Mormon church apologizes for posthumous baptism of Jews

LOS ANGELES Tue Feb 14, 2012 8:08pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Mormon church apologized on Tuesday for the posthumous baptism by its members of the parents of famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal.

The posthumous baptisms were performed in Mormon churches in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization named after the man who hunted down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals including Adolf Eichmann in the years following the Holocaust.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in its written apology, suggested that the action was the work of one member who they said has since been disciplined.

"We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the Church led to the inappropriate submission of these names," Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church, said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.

"The policy of the Church is that members can request these baptisms only for their own ancestors. Proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims are strictly prohibited," he added.

Wiesenthal's mother Rosa died at the Belzec concentration camp in Poland in 1942. His father, Asher Wiesenthal, died during the First World War.

The apology by the Mormon church came on the same day that Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called on Republican presidential candidate and prominent Mormon Mitt Romney to address the issue after Wiesel's own Holocaust victim parents were similarly baptized by the Mormon church.

"A heartfelt apology is certainly appropriate, but it rings hollow if it keeps happening again and again," Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told Reuters.

Cooper participated in high-level meetings between Jews and Mormon officials since 1995 in an effort to halt such posthumous baptisms.

Simon Wiesenthal died of natural causes in 1995. Cooper, who knew Wiesenthal for 30 years, said he would have been deeply hurt by the actions of the Mormon churches that the Church of Latter Day Saints seems unable to control.

"He revered his mother. She raised him. He was unsuccessful in saving her during the Second World War," Cooper said. "If Simon Wiesenthal was alive today, he would be in deep pain."

Cooper called the actions "unacceptable," saying that people who lost everyone and everything and were murdered for being Jewish during the Holocaust should not have their souls hijacked by another religion.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)

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Comments (6)
JohnJay60 wrote:
But why stop at holocaust victims? The entire idea of posthumous baptism means that, in Mormon theology, the fate of my soul hinges on the actions of someone who is NOT me. It also contradicts Joseph Smith’s “translation” of the Book of Mormon, making it clear that the judgment is upon death and the decision is made then and there. Of course, since there are no original tablets and no verifiable language that scholars can consider, we have to take his word for it. And Joseph Smith’s words contradict those of modern Mormonism.
(2 Nephi 9:15: “And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgement seat of the Holy One of Israel, and then cometh the judgement and then must they be judged according to the holy judgement of God. “)

Feb 14, 2012 9:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Ralphooo wrote:
If you believe Mormons can hijack souls by baptizing the dead, you are in for a world of worry no matter how many times they say they are sorry. Who knows, the names of your revered ancestors might accidentally fall into the hands of future Mormons, six thousand — or six billion — years from now. Before you can say Chinese Restaurant, they drench the papers with Mormon Water.

You think the revered dead are instantly whisked away from their current celestial accommodations, straight into the LDS Sky High Hotel? Of course not. After all, this is America. It has to be voluntary, like giving blood.

I don’t know about your relatives, but I can tell you mine are not going to get up and walk away from the whole Jewish Afterworld Buffet, just because a couple of baby-faced Elders from Provo show up in black suits holding invitations. Who knows what the food would be like in the new place? As my Bubbe used to say, never touch a Mormon knish. Ha ha, no, but seriously, folks…

Feb 14, 2012 10:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Ralphooo wrote:
If you believe Mormons can hijack souls by baptizing the dead, you are in for a world of worry no matter how many times they say they are sorry. Who knows, the names of your revered ancestors might accidentally fall into the hands of future Mormons, six thousand — or six billion — years from now. Before you can say Chinese Restaurant, they drench the papers with Mormon Water.

You think the revered dead are instantly whisked away from their current celestial accommodations, straight into the LDS Sky High Hotel? Of course not. After all, this is America. It has to be voluntary, like giving blood.

I don’t know about your relatives, but I can tell you mine are not going to get up and walk away from the whole Jewish Afterworld Buffet, just because a couple of baby-faced Elders from Provo show up in black suits holding invitations. Who knows what the food would be like in the new place? As my Bubbe used to say, never touch a Mormon knish. Ha ha, no, but seriously, folks…

Feb 14, 2012 10:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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