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. libslie

    Now we are starting to see the media attacks on the Mormons because you guest it...Romney is a Mormon and that means they should all think Mormons suck...isn't working cnn...

    March 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • clearfog

      Well, actually it is working. But its not what CNN is saying; it is what the Mormon have already said.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • pdluz

      Do you also complain when Rush and Greta talk about Pres Obama's alleged Islamic leanings?

      Actually, the timing is a coincidence, but it's high time attention was brought to these unnecessary and hurtful behaviors on the part of mormons.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Pat F

      Amen, Libslie. No coincidence whatsoever that the media is suddenly obsessed with anti-Mormonism now that Mitt is clearly the nominee. Anything for Obama. And even better that the story involves an obscure and unsanction church practice which involves Jews, a group that has serious doubts about Obama's weak support for Israel, and endless kowtowing to Muslim fascist murderers.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. Paul

    This is the power that is religion. Religious people tend to think their religion can do no harm because it's their god's will. Morons take to conducting proxy baptisms of Jews and Muslims murder their children, while Jews mutilate the genitals of their male children.. To religious people it's all god's will. We are now living in the 21st century. It's time to stop howling at the moon and dancing around statutes of ghosts that never existed. Even Christians laugh in disbelief when another Christian comes forth to say she drank tea with the virgin Mary and god made a short appearance. The only reason religion still exists is that many people have weak minds, can't stand the thought of mortality, and are willing to grasp as ridiculous children's stories in the hope that immortality can be theirs. It's a cruel and sick joke!

    March 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • dowman5744

      You are awesome. You can kick my cat(only once) and I'd still respect you just for that concise statement. There is a reason why prisons are filled with people of faith, and colleges are filled with Atheists.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Thomas

      Actually Paul, it takes a strong mind to have faith in something like religion. Only a weak minded person needs to have proof of everything.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • dowman5744

      <<>> Weak minded to want proof? I hope you don't work in the Justice system. Nah' proof is for fools, you're guilty!........lol

      March 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Darrell Bryant

      Look around (circle vision) can't you fell there's gotta be something other than a 'Big Bang'? I am not weak minded and I say God is for real. What Religion is Right/Wrong? That will be the question that will start a back and forth that would just be too extream. Love, Peace, learning that folks of all faiths that are peaceful and just want to get along without the pushing and shoving should get together and let the extream go at it! If you don't believe, that is okay...why not try to realize that people are not weak for having hope there is something better waiting beyond dealth! The world is so devided I don't see/feel its gonna get better! No, I don't feel it was right for them to Baptise him under Mormon customs, thet should have contacted the Family first! Lets agree to disagree and go in pease, there is a God and his Son saved us all!

      March 2, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  3. atroy

    Why does everyone keep misspelling the word "MORON"???

    March 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Paul

      Cute. But all religions are the same. Bowing to a ghost today is JUST as foolish as it was for the ancient Romans and Greeks. Nobody prays to Apollo or Zeus anymore. Hopefully we can finally put religion to an END once and for all by the end of this decade.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • clearfog

      It's an alternative spelling, dummy.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Pat F

      What a hoot! Religious bigotry is always such a riot!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  4. Frank

    For those that side with what the Mormons are doing: Would you also feel that it's OK for the Church of Satan to 'proxy' baptize dead Mormons? If not, why? If someone wants to join this cult they have every opportunity to do so while they are alive. To do this to someone after they are dead is nothing but disrespectful to their family and loved ones.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • AJ

      Neither a Satanic worshiping post mortem proxy initiation of my soul nor a Mormon "baptism for the dead" of my soul would bother me one bit. If I don't believe it has any effect why should I care... caring about it just wastes my time and energy... I've wasted more time just worrying about the people who worry about it.... humph...

      March 2, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Pat F

      Frank, read the article. THE MORMONS DO NOT SANCTION THIS PRACTICE AGAINST STRANGERS!!! So there is no "siding with the Mormons" here – unless you mean siding with the Mormons in condemning the practice when not requested by family members. But you don't mean that, do you? Don't let the facts get in the way of a good bigoted rant.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  5. clearfog

    I'll bet they don't baptize Santorum's dead fetus.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • atroy

      They might want to take the idea home and play around with it for a while.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • clearfog

      I know, a photo op.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  6. Mark

    Makes about as much sense as baptizing babies. None of it stems from any accurate understanding of the bible but at least Mormons have The Book Of Mormon as an excuse for being at odds with what Jesus taught.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • clearfog

      I'm having a little problem with knowing what Jesus taught, since the only evidence of this we have are books written more than 100 years after his death, most way more. Back then, that was at least 4 generations.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Mark

      The Gospels were written by people who knew Jesus personally and 100 years is incorrect. I'm sure you can find someone on the world wide web that will say the bible was written by any number of people in virtually any year since jesus death so you really have to research it yourself with an eye toward finding the truth.
      From what I've seen the evidence shows that Jesus really existed (from both biblical and secular records) and that the writters of the gospels did in fact know him and were eyewitnesses to most of his life. They wrote the gospels later on in their lives after Jesus death the same way things are done today. If they had written the gospels during Jesus life then I'm sure most people would cite the bible writers as the inventors of Jesus.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Well, the gospels were written within one or two generations after Jesus' death, not over 100 years later. However, a generation is still quite a long time. Plus the gospels were all written in Greek, whereas JC would have spoken Aramaic, so we already have a language problem.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Jim

      I'm willing to bet heavily that you've never read the Book of Mormon and know little of what it actually contains ...

      March 2, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Peggy

      To Mark, I don't know about the other 3, but Luke never knew Jesus. He was a Greek physician.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  7. King Kong Kolob

    What a bunch of nutjubs. Just for that, that's 50 fewer wives each of them can bring to my planet.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  8. Tim

    For those who can't read. The "Church" did not do this, rogue individuals who managed to violate church policy did! The article clearly indicates the Mormon church has a policy against doing this. Those who think the Mormon church does not have its share of people who don't think before doing something they shouldn't is preposterous.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Craig

      You're right, except that temple privileges are closely regulated by that same "church" so not just anybody can get inside to exercise this practice. That means "the church" is an active participant in this scam. Crazy person...possibly. Crazy organization that allows crazy people to do such things? Absolutely!

      March 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Frank

      They only have a policy against doing this to Jews, and that policy hasn't been in place all that long. Everyone else is fair game.

      Also, these policy statements are more for the wogs than the devoted. If they're flapping something around in public like a policy statement, you can bet it's more PR than anything. Most of the policies of the Mormon church are not for public scrutiny.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Bright

      How do we know it wasn't his cousin that did the proxy baptism?

      March 2, 2012 at 4:29 am |
  9. msadr

    Oh, for heavens sake! They are just trying to honor the dearly departed. What harm does it do? Let it go.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • O.S. Bird

      Nop, they dishonor and insult the dead and the family. What arrogance. In any event, they must really want to get the last word.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • AJH

      The harm it does is it undermines these people's beliefs and how they lived their lives. Holocaust victims, especially, as they were persecuted in life for their faith; why should they be targeted in death by these people who have the misguided belief that their way is the right way?

      March 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • etapc

      Are you stupid? After death, it is about the living...if you disrespect the memory and life of the deceased, you have thumbed your nose at those left behind.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  10. Brian C.

    I wonder how many people that consider this practice to be arrogant, disrespectful, etc., have ever even witnessed a single proxy baptism, or spoken to somebody who has, or even has a clue as to why Mormons practice it. My guess is that, like so many other hot topic issues, people just hear that somebody else is angry so they decide to jump on the bandwagon and say they're angry too. NEWSFLASH! Mormons have been practicing proxy baptism for almost 200 years, and they have specifically targeted... everybody. Chances are you may have the names of some great-great-grandparents involved, but I'm guessing it hasn't taken any skin off your back, or theirs.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Cameron

      Mormons have been punks for 200+ years? Duh

      March 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Brian C.

      How many proxy baptisms have you been to Cameron?

      March 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Mormons ain't been around 200 years yet. 200 years ago = zero Mormons.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • etapc

      And that makes it okay. NOT!

      March 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Mark

      Proxy baptism is unbiblical. I'm not sure if Mormons believe the bible is a fraud or if you're like Muslims and believe it is the inspired word of god but only a precursor to someone elses contradictory addendum but baptising someone who isn't around to make his own decision or someone who isn't able to think for himself basically goes against everything the bible taught.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Bright

      My father's mormon, he's traced his routes back to the 15th or 16th century pretty sure no one knows or cares too much about them.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • Richard

      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!

      March 2, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • jk

      The books oif the New Testament are a collection that were later gathered into one book. When John wrote the Book of Revelations it was a whole unto itself. The writer, John, is referring to the work he wrote while on the Isle of Patmos

      March 2, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • clearfog

      Religion is not healthy for adults and other thinking things.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • dowman5744

      Even though most wars are started by people of faith, often in the name of faith(not all, but many.) Lets teach our kids to believe in a magic man in the sky instead. Oh' and "believers" make up the VAST majority of persons in prison. Yeah' that's a great path.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      All Billionaires are atheists, but we worship them like Gods.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Glad to hear it. I pray that you go away and stop posting this nonsense.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Jay

      dowman5744 – Believers also make up the VAST majority of persons not in prison. Your point?

      March 2, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Jebbb

      Religion ruins everything.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  12. Haywoode Jabloume

    Lessee here. Staggering arrogance, shocking insensitivity, enslavement to bizarre ritual and delusional pseudo-theology. Is this REALLY what you want to see in the White House?

    March 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jim

      Perhaps you prefer the blatant racism of Obama's religious views???? Do you remember Jeremiah Wright, who Obama followed for YEARS until it became bad press?

      March 2, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  13. Sheila

    So if people in a religion I don't believe in are standing in a tub of water pretending to vicariously baptise dead people who aren't present, and who won't know it's even going on, who gets hurt? I mean, suppose I stick a baby doll under the tap and pretend I am baptising Mahatma Ghandi? Seriously? Who cares?

    March 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Bright

      Apparently most of the people who like to comment on CNN blogs.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  14. anotherthinker

    “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.’”....as long as they have been "baptized" to the mormon faith– or at least, as long as some mormon pretends they have.

    Just another way of saying, "I can't be happy until you believe what I believe because what you believe is wrong and I have a special connection that lets only my religious sect be right on this."


    March 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Sheila

      No Christian baptism brings you into a particular denomination – it just brings you into Christianity. You are not baptised a Catholic, or baptised a Lutheran, you are just baptised. Check any baptism certificate from any church – it doesn't say you became a Presbyterian or a Methodist. You are raised in a particular branch of Christianity, or take confirmation and holy eucharist in a particular faith as you age. But baptism itself – nope.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Yeah

      These blogs are filled with posts that boil down to 'my version of the fairy tale is better than your version of the fairy tale' I find it amusing.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Yeah

      @Sheila – I can assure you the Catholic Church does not agree with your assesment.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Tommy DeVito

      whadda ya mean amuse you, you think we're here to fukin amuse you, you think i'm a fukin clown,what is so fukin funny about me.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • AJH

      Sheila, I don't know about you, but my baptism certificate CLEARLY states "baptized into the Lutheran Brotherhood" not "Christian Brotherhood".

      March 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  15. flippy chips

    I just farted.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • americaz

      I wondered what that was.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  16. Cameron

    Considering how big of punks the Mormon church is. To do something this insulting is not surprising.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  17. mystery

    Freedom of religion overruled by mormons forcing baptism on dead people. Any person that dies is free reign for mormons to make a claim. Dead people don't talk and they don't have any defense. Forcing religion on people is one thing but forcing religion on the dead that is insane. Mormons must be completely insane to think they need to advance their religion by preying on the dead people of other religions. Freedom of Religion has never had a more relevant meaning than leave our dead alone. Mormons are freaks.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Bright

      You know, i bet the dead they are baptizing don't won't show up to church.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  18. michael

    Can we create a national list such as the National Do Not Call list named the Do NOT Baptise me Mormon List ? I want to make sure I am on that list.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • anotherthinker

      What a great idea! Also, can we re-indoctrinate mormon's by proxie to judaism or islam?

      March 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • O.S. Bird

      Outstanding idea!

      March 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Where do we sign up?

      March 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Armymom

      Being a former Mormon I wonder if they will do it for me when I am dead because after all, I "have been deceived" to have ever left!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  19. SciGuy

    "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.

    So did the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said they were of their father, the devil. If Danny Pearl is facing his creator without having embraced Jesus by faith, then he remains under God's wrath, a most fearful place to be.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • JmboK

      Uh, Jesus was Jewish.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Ty

      Jesus was way to cool for bible-thumpers like you. LOL

      March 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Mark

      The Pharisees weren't fromt he devil because they were Jewish. They were from the devil because they were more concerned with their religion and with power and mindless tradition then they were with God and truth. Something that Jesus shone a temporary light on and also predictied would flourish again after his death up until the end.
      Jesus taught that his followers should stay seperate from the world, stay out of politics, stay out of wars (regardless of which side you think you're on), avoid a showy display and ritualistic traditions, idol worship (flags, countries, political parties, crosses, beads, massive hats and septors).
      Simply changing religions isn't exactly going to put anyone on the fast track to gods good graces!

      March 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • gg

      Sorry SciFiGuy... Christianity is a Jewish heresy...

      March 2, 2012 at 3:43 am |
    • Loggan44

      ... but then, that is your belief system. Daniel Pearl was Jewish and didn't believe Jesus was the Messiah. This is my main problem with people in religion. Their arrogance that only they know the way the Universe or God works. Its okay to have your beliefs but wrong to demean other people because their belief system is different. You should be ashamed.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  20. nobody important

    If you take offense when none was intended, you are a fool.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • The Flamingo Kid

      I totally agree.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • barbraS

      No. There are plenty of people who have no sense who don't take in consideration the feelings of others. This baptizing people that aren't of your religion is disrespectful and arrogant.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Wrong.


      March 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Bork

      I think they take offense at the arrogance an hubris, not the ignorance of the offender.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • casper

      B.S. to that chump. Stupid people insult others. Insults are done whether intended on not. Claiming stupidity is never an excuse, you should know that by now.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • David

      The fool is the one who follows a course of action knowing that it will offend others but doesn't care, and then acts surprised when someone else does take offense.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • pdluz

      You must own stock in Brainyquote.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Craig

      So, with your thinking, and can walk up to you, as a total stranger, and slap you face...then say...oh, I didn't intend to offend you...and you won't be offended? Not too likely. This sort of thing (the baptism) is the ultimate sort of offense, where there can be no acceptable rationale for the action. It would be no different than me saying I have the right to exhume every body in a cemetery and rebury them in purple robes...because I believe that will offer them a better chance at salvation. I'll bet most everyone would be offended...and rightly so.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      It's like burning a Quaran?

      March 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Jim

      barbraS - your statement makes little sense - baptizing people who ARE of your religion would be pointless because they're already baptized in your faith

      March 2, 2012 at 12:55 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.