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. Elvin

    they fear the zombies

    February 16, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  2. NancyGrace

    The mormon's are a self-aggrandizing cult and should simply be ignored. To hell with the mormons.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |

      Nancygrace. All religions are accepted in this country. To call Mormonism a cult is a bit old world. The religions practiced at the begining of our nation were considered a cult by those they were fleeing. Nancy lets act like the modern humans we are suppose to be and stop acting uneducated.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  3. OBXJewel

    Baptism should take place when a person is ALIVE and not dead by some other religion who never even knew that person! Mormons do this so they can get more names in their database and when they have new potential members they can send them to the Genealogy Room and voila! THERE IS A RELATIVE OF THEIRS WHO "WAS A MORMON"!! How about that? It must be destined! Yes! You had the Mormon faith in your ancestry!!! (This stunt was pulled with my son when he was joining the "faith"). I find this to be nothing but one big lie. My son and daughter-in-law and family are Mormons. Because I am not of that "faith" I was not allowed to attend my only son's wedding. Eighteen years later that still makes me mad. My mother-in-law describes that "faith" as a cult. Perhaps she might be right?

    February 16, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  4. fbm

    How arrogant for the Mormon church to impose their beliefs on others. Interesting that Judaism, which is thousands of years older than the Mormon, Christian, and Islam religions has never proselytized, forced conversions, or killed in the name of religion and God. Yet it still survives and flourishes.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |

      how Arrogant FBM? Are you serious looking at the Catholic Church. All religions attempt to impose their beliefs, which is why we have a seperation of Church and state. Which is why CNN better stop trying to bash a religion to try and sway an election in favor of Obama.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Wow

      So Christianity and Islam have not killed in the name of their religion? What? That is basically all the y have done for centuries! Get back on the turnip truck and go back to Kansas...

      February 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • JW

      Obviously you don't know much about the history of Judaism if you believe that they have never "proselytized, forced conversions, or killed in the name of religion and God." You should take a quick read through the bible, where you will find all those things in abundance among the Jews.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  5. albro

    A black pastor wraps a TORAH around himslef and crown himself king, and then says, "Sorry." Mormon baptise Jewish CORPSES, mining them like like some inanaimate mineral claim, and then say "Sorry". Nothing much will come of this, though, because unlike "AFRICAN-AMERICANS" or illegal aliens, Jes are not among the favored groups.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |

    Clearly an article by CNN to promote there liberalism and try and sway opinions in the election. It is very clear that negative campaiging against Romney who is mormon will benefit Santorum who wont even stand a chance against Obama. Romney will caputure the independant vote while Santorum will not. CNN as liberal as they are are trying to use the "Mormon Card" to discredit Romney. Obama will continue to benefit from the race card. They used the race card to discredit Hillary who then had to bow at Obamas feet. Lets elect people for what they can bring to the table and not for their race or religion. Fox news is a good example of falling prey to religious leanings. They clearly are promoting Santorum because his "Christian Conservatism" is inline with their views. People get a clue "Mormanism" is just as valid a religion as all others. There is a seperation of church and state that everyone seems to forget. Yet we continue to bring religion into politics to bolster or destroy the otherside. The only chance we have of beating Obama is making Romney the Rebulican candidate. CNN knows this and does not want to see it happen. In fact all liberal media show leanings towards Santorum, but its for the exact reasons mentioned above. Independents please do not be fooled by the media and support Romney not a right wing religous nut.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:21 am |

      CNN should be ashamed of publishing this article. Clearly and attempt to Bash and entire religion. In a similar fashion should they not publish and article about Blacks and the fact they commit a majority of the violent crime in this nation. Astounding for a group that only makes up 12% of the population. Should they not mention Obama in this article? You can not Bash an entire group of people for the indescretions of a few. CNN is so out of line with this article. Liberals are such hyprocrits

      February 16, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • YoursIsNoDisgrace


      February 16, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • tryscience

      Way off base. This really has nothing to do with Romney. The Weisenthal family and other Jews who have been subjected to this ridiculous rite don't care about the politics. They are simply, and rightly, offended. And this is news. Not everything is a plot. Take a pill and relieve your paranoia. Obama doesn't really have to anything to win. He just needs to continue governing as if he is the only adult in the room – which he is.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • joy

      If you want your news filtered, who should do the filtering? There are countries like China that control the media, maybe you should consider moving there.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  7. Rob

    Crazy people do crazy things. Religion does that to you. Starting with Moses and ending with Smith and including Jesus, all of the were mentally unstable men.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Peter

      Spoken by someone who clearly has no idea what it is he's talking about.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Bill

      I agree Rob. Baptising a dead Jew will have about as much impact as baptising a living Mormon. Such nonsense.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  8. Conrad Shull

    So what. It's like an atheist being concerned an Evangelical tells him he's going to hell. It's like a hippy threatening to punch out your aura.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  9. Slovensko

    John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

    Only one way to get to heaven, Jesus. Not being baptized, not living a "moral" life or a "good" life. Not having someone else be baptized for you. You get one chance in this life, and after that, judgement. You need Jesus, not a proxy.

    Hebrews 9:26-28
    26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • YoursIsNoDisgrace

      John?? Hebrews??? I know of no such thing in my bible and testament.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • been there done that prayer works

      Try Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah53.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • bigot

      you do realize those quotes you have here are words of mere MORTAL MEN....30+ of them in fact, written over 1500+ years right? and you do know that the authors who wrote about jesus never knew him right? learn the history of your religion.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Topcat

      The odds that someone who is a devout musilm or Jew switching faiths is about as likely as a Christian switching to Islam or some other faith. I don't think God cares. All religions seem to brainwash the flock to believe that their faith is the only true way to salvation...

      February 16, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • been there done that prayer works

      Please answer how you see with your eyes and touch with your hands a person you do not know?
      1John :1-3

      February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Jo Johnson

      Amen, Slovensko, Amen!! Love, Sis. Jo

      February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • firebird9999

      What garbage. Jesus was a politician, nothing more, nothing less, not unlike the jerks we have running on the right. If it makes you happy to believe as you do, go for it, but trying to convert those of us who do not believe in this nonsense only alienates us further. As for the Mormans baptising Jews after they have died, to me that is just more religious nonsense at the hands of christians. But very, very disrespectful.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • YoursIsNoDisgrace

      Is the "John" the John Lennon???

      February 16, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • been there done that prayer works

      to whom do you address the "John" question. Are you "bigot" as well?

      February 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Biggerot

      Bigot – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all knew Jesus. The Old Testament writers didn't know him and never wrote about him. The other Apostolic New Testament generally didn't refer to Jesus as they were directed at the newly founded Christian congregations, and there was no need.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • bigot

      Please answer how you see with your eyes and touch with your hands a person you do not know?
      1John :1-3"

      HUH? What the hell are you talking about? I see with my eyes and shake the hands of people I do not know all of the time in my profession. Please open a book other than the bible.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • bigot

      "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all knew Jesus."

      Prove it...most biblical scholars agree that the people who wrote about Jesus only did so 40+ years after his death.

      Matthew and Luke give two contradictory genealogies for Joseph (Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38). They cannot even agree on who the father of Joseph was. Church apologists try to eliminate this discrepancy by suggesting that the genealogy in Luke is actually Mary's, even though Luke says explicitly that it is Joseph's genealogy (Luke 3:23).

      Of all the writers of the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth. Had something as miraculous as the virgin birth actually occurred, one would expect that Mark and John would have at least mentioned it in their efforts to convince the world that Jesus was who they were claiming him to be.

      The apostle Paul never mentions the virgin birth, even though it would have strengthened his arguments in several places. Instead, where Paul does refer to Jesus' birth, he says that Jesus "was born of the seed of David" (Romans 1:3) and was "born of a woman," not a virgin (Galatians 4:4). You would think that something as important as a virgin birth would be mentioned in all the gospels.

      According to Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1). According to Luke, Jesus was born during the first census in Israel, while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:2). This is impossible because Herod died in March of 4 BC and the census took place in 6 and 7 AD, about 10 years after Herod's death. Just more contradiction.

      Some Christians try to manipulate the text to mean this was the first census while Quirinius was governor and that the first census of Israel recorded by historians took place later. However, the literal meaning is "this was the first census taken, while Quirinius was governor ..." In any event, Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until well after Herod's death.

      Both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 to show that this was in fulfillment of prophecy. Actually, Matthew misquotes Micah (compare Micah 5:2 to Matthew 2:6). Although this misquote is rather insignificant, Matthew's poor understanding of Hebrew will have great significance later in his gospel.

      Luke has Mary and Joseph travelling from their home in Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea for the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:4). Matthew, in contradiction to Luke, says that it was only after the birth of Jesus that Mary and Joseph resided in Nazareth, and then only because they were afraid to return to Judea (Matthew 2:21-23).

      This is what happens when a book is written by many people over a long period of time. Contradictions abound. And yes, this book was written by MEN, not god. If god inspired the authors to write this book, surely their works would be consistent.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • been there done that prayer works

      You said that the people who wrote about Jesus never knew him. John in the writings of 1John 1: 1- 3 clearly testifies that he saw Jesus with his eyes and touched Jesus with his hands. The writings of John go on to verify that it is indeed Jesus he is writing about, and with whom he ministered for three years. You may need to rethink your position.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • bigot

      "John in the writings of 1John 1: 1- 3 clearly testifies that he saw Jesus with his eyes and touched Jesus with his hands."

      And John 1:31 states: "I MYSELF DID NOT KNOW HIM, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

      Sure, if you believe the gospels were a direct account of history. Anyone can write something in a book...doesnt make it true. What if I wrote "I saw the leprechaun and touched him with my hands". Would you believe me? Probably not.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • been there done that prayer works

      You are going kind of weasel there. You got caught in a lie, admit it and move on. You clearly stated "no" Bible authors knew Jesus, I present direct evidence to the contrary and you come back with a lame song and dance. If it was me I would be ashamed of myself for being that dense. Like it or not 1John is an accepted part of the Bible.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  10. Rick


    February 16, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • simple truth

      The author keeps saying that Mormons are baptizing dead people and it sounds kind of strange like someone is taking a dead body and sticking it underwater. A little research (mormon.org) shows that Mormons believe that all should be baptized as a requirement for the righteous to return to God, even as Jesus was, even though he was perfect. So, this baptism for the dead thing is having people/proxies get baptized on behalf of each deceased person. Doctrinally, it allows even people who never heard of Christ in this life, to have the opportunity to accept or reject Him and baptism done in their behalf in the next. Kind of interesting.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • tallulah13

      Kind of pathetic, really. There is no proof that death leads to anything besides decomposition. This baptizing dead people is merely the vanity of a certain set of believers.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • Commenter


      No, dear, no-one thinks that you dig up dead bodies. We know what you do, and it is no different than voodoo magic chants and ceremonies. There is no verification for its effectiveness.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:53 am |
  11. Charles

    And you want a Mormon in the White House?

    February 16, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  12. Tripp

    Like it really matters. What a bunch of delusional nonsense.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  13. Chuck

    What about all of the other baptisms that have been performed? I think it's humorous to think that even in heaven, people are still concerned with bottom line numbers.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Sabina

      Good one Chuck!

      February 16, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  14. The Half Baked Lunatic

    Ya gotta admire any religion who's motto is "I don't care how many you bring, just Bring 'em Young!"

    February 16, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Conrad Shull

      Ha ha.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  15. adam

    What is it with this stupid thing baptizing. My mother inlaw couldn't sleep well till I baptized my kids. My kids now growing up, they really do not give a hoot when they go to vote.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  16. Doc Vestibule

    Somehow, I doubt the sincerity of their apology.
    They sincerely believe they're doing the dead a big favour.
    Their real sin is breaking the 11th Commandment – "Thou shalt not get caught".

    February 16, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • captain america

      I always though the 11th commandment dealt with people tending to their own business and country, go figure. There's your sign

      February 16, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  17. Philojazz

    What NONSENSE!

    February 16, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  18. Be Saved

    But the overriding question here is: Is it so terrible to want to baptize or Save one's soul because that is for all eternity and the Only way to enter into Heaven? Absolutely not! It is a Blessing, a Gift from God that should Always Be Cherished!

    February 16, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Imbecile

      Yes, it makes perfect sense to do so after one's death and without their family's consent.

      Why do Mormons feel the need to baptize dead people? If those people wanted to be Mormons, they would have done so when they were alive.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • YoursIsNoDisgrace

      No you are desecrating their memory by performing this pagan ritual.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • bigot

      prove it...oh wait you cant? STFU

      February 16, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Karla Porter

      Jews don't need Mormon baptizing to get the the heaven they believe in. A better way to do good for mankind would be to spend all that energy and dedication volunteering with children's organizations instead of posthumously baptizing people.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  19. YoursIsNoDisgrace

    we should bar mitzvah Mitt, whether he likes it or not.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Ariel

      Aiwa !!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  20. Ariel

    I guess I can't fault the Mormons for taking Hope to an extreme !!!!! G-d bless them.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • albro


      February 16, 2012 at 8:29 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.