Baptism for the dead must stop, says Holocaust survivor

Published March 6, 2012

The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ordered all adherents to stop baptizing those who are not ancestors of Mormons. Photo: Ricarddo 630

Apart from being Jewish and deceased, what do diarist Anne Frank and journalist Daniel Pearl have in common?

If you said both are baptized Mormons, go to the head of the class. Frank and Pearl are two of many notable Jewish people who have been posthumously baptized through Mormon proxies. Other Jewish recipients of this unasked-for sacrament are the parents of Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter.

Last month, upon learning that he was a still-living candidate for this unasked-for sacrament, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said Mormon GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney should speak out against the practice.

According to Helen Redkey, an excommunicated Mormon who conducted genealogy research for the church, Wiesel’s deceased father and maternal grandfather’s names also made the list for baptism. The list of baptized decedents includes Mahatma Ghandi.

Strictly speaking, the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead allows living people to be baptized only on behalf of their dead relatives.

The controversy goes back a couple of decades. In 1995, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) signed an agreement with the Jewish community to end the practice of posthumous baptism unless they were direct ancestors of church members. But this temporal agreement seems to have been forgotten by some zealots intent on securing salvation for notable Jews.

Last week, LDS leaders reiterated the church’s policy against unorthodox posthumous baptism. A Feb. 29 letter sent out by Thomas S. Monson, LDS’s president, to church leaders around the world stated: “Without exception, church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims.”


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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