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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Filed under: Belief • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

soundoff (979 Responses)
  1. Greg

    I suppose people will now make a big deal if someone else offers to pray for them?

    March 2, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  2. Ronnie Harper

    All of this looks so ridiculous – the 'mormon', the 'jew', the 'baptism', the 'jesus', the 'god' – might as well throw in a few unicorns and leprechauns to round out the dizzying absurdity of people infected by the meme called 'religion'. Tell me again, why aren't we taxing these imbecilic charlatans?

    March 2, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Greg

      Taxing what, exactly? I prefer to default to the establishment clause, myself.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  3. g s g

    Can the mormom church be sued for this?

    March 2, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • dofacc

      Nope, Freedom of Religion would apply here quite clearly. Nothing illegal about splashing water around.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  4. JayS.

    I think that a few high profile lawsuits based on the intentional infliction of mental distress on the families and survivors of the subjects of these obnoxious, uncalled for, and quite frankly, insulting "baptisms" might cure the problem.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Cat

      Good idea! the moronic church is VERY rich.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  5. Michael

    Yanno, I wouldnt worry to much about the LDS baptism. Its no more, no less, than a bunch of people with specific beliefs performing a ceremony meaningful only to them. It has no impact on the soul or essence of Daniel Pearl. Let them posture and act out their rituals all they want, it isn't going to matter at all. Dont give it more weight then it deserves.

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

      The problem is that the people doing this rituals are in essence saying, yes, we know your loved one died because of their religion, but what the heck, that religion was false to begin with. Not to worry though, we can still save your loved one with our True Religion.

      Really, how offensive is that. Your loved one died because of their religion, and these people are telling you that your loved one died for a false religion. I don't know how much deeper you could possibly cut than that.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Michael

      @DOF: Well its only meaningful and offense if we LET it be. If someone dressed up in a gumby suit stood in front of me, smearing peanut butter on his head while reciting the collected poetry of Emily Dickinson, and said he was damning the soul of my late grandmother, Id simply laugh at him and walk away. The LDS thing should have no more meaning or significance than that.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Brent S

      Michael, you're right, what they are doing makes NO difference to non-believers, but it DOES make the believers consume each other and is GREAT FUN to watch! It takes any perceived veracity AWAY from either myth system

      March 2, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  6. CBR

    This is just a bit too much. This is just plain wrong. No one has the right to make these religious proxies. Perhaps the people do not understand why this is wrong. Perhaps another Mormon will explain the problem in a meaningful way that reaches many different Temples.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  7. BubbaCo

    That's OK...I'm an angel of satan and I've performed thousands of evil castings on Mormons. Trust me...they ain't taking anything but a fire-vacation down under when they die.

    I'm not kidding...my power is stronger than theirs because I'm from Texas...not some pansy-ass Utah.

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

      Your comments both made me laugh... and frightened me. Just a little bit.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  8. Zenatty1

    I am very glad I, too, am an atheist...as soon as the world quits playing these stupid religious games and gets on with solving real problems, we will advance as a species. Until then, I guess we have these inane stupid practices occurring, i.e. beheading, baptizing the dead etc...and silly arguments supporting such "foolishness"...

    March 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  9. Atheist

    Hey guess what Mormons. I've been de-baptizing all of your ancestors with Ancient Egyptian witch-craft. The souls of your dearly departed are now spending eternity as toilet paper for Ra.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • dowman5744

      good one 🙂

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

      watch the video called " 23 minutes in Hell by Bill wiese .No water to be baptised in there.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  10. Mopery

    More evidence that the second "m" in Mormon is silent...

    March 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  11. JOHN

    The so-called proxy baptism is absolutely an exercising in nothingness. It has NO affect upon the deceased. This is just another absurdity of Mormonism. This alone should alert voters to STAY AWAY FROM ROMNEY!!!

    March 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Jim

      ... and who would you suggest they vote for??? Are you going to be intellectually honest and examine Obama's religious beliefs (i.e. Jeremiah Wright) in detail? Santorum's? Gingrich's?

      March 2, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Tony

      And you, Sir, are a bigot...

      March 2, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  12. Jason

    Would this story even be published if Mitt Romney weren't running for President?

    March 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Brent S

      Probably, since Pearl was a high profile person in his own right.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  13. Brett

    I'm an atheist. Baptize me all you want. Won't make a bleep of difference, since its all a load of bull.

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

      I've already un-baptized everyone who ever has or will have existed for all time, and I called "no take-backs", so you're all good.

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

      If you are an atheist, that's fine. But don't disrespect people of faith–it's just bad manners. I will respect your right to not believe, but I ask you to respect my right to believe.
      That having been said, I am appalled that any religious group would feel they should be the ones who "save" the lost souls. The arrogance of that is beyond my comprehension. Praying for the souls of the dead and baptizing by proxy are completely different.
      Even as a Catholic, I do not believe that only Catholics are saved. And the truth is, none of us really, truly know if our way is "the" way, so I think we need to keep love and respect at the forefront of how we treat each other (and, for those of us who believe, faith in and love for God).

      March 2, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Brett

      Bridget, I only expressed my opinion. You're the one disrespecting me.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Brent S

      @Bridget .... Brett has EVERY right to criticize your religion/belief system, he has no ability OR desire to make you stop believing. You'd better get used to it!

      March 2, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Bridget

      Okay, please reread the comment–I do respect your belief that you don't have a religious belief, but please be more respectful than saying it's all a load of bull. If you don't believe, okay. But just say that. Those of us who have faith respect that you don't believe, but we don't believe it's a load of bull. I know you have every right to say it, but must you be so crude? I'm just asking you have some respect with your words, although I will defend your right to say it, no matter how you do so. I think part of the problem is that people believe that because they have the right to be crude, they go ahead and do so, forgetting that we also have the responsibility to choose our words carefully. Thank you.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:56 am |
    • Bridget

      And by the way, Brent, I think I acknowledged that even my own belief system isn't necessarily for every one. I am used to it. Relax.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  14. Lisa

    Why can't these stupid Mormons leave everyone else alone? It has been known for years that they baptize people of other faiths just because they want to. Hey Mormons, stop offending family's that have already grieved and continue to grieve but buried their family member as they chose to do. Stop interfering. Nobody needs you.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  15. pdluz

    Mitt Romney is a huge necro-baptizer. He even got himself baptized for his father-in-law, who he never particularly liked when the old man was alive. But after he died, Mitt must have decided that he loved the guy so much, he'd bestow his grace upon him. What a saint.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      "necro-baptizer" Great term for what they are doing.

      The United Church of Canada told its members years ago that proselytizing Jews was no longer acceptable. It's time the LDS church followed suit with these ridiculous baptisms.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  16. Bill in Florida

    I'm so glad that I'm an atheist.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  17. MashaSobaka

    "Salvation is open to all people"...unless you're not Mormon. Sorry, Givens, but the fact that you allow people to become Mormon after they're dead doesn't mean that you don't condemn non-Mormons to hell if they don't accept the faith. Your faith is just as bigoted and prejudiced and exclusive as every other, and those prejudices have led to the morally reprehensible actions of your fellow LDS. Proxy baptism offers a clever answer to the question of what happened to the people who came before Christianity and what happens to those who honestly never have the opportunity to embrace it during their lifetime, but for those of us who do not believe that some ancient ritual is necessary to secure a soul's worth, it is still a profoundly disgusting set of beliefs.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  18. r e scheerd

    gross. mormon cult is super duper creepy.

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

      Creepier than the Christian cult that believes their leaders body was reanimated after three days of decay?

      March 2, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  19. proxy bris Brigham

    Based on the latest results... guess it's now OK for Romney to go ahead and baptize the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns

    March 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • dowman5744


      March 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  20. COlady

    "A muckraking ex-Mormon researcher struck again this week..." How is telling the truth "muckraking"?

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

      Muckraker is a compliment. It means someone who, typically through investigative journalism, exposes wrongs and advocates for reform.

      March 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
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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.