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. periwinkle

    This has got to be the pinnacle of self-righteousness. To baptize a person to your religion after they are gone and can have no opinion, assuming that that MUST be what they all want. Why does this not enrage more people? The righteousness of religion, and especially Mormons and fundies everywhere...

    March 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  2. Cyn507

    Just because some wingnut performs a ritual that the deceased didnt believe in doesnt make it count. But they still should have some decency and respect and not do it. Let the dead be and worry about your own salavation, which i would say is in jeoprady simply because you are an arrogant disrespectful waste. Those people still remain unbaptized since it wasnt of their doing. Nothing and no one can make them baptized.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • periwinkle

      Well, obviously, but it's the intrusive intent that is bothersome. No baptism actually means anything, reasonably, except to make the humans performing the ritual feel more empowered in their silly beliefs...

      March 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  3. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Pathetic that a group (A) would be offended at another group (B) casting a make-believe magic spell on someone from group A.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Religion is a Joke

      Amazing isn't it?

      March 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  4. Glen

    Consider the source. Mormans or any other sect's are worthless and carry no meaning.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Joe

    Third try, had to edit some words I guess...
    I'm thankful that there are so many understanding humans in the world, especially the wonderful Jewish people. Imagine if there were Jewish children, as an act of love and respect, offered some Jewish rites for deceased Mormons, perhaps reciting: "May she come to her place in peace," to help these beloved Mormons on their way to further happiness in the Jewish afterlife. And, imagine that some of these Mormons were among those thousands killed by mobs, torture, and exposure from being repeatedly driven from their homes by extermination order, cannons, and so on....(and I know LDS sufferings are insignificant compared to Jewish sufferings but perhaps this is why Jewish people tend to be so compassionate towards Mormons).

    And imagine someone "out to get" Jewish people was trying to blackmail Jewish leaders and went to Mormons and misleadingly presented the Jewish ritual in a most odious light.
    Imagine that some Mormons were outraged at the acts which these Jewish people thought were acts of love (in real life Mormons would be honored that Jewish people would do anything to help them on their way, or to adopt them into Judah, Mormons seek to be adopted or believe they are of Ephraim), and this outrage encouraged anti-Jewish feelings in the world.
    And imagine that these upset Mormons told the Jewish people how they felt about rites being done for their dead, and so the Jewish people stopped doing the rites, and asked all Jewish people to stop, because they were thought of as offensive.

    And, imagine that a Jewish man was running for president, and some disaffected Jewish people hacked into Jewish computers against Jewish teachings and entered names in order to increase hatred for Israel and make a "public stink." And imagine that all Jewish people were hated and blamed for these acts…….

    Rites for the deceased are acts of love and respect. “The Mormons” are not doing it to unrelated people, it is against our religion. These rites provide a choice for families to be united. Mormons do not want to hurt Jewish people, or anyone else....and Jewish people do not want to hurt Mormons. I think we can all get along..... : ) and respect everyone, rather than give Helen and those Hacking LDS computers the attention they seek.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Cyn507

      Bottom line is, they remain unbaptized. It was not of their chosing so it doesnt matter.

      March 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • periwinkle

      The mormons shouldn't be "doing it" to anyone. They need to respect personal choice and let people make their own decisions while they can.... while they are alive on this earth. But this all goes back to mormons having the crazy self-absorbed obsession that they know the "only" truth, when they really "know" nothing because it's al a load of lies and deceit. Sad that 70% of society is so stupid...

      March 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Truthship

      It is your imagination that has caused this disrespect in the first place. It was right that the Mormon Church apologised to Jews for Baptizing their dead. Now how do I get that same consideration? Speaking of apologies, if Romney wins Republican nomination it would be interesting if Obama asked Mitt how he explained his support for the black mans Mormon ‘Mark-of -Cain’  when he was on his LDS mission. Its high time the LDS church and Mitt apologised for that racism too.

      March 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  6. Joe

    Generally speaking, religious rites for the deceased are acts of love, and God knows our world could use more of those.
    Baptizing people not related to LDS is offensive to Mormons as well as Jews, and, it seems that these people, who keep hacking the system, are trying to hurt Mormons.
    I think that the fact that people are getting a little carried away with taking offense at things they don't understand only encourages them.

    It is sad that one person can break down relationships between millions of people. Mormons have a longstanding policy against Baptizing Jews (not from discrimination since many Jews request it).
    Baptism for the deceased is an ancient teaching, and many Christians still practice rituals for the deceased. I understand that Jews have also, in times past, and presently offer certain prayers. I hope that Jewish people understand that the Mormons I know would be honored if Jews were to perform rites for them. That goes for anyone with good intentions, Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist etc.
    I love all and hope we can all be friends, under one God (even atheists can be friends under God ; ))

    Rites for the deceased are intended as acts of love, to seal families, but when someone intentionally goes against Church teachings on a sensitive issue it hurts all of us.
    I'm sorry this person has done this.

    Also, I hope everyone understands that there are many people out there who delight in stirring bad feelings against Mormons (often gays trained by anti-Mormons, and those on the religious edges). Those who hate us have intentionally misrepresented the purposes of rites for deceased persons. These rites are meant to turn the hearts of the Fathers and Mothers to the children, as Malachi taught.

    Please understand:
    1 Mormons are opposed to the Baptism of anyone who is not an ancestor to a Mormon.
    2 Mormons do not believe that Holocaust victims are suffering in Hell or purgatory and that Baptism, like indulgences for the deceased, helps reduce their suffering. Mormons understand that all will be rewarded according to their works. No kind, good person will ever suffer in the next life, regardless of religious affiliation. All are in Paradise and will go to Heaven.
    God is just, and good people will not suffer punishment in the next life.

    3 Baptism is not done to anyone, it is for. LDS believe that people are free in the next life to choose, just as they are here, and Baptism for the deceased gives them the opportunity to make a decision, it does not make anyone Christian or members of the Church. Even without it they can still make choices in belief.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Joe

      From the Boston Globe

      "Rafael Medoff, a scholar of America’s response to the Holocaust, notes that Mormon leaders were outspoken supporters of efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi Europe at a time when many mainstream Christians were silent. For example, Utah Senator William King — among the most renowned Mormons of his day — strongly backed legislation that could have saved Anne Frank and her family.

      Outraged by proxy baptisms? Count me out. As my stunted family tree attests, the Jewish people have very real, very dangerous enemies. Mormons undergoing peaceful rituals in their own temples aren’t on the list."


      March 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Northlite

      I believe that only a very sick "religion" would repeatedly do postmortum baptizism of Anne Frank. When will the Mormon Church leave people who were murdered for their faiths alone. Your reasoning is your reasoning, it has nothing to do with the people who are being victimized by the Mormon Church. Just stop doing it.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Northlite

      Joe, That is one person. What about the repeated request from thousands of Holocaust survivors that they and their families not be post mortum baptized, people like Elie Wiesel, Simon Weisenthal, and what about Anne Frank, who can't speak for herself. It presumptive in the extreme to presume that Anne Frank would have said fine. She died for her faith. You Mormons have absolutely no business interfering with her faith without her permission.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Joe

      Northlite, please understand that it is not "you Mormons" doing this. It is against our religion to Baptize unrelated Jews. Those doing it are apparently trying to stir hatred towards Mormons.... and it seems to be working.
      And, it's not just one person speaking out against the anti-Mormon hatred.

      “Judaism doesn't have a concept of salvation in the way Christianity does, so why should it matter to those who died (or their living relatives) that the Mormons are honoring them in their own way.”


      Jewish Journal

      "I want Jews and Mormons to know that Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper have for years been paying an anti-Mormon (and ex-Mormon) researcher to dig up names...[She also tried to blackmail the LDS Church into paying her $30,000 + expenses to go away, but I digress]."

      Jewish Journal

      "It's important to note here that the church offered at that time to "freeze" names of all known Holocaust victims for purposes of temple work if the Jewish leaders would agree. Unfortunately, they chose the second option of taking upon themselves the responsibility of notifying the church whenever they discovered the submission of a Holocaust victim's name. The Jewish leaders knew from the beginning that the option they chose would mean that many names, and sometimes the same names, would continue to pop up in the database. In a stunning moment of candor, someone with detailed knowledge of the early discussions acknowledged to me that one of the reasons that the Jewish leaders chose this option was so they could continue to hold church leaders' feet to the fire on this issue...."

      What is also often lost in this discussion is the promise that the Jewish leaders made in the agreement. After the church agreed to take certain steps – which it did long ago – the Jewish signatories agreed to "exercise their best efforts to communicate and persuade the other Jewish organizations as to the sufficiency of this agreement." Furthermore, "It was agreed that differences between friends should be reduced and eliminated." While many of the Jewish leaders have taken this obligation seriously, Rabbis Hier and Cooper have not."

      March 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • periwinkle

      Anne Frank was not murdered for her faith, but really, rather her ethnicity.

      March 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 3, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Northlite

      Bullhockey. There is no God and he certainly has nothing to do with the Fraudster Joseph Smith, who was a lying criminal fraudster. Yes, it makes me really angry that you Mormons think you can interfere with the faith of others, who have no voice. who have no voice, who have no voice because they were murdered for their faith. You hateful Mormons, Leave people of other faiths alone.

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

      How dare you. And believing in an archaic, genocidal, petty and vindictive god is good for "healthy, living things"? You are absurd. May you rot.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  8. Guest

    Here is the URL of the video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl.


    March 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Danman

      That's a bad Idea, but whatever... freedom of speech and all.
      I guess a bunch of kids online really need to see this....
      Too much Xbox violence desensitization anyone?

      March 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • RJ

      It's not that bad. A fairly tasteful production.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  9. JL Fuller

    The LDS Church says someone had to deliberately bypass the safeguards in place to have Pearl's name submitted to the temple for proxy baptism. That suggests someone had somethng else in mind other than temple ordinances for their deceased family member.

    It is odd that it should happen in an election year where a prominant Mormon is running for president. The rules, wihc have been in place since 1995, say members can submit only the names of their dead ancestors and not names of other people not related to them yet that is what was done. It is also odd that the woman who "discovered" these things is a former Mormon who had been excommunicated.

    March 3, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Danman

      Agreed. Smear camaign. Not hard to accomplish by an ex-member. At least the church apologized to the family and has since remedied the situation.
      Good job!
      That's more than most churches would do. Admit a mistake, holy flatbread batman!

      March 3, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Northlite

      The flip-flopin' liar Mitt Romney, who was for gun control before he was against it, who was pro-abortion when it suited his interests and now claims to be anti-abortion, who has no feeling whatsoever for the average American unless they are his co-religionists, who cares more for his wealthy country club buddies than for millions of middle class, working class, poor, elderly, sick Americans. Did he learn to lie in his church. Given the deceitfulness of baptizing people who died for their faiths and who have no voice to say no, I wonder if Mittens Romney learned deceit in the LDS church.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  10. Danman

    If Mormons and Catholics were allowed to read the bible they might figure out when the Sabbath actually is....!
    Hint; The Jews haven't lost track.

    March 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Nathan


      The Sabbath is a concept, not a calendar day invention of men.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • HZ

      You seem confused. Christians do not practice Judaism. The Christian church never had a rule that you had to meet/worship on the Sabbath. Early church leaders went to preach to Jews on the Sabbath since that is when Jews gathered at their places of worship.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Danman

    I'm gonna write my own book too and go door to door to let people know, you don't have to go to church to be saved. You just have to believe in the lord, oh wait, that's the BIBLE! Not the false prophets books......

    March 3, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  12. Hypatia

    psychological grave robbing. Nice going, Igor!

    March 3, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  13. Doctor of Nurse Practice

    "Mormons have always conducted proxy baptisms for the dead, whether a person was Mormon or not."

    This statement is not true, proxy baptisms are only preformed for those who were not baptised by the LDS Church during life.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Hypatia

      You cannot defend this practice. It is complete disrespect for another's faith and pyschologically, it is grave theft. The details of 'how' matter about as much as how victims were transported to Auschwitz.

      March 3, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  14. Danman

    This "Church" is just disgusting...! They tried to baptise ANN FRANK from the HOLLOCOST! What a bunch of OFFENSIVE CHILD MOLESTING SICKO's!!! This crap is DELIBERATE and HIGHLY OFFENSIVE. Suprise!
    They are prolly just doing this for publicity along with their commercials, really low tactics is what they are best at. Ever hear the stories of women that try to leave their cult?

    March 3, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Kevin

      You are right in being offended at the baptism of Holocaust victims. It shows horrible disrespect for another religious belief system. We all need to respect each other's differences. In turn, you should respect Mormons. Calling them "child molesting sickos" is also very offensive and it does not lead to a productive dialogue.

      March 3, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Hypatia

      Kevin, yes, we should respect one another's differences. So when the Mormons stop baptising dead Jews and Hindus and anyone else that they happen to think of, Danman can consider your request. Respect is earned on a two-way street.

      March 3, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Nathan

      Please enlighten us as to one of these nonexistent "stories."

      March 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. Danman

    At least these "new" members won't be contributing to their coffers....
    I guess this is the only way to get new members.....

    I'm Daniel Pearl and i've been dead for years. I just got baptised and I'm A Mormon!

    That should be their next commercial!
    There is a reason Mormon and Moron are only 1 letter different.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • PaddingtonPoohBear

      Funny you should mention that, they believe in an angel called "Moroni" LOL!

      March 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  16. Danman

    Christ spilling his blood for me was baptism enough. Dunkin' sheeple in churches don't count if you don't understand what it represents and it's a leftover cleansing ritual from the Jewish temple.
    If you are baptised in your heart and spirit, the physical ritual is just unneccessary....

    March 3, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Danman

      Baptising dead people who "sleep in the earth" according to the bible, is ludicris yo! They can't choose, understand, yadda yadda... this just makes mormons more of a cult.
      Joseph Smith saw an apparition sent by the deciever who apparently was successfull.
      The lord said he would appear next only on his throne upon his return for all to see...
      Not in private with a little boy.....like a Republican Senator LMAO!
      Why does God need golden tablets or a translator? That sounds like what men need/want more than a divine mission....
      False prophets and their followers will igni

      March 3, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  17. Danman

    That's OK, I baptised the whole of Mormonism as Satanic worshipers over a decade ago. Where do you think Warren Jeffs and all that child abuse came from? They like their girls brainwashed, illeterate and downtroden. Where's womens lib for these ladies? So much for female activism...

    March 3, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  18. Memento

    The "expert" is wrong. Mormons are also exclusive. Mormons have a unique take on "salvation" that differs from other Christian faiths. Baptism alone does not guarantee salvation, according to Mormon teachings. Like the Catholics and evangelicals referenced above, Mormons also require complete adherence to their dogma in order to, as Mormons call it, "achieve exaltation," i.e., return to Heavenly Father's presence, enjoy the companionship of equally faithful family members, and realize the benefits of "eternal progression".

    March 3, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Doctor of Nurse Practice

      Mormon doctrine is not exclusive in the sense that it has a mechanism for others to be saved as opposed to those who think that if you are not baptized by a certain person during your life, you will be damned to hell.

      March 3, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  19. teaformorons

    Let's get started on baptizing all Indians and Chinese. It will take a long long time and keep the mormon church out of the lives and deaths of holocaust survivors and victims. I don't think Indians and Chinese give a rat's tail about this voodoo.

    March 3, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  20. Krakauer

    Post mortem baptism is a great way for the Mormon cult to increase their membership. This way they can convince new potential targets they try to draw into their church by saying look how many members we now have! We have over X amount at the end of 12/31/11...however the number X includes post mortem baptisms that really should be removed from the count. Read UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN and you will see how crazy this faith is.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • Doctor of Nurse Practice

      Your statement is complete and utter nonsense, The LDS Church does not now nor did they ever count Proxy baptisms toward their membership numbers. Your statement is so patently absurd that all of your future statements should be ignored by any intelligent person.

      March 3, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Danman

      Religion should be ignored by any rational person. You may be intelligent but,....

      March 3, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Doctor of Nurse Practice

      For someone who thinks religion should be ignored you seem to be doing a lot of commenting about a particular religion

      March 3, 2012 at 10:52 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.