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. Michael

    If you believe their apology, then I have some land in Florida to sell you. Wasn't too long ago where interracial marriage was "discouraged" and where African-Americans were prohibited from priesthood and participating in other church duties. They only apologize when they get caught. Reason enough for me to leave the Church.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  2. D Gannon

    Like any of this Voo Doo makes a rats back side

    February 16, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  3. DrJStrangepork

    What happens to a person that is posthumously baptized into a different religion? Also, do you think that a dead person cares if they are baptized?

    February 16, 2012 at 6:50 am |
  4. Spencer

    There have been millions and millions of people who have lived and died without ever hearing about the Bible or the gospel, and almost, if not all Christian churches teach accepting the gospel, and Christ is essential to salvation. How could God forget about the millions of good people who live in China and other places who have never even heard of a Christian? How can you accept the gospel if you've never been taught it in the first place? The LDS church believes there is missionary work that goes on in the next life while everyone waits for the judgment and resurrection. Anyone who's ever lived and died will get an equal opportunity to either accept the gospel or reject it, and most of this missionary and temple work, at least from what I understand will take place during the "1000 year millennium" as mentioned in the book of Revelation.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Spencer

      Biblical references...

      "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." – 1 Peter 4:6

      "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?" – 1 Corinthians 15:29

      February 16, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Angel

      People like you try to rationalize the "Word". People like the Mormons make up their own rules that makes this a perverted form of Christianity. Which is no christianity at all. Almighty God is smarter than man because He made this three dimensional world including you and me. Why do man think he can outsmart God and make their own rules to Salvation. For the record, baptism does not save a person. If people would study the Word of God, they would know that. The Mormons, along with other denominations and religions, felt a need to amend God's Word. As if God needs help. And, that is bizarre.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  5. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    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 16, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Carl

      An interesting assessment.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • richunix


      Nice approach and well written in believing that a supreme deity exist. Yet your still trying to profess that some GOD exist and is all powerful, but as always lacking in any evidence (“argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance"), other than what man has created. As with all theologian, you have the weakest of arguments, tending to twist facts to support theories, instead of theories be supported by facts. Other than the historical accounts of the times, personages. No ONE (BAR NONE) has ever seen any God (outside of the occasional burring bush and always alone), parted the Red Sea or the Jewish Sea of Reeds or even a damn pond or have they ever turned anyone to stone, pillar of salt or into your favorite color. Enough I guess….

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Reality

      Answering with a prayer:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      February 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • ......

      Hit report abuse on all reality repeat garbage postings

      February 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  6. huxley

    Why just Jews? Stop the practice on atheist also. And on Christian protestants. And on Catholics. Stop the practice entirely. If someone is NOT Mormon and never chose to be saved according to the Mormon rituals, it should not be forced on them posthumously.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  7. mb2010a

    They are officially also not supposed to be practicing polygamy, but they still do it anyway...

    February 16, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Leeroy

      And THEY get excommunicated. Sheesh. Please do a little homework before you throw such outdated arguements out there. At least we're not marrying the same gender. Ooops. Did I say that out loud? 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • mb2010a

      Sure they do...now that is funny. You are incredibly naive...

      February 16, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Leeroy

      By Elvis in Vegas maybe. 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      "At least we're not marrying the same gender"

      So a liar and a bigot...ignorance is bliss!

      February 16, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Leeroy

      Resorting to name calling. Talk about childish.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  8. .

    Again, CNN takes a backhanded swipe at Mormons - because they oppose Mitt Romney - and nothing else.

    Yet, if anyone published rubbish like this about Muslims, CNN would brand it as racist.

    Racism in the eyes of a liberal is limited to groups of people only they support.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • mb2010a

      Sounds remarkably just like the Republicans doesn't it?

      February 16, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • .

      No, not at all. Republicans don't see people for their religion or race. They see them as Americans.

      Liberals, on the other hand, are all racists because they only see the world through the prism of race - and then they mislead the ignorant such as yourself.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  9. Carl

    I grew up as a non Mormon in the State of Utah, terrible experience, and anyone who has lived in Utah can tell you that this practice is generalized and has been going on for more than 50 years. Mormons have some strict observances, but honesty is not one of them.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Leeroy

      That's not true. I have NEVER lied in my LIFE! 🙂 Sorry you didn't enjoy Utah. I loved it there. But . . . I'me ONE OF THEM!!! 🙂

      February 16, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Carl

      Your response is an obvious lie. As House says, "Everybody lies." Being LDS you must also know the difference between LDS and LSD. One you take with a grain of sugar, the other with a grain of salt. I also take your reply with a grain of salt.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • Leeroy

      Carl, Carl, Carl . . . why so angry this morning?

      February 16, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Carl

      Impossible to be angry with Mormons, they are far too amusing. Have you every seen anyone angry with a person with Down's syndrome. Impossible.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Leeroy

      That's so funny. And so true. I guess that's why I can't get angry with you. 😉 And I thought you were angry. 🙂

      February 16, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  10. awasis

    They are only sorry because they got caught. So they are not really sorry.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:24 am |
  11. unowhoitsme

    The Jews suffered the torture from one cult, then another.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • Neil

      You're comparing post-humorous baptism with the organized forced labor, torture, and slaughter of millions? Really?

      February 16, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  12. bfskinnerpunk

    The mormon beliefs are not any more strange than the rest of Christianity or any other supernatural, faith based belief in fantasy.
    Don't worry about these Baptisms ... it means nothing. No different than me waiving a magic feather and saying, "the entire USA is now Pagan!". Nothing. Silly. Infantile.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:08 am |
  13. Rev. Carrie

    We have 73 years of experience in the Mormon Church that ended paritally over this doctrine. It is a DOCTRINE of the Mormon Church to baptize the dead in Temple Ceremonies. The religion of the dead has never been questioned or even asked for when submitting names of family to the temples for these ceremonies and also Temple "Sealings" (marriages of the deceased) . I am an avid genealogist and have been for 50 years. I find names of my family with Temple Oridnances done which was agaisnt their will. I will not submit a name but I use the church records that have been collected for my research. "MIssionaries" are " called" to serve and to go all over the world translating and collecting and submitting names from public and church records of the deceased. They are then submitted to the Temples for these ordinances. Many are submitted a number of different times and NOT by relatives either!!! It is a MAJOR Mormon doctrine to do so.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • Jonline

      This is just a weird doctrine. I have no idea why people are so worked up. I personally think you die with your religion and you cannot be 'converted' to another religion by force – alive or dead. Unfortunately, this just shows the Mormons are outside of the main stream. I personally don't care but the mainstream does.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:11 am |
  14. Leeroy

    BFF, you remind me of the guy sitting on his roof when the flood was coming. 1st a guy in a canoo came and offered to rescue him and he declined because he was waiting for God to come and save him. Then a boat came, same thing. Then a helicopter and he stayed. Then he drowned. When he got to Heaven, he was angry and asked God when he didn't come and rescue him. God said, I sent a canoo, boat and helicopter. Four Jumps to Insanity, if we evolved from monkeys or apes, why are there still monkeys and apes? BTW, we believe in science and we know there is a scientific explaination to everything. And one day, we will learn how God created us . . . scientifically.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • bfskinnerpunk

      Answer: There are monkeys and apes AND humans because we all evolved from a common ancestor. That you do not understand this reveals a naivety of science.... almost child like. Honestly, it is an almost silly question. People with a basic knowledge of biology have to restrain laughter when they hear this question. Yes, you think you have finally found the question that "stumps the scientist", but far from it. Preachers must think they have arrived, finally, at some sort of clever idea (like this question) and then they pass it around to each other and preach it to the congregation.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • Leeroy

      And I can use the same arguement against you. You think evolution is the answer and you can not prove it with science anymore then I can. That is where faith comes in. And I have tested faith . . . and I KNOW that God exists and Jesus Christ is our savior. And there is only one way to know that. And it isn't with a scientific experiment.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • mique

      You need to take some science courses. Genetics would be a nice start, then work your way into evolution and molecular studies.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Leeroy: To say you know god exists makes you a liar. You may believe it but you have no way of knowing it. You do need scientific proof to back you regardless of what your opinion on the matter may be...that is the only way your claim can be substantiated as being valid. As for evolution, we do have scientific proof of this or were you sleeping when they taught that in school? They have the skeletal remains of 'Lucy' that date back 3.2 million years....much older than your book of moron or the buybull. The fact that there are still apes and monkey's is rather simple...the scenario as has been proven with valid evidence is we evolved from a common ape-like ancestor....we do have a certain amount of DNA evidence to back this. Just because you have chosen to remain blind does not make your claims valid...ludicrous but certainly not valid.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Leeroy

      You need a copy of The Book of Mormon. Look up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the phone book, or google us. The Missionaries will bring one right over. BTW, I feel that one graduate degree is enough . . . even though I'm taking more graduate courses now. Aint never too much education. 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      The fact that you say "we evolved from ..why are there still" says it all....
      a. you have no clue what evolution is all about,
      b. you couldn't reason your way out of a paper bag.
      They have NOTHING to do with each other. Stop getting your arguments from internet videos, and THINK for yourself, but wait till you've taken a science course or two. OMG. No wonder this country is in such trouble.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Leeroy

      Have you seen "Lucy" lately? You may look like her . . . but I sure don't. Yikes. 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Leeroy: I have a copy of the book of moron and it is full of fallacies! You don't have evidence for your god and as for you not looking like Lucy-bone structure is very similar. Yours is an argument from ignorance. As for your degree's...kudos to you but they still don't make your belief any more valid...they only mean you are capable of learning.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Leeroy

      Then I guess I can assume you feel the same way about the Bible as you do about the Book of Mormon? BTW, you spelled "Mormon" wrong. Or are you taking all that education of yours and resorting to name calling? 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • DrMatrix

      >[I]f we evolved from monkeys or apes, why are there still monkeys and apes?
      If my ancestors came from Europe, why are there still people in Europe?

      February 16, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  15. somuchtroubleintheworld

    Christ lives.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • George

      You can not be that stupid and believe that someone watches over us from the sky. Besides all that. You seem to be highly insecure because other people believe differently than you do. If Jesus Christ were so great; You people would not cheapen him by campaigning for him like a cheap politician.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  16. Parishfan

    Does this mean that my father who somehow got into the Mormon's files after death has been baptized in the Mormon church? I really really don't think he would like that! I didn't know the Mormons were that weird.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Sighko Sis

      They are, and they know it. That's why they're so secretive about their rituals and beliefs.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Carl

      Believe me, as a non Mormon who grew up in the Mormon Mecca, they are weird. Their temple rites are taken from the Masons. We were indoctrinated by Mormon friends to believe that one day there would be a Mormon President (let's hope it isn't true) and this would be the first step for the Mormon takeover of the United States. As you can see, they live all kinds of phantasies but are not as harmless as they might appear.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  17. Doug Ericson

    This is equivalent to searching a Wheaties cereal database for names entered into a prize contest.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:12 am |
  18. Tom

    Too much LSD for the LDS.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Carl

      What's the difference between LDS and LSD? One you take with a cube of sugar, the other with a grain of salt.

      February 16, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  19. Poetryhound

    This is so creepy that Mormons baptize long-dead people. In the past, in the face of criticism they promised to stop doing it, but continued doing it anyway.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • palmer

      The right wingers do to you without your permission by creed, by policy and by crook. Why are you surprised? They have other more brutal plans for you. Just elect some more of the fascist right wingers and see where you end up.

      February 16, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  20. ontarah

    This doesn't outrage me at all, but it baffles me on about ten levels. Why do people want to baptize random individuals they have no relation to? Why are other people digging through piles of names on the off chance they will find such individuals who have been baptized? Why is this any more offensive than standard calls for conversion or baptism made by dozens of denominations of various religions? It almost seems like it's the record itself which is offensive, that whoever is now listed in some Mormon name database when they weren't Mormon. Seems like a pretty simple fix then. Don't write this stuff down. Problem solved.

    February 16, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Buddha

      You are too logical... That is not how the world works! 🙂

      February 16, 2012 at 5:53 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.