Mormon proxy baptism of Daniel Pearl draws family's ire
March 1st, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Mormon proxy baptism of Daniel Pearl draws family's ire

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - A muckraking ex-Mormon researcher struck again this week, revealing that some Mormons conducted a proxy baptism for slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl last year.

The disclosure comes after recent revelations that Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including Anne Frank and a parent of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, had been baptized by proxy by Mormons.

Helen Radkey, who has been combing through Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints records for years, told CNN the Pearl incident was one of "the most egregious," because of the circumstances of Pearl's death.

Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Pakistan and beheaded by terrorists in 2002. Prior to his execution he was forced to read a statement on camera saying he was Jewish, an episode that was captured on video.

Radkey, found LDS records that revealed Pearl was posthumously baptized at the Twin Falls, Idaho Temple in June.

The baptism struck a nerve with Pearl's mother, Ruth Pearl. She said in a statement that while she knew Mormons had good intentions, and meant the baptism as a way to offer salvation, "rest assured that Danny's soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld."

"He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed," Ruth Pearl's statement said.

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"For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled for ritual," her statement continued.

Pearl's widow, Mariane Pearl, told CNN's Brian Todd that whoever conducted the proxy baptism should have contacted the family out of respect.

"I'm shocked by the fact anyone would do something like this," she said.

Explainer: How and why do Mormons baptize the dead?

Baptism for the LDS Church is an important article of faith for the "remission of sins."  Adherents can be baptized by water immersion as early as 8-years-old. Mormons have always conducted proxy baptisms for the dead, whether a person was Mormon or not.

"Mormons believe that there is a place the dead go where they are in ‘spirit prison’ and where they have the chance to accept the Christian baptism,” Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University told CNN's Belief Blog earlier this year. “But it’s a duty to actually perform Christian ordinance of baptism, so Mormons seek out every last person who ever lived and baptize them.”

Many Mormons are proud of the fact that they attempt to make their faith universal through baptizing the dead.

“Historically, Christians have been exclusive,”  Terryl Givens, an expert on Mormonism at the University of Richmond told the Belief Blog recently. “Catholics have taught that only Catholics are saved, and evangelicals say only if you confess according to their tradition. Mormons say, ‘No, salvation is open to all people.’”

After Frank's proxy baptism last month, the LDS Church said it is committed to disciplining members of its church who conducted such baptisms, which violates a 1990s-era policy against conducting such baptisms for Holocaust victims.

“It takes a good deal of deception and manipulation to get an improper submission through the safeguards we have put in place,” LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy told CNN in a statement, responding to the February report about the Anne Frank baptism.

The church apologized for the baptism of Wiesenthal's parents and blamed it on a technical glitch in its system for submitting names for posthumous proxy baptism.

Church officials say the principle in the Pearl case is the same, whether it is a Holocaust victim or a famous individual, the requests for a proxy baptism are only supposed to come from family members. One sticking point though is the church has no distinguishing line as to who counts as a family member.

"The policy of the Church is that members can request these baptisms only for their own ancestors," Michael Purdy a church spokesman said in a statement Thursday.

"It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the Church’s policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention," the statement continued. "The Church will continue to do all it can to prevent such instances, including denying access to these genealogical records or other privileges to those who abuse them in this way.”

–CNN's Brian Todd, Dugald McConnell and Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report.

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- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

soundoff (979 Responses)
  1. Kurt Sovereign

    Hello do you know if http://missiontech-api.com/ProxyChecker.php works?


    January 1, 2014 at 9:36 pm |
  2. This piece was quite a hot topic in the green room after it aired. Other guests who were waiting and watching the segment were asking Janice for more information. Some were concerned about what they have purchased in the past, and one woman said that she'

    Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Cheers This piece was quite a hot topic in the green room after it aired. Other guests who were waiting and watching the segment were asking Janice for more information. Some were concerned about what they have purchased in the past, and one woman said that she's going home to look at her label and examine what is on her "faux" coat. http://evd.ru/forum/viewtopic.php?t=30077&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=

    May 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  3. Holly Golightly

    "Muckraking ex-Mormon" – What legitimate jounalist would begin this way? Mormons apologize again for mistaken baptism. Over and over, they baptized Anna Frank and parents of Simon Wiesenthal, the blame on rogue members. Entire practice of proxy baptism is outrageous enough. Baptizing Jews is clearly anti-semitic. Gods blesses Daniel Pearl, not Mormons.

    March 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Kurt

      I'm sorry. I'm a Mormon, but I can't really control the others. 99.9% of us follow the rules and don't baptize outside our own ancestors. In fact, I thought it was just about impossible now with the new online system we have.

      But I have to admit, I'm a little annoyed with all the anti-Mormon comments. We don't go around bashing your religions or non-religions. Why the hate?

      April 10, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  4. Kahuna

    Mormons really could not give a krap about how offensive this practice is with other people an/or religions. With Mormons, it's all about the numbers game. THey baptise the dead so they can claim greater "follower" numbers of their bogus religion.

    March 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Kurt

      Not really. I'm a Mormon, and all the "krap" you just said is just that.

      April 10, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  5. ALLEN

    Are the Mormons crazy, or what?

    March 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Kurt


      April 10, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Ben Cohen

    To all the Mormons who believe in proxy baptism of the dead, do you not understand how OFFENSIVE we Jews find this whole idea within your theology? This idea of baptism by proxy is not even found within Jewish theology and this idea of the baptism being offered to the Jew in the spirit world is truly offensive. What it say is that you LDS people do not understand the theology behind death for the Jew. Jews do not go to some spirit prison waiting to be let out....AAAaaaarrgh! This all stinks of blasphemy. What it says is that there is no salvation other than the salvation offered by the Mormon Church dead or alive. Instead of worrying about the salvation of dead Jews, why don't you go off and locate the lost tribe of Jewish Indians...maybe you will find the long lost great great grandson of Tonto Goldstein!

    March 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • GL

      Thank you so much for showing how Mormon's are trying to conceal their true desire to boast a big congregation while screwing with everyone else's beliefs and claiming somehow that they are the chosen people. I am sick of them and their tired ways.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • lazurite

      Exactly, Ben, and it's not just Jews who find this "practice" offensive. It is wrong on SO many levels.

      March 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Kurt

      I'm a Mormon. We don't mean to offend anyone. Our theology is important to us, but respecting your theology is as well. We are explicitly told NOT to baptize non-ancestors. No famous people. No friends' ancestors. No one but your own family - and only if they never requested to not be baptized. That is their choice.

      We believe in agency - any baptisms we perform here don't force anything upon anyone who is already dead. We believe that they can choose to accept or reject the ordinance.

      Sorry for the mistakes. It's a good church, but full of imperfect people.

      April 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  7. Meteorite

    Just another cult like scientology.

    March 19, 2013 at 10:30 am |
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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.