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. skytag

    Wny do these people care? So what if Mormons perform a ritual Jews think is completely meaningless? How does it hurt anyone? This Helen Radkey woman needs to find a hobby isn't mean-spirited and vindictive.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  2. HRH Krampus the I, King of Kolob

    Come hie your buttocks down to Kolob, where I have kooky kool-aid and whacky tobacky for you and all your wives!

    March 3, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  3. Dan H

    I have a lot of respect for the Mormon culture. The way they stress Christ-like attributes (humility, kindness, willingness to serve), family, community, self-reliance and self-improvement are (IMO) second to none. Frankly, the world could use more of these attributes, and I'd question anyone who thinks these are bad attributes to have.

    However, some of their practices makes no sense to me, and baptism for the dead is at the top of the list. Even if you are an ardent believer, the argument for this practice is circular and full of holes.

    Mormons provide a great service in the area of genealogy, but frankly that's as far as it should go.

    That said, I really don't understand the anger behind this practice. If it has no authority (as I believe), it's a meaningless gesture and the Mormons are wasting their time. It that's true, it's their time to waste.

    The only way anyone could reasonably mad is if they honestly believe that this practice actually had some legitimacy. If you're feeling angry towards this, honestly, I think you need to take a look at your own beliefs and evaluate whether or not you believe there's some legitimacy towards this practice.

    Just my two cents.

    March 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • John

      You present that the practice of Baptism for the dead is circular and full of holes, yet you offer no evidence to refute. The authority of the LDS Church to baptise comes from the Savior Jesus Christ. Also it seems very convenient that you subscribe to Christian beliefs right up until the requirement to act on a belief.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  4. The One True Steve

    All the family has to do is yell ...Do Over...

    March 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  5. Hales

    It sounds like the Church is trying to keep this from happening. I guess it turns out that its hard to keep track of genealogical activities for 14,000,000 people. Maybe you should stop hating on them and be glad its not your responsibility to keep track of it all.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  6. A Yid in Dixieland

    All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay ... And Nazis!


    March 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  7. Joan

    I am a Jew who has both friends and relatives who are Mormon. I respect them. But I cannot respect forced baptism or baptism of the dead. Whatever salvation may be, it does not come from the sprinkling of water or even one's beliefs. It comes from one's deeds on earth. And only God knows who is deserving of either salvation or sainthood. No one on earth is qualified to confer either.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Cat

    “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.’”

    What a hypocritiacl lie – lie so much of moronism. – Only Morons are saved so we will be arrogant and baptise you – no matter what you want.

    Selfist Spite

    March 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Hales

      I think you misunderstand, ordinances are performed but only become valid if the person (in the afterlife) accepts them. Its like a preapproved credit card, it is not valid unless the person decides to use it. Though I am not personally a great fan of credit cards, you will hopefully see the point and that there are not serious grounds for offense here.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • muhron

      Hales, that is bunk. .. If someone truly had the "opportunity to decide to adopt Mormonism in the afterlife" they wouldn't need some church lackey to baptize them on the Earth, the Lord would take care of that, no?? How absurd. It is simply their arrogant way to declare people Mormons who can't talk back. Period.

      March 3, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  9. mightyfudge

    If any of these "soul stealing" mormon idiots try this on any of my relatives, I'll be baptizing them houmously with battery acid.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Hales

      You are probably already aware that threatening people is inappropriate.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • muhron

      Yes, Hales, inappropriate yet totally understandable...By the way, who wouldn't feel threatened by a religion taking as members their friends or relatives without their consent?

      March 3, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  10. Iqbal Khan


    March 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Plopeye the Sailor

      I watched this while I was on the crapper and took a mighty dump.

      March 3, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~~~~

      March 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • skytag

      Delusions are not healthy for anyone.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  12. Zed

    The LDS church asks people to do work for their own relatives. If they do temple work for someone else, then they are not following the guidelines. Like all people, LDS members aren't perfect and make mistakes.

    Note: people that don't believe in Mormonism don't need to stress. If it is true, then their relatives can accept or reject it. If it isn't true, then no harm done. There is no nefarious motive.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Cat

      It is arrogant is disrepectful

      March 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Dan H

      @ CAT

      And believing (as most churches do) that you're church is the only true church, and that you have to be baptized to be saved isn't arrogant? I'm sorry, I find a lot of arrogance in many christian beliefs that are not based on humility and willingness to serve and help others.

      This to me was always the lesson of Jesus Christ, to reach out and help others if/when they need a helping hand. All the stuff about heaven and hell, etc..., to me that's just fear and arrogance. Ultimately, I've rejected most of Christian beliefs, except for the Golden Rule and reaching out and taking care of each other.

      Maybe I'm arrogant too, I just don't understand the need to have a reward at the end of the day for being nice and kind to each other.

      March 3, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  13. Mike

    If Jews don't believe in LDS teachings, then what exactly is it that they think the Mormons have accomplished?

    March 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    The mormans need to perform a proxy baptism on Romney's credibility........it's time.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Poqui

      Ooh.. ooh... ooh... I want to do the baptism for THE GRAND POOBA.

      I want to see the face of the person when he asks, "Who are you being baptized for?"

      And me, with a smile on my face from ear to ear, respond: "For THE GRAND POOBA!"

      Please...! Pretty please...!??

      March 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  15. Jim P.

    "your beliefs in life, are important; you don't convert after death." Didn't this Jesus guy spend a long weekend among the damned doing just that? Converting their souls or some such?

    March 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Poqui

      1 Peter 3:18-19

      1 Peter 4:6

      Both scriptures insinuate that the dead are preached the gospel in the next life. I guess you're right.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • gager

      The jeebus guy may be a myth but the claims of magic are absolutely a myth.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Jim P.

    So, what's the hoo-haa? If Mormons are right, they are doing these people a favor. If they are wrong, the ritual is about as meaningful as a child's game of "patty-cake" andhas just about as much effect ont he universe at large.

    If a Buddhist prays for their spirits to be released from the cycle of rebirth, is that offensive also? Religious people are so wacky it's always fun to watch until someone gets the idea to restart the Crusades in one form or another.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  17. nik green

    All those who immediately jump on the "conspiracy theory" bandwagon (yawn) every time something fails to fit in with their comfort zones have once again 100% failed to get it. Yes, some Mid Eaterner's have fair skin,...but... the point is this:

    The man who allegedly confessed to the actual beheading is Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. From all his pictures, he is quite dark skinned, and his arms are covered in thick dark hair. In the Pearl video however, the executioner's arms become temporarily exposed during the beheading – revealing a very fair skinned individual with either hairless arms, or blond hair (not discernible in the low resolution footage).

    Go check out the video. Be warned, it is exceedingly nasty, but you may learn something.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Maryam

    Ex Morman (Mormon?),

    No, most religions do not preach that the dead can change their affiliations after death. Your life, the sum of your faith and works, your beliefs in life, are important; you don't convert after death.

    March 2, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  19. jimmy

    So part of the process the Church puts in place to do proxy baptism is to get the permission of the closet living relative, if someone baptized this person without it, then it wasnt done in the right manner. Also, there are more people in the world whose name is Daniel Pearl, who knows if it was the jewish writer or not.

    March 2, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Poqui

      You are correct. The person must forge a permission from the family. When this person is discovered then the Church takes disciplinary action against them to include a ban from doing genealogical work and submitting names for temple work. In grievous cases their church membership may be in peril. This is taken very serious by the LDS Church. And the baptism done for the individual is annulled.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  20. Dave

    Mormons are renown baby-killers and cannibals.

    March 2, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Zoe

      Dear Dave.

      Maybe you should think about what you are saying, you freaking son of a rusty nail. If you had ever even thought to research Mormons before insulting them, you would realized Mormons and Jews are alot alike. We used to be the same, actually, until Jesus left the earth hundreds of years ago. It was then the truth left the earth, and people wandered around, saying this and that, believing this and that.

      So, next time, THINK about what you are saying, and RESEARCH.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Hales

      Giving this a serious response would require that there were first something there to take seriously

      March 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
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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.