satan.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • bravante

      Well.. Jews believe that they are the chosen people and the rest of us some sort of second class humanoids (Note: biblical jews I mean)

      February 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Jack 0 Lantern

      Noah??? Don't you mean Moses? Oh and last time I checked the Jews believe that they are the "chosen" people. All religions believe that they are the only one and that all others fall short. OH and hey, if the mormons want to baptize me and my raltives after we are dead, I don't care, becasue IM ALREADY DEAD!!!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Jake

      When I read this headline I started popping some popcorn before I sat down and clicked the link. Hasn't disappointed.

      I love how people that believe in burning bushes, and the Red Sea parting, and others who believe in a man walking on water, and feeding thousands with a loaf of bread find other philosophies so unrealistic.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  15. Brooke Willson

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

    This is disingenuous at best. Mormons have amassed the world's largest genealogical database because they baptize many people after death, not just their relatives. This, of course, is offensive to Jews. But it is equally offensive to Buddhists, Muslims, and to all other people of faith, including Christians who have already been baptized and don't believe they need that sacrament/ordinance again, especially after death. This is one more demonstration that Mormons are not just one more Christian denomination: they are a different religion which rejects Christian baptism and believes only their sacraments are salvific.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • denver2

      "they are a different religion which ... believes only their sacraments are salvific."

      Man, how I wish this was only true of Mormons.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • FormerMormon

      Disingenuous at best indeed. The Mormon church has done this repeatedly after promising to stop. FWIW, they've also baptized Adolf Hitler numerous times, as well.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Why the Mormons baptizing for the dead should be offensive to anyone says bunches about the one who would take offense. Obviously, if it is something real (that is, it actually does what they think it does) those in whose behalf it is done will be ecstatic. If it is something not real (that is, it actually is an untrue thing, therefore meaningless), those in whose behalf it is done dont know anything, and their living reletives shouldnt care one way or the other. The real issue here is...why would anyone feel offended?...what is behind that?

      February 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Lew

      Wilford Wooddruff 4th president , baptized all the sigers of the Declaration of Independance, ummmm was he related to all those as well, 36 yrs in the church, i found in church archives more lies . The leaders hide church history from its members, when we find it, we take it to them , and of course are called aposates, there are so many mental systems in place at every level to control the people and there thoughts and actions, at a very young age.

      Its packaged nice and sweet, but not even close

      February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  16. John in WNY

    Baptised in proxy? Really????

    Also I have to wonder about things people get worked up over. I mean consider, if someone puts Obama into a list of white Presidents does that mean he isn't black? Or if one a nerd adds Wiesenthal's parents to a list of Jedi Knights does that mean that's what they were?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • burgermeister

      Obama is half white and half black. So why is saying that he's black any more correct than saying that he's white? He could be on either list as far as I'm concerned – it doesn't matter.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • John in WNY

      Did you feel something fly over your head, if so it was the point you missed.

      People are what they are, not what someone else wants to believe. If I put Obama on a list of Republican Presidents does that mean he's not a democrat?

      February 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  17. jsr

    I guess the question is – why does it bother them so much? If they do not believe in the power of the baptism performed, and it was one person that was identified and had those privileges removed from adding to the genealogy records – why are they crying such outrage? If the Mormons were starting up with name after name and the leaders were encouraging it after the "Pact" was made, I would understand. But again, it wasn't any official decision – one stupid person. Again I ask, if the baptism is not considered something the Jewish people think is even valid or real or religiously binding, why are they so upset?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • blaqb0x

      Congrats. I've added you, your children, and your parents names to the Global list of Nazi Sympathizing Al Quida soldiers for everyone to see.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Ron

      They are upset because it is simply disrespectful. How would you feel if your dead relatives were "converted" to Judaism or Mormonism if they were Catholic? This is how the Mormon sect builds its numbers and is able to call itself a fast growing religion.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Karen

      I don't know if you are a Christian or some other faith, but if you are then would you want some religion baptizing you into their faith after you died? I am Lutheran and have been baptized. I would not want "any" other religion baptizing me with any other faith after I am dead!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • bravante

      Sorry guys, I am taken all your online names and baptizing you in the FSM church (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster)

      February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Jack 0 Lantern

      @ bravante: OH my !@@##$; I am so offended. actually, is there free spaghetti? If there is then I am totally for becoming a Jedi in your church.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Why do they care?

      Because it shows a complete and utter lack of respect for the religious beliefs of others. If you take your faith seriously and were willing to die for it, as many Jews did, then another faith has no right to do this. I'm not Jewish and this offends me. You are babtising people against their will. I can't image how anyone could think this was "ok".

      February 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  18. proofreader

    Story with grammatical errors looks like it was written by a sixth grader...
    "...it was discovered that hundreds and thousands of names..." Wouldn't that be mathematically equivalent to just saying "thousands"?
    "...Among others people she discovered had been baptized by proxy is..." Others people? Come on!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  19. anonymous

    How presumptuous of someone to do something like this AFTER a person is dead. The weird things people do in the name of "God."

    February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Wow

      Yeah, like bringing your dead child home from the hospital to "play" with your kids...

      February 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  20. Zenichi-Maro

    I thought I had clicked on The Onion there, for a minute. What an odd cult this Mormon thing is. Even more so than the cadaver cult of Christianity. Just strange.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • More Real

      I am sorry but I have to admit that your name seems more weird than Christian faith. If it is dead, then how is it that the country you are living on, has been built by those foundations of Christian faith. Every part of the founding fathers literature shout for Christian faith to be something to adore. Time to lighten up!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Ty

      don't forget Mitt Romney belongs to this band of kooks too

      February 15, 2012 at 5:06 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.