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. James

    Can't they just unbaptize them ? Lol

    February 16, 2012 at 4:47 am |
  2. Blurry

    This is a worthy news story. The Jewish Holocaust victims suffered and died because of their religion. It is an affront for anyone to posthumously baptize them into another religion in the belief that without doing so they're going to hell. It has been going on for years even though the LDS agreed years ago to stop. Part of its newsworthiness is the fact of Simon Wiesenthal's parents being baptized and yes, of course, part of it is political because of Mitt Romney. That does not diminish the offensiveness of the act!

    February 16, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • Anti-bigot

      The bigotry on display is that of the anti-Mormon variety. One, the parents were not baptized, their spirits were offered baptism. The Church takes no stance of whether they accepted the offer. Two, the Jewish faith states there is no afterlife, no spirit exists, so to us the LDS acts are just folly, anyway, so why should we care? Third. if the Mormons believe that baptism is needed for eternal life, who are we to tell them they can't do what their faith instructs? The bigotry is against the Mormons free exercise of their beliefs. Nothing they do affect any living Jew, so we should just back off.

      If the standard is "you offend me," isn't that why Jews have been persecuted so much? Jews reject/ dismiss/ ignore Jesus, as is our right, and that offends the Christians. We want to be tolerated, we should show some toleration.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:02 am |


    February 16, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Rich

      I am not mormon, but this comment you made about Whitney at 9pm is absolutely false. This is not something that would happen that fast. You are obviously making this stuff up because you are uneducated and no clue what you are talking about. Have some self respect.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • James

      She was saved alright. By the crack pipe now that's she's dead !

      February 16, 2012 at 4:48 am |
  4. George

    CNN really appeals does it best to dredge up as much bigotry as they can and during an election year arch that to a potential presidential candidate. Dont expect to see any articles on the virtues of our President's membership with his past church or the twisted philosophy of liberation theology. Just expect more cheer leading for Obama. The left wing press (CNN) wont be happy until this country is on bent knee before China.

    February 16, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • Thannak

      Why would Democrats bend down before China when it's the Republicans who get their pay checks from Chinese interests?

      February 16, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  5. Truthfeiness

    Why are Nazis still considered evil when President Obama wants to follow their handbook. He just signed NDAA that can allow him to lock up any US citizen forever or just kill them with the use of the military. These FEMA residential centers that government officials say don't exist but they do and look exactly like German concentration camps. I'm just wondering who is our government going to use as scapegoats maybe Arab/Persian Muslims or American militias instead of Jews. Oh well most of our citizens are blind to the gradual change that's being implamented to create fascism, not socialism like tea baggers believe being blindly obident to billionaires named Koch. Well as long as military and law enforcement just do what there told without thinking we're all screwed. All the republicans are apart of the problem also, they just have the nerve to admit it while liberals lie.

    February 16, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • Shayna

      When did you go off your meds?

      February 16, 2012 at 4:10 am |
    • Anti-bigot

      The Nazi's made the trains run on time and had laws against jaywalking.

      Defend democracy – Jaywalk in defiance of the Nazi oppressors. Say no to tyranny, make a train late today.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:05 am |
  6. dinabq

    Dear Mormons,

    We would like to preform a Gay Marriage for the Dead for all your deceased leaders and members who may have not had the option to come out of the closet while alive. The deceased person will have the option to accept or reject the posthumous marriage. You should have no problem with this, since you see no problems with necro-dunking the dead of non-mormons.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • chicken fajita

      I think I love you

      February 16, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • Kev

      As someone who is LDS I really don't care, so go ahead and knock yourself out.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:56 am |
  7. Eric

    I'll just quote Thomas Jefferson: "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." I could care less if Mormons practice some witchcraft ceremony on me, as it's all just hocus pocus nonsense, just like all organized religions. Now, the moment they start funding PACs to take away rights and to make and change laws, I start to care a whole lot more.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • Anti-bigot

      Exactly the right answer.

      One religion offends another. Tolerance is accepting that offense. Let's pray, ask, hope for more tolerance, not less.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  8. cattleprodsodomy

    simon wiesenthal the nazi hunter, why didn't they put on there that he was a former nazi as well. oh well, he was just following orders so he could survive a horrible ordeal. not that jews allow that defense for others. simon wiesenthal was a piece of garbage. don't take this anti-semitic, it's anti-wiesenthal. i don't like donald trump either but it doesn't mean i hate all whites.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:23 am |
    • Debunker

      What crap is this? Wiesenthal was never a Nazi. He grew up in the Ukraine, worked in Poland, ended up in a Nazi prison camp. Where do you get this crap that he was a Nazi? Tool. You should stick to watching Fox News or whatever cretinous place you get your information.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • Gaunt

      Of all the insane lies I have ever read... Why would you even try and make something that absurd up? Weisenthal was never a Nazi, nor did he ever have anything do do with the Nazi party. Even if he had WANTED to, do you really think the Nazis would have let a jewish Pole join their ranks? His first encounter ever with the Nazis was when he was rounded up following the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941.

      Please do everyone a favour and stop lying.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • mdmann

      Wow! Was that an idiotic comment or what? You really need to provide your real name so people can know exactly how stupid you are when they come upon you.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  9. MP1960

    As a Christian I fell that Baptism is a Sacrament that cannot be forced onto a adult liveing or dead with out there concent and to do so would be meaningless.

    February 16, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • cogitation

      Mormons agree with you. We believe that God gives every soul the free agency to reject or accept any ordinance, I wouldn’t mind if any religion or group performed a rite that used the names of myself or my relatives. Those ordinances would have no effect unless I or my relatives accepted them. Again, that is why there is no intent to offend or coerce when LDS members perform baptism for the dead...in each case the individual soul can accept it or reject it. If the individual does not want it, then the ordinance will be null, void, and without effect.

      By the way, “Mormon” is a nickname, and the actual name of our church is Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s okay with me if people call us “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints “ or “Latter-Day Saints” or “LDS” or “Mormon.” I am not a spokesperson, just a regular member of the Church that wants to express how I feel. I am saddened that some Jews are angry about baptisms for the dead. It is a beautiful and ancient Christian ordinance that fell into disuse long ago, until our church restored its use. I wish to assure Jews everywhere that no disrespect or offense is intended. Even by our own doctrine, none of the souls for whom this ordinance is performed is “forced” into baptism; we believe every deceased soul has the free will to accept or reject the baptism. LDS members, myself included, feel respect and a strong sense of kinship with the Jewish people. For example, I and every LDS member I know is a strong supporter of peace and prosperity for Israel.

      I mentioned that baptism for the dead in an ancient Christian ordinance: it is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:29, and verses like Malachi 4:5-6, Psalms 16:9-10, Acts 2:25-31, and 1 Peter 4:6 help to illuminate aspects of the doctrine.

      By way of explanation, we LDS regard ourselves as Christians, although I am sadly aware that some other Christians like to argue that point. I think these arguments stem from the fact that all Christian denominations have some differences in doctrine; our restoration of baptism for the dead is one of those differences. But I wish we could all set aside our arguments about differences and focus on the fact that we have so much in common. To quote two of our most essential articles of faith: “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” And “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

      February 16, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • Jim

      As an American I *feel" that correct spelling is a sacrament that must be force onto *an* adult, especially if they are *living*, even *without* *their* *consent*. Otherwise the person's sentence is meaningless.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • Margeaux

      Cogitation, So let me get this straight – I die and although you try and baptize me, I can refuse. Uhmmm... I think what confuses me here is the dead part and me making a choice when I am dead. Maybe try googling "dead" sometime and you will understand my confusion.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:23 am |
    • Jay

      Ironically, most Christians baptize infants, not adults.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  10. cnnsucks

    And this is news...

    February 16, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • Jim

      That any Christian or Christian-like church apologizes for the things they did certainly is news.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:19 am |
    • Yikes

      No, it's not news. It's distraction to take our minds off what's really going on in the world.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  11. mormons c0rnh0le choir boys and blow boys scouts

    when o when will we eradicate these f u k n mormons!!!!!
    get them all in 1 place at the same time-get obama to okay a nuclear drop on said spot!

    all mormons gone!!!!!

    February 16, 2012 at 2:50 am |
    • Adam

      Right, because that's not an extreme or irrational response what-so-ever.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  12. Zane

    1 Corinthians 15:29:

    "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?"

    Sorry but the practice is biblical. To truly believe the Bible and be Christian, one must at least believe in the practice of Baptism for the Dead.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • Justin

      There's the problem Zane, people like to ignore Biblical teachings that they don't understand or like. Ignorance begets ignorance.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • mommazona

      The Mormons have NO business "baptizing" Jews, or anyone else for that matter, outside of their religion. They've got some really ginormous gonads thinking that non-Mormons need to be "saved" so they can go to heaven. No one should shove their religious views onto anyone unless they are given permission to do so.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • Justin

      mommazona who is shoving it in your face? CNN? Other news agencies? You have no right to tell me that I cannot be concerned for my family's well being. People like you should stop shoving your opinions in another's face when trying to critique their faith.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • mdmann

      Justin, is your family Jewish? You can be concerned about YOUR family all you want...that does not give you the right to subject others who are not of your faith to rituals that are not of THEIR faith. Only an idiot would think they have such a right. This is what makes people of faith look like complete crackpots most of the time. You people don't seem to understand the concept of PERSONAL faith. You insist on wearing your faith on your sleeve like some kind of gaudy, noisy bauble for everyone–INCLUDING THE DEAD APPARENTLY–to take note of. Please, get over yourselves and leave other people alone.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  13. Andrew

    Does anyone know where I can send them a letter forbidding them from baptizing me into their absurd cult after I die?

    February 16, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Over It

      Why? Do you really think that this superst-itious behavior actually *does* anything?

      February 16, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • JOkers

      I'd rather go to Hell then be forced into their heaven. Leave my name off that list too please.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • cogitation

      You have nothing to worry about. Mormons believe that God gives every soul the free agency to reject or accept any ordinance, I wouldn’t mind if any religion or group performed a rite that used the names of myself or my relatives. Those ordinances would have no effect unless I or my relatives accepted them. Again, that is why there is no intent to offend or coerce when LDS members perform baptism for the dead...in each case the individual soul can accept it or reject it. If the individual does not want it, then the ordinance will be null, void, and without effect.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • Margeaux

      Cogitation, better what what you say. You may end up a Muslim on the other side!

      February 16, 2012 at 3:26 am |
  14. Deray

    When first reading this, I initially thought 'Does this really matter?'. Then I thought about going to an acquaintance of mine who is Mormon, and saying to him: "You don't have to worry about your immortal soul anymore- I got you baptised into a real church." Somehow, I don't think that he would appreciate it.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • 666

      satan is my god!
      i will go to h3ll when i die and it will be with a smile on my face!
      i look forward to tormenting christians and mormons for eternity!

      February 16, 2012 at 2:56 am |
    • Kev

      Personally I think your LDS aquaintance really wouldn't care. If a non LDS aquaintance came to me and said "I got you baptized into a real church" I really wouldn't care.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:41 am |
  15. Lovely

    Wow, you know what I see here? The mormon church apologizing for a mistake they did not condone, and select members of the Jewish faith refusing to forgive. It was a mistake, and forgiveness should be given. These few men, rabbis or not, do NOT represent the Jewish religion, and should not hold themselves out as so.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • JOkers

      How arrogant are the mormons to think they have the right to perform any ceremony on someone that didn't ask for it and would most likely be very offended by it? The whole thing is disgusting. I hear-by baptise all Mormons into my Atheist faith. Sorry guys, you have no choice. Your eternity is now in the hands of my beliefe system.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • Madame Laveau

      Sorry, Joker, I already beat you to it – several pages back. My magic rituals will ensure that they will all choose to.... well, I can't tell you and spoil the surprise!

      February 16, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • dinabq

      This was not a mistake. This has been going on for years. Every time the lds church gets caught, they promise to stop.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:02 am |
    • Kev

      @ JOkers. What I'm wondering is as an athiest why do you even care? Isn't this whole baptism for the dead or even baptism for the living a moot point to you?

      Also if say a person who has long since passed away did continue to exist as a spirit, who while in life never had a chance to hear about the LDS faith and so never gave any consent to be baptized, was then taught the LDS Gospel in death, whose to say that the deceased person didn't give their consent. If that deceased person had in fact not given their consent to be baptized by proxy, then if that proxy baptism was performed, it wouldn't matter, like it never happened.

      However, if that person in death had in fact accepted the LDS Gospel and wanted the proxy baptism, but that proxy baptism was not done, how would that person feel?

      February 16, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  16. cogitation

    @ KD9669 All I can say is that neither I nor any of the LDS members I know have any desire or intent to diminish other religions, let alone infringe in any way on your freedom to practice your religion. As another or our articles of faith states: “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all the same privilege, let them worship how , where, or what they may.” LDS members wish to collaborate with people of all other faiths to protect our 1st Amendment rights.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • mommazona

      That's a load of pure BS. The Mormon church is all about trying to convert people of different religions to Mormonism and not, as you say "collaborate with people of different religions". Why else would Mormons send out all their 18-19 year old men to all corners of the world? It's not to just spread the word of Mormons, it's convert. They are in my area all the time and have tried to have a dialect with me about their faith. Upon learning that my husband is Jewish, one had the gonads to ask me if Jews still sacrificed people. Is that what your religion is teaching to your children? And what about those commercials the Mormons have put out on television? You know, the ones that show "every day people" that talk about their wonderful, diverse lives, and then at the end say "and I'm a Mormon". Yep, trying to convert. You don't see Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Methodists.....you get the picture.....doing that. It's all about trying to convert as many people as they can, world-wide. If you don't believe that, then you have been brainwashed by your Mormon religion.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • Kev

      @ momazona. How is it that LDS missionaries are twisting your arm and making you convert against your will? You do have the ability to say no, and Latter-Day Saints even believe those who have long since passed away who never even heard of the Gospel in life still have the ability to refuse the Gospel in death as spirits. A person's free agency or free will to chose is a fundamental belief in LDS doctrine.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • dinabq

      Fine, just keep mine name out of your religion when I'm dead.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:05 am |
    • Is the Garden of Eden in America?

      People realize that Mitt Romney is Mormon, right? When President Obama and Romny go against each other in the general eletion I hope people look up what Morman believe in. Woman can only get into heaven by how good their husband is and when they die they become gods. No wonder their all high and mighty. They think everyone who is not LDS is going to burn in hell. They think that after Jesus died the Chirstain Church was taken over by Satan, that means they believe that the Catholic Church, the Protestant Churches, and every other Christain Church today that is not LDS is run by DEMONS.

      February 16, 2012 at 4:18 am |
  17. PsalteryPsam

    I wonder why this hit national news. Would it have anything to do with Mitt Romney running for president? I think so. The news media is only required to report facts. What facts they report is purely at their discretion, so can a newsgroup have an agenda? You betcha.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  18. j123456

    This LDS person that performed the baptism was clearly acting against the policies of the Church. Hence, the quick apology from the church leadership, even though it was the actions of one person. What I find telling is the disgusting comments about mormons in this article. Once again, it's proof that in our society today, it's taboo to badmouth any other social group in public, but still socially acceptable to slander members of the LDS church. Just watch some of the comments as they unfold, people spreading lies, half-truths, doctrines taken out of context ... I find it disappointing.

    February 16, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  19. Wile E Coyote

    My Question about the Baptism is this: If the sprit declines to accept the mormon doctorine by the preaching angel in sprit prison, what happens to that sprit? Do they remain in prison until judgement? Will they go to either terrestial or telestrial glory upon judgement?

    February 16, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • The Bottom Line

      Do you really not know how to spell "spirit", or are you worried that a boat part is having difficulty in prison?

      February 16, 2012 at 2:34 am |
  20. The Bottom Line


    February 16, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • cnnsucks

      And the bottom line is...your a loser and a satan worshiper aren't you...

      February 16, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • Dave

      cnnsucks........and it's you're not your. Childish, no?

      February 16, 2012 at 4:50 am |
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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.