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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. let'sbhonest

    yea , ok live how ever you want and when your dead enjoy heaven by the morons baptisism. silly humans tricks is from satan but yet you fell for all of them now your buns will b baking

    March 2, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  2. let'sbhonest

    i know thy works and tribulation and poverty but thy is rich and i know the blasphemy of them which say they are jews and are not but are the synagogue of satan. revalation 2,9. so many are being deceived . mormons is not christians to be a christian is to be Christ like. they follow the teaching of the false prohet joseph mormon. but they take some stuff from the bible and put their own twist on it as all of these false god religions do. so are they Chris like ? no let's see. why are they baptising the dead do Jesus say do it? no . and pearl's is not saved by his good in life were all unclean. it is by grace you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves, its a gift from God , not of works lest any man shall boast. Ephsians 2,8. mormon ok i thought more like morons dont nobody see it

    March 2, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Bright

      I believe they were confused by your lack of grammatical skill sets. What does it mean to be Christlike. Christ said come follow me and gave two commandments, love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thyself. From your statements it seems you know very little about the Mormon faith and you do not possess charity within your heart especially after the remarks about Daniel Pearl. Paul said, "And though I have the gift of aprophecy, and understand all bmysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."

      Phrase that I see on bumper stickers all the time, WWJD? It is why I don't like most Christian organizations, they are hypocritical.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:57 am |
  3. marc

    They should also posthumously baptize Osama Bin Laden.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Bright

      Can we make him a Jew in heaven, then they would take his virgins away.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:35 am |
  4. Tom

    I do not want to be baptized by the Mormon church after I'm dead for the same reason I didn't like having to talk with them when they would come to my front door dressed in suits and riding bicycles.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  5. Jack

    I find it highly offensive these religious extremist see fit to perform their warped rituals on innocent deceased people. You mess with my family, I'm coming for ya and hell is coming along with me.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Dennis

      ... at least you know who's on your side. Hell and the devil's angels.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  6. Bob

    How is this a "muckraker" who "strikes again" to investigate and report this? The tone of this article makes no sense.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  7. MARK HOV

    WHAT THESE CHILD MOLESTING AND WIFE ABUSING IDIOTS CANT FIND ENOUGH WAYS TO SCREW UP LIVES IN THIS COUNTRY SO THEY HAVE TO LOOK TO THE PAST???

    March 2, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Dennis

      Not all Jews are child molesters and wife beaters...

      March 2, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • FU

      CAPS LOCK dude....or you mad bro?

      March 2, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  8. Science is our friend

    I just did a posthumous baptism for Brigham Young into Satanism. Hope you guys aren't offended.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • pdluz

      Nah nobody will care because he's probably burning right now anyway.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Bright

      Nope not at all.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:37 am |
  9. Uncle George

    Watch out! It's soon going to be illegal to say "God Bless You" when someone sneezes.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Science is our friend

      He seemed okay with the nasty orgeeeeee we provided in his honor. We hired a lot of hooooooookers.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  10. David ben Avraham

    The act of posthumous baptism of Jews – or other non-Mormons, for that matter – is morally bankrupt, devoid of ethical basis, and blatantly obscene. Jews have had a strange experience with so-called "Christian love" for 2,000 years. These acts, while not causing the loss of life, certainly show no respect for Jews or their faith, which has a history going back more than 4,000 years. We don't need any other religion's interference. We've survived our persecutors for centuries, outlasting the Greeks, Romans, the Nazis, and all others who have sought our destruction. I suggest the Mormons focus on reining in the whack jobs within their faith and leave the rest of us alone.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Uncle George

      It's so refreshing to see someone of the Jewish faith being tolerant of others. Isn't it strange that you weren't so tolerant of the Nazi's when they tried to forcibly "change your religion".

      March 2, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • gg

      Uncle George must have the mental capacity of a fruit cake.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  11. Dennis

    “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.’”

    I think baptisms for the dead is the most Christian act ever performed. I would be honored if Mormons were baptized for any of my relatives.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  12. DallasTxLady

    Baptism for the dead has about as much effect on a non-believer as waving Harry Potter's wand. Getting upset about it is just silly.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Bright

      Don't you remember, they had book burnings when the harry potter movies came out.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:41 am |
  13. Dixie AZ

    Churches always have a fund for a new bigger and better church building. When the last brick is in place on the new bigger church, they begin gathering contributions for a new bigger bigger better better church. I say when the church reaches 10,000 square feet they start paying taxes.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • GT

      Don't you think the establishment clause might just take precedent on this one?

      March 2, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  14. thes33k3r

    The Moron Church should stop with this nonsense.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Bob N

      and these are the same folks Romney has allegiance to? yikes

      March 2, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  15. Kill Satan's Followers

    Those mormons are spreading curses to corpses. Uproot them from our nation!!!

    March 2, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Brad

      Okay Lilburn. Geeze.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  16. Shan

    Seriously?? If they don't believe in the Mormon religion, why the heck to they care if they baptized them or not?? It shouldn't make a difference either way to them if they don't believe. They are just doing something that they feel is right or what they believe.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  17. seriously?

    everyone deserves salvation except for those who you ex-communicate....

    March 2, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  18. Josh

    All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay....Great Website!

    March 2, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  19. No Polygs fo prez thx

    Really? Those sweet, fun-loving, all accepting, pancake breakfast cooking, sheep sacrificing, mutton bustin' Mormon's did that? Really?

    March 2, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Jay

      Wait a second...sheep sacrificing? That's a new one.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  20. Donny

    It saddens me to see that so many people have so much hate. The LDS are just living their religion and extending the blessings they find in it to others, yet you people ridicule, mock, and attack them (in the comments section of an online article–how deplorable). It's time to stop acting like middle school bullies and show respect to people even if you disagree with them. We can do better than this.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • *facepalm*

      As an atheist, I see no harm in someone performing some hocus pocus over my corpse when I'm gone – if they want to waste their time, who am I to argue. However, I totally get that, to the survivors, this can seem like an insult – that the deceased, in the eyes of the LDS, lead a misdirected life. I can totally get how that would be insulting to some.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Brent S

      Again, one has EVERY RIGHT to criticize ANY belief system. You have the right to believe WHATEVER you want, but you'd better get used to being critiqued!

      March 2, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • JP0

      Extending the blessings to people who are dead is just plain stupid and, it is insulting to their living family. If Mormons are going to this they should keep it a secret. What purpose is served my making it public?

      March 2, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • l s king

      If people do not wish to be baptised, then the Mormon church should respect their wishes and leave the people alone,

      March 2, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Trish

      "...show respect to people even if you disagree with them."

      The same could be said of Mormons. To respect people of other faiths, to understand other people believe truly in their own religions, and to not insult the families of the dead with this practice.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Dave

      Donny – I think it's highly offensive for anyone with a different belief system to have the Mormons come along and unilaterally second-guess that belief system by stamping their own baptism on them. It's only well-meaning if you buy into the LDS belief system. Otherwise, it's pretty offensive and I'm sorry than you're unable to see that.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Jim

      I S King - you may not have noticed, but the people in question are DEAD - their wishes cannot be known

      March 2, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • let'sbhonest

      i know thy works and tribulation and poverty but thy is rich and i know the blasphemy of them which say they are jews and are not but are the synagogue of satan. revalation 2,9. so many are being deceived . mormons is not christians to be a christian is to be Christ like. they follow the teaching of the false prohet joseph mormon. but they take some stuff from the bible and put their own twist on it as all of these false god religions do. so are they Chris like ? no let's see. why are they baptising the dead do Jesus say do it? no . and pearl's is not saved by his good in life were all unclean. it is by grace you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves, its a gift from God , not of works lest any man shall boast. Ephsians 2,8. mormon ok i thought more like morons dont nobody see it

      March 2, 2012 at 1:16 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.