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. markus

    Always be recruiting!

    February 16, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  2. Andrew

    oh those wacky Mormons, at it again!

    February 16, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  3. george of the jungle

    Hey if you check the records you will find we all have been baptised mormon. thats what they do. I guess mitt could baptise all the world leaders.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  4. Reality

    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. Or is it??

    February 16, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • markus


      February 16, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  5. DoctorV

    Wow, so many haters. I guess I'm not really surprised. Do you people actually have any idea what Mormons believe and do? Maybe you should ask a Mormon what they believe rather than asking their enemies.

    As for the suggestion 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," this is insulting to me as a Mormon. Romney has not authority within the church, many of us are appalled by the public image he gives members of the church. I personally will be voting for Obama regardless of the GOP nominee.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      I can't speak for anyone else, but my experience with Mormons was finding out that everything is transactional when Mormons are dealing with non-members. The only interest a Mormon has, in my experience, is making money and converting others, no matter what the cost. " Every member a missionary" was the dictum of David O. McKay, and members never question a prophet, so it makes every member a salesman who has to treat everyone they meet as a prospect. It does not make people feel at ease around members, and I doubt many of the members feel at ease, either. The Church's history is carefully edited to shore up the testimonies of the weakest members at the expense of the truth, so I have little respect for any decision the LDS hierarchy makes. I do have grave concerns over their contempt for other faiths, which I have seen demonstrated numerous times and is the basis for this article. So, yes, I have had numerous encounters with LDS and have learned to keep them at arm's length. Remember Mark Twain's saying about the Book of Mormon: " Chloroform in print". You need to be anesthetized to believe this nonsense.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Timothy

      The Mormon Defender of the Fake speaks.

      If you want to know about a cult, you don't ask a cult.

      People in cults have low self-esteem, need to be charmed, need to be told exactly what to do.

      Mormons don't think for themselves.

      Mormonism is a spiritual game of Simon says.

      NoMormonInWhiteHouse blogspot com

      February 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • pastmorm

      Who cares that you're personally insulted by the article doctorv??? You mormons are WRONG in what you did. It's disgusting that you think people that DIED for their religious beliefs like the Jews in the Holocaust must be converted to your religion to be saved. That offends me! That offends the Jews. THAT offends anyone with common sense!

      February 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • DoctorV

      Every member a missionary is true, this is taught, but I don't understand why people read some ulterior motive into this. We are encouraged not to be pushy or "salesmen" as you say, but rather to be available to answer questions, present a message out there to people that we think might make them happy, and allow them to take it or leave it. This is how Jesus taught by the way, was he wrong for trying to teach people something he thought was important for them to hear? But he didn't force anyone to accept it. And to suggest we do it for monetary gain is ridiculous and insulting, church members teach and serve without any compensation whatsoever, including the leaders of the church at the very top. All church revenues go toward building churches, supporting humanitarian aid, and supporting the missionary effort. "Non-profit" I think is what they call it.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mormons are told: "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).

      According to the LDS Propaganda Machine (The Desert New Company) the Latter Day Saints have given $750 million dollars in international charity over the last 25 years.
      The bill for the Mall they're building in Salt Lake City has now surpassed $3 BILLION.
      The disparity between these totals should let everyone know where the Church's priorities really are.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  6. c602

    It's a travesty! It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham!

    February 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    February 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • happynonbeliever

      religion is the invention of evil megalomaniacs, who are spoiled brats. leave me alone you close minded dimwit.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      February 16, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • No Religion

      Funny that Atheism is not good for children and other living thing, yet religion has caused more war, bigotry, and hatred than Atheism ever has. Face it, religion is an excuse for people to be self righteous and act like bigots while using the bible as their scapegoat.......does the anti-gay sentiment preached by almost all religions ring a bell. There are no TRUE christians!!!! Every single one of you pick and choose what you want to follow and believe from the bible and use it for your own selfish ways. Hypocrites...ALL OF YOU!!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • markus

      Come to my church No Religion. A tad bit different that you have imagined.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  8. Concerned

    Mormonism is not in the same category as Judaism, Christianity or Islam which have a common root and are monotheistic . Mormonism is a totally fabricated belief in the same category as Scientology, it was created by Joseph Smith and aside from plagiarizing the stories from these faiths has nothing in common with them. While I empathize with the offended Jews I am very sure they are not the only ones being baptized by them. Anything the Mormons do should be treated the same as any other fringe group or cult not matter how many members they have.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • pastmorm

      Before Americans even THINK of electing Romney they need to look into the history of the mormon church. First of all, keep in mind that mormons believe without a "shadow of a doubt" that anything one of their prophets says is ABSOLUTE, unchangable law.
      Joseph Smith (their founder) tried to run for president (while he was also being chased by the American military). He declared himself a General (even after having prison records for boot-legging) and proclaimed that he would make the US government into a Theocratic Monarchy. Now if that isn't scary....what do you think Romney's real aim is behind all of his flip-flopping and lying? Once he's in, he's going to turn the country over to his BILLION dollar corporate church and let them rule. I can't make this stuff up. I was a 7th generation mormon. Look this up if you have any doubts. Just avoid mormon.org because that's their propaganda site.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • just sayin

      Islam is a sham and a fraud. Islam has more in common with Mormonism than with Christianity or Judaism. There is no "common" root in that Islam stole what it is, even the name Abraham is stolen. Proximity does not equate to common source.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  9. Charlie K

    Hmm... they should take a look see, perhaps a few of the dead popes have been babtized as well!

    February 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  10. SickOfLiesInNYC

    We are all children of the same God no matter how we each indivudally choose to worship our concept of God, and any person, religion, or cult that believes in the need for these rituals in order to achieve communion with God when we die is crazy. The Old Testament says that Jews are God's "chosen people,' and if that is good enough for God, it should be good enough for Mormons. Jesus lived and died as a Jewish Rabbi and the "baptism" practiced in those days was a Jewish ritual akin to a mikva/cleansing ritual. Maybe the Mormons should consider having Bar Mitzvahs for their sons and more fully embrace their Jewish roots

    February 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  11. Nightwing

    I am a deep mole in the LDS Church hierarchy. I know what they do in secret. Trust me, it's boring. Boring as proxy baptism. Don't feel offense at what they do. Feel pity if anything.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • pastmorm

      yeah right...you're a "deep mole." Umm...blood oath rituals, secret names, white jump suits with strange (and I mean strange) hats, handshakes through curtains while uttering words that only the sentinels in heaven (like Egyption mythology) will hear and keeping your wife one foot behind you the entire time because she is and always will be less than any man isn't strange????

      February 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  12. robin

    But it's not only Jews that they are baptizing, they're baptizing Catholics and other faiths as well. It's a total lack of respect for all other belief systems.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  13. lroy

    Just out of curiosity, has any of you non-Mormons ever wondered if your OWN relatives have been proxy baptized?

    February 16, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • pastmorm

      Actually as an x-mormon I happen to know that any relative that wasn't a mormon while living was "baptized" by my other family members as soon as they died. Having done baptisms for the dead since I was 11 years old (that's when they start boys) I know that chances are many of your family members are now "mormon." The entire team that signed the declaration of independence is mormon as well as all the presidents (that are dead) of the USA.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Qwerty

      It's sickening how uninformed you people are. Mormons don't believe the people they posthumously baptize are automatically mormon. Mormons believe EVERYONE must be baptized in order to go to heaven. Even people who never heard of Jesus. Mormons give people the OPPORTUNITY to accept the baptism or to reject the baptism. If you don't believe mormonism is true, WHO CARES?!?!?!?!?!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • GodPot


      It's sickening how uninformed you people are. Gays don't believe the people they posthumously convert are automatically gay. Gays believe EVERYONE must be converted in order to go to gay heaven. Even people who never heard of Madonna. Gays give people the OPPORTUNITY to accept the conversion or to reject the conversion. If you don't believe gay heaven is true, WHO CARES?!?!?!?!?!!!

      Feel any different? Your dead great grandparents are gay and get a chance to go to gay heaven, or at least we have posthumously converted them to gay, but why should you care?

      February 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Qwerty...obviously YOU care what people think about your mormon beliefs, otherwise you wouldn't be freaking out about all of the mormon cult crud that's coming out of the closet!
      ALL non-mormons CARE about their own beliefs and find it insulting that you people think we all have to be mormon for salvation. That's just wrong on SO many levels! Talk about megalomania! mormons are the poster children for personality disorders!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  14. Richard

    Baptising the dead? There's really only one thing you can do with a corpse and that's to go through their pockets and look for loose change.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  15. Blasphemy

    You will not get into heaven as a Mormon because you are ignorant.

    You will not get into heaven as a Jew because of genetics.

    You will not get into heaven as a Catholic because you did not pass on all of the gossip to the Priest.

    I don't want to go to heaven because of the company they keep!!!

    February 16, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Richard

      Hey Blaspheme – you don't want heaven because of the company. You must admit, though, it's entertaining. You could spend the first hundred years laughing at the foolishness.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • pastmorm

      What about not getting into heaven because there's no god or heaven?

      February 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  16. IAmNotOffended

    The gesture is admirable, not done as offensive. I am not Mormon, but I do have Jewish ancestors. I am a Christian. I do not find any of this offensive at all. In fact, my view is if it makes them feel better, then go right ahead, I'm sure my Jewish ancestors will not mind and nothing changes their Judaism.

    I will tell you pubicly and forcefully that if we did not have Mormons that cared about family history, that history might not exist.

    I am grateful for their excellent work and passion to preserve this information for our younger generations – keeping it accurate in fact.

    February 16, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • pastmorm

      You're serious??????? You're saying that it's because of mormons alone that we have history? And in the exact same post you say you're not mormon. What's funny is growing up mormon I remember being told to say things like that just to convince people I was right. Mormons are out of touch with the world. They tell their kids to be in the world but not of the world because they are supierior to any non-mormon. So, since the mormons began less than 175 years ago, we wouldn't have history if not for them? WOW!

      February 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Reasongal.

      I find it presumptious – people consciously make choices about religion, whether informed or not; it does not follow biblically that a choice can or should be made for them after they are dead. I live my life every day as the best person I can be, unfettered by any religious belief, and although I will not be around to care, I find it intolerably offensive that anyone would presume that I needed their post-mortem ritual – it is silly and, moreover, not respectful of the life any such person has led.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Bill

      "I do not find any of this offensive at all."

      Well, good for you! But that doesn't make it right. The problem is that others DO find it offensive. If the Mormons want to do this they should ask for permission from the family of the deceased at the very least.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Qwerty

      First off, Mormons don't believe "history" exists because of them. What the OP meant is our family tree, or genealogy. Mormons are without a doubt the biggest genealogists in the world. Therefore the OP's comment about "history" might not be so ludicrous.

      Second, Mormons don't believe people are automatically mormon after they do a baptism for the dead. They give that choice to the person they did the baptism for. This isn't catholicism here where they baptise people who can't decide for themselves.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  17. r-hope

    President Barack Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham was mormon?
    I thought GOP says BO is Muslim........no?
    But that's GOP; One has to check the facts, even if they say today is Thursday

    February 16, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • ****

      she was baptized by proxy, she was not a mormon. please comprehend what you read.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • kim

      I wonder if President Obama's mother was baptised by proxy so being Mormon could be used against Obama in the election....
      He's Muslim didn't work that well, so maybe they will try "He's Mormon!".

      February 16, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  18. Squeezebox

    Mormon baptisms are wrong because salvation can only come from an act of free will. The dead person can't express his will one way or the other.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Martijn

      Well, actually they can. They wouldn't be able to chose to get baptised if they never heard of it or had a good chance to accept it. Mormons believe that by doing baptisms for the dead, we give everyone a chance to accept it or not. The dead will still have a choice to accept it or not. I think that thats actually a great act of christianity, everyone gets the same chance to accept, either in this life or in the next.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • lroy

      It's more than that. Sacraments (and baptism is THE singular from which all the others flow) are only for the living. Jesus himself said that. To believe otherwise is calling Jesus-the son of God-a liar. This is proof that Mormons should not-repeat NOT-be doing this so-called "proxy baptism" for anybody in the first place anyway.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • pastmorm

      Martin...what you're really saying is that if the "dead" choose NOT to be mormon after they are baptized by proxy, then they will not be with god or jesus because mormonism is the ONLY true church on the earth. You're not doing anyone a favor...you're silently telling people that you are better than they are and the world is starting to hear that...

      February 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Qwerty

      @ Pastmorm – seriously? By believing one's church to be the true church, he automatically believes he is "better" than other people? You have a serious inferiority complex. Go take some logics classes and get back to this conversation.

      February 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Qwerty, Seriously? You're telling the world that they can only gain salvation by being baptized and accepting that baptism in the afterlife. So you think that's not saying that you're the only true church and the only people in the world that happen to be RIGHT? Wow, talk about logic...you have none. Besides, with the internet, people can look up all of the cult secrets you hide in your temple. Spout your "logic" and see what people think of it. BTW, you and your church are the ones on the block in this article. LOL!

      February 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  19. CJ Topspin

    ...wait...WHAT?! Ahahahahahah!!! Baptizing dead people?

    Religion is so f-ing stupid. Seriously...it should be considered a mental disease by the DSM by now.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  20. Rabbi Meir Lichenstein

    I'm more offended by Hasidim teaching their children that only Jews have human souls that grant them conscience and free will, than I am by Mormons baptizing corpses.

    February 16, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • pastmorm

      Mormons don't just baptize the dead, they marry them off to other people, usually mormon men that have more than one wife in the "spirit world" already. So your Jewish family members aren't even considered your family anymore. They'll rip your parents and grandparents apart just to do their strange temple rituals.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Carl

      How about not pretending to be a rabbi in order to promote your anti-Semitic lies? You know full well Judaism has no such belief.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:55 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.