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. YBP

    I don't even know where to begin to peal back the many layers of foolishness and absurdity in this story. Dead people, live people, imaginary religions, meaningless rituals left over from the ancient world. Incredible.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  2. jerry

    Other names on the list are founding fathers like George Washington... ATTENTION MORMONS: DON'T FEEL JUDGED WHEN YOU DO CRAZY THINGS LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITS WHATS COMING TO YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • End religious insanity now!

      The really creepy part is that they did it for Hitler and most of the senior Nazis as well. Google it and see.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      @End Religions Insanity Now....That is highly doubtful hearsay, meaning that it is totally unreliable information. Do you have anything factual to contribute to the discussion? Are you so down on religion that you have to resort to libel?

      February 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  3. Unafiliated

    I don't know... whatever, it doesn't seem offensive to me. I am an atheist, but still said a prayer in the back of a christian tract in order to be saved. Hey, I look at it this way. I believe there is no god, but maybe I'm wrong. And if it turns out to be the God of the evangelicals... awesome... I'll wind up in heaven for eternity, while most everyone else is burning in hell. It delights the imagination... it'd be so wonderfully ironic. If other religions have a way for me to be 'covered' just in case, I'm all for it.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • YBP

      This is known as Pascal's Wager. It's silly. Look into it.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Don't you think the various gods can see right through your cya approach? You think the dishonest believer wouldn't be on the same ticket to the lake of fire or whatever as the honest nonbeliever?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  4. If an angel named Moron shows up, you might want to ignore him

    Posthumous baptisms. Weird. Creepy and weird. Weird with no redeeming value.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • YBP

      As opposed to baptisms of live infants and converts...? It's nonsense either way.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      Tell that to Paul....1 Cor. 15:29

      February 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  5. stanton


    February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      Matthew 7:22-23: Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

      February 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • YBP

      What he did on the cross? Lose control of his bodily functions? Get eaten as carrion? Fail to bring the Kingdom as promised? Allow his own religious fanaticism to be his ultimate undoing? It's such a sad story.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

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

      February 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  6. mike from iowa

    One day the mental disease called "religion" will be curable, and no one need ever live a life of psychopathic dysfunction again. Until then we must be on guard of the ytranny represented by despotic evangelicals, don't let them get into power positions for they will destroy freedom.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  7. yeahalright

    They're all cults. At some point when a cult gets big enough it gets called a religion and people aren't supposed to laugh and aren't supposed to notice how ridiculous the mythology is anymore.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      verily said, hear hear.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

    Edward Cullen, confusing atheists with liberals? once in a while, visit dictionary website instead of the in-breeding sites! Ignorance is not always bliss. It's such a pain in the a..!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  9. cludgie

    Sigh. When will ye learn, O Mormons? While many Mormons you possibly know and associate with may operate within a sphere of normalcy, collectively the LDS church is an arrogant body of people who are very socially inept. Mormons do not recognize the boundaries within which most of us operate and frequently wander of the reservation of good manners. The LDS dogma that "We are right and the rest are part of the 'Wh0re of the Earth,' and they will thank us in the Hereafter," keep the Mormons operating in the way that they do. Baptisms for the dead Holocaust victims, for rural Welsh miners, or for Sicilians and Calabrians long since dead will not stop. Having been part of the LDS Name Extraction program myself, I can verify that Mormons take public records of the dead, whether they be vital statistics, church archives, or census records, and extract the names and dates and send them to the temples for proxy work, which includes baptisms and "endowment" ceremonies (based on Blue Lodge Freemasonry induction). To pretend otherwise is merely the LDS PR machine "lying for the Lord."

    February 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      Are they as socially inept as people who spend their time posting on message boards???

      February 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • JCT

      Have you ever tried actually going to a service? Talking with a member of their beliefs? Versus going to a "Blue Lodge Freemason" book. If you were trying to learn about a Ford truck, would you go to a chevy dealer and ask them how good a Ford truck is? I think they would tell you the entire truth–especially all the good things that they "know" about the other, right? Try it out some time....not saying you have to agree or even like them, just asking you to become educated.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  10. 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 having trouble coming to grips with.

    From the white board notes of a Catholic Professor of Theology:

    "The story of Adam and Eve is only symbolic.

    Yes, this story was composed in the 900s BCE and functions as an etiology (explanatory myth) . In the 900s Israel was self ruling, under King David and Solomon. The people were no longer at war and the question" Why are we not happy?" may have been asked. The short answer is sin. (Look at 1 Kings 11 for some clues into why the story depicts Eve sinning first and then tempting Adam [Solomon]).

    Original sin is therefore only symbolic of man's tendencies to sin.

    Yes, I teach Original Sin as symbolic of the sins of our origins - in our
    families and in the broader society, both of which affect each person
    profoundly. The "sins of our origins" approach helps to account for certain
    patterns of sin in particular families and societies.

    Baptism does not erase original sin since the sin does not exist. Yes, the old "laundry of the soul," approach to Baptism is no longer accepted.

    Infant Baptism is only a rite of initiation and commits parents and godparents to bringing up the child in a Christian home.

    Yes, but, since baptism is now celebrated at Sunday Eucharist, all the members of the parish family are encouraged to pledge their support and care for the faith life of the newly baptized. (A manifestation of this is
    persons volunteering to teach other people's kids the basics of Catholicism.)"

    February 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Joey

      This 'catholic' teacher has no idea what he's talking about. Geneticists have proven the origin of the species can be traced to a single, common ancestral mother and father. You have proven only that you are good at copying down the words of imbeciles and regurgitating them verbatim to the internet. Congratulations.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Really?

      Joey: Show me this research by these so called geneticists please before babbling like an idiot.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Reality

      As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

      " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago (added note: bible time has Adam living about 6000 years ago) began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

      "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

      Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

      It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

      February 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  11. JCT

    1) If you don't believe in baptisms for the dead, then should it really matter whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint members do it? In my opinion, no, but out of respect for a particular religion who expresses that concern, then obviously, it should not proceed. What happened here, is not a revolt by the Latter-day Saint church (despite the angry Rabbi's words), but a couple of people who unfortunately slipped through the system. They instruct to only submit information for family names. This is not an affront to the Jewish religion or community.
    2) You can learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint belief in baptism for the dead here: http://www.lds.org/study/topics/baptisms-for-the-dead?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead and here: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/08/i-have-a-question/i-have-a-question?lang=eng&query=baptism+dead. But in short. Latter-day Saints believe that Baptism is essential for salvation (John 3:5 KJV: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."). Some may wonder why it still is necessary if they were baptized in other churches, then why would they still need to be baptized by the LDS church members through proxy. The reason is because they believe that Christ's original church in both form and doctrine, unaltered in any way, was restored to the earth again after a long time of being gone through apostasy (or a falling away –2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 KJV). Because the church believes it has the priesthood authority to baptize in his name. They believe that only through the correct Priesthood authority can the ordinance of baptism be performed. So, there are many in the world who have died not knowing Christ or having the opportunity to accept or reject His gospel and therefore, by baptizing for the dead, the Church believes that it is giving those people an opportunity in the spirit world to either accept or reject the full gospel of Jesus Christ. They use as support for their belief also the scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:29 KJV. This chapter shows how Paul was trying to convince the Corinthians that the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually occured...in his support, he said in verse 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?" Basically saying that there would be no purpose in baptizing for the dead if there wasn't a resurrection in the first place.

    3. Most people on here have not educated themselves to be able to make the claims on here. Instead they spew hate and anger toward things they have not even attempted to understand...often times believing what people tell them instead of researching for themselves what the church believes. I would challenge people who are responding to research the church, ask a member instead of a preacher of another faith concerning the exact beliefs of the church. I don't claim to know everything about every religion, but one thing is for sure, I am first going to try to understand them before I begin launching attacks at them for being false. Take in all the information–information from actual members or sources not biased one way or another. I wouldn't go to a chevy dealership to talk learn about a Ford truck would I? Nope. I would talk to someone who knows most about the product and then decide for myself than have someone tell me what to think. Become educated at the very least! Even if you despise the particular religion afterwards or you think the Baptists are just plain wrong or the Mormons are wrong–maybe you should learn about them, tolerate their beliefs and believe whatever you want to believe, but do it with some respect. Is that too much to ask?

    February 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Buck

      It's hard enough to "tolerate" true nut cases like the Mormons. But when they begin pushing their brand of crazy onto dead people who wanted nothing to do with them, the respect you ask for them goes out the window. You earn respect, not just get it because you believe in some fairy tale. And you most certainly don't get it when infringe upon others. I cannot accept a President whose ideals and faith follow this line of insanity.

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

      It's insulting to people who worship differently to have another religion think they ought to save them from their unholy lives.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • JCT

      Well, if they are truly nut cases like you say they are, then why should you care that they are practicing what you call a false ideology or religious belief? Furthermore, Mormons don't believe that the person must accept the proxy baptism, they believe that they can either accept it or reject it...so if that is the case, they are not being forced, but have their choice. Having this knowledge, does this change your opinion...and if not, why not?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  12. BMB

    Why don't the Mormons apologize and stop posthumous baptisms for all non-Mormons?? It's not just the Jews who are offended and repulsed by this practice. I consider the LDS to be a cult and find it extremely offensive that they could possibly put my name in there some day.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • MormonBaptizer

      One day we will get you haha

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

      If you think it is a cult and don't believe in it, then should it matter that your name may end up on a list when you are dead? Its not true right? Why does it matter then?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  13. Joey

    I certainly don't identify with these goofy beliefs, but as far as I'm concerned, they can 'baptize' whoever they want, whenever they want if it makes them happy (as long as they're never near the deceased). The jews need to take themselves a little less seriously, like the rest of the world. They come off as bullies with a poor sense of tolerance and no sense of humor. Oh wait, I guess that would be true. Ask the Palestinians.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Satan

      My work is done here.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  14. Lol Mormons

    A Mormon girl was going out with my college roommate, then she cheated on him. When she got caught she told him she talked to Jesus and Jesus told her they weren't meant for each other, that's why she did it.
    She used to always eat all my leftover pizza from the fridge too.
    I guess Jesus told you to do that too, huh?? You fat, pizza-stealing b!itch!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • saopaco

      Do you still have her number? I wanna tell her that Jesus said it was ok for her to get anal.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    Think of the controversy of some mosque decided to 'convert' dead mormons, evangelicals, etc. LOL! this place will go even more nuts than ever! mormon, evangelical, etc. it's all the same crap. Islam, Christianity and their various sects, cults have been destroying the world's cultures, and the civilization itself. It's sick. Islam's destruction is more in-your-face kind, while christanity stuff is glossed over.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  16. CBR

    It is not necessary for any church to baptize anyone who does not request that the baptismal be performed. This whole issue needs to be resolved within those churches who decide to baptize people without their permission. The Mormons must realize that they cannot baptize those who are Jewish period.

    This should not even be happening and it is disturbing that the practice continues in this country.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  17. saopaco

    Notice to all members of the LDS branch of the Christian Cult:

    I do not want to be part of your faith. If I had wanted to join the club, I would have done so before I died. Do not presume to know what I want or condescend to make me a posthumus member of your religion.

    I say respectfully, "thanks but no thanks."

    February 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • JCT

      The LDS religion doesn't believe that you are forced into accepting that baptism, but instead are allowed the opportunity to accept or reject. But even if that wasn't the case, would it really matter if you didn't believe in it anyways?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Dear Mormons, induct me, don't induct me, ban me, whatever. Doesn't make a bit of difference. Same goes for any other mythology.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  18. Andy McCarty

    It doesn't matter what church or cult we're talking about. Mormons have absolutely no right to baptize anyone who hasn't asked them to do so. The only case in which this is allowed is with infants, but there you have parents and Godparents who express their intent to share their faith with the child. Posthumously baptizing people means nothing in reality. However, it is an afront to the respect that our deceased loved ones deserve, as much so as knocking over their tombstones.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • denver2

      "The only case in which this is allowed is with infants, but there you have parents and Godparents who express their intent to share their faith with the child."

      This is hilarious. Why is it OK for a parent to impose religion on a child?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Earthling

    The levels of insanity on both sides of this story are right off the chart. Dead is dead. Religion is nonsense. One group of delusional nutcases freaks out and tries to drag dead bodies away from another group of delusional nutcases. There is no hope for humanity.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • RJK

      Wow how open minded and tolerate of you! I wonder how many vegans are pro-abortion...just a thought.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • RJK

      sorry I am a not a mormon but I am a moron..."tolerate" in above post s/b "tolerant"

      February 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  20. Edward Cullen

    Too funny. First liberals say God doesn't exist then they get all flustered when dead Jews get baptized. HA HA HA
    Who cares!

    February 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • denver2

      Why do you assume that liberals and not conservatives are upset about this?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • saopaco

      Apparently people related to the dead jews mind.

      HA HA HA you named yourself after a character from Twillight.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

      Edward Cullen, confusing atheists with liberals? once in a while, visit dictionary website instead of the in-breeding sites! Ignorance is not always bliss. It's such a pain in the a..! what a tool!

      February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • BrotherAustin

      You disgusting piece of filth. Any religious person would find this atrocious. Liberal, conservative, and everything in between. I'm not even religious and I find this action disgraceful.

      We live in a country where we respect the beliefs of others and we protect those beliefs, even when we don't share them.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
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.