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. coderjones

    I'm curious – do mormons only go for the famous people – you know like those who claim to be a reborn king or chief
    meaning: are they baptizing the cavemen or pre-historic humans also?
    just seems kinda of petty to indoctrinate someone who can no longer speak for themselves

    March 2, 2012 at 4:14 am |
  2. Mark

    they think they are moving you up the heavenly ladder to be closer to God and fast food.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  3. Morris

    The people who care about this must have a supersti-tious fear that the Mormons really are able to magically work some kind of mysterious Ju-Ju power. (No pun intended when i say Ju)

    March 2, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • Richard Hode


      March 2, 2012 at 4:02 am |
  4. Morris


    March 2, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  5. Carrie Ruano

    Fiona, I don,t think you paid attention in school, the Catholic Church does not say that people of other faiths are not saved hopefully you will take another look at your church now that you have matured. Remember that the Catholic Church is a Christian Church, we were the first church. Catholics, Baptist, Lutheran etc are all Christian we believe in the same God and we all believe in the Savior Jesus. God Bless you.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:57 am |
  6. R Burns

    The recent news of proxy Mormon baptisms is nothing new, and neither is the blatant misrepresentation that the LDS church tries to convey to the outside world when they deny doing so as a routine part of their activities. It is not done just for family members by active Mormons! Those who qualify for temple attendance do proxy baptisms based on birth and other records in an attempt to baptize every living soul over time. It's one of the doctrines taught regularly in members-only meetings. How they think this can happen, since millions of births have never been officially recorded, is beyond me. It is just one of the many lies told to the world by this organization, as their doctrines focus on many things that would deceive the naive. Jesus gave us light for the path to God, and it didn't include proxy baptisms, long genealogies or many other things the Mormons say is necessary for admittance to the Kingdom. If you will notice, their ads don't say anything about religion or God – but they want the public to know that the Mormon community includes people leading normal lives. Hmmm. . .

    March 2, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • bob

      We have learned to accept the absurdity of the JC thing because the story is so old and we are used to it. One only gets to see how crazy religion is when you look at the more modern quacks. Like LDS and Scientology.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  7. Ohsnaps

    I saw the tagline "Pearl family irked by babtism" and just knew the mormons were up to no good. And you know what!? I was right. Cult!

    March 2, 2012 at 3:43 am |
  8. vinni gambini


    March 2, 2012 at 3:41 am |
  9. Carrie Ruano

    First of all my church the Catholic Church, respects all faiths and would never say that we are the only ones who will enter heaven. Those who accept Jesus as their savior and follows the way of Jesus will be saved. When we pray we pray for peace in the world and for all faiths.
    As for Daniel Pearl I would not worry to much about him he is a Jew and the Jews are Gods chosen people. Read the Bible and also remember that Jesus was a Jew as well.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:22 am |
    • RoccoP

      I need to inform you, as a former Roman Catholic, (who is now simply a Christian in adherance to the Bible and not R. Catholic traditions) that the R. Catholic church does indeed claim to be the only true church and that there is salvation outside of this church. For instance: Pope Boniface VIII declared: “There is one holy Catholic and apostolic church, outside of which there Is NO SALVATION ... it is altogether NECESSARY FOR SALVATION for every creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.' That is an infallible declaration.
      And Vatican II declared: "... this holy Council teaches ... that the church .. Is NECESSARY FOR SALVATION.”
      I agree Mormonism is a cult - but I think the R. Catholic church should pull the beam out of its own eye if they are honest about pointing out the error in others.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  10. Richard Hode

    "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."

    I was going to comment on this statement, but there really is nothing sane one can say about such bizarre, breathtakingly surreal absurdity. It just goes to show the convolutions the human mind is capable of.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • NateFromIndiana

      While I agree that it's a bizarre ritual, I do think it's worth bearing in mind that the people doing these proxy baptisms do appear to believe with some justification that they mean well. When my father died an evangelical acquaintance came up to me at the funeral and said "what a shame it is that he's in hell now" – it's possible this evangelical thought they meant well too, but the LDS proxy baptisms are a lot less of an overt slap in the face.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • Richard Hode

      What, are you stupid? Anybody coming to you at your father's funeral to tell you that your father's in hell is an offensive fool or an enemy, don't you understand that? I know that I would be mortally offended at such insensitive, rude presumption and would have thrown that person bodily out of the funeral. What the hell's the matter with you that you think someone like that "means well?"

      March 2, 2012 at 4:11 am |
  11. Janet

    Mormons, please! The last thing you want to do is receive bad press by baptising the deceased of other religions. Besides, I know why you people do that, too: The more Mormons, the more Mormons after the Rapture! And here's another kicker: Mormons get their name from Mormo, the archangel of Satan!

    Quit being weird and stop offending the people!

    March 2, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  12. truth

    Baptism always follows belief in Jesus Christ as one's Savior and baptism is not necessary for a person to be saved and born again. It is not an act that one does to obtain salvation and no one in the New Testament was baptized who did not first believe and put their faith in Jesus Christ. After a person is saved, as the New Testament plainly shows, they then were baptized. The Bible does not refer to baptism as a sacrament which has any saving properties, or as a part of salvation. For more information that explains why baptism is not necessary for salvation please read the article at http://bible truth.org/BaptismNotNecessary.html.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Consequence

      In defense of the Mormon practice, one of Christianity's greatest dilemmas comes from Jesus who in the Book of John advises that "except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." Although attempts have been made to explain this away from its most understood meaning, the comment refers to baptism – a rite Jesus the Jew experienced and which John the Baptist, the Jew, performed. In short, the comment suggests that all mankind must be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of God. But what of the dead who died without the knowledge or the privilege of either being baptized or hearing of Jesus? It is a dilemma for most Christians and believers in baptism – but, in their own way, the Mormons seem to understand their way through it. For them, it is a vicarious rite for the accepting or not accepting dead. Bishop Krister Stendahl, former Dean of Harvard Divinity School and head of the Church of Sweden understood the practice and respected it for its connection of the temporal to the spiritual – the heart of Christianity.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:53 am |
  13. American Public

    It doesn't really matter. Unless the person being baptized ASKS to be baptized it's all futile. They can baptize all they want but no Jewish person is going to ASK to be baptized, so if they baptized him a hundred times without his permission it's still like it never happened. Read your bible and you'll see the specifications- you must ASK for it.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Mom of Three

      So YOU say! But they don't. Bet me who believes it more strongly. And bet me that neither opinion is worth a hill of beans anyhow.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:02 am |
  14. Whynot11

    While I am non-religious, I do think that this proxy baptism thing (while meaningless to me) is a nice gesture.

    These individuals respected your life choices and after you died offered a ritual in hopes that you will see greener pastures because of it.

    Its being inducted into the Jesus hall of fame...

    March 2, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • Richard Hode

      I wouldn't mind going if Bach is playing the venue.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:14 am |
    • Mad Cow

      If you were black would you be okay with someone lending your name to the KKK after you die?

      March 2, 2012 at 3:47 am |
  15. Jim Steadman

    This is really rude Mormons. You're totally forgetting to baptize dead Nazis, and that's just prejudicial.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • Resource

      I wonder if they baptized Hitler.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • Bright

      Let's not jump to conclusions, According to Christian tradition, we are all children of God even nazis. As the article mentioned, Mormons are only supposed to be doing baptisms for their own ancestors. And if Mormon's are right, this action saves souls from purgatory. If they are wrong well then they are wrong and it is a meaningless act with good intent.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:53 am |
    • Richard Hode

      Purgatory? Does there mean there's no hell? If sins can be cleansed through Purgatory, then who will be left at Judgment Day to be sent to heaven or hell? See, now you got me thinking like that too ...

      March 2, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • j

      yes the those Mormons did baptize hitler.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:38 am |
    • MurpGuy

      The IGI (International Genealogical Index) copies reveal that Adolf Hitler was "baptized" and "endowed" on December 10, 1993, and "sealed" to his parents on March 12, 1994. These events took place in the London Temple, England.

      Mormons apparently overlooked the LDS ordinance records of other well-known Nazis during their IGI purge. These records are currently accessible. Included in this liberal list are: Reinhard Heydrich, "The Father of The Final Solution"—Hitler's plan to exterminate all Jews in Europe; Alfred Rosenberg, hanged at Nuremberg for war crimes; Ernst Roehm, once the thuggish leader of Hitler's Storm Troopers; and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the Famous Desert Fox of World War II.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  16. Greenspam

    Religion... how many conflicts have thou created in mankinds

    March 2, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  17. 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 2:22 am |
    • Mom of Three

      And you think that's LESS dogmatic than Catholicism? Than any religion? ALL of them believe unproven pie in the sky things. Rick Santorum is just as destructive in his mythical thinking as Romney.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:55 am |
  18. CRG

    This is all a pack of lies to bring negative attention to Romney's faith. We need to keep religion out of politics if we are to remain a democracy where everyone is free to worship as he or she chooses, otherwise we could easily end up like many of the countries in the middle east.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • HDK

      It is highlighted more now because a Mormon is running for president so it absolutely should get highlighted. Just because its crazy and may affend someone doesn't make it not true.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • Don

      We will end up like the country our ancestors came here to get away from. Although our ancestors had to slaughter 10 million native people in order to to take this country for ourselves. Our ancestors were such good god fearing people weren't they?

      March 2, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • Cat

      If we let a moromon be president we -are- closer to being like the mid east Mormons are closer to moslems than christians- both have a prophet and aholy book that comes after and supsecedes the new testament. Now, I'm a pagan and I don't really care what brand of Abrahamic fatih you are. I do care about lies. I think moroms saying theyare christian is the first big lie. Moroms want a thoegracy in this country – with their MEN on top.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  19. massms

    With due respect and sympathy to Mrs. Pearl, why would anyone think the proxy "baptism" of a person who is (1) deceased, (2) never consented to it has any validity or significance? It's a meaningless ritual – ignore it.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • Bright

      It is about respect. For the dead anything done on this earth is of little consequence, but for the living it is a sign of disrespect for a stranger to do this without even speaking with the family.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  20. polycarp pio

    I dont know folks, say you were in some undesirable place after your physical death and there was a slight chance that some action here on the earth by the living, say baptism for the dead, or praying you out of purgatory could help you in yourafterlife or lack thereof, would you want someone to try and help you??????? PP

    March 2, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Righteo

      There is the same slight chance that you will be held hostage by drugged-out leprechauns after you die, and the only way to save you is by juggling live hand grenades. Don't you want someone to help you out?

      There is the same slight chance that stepping on a crack will break your mother's back. By your logic, one should always avoid stepping on cracks.

      Evolve already!

      March 2, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • Mom of Three

      And here you have most of your religious people in one CNN comment: Hedging their bets. They don't really believe in any of that stuff, but they're not quite gamblers, so they'll throw in with the cowardly choice. And why not? If they're wrong, and there is nothing, hey, no harm no foul for them! Seriously. This is 2012???

      March 2, 2012 at 2:57 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.