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. zip

    If you think this is crazy, Google "Planet Kolob" You won't believe it

    March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  2. Bo

    I really do not know why none-Mormons are making such a big issue about this. If you don’t believe that a postmortem‭ baptisim is of any consequence–so what? Let the people believe what they wish. If they think that getting baptised for a deceased person is to redeem that soul, let them do it, it isn’t going to effect your life in anyway. If so tell me how?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • todd in DC

      It's insulting and disrespectful. It's arrogant, and it's a violation of the survivors' rights.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Spence

      And what Survivor Rights are you talking about, Todd? Be specific. There are no such "rights"

      March 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Dave A

      It is upsetting to see any religion act in a self righteous manner. Jesus was Jewish the Morgan's are showing no respect. It's a big waste of time and energy

      March 9, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Bo

      ‭Tell me, Todd, how is it insulting, disresectful or vioating any of my rights? They could baptise my whole family and I wouldn’t care at all, in fact I have an uncle that is Mormon, he has probably been baptised for all his brothers and sisters (14), mother and father, aunts and uncles neices and nephews–everyone, it doesn’t effect me in any way; I could couldn’t care less. And if he were to ask me if it was OK, I would say “What ever makes you feel good, I don’t care, it isn’t going to change anything.”

      March 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  3. Jim

    Mormons: "I hereby baptize you."
    Jews: "Oh yeah, well I unbaptize myself!"
    Mormons: "Well, I rebaptized you!"
    Jews: "Well I unbaptize me times a hundred!"
    Mormons: "Well, I rebaptize you times a thousand!"
    Jews: "OK, so I unbaptize me by a hundred trillion ka-zillion!"
    Mormons: "Well, I rebaptize you a thousand million ka-billion-zillion ka-trillian!"
    Jews: "Nuh uh, you can't baptize me anymore, because I have a Moses shield, that stops your baptism!"
    Mormons: "Oh yeah, but my special Joseph Smith posthumus baptism can go through your Moses shield, so you're still baptized!"
    Atheist: "You guys know that none of this stuff means anything right? They're just traditions."
    Mormons: "That's crazy, I need to baptize you now."
    Jews: "You just don't understand people of faith."

    March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Willard Mittes

      Oh nooooooo!!!!!! It's the evil Dr. Mormon and the baptismal beam he'll baptize all the dead only to build a powerful zombie army and take over the world. Autobots and Decepticon will join G I Joe and Cobra to stop them!!! Coming in the summer 2012....

      March 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  4. c

    what a strange practice.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Steve

      Literally eating the flesh and blood of a man who died 2000 years ago seems like a strange practice too, yet millions across the world regularly do this as part of their faith and conviction. Perhaps trying to understand why would be more beneficial than labeling it as just "strange".

      March 10, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  5. Terry - Indiana

    Am I the only one who sees the Mormon Church as a cult with LDS rules for what we will all be asked to believe if Romney gets elected? If you want to discuss a conspiracy theory, try looking into all of the things the Mormons try sneaking into society, like baptizing the dead who are not, and never asked to be, Mormon. The fact that Mitt Romney hides his money in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland also concerns me. Does Romney know something about the American Banking System, or does the Mormon Church own banks in the Cayman Islands?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • c

      I am concerned too.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • lisa

      Did it concern you that Obama sat through sermons for 20 years that bashed white people?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • todd in DC

      Lisa, Obama isn't Mormon, he's protestent. Yes, it concerns me, but guess what, Obama didn't do anything anti-white his entire presidency.

      So what is your point?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Bo

      ‭Define cult. By Webster’s definition any religious belief system is a cult–look it up!

      March 9, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • lisa

      What has Romney done that's anti anything?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Max

      Dead people don't ask anything Terry, they're dead. Who cares. Let them do whatever they want.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • JoeS

      I used to be a Catholic and converted to Mormonism, because it is the only true Church. We practice Baptism for the dead and there is no harmful to it. The one who got baptized for proxy still have to choose if He wants to in the spirit world, but at least we gave him the chance for salvation. Think about what happen to those people who live before Jesus Christ was born and the good people around the world who does know Jesus Christ. Are they going to hell? Since Christ said that you cannot enter the Kingdom of God without being Baptized with water and Spirit.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

    Religion be whack!

    March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |

      You be right.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  7. mormons are weirdos

    This whole conversation is irrelevant, as is mitt Romney's presidential campaign... Because:

    A. Mormonism is a complete joke, made up by some gu, and based on a bunch of fake ideals.

    B. This country would NEVER elect some guy who part of some elboarte cult that we all know is a complete hoax.


    March 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Spence

      You mean like JFK? All arguments are the same with minor tweaking.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  8. R Burns

    “Anyone trying to access names that have been restricted" Read the fine print carefully! On the surface this makes it look like the Mormon church has radically revamped it's determination to baptize all souls through birth and/or death records. What they are really saying is that they are aware of being watched and will make every effort to restrict some names when there has been an objection. Some things never change. . .

    March 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Terry - Indiana

      I continue to see the Mormon Church as a cult, and the things the Mormons try to hide should be a concern for all Americans.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  9. Monroe Smith

    Although people may not like if Mormons perform a baptism for their deceased loved ones who were not Mormons, doing so causes no harm to the memory or reputation of the deceased. Preventing the Mormons from performing these baptisms does, however, violate their right to practice their religion as they see fit. And I'm not a Mormon and I do not hold their beliefs (at all).

    March 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  10. Phil in Oregon

    This disgraceful practice has to go. It also highlights how far the LDS has deviated from the rest of the church. Since I've been studying Christianity and the Bible for 30 years, I can say with some certainty that a person has to make those choices voluntarily. It's hard to get a 'yes' or 'no' answer out of a gravestone.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Robert

      Obviously you have not studied enough during your past 30 years. Reread John 3:5 and then 1 Cornthians 15:29. That's just for starters. If Christ said we can't enter into the Kingdom of God without being born of the water, then what about those folks who died in China 1000 years ago having never heard of Christ or been baptized?

      March 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Max

      What do you mean "the rest of the Church". You write as if Christianity is, besides the Mormons, is a cohesive unit. Furthermore, Mormons believe God revealed things to a prophet, and gave him new instructions, so of course that is a deviation from most other Christian sects.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • LifeLong Student

      @Max – salient point

      I think there's a huge misunderstanding about the Church and who is a part of it.

      One of Christianity's tenets is that the Word of God, the Bible, is our guide. Bible scripture says clearly that nothing is to be removed or added. Joseph Smith added a whole other book in the 1800s. Red Flag #1.

      Christianity (Protestant, Catholic, etc. ) believes that Jesus in the only begotten son of God, and is also God. It is my uderstanding that Mormons believe differently. Red flag #2

      There are many other differences, but those two the most basic and hard to miss.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • LifeLong Student


      I humbly submit that God is love, and is sovereign. He knew those people in China from 1000 years ago, and every single person before then, every hair on their head even. God has a plan for those people. I don't know what that is. I'm trusting that God is big enough to handle every single person's salvation with care, and I'm not going to try to take that responsibilty from Him.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Apotropoxy

    If the Mormonism is powerful enough to confiscate the unwilling souls of the departed then we'd all better join up, huh?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Steve

      All I can say is that if you don't believe that your church has the power to save, then ultimately what good is it to you or your family?

      March 10, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  12. Steve the Goat

    Here's a super easy way to deal with it... Don't allow any proxy baptisms. Ideally, people would see religion for the joke it is and drop it, but that might be asking for too much.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  13. chrism

    This is really important news. CNN is very tuned in to this particular issue and it has absolutely nothing to do with pushing their candidate or attacking an opposing candidate.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • lisa

      It's interesting timing for sure. And judging by some of these idiotic statements it's working.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  14. PJ

    That is a disgusting and offensive practice. And one of these people wants to be President of the United States.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  15. ccd08

    Who cares? Leave them to their fatih.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  16. realitybites

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Romney participated in proxy baptising his dead Athiest Father-in-law.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • PJ

      Bishop Romney while Bishop in Boston also asked a single mother in his Congregation to give up her baby because Mormons frown on single parent families.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  17. Michael Crook

    The system is not fixed.


    March 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    Some truths about the Latter Day Saints.

    "Ti.thing is an important test of our personal righteousness. President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) said: “By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. … By it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 276)."
    According to their PR Department (The Deseret News Agency) between 1994 and 2006, the LDS donated from $750 Million in international charity. In less than half that time, they have spent more than $3 BILLION on a mall in Salt Lake City.
    To make sure congregants are paying up, each year they must go before a Bishop for a Ti.thing Settlement.
    A member is questioned in a one-on-one interview with the Bishop to ensure the member is paying a full 10%.
    Those members who are not paying a full 10% lose their temple recommendations and therefore are in serious jeopardy of losing their Celestial blessings.
    If a member cannot get into the temple, they cannot learn the secret handshake, secret password, secret "new name" and special “sealings”.
    Without these, the member will be unable to pass Joseph Smith and the angels who guard the entrance to the Celestial Kingdom.
    Mormons are told: "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).

    "The Juvenile Instructor" is an LDS tome used to indoctrinate children.
    Here is an excerpt from an early edition:
    "We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of Heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the ne.gro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness.
    We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race...every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun. (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157)
    100 years later, LDS followers became more "tolerant" and published statements like this:
    "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Neg.ro. Dar.kies are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church."
    – Joseph Fielding Smith, Look magazine, October 22, 1963, page 79
    In 1947, Dr. Lowry Nelson – a Mormon himself – sent a letter to the Mormon First Presidency questioning the official racist doctrines.
    The reply he received said, in part:
    "From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Neg.roes are not ent.itled to the full blessings of the Gospel.
    "Furthermore your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Neg.ro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous."
    – George Albert Smith J. Reuben Clark, Jr. David O. McKay
    Finally, in 1978 the Mormons had a revelation allowing blacks into the priesthood – conveniently at the exact time that they were expanding beyond the U.S. into countries full of "cursed" people, like Brazil.
    Today, while there is no official policy of segregation, the old prejudices still exist.
    Black LDS church member Darron Smith wrote in 2003:
    "Even though the priesthood ban was repealed in 1978, the discourse that constructs what blackness means is still very much intact today. Under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, the First Presidency and the Twelve removed the policy that denied black people the priesthood but did very little to disrupt the multiple discourses that had fostered the policy in the first place. Hence there are Church members today who continue to summon and teach at every level of Church education the racial discourse that black people are descendants of Cain, that they merited lesser earthly privilege because they were "fence-sitters" in the War in Heaven, and that, science and climatic factors aside, there is a link between skin color and righteousness"

    March 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  19. Ginger and MaryAnn's Sizzling Midnight Show on Gilligan's Island

    Mormons crack down on whistleblowers is the reality.

    March 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. pastmorm

    Actually come to think of it, I think Child Services should be asked to look into this. Twelve year old children (and up) doing baptisms for dead people...and then the go to school and try to fit in with everyone else as though doing secret temple rituals is normal for any child????

    March 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Ralph Steadman

      This is a true story: A mormon friend of my daughters was over during a thunderstorm, and every time she heard thunder, she would say "That's Jesus fighting Satan!" Seriously. She was 16 at the time.

      I politely asked here if she knew what really caused lightning, but I only got an uncomprehending look in response.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • pastmorm

      I believe you Ralph. I was taught the same thing as a child...kinda like being taught about the Greek gods or something huh? Also, we were taught that satan rules the waters so when we were missionaries we weren't allowed to swim. Seriously!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Alex

      No different than 12 year old kids praying to imaginary man living in sky or any other religious rituals.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • todd in DC

      In christianity, you eat Jesus meat. Silly zombies.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:45 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.