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. guest

    When is CNN going to do a story on the source of these "discoveries"? The story says, "Helen Radkey, who has been combing through Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints records for years . . ." Who is this pathetic person who has dedicated her life to going through mountains of records just to stir up resentment and strife? What a complete waste of a life! BTW, if someone wants to induct my dead grandfather into their religion, go for it. If your ritual is not recognized by God, then it is meaningless. If it is, then you have done him a favor.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Pongo

      I doubt CNN would expend resources doing a hatchet job on this woman on behalf of the Mormon church. You guys have plenty of money. If you want to assassinate her character for exposing your creepy rituals, you'll have to do it yourselves.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  2. NorCalMojo

    This story is ridiculous. The people performing these silly rituals were ridiculous, and the people offended by them are ridiculous.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • danny

      i agree, they can "baptize" me and my dead relatives all they want, this is so stupid, just trying to stir up some people for the sake of entertainment...well I guess its working

      March 2, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  3. danny

    who cares about this ridiculous stuff? Anyone who knows about religion knows that you can't baptize a dead person.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • RapierPoint

      Obviously in their religion, you can baptize a dead person. There are other religions that believe you can talk to the dead and even bring them back to life. Lots of strange things out there.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  4. LoneStar

    Unless a person is alive and can consent to baptism, a person has not been baptized.

    Let the mormons do what they want, but unless the baptism involved a living, breathing body, then it really wasn't a baptism.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  5. Big T

    I'm not a practicing memeber of any organized religion (they start too many wars) but it seems to me that being able to baptize dead people defeats the whole purpose of faith. This practice would pose the question as to weather or not the dead can communicate their repentance of sin and acceptance of faith from the grave.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • WVUeers

      That is because this is about the soul and the human body. As was stated, the Mormon's believe that the soul is left in limbo after death and they baptize as a form of freeing the soul from this limbo. Catholics believe in Purgatory – again, a place for souls left in limbo. The idea is that you can pray them out of Purgatory and into heaven. Look deep enough and pretty much all religions have similar little story lines.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Chris

      So does that negates all those religious people who tell you not to sin to go to heaven?
      Sin all you want and leave enough money to pay a bunch of people to baptize your dead body and pray for you and here comes heaven...

      March 2, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  6. Cobra6

    “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.’”

    That is absolutely NOT what they're saying! They are saying that only Mormons can have salvation, otherwise, what would be the point of posthumous baptism? Oh sure, anyone can convert to become Mormon and be "saved," but that makes them like every single other western religion including those named above. Anyone who isn't a Mormon goes to "spirit prison" – yeah, real inclusive..

    March 2, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  7. stevie68a

    Freud called religion "a mental illness". How true, how true!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Aquinas

      So is liberalism.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  8. Rocking Nay

    I just moved out of Idaho after living there for a year and a half. Those LDS people think they own the world and feel they can do whatever they want, wherever. They have no respect for anyone that is not LDS. You can't even get a job if you don't belong to one of their wards. Bunch of bigots!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • danny

      kind of like orthodox Jews in brooklyn

      March 2, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  9. Tanya

    As a former Mormon, I participated in these baptisms and I want to say that I'm sorry. I had no idea when I was doing these pretend ordinances that I could be hurting people. Most of the baptisms are done by 12-18 year olds. It's a way of getting them used to going to the temple.

    The really offensive ordinances are the OTHER ones the church does in their temple. I'm sure Daniel Pearl had the naked oil rubdown done in proxy...it only gets uglier.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • danny

      naked oil rubdown? let's hear more...

      March 2, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  10. Sue H

    Mrs. Pearl and the family deserve an apology from the Mormon temple that baptized her husband. He was Jewish and therefore does not need to be baptized into the Christian religion and the Mormon faith. We Christians baptize before death and do not baptize without the person's permission.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • guest

      Sue H says, "We Christians baptize before death and do not baptize without the person's permission." You didn't mention the part that "We Christians" also believe that if you did not get baptized or at least say the magic words before death that you will burn in He_ll for eternity regardless of whether or not you ever had the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  11. no

    Then consider the Mormon's baptismal pool is surrounded by Oxen which are graven Idols. It is a lie of an religion.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  12. the referee

    How dare they. And some of you want a a person of this religious persuasion to be president?

    March 2, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Sue H

      The person's religion has nothing to do with his/her ability to govern as President. There have been Quakers and Catholics, who do not represent my faith but who have served as President, although Richard Nixon does not rank high on my list of Presidents.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Martin

      Sorry, Sue H, but I disagree. There is a difference between being of a certain faith and being so totally indoctrinated as to be unfit to be in charge of a secular government. Rick Santorum is so indoctrinated in his Catholicism as to be unable to be objective about secular matters. And Mitt Romney-forget it! There is no such thing as being nominally Mormon. It's like being pregnant: either you are or you are not. Mormanism is a cult, and like all cults it appeals to people who are lacking in some way. In Mitt's case it's simple: he has no personality.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Julian

      Well, we alraedy have a left leaning socialist in the WH, why not a Mormon?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  13. K3Citizen

    A lawsuit or two can stop this invasion of religious freedom.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • David

      If you don't believe believe in the Mormon faith, why do you care. It is just words spoken.
      I don't understand what the big fuss is about.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Chris

      Words can hurt. Ask victims of bullying. Mormons are just bullies.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  14. Nick-o

    This is partly why nobody outside the Mormon faith respects the Mormon Church.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  15. Mittens Romtard

    What a bunch of religious kooks – don't you people know there is no hamster in the sky.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • justme

      why are you here ?

      March 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  16. Furseal

    I think it is high time that the families of the psuedo-baptized start looking at ways they can sue the Mormom church for emotional distress. Maybe if the church is hit with enough financial arrows the church will fix the 'glitches' that seem to show up extremely frequently.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  17. The MagusNYC.

    Please note, that although well intentioned, the Mormons misinterpret 1 Peter 4:6, which is better understood as: "it is necessary to make it clear that the preaching was done not after these people had died, but while they were still alive" (NIV footnote). Nowhere in the Bible will one find baptism of the dead.
    What may be offensive to others, is the view that their paths to salvation are considered invalid.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Steve Brown

      I am not a Mormon but I think they use 1 Cor. 15 verse 29 as part of the belief. I think Paul answered well in verse 31 same chapter. I feel sorry for people who are so brain washed.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  18. BillnTed

    People just need to ignore these idiots. Leave the dead in peace.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  19. AbcTyre

    How can someone be baptized after they are already dead? This is all so confusing.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  20. Kooky Kolob

    Come on down to my planet, there's golden plates and enough wives for everybody to have at least 10.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:26 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.