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. Dana52

    I will endure torture and die before giving up my own faith But I woud never ever impose any kind of blessing or baptims of my faih on someone who did not expressly ask for it, alive or dead. I find it unconscionable that Jews who survived near exterminaton expressly because of their faith, must be forced, with no avenue of defense on this mortal plane, to "give up" that very identifty. If Mormons cannot respect the deeply held beliefs of a faith that is not their own, then I have serious questions about the integrity of LDS.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • denver2

      For the sake of consistency I hope you'd direct those same questions to any religion that practiced evangelism or engaged in missionary work.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • r8q2hqrfieregqgnbqerg

      Will somebody please put a Kaballah hex on me I am eager to test my CHRISTian faith–BRING IT ON! I've got the resolve of Job.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • burgermeister

      Um, read the article. One wayward person made a mistake. The LDS Church has policies in place, and has taken action against the wayward person. But keep bashing if that makes you feel better.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  2. BigTex

    This is the funniest story I've ever read!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Me


      February 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  3. roscoe

    They are apologizing to try and head off what's going to happen if/when Mitt wins the nomination. I think linking Mitt to this practice would cause him some embarrassment. It's going to be an interesting year as the mormon stuff starting bubbling to the surface.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  4. Rosslaw

    Frank Berger offers a glimmer of common sense and sanity on the subject which I highly recommend.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  5. James PDX

    "We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon Temples,"

    Yes, those horrible people, trying to perform a ceremony that will allegedly help your ancestors find their way to the very heaven you all claim to want to reach. How evil!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • well....

      Sure, their motives were good, but if you yourself are a person of faith, would you want someone initiating you (posthumously, so clearly without your authorization) into a religion with views incompatible with your own? Judaism and Mormonism are quite different, you know. I'm betting George W. wouldn't be happy for the DNC to declare him a far-left Dem after he dies. 🙂

      February 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Ramsen

      It is not up to the Mormon Church to try and "save" anyone in this manner. If someone was raised under one faith, it is not up to any other faith to posthumously "convert" the person. This practice by the Mormon Church needs to stop, period.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • James PDX

      Actually, their motives may or may not have been good. But it's not like I'm suddenly a mormon because you sprinkle a little water on some living Mormon who for some reason wants my soul to be saved and decides to stand in for me. It's a practice almost as stupid as eating the "body" and drinking the "blood" of Christ, although not quite as gross.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • duh79

      That's a rather presumptuous comment... "find their way to the very heaven you all claim to want to reach".
      I am Jewish. I was raised to live a righteous life. Here and now. Your version of heaven doesn't exist to me.
      While I appreciate the sentiment that someone wants to save my soul.. who's to say that my soul wasn't already "saved'?
      If I live a purely good life now, an honest, God fearing life right now, who's to say that my version of what I was raised to believe happens to me when I die is wrong?
      I respect, don't agree with, but respect, each and everyone's version of what is right... the difference i: I WON"T FORCE MY BELIEFS ON YOU!
      When you die, I promise you:
      I will not make the decision to not embalm you
      I will not make the decision to not show you off to a room full of people surrounded by flowers for 2 days
      I will not make the decision to not parade you through town with traffic stopping pomp
      I won't bury you within 24 hours
      I WILL allow YOUR family to make those decisions for you in respect to what you wish for in your passing.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  6. john316

    If this isn't just another reason to call this group a "Cult" ....I don't know what is. And yet they continue to gain converts... aka.... victims.... like Scientology.....( Have you seen their new slick ads to lure you in)....You do remember what P T Barnum said don't you.......It's like the parallel universe in Fringe.....only scarier......

    February 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • denver2

      Keeping in mind that believing a dead man came back to life and ascended bodily into heaven is no more plausible than anything Mormons believe, you have to wonder what Barnum would say about all religious people.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • w4hf978fwe7gaisgf49872hbfh

      Cults kill people–you know, like blowing up another country's scientists.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • James PDX

      Until someone sells caffeine free Earl Grey Double Bergamot tea, I'm afraid I can't join. Not to mention until I'm lobotomized, I can't join. But they're welcome to dribble some water on my face and wish me well after I die. I find it difficult to be overly concerned about such an act.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • burgermeister

      Um, nope, not a cult, so I guess you really don't know what a cult is. Have you even tried to understand what Mormons are all about? It's fine if you don't agree, but you shouldn't bash when you don't even know what you are talking about.

      February 16, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  7. Billy

    Baptisims for the dead are already a grievous insult to other religious and cultures by their very nature. They need to halt that practice PERIOD.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • James PDX

      HAHA! Billy, you crack me up!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • corny

      Gee, if you don't believe in it (Mormonism) then why be so PARANOID you'd be forced into something against your will in Heaven?? Is YOUR God that unjust???? OURS isn't!!! WE ALL HAVE FREE WILL!!!!! The records are just being done, in case you choose to be converted......

      February 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Me

      Sarcasm, I am sure.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Frank Berger

    This Orthodox Jew has absolutely no problem with Mormons posthumously baptizing Jews. I don't care if Mormons think my dead relatives need to be baptized to be "saved.." I think that's hogwash, but it doesn't hurt my feelings and it certainly doesn"t help my dead relatives. Why shouldn't the Mormons be free to exercise their religion as they see fit as long as it doesn't hurt others? They don't "respect" my religion enough to believe my soul will end up in a good place? So what?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • denver2

      Exactly! Who cares? Mormons believe something you find laughably silly– so why take it seriously?

      February 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Abinadi

      That is what I am asking. If the Jews don't believe in the Mormon baptism – don't believe it has any meaning, why should they care? I think this is about intolerance towards Mormons – just a way to embarrass them and cause some trouble!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  9. rshdiuwrepkofe4jn qioeuhqweirhe4

    If you don't love Jesus go to Hell


    February 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  10. natalia

    They have no business baptizing ANY Jewish person
    (Holocaust victim – or no; dead ancestor or current living).

    In fact they have no business baptizing anyone that doesn't want to be.

    As to the argument that since Jewish people do not believe in baptism – thus what difference does it make.......Yes – we don't believe in it's effectiveness as a spiritual rite, but we know that it is NOT meaningless. When people other than ourselves try to take control of our spirituality, or change our history, or make us into something we are not – that has powerful meaning to Jewish people.

    And what really gets me are Jewish people who convert to Mormonism and then do their best geneology so as to submit their own dead ancestors for baptism. Have some respect for those that came before you, and who suffered and fought so as to NOT be baptized against their will.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Alan S

      natalia, the whole thing is silly. To think that some bunch of people, from one particular religious sect, can unilaterally decide to say some dead person is "baptised", and to think that such a declaration means anything at all for the spirit (if any) of the deceased, is bizarre. Baptism itself is an odd tradition. Sprinkling water on a baby's forehead means he will live in bliss for eternity, whereas if he missed the sprinkle of water he will burn in hell for eternity? What a strange belief.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Don't be weird

      I think this may be the first topic where I have seen non-Mormons out silly and out weird Mormons on a Mormon belief. Is it a silly practice? Yes. Does it's practice imply your religious practice is inadequate to their own beliefs? Yes. Do you have any good reason to be outraged? Not really. It's their belief. If you don't share it, then the only injury you can claim is that they hold their belief doesn't somehow magically put yours at the apex of correct.

      Other Christian (using Christian loosely in the context of Mormons) elude to every Old Testament sacrifice as a preparation or symbol for Christ's complete and valid sacrifice. Would you expect their ministers to a)stop calling it the "Old" Testament because that implies your holy book is out of date, and b) stop speaking about your history as if it were a prequel to theirs?

      February 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Mike

      To help clarify, the baptisms for the dead are considered an opportunity for those who went through life without an opportunity to join the church. The belief is that the baptised individual has the agency to decide whether or not to accept it while in the spirit world waiting for the resurrection.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Don't be weird

      Well, yeah...and I mean if what someone is really trying to achieve with this is to reduce practices that in any way ,shape or form could indicate that someone bears them or their faith ill will...I don't think publicly humiliating people who would take the time to look up your dead ancestor's name and then take the time to drive to a temple and then get immersed in water on their behalf so that they (by their belief) have the option to accept your religion post mortem is really misguided and contrary to the spirit of freedom of religion in what it advocates.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  11. r e scheerd

    LOL only an alien would think that they could baptize a Jew. Haven;t you ever met my mother? She would take her broom to you head, dead or alive.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • lorne

      good one!

      February 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  12. Common Stupidity

    What do you expect from people that believe in magic underware?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • chelsea


      February 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  13. Hung Jesus


    and you don't see the lunacy in this?

    This is morbid and weird IMHO.


    Welcome to the strange world of mormons with their magic stones, magic underwear and magic ability to forgive the dead. But they are the same as Baptists and other christians ...lol

    February 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • denver2

      The thing I really enjoy, not being affiliated with any religion, is sitting back and watching people who hold "Insane Belief X" criticizing "Insane Belief Y", apparently completely unaware that both beliefs are equally insane.

      "While it is obvious that Big Foot is an alien astronaut, there is no way that you, sir, are the reincarnation of Napoleon!!"

      February 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • James PDX

      I like your style, Denver2. At least as long as you don't start mocking my god, Cthulhu. Nobody mocks the great tentacled one.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Actually, I think all of the theories are retarded. ... Well, except for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I like him. ... Since I don't live in a glass house, can I throw rocks please? Brights unite!!

      February 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  14. SoBugly

    Are these people from another planet? Posthumously baptising anyone, family or not, is just beyond the already high water mark set for ridiculous behavior and foolishness in religions of all faiths. Whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Scientologist, it's all foolishness and play-pretend as far as I'm concerned, but this is extremely disrespectful to the wishes of the dead, their families, and just plain weird.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  15. ggillis

    Freakin cult!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Rob

      I don't understand why anyone would be offended by someone praying for the souls of their dead ancestors, whatever religion you happen to be, if you don't believe in God it isn't like it hurts anything, if you beleive in a different God, again it isn't like it hurts anything...

      Note to anyone of any Religion, please feel free to pray, baptize, light a candle, etc for the salvation of the souls of any of my ancestors and me too now and after I'm dead

      February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  16. denver2

    Fine, it's a stupid custom. But why get so upset about it?

    If I throw some water on you and shout, "You're a Mormon now!", will you regard yourself as a Mormon? Probably not. Why is it different if you are a corpse? I can't make you be a Mormon any more than I can posthumously make your great-great-grandma a Mormon.

    Seems like getting bent out of shape over this gives it more power than it deserves....

    February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • denver3

      It matters, because they enter these dead people into their databases to artificially enlarge their flock and create the impression that Mormon faith is relevant on the global scale.

      Look, Mormonism, like all other religions, is a fairy tale, but it has the disadvantage that its roots go back only to historical times when reliable records existed. Against all evidence, Mormons therefore have to create legitimity for their fate, and entering dead people among their converts is one of their tactics.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • New Jersey

      That's a silly comment, denver3. Mormons do not include the posthumously baptized in the numbers of their flock. And, by your standards, the Jewish community, with roughly 6 million adherents in the United States, and 12 million worldwide (comparable to the Mormon community), isn't "relevant on the global scale" either.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      Did I misread the article? I thought they found the names of those posthumously baptized because they were listed in the church list of names (I'm sure there is a technical term for that). If they weren't converted into Mormons after such a baptism, why were their names listed? This Catholic think that they did it to make their church seem bigger. But, I'm sure that my Church does the same thing on some level.

      February 17, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  17. New Jersey

    Just to be clear: Mormons don't dig up corpses and baptize them. It is something done by proxy, i.e., someone living standing in the stead of someone deceased. Moreover, the names used for this proxy baptism are submitted by ordinary members. It is, practically speaking, not easy to police a database updated every moment by 12,000,000 people, and to cross-check it with another database of more than 6,000,000 people. Slight spelling variations and errors in spelling, dates, locations, etc., complicate the matter.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Billy

      It should not be done AT ALL to ANYONE. It is a disgusting and insulting practice.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • James PDX

      Insulting, how, Billy?

      February 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  18. Hung Jesus

    So did they put magical underwear on the corpses?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  19. Joe

    "Baptizing" doesn't mean a damn thing. It's man-made.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      Man-made if you are talking about John the Baptist. Then yes, it a man-made practice. Bad logic there!

      February 17, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  20. ol cranky

    Apology not accepted, they did this AFTER they apologized for baptizing Jews the last time and swore they'd only baptize dead Jews if the deceased direct descendant asked them too. Why is it that these religious fanatics want to mandate that non-adherents follow doctrine culled from a little bible text when they can't seem to even follow the 10 commandments?

    February 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • lorne

      These Reelijeeus people were caught trying to baptize Albert Einstein after his death.

      In the Mormon Church if you don't follow their leaders interpretation of their Bible, you are told to go back and study more, if you still argue about it you are excommunicated. O yeah, it is a cult.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.