March 9th, 2012
07:50 AM ET

Mormons crack down on proxy baptisms; whistleblower’s access blocked

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - In response to recent media reports that well-known Jewish Holocaust victims and slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl were baptized by proxy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is renewing and revamping efforts to crack down on the practice and, some believe, stop the attention.

The church said this week it had implemented a “new technological barrier” to prevent abuse of its massive genealogical database, parts of which have been used to carry out – as well as expose - proxy baptisms.

"The church is committed to preventing the misguided practice of submitting the names of Holocaust victims and prominent individuals for proxy baptism,” spokesman Michael Purdy said in a written statement.

“Anyone trying to access names that have been restricted will have their account suspended and be required to contact [the church] to establish their family relationship in order to have their access reinstated. Abuse of the system will result in the permanent loss of database access."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Whistle-blowing ex-Mormon researcher Helen Radkey, who uncovered the proxy baptism records that made headlines recently, says an account she was surreptitiously using to gain access to the database has been blocked.

“I have been effectively stopped,” Radkey told The Salt Lake Tribune. She said the church was “of course” targeting her.

The church, though, says Radkey’s blocked account was part of its effort to stop inappropriate proxy baptisms and not about Radkey.

“It is ironic for someone to claim they are being targeted by the measures we have taken to prevent unauthorized submissions for baptism,” Purdy said. “We are doing exactly what we have been asked to do and what we said we would do - denying access to names that should not be submitted because they are against our policy.”

Purdy said no one by the name of Helen Radkey has an account with the church’s database, known as New FamilySearch.

“If she, or anyone else, is misusing a church member’s identity to search for Holocaust names, then the system is set up to block those kinds of activities. There have been a handful of accounts blocked so far.

“We have said before that no system is foolproof but that we were committed to improving our ability to prevent unauthorized names from being submitted for baptism,” he continued. “To complain about us doing just that is baseless."

Explainer: How and why do Mormons baptize the dead?

Word of the new measures and blocked accounts comes on the heels of a statement from top church officials that was read to congregations across the globe last weekend clarifying what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to proxy baptisms.

The statement said Mormons’ “pre-eminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.”

“Without exception, church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances [rituals] any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims,” the statement read. It warned that members who violate the rules could lose access to the system and added, “other corrective action may also be taken.”

Efforts to deal with proxy baptisms are nothing new. Instructions on how to use and contribute to the database grew out of a 1995 agreement with Jewish groups that were horrified to find that people who died because of their faith were being baptized by proxy in Mormon ceremonies.

After the recent flood of stories, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel appeared on CNN and called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to reprimand his church.

Romney, meantime, has been asked if he has ever partaken in proxy baptisms. He says that he has, but so have most Mormons who are eligible to participate in temple ordinances. Also referred to as temple work, ordinances are the sacred ceremonies performed within LDS temples for the living and the dead.

Explain it to me: Mormonism

Proxy baptisms are part of that work, and Romney's participation was likely decades ago. The baptisms are generally completed by younger Latter-day Saints, between the ages of 12 and 20, with males and females being vicariously submerged for deceased persons of the same gender, explains senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune.

“A white-clothed young man or woman, standing in a font of water about waist-high, represents the dead person,” she writes. “He or she is then immersed after the adult male baptizer (also wearing white) says these words: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you for and in behalf of [name of the deceased] in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Mormons, usually ages 12 to 20, are baptized for the dead in LDS temples.

To be sure, for the Jewish people, who have experienced their fair share of forced conversions over the centuries (think the Spanish Inquisition), the suggestion that victims like Holocaust victim Anne Frank or Pearl might be baptized after death can be horribly offensive.

Others might view the practice of proxy baptism as simply strange or utterly meaningless. If you don't subscribe to the Mormon belief system, some might say, why does the practice matter to you?

Still others view the practice as nothing short of laughable and have made a mockery of what Latter-day Saints view as sacrosanct. The website “All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay” lets users enter the name of a dead Mormon and click the "Convert!" button to make them gay. Comedian Stephen Colbert responded on his show by slicing off the tips of hot dogs, thereby proxy-circumcising dead Mormons to make them Jewish.

A special invitation, attendance optional

This isn’t a laughing matter to Mormons, not least of all church officials, who say they wish 100% of its members would abide by their instructions. Putting a definitive stop to inappropriate proxy baptisms, however, is complicated, if not impossible.

“With more than 14 million members around the globe, the church is no more able to guarantee compliance of every member with its policies than other worldwide faiths are able to guarantee theirs,” Michael Otterson, who heads up LDS Church public affairs, wrote in a piece for the Washington Post.

The practice of performing proxy baptisms isn't one that's going away.

Believing as Jesus taught that baptism is essential to “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), Mormons believe they are extending a loving invitation to those who died without having the opportunity for this rite. They point to 1 Cornthians 15:29, in which Paul spoke of baptizing the dead, a message LDS Church founder Joseph Smith took to heart.

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In doing proxy baptisms, Mormons do not claim to make anyone Mormon. They believe spirits in the afterlife are being exposed to the gospel, and a proxy baptism provides an opportunity to the dead to either accept or turn down the invitation to believe and find salvation.

Central to LDS Church teachings is the belief that families across generations can be united for eternity. Performing proxy baptisms for the dead is what makes eternal togetherness in heaven possible. Family history research for Mormons, as a result, is of sacred importance.

Members have been in the business of family research since the 1840s, writes Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune. So it’s no coincidence, then, that the LDS Church boasts the most comprehensive genealogical records available.

The church has compiled more than 2.64 billion searchable names in its online historic records collection, and more than 250 million names are added to the database each year, LDS Church officials say. Every year, FamilySearch produces more than 160 million digital images from source documents.

The database is accessible to the public online or at more than 4,850 LDS Church family history centers and libraries in 126 countries.

LDS Church members are given special accounts that allow them, in a separate process, to submit names for temple rites by proxy, as well as see other names that have been submitted and baptized. Such details are off-limits in the public version of the database.

“Our doctrine is for members of the church to submit names of their own relatives for temple work,” church spokesman Purdy wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “Over the years the church has provided eligible names to take to the temple [for ordinances], but it is the primary responsibility of members to submit family names.”

In baptismal fonts in the 136 LDS Church temples that span the globe, temple ordinances for the dead take place every day but Sunday. So an overzealous or troublemaking Mormon in Sydney, Australia, for instance, might ignore instructions and enter a slew of names of people he’s not related to into the system. And then, sometime later at the temple in, say, Accra, Ghana, the people on that list might get baptized by proxy.

Because officials back at LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, can’t monitor what each member does, whether with good intentions or not, names slip through – names like Daniel Pearl, Mickey Mouse and Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother.

Understanding 'the messenger’

Often at the center of breaking proxy baptism stories is Helen Radkey. Touted as a whistleblower, the 69-year-old researcher has shamed the LDS Church time and again for objectionable or embarrassing baptisms.

An ex-Mormon who was excommunicated from the church, she is often seen by some observers as an obsessive agitator. Others praise her for her dogged commitment.

Radkey says she was active in the church for less than five years in the 1970s. In a 2009 profile in The Salt Lake Tribune, it was reported that this “Catholic-turned-Mormon-turned-New-Ager” left her first husband and children to join the church because she wanted in so badly.

A grown son from a later marriage was quoted as saying, “She was on a crusade … to single-handedly take down the Mormon religion. She was so consumed by that, we had a hard time relating to it.”

But the Australian-born Radkey, who lives in Salt Lake City, points out that it’s often others who come to her looking for names, because she has found ways to get access to records and knows how to navigate the system. She suggests journalists, hungry for anything Mormon-related during this election season, have brought her down.

She says someone from a British newspaper asked her to look up Princess Diana, who was baptized in 1999. A wire service reporter called, she adds, wanting to check to see if there’d been a proxy baptism for Gandhi; there had in 1996. And it was a reporter from The Boston Globe, at the prodding of his editor who had once worked with Pearl, who reached out seeking info on his status, the results of which created the latest hubbub.

Helen Radkey is often at the center of proxy baptism stories.

Though Radkey says the church blocked the account she most recently had been using, she hints that she has other accounts available, though she won't divulge details or confirm anything. She also says, “I’m not looking up any more names.” This, however, is a claim she's made before, as she did in the 2009 Salt Lake Tribune profile.

Over the years, she says she’s heard people accuse her of trying to get rich off her efforts. “I don’t make a living,” she says. “I have to do other work, and I get Social Security.”

At one point, about 10 years ago, the head of a Holocaust survivors group paid for her time to accumulate a list of 1,000 Holocaust victims who had been baptized, after the LDS Church claimed the Jewish community was “overreacting to the problem,” says Gary Mokotoff, a Jewish genealogist in New Jersey who has been following the issue for 22 years, long before it made headlines.

Besides being compensated by the same group for her time and expenses in appearing at a news conference in New York a few years ago, “that is the only time [she] received compensation for her effort,” Mokotoff wrote in an e-mail. “Helen puts in hundreds of hours per year on the matter without compensation (and she complains to me about it).”

Others, Radkey says, have speculated that she’s entered the names of those she later finds in LDS records, a charge she denies, calling it “out of date and out of line.”

“The inference that I enter names into the Mormon system, which I never have, usually comes from a Utah mindset that would ‘kill the messenger’ rather than deal with the results of my work,” she wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “Not only have I never done this, I should not have to explain away this false charge because there is not one shred of evidence that I have ever done such a thing.”

The upside for others, including Jews

For Mokotoff, a professional genealogist, there’s an irony to this issue that isn’t lost on him.

The past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and co-owner of Avotaynu, which publishes resources for Jewish genealogists, Mokotoff is beyond grateful to the LDS Church. He leads trips to Salt Lake City, ground zero for family research. He has benefited directly from the care Mormons take in gathering, preserving and sharing records.

“They have 2.5 million microfilm rolls that represent billions of names,” he says. “I traced back my ancestry to 1727 in Poland because they had made copies of birth, marriage and death records in Warka, Poland, the ancestral town of the Mokotoff family.”

But even so, he remains firm in his belief that the LDS Church must stop baptizing Holocaust victims, and preferably deceased Jews in general, by proxy.

Granted, he respects the caveat that the church has always maintained, that if a Mormon is descended from Jews or Holocaust victims, those names are fair game.

Mokotoff says he recently got an e-mail from someone who was concerned that a niece was marrying a Mormon, would likely convert and would then potentially baptize others in the family.

“She has that right,” Mokotoff answered. “It’s her religion.”

But just as she has that right, the Jewish community has a right to remain concerned about what's happening in a Mormon-only system it can't access.

Blocking a whistleblower like Radkey may slow the ability to keep tabs on proxy baptisms, but it's not insurmountable, Mokotoff says.

“The Mormon church thinks they have found a way to end the controversy between the church and the Jewish community: stop Helen Radkey,” Mokotoff wrote late Thursday in an e-mail. “Ten years ago, their religious database, then called the International Genealogical Index, was accessible to the public. Now it is a secret database that can be used only by password. Helen Radkey has found ways of getting around the church's barriers in the past. She is a resourceful woman. I am sure she will find ways in the future.”

‘It’ll never be perfect’

There are outsiders who wish the LDS Church would just stop the proxy baptisms altogether. But that’s both unrealistic and disrespectful, says Rabbi Gary Greenebaum of Los Angeles.

Greenebaum is intimately involved in the issue as a liaison between the LDS Church and the Jewish community.

“I can work with [the church], and I can suggest strongly what kind of actions they can take,” he says. “But when it comes to their own theology, I don’t have much of a place to tell them what they should believe.”

What the former American Jewish Committee director of interreligious and intergroup affairs can do is take his cues from Holocaust survivors.

“The issue is their relatives lived as Jews and were murdered because they were Jews,” he says. “The whole Jewish sense of never forgetting means remembering who died and why they died.”

To that end, he has worked with LDS Church insiders to alleviate concerns.

He also has seen up close the frustration within the church. He feels for the officials. He applauds them for the statement they issued to members on Sunday and the reminders of guidelines that appear on FamilySearch. He sees how they have made tweaks to the system, established safeguards and how entries are flagged for review, for example, if deaths were during World War II and in places bearing names of Nazi death camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka.

He has observed the new hires, the additional hours and money spent. With several million submissions of names in FamilySearch each month, he says he persuaded the church to do computer runs more frequently to help prevent inappropriate proxy baptism requests from seeping through. When violations appear, someone phones the submitter for a discussion.

When the church first worked out an agreement on the proxy baptism of Holocaust victims back in 1995, there were 8.5 million LDS Church members, Greenebaum says. Now that number is 14 million, and between Internet access and computer advances, the system is enormous and not easy to control.

As a result and despite the hard work, mistakes are bound to happen.

“It’s moving closer to being figured out,” Greenebaum says. “But it’ll never be perfect because it’s just too vast. And it’s important to appreciate the problem they’re dealing with.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Holocaust • Judaism • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Utah

soundoff (1,493 Responses)
  1. Oblio

    I've decided to use the LDS database as a source of names for my hobby. I like to work my way through family trees tormenting the dead. I use special dolls for this and practices that I've adapted from several religions. My belief is that no one is beyond torment. Not everyone deserves it, but I do it anyway because I can.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  2. ya right

    Only reason the so called cult is doing is because there man is getting attention for being a major player in this cult. You don't give a cult millions without have some say in it, it's called common sense and we all know better what your cult is really about and that is tickets to heaven for a price.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • souptwins

      What you say is also called "hog wash".

      March 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  3. Hugh G. Rection

    The next time Mormons (or any religious crusader) knock on you door pedaling their sh** answer it naked with a sock on your di** and invite them inside for some fried chicken.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Harry P. Alms

      I say lose the sock and shoot first, have chicken later...

      They may not want to baptize you or your family after you baptize one of the books in their hands with some man naise...

      March 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  4. Just thinking

    Why does it matter to anyone anyway? If the surviiving family members don't belive in momonism, then what's the big deal... It's not like the people are still alive with a gun to their head, or it affects anywone... heck, what if I decide to create a religion today, and havd George Washington as the leader from beyond the grave.... wouldn't really matter to anyone but me. Beside I think the whole point of Mormon's baptizing dead people is that then they would have a choice to choose or deny the mormon doctrine ?????

    March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Garrett Moffitt

      A number of reasons:
      1) They may have their own religion, and being baptized in another religion is a 'sin'.
      2) Mormon will use it to claim some one is a Mormon to prop up false sense of legitimacy.
      3) It's rude.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. tony

    Heaven is the really great place that the religious look forward to, but fight like hell to stay out of as long as possible.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • GodPot

      All while trying to convince you that none of these material goods on earth matter...sooooo why not just hand them over to your faithful representatives who will put your cash to "good" use like lining another Church leaders pocket after charging the family for a posthumous baptism.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  6. Mr Mark

    Note to the Christians: THE. BIBLE IS. MAKE. BELIEVE.

    Additional note to the Mormons: SO. IS. THE. BOOK OF MORMON.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Ben

      Mark, I can't wait to see your face on the day you find out they are both real and very true.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Hugh G. Rection

      But Ben, all will be forgiven bro. So you can't go wrong living this life for this life, not living this life for you (alleged) next life. Grow up d***head.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • slowdown

      Hey, Ben, shouldn't you be trying to save him rather than taunting him like a child about how you can't wait to see him sent to hell? (just as he was – I agree he's kind of an ***) Is that what Jesus would do?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  7. MeMelvin

    This is all so humorous.
    If there is a supreme being he/she/it must be laughing at our stupidity.
    If there is no supreme being, we should be laughing at our own stupidity.

    Either way, we should be laughing.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Yabba Dabba Do

      If there is a supreme being, we should be laughing at it's stupidity for making such bizarre freaks as Mormons.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  8. exmo91

    It's all make believe anyway. Offensive make believe, but still make believe. Let them play house and believe that a god lives on a planet called Kolob. Does it really affect you? Not really. It's just another weird cult, albeit a highly successful one.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Sick

      You sound sure of your beliefs ... mind telling about them ??? You sound very bigoted to me, just like the rest of this Kardashian watching country.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Sly

    Allah Ackbar God is Great.

    And there are millions of virgin teen age girls in heaven.

    And NO LAWS!

    Enough bashing of religion – let's all say God is Great and hop on the train! Wilt's record will FALL!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Sick

    Whether you are Mormon, Atheist, Jew or in between:

    -This article is a CNN attempt to hurt Romney.
    -If your Atheist then why do you even care.
    -The fact that the church is even attempting to stop this says something ... it is not illegal to proxy baptize. I think they should just do it and make sure to shove it in all of your bigoted faces.
    -Why is this a headline article? What is wrong with us?. You all make despise the human race.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • slowdown

      I just made you muslim by proxy. Enjoy!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • spencer Mac

      Agree what a bunch of BS, this isnt news, this is some ridiculous attempt to get our evangelical brethren to remember he is a Mormon in the deep southern primaries. This campaign is getting milked so bad!! great journalism! idiots glad to see your ratings are more important than the real news

      March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • TXbot

      I completely agree with you Sick. While I think the practice strange I believe that CNN is trying to attack Romney by posting this.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • GodPot

      As an atheist I think it's important to know if your candidate picks his nose and eats the boogers, not that it makes any policy difference, but it is a charachetr difference, and if the candidate promotes his faith which includes baptizing dead jews whether out of guilt or love, I want to know about it so I can make an informed character choice on who I give my vote to.

      I just think you are a Romney supporter who doesn't like it when your candidate is shown picking his nose and eating it.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Sick

      @GodPot ... Why don't they ever show Obama picking his boogers? Oh wait, he is a saint isn't he? They gave him a free pass during his campaign for election and regrettably I voted for him. By the way I am agnostic, don't get caught up in this two sided culture war ... they are all wrong.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • dkinabq

      The lds church was suppose to stop the practice of dead-dunking Jews in 1995. But they didn't. It's called lying for the lord and is a common practice in the mormon church. How common is it for Mittens?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Why don't they ever show Obama picking his boogers?"

      I guess you have no recollection of "Reverend Wright" or any of the "secret muslim" garbage the Christian right tried to stick to him then? Or are you upset that showing what you thought was Obama's booger eating didn't have the effect you thought it would and he was ellected anyway? Free pass my ass. They made him produce his birth certificate to prove he was legitimate, will you require the same of Romney who wasn't even born in a US state but in Mexico? Do they have better birth certificate records there than in Hawaii?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Sick

      @GodPot Ha, ha goes to show how uninformed you are ... his father was born in Mexico. CNN gives democrats/liberals a pass, while Fox News gives republicans/conservatives a pass. Its obvious ... if you can't see that, then I'm sorry for you.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • GodPot

      Right, so the Kenyan Muslim vs the Mexican Mormon. Sounds like fun for you fundies.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  11. More Fun With Mormons!

    Mormon children are often taught that thunder is the sound of Jesus battling Satan.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Ben

      I was taught he was bowling in heaven, and I'm Mormon.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • mugicha

      I'm Mormon, and I've never heard that. Keep making up your silly rumors. If some Mormon actually said that, they were just having fun.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • CalGTR

      Oh, brother. I've never, ever heard that, and neither have my children. Good grief. Have you no better things to worry about?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  12. blaqb0x

    If you don't want to be baptized posthumously add yourself here...

    March 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      PASS – on your stupid facebook thingy

      March 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • spencer Mac

      Moron, get a life!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  13. Heather Czerniak

    Shame on Mormons for this practice! And to think that one of their own wants to be America's next president. Disgusting!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • kris in detroit

      Shame on CNN.....didn't see CNN talking about Obumma's pastor or church when is was running. Cnn is not a news oranization but a gossip rag like The Enquirer.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Sick

      haha, your so naive ... have you heard of Metzitzah B’peh? Let's see what Jews are serving under Obama?

      Current Staff Members

      Jack Lew Chief of Staff to the President
      David Plouffe Senior Advisor to the President
      Danielle Borrin Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement; Special Assistant to the Vice Preisdent
      Gary Gensler Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
      Dan Shapiro Ambassador to Israel
      Gene Sperling Director National Economic Council
      Mary Schapiro Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission
      Steven Simon Head of Middle East/North Africa Desk at the National Security Council
      Eric Lynn Middle East Policy Advisor

      Past Staff Members

      Rahm Emanuel (2009-2010) Chief of Staff to the President
      David Axelrod (2009-2011) Senior Advisor to the President
      Elena Kagan (2009-2010) Solicitor General of the United States
      Peter Orszag (2009-2010) Director of the Office of Management and Budget
      Lawrence Summers ('09-'11) Director National Economic Council
      Mona Sutphen (2009-2011) Deputy White House Chief of Staff
      James B. Steinberg ('09-'11 ) Deputy Secretary of State
      Dennis Ross (2009-2011 ) Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for the Central Region to the Secretary of State
      Ronald Klain (2009-2011) Chief of Staff to the Vice President
      Jared Bernstein (2009-2011) Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
      Susan Sher (2009-2011) Chief of Staff to the First Lady
      Lee Feinstein (2009) Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor
      Mara Rudman (2009) Foreign Policy Advisor

      March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • demosthenes

      I see nothing "disgusting" about believing that this action provides an opportunity for salvation for your own ancestors. It's beautiful, really.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Garrett Moffitt

      It really says something about a president when the best things people can say against him is lies, isn't it Kris?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Sly

      Wow ... now our President is Jewish? I thought he was a Christian-Muslim combo? Wait ... didn't he come from Mars?

      Wow ... just another conspiracy by the strongest group in the world – the Black Men?

      Aren't all the 1% black?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  14. Randi

    1 Corinthians 1529 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

    33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      LET's Religiousity Law #3 – If you habitually spout off verses from your "holy" book to make whatever inane point you're trying to make, and not once does it occur to you to question whether your book is accurate in the first place, then you are definitely mentally retarded.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Hear This


      Paul of Tarsus? Pfui.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  15. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Do a little dance ... make a little love ... get down tonight ... get down tonight

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  16. Mike

    This is very a very misunderstood practice! This is by no means Mormons doing baptizing for deceased people and saying: "There, now that you are dead and have no choice we are going to offer a baptism for you and you are now a member of our church whether you like it or not" It's not at all like that! We believe simply that there were many people that lived here who had they had the chance to hear our Gospel would have liked to have been baptized in our church! Because we believe in the after life, we believe that those that never had the chance to say "thanks, but no thanks" or "yes I would like to be baptized" will still get that chance in the afterlife, but because they no longer have physical bodies to be baptized themselves a person acts in Proxy for them! Then they can have the same opportunity in the afterlife as they did here to say "no thanks" or "thank you for giving me the chance". So we are by no means saying that we have officially forced dead people to become members of our church whether they want to or not! This is very misunderstood by people!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Observation: You suck. That is all.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • WithReason

      Misunderstood or not, it's disrespectful to the dead and their families.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • ya right

      Ya right! the only reason your stopping this practice is because your man is running for office, give us real answers and not the BS hype your trying pull over America's eyes.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • exmo91

      Brainwashed. Regurgitate the party line. Do not look at the man behind the curtain.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • blaqb0x

      Why does god need humans to find out that someone died? Can't he detect a soul leaving a body from Kolab?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Atheist

      You're crazy.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • penquin

      It is just wrong to in effect, change someone's religion. People who have lived with a faith or no faith want to die that way. They do not wanted to be listed somewhere as being Mormon, which happens once they are proxy baptized. The Mormon Church should leave the dead alone, family members too.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Garrett Moffitt

      YOu are forcing you crazy cults belief upon others. WHen you baptize somneone like this you are also making a gesture against the family memeber sof that perosn and their beilies. YOu are self centered, egotistical and deluded. You people suck.

      You're statement is a prime example of why I don't want a Mormon president: you believe other peoples beliefs don't matter and have no regard for Freedom OF Religion.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mike

      Hey "Ya Right" we aren't stopping this practice! I don't know where you heard that! What is being talked about is stopping doing this on Holocaust victims which is something the Church stopped doing a long time ago! The reason why it's getting attention is because some individual members went out of their way to go rogue and do it! And you are absolutely right, the true reason it's getting talked about is because Mitt Romney is running for President! So they are trying to bring all the negative attention they can to our Church!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  17. Fun With Mormons!

    Okay, here are some really funny Mormon beliefs:

    Satan rules the waters. Believe it or not, Mormon missionaries are prohibited from swimming. They are also often kept from indulging in unsafe activities, including, I kid you not, basketball.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • demosthenes

      That is folklore, not a Mormon doctrine. Missionaries are prohibited from swimming for safety, along with other risky activities.

      It would help if people would get their information from the church itself, not second- and third-hand sources.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Ben

      The basketball comment is a total joke. You might have heard one story about one isolated incident, but I've served an LDS Mission in Panama and played ball all the time on my day off.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Yabba Dabba Do

      Swimming is risky? That sounds like BS.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Mike

      As far as the basketball thing goes! I don't know what you are smoking but that is a complete lie by you! It might be that some Mission presidents (aka the guys who control the local region of the mission) might limit sports activities for the 2 years so they don't break a leg or something, but that is all depending on the Mission President! I served a mission and played basketball, soccer, and a whole bunch of other sports! As far as the satan ruling the water! You are right, we believe that! You really got us on that one! You are a great investigator! Although you better be careful next time you take a swim in your kiddy pool wearing your little pink panties like you do, cuz Satan is coming after YOU!! I'd wear 2 pairs of water wings on each arm if I were you!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  18. lazurite

    The nerve of this group thinking they can inflict their religious beliefs on others is staggeringly arrogant. My dead ancestors were whatever religion they wanted to be – or not be. It is not your place to meddle in their affairs. Mind your own business, please.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Randi

      And you speak for the dead? If your ancestors were heathens, there is no baptism that could help them.– I'm not a Mormon by the way.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • demosthenes

      The article correctly pointed out that Mormons do not believe this "makes them Mormon," but they have a choice to accept or reject it.

      Get your facts straight before forming opinions!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • echopolitics

      Although this is a ridiculous practice, it is more ridiculous that Christians try to impose their beliefs on the rest of the country by turning women's health issues into a religious debate. The pope should have no say in American politics what-so-ever

      March 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  19. Mario

    The Mormon church likes to flaunt its membership: “With more than 14 million members around the globe...” As an ex mormon, I know that number is inflated and comprises every living person who has ever been baptized a mormon, including members who are no longer active or who renounced the mormon faith. Based on my own administrative experience inside the church, weekly attendance hovers between 10% and 40%, with 50-60% peaks. Do the math.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • exmo91

      So true!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • mugicha

      Since you are ex-Mormon, I wouldn't expect you to know the truth. Based on MY administrative experience inside the church, 14M membership is accurate, and weekly attendance is much higher than you claim, though it varies place to place. Not sure how your membership vs. attendance argument proves anything. There are lots of members of all churches on the roles who may not be weekly active, but don't want their memberships cancelled.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Nate

      And how many people are considered, by themselves or others, to be Catholic even though they haven't attended mass in Decades? Every church does that.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  20. lrkr

    * By performing Christian rites, one implies that Jews have rejected their own messiah and that Mormons and Muslims follow false prophets.
    * By performing Jewish rites, one implies that Christians are following a false messiah, Catholics' venerable Mary was not a virgin, and that Muslims and Mormons follow false prophets
    * By performing Mormon rites, one implies that each of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are corrupted and/or false.
    * etc, etc

    All of these implications are offensive.

    However, we live in a pluralistic society where freedom of religion is the rule of law and where nobody has any right to demand that anyone change or cease performing their religious duties simply because of offensive implications, which are inherent to all Western religious practice. We can choose to just agree to disagree, or debate one religion's merits/believability over another, but attempting to force certain believers to stop practicing their own religion is not OK.

    Demanding that Mormons stop practicing proxy baptism is the height of arrogance and intolerance.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • slowdown

      As long as they don't mind being made gay after they die we're all good.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • lrkr

      I haven't seen any Mormons complain about their dead are being made gay. They probably don't think that site actually works. I would imagine non-Mormons would take the same approach to proxy-baptism. If Mormonism turns out to be true, then at least they're doing non-Mormons a favor.

      On the other hand, Mormons complain about Christians saying Mormons are not Christian, and many of the same people who wring their hands over proxy baptism call for Christians to accept Mormons as their own. It's equally as ridiculous as asking Mormons to stop proxy baptizing. Christians don't accept Mormons as Christian because their beliefs are totally different!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Ron

      I agree with your analysis and sentiment, with a caveat. When a church's practice begins to shunt funding for other faiths, disallows non-members from access to public records (much of the genealogy info they collect, the get from public sources), or even when a faith starts physically harming innocents or even the faithful (body mutilations of children or torture to exorcise demons), then the practice has gone too far. If LDS have agreed to forgo proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims, then it appears it is an optional practice, not mandatory nor fundamental. Like many Mormon practices over their history, this may be the next that LDS abandons, as it has several other practices.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • dkinabq

      You make an excellent point. How can the deceased who left no written records be proxy baptized either? If god is going to sort those people out, then let him sort out everyone. Anne Frank was baptized 9 times. Sounds like harassing the dead to me.
      The lds church changed its temple rituals to remove parts members found unsettling. (Like having your throat slit if you reveal the rituals).

      March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
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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.