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. DevoutAtheist

    There need to be a Federal law mandating a national DO NOT BAPTIZE registry, which these churches are required to follow.

    If I die an atheist,I don't expect anyone to baptize me. Period. Even if I don't have relatives that died in the Holocaust. It's my rights not to have my religious wishes desecrated after my passing.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • toiletbug

      There are legal exceptions to the DNC list by the way and that irritates me. But your profession atheism, I respect. Though I am not, I respect people who are. My good friend is an Athiest and we have had years of very wonderful discourse. Athiests for years were forced to be underground and that is not right at all. Athiests are not monsters, they are wonderful, loving human beings. I do not believe that Athiests go to hell in my view of religion and I believe that Athiests have equal rights as me when it comes to issues such as these. However, the issue here is someone who is not an Athiest who was baptized by someone else who is not an Athiest. Jews believe they are the chosen children of God. That is very Theistic thinking to me.

      In your case however, you are completely within your rights to request nothing be done regarding you, your spirit or anything, when you are gone. You conveyed your wishes when you were able to and when that happens, I, at least would be bound by such and respect your wishes.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Matthew Peterson

      You are a genius...a do not baptize registry? You must have had a choice of atheism or intelligence, and apparently you chose atheism! Registries work really well right now for guns and do not call lists, so let's do one for baptisms...great idea! I hope someone baptises you into some church for smart people because you need all the help you can get!

      March 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  2. Dog Lover

    Mormons believe that (see the Bible) baptism is required for salvation. They also believe that baptism should be available to all people who have ever lived, not just those lucky enough to live in the right time and place. Proxy baptiesm does not "make" a person Mormon. It is merely an offer which may be accepted or refused by the spirit of the person to whom it is offered.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • toiletbug

      Thank you very much for being one of the few people who are probably religious in your own right but also logical in your thinking. It is refreshing to see someone in here with a reasonable view. Again, thank you for your thoughts and your reply.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  3. JB

    CNN, playing with the public mind again. This article wouldn't even be published if Mitt Romney wasn't a Mormon. So much for the Obama News Network.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  4. longtooth

    In the Divine Church of Budlightenment, we unbaptize a mormon every Saturday night.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  5. Randy

    Calm down, people! None of this jibber jabber makes one iota of difference. There is no God and religion is bunk.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  6. NoTags

    The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, "(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast." (KJV)

    Salvation is attained through FAITH, the FAITH that Jesus Christ blood was shed for our sins, not through any other method. There is not one word of Bible scripture that tells us baptism is necessary for salvation.

    I don't know why the LDS Church has a problem accepting the words Paul wrote, but The LDS Church should keep their noses out of other peoples religions.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • just sayin

      The LDS are not interested in the apostle Paul, Mormons are not Christians.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • Dog Lover

      Christ was baptized, but we don't need to be?

      March 2, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Michael

      How about the religious keep their nose out of everyone's business?

      March 2, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Jennifer

      In the spiritual realm, there is no "religion".....God is all of us....Danny's spirit is indeed in a heavenly place of peace and beauty. I am sure the Mormons meant well....I am a Christian, but more so, am a spiritual person....I said my own prayers for him. I would say to his family, be at peace and appreciate that people wanted to do "something"...his death affected all.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • JT

      James 2:14
      “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
      James 2:17
      “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
      James 2:26
      “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

      Ever hear the term lip service? Yeah, it’s where you say what someone wants to hear but don’t actually mean it. When Paul speaks of faith, you assume he is speaking of a verbal act; no, he’s speaking of a person’s character, what’s in their heart. Why would anyone in their right mind believe words a person speak, defines their character over the persons actions?

      John 3:3
      "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
      John 3:5
      “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
      Matthew 28:19
      “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

      I would hardly say their isn’t one word that says it isn’t required. Oh, I’m sure you’d like to argue the semantics of these versus, but it simply goes back to what defines your faith, your words or your actions? Why would Jesus command that people be baptized, and he HIMSELF was baptized, if it really was unnecessary? (I can only conclude you feel you are above Jesus?)

      March 2, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • WhatisTruth?

      NoTags, since you preceive to be a Christian and you use the words of Paul in saying that is FAITH in JESUS CHRIST that we are saved...however, you only pick and choose what you want to read and not truly study the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember also the words from John as found in John 3:1-5
      1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
      2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
      3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
      4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
      5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

      So, how can you follow Paul when you have the very same words of Jesus Christ (in whom you profess to believe). Jesus Christ is speaking of Baptism and what of these other scriptures from the New Testament from the Holy Bible:

      Hebrews 6:2

      2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

      Colossians 2:12

      12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

      Romans 6:4

      4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

      And finally the very same words from Paul when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:29

      29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

      So all those who profess to be Christians, why do you not practice the very same teachings that Jesus Christ taught? Study what Paul has counciled? To say that Mormons are not Christians and yet they are practicing and following the very same teachings that Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Mikey

      Dog lover – Christ was Jew. He was baptised by another "prophet". It had nothing to do with him wanting us all to be baptised in order to be saved. He had no concept of that as he never preached that he was the Messiah. That was added by his followers

      March 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  7. mws12345

    What's most important is that the Mormons feel at peace now. I hope they are happy.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • cpate

      They are all insane, and I'm not just talking about the Mormons.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  8. Ringo65

    What an insult! As if Mr. Pearl's family doesn't have enough emotional crap to deal with. Murdered my one religion, baptised. By another. Don't you just loved those elitist morons? Technical glitch in a religious issue? Give me a break.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  9. terry

    Get used to this cult b s becoming more accepted w/ Romney around...

    March 2, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  10. Skeptical

    CNN for Obama 2012!!

    March 2, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  11. Alex

    I start every day by drawing a cartoon of Mohammed and baptizing a dead jew.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 2, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  13. Skeptical

    Seems like one of the only logical approaches. To believe a good Buddhist Monk is going to hell because he didnt know Christ and John Edwards and Newt Gingrich who cheated on dying wives are saved...That's a disgusting belief!

    March 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • just sayin

      If those who have never heard of Christ do by nature what is required of them they will be saved. As for Christians, a Christian is forgiven not perfect.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Jennifer

      Jesus certainly did not teach that....remember he said to the criminals he was crucified with " this day you will be with me in paradise"...it is not a physical plane. People should be careful in being kind to their fellow man....what you do to them, you do to yourselves...we are all God.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  14. Steve

    And this is national news?

    March 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  15. Dan

    Their God tells them to do this so I don't think they, the members, really care what CNN or anyone else thinks.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  16. toiletbug

    One more thing, for the Romney haters. So what if he is a Mormon. Mormons are no different than other religions. They want to convert. That is what Christ ordered the apostles to do. The Mormons take that very literally. Romney however, in his public service as an elected official, so far, has no tinge of injected Mormonism in it so to say like someone did earlier that we all better get ready to say our prayers because Romney will order us too is asinine. I would rather have a Mormon in office with no question whatsoever about his family history and religious roots than the man we have in office now. Mormons know about fiscal responsibility in their own lives and I guarantee he will not let Air Force One be his personal ghetto glider on his monthly vacation and he sure wont let his wife get out of line either.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Jebbb

      Barack Obama is a better man and better leader than Mitt Romney. Always was, always will be. Stop voting your prejudices, and start looking at what's best for America.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Cheryl

      Ghetto glider? Racist much? Let his wife get out of line? Michelle Obama has never gotten out of line, in fact, she's been a wonderful first lady. I thought Laura Bush was great too. All first ladies bring something different to the (unpaid) job and all deserve our respect.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • toiletbug

      Since when did Ghetto Glider become a racist term? Since when did the sewer hole of a city Chicago, ever become other than a sewer. I believe the television show Good Times was based upon the housing project called Cabrini Green of which Jimmy Walkers character JJ used to always refer to as the ghetto. Was that racist? Oh, as for the first lady. Have you actually read the thesis that Michelle Obama wrote? Actually read it, then talk back to me about racism.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Ringo65

      Get a lot of Jews trying to convert you? Still think all religions are the same?

      March 2, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • toiletbug

      If the entire country of Israel had a pray for toiletbug day and I had my own day on the calendar, and they prayed for my soul every year, I would not care. I would be dead. It does not matter to me alive or dead. Someone praying for me does not make me one of them. Just as in my eyes, Islamasts who see me as the enemy does not make me their enemy either. I do not feel like an enemy, do you? Do you feel as if you have done something to Muslims because they think you have? Come on, who care who prays for who and for what and for why? Why is it that we hear nothing from the Athiests on this? When the president says "Pray for our troops" we whoop and holler. What about the athiests? Are we not stomping on them?
      Ringo, you are now number 4 inline this morning for Mormon Baptism.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • rs1201

      Romney has nothing to do with what the mormons are doing. I'm an American Jew...am I responsible for every single crime or bad behavior that another Jew commits?
      As to Obama being a good man and a good President...HE'S NOT AND WILL NEVER BE. He has thrown the American Jewish community under the bus along with Israel. He has befriended the muslims around the world and has been hostile and belligerent towards Israel. Anyone who doesn't see that...is just blind. The American Jewish Community will vote en masse against him in Nov 2012.
      As to the practice of baptizing Jews that are already dead...perhaps it's time to assign some sort of criminal act to what's being allowed at the present. At the very least...it's desecration of the memory of the deceased Jews. It should be analogous to desecrating a cemetery. Criminals who do that go to jail.
      Jews don't need anyone to "save" their souls. We're perfectly happy and content with our beliefs and actually feel that Christians need to reexamine their beliefs. Jews don't proselytize and we resent down to our bones any Christian or muslim who tries to impose their beliefs on us. Just leave us alone...in what language do you need that to be said to understand!

      March 2, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • toiletbug


      אני מדבר עברית טוב מאוד. נכון

      March 2, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  17. Northlite

    This practice of the Mormons is sick and disgusting. Many of these Jewish victims-and they are victims– of the Church of Later Day Saints have been murdered for their faith. How ultimately disrespectful to then baptize them, without their assent, into the Mormon faith. Previously I had nothing against Mormons–Now I fear them and will never vote for a Mormon for public office knowing that they abuse others like this. Disgusting!

    I also find the Official Mormon LDS excuses phony. The leaders of the Mormon church are just lying. They claim all these defenses, but week after week and year after year more Jews are baptized without their assent. The leaders of the vile Mormon Church made promises to Jewish leaders in the 1990s, and again in the 2010s, but again and again Holocaust victims are baptized without their assent. May the Mormons burn down below for all their vile disrespect.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • toiletbug

      You are seriously afraid of Mormons because they pray for dead people and baptize them symbolically? Are you serious?
      Do you think that can really have any effect whatsoever on a dead persons soul whatever their faith?

      To me posthumous baptism it is as ridiculous as praying at a funeral three or so days after someone died and asking the Lord to accept them into Heaven, so on and so forth. In instances such as that, do you think that three days after a person dies and their judgement before God has been passed that God would suddenly change his mind because we prayed and asked Him to?

      Nobody laments about that. Any prayer for the dead falls on deaf ears as God has already passed his judgment upon that person. Everyone here is making such a big deal of nothing. Now, if the Mormons were to sneak up on your and drag you to the baptismal pool, yes, then I would agree with your lamentations, but other wise, no.

      One last thing, I think you meant to say "without their consent" where you said "without their assent".

      March 2, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  18. Jim

    And....? Who gives a flip? If some witch doctor wants to come shake a rattle over my grave, what does it mean? Nothing at all. Let them have their fun – religion is a fantasy game, after all.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • toiletbug

      I agree with you completely. One thing about someone coming to my grave and doing what they want to do. At least I am being remembered by someone.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Voron

      Actually that witch doctor won't stop rattling until he's done it over every grave on earth.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  19. M-AZ

    I am also sick of those damned "I am Mormon" commercials too.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • NoTags


      The LDS Church ran all those clips on YouTube to try to convince people that Mormonism was a mainstream Christian religion. They started uploading these clips a few years ago in the hope that evangelicals would accept Mitt as a true Christian.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Leeroy

      I'm Leeroy . . . and I'm a Mormon. Sorry. I couldn't resist. 🙂

      March 2, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  20. toiletbug

    To be upset by the Mormon posthumous baptism appears to me that you are afraid that it might work or in some other way affect the soul of your loved one. So what if they do a ceremonial baptism. It is not like the dead person is going to say, hey, I was in spiritual lingo, thanks Mormon church. No, I am not a Mormon and it would be a grave sin for a Mormon to deny his Mormonness so relax on the impending "you must be a mormon" remarks. I just look at things logically.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • noteabags

      I think the point is that "religious" people need to mind their own business and not push their beliefs on others.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Enoch

      Logically, Mormons should not be doing this without the consent of the family and you should stop telling people how they should feel about things.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • toiletbug

      Dear Noteabags:
      I am going to have my Mormon friends baptize you as soon as we fill up the font this morning. Then we will all have peace about your soul and those disparaging remarks you just made. May the quorum of the 12 bless and approve what is about to happen to you Noteabags.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • toiletbug

      You are saying in your reply that I should not be telling people how to be feeling about things. Is that not what you just did? Oh, wait you were telling me not what to do, not telling me not how to feel. I get it now, subtle difference, but I see it. Thanks, I never thought of it that way.
      Baptism number 2 this morning: Enoch

      March 2, 2012 at 7:14 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.