The secret posthumous baptism of key Jewish figures by the Mormon church has caused outrage in the Jewish community and led to an apology by Mormon leaders.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the Mormon church for performing baptismal rites on the parents of Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Wiesenthal’s parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, according to the Associated Press. The baptisms took place in late January at temples in Arizona and Utah.
The proxy ceremonies are believed by Mormons to allow the deceased into the afterlife by giving them the Gospel. Names are submitted by Mormon Church members, and are then given baptisms without their presence, or the presence or even notification of their families.
After Jewish groups protested the practice of baptizing members of their faith without their consent or the consent of the families of the deceased, the Mormon Church issued a promise in 1995 not to continue the practice.
Yet records indicate Wiesenthal’s parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized in proxy ceremonies performed by Mormon church members at temples in Arizona and Utah in late January.
The Mormon Church has baptized many figures involved in the Holocaust – and not just Jewish victims, such as Anne Frank. Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were also baptized by the Church in separate ceremonies decades apart, with Hitler being “bound” to his parents in a ceremony in 1993.
Other Jewish figures, such as the great Jewish sage and scholar Mamonides (Rambam), Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein, and author Elie Wiesel have also been baptized, as well as hundreds of Holocaust victims.
“We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement by the Associated Press.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints replied with an apology in a statement issued Monday. “We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names [of Wiesenthal’s parents],” Micharel Purdy, spokesman for the Church said. “We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person’s ability to access our genealogy records.’’
The discovery of many posthumous baptisms has been conducted by Helen Radkey, a former Mormon who has dedicated herself to uncovering this practice and the specific individuals who have been baptized. She also found that the family members of several US political figures – the mother of President Barack Obama and the atheist father of presidential candidate Mitt Romeny – had undergone the ritual.