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. RickSantorum

    Mormons also believe they have "living prophet". That's right, if the living prophet tells Romney to launch a nuclear strike, he's gotta do it because what the prophet says is law.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Zona

      There are baptisms performed 24/7 in every LDS Temple. It is complete BS that they only baptize family relations. They would of ran out of family by now. Someone needs to call them out on this one.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Bright

      Sorry but that is B.S. The Prophet directs the Mormon Church not a country. And there are 15 million Mormons doing research on all of their dead ancestors dating back to the beginning of time. I think they can find enough relations to keep their temples going.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:03 am |
  2. RickSantorum

    Vote Rick Santorum!

    Creepy. I don't want this cult to get a stronger foothold in america. They believe they become gods in the afterlife, wear their "magic underwear", wome have "spirit babies", and multiple gods in multiple universes. There is more and it is even crazier. They just give me the creeps.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:05 am |
  3. NetScanr

    Why do you think the Moron CULT is so big on Genealogy? Their ENTIRE purpose for this research is to identify non-MOs to baptize. Has anyone here ever heard of ANCESTRY.COM? It is OWNED by the LDS CULT. It used to be private, until someone in the church figured out it would be a great money-making venture! Ever watched the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" Yup, their data comes from the LDS genealogical archives as well 😉

    It would be insulting for surviving family members to find out about a MO baptism-by-proxy. However keep in mind, baptism is for the SOUL not the body or corpse. True Christians, which Mormons are NOT, understand that this process has no effect.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  4. Dakota2000

    Look they are not Christian. They believe in "many gods" Their founder was killed after trying to marry the wives of other church members.

    Mormonism is a cult which does not even pretend to be a religion.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  5. honestly

    It's a boundary violation to not respect someone else's faith. However, I just don't see how a posthumous baptism is any different than just saying a prayer for someone. Unlike choosing baptism for oneself, or reconfirming an infant baptism. Like I did today for a guy that crashed his motorcycle next to me today on the freeway. I prayed for him – he didn't know it. Is that not respecting someone's faith? No.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Trey

      Yeah, I'm not understanding this posthumous stuff either...Does this mean they can technically baptize me as well without my knowledge or consent?

      March 2, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • toadears

      It's all weird to me. When you're gone, you're gone. Nothing people do down here is gonna change anything about it. One of the few things almost all religions agree on is that the body dies and we become something different to flesh and blood.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Dog Lover

      Theoretically, anyone's name (after a year from their date of death) might be submitted for proxy baptism. However, Mormons believe that the person for whom the ritual is performed may accept or reject it for themselves in the afterlife. It is merely an offer, not a claim.

      March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  6. Angie

    Chimo ....... Thank you I could not agree more. 🙂

    March 2, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  7. Angie

    LORD TOM CRUISE ........ wow such kind words. I mean if you did not understand maybe you should read it again. Just a thought and I hope thinking is something you are familiar with before you write stupidity.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  8. svann

    Its really kind of silly. If you arent LDS then an LDS baptism is meaningless. Consider it a figment of their imagination, not a real baptism.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • bobotheclown


      March 2, 2012 at 1:53 am |
  9. Valsor

    Let's take get Mormon's to change their teachings before we die. Romney keeps changing his teachings anyway, morons should be able to change teachings easy.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  10. ralph

    As an LDS church member who attends the temple, I can tell you this baptism was not authorized by the church. There are safeguards in place to avoid this sort of thing, but if someone is going to be devious there are ways around these safeguards. This is as much the church's fault as a murderer's actions are the fault of his great grandparents.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:33 am |

      ralph, shut the fu</B.ck up

      March 2, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • bobotheclown


      March 2, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Zona

      You are baptizing the dead! You have safeguards around dunking 8 years old for dead people? Wake up.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • Ploni


      First of all, I appreciate your stepping into the muck and ick that seems to be this thread. As a Jew who's parents were horrified to learn that all their family were "baptized," I concur that this is evil, and though I might not agree with your beliefs I do believe that the Mormon hierarchy, if for no other reason than PR, would not condone this.

      That there are crazies and extremists in all religions is equally obvious, to the Pearl family as well as anyone reading this thread.

      For those abhoring the Mormon actions, might I point out that all religions, viewed from the outside, are clearly wrong, products of misguided beliefs at best, and evil heresy at worst.

      Christians of all stripes, Muslims of all branches and most other religions troll for souls to save or people to convert.

      I think this urge to convert people is evil, whatever the believer might think. That includes you and your kind, Ralph, as well as many of the happy idiots on this thread.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  11. Fiona

    Mormons do NOT have "good intentions" in doing these posthumous rites. They are buying their OWN salvation. It's utterly selfish, and reprehensible.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • ralph


      March 2, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Zona

      You are right on the money!

      March 2, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Bright

      Sorry to tell you this but Mormons do not believe in indulgences. They baptize for the dead because they believe those who pass on are stuck in a spirit prison waiting for their descendants to save them. Many Mormons get caught up and carried away with this idea and feel that it is their duty to save everyone they hear about.

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

    I went to Catholic school for 12 years. Catholics do not believe nor are they taught that only Catholics are saved.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:23 am |

      catholics are just as stupid as mormons

      not sure why you'd ever publicly admit to being a retard, but ok.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • Fiona

      Not true, Mary. I was raised Catholic, went to 12 years of Catholic school, and have uncles and aunts in religious orders. I was always told, as a child, that only those who believed *the version of the Bible story Catholics believed* would go to heaven. So Episcopalians might squeeze in, but not Baptists. I rejected the Catholic Church as soon as Inwas old enough to fully understand it.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Richard Hode

      "Nulla salus extra Ecclesiam" – there is no salvation outside the Church. This has been accepted Catholic doctrine since Saint Cyprian, a 3rd Century bishop.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  13. Angie

    I think it is respectful that the LDS wanted to do something nice..... but they would of been more respectful if they would of consulted with his family first. If you know ones religion it is always best to ask before you assume and take any type of action. Remember that religion is the opium of the masses, and religion is for certain people the single most important element in their lives. Yes the victim is deceased but the family is still alive and still must be treated with respect. I as a proud Christian can appreciate the thought given to the gesture but also as a different religion would want to be contacted or if I was deceased would want my family notified and asked permission before any type of differentiated religion performed any type of ceremony, even more so a "baptism" which is some people eyes converting the person to that certain religion. All that is asked is that everyone is treated with respect and if someone wants to do something so dramatic as with religion a simple phone call and respect of the victims survivors wishes is the kindest gesture of all.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:22 am |

      would of?

      it's would have numbnuts.

      would have.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • Roumen Los Angeles

      Dear Angie, it's "would have" not "would of."

      March 2, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Fiona


      March 2, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Chimo

      I thought your posting was well thought out and treats the subject with the respect it deserves. One of the reasons that Jewish people object to these types of rituals is that we beleive that we have our own covenant with God. That we as Jews don't have to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in order to get into heaven. Some Christians like yourself accept this with no problem, others are a little more closed minded and think that if you don't accept Jesus, then you go to hell. Those are the kind we can do without

      March 2, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • toadears

      They should give a donation to a holocaust survivor foundation or museum if they are truly interested in honoring the dead people of Jewish faith. It's weird. Once your body is dead, you are gone. Atheists think we are back to being dirt but religious people think only the body dies. How can you do anything down here in your puny little human body, some little service or ritual or whatever, that effects anything once the person has gone on? It reminds me para normals and people who talk to the dead.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  14. EatYouAlive

    Funny all you religious nuts peeing on each others legs.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • toadears

      Funny a cannibal is always found on the belief pages. You must prefer your human flesh sanctified or something.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Richard Hode

      Going on the belief pages is like wandering around in the modern art section of a museum, looking at the bizarre shapes that hang from the walls, one stranger than the other. A visit to the belief pages is like going on a little vacation from sanity and reality, an excursion into strange lands of fantasy of torment, death, resurrection, angels, shining lights, spirit prisons, godlike powers, and what have you. Before video games, this was the only fantasy place in town.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  15. midwesternmatt

    The actions taken by the Mormon Church are egregious and extraordinarily and unnecessarily provocative.

    These baptisms are nothing more than a way for the Mormon Church to quietly prove how their religion is the only true one and that all others are going to "spiritual prison" unless all others see their Joseph Smith cult as the only way.

    Thank God I'm an atheist.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • toadears

      Thank who? Bob?

      March 2, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Bright

      If you are an Atheist what does it matter? A crazy group dunking someone by proxy. It is all meaningless under that perception.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  16. Jay

    As a practising Mormon, I agree with the sentiments of the family here: "Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled for ritual...whoever conducted the proxy baptism should have contacted the family out of respect." And I would add that they should have then respected the family's wishes. Acting otherwise is very disrespectful and insensitive.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Zona

      How do I get your church to recognize my wishes to never be baptized?

      March 2, 2012 at 2:20 am |

    mormons are such retards

    you know what someone should do?

    baptise joseph smiths spirit in the name of satan

    video it and post it on youtube for all those retard mormons to see

    March 2, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Richard Hode

      Ahem, I wonder if it occurred to the Mormons to post-baptize Mohammed? Or does posthumous baptism apply only to Americans, lucky us?

      Here's an idea: why don't you post-baptize Mohammed and put it on Youtube? That should raise holy hell, and I know you religious like to do that.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • Richard Hode

      I did not mean *you*, Lord Tom.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:57 am |
  18. Ed

    " A muckraking ex-Mormon researcher struck again this week". Let's look closely at who is causing a lot of discord in this matter. First we have some misguided member of the LDS church breaking church policy, and then we have an ex member looking hard for these mistakes to cause discord among the public and the LDS church. Do we even know if the muckraker's report is true?
    What harm would have been done if these baptisms had gone undetected? It seems that these reports are designed to cause harm to Mormons.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • EatYouAlive

      Seems all you religious nutbars do a darn fine job of muckraking yourselves on a day to day basis. Praise Jebus!

      March 2, 2012 at 1:20 am |

      maybe mormons should stop causing harm to themselves by leaving people alone

      ever thought about it from the logical angle instead of the biased mormon cock licking angle?

      get a clue

      they wouldnt be getting this publicity if they had just kept their stinking child abusing hands out of everything

      March 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Roumen Los Angeles

      @ Ed "We" do know that it's true because we read the article where it clearly states that the mormons admitted it and even claimed to be upset themselves. Also the place where it happened, Idaho, is known. Why you don't know is unclear.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • Bright

      I agree with everyone who says that Mormons should be respecting the rights of the deceased's family members, but who seriously sits down and looks through all of the LDS files trying to find the diamonds in the rough that slipped through to be baptized. I mean seriously how many Daniel Pearls have ever been born in the history of the world? Then verify the information of each to determine if it is the right one. Waste of time.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:21 am |
  19. let'sbhonest

    it's rather creepy

    March 2, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  20. Kerry

    What place can we go to confirm if unauthorized baptisms have occurred to members of my family and descendants? This is an absolutely horrible practice and invasion of privacy. That this information has been kept hidden for so long and has come to be exposed by muckrakers is disgusting. If Mormons are using/stealing genealogical information and are not notifying families of the deceased, then a channel must be opened for non-Mormons to be able to get answers and action to remove names from their baptismal lists. This is a fundamental violation of individual rights and family rights.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Sean Dalrymple

      If a shaman from an Indian Tribe did a ritual for the soul of your ancestor off in some forest without anyone knowing would you care? Anyone can say or do anything. After you are dead, I can go into the forest and burn a rabbit and bless the Sun God to take you away. Unless you actually believe in the Sun God, and it has some power or reality, you would do nothing but laugh if you watched.

      Dead peoples names are not private. They are dead. Who cares. Has nothing to do with individual rights. I am going to go dance in the snow and kick a kitten in your name so when you die you will get humped by Elton John.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Sean Dalrymple

      Mormons don't steal genealogy. They are the #1 leaders in research. I am being a bit facetious above. Just don't think its a big deal.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Mircat

      This is all kind of a funny sad. The Mormons have been doing this proxy stuff for decades. People all the time use the records that Mormons have to research family trees and yet nobody ever seems to question exactly why they have an entire building of many floors with Mormon researchers doing family trees. It's not to help nonMormons find their ancestors. They research records back as many centuries as can can go (European records). They then use the information in thousands of proxy ceremonies held at Mormon temples. Ceremonies that are held 8 hours a day 5 days a week all year long. People are remarried in the Mormon faith by proxy and people are baptized in the Mormon faith by proxy.

      There is a huge bomb safe cave complex in the Watsatch mountain range with underground file cabinet storage, acres of them holding microfiched (at the time the film was done) of all the records of the people this has been done to. When the second coming happens everyone will be Mormon according to them. With computer chips they are probably saving tons of cave space.

      So this has been going on for a very very long time and people act shocked. They have never contacted anybody and they don't need permission to do it. They just continue on and will continue on and we'll all be Mormon whether we want to be or not.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Bright

      Mormon's have as a key part of their religion done work for the dead since their founding. According to Mormon beliefs just because an ancestor is baptized does not make them a Mormon. According to Christianity billions of people die and spend eternity in Hell. Mormon's believe by doing the baptisms they are offering the deceased an option to except or reject the ordinance. It would be very difficult to find out about unauthorized baptism on family members due to how far back Mormon records go. The majority, according to church policy, of baptisms are done by family members. Work done by a Mormon on a member of your family could prove to be legitimate as a long lost cousin may have converted to the LDS faith.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:32 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.