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. Nate Beck, at BYU

    Yeah, Mike's right. If someone's descendants are offended by their ancestors' information being invoked for a ceremony that the LDS community considers important for the entire human race, I can understand backing off and not doing it.

    What I can't understand is why this is suddenly a headline for CNN... I don't see any dates in this article, and I'm guessing that the only reason any story that sheds negative light on Mormonism is that Mitt Romney is seen as a potential opponent to Pres Obama in a presidential race... I'm a little bit disappointed in how openly hostile CNN has been to Gov Romney in the last few weeks.

    For instance, today go to the politics section of CNN, look on the right side, and the only op-ed's they are sponsoring are "How Romney Could Lose Michigan," Some op-ed by Zelizer, "Mitt Romney's 'Severely' Bad Moves," and "GOP, You're Real Problem is Romney." Seeing a trend? CNN, you're paying these guys to run stories and the contributions you picked are 3/4 anti-Romney, and let's not get started on the stuff that's not considered opinion...

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

      Yes yes, the liberal media's out to getcha. Yawn.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • JCT

      I could see how you could say that. You gave pretty good proof to me.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Proof

      The party dominated by fundamentalist Christians has a persecution complex. Quelle surprise.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  2. bill

    It is fascinating how one group of delusional folks performs an inane ritual with the subject matter being the spirits previously living persons who belonged to a different group of delusional folks and the ancestors of the dead delusional folks who are themselves also delusional can't sort delusion from reality and get all upset about what the first group did to the souls of their dead ancestors!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • I'm Just Sayin'

      Strange thing is... I was COMPLETELY with you throughout that whole statement. Well done!

      Shalom and praise Allah and Amen!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Asgard Eternal

      You are absolutely correct. Bravo Zulu. I'm gonna keep my eye on you.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • bill

      I left out the word "imaginary" in my first post. I thought it important, in the name of accuracy, to stick it in their twice and give it to you again.

      It is fascinating how one group of delusional folks performs an inane ritual with the subject matter being the imaginary spirits of previously living persons who belonged to a different group of delusional folks and the ancestors of the dead delusional folks who are themselves also delusional can't sort delusion from reality and get all upset about what the first group did to the imaginary souls of their dead ancestors!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • bill

      I cannot believe I just used "their" when I should have used "there." I am ashamed.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  3. I'm Just Sayin'

    Anybody have any more popcorn? I'm out. And the comments are only up to 300 or so.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  4. Darwin

    Santa Clause who art in Atlantis
    Hallowed be thy magical flying reigndeer
    Your elves will drum
    On Merlin's bum
    At the North Pole as in the Mall of America
    Give us this day our daily Sports Center
    And forgive me for wiping a booger on my mother in law's couch
    As she is a beyotch
    And lead us not into an embarrassing off-season
    But deliver us from Tebow


    February 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • I'm Just Sayin'

      "But deliver us from Tebow"

      Allah willing...

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


      February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Deep North

      There's a special place for your kind......I just don't know where? LOL

      February 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Will


      February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  5. Willie

    Is there any way to un-babtise mormons after they die? Maybe a few satanic rituals? That should teach them.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Elliot

      Probably not, but it would be really fun to get a long list of recently deceased mormons and publically un-baptise them with some weird chicken's feet and such. Then just sit back and watch the loonies go insane over what you are doing to their dead relatives.

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

      How about we start at the top with the founders of this cult. Then put it on youtube for the world to see. I'm coming after you dead joseph smith, and you next dead brigham young!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  6. I'm Just Sayin'

    I've never met a Mormon that wasn't an awesome human being.

    Southern Baptists and evangelists, however...

    I'm just sayin'.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Thom

      Obviously you have met very few people in your life because I could say the flip side of what you said. However, I'm sure you weren't making your statement as fact. I'm sure it was inadvertent that you narrow mindedly painted a group of people with the same stroke of a brush.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • I'm Just Sayin'

      Actually, I AM speaking from experience.

      Have a nice day. Deal with it.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Jack Watcher

    If the Morons tried to start their church today they would be jailed. There have been so many "adjustments" in their beliefs and policies that it's almost a different church. I ask LDS members this: if the policies of your cult were okay when it was founded, why are they no longer okay? Things that were elemental to your beliefs such as polygamy and belief that black people are inferior.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • denver2

      You do realize that the practice over the various Abrahamic religions has changed considerably over the last several centuries, right?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Lee

    Who cares about Baptisms for the dead...it's all hogwash anyway. Let them baptise all they want because it sure makes geneaology searches easier.

    Thank you Mormons!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      LOL!!!! How funny! The Mormon Church Registry can replace ancestry.com. 🙂

      February 17, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • i wonder

      The LDS genealogy is not always correct. They have one of my grandparent's names spelled wrong, thereby stopping the line, when, in reality, there is much more that is known and doc.umented... I have seen quite a few others complain about them on the genealogy forums too.

      Nice try, LDS, but I hope that other researchers take up the yoke and do a better job of it.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  9. Bob

    Wow, this really exposes the complete lack of logical thought in the basic foundation of these religions. If the Jews don't believe the baptism does anything, why care? If they care, then they really believe the baptism actually DOES do something which means they don't believe in the primacy of their own religion... I'm actually not trying to be too critical, just pointing out the facts. We atheists can be just as irrational in other ways, in fact, I've come to the conclusion that irrationality is a basic, fundamental trait of humanity that we can't, and probably don't want to, escape from. Why? I love music... completely irrational... I have dreams of doing things that I'll never be able to do, but my irrationality allows me to strive for them and enjoy the effort... So, my half-baked theory is that we should all accept our own and each other's humanity in its entirety and stop the hateful, destructive responses. We have enough motivation in this world to be mean to each other (mainly fighting over resources which we'll never get away from).... I feel sorry for those that are wasting their time and energy here on earth worrying about "baptism" of dead people...

    February 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • gregory lawler

      as an atheist I also would be offended by being "baptized" by any religion. They care because it is offensive to their own religion and suggests that the jewish religion is not capable of taking care of their own
      and no one wants to be in effect subjugated by anyone or anyone's religion without even their knowledge.
      this is a complete lack of respect for other people.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Why does belief in nonsensical fairy tales deserve extra respect because the person calls it their religion?

      If I tell you about the garden gnome in my yard that's going to help me live forever, does it make you stop laughing and all of a sudden get real serious when I tell you..."hey wait that's my religion!" No. When you say crazy stuff people are going to call you crazy.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  10. Zak

    The Mormon doctrine of Baptism for the Dead is one of the most deeply misunderstood and misreported practices out there. Here are some facts about the practice:

    1. Mormon's don't believe that they are forcing the dead to accept the baptism. They just believe that they are giving the dead the opportunity to accept baptism.
    2. In John 3 Jesus says that those who are not baptized cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
    3. The early Christians practiced it: 1 Cor. 15:29.

    Best of all it means that in a round about way all good people will one day have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and live with him one day. Contrast that with the opinion of many Evangelicals that believe that generations of good Chinese, Hindu, and African people will spend an eternity in Hell simply because they never heard about Jesus Christ.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Stay away from me and my family you dirty mormon.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Aequitas

      Zak, 1 Corinthians 15 does not say that early Christians "practiced" baptism of the dead. It's simply making a point that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then anyone who has been baptized were baptized into a dead guy, and how would that benefit anyone? Paul is making a point that Christ was indeed raised from the dead.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Willie

      Actually, jesus never said anything in john 3, john said what he thought jesus said. Perhaps you should learn a little about your holey book before you preach.

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

      So...basically...your god has a bigger ____ than theirs eh?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  11. Kevininvancouver

    I don't see what the big deal is the Jews should feel honored. And what the heck the more diplomas in your pocket when you meet the big guy the better off you are.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  12. Julie

    Yeah, sorry huh?
    Let's see the Mormons get all those poor Jews out of Mormon heaven now and THEN maybe "sorry" will cut it, busters.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    I think I'll write in my will "Don't let any sinkin' Mormons near my dead body or soul, thankyou."

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

      *stinkin', stinking, stanky, nasty (all of the above)

      February 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  14. llane94123

    How disrespectful and arrogant for the mormon's to baptise people of other faiths.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  15. Deep North

    SO How does the dead person know that they have been Proxytized? They are dead!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • godsadopteddaughter

      Posthumous baptism is like the Will Call box at a football game. When you get to where you are going, your ticket will be waiting.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  16. mightyfudge

    Let me lay this out for y'all nice and simple: NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR (who probably wants your money.) End of debate.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • fussymouse

      Your utter ignoronce of the truth never ends a debate.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  17. Brett

    Wondering how anyone is "outraged" about any of this. No harm, no foul.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • susan

      I am not Jewish, but even I am offended that the names of people who were persecuted for their religious beliefs and murdered for their beliefs would be co-opted by members of the Mormon church. How disrespectful! I do not understand your statement, "No harm, no foul." It certainly was a foul to use these names without permission from their living family members.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  18. Mesa AZ LDS

    First of all baptism for the dead is from the Bibile. In Pauls letters to the Corinthians he addresses it. Convenient for other faiths to dismiss it. Without baptisms for the dead how do those that went before and had no opporunity to hear the words of Christ have an opportunity to be saved.

    1 Corinthians 15:29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

    We believe we are providing individuals an "opportunity" to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Free agency does transcend the grave and we are not forcing anyone to accept the gospel or the baptism.

    Secondly, either we are wrong and if thats the case than the baptisms on their behalf mean absolutely nothing in the eternities or we are correct and we are providing an opportunitiy for our ancestors to have eternal glory in Jesus Christ. No one is harmed in either instance.

    Clearly the horror the Jews suffered at the hand of Hitler goes without saying and the chruch does indeed respect their request to not have the work done at this time for those that suffered. Accidents do happen and apologies should be accepted.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Think for yourself

      So what i'm hearing you say is that unless an official Mormon baptism is performed, when a person arrives at the pearly gates, your Jesus will simply turn them away? He's that bureaucratic? Hmm...

      February 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Puzzled in TX

      Other places in the New Testament, it says believers will be saved through God's grace. Why invalidate a dead person's free will after they're gone simply based to two lines of ambiguous writing from 2000 years ago when everyone will have their moment before God. Is God somehow not allowed to ask questions? Or to inform the dead that while they were gone, Christ came and saved them? Is the LDS putting limits on the omnipotent God?

      As a Christian, it is incredibly important to understand how many years have passed since the gospels were written, how many hands they have passed through, how many scribes have copied the volumes by hand, how many different translations have been made, and at the end of the day how many errors have propagated through the holy scriptures. You can't take it all as literal fact or you'll wind up in the mess we're in now.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  19. gort01

    mormons are not sorry for baptizing jews...they are sorry they got caught doing it..

    February 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  20. Willie

    Mormons have a lot to be sorry for. This whole practice of babtising dead people is terribly disrespectful. It is a personal decision to belong to a certain religion, not something anyone has a right to choose for someone after their death. It makes a mockery of the christian religion, god, and all other non mormon beliefs. It is especially disrespectful to Jewish people who don't believe that Jesus was a savior. In fact, there's no proof he ever lived. If any of these people try to pull that garbage on me after I die, I'll come back to haunt them into submission!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
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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.