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. you have got to be kdding...

    The difference between the Mormon church and a school yard bully?

    $$$$ and the fact that LDS hides behind a "religion".

    So, the big punishment for this obscene abuse of religious power is...They don't get to access the records? Really?

    The hypocrisy of the LDS church is mind boggling. First, no other races are allowed in, until the LDS wants their $$$. Polygamy is "forbidden" until you can get a reality TV show and now this.


    March 2, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  2. WhatUSee

    I found out that a distant cousin of mine, who is Mormon, had my entire family and my dead ancestors "baptized" by proxy as Mormons as far back as she could research. Well, as another cousin said to me, "It only has to bother you if you think it 'took.'"
    It doesn't bother me....

    March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • justme

      finally a reasonable answer.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Joe T.

      True, in the end it doesn't matter, but for me it is simply a matter of principle. Keep your religion away from me. I don't want to be in any LDS records as being baptised as one, even if it is posthumously.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  3. gnodges

    I'm an athiest, and every time a mormon dies, I........do nothing, because they're dead.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • justme

      wow ! an athiest that does nothing? what a surprise.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Matty

      Beats declaring jihads and going nuts over burned books and abortions.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:51 am |

    I wonder if humantiy will ever be rid of these cults that do no good for anyone. From Mormonisim to Islam to Christianity none of them do any good but foster more hate and anymosity.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • justme

      and so you are here why ?

      March 2, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Chaka

      And yet some of, including the largest mass murderer, of the last 100 years have been Atheist.

      Funny how that whole loss of religion doesn't seem to do anything to make people better.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  5. bxgrrl

    It's amusing to read all the comments from the various "Christians" arguing that THEIR faith is the only true one. The Mormons think they're the only saved ones too. Jesus, save me from your followers!

    March 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Matty


      March 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • devilgrl

      Amen bxgrrl! The thumpers need their own ring to fight it out in, starring Muffy the morman and Bubba the battle axe babtist..

      March 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • 21k

      time for a religious world war! woo-hoo!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Matty

      The new season of Deadliest Fighter just became the Deadliest Evangilist. First up Christianty versus Odinism!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  6. rockysfan

    "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."
    Muckraking? Really? Sounds to me like this woman is doing something you reporters are too lazy to do. Especially since the mormon church tried to say this wasn't happening anymore. Clearly the mormons have no control over their congregation. Who baptizes dead people? Without any family consent? And they say the are not a cult? Please!

    March 2, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  7. 21k

    poor guy. now he's not baptized post-mortem as a catholic. which, according to the pope himself, is the only true religion.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • rockysfan

      Reading not your balliwick? Article states MORMONS. Catholics only baptize LIVE people, not dead ones!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • 21k

      rock, you poor stupid F. it's called sarcasm. do you really think i'm going to worry about being accurate when it comes to voodoo magic? time for decaf man.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  8. fsmgroupie

    hocus pocus

    March 2, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  9. MyTake

    This whole thing is hilarious!! People arguing about some group doing magic incantations on other DEAD people. I mean really ... there is nothing to get upset about ... LOL ... there is nothing theological or otherwise that should get anyone's panties in a bunch ... hey ... I am gonna put a curse on all who read this that they will wake up and start thinking rationally ... 😉

    March 2, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • blondie

      I am gonna put a bone in my mouth, a feather in my hair and poke needles in a doll made of your hair for this! I'm gonna cook salamander feet, light incense and cut off a chickens head on an altar for what you have just now said!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  10. JM

    They sounds completely nutty to me. Clueless, disrespectful and silly. God is God. They aren't, although they seem to be playing God.

    "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

    March 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  11. TracyG

    This statement bothered me: "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." Let me tell you that BAPTISM does NOT offer Salvation! Being a Good Person and living a life of Values also does NOT offer Salvation. The ONLY way into Heaven is to accept that Jesus Christ (the one true Living God) sacrificed Himself on the cross of calvary for the payment of our sins. Accept him today into your life. Once you draw your final breath, your eternal destiny is sealed.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Matty

      I'm pretty sure Jesus preached more about a person living a good moral life than believing in him. Then again, I'm probably condemned to hell for trying to interject some common sense.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Mave

      You are silly and announcing it to the world is just stupid.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Hannah

      Bloody hell mate, since when did you have God's ear. People have the right to believe differently. Jesus was a Jew.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • BRC

      That is your belief and opinion only. There is every bit as much evidence that Mrs. Pearl is right as there is evidence you are you are.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Bebe

      Since Jesus lived and died as a Jew, I wonder whether the Mormons have baptized him yet. After all, Christianity was not even founded until some time after his death.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Christina

      Religion is a joke, and religious zealots are scary, whether they are Christian or Muslim. I've never heard of a Budhist doing ridiculous, crazy things like this. If you live a good life and treat others like you want to be treated, I think you've done pretty well for yourself.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • stan t

      if living a good life and being a person of value does not offer salvation then your imaginary 'god' in the sky can kiss my hairy white ar$e. go worship your jesus cult elsewhere

      March 2, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • My God Is Better Than Your God

      Enjoy hell.
      Try not to get too lonely.
      What you believe should be between you and your god.
      So please S T F U !!!!!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • hippie power 69

      jesus lived and died a JEW. who are you to tell another person what to believe or where they are going after they die?? wow!!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  12. Flojo

    Mormons, don't impose your values and beliefs on other people, whether dead or alive. Religious freedom is also about tolerance which you completely disregard.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  13. Realist

    I suppose no one has questioned the political implications of a supposedly benevolent god of 'forgiveness' requiring that you 'join' a particular church or lose your eternal soul? Could it be that people invented these rules to exert power?

    When Rome could no longer field an adequate military defense. This was the most effective tactic to stop the 'barbarians' from attacking a helpless Rome. They just converted them.

    But people are still using it, so I wonder what is the political motivation?

    March 2, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  14. Jacob Johnson

    Perl's mother said that he is "facing his creator"? What branch of Judaism do they belong to?

    March 2, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  15. Mave

    The Mormons and their magic underwear need to leave those that are not Mormons alone! Jewish is Jewish and if those people did not choose to convert in life, I am sure that they did not want someone performing this ridiculous ritual which in effect does nothing anyhow.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 2, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Dey terk errr jerrrrbbbbbssss

      Dey terk errr jerrrrbbbbbbsssssssssss

      March 2, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Christina

      Prayer changes nothing. ACTION changes things.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  17. Flying Spaghetti Monster

    I baptise dead mormons in my basement daily into the depths of hell so they can spend eternity with Satan. Jospeh Smith was a criminal and Brigham young was a mass murderer, so for them it was easy.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • just sayin

      You slaughter Mormons and spelling alike.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • blondie

      You crack me up! I gave the virgin mary an abortion on christmas morning!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  18. Joe T.

    A Mormon told me that they don't drink coffee. I said, "A cup of coffee every day gives you wonderful benefits." He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, it keeps you from being Mormon ..."

    March 2, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • JGgirl

      That just made my day.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • blondie

      Wukka! Wukka! LOL!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Shaun

      Nice Joe!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  19. Jim

    It is not the Mormon's right, or responsibility, to post-humously baptize me or my family. It's an intrusion into our own faith, and incredibly invasive. I find it disturbing. And apparently, it's not, as some have stated, against Church policy, but rather a part of it. So while the attention it's getting may be tied to Romney's faith (I am not denying it), it deserves to be noted that this practice goes on. Those of us who were raised as Catholics, and baptized and confirmed as such, (Catholicism is, by the way, the ONLY Christian faith which was founded by Christ), have every right to tell the Mormon Church to stay out of our afterlife. You want to go to your heaven? Be my guest. I want to go to mine. Stay the heck out.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Brad

      Well, if your church is right, as you state, then mormons babtising dead people doesn't matter, so why do you care? Religiouse people are so stupid.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mave

      Catholicism was not founded by Christ. He was and always will be a Jew. His followers founded Christianity. Catholicism is a type of Christianity founded sometime in 1 CE (AD for those that believe in Christ)

      March 2, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • blondie

      "Catholocism is the ONLY CHURCH BLAH BLAH BLAH BY CHRIST." Oh MAke me vomit ALL over my living room floor. You guys, you catholics, and you christians and all all the Muslims make me wanna puke.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • MyTake

      So much fail in your post. Christ did not found the Christian church. His follower did after considerable debate about whether the new religion should be a branch of Judaism or a new religion on it's own.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • MyTake

      "stay out of our afterlife. " – Really? So your faith is so weak you need to "implore" others to stay out of the idea of an afterlife? I mean what harm would it do? Why do you care? ... ugh!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Bebe

      The Catholic church the only faith founded by Jesus? Well, I hate to tell you but historically it just is not so. Popes, seem to have always had a great capacity for reinventing the past, particularly as it relates to the church. It was in fact Pope Gregory who had so much anti-Semitism added to the New Testament, convinced that it would persuade Jews to convert and thus come under his control. What it did achieve was a legacy of hatred, bigotry, and murder. However, it is clear that Jesus founded no religion. He was a devout Jew, one of the small number of Essenes of that time, and he never converted nor found any “new” religion. That came much later. He was Jesus of Nazareth. Christ, which means Messiah, was an appellation attached to him posthumously.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  20. TruthTalker2012

    Don't worry Pearl family, look up on YouTube Bill Maher's unbaptizing he did for Mitt Romney's father in law. Hilarious. You can do this too, don't let those crazy Mormons get away with taking a relative! Ha.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Pat F

      You are right – religious bigotry is SO funny!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Joe T.

      Well tell the Mormons to stop being so crazy then and we will stop showing religious bigotry towards them.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:21 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.