Holocaust Victim Controversy
Believed to be a long time practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been to vicariously baptize the Holocaust's Jewish victims and other prominent individuals. However, Church policy states that Church members submit their own names for these type of ordinances, and require that a surviving family member's permission be obtained for any Baptism that is to be performed of deceased individuals that have died within a certain time period (usually 50-75 years).
However, some Baptisms were done for Holocaust Victims, without proper approval or permission. When this information became public, it generated vocal criticism of the LDS Church (though not rising to the level of anti-Mormonism) from Jewish groups, who found this ritual to be insulting and insensitive (though not rising to the level of anti-Semitism). Partly as a result of public pressure, Church leaders in 1995 promised to put into place new policies that would help stop the practice, unless specifically requested or approved by relatives of the victims.
In late 2002, information surfaced that members of the Church had not stopped this practice despite directives from the Church leadership to its members, and criticism from Jewish groups began again. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, is on record as opposing the vicarious baptism of Holocaust victims. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Center holds: "If these people did not contact the Mormons themselves, the adage should be: Don't call me, I'll call you. With the greatest of respect to them, we do not think they are the exclusive arbitrators of who is saved." Recently Church leaders have agreed to meet with leaders of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
In December 2002, independent researcher Helen Radkey published a report showing that the Church's 1995 promise to remove Jewish Nazi victims from its International Genealogical Index was not sufficient; her research of the Church's database uncovered the names of about 19,000 who had a 40 to 50 percent chance of having "the potential to be Holocaust victims...in Russia, Poland, France, and Austria."
Genealogist Bernard Kouchel conducted a search of the International Genealogical Index, and discovered that many well known Jews have been vicariously baptized, including Rashi, Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Menachem Begin, Irving Berlin, Marc Chagall, and Gilda Radner. Some permissions may have been obtained, but there is not currently not a system in play to ensure that these permissions have been obtained, which has angered many in various religious and cultural communities.
In 2004, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Jewish genealogy columnist for The Jerusalem Post noted that Jews, even those with no Mormon descendants, are being rebaptised after being removed from the rolls. In an interview, D. Todd Christofferson, a church official, told The New York Times that it was not feasible for church to continuously monitor the archives to ensure that no new Jewish names appear. The agreement referred to above did not place this type of responsibility on the centralized Church leadership.
See also: ancestor liberation
- Roberts, B.H. (editor); History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Deseret Book Company; ISBN 0-87579-490-4 (revised 2nd edition, softcover, 1975)
- Tvedtnes, John A.; Baptism for the Dead: The Coptic Rationale; Retrieved Aug 19, 2003, from http://www.fairlds.org/apol/misc/misc23.html
Additional links about Baptism for the Dead
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