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. Pearl Necklaces

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    September 9, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  2. David

    Bill and ESO, it wasn't that long ago that Hillary was touted as being so inneeligltt that she was claimed to be the smartest woman in America.ESO, being an academic does not equate to being smart. A lot of professors are not smart , and tons of idiots have college degrees, even from Harvard. The things you mentioned are accomplishments, but not necessarily indicative of intelligence.Seriously, if you want intelligence and political competence, and someone who has a team that has a track record of getting things done, vote for Hillary. However, I seriously disagree with what she wants to implement: socialism and statism.Obama has proven himself to be a demagogue, much like Jimmy Carter, saying things that people want to hear, and getting them emotionally worked up with a well-crafted turn of a phrase. His theme of regime change even harkens back to Jimmy Carter's message at the time Gerald Ford finished out Nixon's second term. Obama is essentially recycling the political playbook of Jimmy Carter. It sounds all too familiar. (I voted in the 1976 presidential election.)Bill, if McCain is elected, I'll blame republicans, but not conservatives for the 4 years of screw-ups. But I'll especially blame McCain for collaborating with liberals. Republicans and conservatives are no longer synonymous.In the end, I'll probably vote for the well-meaning idiot over the smart evil one. So relax, it looks like I'll vote for your guy.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  3. anonymous proxies

    You recognize thus significantly when it comes to this topic, produced me in my opinion believe it from so many various angles. Its like women and men are not interested until it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs great. Always deal with it up!

    March 31, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  4. Daniel Palmer

    I was once Mormon as well. I did not decide to leave out of hate or contempt, but based on the personal feeling that the church was completely true. I however still have much respect for the faith and their beliefs. The thing to know about baptism by proxy is that although it is done, the LDS Church also believes that if the baptism isn't accepted by soul of the person it was for, then it will not count. They still believe that a person's soul has free agency in this matter, even if the sacrament was "against their will." This may be of little comfort to those families who are upset by the practice, but please know that if your relative decides to stay true to his/her believes, then at a spiritual level, those beliefs are respected.

    March 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Daniel Palmer

      edit Typo "the church was NOT completely true", not "the church was completely true."

      March 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Kurt

      Daniel, as a practicing Mormon, I appreciate your comments.

      April 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  5. Grey, Atlanta

    Daniel Pearl's body was assaulted by one knock-off religion – Islam – that murdered him for being a Jew. Daniel could have renounced his heritage and religion, but he chose to die a proud Jew. Daniel's soul has been assaulted by another knock-off religion – Christianity. Mormons claim to be Christians, and I have no reason to doubt their claims. What Muslims were unable to achieve – make Daniel abandon his people – Mormons perpetrated on his soul when Daniel could no longer fight back. That's why this is so offensive to us family and to every self-respecting Jew. But I don't expect Christians to understand this sentiment.

    March 9, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Typo: "his family" not "us family".

      March 9, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  6. BigTom

    I was born into this religion (LDS/Mormon) and forced to go. Forced to be baptized and even against my will taken to their temple and perform these silly baptisms as a proxy body. I thought it was all very silly. As I have grown older and left the church I found it even more silly. I heard that they baptized Hitler. They'll probably baptize Bin Laden if they haven't already.
    If you read Mark Twain's book Roughing It you'll find that he mentions the Mountain Meadows Massacre in which Mormons executed 120 innocent pioneers. That's something that will keep me from ever accepting that faith.
    Another thing is that the Book of Mormon talks a lot about war and that these Nephites and Lamanites that are supposed to be American Indians are killing each other with swords and they came from Jerusalem on a boat.
    The American Indians in mythology even talk about coming from the ICE BRIDGE which connected North America and Asia thousands of years ago. Plus the American Indians had no metallurgy/metal casting which would allow the creation of swords. All these are silly things but they really do discredit this silly religion and speaking as a former member any of you members that want to argue with me are just as silly. Joseph Smith was a criminal.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Carol

      Big Tom, Good for you!! So glad you saw through all of this...you are spot on!

      March 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Kurt


      I can't believe most of what you said. I'm a Mormon. We don't force anyone to get baptized or go to the temple. I believe there have been discoveries of cement and steel working in the ancient Americas - but since neither you nor I have done any of this research, we should probably not state "facts" when they are mere hearsay. I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, just like the Bible. Why? Because it feels right. It makes sense. I'm sorry you hate the Church so much, but I hope you can learn to let go. Forgiveness is good for the soul.

      April 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  7. Ryan

    1 C o r i n t h i a n s 1 5 : 2 9

    March 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  8. Ryan

    1 Corinthians 15:29

    March 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • warvet

      acts 2:38. First act is repentance. How are they able to do that? Comes from within the heart of one self. No way works if someone else stands proxy. Mormons are a cult.

      March 10, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  9. matt

    how can you baptize someone by PROXY? that makes no sense! if it did, then i baptize ALL of you in the church of the flying spaghetti monster.

    in all seriousness though, i'm jewish and honestly, you CANT baptize anyone unless you have their body, and even if you DID dip them in water while mumbling something... does that REALLY do anything? does it do something that warrants you getting upset? its a bunch of bogus witchcraft, whatever religion you chose to fall for. if someone baptized me, it doesnt make me less jewish, it just makes an evening of wasted time, right? its all the same god anyway...

    March 6, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • John

      The atonement of Jesus Christ was an act of proxy in and of itself. It may be understandingly difficult for you to understand that concept given the tenents of a Jewish faith. But, even the ancient Jewish culture practiced "sin offerings" where the Levite priest made an atonement for the people. Good luck with the spaghetti monster thing though.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • ath

      in a world of magical makebelief evrything is possible

      March 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • carlop

      I think I have the solution to this.....can't you just ....you know unbaptize him ....like by proxy. I know this is not usually done and will require a new ritual ...maybe getting someone wet then drying him off vigorously with the towel of David while reciting from some holy text..... OK I just made that up, sort of like that other stuff was made up.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  10. Steve

    So... is like the third article about Mormon baptism in less than a month. Why can't these demagogues just leave every ones faith alone? If someone wants to be a Jew, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, atheist or whatever, so let them be. Give them that respect. Stop imposing your will onto others. They claim it's against the churches policy to perform such acts without permission. Yeah right! They got caught... it's an embarrassment, and now they are trying to resolve this dilemma. If you didn’t do it in the first place, it would not be an issue. Duh! Talk about whackjobs.

    March 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Polis

      Psssst... this is a belief blog. That's the point to discuss religion.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • TeXann111

      Hey He is now in Mormon heaven! that sounds pretty good to me. Why not leave them alone? They are trying to help people.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Hyrum_Justice

    Like the Nazis the mormons think that they were put here to watch after the rest of us... living or dead though. The comparison is a valid one because they, like the nazis, are indoctorinated into this belief. And there is more ways than burning someone to kill them. Try taking away their freedoms by vote because, "We don't believe that way." Swimming on Sundays? Outlawed. Now that the people have passed and they can't come back to argue, we will show everyone how great we are and save their souls. BULL. It's all a lively bunch of crap and the mormons sling it very well... ask them... they'll tell you.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • John

      Sorry any comparison of a group to the nazis lacks credibilty.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Jon

      Nazis?...Really. Killing 6 million jews because of thier faith is the same as mormons performing a religous ritual in an effort to offer some one a choice as to salvation after this life per thier beliefs. I think that distinction between brutally murdering someone ia gas chamber and using thier name in a religous ritual is lost on you.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  12. tager

    Sounds like Helen Radkey likes stirring the pot to get people upset. Helen obviously has plenty of time to comb through millions of records – in fact she seems almost obsessed with it – why does she not put that time to feeding the poor, helping build houses for others, something besides stirring people up? Its time to move on and get a life Helen!

    March 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  13. Benjamin urry

    Oh and it is not a proxy baptism they are real

    March 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  14. Benjamin urry

    Being a member of THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS does not mean we are part of a cult and we do not pick and choose who we want to believe! We have elders/missionaries that assist us in teaching others who want to be taught of the truthfulness of the gospel...


    March 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Jenn

      All religions are cults. Yours is no different.

      March 6, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Carol

      Benjamin..you are a member of a cult..its as simple as that. The actions of the LDS faith is WRONG...so, so wrong. Please investigate your faith..truth has nothing to fear from investigation...if it is not true than you have everything to fear. Try asking your Bishop some questions as to why you do what you do..I mean HARD questions..you will be branded as an unbeliever.You people are programmed from the moment you are born, if you are a convert it is because they did not give you the full scoop until AFTER you are entangled.

      March 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Samsword

      Carol... I HAVE asked my Bishop hard questions. Sometimes he has good answers, but mostly he simply says: "I don't honestly know... Pray about it, and see what your own feelings about it are." I've only been met with friends and kindness. I don't know what your experience has been, but you sound pretty bitter about it, and I'm sorry about that. If you were hurt, I apologize on behalf of anyone who treated you poorly. But I can assure you that most of the LDS people I've interacted with are not that way.

      March 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • John

      Carol, your perspective is disapointing as it is obvious you haven't done the research for yourself.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Carol

      Samsword, I am not talking about the LDS people in general...they are actually very nice people, I am talking about the FALSE LDS tenents in themselves and the brainwashing that is associated with it. John, I have most certainly done research, lots of it..in fact in discussions with LDS people I sometimes know thier doctrine better than they do. I have met and talked with so many missionaries from the LDS faith over the years that it is not even funny. I like these people...they are so sincere ..but what I detest is the false religion they adhere to and the way they believe that they are the only true religion..

      March 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Jon

      Carol, I don't see how you can say that LDS people on a whole are nice but then say the that LDS people brainwash others. Brainwashing is not nice.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • welll

      The missionaries and other teachers are trained in very specific ways and are often not told of key historical facts about the church. For example, Joseph Smith had multiple wives, but only one is mentioned in present church educational materials. Current young LDS church members, missionaries, and teachers will say they've never heard about the many wives of Joseph Smith so it must not be true. But it is clear from older publications from the church and from the biographical materials regarding his first wife. The missionaries and teachers are taught to teach only what the church wants taught.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  15. Guest

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


    March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  16. jake

    Who does this really hurt? It's not like the Muslims going around rioting and killing innocent people because a book was burned. Let the LDS baptize whomever they like. It's their religion.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      It hurts the family, if the family is not mormon, and is highly disrespectful of the dead if it is something that goes against what they believed in life.

      March 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Mike

    Being offended merely establishes the event as significant and meaningful.
    Truth is, the LDS actions meant nothing, and merited no comment.

    March 4, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • Lisa

      Maybe you see it as insignificant and maybe it would seem insignificant to a member of another denomination of Christianity (not saying you are, just talking in general) but you have to realize that to Jews who have been forced in one way or another throughout history to adhere to or live under Christian beliefs, it is a little more sensitive. I don't believe that a baptism let alone one by proxy means anything, but then I'm not Christian. It is simply galling that Mormons, like some other Christians, believe that only those who believe in Christ will be saved and enjoy God's favor in heaven. That Mormons even have this practice is insufferable. Who do they think they are to baptize anyone by proxy, let alone someone who didn't even share the basic tenants of their faith.

      March 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  18. Bobster

    Richard Said:

    -Here is what God has said about the Book Of Mormon, "

    -Revelation 22:18
    -For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book," If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.

    -"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

    -It is a "CULT" pure and simple. I don't care how many citing they have in the old and new testament. Just look at the man who is running for the Presidency. He has never heard of the ninth commandment. He keeps breqking it at every chance and this is a man who is supposed to be a "Bishop" in his church. What does his demeanor tell you about the "CULT" he believes in, or professes to believe in!

    Richard, this is such an old, lazy and easily debunked charge it is really embarrassing. You need to study your bible *thoroughly*. Please read Deuteronomy chapter 4, verse 2. It says the same thing, but you don't throw out the rest of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament (including Revelations) now do you?

    March 4, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • John

      Several books in the New Testament were written after the Book of Revelations. That scripture is talking specifically about the Book of Revelations only, not the Bible as a whole. Plus it wouldn't have concerned John the Revelator the way man chose to compile the Bible centuries later. All the best.

      March 5, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Poqui

      Richard, please take a moment and learn about the history of the New Testament. The New Testament is an anthology, a collection of Christian works written in the first century but not compiled in the current form until the 3rd century. There is no way John the Revelator was speaking of the New Testament when he included his warning at the end of his book. Historically it is an impossibility. Additionally, Revelation may not have been the last book to be written in the New Testament. A similar warning is found in Deuteronomy about not adding or taking away from the writings. If your logic holds true then everything after the Pentateuch is heresy. Peace.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  19. Jerry

    So let me get this straight. The Jews are mad because the Mormons put the kibosh on one of their dead? This is classic.

    March 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  20. CSX

    The Moron cult missed the verse that said Jesus is the only way. Period. For Danial, is too late.

    March 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Religion is a Joke

      I'm sure your cult picks and chooses what it wants to believe as well. So tell me, do you think your cult is better because it has more members?

      March 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Too late for what? He's jewish. Its still your original sky fairy.

      March 4, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Benjamin urry

      It is never too late that is why we as LDS or Mormons conduct baptisms for the dead so that those who haven't been baptized can be so that they can go up to live with there eternal families

      March 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • John

      Lol did you miss the whole bible where it said salvation is for all men? Jesus died to save all men. If one didn't have the chance to accept or reject that atonement while living, there will be a chance in the hereafter.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:18 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.