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. angryersmell

    Let it be known for all time, that I neither recognized the authority of the Mormon Church, nor any "baptism" they perform on me, and neither does the God I believe in.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  2. Mike

    You have to remember CNN is a Jewish owned news corp and they are OFFENDED OFTEN – ask Rick –

    March 2, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  3. J. A. Beck

    How arrogant! Can you imagine how non Mormons will be treated if they (the Mormons) get "one of their own" into the white house. Better practice saying halleluiah Jesus.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  4. Katie

    Mormons have been quietly baptizing dead people since they started their religion. It's been a way to swell their numbers and make the influence of their religion look more impressive. They claim the dead people as members. I guess going door to door recruiting wasn't good enough.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Ian

      Wrong. Any membership or numbers you see of the Church are members that are living. So when the Church says there are 14 million members, that's accurate. Granted, a % will not be active in the religion, but the number represents living members, not ones that have passed away or proxy baptisms.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  5. Mike

    Baptism....lol......means nothing.....just a bunch of voodoo....a made up thing that has nothing to do with anything besides fantasy tradition. Let these poor religious people think they are doing good.....because that is all they have. Sad. Get a life.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:32 am |
  6. janma

    It's terribly arrogant and unthinking for members of any religion to do something like this, and for it to be sanctioned by their church, but it has no meaning if the person's soul chooses to ignore the act.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  7. Rexdogcanadien

    Religion is a business that uses God as a front to rip off others, incite wars and desecrate the environment. It has nothing to do with one's faith or belief in God.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • M-AZ

      Amen brother was intended for you; I couldn't agree with you more.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  8. babooph

    The public likes a US president to at least pretend he is delusional-Romney should be fine....

    March 2, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • M-AZ

      Amen, brother!

      March 2, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  9. M Vickers

    Generally I have an equal dislike of all religion however the Catholics and Mormons tend to sprint a bit ahead of the pack. The Mormon church disgusts me, their flagrant disregard and lack of respect for the religios beliefs of others is unbelievable. Pearl was Jewish not Mormon, he didn't ask to be baptised, his permission wasn't obtained, they had absolutely no right to baptise him in the name of the Mormon religion.

    @Leeroy – Many religious organizations do good things. Mormons are the only freaks that baptise people, after death/without consent, and with total disregard for that person's religious beliefs.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:21 am |
    • Thor

      Actually , VICKERS, Catholics do have a sacrament of baptism for the dying.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • M Vickers

      Baptism for the dead is forbidden in the Catholic religion, no mainstream Christian religion has this practice except the Mormons.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Katie

      Thor, you're probably thinking of Extreme Unction, a sacrament of last rites for the dying. It's not a baptism, it's a forgiveness of sins since baptism, or just a forgiveness of sins if performed on a non-Catholic. (And it's not supposed to be performed on non-Catholic-baptized people.) Baptism is when people are both forgiven and brought into the faith. When Mormons posthumously baptize people, they are claiming them as part of the Mormon church.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Ian

      I've known families that have had their DEAD babies baptized by a Catholic priest. No, not proxy, the actual body. FYI Vickers

      March 2, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Leeroy

      Freaks? FREAKS!!! Oh . . . so it's name calling you're after! Well, you're a dirt faced toe smelling poop head!!!! Take THAT! BOOM!!!! 🙂

      March 2, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  10. Buczacz

    You're all conveniently missing the point. What if your parents' bodies were virtually exhumed and "declared" to be converted to another religion and shown in records accessible to the whole world? Nonsense? Yes, but very disturbing. Don't they have something better to do with their imaginations?

    March 2, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • david

      Conveniently missing the point all around. Mr. Pearl continues with his free agency as do you. He continues to think, accept, or reject any suggestion imposed to him where his name is used. Nobody, except perhaps the people replying to this blog, would suggest otherwise. Mormons don't baptize for the dead to make them Mormons. That's presumptuous beyond belief, let alone preposterous. Get a grip guys. These baptisms are simply a way to extend a hand of fellow ship. If the answer is no, then no still means no. But what if the answer is yes? Who are you (or the Mormons) to say what Daniel Pearl thinks now? Just saying.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • Flatsguide

      No one exhumed anyone. Stop making stuff up. The guy is dead, a baptism can't hurt him. What if someone said a Jewish prayer for a Christian, does it really matter? Is he going to hell because someone of a different religion says a prayer for his soul? No.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  11. sybaris

    I'm not a fan of Romney but Mormon antics like this isn't doing his campaign any favors.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  12. james

    you have much more to fear from Santorum, and his cult. His cult, with a uniting of church and state, killed close to 100 million people during the middle ages for violations such as owning a bible, refusing to bow down to the pope. Check out the book, 'Foxe's book of martyrs'

    March 2, 2012 at 6:13 am |
  13. kkd1013

    One of the main reasons I do not want Romney as President is because he is a mormon. They push their religious agenda on everyone around them whether they want it or not. I would rather vote for someone who doesn't talk religion at all. It has no business in politics.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • Leeroy

      And how many times have you heard Romney bring it up? People complain because he doesn't bring it up enough.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  14. Leeroy

    C'mon CNN, we get it already on the mistakes made by over zealous members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Let's move on to a new topic. How about a story on all the millions of people all over the world The Church helps each year while they're still alive on earth? How about our "Proclimation to the World" or our "Especially for Youth" programs and pamphlet to help give guidance to the youth? How about our 13 Articles of Faith or our Welfare programs that help the living? How about our Church employment programs and adoption assistance services? There are so many more interesting things you could cover, yet this is the third article on this topic. Have you no creativity?

    March 2, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • m

      How about you talk abour the fact that you do not actively work with law enforcement to put an end to child marriages? How about you discuss the fact that your religion has no right to perform ceremonies on those who can no longer speak for themselves and object (the dead). When you actively change your policies and 100% put an end to these practices then maybe we might care about what you do on the other side of the ledger.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:24 am |
    • Leeroy

      Good points. In fact, brilliant. And I have the solution. It's a win-win thing. I suggest all those who feel as you do can put a stop to the things you don't like about our Church by voting for Mitt Romney. As many of you believe, he has a direct line to the leadership of our Church and he can change things up. Muwahahahaha! I'm kidding by the way. Just trying to make a point of some sort. It's early and I haven't had my coffee . . . Cuz I'm Mormon! 🙂

      March 2, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  15. really?

    @aint it so

    good to see there are still people out there who aren't completely ignorant. it's almost enough to restore my faith in man kind. almost.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:22 am |
  16. bizzybizzy


    i think he's suggesting that daniel pearl was murdered by the cia/americans or something. he obviously needs to stop huffing so much glue

    March 2, 2012 at 5:09 am |
  17. Krakauer

    Read UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by John Krakauer. I know Mormons and they are alright, but this book is a must read to learn about the history of the Mormon faith in the US. If you are considering voting for Mitt, understand the faith of the man you want to lead our country. Don't be ignorant!

    March 2, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • BoFo

      The truly ignorant people are the ones who would try to connect this to the presidential campaign.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Krakauer

      BoFo, the only reason this made the news is because one of the candidates is Mormon. Othwise the stupid American'
      s would be more concerned with Kim Kardashian or Snooki's pregnancy. You have just exposed your own ignorance. What do you know about the faith of those who you're voting for? You're a quintessential example of the "follow the crowd" idiocracy of America.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Chris

      It would be ignorant for you not to consider it, BoFo.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • Chip

      Hold on here! Did you say that "the SnooKim" is having a baby?! Tell me more about this!

      March 2, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  18. DontbeCrazy

    As someone who doesn't personally believe in any religion, everyone should be able to practice their faith but that should only come with respect for other people of faith. If you wan't to pay respects to the dead send their family flowers and a nice card, trying to wrangle their dead soul into you're version of the afterlife seems very disrespectful. I think jews are more than capable of getting into heaven on their own terms they I mean...they are kind of the chosen people but oh well. Even if it's good intentioned it's very disrespectful to those people and their family's.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • Leeroy

      You're right. That's why we keep apologizing and take those privileges away from the offenders.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:57 am |
  19. Mike in Montana

    We or all of us, should be aware and beware of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their doctrine and beliefs. If you read, what they believe, you are really in for a shock. The LDS church, does NOT believe in the Trinity as mainstream Christianity does.., the LDS members, including former Governor Mitt Romney believe that there are three Gods, not all three in one, as in Trinity. Major problems, with self-made Prophet Joseph Smith, seeing and talking with God and Jesus Christ in the living flesh. An Angel told Joseph Smith where to find those mysterious gold plates, written in Greek and became the Book of Mormon. And where are those gold plates, now ? The underwear part.., I don't understand that yet. I hope that Mitt Romeny would please explain, what the underwear business is all about ? Many, many problems within the LDS church and should be addressed to voters, and that includes their position on blacks, gays and Jews, and the list goes on and on. Taking a closer look at former Governor Mitt Romney and his membership in the LDS church is important, and how much influence will the LDS church in Salt Lake City, Utah, have on Mitt Romney and his decisions, if he becomes President of the United States. For fun and knowledge.., look up on the internet, questions about the LDS church and their doctrine and beliefs, and watch out for that underwear business, and self-made Prophet Joseph Smith talking to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost in the flesh, and their feeling about blacks, gays and Jewish people and their religions If anyone says, that the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City has NO say so, over Mitt Romney descisions, live in a fairy tale world. 'Research' is the key, to former Governor Mitt Romney and his religious beliefs, thoughts and actions.., besides being very rich and could not give a darn about the middle-class and poor in America. Wonder.., what those secret sacred underwear cost ? Wonder.., if Mitt Romney wears those special underwear and why, that would be interesting.. Mike in Montana

    March 2, 2012 at 4:21 am |
    • rational thinker

      If you're an example of a Christian I'll take the LDS church any day.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • CrapSpot

      "An Angel told Joseph Smith where to find those mysterious gold plates, written in Greek and became the Book of Mormon."


      FYI..it was written in old Egytian heliographics, NOT in Greek, Einstein!

      While your mouth dribbles with ignorance about the LDS Church it also foams with hatred not too much to Church itself but obviously with Romney.

      Then I maybe right, all these caziness about Mormons is all about Romney winning the GOP nomination. Nothing else!

      March 2, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • CrapSpot

      One more thing Mike, You are spotted by the CrapSpot. You're now officially a PIECE OF CRAP! Congratulations!!!

      March 2, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • Krakauer

      Rational thinker, you should change your name to "irrational thinker" Mormons are trying to take over and spread their faith just like radical islamists, but they instead use civilized, cultural, educated, peaceful methods. That's good, but too much power in a concentrated way is bad, no matter who has it. The faith is too extreme for me, particularly when they flip flop on polygamy, treatment of women, golden tablets. The Mormons I've meet seem weak and easily "suckered" as if into a pyramid scheme. Ironic how they are encouraged to donate 10% of their income to the church?

      March 2, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      Who cares ? The Trinity was an equally crazy development, and no crazier than magic underwear. Your Jesus never said anything about a trinity. It developed LATER. Just because you are "used" to what normal Christainity believes makes no better. "Salvation" ? Jesus never said he was there to "die for sins". Paul made that up. Jesus' brothers i Jerusalem were good Jews, and FOUGHT with Paul about remaining good Jews. If Christians really knew their own history, no one could possibly take it seriously. "Loving god" ? Who holds thousand year grudges? REQUIRES the blood of it's SON to "atone"? Give me a break.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • Mormons are crazy cult

      CrapSpot – you're the piece of crap. Even if that were true....as the fait claims..what the hell were tablets with Egytian heliographics doing in North America? The more I hear about Mormons, the stupider they sound. The faith is not even 200 years old and founded by Smith who was a flip flopping leader who would just change the rules of the faith to his liking as he went along. Smith allows polygamy then cancels it, claims the faith allows direct communication with God, then cancels that when he realizes too many people can claim to have direct contat with him, which will result in the leaders of the church losing power...I can go on and on. Krakauer was right. Please explain that Crapo....enlighten us as to why LDS faith is not crazy.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      What the hell is a "heliographic" ? It's a hieroglyph, and NO modern human knew how to read them until the Rosetta Stone was discovered and translated by the French, AND that knowledge spread to the US in the LATE 1800's, (BTW AFTER that crazy guy Smith MADE up his crap), and LIED about being able to translate them, BEFORE archaeologists knew how to decipher them. No educated person can take that crap seriously.



      March 2, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Leeroy

      Four Jumps to Insanity, I guess you're not aware of the many "miracles", or strange things we can't yet figure out scientifically, that are described in the scriptures? It's called "Faith".

      March 2, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Four Jumps to Insanity

      No Leeroy, it's called delusion. Pure and simple. D-E-L-U-S-I-O-N-A-L. Just because it's about a religious subject, does not alter the FACTS. Call it "faith" or whatever you choose to "call" it. It's delusional, and mentally unstable. You NEED to justify it, because you NEED an explanation for the world. There IS one, but it's NOT about "faith", or believing in invisible fairy tales.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Leeroy

      Tell it to the Judge buddy. 😉 You know the one. 🙂

      March 2, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  20. nik green

    If anyone happens to watch the grisly, horrific killing of Daniel Pearl, please take note of the pale skin on the bare arms of two of the men in the video, undoubtedly CAUCASIAN men, *NOT* dark skinned Middle Easterners. But lets not allow inconvenient facts to get in the way of a convenient conspiracy theory.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:21 am |
    • really?

      you do realize that middle easterners aren't all "dark skinned" right? But hey, let's not allow inconvenient facts to get in the way of a convenient conspiracy theory.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • bizzybizzy

      @nik green

      that is by far one of the most asinine things i've read all day.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • demetri

      What is your point?

      March 2, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • bizzybizzy


      i think he's suggesting that daniel pearl was murdered by the cia/americans or something. he obviously needs to stop huffing so much glue.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • Aint it so

      FYI, Just like there are lite skined African Americans, There are Many Liite skinned Middle Easterners. Take the President of Syria for example.

      March 2, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • LR

      Maybe they were middle easterners who didn't get out in the sun much.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:21 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.