Mormonism and Baptism of the Dead
Some Jewish leaders are outraged by a practice they say echoes the forced conversions of centuries past
excerpt By John Turner
What do George Washington, Albert Einstein and Stanley Ann Durham (Barack Obama’s mother) have in common? Mormons have baptized each of them by proxy, performing a temple rite they believe gives human beings a posthumous opportunity to obtain salvation.
Researchers recently discovered that Mormons had similarly baptized the parents of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, whose mother died in a Nazi extermination camp in 1942. And one Mormon recently proposed for proxy baptism the still-living Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.
This esoteric practice doesn’t always provoke complaints—President Obama refused to comment on his mother’s case, for instance—but it has strained Mormon-Jewish relations over the past two decades.
Both Mr. Wiesel and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have denounced the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims as an outrage, with Mr. Wiesel specifically calling upon Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to “speak to his church and say they should stop.” Actually, Mr. Romney should ignore this controversy.
Baptism by proxy has its roots in early Mormonism, when adherents were troubled by the fact that their ancestors had died before the 1830 founding of what became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mormon prophet Joseph Smith taught that baptism was necessary for salvation and that only those baptisms performed by the true, restored church counted. That left the vast bulk of humanity on the outside looking in.
Smith wanted to offer a second chance to those who had died. Bringing to life an obscure New Testament passage about believers being “baptized for the dead,” he announced that his followers could seek baptism on behalf of their departed kin.
Early Mormons, then in Illinois before their exodus to Utah, embraced this teaching with great enthusiasm. Even before the completion of a temple font, Mormons plunged into the muddy waters of the Mississippi River to bring salvation to their dead.
Over time, the doctrine of baptism for the dead turned the Mormons into fanatical genealogists. It also created a desire to save other deceased persons beyond direct ancestors.
Only in recent years has the church more strictly emphasized that members should submit only the names of their own ancestors for baptism. Thus it is not surprising that Mormons have been baptized for everyone from Anne Frank to Adolf Hitler. …
see full WSJ article HERE