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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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"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. Margaret

    Not my faith, but still, their hearts are in the right place. They don't mean any harm. By their lights, they are doing an inestimable good.

    Look: If what they believe isn't true, then how does it cause any problem for the dead? It is utterly harmless, with good intentions. If what they believe is true, then they have conferred a great gift. Leave them alone; they hurt no one.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Dave

      Sue their a s s e s !

      March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  2. GeorgeBos95

    The unbelieveable ARROGANCE of these LDS idiots is just amazing.

    But more to the point, these are lunatics who believe their way is the "right" way. The can believe what they want, just ignore them.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • John

      Oh, the irony of your comment!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • JT

      Almost as unbelievably arrogant as other denominations praying for people of another faith... how do you spell "hypocrite"?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  3. Hamlet

    Why does this baptism of the dead seem like it should be done outside at night around a cauldron with 3 sisters chanting "bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble"

    March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Stephen

      Baptisms for the dead are nothing like that. In the New Testament 1 Corinthians 15:29 it says: "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?" The bible talks about it and yet no main stream Christian faith does it. The ceremony itself consists of two people dressed in white, the person baptizing states that he is baptizing the other for and in behalf of the deceased and does so in the name of Jesus Christ. Then he dunks the person under the water. It's not a creepy and scary and people seem to think.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  4. Joe T.

    I know, it isn't really a big deal because the Mormon faith is garbage, but for me, it's simply a matter of principle. I don't want your cult anywhere near my name. I don't want to be in any of your LDS records as having been baptised a member, even if it was after my death.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Maggie

      Well obviously you don't believe that the mormon religion is true so why do you hate us so much. I don't hate anything with that strong of a passion. Maybe you should research it a little.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. johnmenacherjr@rocketmail.com

    I simply cannot accept that some republican respondents to this actually see this bull$hi^ as acceptable. That its only being done becuase of Romney – what a load! It is disrespectful and meddling in anothers beleifs dead or whatever. oh yeah they are republicans and they are in everything we do from birth to death just look at that Shivo travesty!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  6. lindy556

    You have to WANT to be baptized for it to work.....

    March 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  7. NotReligious

    Stop practicing hack job journalism. You will not beat Romney by making people think Mormons are weird. Also, excercise a little bit of journalistic integrity, and at least clear up that these "proxy" baptisms do not actually involve dead bodies....

    March 2, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • retphxfire

      You have to be kidding. Unless you are one of the many who have trouble with reasoning and comprehension, it would be pretty obvious the baptism would not involve a body. It would be poor journalism to ignore something as offensive as choosing to baptise people of other faiths, after death, without family consent. If this had been Muslims converting someone after death you'd be jumping up and down banging your fists. It's too bad for Mr. Romney that he is Morman and some Mormons are conducting these baptisms., but it would be worse to ignore.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Dave

      Mormons are weird, man. They do involve dead bodies. They are in the graveyard right now, looking for your mommy, daddy, or auntie. They are coming for you!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  8. STLBroker

    I think their hearts were in the right place however I don't think it is possible to be baptized by proxy. It is a choice the individual has to make or it is meaningless.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Stephen

      You are absolutely right. I'm a Mormon and we don't believe that this baptism automatically makes the person a Mormon. We believe that the person can accept or decline the baptism. The purpose of the baptism is to give people a choice in the afterlife. All these people who are saying that we disrespect the dead or the families don't understand how these proxy baptisms are supposed to work. As the article said, only family members are supposed to submit there relatives names. Unfortunately, some Mormons disregard this rule. I agree that the church should have tighter controls in place to keep this from happening.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  9. Mr. Spock

    Baptism by proxy? This reminds me of the old "Kids in the Hall' show on HBO that had the skit where the weirdo would stand at a distance looking at people's heads through his fingertips and pretend to crush their heads. "You're dead, thousands of miles away and under the ground, but I'm going to baptize you."

    March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ah KITH – good Canadian comedy.
      One of my favourites is a bit where a stoner makes a deal with Satan wherein he trades the devil his perfectly worn in jean jacket for a head of hair that grows pot.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Mr. Spock

      I don't know which is more ludicrous, the people doing it or the people that think it actually makes a difference.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • John

      Jesus Christ's suffering was a proxy act. He provided a means to salvation that people could not do themselves. All of Christianity is built on this principle – that Christ performed a proxy act for everyone.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Nony

      Love that skit! "I'M CRUSHING YOUR HEAD!" Having a ton of fun these last few months re-watching Kids on Netflix. Re: Mormons...I grew up in Idaho and we have a saying "raising your children Mormon is akin to child abuse." Trying to become friends with Mormon kids and later, as adults, is nearly impossible. They are so withheld from society they can barely function outside their own towns and communities. It may not be that way for Mormons east of Utah, but the ones in Utah and Idaho are very much that way.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Kyley

      Correct, John. Jesus offers this free gift of salvation to everyone – however in order to receive it, one must make the personal choice to accept the gift and to accept the giver of the gift into their life. God clearly gives us a choice, and it is up to us to live with the consequences of that choice. While it seems very charitable for moromons to go making that choice for other people, it is not biblical or respectful of the free that God has given humans.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  10. grams09

    "With malice toward none,with charity for all". A.L. How many Mormons are blowing up buildings? They must be doing something right.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Joe T.

      So that's all it takes to be a good religion then, you don't blow up buildings?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • LT

      There are all kinds of way to be evil and destructive – blowing up buildings isn't all of it. Save the drivel and your religious beliefs for youself.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  11. kd

    Mormons baptizing the dead is simple grave desecration. It is not what the person wanted. It should be a crime.

    And it is beyond bizarre.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Maggie

      Please research why we do what we do before you form your opinions.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • JT

      How often have you prayed for someone you didn't know, who was killed? I smell a hypocrite.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  12. Stella

    The same thing happened to my family after my brother's death. I find the practice appalling, yet even more so the notion that without the proxy baptism my brother's soul was somehow doomed. My family's religious practice should not be allowed to be dismissed by Mormans with "good intent".

    March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Maggie

      If you don't believe it then why does it offend you so much?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  13. rudyortiz

    The only conclusion I can come to over this "outrage" of Mormons baptising the dead, Jews or otherwise, is that those who are upset must believe that Mormon Church rituals, such as baptism for the dead, must actually have the power to take affect and that someone who was formerly a Jew, for example, is now a Mormon. If that is the case, I suggest you join the Church. I for one, as a Mormon, would not be upset a bit if Jews or Catholics or any other religion did baptisms for the dead and baptised Mormons.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • BRC

      The outrage people feel is in no way indicative of them believe the ritual holds any power, it is simply consistent with the human nature to hold beliefs and conviction VERY tightly. People have fought wards and kileld each other for no other reason than disagreeing on who was right about an unprovable god. So when another religion, that they don't agree with or believe in, comes along and says "we want you to be saved, and you're not getting into heaven if you don't follow our way, so here, we'll baptize your dead" (it doesn't matter if Mormons mean that, but that's how it sounds to others), the people of other faiths (and no faith) are going to be righteously angry.

      The ritual doesn't need to actually do anything to be disrepectful and insulting, it does that just fine with no suupernatural assistance. If they wanted a baptism, they would haev gotten one while they were alive. Leave people alone.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • livinfree

      By that reasoning baptism of the living by deception or even force is OK too since it doesn't really do anything.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • LT

      Riiiiight, you wouldn't mind a bit. Save it. You all quite frankly make me ill. You chose your religion, how dare you try to impose your thinking on others.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • tallulah13

      So what you are saying is that you lack a grasp of simple respect and human decency. Your silly rituals have no effect other than to insult the dead, and to offend and hurt the loved ones left behind. You should be ashamed of yourself and your church.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  14. will

    I have heard that if you are not a mormon and you request to have a deceased person baptized by them that there is a $500.00 fee. I,m not sure if this is true but if it is it would expleain a lot.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • rudyortiz

      It explains where you get your facts from; someone who is not a Mormon.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Stephen

      Absolutely false. I'm a Mormon and there are no fees for proxy baptisms, whether you are a Mormon requesting them or not.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Average Joe

      I heard you rent out your Mom for $5 an hour. I'm not sure if it's true, but it sure explains a lot.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  15. thedish

    This is only news because Romney is a Mormon. Obviously, Dems trying to inflame and stir up.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Dave

      I'm willing to bet Democrats had nothing to do with this. Stop trying to make everything politically divisive.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Joe T.

      The Dems would wait until he was the nominee first, then go on the attack.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • jaintn

      For a Mormon church to baptise him as if that's the only way for him to receive salvation, especially a man of the Jewish faith, shows great disrespect to his family. The fact that a member of the GOP can't understand something that basic is hardly a surprise. You people aren't known for your big hearts and kind deeds.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • John

      "You people aren't known for your big hearts and kind deeds"

      Actually, research shows that Republicans on the whole are more charitable than Democrats – they give more money to charitable organizations, they give more service to others, and they are more willing to help friends and family.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • boocat

      John – state you sources.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Pat F

      Exactly – Dems and their media stooges.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Savatage

      You must see Dems hiding behind your sofa waiting to pounce.
      BOO !!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Savatage

      ** Actually, research shows that Republicans on the whole are more charitable than Democrats......

      Sure they are, they make more money so they need a tax write off.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  16. Jimbo

    Joseph Smith believed that the Gospel Jesus taught failed at some time in the early Centuries of Christianity. God wanted Smith to fix the problem. The only way to solve the problem and fix God's mistake was to initiate a rigorous program of baptism for the dead to offer salvation to the millions of deceased souls, both Christian and pagan, who never heard the true Gospel that Smith now possessed. This makes Smith every bit as important as Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, Smith was a man of questionable moral and ethical character. Still, many millions believe in Smith and practice this strange proxy ritual that makes Jesus an incomplete savior and God sort of a bumbling creator with a back up plan. I tend to think that what Jesus did was a finished work and God knew what He was doing. But I also recognize that it was the creator Himself who gave mankind free will and free choice, so we are all free to choose to believe whatever we want to believe. As we all know, in our modern world, belief may not have anything to do with reality and truth. A few years back a hand full of wacko's believed they could kill themselves and hitch a ride out of this universe on Haleys comet. The circus goes on.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Dave

      Joseph Smith also found divinity inside his hat and apparently discovered magic tableware.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Maggie

      Sweetie, do you really think that God makes mistakes? Come on.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Savatage

      *** Maggie

      Sweetie, do you really think that God makes mistakes
      -------------------------–

      Everything he makes.....dies.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Maggie

      Do you want to live in this world forever, I'm looking foward to a much better world on the other side with my family. But you can believe what you want to.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  17. Jim in Washington

    Yes, this sounds bad. But Mormons also gift young girls to older men as "spiritual wives." Lots of people would probably like that.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Dey terk errr jerrrrbbbbbssss

      Sign me up!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • John

      No, they don't.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Maggie

      You my dear obviously have no idea what you are talking about, do a little research next time please before you open your mouth.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Stephen

      I'm a Mormon and this is a blatant lie. Never in my life have I heard of a Mormon girl being "gifted". Maybe the Fundamentalist or FLDS church does this but they are not at all affiliated with the Mormon aka Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like any organization the Mormon church is not perfect, feel free to criticize our beliefs but please don't resort to lying about my faith.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Dave

      Sure they do, John. They also engage in ritualized mast ur bation 2x/week.

      March 2, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  18. ljdr1948

    I can't believe people care about this stuff. Do you honestly think God worries about this sectarian garbage. If you truly believe in your particular theology then you must also know that your particular religion or denomination doesn't give you a Get Into Heaven Free card. It's YOUR personal actions and deeds that get 'weighed'.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  19. sawtry4fr

    Terryl Givens, an expert on Mormonism at the University of Richmond told the Belief Blog recently. “Catholics have taught that only Catholics are saved,...

    Untrue; as a life-long Catholic of 65+ years, I can say that I have NEVER been told that by clergy, deacons, or anyone in authority. We have always been told that only God decides a person's salvation.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • JD

      Then why don't you confess your sins to God instead of a priest who is just a human?

      March 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  20. Brad

    Of course Pearl's mother recognizes the good intentions of the Mormons, but at the same time they should deal with their own members and respect the rights of other religions. Should some high ranking Jewish leaders publicly hold a proxy Bris of Joseph Smith..?

    March 2, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • John Doe

      As a Mormon, it wouldn't bother me if someone did. It would be meaningless in my mind, but if it had some significance to someone else, I see no harm in it.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • greg

      I'm sure that if they did, no one would care, because if you don't believe that it has any true effect, then it's just letters on a piece of paper. If Ms. Pearl doesn't believe it has any effect on her son's salvation, then she shouldn't worry about it.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • retphxfire

      greg: I think that is the point, Mrs. Pearl isn't wasting her time worrying or thinking about it. sheesh

      March 2, 2012 at 10:09 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.