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Mormon proxy baptism of Daniel Pearl draws family's ire
March 1st, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Mormon proxy baptism of Daniel Pearl draws family's ire

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - A muckraking ex-Mormon researcher struck again this week, revealing that some Mormons conducted a proxy baptism for slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl last year.

The disclosure comes after recent revelations that Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including Anne Frank and a parent of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, had been baptized by proxy by Mormons.

Helen Radkey, who has been combing through Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints records for years, told CNN the Pearl incident was one of "the most egregious," because of the circumstances of Pearl's death.

Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Pakistan and beheaded by terrorists in 2002. Prior to his execution he was forced to read a statement on camera saying he was Jewish, an episode that was captured on video.

Radkey, found LDS records that revealed Pearl was posthumously baptized at the Twin Falls, Idaho Temple in June.

The baptism struck a nerve with Pearl's mother, Ruth Pearl. She said in a statement that while she knew Mormons had good intentions, and meant the baptism as a way to offer salvation, "rest assured that Danny's soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld."

"He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed," Ruth Pearl's statement said.

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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. Buddha2112

    TAX ALL RELIGIONS & CHURCHES!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Yeah, I wonder how quickly we could erase the deficit if we did that.

      I hate that my tax dollars unwillingly support tax-exempt churches. These churches depend on the same roads, for example, as any other business yet contribute nothing to support their needed infrastructure.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  2. Cassandra Chu

    ... there is a certain religio-ethnic group that will do anything to get into the news. they rhyme with news. and CNN loves to print these stories... it's like a sickness

    March 2, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  3. Jim

    This not a news worthy story.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  4. Willie12345

    With Romney running for office, anything related to the Mormon Church is cause for ridicule. Now is the time that religious bigots surface in large numbers.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  5. BOBDOG

    Mormons are crazy deluded fools.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • NorCalMojo

      and Lot was a child molester. All religions are weird in their own ways.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  6. Question?

    For all those Christian commentators spewing their anti-Mormon rhetoric, you do understand that the practice of baptizing those who have passed on was taught, accepted and practiced by the apostles and early saints after the death of Christ, correct? (See 1 Cor. 15:29). If you believe in the Bible, then you cannot dismiss or ridicule a clear and unequivocal biblical teaching. Just a thought.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Anyone can dismiss and ridicule anything they want to, especially if it's clearly ridiculous, and Mormons are an easy target.

      Christianity is also absurd, but Joseph Smith took that, doubled down, and wow such a ridiculous cult got invented.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • The MagusNYC.

      This is a misreading of the Bible, the reference to the "dead" in that passage, refers to those who were living, but are now dead.
      But I have no problem with the good intentions.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Question?

      @The MagusNYC
      How do you know what the correct interpretation of that passage is? It seems clear to me in the plain language of the verse that Paul is referring to those who have died and those who are being baptized for them.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  7. Russ

    It was an insult to the family, but it really doesn't matter since there is nothing after you die. This is it. The rest is fantasy, created by people who wanted to think that there was more than their sad, miserable, difficult lives. Also, if there were a God, I don't accept that he is rightious. If he were, he wouldn't kill innocent people, especially children.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  8. Ted Goodier

    I fail to understand the knee jerk hatred. I know good people of all faiths and of no faith at all. If someone was to say a pray, do a blessing or a baptism for me, I would consider it an honor that the person(s) cared enough to include me in their thoughts. It changes nothing about my beliefs, they are just exercising theirs and are kind enough to care. Leave it at that.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Ok, if the taliban did some ritual they claim converted you to islam, would that be ok?
      How about a satanic coven that brings you to lucifer?
      They all have good intentions [in their minds], so all is ok with you, right?
      No one should do anything in someone else's name, living or dead, without their explicit permission.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Andrew

      They just wanted god to give him his own pair of magic underwear up in heaven, it can get cold at night and they want to limit shrinkage.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Rob

      ^^^ BAZINGA! Good point Scoobypoo!

      March 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Ted Goodier

      Scooby...Their actions do nothing to change my faith or lack there of. The particular brand of faith is not the issue. They are trying to share something they beleive is a good thing. What difference does the particular brand of faith make? If there is a heaven, Mr. Pearl is in a better position than we are to decide what group has got right.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • tcp

      @scoobypoo – yep. That would be perfectly fine with me. As a matter of fact, I think I'll do a little ritual on you RIGHT NOW!!!

      March 2, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Chris

      They don't care about the baptized. They baptize too many people to care about each one individually.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  9. Rbudlm

    I would rather believe and do good works then not believe no matter the end result! I don't concern myself with what others think of me I concern myself with what I put out "there" for them to concider!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Conrad Murray

      Is that you, Rick Santorum?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Rbudlm

      no but love your name

      March 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  10. carly

    Another reason Romney can not be voted in. Anyone part of the "religion" can not be trusted.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • dollydocker

      right on the money Carly all religions are cults and society would be better off without faith based beliefs interferring in the affairs of state , the bedrock of reality is science and reason but if we are by our evolutionary history somehow predisposed to an anthropmorhic belief system we would all be better off if we believed in Santa Clause ,at least he puts his mystical powers to reasonably good purposes, From Canada the USA is looking more like a theocracy everday , i must say however given the frigid temps up here lately we could put the magical mormon undies to good use ,and id still like to have a peek at JOE Smiths golden tablets .wierd or what ,but mormonism is not the only wierd belief system ,get the catholics to try and explain transsubstantian ,incarnation ,resurrection and the entirety of christianity to rationalize the holy trinity ,and lets not forget the good old prophit mohammed ,who spent 20 years or so contemplating in a cave and coming up with the muslim holy book ,its all bat guana .

      March 2, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Cat

      Morons will do what the 'prophet' in SLC says before they do what the voters want. That's why I can' t vote for a moron. Seen it happen in Az.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Auntjenny

    The practice of baptism is not to be performed on the dead, who have no knowledge of what is being performed, nor can give their consent or disagreement with it. Baptism is NOT supposed to be performed on the dead, that is NOT what Jesus was saying when he spoke those words to the Sadducees. Jesus said that the criteria for baptism was a knowledge of God, understanding His word, acceptance of HIs word, repentance from our sins. How can dead people repent from sins, or babies for that matter, or children. Baptism is for adults who have the knowledge, understanding and commitment to God, and who want to repent from their sins and have a chance to be saved. Those that have already died have already been counted by God to have whatever judgement they have – there is no "saving" them by anyone else. A proxy baptism is meaningless and God does NOT recognize it.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Rbudlm

      When did God tell you all this? Live and let live!

      March 2, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • scoobypoo

      And "god" told you this, eh?
      You're as loony as the Mormons, but nearly as entertaining.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  12. Parishfan

    My father was "discovered" on their death rolls. Does this mean they are going to baptize him? I don't think he would like that! What a weird religion or is it a cult?

    March 2, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • tcp

      How is it any weirder than yours? If they believe what their doctrine tells them, then your dad will be all the better for it. Here it is in a nutshell. If your father was never exposed to their message then he hasn't had the opportunity to accept that message or not. This essentially means he is as innocent as a child. By being baptized (even though he's "dead") he gets a free pass to heaven. If you don't believe in it, he's already in heaven, right? So what's the harm and why is it "weeeeeeirrrrd"?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  13. scoobypoo

    Let's not forget that Mitt Romney will be become an actual god when he dies and rule his own planet, while his wife births spirit babies to populate the planet.

    Oh yeah, Mitt has also performed these proxy baptisms. Does he use the magic underwear? Those crazy Mormons!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  14. Leeroy

    Here's a note worthy story. My daughter brought home a flyer from school to have a fund raiser to pay for guest speakers who will teach healthier life-styles. Guess what they are selling to raise money? Cup cakes! You can buy them by the dozen. 🙂

    March 2, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • MASTRODAMUS

      How about this one? My 4 month old Basset hound still isn't house broken. When I woke up this morning, I discovered her keneel full of urine. Is that newsworthy?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • poppop14

      Wow – I thought cupcakes were outlawed!

      March 2, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  15. chippy1

    Whens the last time you saw those invisible beings you worship?

    March 2, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  16. Really?

    Were instructions for performing this baptismal ritual found in John Smith's magic hat? BTW, did any check to see if he happened to eat any funny mushrooms before looking into that hat?

    March 2, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • tcp

      Who is John Smith?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  17. paul42

    One point of clarification on the Mormon view of salvation:
    Mormons believe that all are redeemed from physical death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and are saved by grace from the consequences of physical death through no effort on anyones part (other than Jesus).
    The other part, exaltation to live in Heaven with God, is based on your efforts to be a good person in this life. Paul said 'faith without works is dead', and it is by faith with works that we can achieve Heaven as long as the proper requirements, such as baptism, are met. Baptism is so important that even sinless Jesus had to have it done by someone holding the God-recognized authority to perform the ordinance. I say God-recognized in the way that only someone legitimately acting in God's name can perform a baptism that God will recognize and accept. This means Joe Average down the block can't perform a baptism and expect it to be accepted by God.
    Mormons believe in a fair and just God, and that if baptism is so essential for everyone to have a fair chance to get to Heaven, then there must be a mechanism in place for all to have the ordinance performed regardless of whether or not they had a chance in this life to get it or to hear about Jesus. That is why Mormons practice baptism for the dead. There is biblical precedent that the Jews performed baptism in for the dead. In the New Testament when Sadducees and Pharisees were asking about resurrection once Jesus said "Why are ye baptized for the dead if the dead rise not at all?'.
    Though Mormons perform baptisms for the dead by proxy in their temples, the dead are in no way required to accept the ordinance that was performed for them. But many will no doubt be grateful to the Mormons for the baptism they themselves were not able to get in this mortal life.
    Mormons believe that after Judgment Day we will all be relegated to four realms. Three realms of glory (as Paul described one with the glory of the Sun, another like the Moon, and another like the stars) and one of outer darkness. Outer Darkness is where the Devil and his followers, those that knew Jesus was the Son Of God, like Judas Iscariot, will go. The highest realm of glory, like the Sun, where God dwells, and no unclean thing can enter, is where those that have been baptized and lived righteous lives will go. The middle realm of glory is where those that reject the baptism and reject the gospel, but who have otherwise been good people, will go. The lowest realm, like the stars, is where everyone else will go, so the Mormons teach.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • chippy1

      Keep your cult beliefs to yourself. No one, including GOD has apppointed you to act as self-proclaimed savers to the world!

      March 2, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • chippy1

      Your church and the RC church, the most dangerous social forces on this planet; I'd rather be Taliban.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • lisa

      Thanks for the clarification. I don't think any harm was intended but if his family is hurt by the baptism then they are owed an apology.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • justme

      boy, that cleared everything up but not to worry friends, what the mormons do does not matter. read the book "the mormon murders" and be enlightened. nothing but frauds led by frauds.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • chippy1

      This would make a great si-fi movie; with Harrison Ford as Mikey the arc angel; Lukas or Speilberg (opps, not a Jew) making the special effects and Shatner as God.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • scoobypoo

      You neglect to "clarify" how Mitt Romney will be become an actual god when he dies and rule his own planet, while his wife births spirit babies to populate the planet.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Rinsewind

      Fine. You've explained it. You have every right to believe it. But do you not understand how someone else could find the baptism of their dead relatives insulting in the extreme? If you don't understand that, then you need to work on having a little more compassion for the living, rather than just the dead.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Steve From NH

      Please take your imaginary friends and go play somewhere else. I take my agnosticism seriously, baptism of the dead is creepy at best, a waste of time in any event, and another example of why Mormonism (or just about any religion) is just witchcraft under another name.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  18. crabman

    no one should push their religion on any one

    March 2, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • tcp

      Um, they're DEAD crabman...

      March 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • crabman

      then leave them alone -- it didn't need to be done

      March 2, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  19. TamarS

    worth repeating: "...It takes a good deal of deception and manipulation..." LDS is not alone in that behavior.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  20. JAB62

    Hard to believe humans spend so much of their precious little time on make believe. Religion is the great ball and chain of mankind.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      Hard to believe some humans spend so much time on make believing that there is no God. Atheism is the big gamble of mankind.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • justme

      so why are you here ?

      March 2, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • justme

      that was for jab who must have some desire for knowledge and faith but needs to humble himself and just ask.

      March 2, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • bananaspy

      Bill the Cat, atheism is no more a gamble than being religious. If atheism is correct, there's most likely nothing when you die. If you happened to have chosen the wrong god though, you're screwed like the rest of us. I love how every person who believes in god thinks they believe in the "one true god" and the rest of the world is just "incorrect." Yet despite your obviously childish view, you try to belittle people who don't want to accept this crap without evidence. Well sorry, some of us don't just believe things because we want to.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Heffi

      Since neither one of us 'knows' or has proof, we are both acting on faith. You: faith that there is no God. Me: faith that there is. So here's the bottom line: If I'm wrong, I've lost nothing. On the other hand, if you're wrong, you've lost everything. If you wish toi continue thinking 'us' foolish, no problem.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • tcp

      Ah yes, heffi. The old "might as well believe 'cuz what have I got to lose" argument. VERY nice. If I just say I believe in the god thing it won't condemn me to the firey pit of HELLLLLLL. Pretty pitiful. I hope you are believing "correctly"....Oh, and the you can't prove there isn't a god thing is so utterly illogical as to be comedic. You can't prove there ISN'T a flying spaghetti monster either...nannee, nannee...

      March 2, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Chris

      Heffi... if you believe in the wrong god, then you could lose a lot by living by the wrong rules and not getting any benefits from this life after you die. Have you carefully considered all religions out there and made a conscious choice or have you just followed what people around you have been saying since your were born?
      The 10 commendments clearly state there are more than one god but that you shall only follow this one... but what if this is the wrong one?

      March 2, 2012 at 9:10 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.