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. toadears

    Baptizing dead people, even by proxy, is too late and a little weird. IMHO

    February 16, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Independent Mind

      I could reduce that even further. "Baptizing is a little weird."

      February 16, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  2. Willie

    That mormon tea must be some crazy powerful stuff.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  3. Alex

    There was everybody draw mohammad day in facebook. I think next day after that should be everybody baptize a dead jew day. What other religious days we could use ?

    February 16, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • toadears

      The planet Xenu for scientology.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  4. Cam

    Oh my gosh!!!! It's like a zombie invasion!!!!

    February 16, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  5. Bryan

    Wow, a lot of haters out there! Absolutely no effect on you whatsoever yet you continue to bash others' beliefs. Tolerance my friends seems to be lacking. I guess it's human nature to fear what we don't understand but look at the Mormons around you. Are they evil? Do they contribute to society? Do they raise good respectful children to further our country's core beliefs?

    February 16, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • BJ

      So, if who & what I am is personally attacked after I can no longer defend myself.......that makes me a hater? But the attackers are blameless do-gooders. I consider myself very patriotic for country & society.....but a personal attack kinda tops all that.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Chris

      Well, if forcing dead people into a religion they have not chosen is not evil, what is?

      February 16, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Bryan

      Attacked? Forced? Gather a little more info first is my only advice.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Trisha

      I agree with you. I see a lot of lack of understanding and hating for people whom these individuals claim to know a lot about, yet they have such simple facts about mormons wrong. The meaness level is AMAZING!

      February 16, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  6. steve stewart

    you guys are idiots... what mormons do have no bearing on what religion you were baptized in. sure, in their voodoo magic they "baptized you"..but you sure as hell were not really baptized. grow up jews.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • BJ

      I am not a Jew and it is happening to my family. When written records are changed for posterity, I think it matters. You obviously don't believe so it doesn't matter to you. What my grandchildren & great-grandchildren think they know about me would matter to me. All we can leave behind in the end is the essence of who & what we really are.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  7. flyskybird

    Isn't that sort of what the Spanish Inqusition did during auto-da-fé?
    But its kinda morbidly amusing that they baptize post-humously.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  8. K Ols

    There is a reason Mormons collect genealogy records. They want to be sure to impose their beliefs on everyone regardless of the deceased person's religious preferences or those of non-believers. It shows complete disrespect for people of all other religions and people who don't believe in any religion.
    No person should be putting people's names on a list to be baptized after their death. It can be presumed that Mormons have already been baptized as Mormons so the entire scheme is ridiculous unless for a Mormon who had not been baptized yet. Mormons have no respect for anyone but another Mormon it would seem.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Mike Harris

      Members of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) apologized because they sincerely were sorry. They believe in being honest.

      No member of this Church wants to force their belief on anyone dead or alive. All have their personal choice.

      The church performs baptisms for the dead because millions of people come to earth and die without having had a "fair" opportunity to hear the gospel and receive the saving ordinacnes of baptism performed by proper authority. God wouldn't be fair if he condemned such. Therefore, He allows those the deceased to learn the gospel and, if they elect, they can accept their baptism that was performed here on earth.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  9. Porky Pig Jr

    Hey, let's uncrucify Jesus!

    February 16, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • toadears

      May I feed you to a Muslim?

      February 16, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  10. larry5

    This article is a joke, right? Mormons baptize dead people? This is too stupid to be true. Do they go down to the cemetery with a shovel and a hose? Let me get this straight. Say you life a bad life, die and go to hell and you've been there a while. Then the Mormons baptize you. Does God send down an angel to hell and bring you back to heaven? If this is true I see an insurance business in all this. Live it up and then after you die have the Mormons baptize you and then you go to heaven without all the bother with morals and all that other stuff while you're alive. This would sell like a house on fire to politicians. So, has this been going on all this time and that's how the Mormons build those big churches with all the fancy details?

    February 16, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • K Ols

      No this is not a joke. I had a Mormon shirt tail relative even admit they do this describing the ceremony as beautiful. Beautiful to whome my I ask (other than a Mormon)?
      It appears Mormons will never get it through their thick heads that this practice is ludicrous. I can't even begin to describe how offense it is to me.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Trisha

      While we are at it..proxy marriages in history was a bunch of craziness that had no substance.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  11. Elizabeth Brooks

    About 25 years ago I spent several visits to Salt Lake City in the huge geneology library there and much to my shock, I found that some of my relatives were "Mormon." I asked one of the workers there about that and was told that "as a courtesy,' they baptize a lot of people who never were Mormon so that when they come to their religious senses, they can still have eternal life (on their own planet, I guess). They were treated to listening to my extreme displeasure about this practice including my questioning the moral and ethical aspects about it. I still think it takes an enormous amount of gall to do such a thing without written permission from family members. I'd be interested in hearing other experiences about this subject.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • BJ

      Usually it is some "family member" that does this. However, they use the Ancestry.com website to mine names to use also. This is not limited to baptisms....they have them married in the church too. Real people go to the "Temples", stand in for the people in real ceremonies (or are immersed in a vat of water to be baptized). They spend an unreal amount of time & effort on this stuff.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Trisha

      They were prbably labeled "Mormon" as a way to say they had been baptized through this religeous belief. Not saying thet were ACTUALLY mormons.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  12. klaps

    who cares? This is what... one hundred years later. Geez get a grip.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Chris

      You are next...

      February 16, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  13. Bob Smith

    Mormons are ridiculous. If Mitt Romney is one of these, he's a kook.

    February 16, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • larry5

      Does the timing of this story have anything to do with the campaign?

      February 16, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  14. Godfrey

    Boohoo. Your magic insulted my magic. I'm gonna cwaaaaaaaiiiii!

    February 15, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  15. Reality

    Since there never were an Adam and Eve, Garden of Paradise or talking serpent, there never was any original sin i.e. baptism is a silly supersti-tion that even the Catholic church is slowly coming to grips with.

    From the white board notes of a Catholic Professor of Theology:

    "The story of Adam and Eve is only symbolic.

    Yes, this story was composed in the 900s BCE and functions as an etiology (explanatory myth) . In the 900s Israel was self ruling, under King David and Solomon. The people were no longer at war and the question" Why are we not happy?" may have been asked. The short answer is sin. (Look at 1 Kings 11 for some clues into why the story depicts Eve sinning first and then tempting Adam [Solomon]).

    Original sin is therefore only symbolic of man's tendencies to sin.

    Yes, I teach Original Sin as symbolic of the sins of our origins – in our
    families and in the broader society, both of which affect each person
    profoundly. The "sins of our origins" approach helps to account for certain
    patterns of sin in particular families and societies.

    Baptism does not erase original sin since the sin does not exist. Yes, the old "laundry of the soul," approach to Baptism is no longer accepted.

    Infant Baptism is only a rite of initiation and commits parents and godparents to bringing up the child in a Christian home.

    Yes, but, since baptism is now celebrated at Sunday Eucharist, all the members of the parish family are encouraged to pledge their support and care for the faith life of the newly baptized. (A manifestation of this is
    persons volunteering to teach other people's kids the basics of Catholicism.)"

    As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

    " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago (added note: bible time has Adam living about 6000 years ago) began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

    "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

    Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

    It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

    February 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • DavidE7

      I happen to be a career scientist by profession. One of the things a scientist learns early is humility. We recognize that the inferences we make about events we have not observed directly have only a certain probability of being true. Thus, when we say that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, we don't actually KNOW that to be true. It is merely our most informed guess at this point in time. The same is true about Adam and Eve. Your summation about the common ancestor of all living humans being in Africa about 60,000 years ago seems consistent with the evidence. But an argument can be made that the descendants of those creatures developed symbolic thought much more recently than that, and thus came to understand the concept of right and wrong. A case can be made for original sin in this context. I would not be too quick to dismiss the Biblical view as being in complete contradiction of the scientific view. Better to say that the matter is still under consideration.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • toadears

      Loon. Moses lived centuries before King David. If you want to ridicule the faith then turn to those who actually wrote the book, not Catholics. Considering that certain members of the priesthood actually join certain seminaries in order to insert certain members of their bodies into pre-pubescent orifices, I would definitely look for a better translation of the Bible than Catholicism.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  16. Truthship

    Rare to have the Mormon church exclude individuals from this ritual list, also it is rare that they apologized for baptizing them. Now if they could include me on the same list it would be appreciated or have I lost my God given 'Free Will' too?

    If Romney wins Republican nomination it would be interesting if Obama asked Mitt how he explained his support for the black mans Mormon ‘Mark-of -Cain’ when he was on his LDS mission in the 1960’s. Google ‘Mark of Cain’
    Watch Mitt flp flop like a fish again. or we he give a very over due apology for supporting racism?

    February 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  17. K Ols

    Mormons keep your nose out of other people's lives.

    February 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Independent Mind

      Uh, I think you mean, "out of other people's dead."

      February 16, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  18. K Ols

    Mormons have the nerve to baptize anyone post humorously regardless whether they are a descendant of Mormons or not. It really takes guts to take the liberty to baptize someone after their death. Most christians of all faiths have already been baptized in their own faith.
    Being a descendant of a Mormon does not make the deceased person a Mormon. I have ancestors who married people of the Mormon faith but that doesn't make it right to baptize me after my death because I am not and have never been a Mormon. I ahve already been baptized in my own faith.
    Why can't Mormons understand how ridiculous this is to take the liberty to baptize non-Mormons?

    February 15, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • ssdwcc

      Has anyone heard the word ' cult '? I know it's politically incorrect to call these Morons, uh Mormons a cult, but the truth is the truth. They have to be a cult in order for them to buy into the absolutely ridiculous things they buy into. Sheer insanity ! Reminds me of the movie where the whole town was robotic in their thinking.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  19. Rika33

    Everyone is "sorry" after they get called out.

    February 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  20. Four Jumps to Insanity

    What do I wear to an unbaptism / Should I bring my portable dehumidifier ?

    February 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Truthship

      You-tube video Bill Maher comedy show 'Unbaptizing the dead' ( Bill also has Jewish heritage ) it's well worth the watch

      February 15, 2012 at 11:49 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.