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. Erik

    Who cares? Let the Mormons proxy baptize whomever they wish because they will anyhow. It doesn't mean anything anyhow ... at least to me.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  2. Joe T.

    Shouldn't they do a proxy baptism for Jesus since he wasn't baptised as a Mormon?

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

      Ohoh, now look at what you started. LOL

      March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • petemg

      If I recall a few weeks ago the Mormons did baptize Jesus posthumously.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Joe T.

      Talk about the gall of a man who went in as a proxy for Jesus. Isn't that like blaspehemous or something?

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

      Shouldn't they also baptize Stalin and Genghis Khan, for that matter?

      Why stop at humans? Let's baptize Satan while we're at it.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Heavenly Smurf

      ** petemg

      If I recall a few weeks ago the Mormons did baptize Jesus posthumously.

      I thought Jesus was ressurected, so he is not dead ?
      Silly of me.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Godfrey

      Whoa, now, Smurf! Stop talkin' sense. We'll have none of that in church.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Joe T.

      But didn't Jesus have to be baptised while on earth? He wasn't baptised as a Mormon so I guess that baptism was meaningless and didn't count, therefore Jesus' whole death and everything was pointless. Now you've just debunked Christianity as a whole. Congrats Mormons.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • JT

      Nope, not necessary, Jesus was baptized through proper authority.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Joe T.

      Nope, he wasn't baptised as a Mormon so he's out of luck. Sorry Jesus! He never had a chance to accept Mormonism. He was baptised just like anybody who was baptised in the centuries after. If their baptisms don't matter, neither does Jesus'.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  3. Mervin Ford

    Why is bringing to light a controversial practice by the Mormon church deemed "muckraking"?

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

      Exactly my question. Why use loaded language (muckraker) about one thing and more even-handed language (i.e. "critic") about another?

      Journalism these days is so dishonest. Or perhaps Marrapodi is just incompetent.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Heavenly Smurf

      Dont know.
      I have never raked muck.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  4. jbird

    One of the evening correspondents from a network said he was a Humanist. So even raised Jewish, I have a feeling he would just think this was all a farce.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  5. Tabiltha

    It matters to people of faith because their rights, faith, beliefs and souls are being violated in death. Though, I am not a believer in any organized religion, it offends and angers me. I liken it to destoying sacred grounds of Native Americans etc. It shows no respect or tolerance for those of different beliefs. It is like a final "touched you last" sort of game.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • JT

      How about likening it to people of one belief praying for people sharing a different belief? How is what Mormons are doing any different? We are surrounded by hypocrites.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  6. Nick San Diego

    Whats everyone getting in a tizzy about. Just think about it, they took nothing away from these individuals. As a matter of fact, maybe they should be thanked for caring enough to pray for them.
    And maybe just maybe saved a soul.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Living History

      Why wait until we're dead? Why not baptize the living by proxy? Would that be okay?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • kme

      Yes! Next let's dig up the graves of the American Indian's, Egyptians, and pagans and re-bury them in Christian cemeteries. All we want is for them to be "saved", you know. And by "saved" we, of course, mean our own particular conception of saved.

      Let's all get to digging!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  7. Nat Readerland

    “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.’”

    How untrue is this???? Mormons have the same take. if salvation were open to all people they would not baptize all these dead people whose families have not consented to the baptism. They are invalidating Christian baptisms also. I was born a Lutheran and baptized as such and was told by the Mormon Church that my baptism was invalid and that only the LDS one is valid. It has nothing to do with a "Christian" baptism. They believe NO ONE is saved unless they receive a MORMON baptism, which is saying you have to be Mormon for salvation.

    A great example is if a BYU student leaves the LDS Church while in school and joins another Church they are not allowed to ever attend BYU again, even though many faiths and atheists do attend BYU. This is because the LDS Church believes that the student has left the true church and taken a step backwards.

    When I was in the LDS Church we would go to do baptisms for the dead and we would be handed tons of names. I am sure most have never been authorized by the family.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  8. frank peters

    jews are behind all the wars in the last two centuries,do your research

    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Nat Readerland

      I did not know Bush was Jewish???

      March 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Dey terk errr jerrrrbbbbbssss

      Dey steerrrrrtttteeeddd derrrr werrrrrrrrrsssssss

      March 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • igal

      what an idiot!!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Fupped dUCK

      Bush was a Jew....Notice the small horns sticking out of his head....Russian Jew

      March 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • kme


      March 2, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Christians are behind all the wars in the last two centuries,do your research......

      I did my research, and fixed this for ya.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  9. Dan

    People who are truly well meaning would secure permission before going forward with a baptism for someone who, while alive, chose not to have one.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  10. Doledart

    Seriously? Why give a damn? They are simply putting the person's name in a record somewhere and saying that they did some sort of prayer. It's not like they're digging up the body and doing some crazy stuff like that. I don't believe in any of it, but when I die, any religion that wants to have some sort of ritual in my honor...please go right ahead, I'm that important :). Definitely one of the dumbest stories, and I really can't believe someone has dedicated the time to go through all the records..

    March 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • CW

      Exactly. If you are Jewish anyway, being baptized won't matter unless you consent which you can't when you're dead. My wife's grandfather was a Methodist but not really religious. Before he died, a priest "converted" him to Catholicism so he could be buried in a particular cemetery. Right after the priest left, he said "I don't care what you say, I'm still a Methodist."

      March 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Nat Readerland

      Not a prayer...a proxy baptism. As in water, the whole deal with a person standing in for them. And after their names are added to the roles of members of the LDS Church. It is a matter of principle of the LDS Church invalidating all other baptisms and religious beliefs in Gods acceptance of all people, regardless of their earthly church affiliation

      March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      I am still waiting to be un-baptised.
      Seems to be a long list.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Doledart

      @Nat – So they baptize someone else, say it a person deceased write their name in a book or whatever and that's supposed to mean something? I just don't get it, it's MEANINGLESS. If they were trying to collect money from the family's by saying these people are part of the church now, that would be different. This practice changes nothing and I'm sorry, and obviously some feel differently, but it hurts nobody. They are being offended for the sake of being offended. Come on, we all know the real reason this is even a story..it just so happens that for the first time a presidential front runner is of the same faith PERIOD.

      March 2, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  11. bertha59

    What audacity Mormons have to presume they have the right to inflict their religious rites on those who did not ask for it.

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

      What audacity Christians have to think they can pray for other people of other faiths or atheists. I smell a hypocrite.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  12. Victor

    Get over it ! the person is dead. They are saying a thing good or bad. Just your big mouth. There are more important issues to be concerned with. It was a mistake and it was solved. Remember that next time you drive over the speed limilt or jay walk. Mistakes happen!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Nat Readerland

      having been Mormon, it is NOT a mistake. All names are researched prior to submission. Proxy baptisms are done with purpose and knowledge.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  13. otis

    geez Dave relax.

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

    This Mormon Ritual of Baptising the dead concerns me. The after death baptism may seem like a silly harmless well meaning act on the part of the Mormons. However, the ideology behind it is what concerns me. The belief that ones religiou...s beliefs is superior or correct is at the root of so much evil in this world. We must respect all belief systems, including those of the dead. What happens if the Mormons decide i( and I am not saying they would) that the world is going to end soon and all people must be baptised to save thier souls? It is much easier to treat a quirky cell before it becomes a cancer. Stop after death baptisms.

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

      I fail to see the cause for concern. If you don't believe in what they do then it doesn't matter. It doesn't effect you in any way.

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

      Otis, the concern is that this innocent ritual represents a very serious and threatening ideology that the
      belief that ones belief system is superior to others and justifies disprespecting and hurting others.
      Isn't the concept of Jihad, suicide bombers and even the holocaust rooted in beliefs like that. I don't believe for one
      minute that the Mormons mean any harm. However, the ideology that are basing there actions on is far from harmless IMO.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Debra

      What Otis doesn't get is that the practice is disrespectful at BEST. Many of these folks who the Mormons go after died because of their religious beliefs. They would hardly have suffered just to have some bozo try to take away their affiliation afterward. It's called common decency.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  15. Ralph Henson

    Since the Mormons are not Christian, they have an awful lot of gall saying this is a way to become a Christian. We are told that salvation must come before death, so the "proxy" does not work any way.
    What is going to happen when a Christian, baptized in another denomination, is proxy baptized by the Mormons and asked why did you disclaim the Lord and become a Mormon? How are they going to answer?

    March 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  16. Last Call

    Unfortunately once you are dead that is it. Someone cannot pray you out of purgatory or do a proxy baptism. You can only choose Jesus as your Lord and Saviour while you are alive and the choice must be yours and yours alone. Someone cannot do it for you. I resent the CNN remark about Christian "tradition." It's not tradition. It's the Word of God from the Bible. Always trying to discredit in a subtle way CNN. Shame on you.

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

      Man, you crazy. The Bible is not the word of God. It is the word of man, rewritten over thousands of years. Hell, William Shakespeare threw his own spin on it (see King James Version). Don't get me wrong, you can believe what you want but please, let's get the facts straight. And as for Christian tradition, most of the things that we do as Christians in America are tradition. Tradition handed down by our pagan brothers and sisters.

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

      So, in your belief system, those who lived before Christ and those who were never exposed to Christianity are automatically doomed to Hell? I will pass on your brand of Christianity.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Nat Readerland

      So....what happened to Moses and all the others that lived prior to the establishment of Christianity???

      March 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Jesus was a Jew.
      Christianity was created in the third century by Constantine
      at the council of nicea.

      Did you get that part ?
      Christianity was "created".

      The bible is not a book of god,
      its a collection of stories by man.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  17. freeme10

    Honestly, they aren't physically baptizing the person, so why does this matter? If you aren't Mormon, you probably think this practice is hokum. As such, let the crazies do what crazies do. This should just be an exposure of Mormon insensitivity, the history of which is vast.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  18. Malcolm Xcrement

    I applad the baptism. As a Jew, Daniel Pearl needed to be corrected. Problem solved...

    March 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Marcus Moore

      First of all, it's spelled 'applaud." Second of all proxy baptism is so ridiculous it's almost funny! All these fake religions give the legitimate religions such a bad name!

      March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      You need to be corrected.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  19. dkinabq

    "It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the Church’s policy "
    What the church is really distressed about is the fact that they got caught.
    The mormons can have their magic underwear, secret handshakes and bizarre rituals, but LEAVE MY DEARLY DEPARTED RELATIVES OUT OF YOUR #$@&* RELIGION!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  20. Dave

    I say we start suing the Mormon Church until they stop this disgusting betrayal. What arrogance! Mitt Romney should also be called to task on this. It is his church and since these politicians insist on ramming their religions down our throats, it should be appropriate they get bitten for it!

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

      LOL! And what exactly is going to be the premise of your lawsuit?? How is what Mormons doing any different than other Christians praying for someone of a different belief?

      March 2, 2012 at 10:51 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.