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. Bryan

    This is exactly why religion is irrelevant in this day and age. You can't baptize someone after their dead, how stupid! I don't care what rule or clause or whatever its called or who believes they are, I don't care what religion you think you are, you can't baptize someone unless their present and have given consent, or their parents have. These are people holding on to an outdated practice ie religion that serves no purpose except for people to fool themselves into thinking something other than decomposition happens to them after they die.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • jsg

      Bryan–are you suggesting that there was a day and age when people believed human bodies did NOT decompose in the grave? Nobody has ever doubted this. I think you are misunderstanding religious beliefs at a fundamental level. You see, religious people generally believe that there is a soul that lives on after death, and that the fate of that soul depends to some extent on acts performed while in the flesh. Most Christians believe that baptism is required for a safe return to God, so Mormons come to the logical conclusion that performing baptisms in behalf of dead ancestors can help them along. Effective or not, these rituals do make for a strong sense of connection between latter-day saints and their progenitors, which is a beautiful thing.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  2. Im Free

    The beauty of this country (USA) is that it gives its citizens the right to worship how, where, and what they may – an inherently humane (and Christian) belief. Some of you need to learn a little respect. If you want to blaspheme another person because of his/her belief then that is your right, but just because you can do it doesnt mean you should. Does it really make you feel that much better about yourself to tear down another person's faith?

    February 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Blasphemy

      The day the Churches start honoring their end of the bargain and stay out of politics is the day I will quit mocking them.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Im Free

      When matters of morality are being debated in the public square then members of any church may stand up to have their voices heard.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  3. Blasphemy

    Stealing the souls of the dead?

    At least Romney did not bite him while he was alive so that he had to wander the earth as a vampire for all eternity.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • That is easy

      I would not be so sure about the not bite thing, vampires would explain a lot.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Joseph Smith

      Romney may not have bit him but he reorg'd him, fired him, then closed down his company.

      Maybe after Mitt dies, we could proxy vote him in as President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. V for Vendetta

    Good lord religion is stupid.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  5. Joe T.

    I don't get it. I don't really know how Mormon baptism works. How do you baptise somebody when they are dead?

    February 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • That is easy

      The same way as one believes that some giant all powerful creature is up in the sky watching over us or for the Mormons the same way as one walks in the woods and finds gold tablets with alien writing and discovers Jesus was almost a native American

      February 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Abinadi

      Jesus paid for your sins through his atonement. In the same way we, who have bodies, are baptized in proxy for our dead ancestors.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Joe T.

      Abinadi, I'm not religious but isn't baptism supposed to be a personal dedication to God? What the heck are you talking about? We are baptised in proxy for dead ancestors? Do you realize how stupid that sounds? I would like to know where you read about the practice of baptising dead people in the Bible. I've read the Bible four times and I can't remember anything that would come remotely close to justifying this practice. That is, unless it's in the Book of Mormon which automatically disqualifies it.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. That is easy

    I just inducted all Mormons and Jews into the Temple of Apollo in one fell swoop.

    All Hail Apollo – yeah you to Mitt or suffer in Hades

    February 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Blasphemy


      February 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  7. Blasphemy

    Does the US have to invade and police the LDS now that the Jews are mad at them?

    February 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  8. Abinadi

    In biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. The buildings thus used were not synagogues or any other ordinary places of worship. They were specially constructed for this particular purpose. While the people traveled in the wilderness, they used a portable tabernacle. This tabernacle is called “the temple of the Lord,” and it was there, for instance, that Samuel’s mother went to pray. (1 Sam. 1:9.) When they ceased their wanderings and obtained a stable government, they built a glorious temple in Jerusalem to take its place.

    Following the pattern of biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for the salvation of all who will believe and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites. (Excerpt from an article by Mark E. Peterson)

    Since Jews no longer build temples and since temples are central to their own beliefs, should they object to us doing the work for them, since we do have the temples?

    February 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Abinadi

      That the temple in Jerusalem was more than a synagogue is well established. That it was a sacred place in which only the priesthood could minister is also recognized. That its “Holy of Holies” was reserved for the most faithful is well known. That sacred ordinances not in any way related to the usual synagogue worship were administered there is likewise a fact. And that they were not open to the view of the curious and the uninitiated is also admitted.

      The temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the unworthy who came there and made it a marketplace in the days of Jesus, as will be remembered. It was that which so angered the Savior that he drove them out of the temple with the words, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt. 21:13.)

      Temples built in latter days are equally sacred, and therefore, they too are reserved for only the most faithful members of the Church. (Mark E Peterson)

      February 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  9. Blasphemy

    This does not encourage a lot of respect for either one. They obviously do not respect each other.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Abinadi

      That's right. This is more about Mormon bashing than anything else.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Joseph Smith

      Mor(m)on bashing? Wow, Abinadi, you are in WAAAYYYY to deep and have your Joseph Smith (hey that's me!) blinders on. Get a clue: Mormons are performing Satanic rituals which they're free to do to themselves. just leave others OUT OF IT!

      February 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • jsg

      Satanic rituals?? As a latter-day saint, let me give you the inside scoop on these temple rituals. They clearly do three things: 1) They give Mormons an opportunity to openly commit to a higher law of service and devotion to Jesus; 2) They allow Mormons to perform the same ordinances for deceased ancestors, with the belief that these ancestors will generally choose to make such commitments in the hereafter (especially if they were without any knowledge of the gospel during life); 3) They bind families together eternally–marriages in the temple are believed to make the marriage covenant last beyond the grave. There's the inside scoop. I've participated in all of these ceremonies. I can understand a commenter calling this stuff silly or nonsensical, but satanic? C'mon.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  10. JAB62

    Religion is for non-thinkers. Freaky religions are for non-thinking freaks. And cults are for the really screwed up, totally lost and incapable of thinking freaks. Mormonism qualifies for freaky religion in my opinion but there's always hope. They could still become a cult someday with crazy sh!t like this.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      The only difference between a cult and a religion are how many whackjobs you can convince to be adherents.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  11. Laura

    What does this article have to do with Mitt Romney, other than the fact that he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Why is there a need even to mention him? Just because he is running for president doesn't mean he has a direct line to the authorities within the church. That comment at the end and the addition of it to the article seemed to have an ulterior motive...fishy.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Matt

      Romney was a Bishop in the Mormon church. With his wealth and LDS ties, if you think he has no influence you are nuts.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Rick

      I agree Laura, it would be like connecting Santorum to pedophile priest. It actually would not surprise me if someone eventually does anyway.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Joseph Smith

      Laura, the LDS Kool-Aid you've been drinking has affected your judgement. Romney has a direct connection to top LDS leadership and he is aware of everything their doing, including proxy baptisms and running "I'm a Mor(m)on" ad campaigns.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  12. Tex71

    This is exactly the event that Romney's handlers have been dreading. So much for minimizing Mitt's religious side! American Jews will not forget this; Romney just lost the entire Jewish vote. (Somehow I don't think they will be voting for Santorum either.) A gigantic can of worms has just opened up all over the already struggling Romney campaign.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  13. Carl

    "love and respect" is a two-way street. I am Jewish in my life and will remain Jewish in death. I do not need the Mormon faith or Jesus to be "complete" or accepted by G0d. Nor do I wish for some yet unborn future relative of mine to change my beliefs. I am whole. I am complete. I am acting with full knowledge and conviction of my own personal beliefs. This practice is the ultimate DISRESPECT. Period.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  14. Mike

    A few thoughts –

    1) It is extremely presumptuous for Mormon's to assume any soul needs or wants to be "saved", especialyy those who died for their beliefs.

    2) It is *crazy* to believe some "sacred" ritual would "save" or convert a soul of a dead person.

    3) It is amazing what people believe. If Romney were to be president, would he drop Secret Service protection since he has his magic undies to protect him? I say if you believe it, live it...

    February 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Mr Belvedere

      Mike, your comments are as ignorant as the actions of the Mormons who baptized for the dead Jewish people. Uninformed, shortsighted, inaccurate, hypocritical and disrespectful.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  15. Matt

    Before everyone does too much freaking out, realize that the overall body of the Hebrew Faith and the Mormon faith have often worked hand in had together. Mormons have allowed Jews to use their facilities for some functions in the Los Angeles area before, and Mormons have great respect for Jews. We have some parallels in our histories. The baptism is a proxy baptism for anyone who in post-mortal life who chooses to follow Jesus Christ who didn't have the opportunity for baptism in mortality. The practice was done at the time of the early apostles. It is right there in your Bibles if you have the guts to look it up. And the Mormon church is not the only church to practice it.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Tex71

      The Mormons are, however, the only mainstream (if you can call LDS mainstream) religion to proxy-baptize people from OTHER religions who had no connections to the ones standing in for them – for example Elie Wiesel, a practicing Jew who has specifically asked the LDS church to desist! And what's up with proxying Adolf Hitler? Is this a guy you really want to chum around with in the afterlife? Talk about "palling around with terrorists"! Josef Stalin? Give me a break!

      February 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • kmrski

      "The baptism is a proxy baptism for anyone who in post-mortal life who chooses to follow Jesus Christ who didn't have the opportunity for baptism in mortality. "

      Out of curiosity- how does someone who is dead communicate to the living that he/she wants to be baptized? Necromancy is forbidden in the Bible. Once you're dead- game over. One makes their choices while they are alive. It says that in the Bible, too.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  16. TJeff1776

    Problem IS- a lot of Jews have joined the Mormon Church and want their deceased relatives baptized- like me. There is suppose to be seperation of Church and State. In short, the agreements made back in 1995 can't be enforced. Most
    Jewish names don't have the word (Jew) by their names- so how does one distinguish between Jew and non-Jew.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • That is easy

      Greenberg, Rosenberg, Iceberg, Silverberg all jewish names

      February 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • xeno

      We also have "freedom of religion," which means you don't get to impose your religion on others.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Joe T.

      Anybody who joins a cult willingly without being born into it, is an idiot. Thank you for admitting you are an idiot. It lets everybody know.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • BRC

      Why not think of it this way, what you want for them doesn't matter. They were free to choose their path in their life. The fact that you believe something different isn't important. If you actually cared about them, you should respect their lives, beliefs, and choices, and stay out of it.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  17. scatheist

    Where does the pathetic religios nonsense end?

    February 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Forest

      after you learn to spell

      February 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  18. Phil Muse

    We should note that the Church of Jesus Church of Latter Day Saint (a.k.a. Mormons) has not apologized for or rescinded its (arguably) offensive pratice of proxy baptisms for deceased Jews, but only for baptizing Simon Wiesenthal's parents and including Elie Wiesel in their database. Actually, if Mormonism itself is not the genuine article in terms of religion, then Jews have no cause to get huffy about the affair. Come to think of it, the Mormons are offering some kind of a deal for dead Jews. When they get to the other side of life, all they have to do is forsake a religion that has inspired lawgivers and prophets for centuries, sustaining its believers for thousands of years, in favor of a ready-up church that sprang up some hundred and fity years ago when a guy named Joe Smith (real name, I'm not kidding) claimed to have been visited by an angel bearing a bound copy of a book of scripture that was hitherto unknown on this earth. What's the payoff? You get to go to Heaven, maybe.

    The serious side of all this is, we known precious little about the Mormons. Most people are all too readfy to give them a free pass just because they appear to lead squeaky clean lives and do not drink, smoke, cuss, gamble or womanize. (Hmm, I wonder what they DO, then?) What their essential beliefs are is not a matter of common knowledge. Once we know THAT, it will go a long way toward explaining what Mitt Romney, an officer of the LDS, really stands for. If you are on the bubble about voting for Romney in November (assuming that none of the crop of "Non-Romneys of the Week" has a ghost of a chance to be nominated), you need to do some research.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  19. Paul

    For any of you who think that Mormonism is just another religion, do your research. It is straight out of science fiction. During the 20+ years I lived in Utah, there was a time when the Catholic church protested to the Mormon Church concerning this practice. If you are a true believer of any other religion, this practice is paramount to grave robbing. And this issue just scratches the surface of Mormonisn. Like I said, do your research.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  20. Why Mitt Romney will never be President


    February 16, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Chronix

      That comment about people voting for someone that looks the part really is sad. I think that's why we keep putting cooperate puppets in the white house. I have realized with Barack Obama's change that I could believe in that the majority this country is easily tricked. Just like Romney's rise when he's no different.

      February 16, 2012 at 8:53 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.