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. Billy

    Since there's a simpleton here that doesn't seem to understand WHY this practice is so insulting to other cultures and religions I'll explain it here in a new post.

    When you perform a baptism by proxy you are saying that person's religion is wrong and YOURS is right. That's about as intolerant as you can get. It doesn't matter if "you're giving the baptized a choice."

    The insult isn't the CHOICE you fool....it's the simple fact that you MADE THE OFFER IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    It's an outright evil and sinister practice because it is MOSTLY performed on non-family members...and this is coming from tons of "temple approved" mormons that I know. Everyone that has done baptisms by proxy...has done maybe 1-2 ancestors of theirs and 20+ strangers. The claim that they don't do strangers is 100% a lie.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • sck

      Arrogance is the #1 trait of the religious.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Well that's simply repugnant. I denounce my proxy Mormon baptism – whoever did it whenever and wherever they did it. Proxy baptisms is almost like voodoo doll-ish creepy.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Not quite

      To clarify: when members attend the temple and perform work for "strangers", it's not just some random name, but rather a name from a member's family that has been requested to be done. Some LDS members would like this work done on behalf of their family, but cannot do it themselves, so they ask that it be done. A member somewhere else then does the work.

      By LDS church policy, names that are not your own ancestors are not supposed to be submitted for work. Someone didn't understand that, and it led to this unfortunate situation.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • yeahalright

      And? So you need to take offense at every wacko out there? Guy in the subway station just this morning was telling me how I'm going to hell and gotta accept somebody or another to get into heaven. That's all this is, just on a bigger scale.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      Not Quite: Putting in "Work" is what gang members do when they are slinging drugs and killing snitches.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  2. John

    Weird! Did they also try to dig up the bodies to dress them in magic underwear?

    February 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  3. michael

    I wasn't aware of this practice – curious. Offensive by nearly any cultural standard, as well.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  4. yeahalright

    It doesn't make a da.mn lick of difference. Here I just baptized into my church of salisbury steak the deceased relatives of every commenter on here. Tada! It doesn't mean anything who cares?

    February 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • DD

      Awesome! Now that is a religion I can sink my teeth into!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  5. Leeroy

    The last sentence says it all. One member of our church makes an unfortunate and regretable mistake and Romney is supposed to contact the Church leadership . . . even though the Church has already apologized? Isn't that sort of like asking Santorum to contact the Pope because some Catholic he doesn't know took the sacrament without making confession. Or something like that. 😉

    February 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      Santorum probably would tattle on me to the Pope. That's why I go to the 11 AM Mass to avoid him 🙂

      February 17, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  6. Matt

    religion. crazy. period.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  7. DD

    Always amusing to see the religious zealots go at one another...

    You all end up sounding like this (to paraphrase an old Onion headline) : "The imaginary superbeing that I believe in is superior to the imaginary superbeing that you believe in!"

    February 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Similarly, brings to mind the George Carlin line..."My god has a bigger (one) than your god!"

      February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  8. Elaina

    So weird!!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  9. J3sus Sandals

    I don't understand why Mormons would be baptizing those outside their faith. How can one be baptized as Mormon if one never practiced or subscribed to their doctrine? Is the rationale simply to baptize any victim of tragedy? That's almost as nonsensical as their beleif that they were the first native americans.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Billy

      This is how they increase the "supposed" numbers of their religion. Their claims of having so many members are fabricated through this.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • DD

      Love all this debate about why Mormons do this or that and what they should or shouldn't do. Meanwhile, most of you are dutifully following the ridiculous rituals of some other religion. Wake up, folks, it all a load of horse manure. ALL OF IT. Their moronic religious practices and your own. Ultimately, who cares what rituals they (or you) practice in accordance with their (or your) belief in a fiction.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  10. Kate

    I wish they'd stop baptizing dead anyone; Jewish, Catholic, Episcopalian, etc. Seems very high-handed and arrogant to me.... and, btw, I am married to a lapsed mormon, so fully expect one of his relatives to baptize me after I am gone. Shudder.....

    February 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Deep North

    So your dead body gets baptized here on earth, and when your soul gets to where ever it is going you can choose whether you wanted it to be baptized or not....after it has happened? Amazing!

    February 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Yes, it truly is amazing how the figured this out! After all these years we had no idea the living could speak to the dead but now we know, lol!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  12. sck

    One would have to be either incredibly stupid or genuinely mentally ill to believe you can baptize someone after they have died and they get to choose whether or not to accept it.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Or just plain Mormon, hahaha!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Almost there...one would have to be stupid or mentally ill to think baptizing anybody, alive or dead, means or affects anything.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • DD

      Doh! So close! Actually, one would have to be either incredibly stupid or genuinely mentally ill to believe that baptism of any kind is anything but an empty gesture, period.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    They tried to baptise me when I was 16 and gullible. I was blinded by a hot mormon girlfriend and what she had to offer me if you know what I mean. Luckily I escaped the life of missery that I almost got dragged into by her family, the pushy missionaries and the elders that wouldn't leave me alone. The church will do anything to get new members even if it means breaking apart a perfectly fine family. It's really creepy how much they actually believe they need to save people, crazy wacko stuff 100%. If you think about it the religion started with a scam artist, more church members mean more money, more money leads to more political power ect. It really isn't that hard to understand, the church leaders are just really good at manipulating the church members to believe them.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      But that's the mission of all organized religions – to manipulate the weak into a coma-like state of negligence, irresponsibility for their own actions, self doubt and fear.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Jimmy

      I don't know, her dad told me that the spirits talked to him and told him that they have chosen me to join their religion. My super religious grandma doesn't even come close to touching that wackyness.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Abinadi


    Paul Allen is the owner of the Seattle Seahawks, the ones who played the

    Pittsburgh Steelers for the Super Bowl a few years ago. He is also the owner

    of the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team and is co-partner with

    Bill Gates in Microsoft. He wrote this editorial in the Santa Clarita,

    California newspaper:

    I have heard and seen enough! I have lived in the West all my life. I have

    worked around them. They have worked for me and I for them. When I was young

    I dated their daughters. When I got married they came to my wedding. Now

    that I have daughters of my own, some of their boys have dated my daughters.

    I would be privileged if one of them were to be my son-in-law.

    I'm talking about the Mormons.

    They are some of the most honest, hardworking people I have ever known. They

    are spiritual, probably more than most other so-called religious people I

    have encountered. They study the Bible and teach from it as much as any

    Christian church ever has. They serve their religion without pay in every

    conceivable capacity. Not one of their leaders, teachers, counselors,

    Bishops or music directors receive one dime for the hours of labor they put


    The Mormons have a non-paid ministry – a fact that is not generally known. I

    have heard many times from the pulpits of others how evil and non-Christian

    they are and that they will not go to heaven. I decided recently to attend

    one of their services near my home to see for myself.

    What a surprise!

    What I heard and saw was just the opposite from what the religious ministers

    of the day were telling me. I found a very simple service with no fanfare. I

    found a people with a great sense of humor and a well-balanced spiritual

    side. There was no loud music. Just a simple service, with the members

    themselves giving the several short sermons.

    They urge their youth to be morally clean and live a good life. They teach

    the gospel of Christ, as they understand it. The name of their church is

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. Does that sound like a

    non-Christian church to you? I asked them many questions about what they

    teach and why. I got answers that in most cases were from the New Testament.

    Their ideas and doctrines did not seem too far fetched for my understanding.

    When I read their "Book of Mormon" I was also very surprised to find just

    the opposite from what I had been told I would find.

    Then I went to another church's pastor to ask him some of the same questions

    about doctrine. To my surprise, when he found out that I was in some way

    investigating the Mormons, he became hostile. He referred to them as a

    non-Christian cult. I received what sounded to me like evil propaganda

    against those people. He stated bluntly that they were not Christian and

    that they did not fit into the Christian mold. He also told me that they don

    t really believe the Bible. He gave me a pile of anti-Mormon literature. He

    began to rant that the Mormons were not telling me the truth about what they

    stand for. He didn't want to hear anything good about them. At first I was

    surprised and then again, I wasn't. I began to wonder.

    I have never known of a cult that supports the Boy Scouts of America.

    According to the Boy Scouts, over a third of all the Boy Scout troops in the

    United States are Mormon.

    What cult do you know of that has a welfare system second to none in this

    country? They have farms, canneries and cattle ranches to help take care of

    the unfortunate ones who might be down and out and in need of a little help.

    The Mormon Church has donated millions to welfare causes around the world

    without a word of credit. They have donated thousands to help rebuild

    Baptist churches that were burned a few years ago. They have donated tons of

    medi cal supplies to countries rav aged by earthquakes.

    You never see them on TV begging for money.. What cult do you know that

    instills in its members to obey the law, pay their taxes, serve in the

    military if asked and be a good Christian by living high moral standards?

    Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Mormon youth get up before high

    school starts in the morning to attend a religious training class? They have

    basketball and softball leagues and supervised youth dances every month.

    They are recruited by the FBI, the State Department and every police

    department in the country, because they are Trustworthy. They are taught not

    to drink nor take drugs. They are in the Secret Service – those who protect

    the President. They serve in high leadership positions from both parties in

    Congress and in the US Senate, and have been governors of several states

    other than Utah. They serve with distinction and honor.

    If you have Mormons living near, you will probably find them to be your best

    friends and neighbors. They are Christians who try to live what they preach.

    They are not perfect and they are the first to admit this. I have known some

    of them who could not live their religion, just like many of us. The

    rhetoric which is spread around against them is nothing more than evil

    propaganda founded in untruths. (Others) had successfully demonized them to

    the point that the general public has no idea what they actually believe and

    teach. If you really want to know the truth, go see for yourself. You also

    will be surprised.

    When I first moved here some 25 years ago there were five Mormon wards in

    Santa Clarita, Calif. Now there are 15. They must be doing something right.

    "The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. ....

    They just make the best of everything."

    February 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • corpsman

      Sorry, buddy. Wrong Paul Allen (NOT the Microsoft founder):


      February 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  15. wonder

    How do they do it? I am sure they didn't dig the graves and performed some rites.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Kate

      They have some sort of ceremony at the temple, I believe. The dead body doesn't have to be there 😉 BTW, this is why they have the intense interest in genealogy, they are gathering names of people for this baptism ceremony.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  16. Bob

    Atheists conducting covert proxy posthumous renunciations of God on behalf of dead believers, you knew it was happening didn't you?

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of Christianity and other supersti-tions in 2012.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Jeepers

    Oh no! What if they got uprooted from Jewish Heaven and sent to Mormon Heaven because of some posthumous paperwork down on Earth?

    Religion...good grief...

    February 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  18. Adolfo


    February 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  19. Craig

    @Bibletruth – because if someone actually believes baptism does something, this is a horribly invasive act done against the will of the deceased and their family. Your lack of empathy and inability to see this is a bit frightening.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • yeahalright

      If someone actually believes baptism does something, then they are gullible and willfully stupid and backward for believing in magic. That's as nice as I can put it. This just in: scary movies aren't real. People should stop checking for monsters under their bed after about age 10. If a grownup still does so? They've earned derision and scorn.

      Basically, supersti.tions and magical thinking don't gain some extra respectability because the person calls it their religion. It's still hocus pocus make believe.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. 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 5:53 pm |
    • Curious

      1. Do Mormons believe baptism is necessary?

      2. Is baptism not possible in the spirit world?

      February 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • sck

      And adults actually believe that? For the sake of the rest of us I hope they are all in padded rooms.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      Everybody can make up their own minds what dogma to follow or to not follow any dogma. Nobody needs these busy-bodies meddling in their life or death. Just live their lives and leave everybody else alone.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • vtxrider

      This assumes that only Mormon theology is correct. How unbelievably arrogant.

      Christians that are the first to scream "anti-religion" at those that expect them to follow the same civil laws that the rest of us follow are the worst.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Asgard Eternal

      As long as the Mormons don't flaunt or capitalize upon the "posthumous Baptism" tenet of THEIR faith, what is the difference that the carnage that Spain inflicted upon the "civilized" world in the Inquisitional Period. Convert or die. I say the God decide who is right. Meanwhile, surely there are other much more important issues than doctrine or procedures facing the world today.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Oh now I get it, thanks.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:35 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.