Jewish Journal


February 29, 2012

Daniel Pearl posthumously baptized by Mormons


Daniel Pearl’s famous last words left know doubt about who he was: “I am Jewish.”

Mormons, though, appear to want to leave the door open for Pearl to change his mind from the grave. Via JTA:

Daniel Pearl was baptized in a Mormon proxy ritual in another case of a prominent deceased Jew discovered to have been baptized posthumously in recent weeks.

Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and executed by terrorists in Pakistan in February 2002, was baptized by proxy on June 1, 2011 at a Mormon temple in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

The rite was discovered by Helen Radkey, a former member of the Mormon church who has become a whistleblower on such activity.

Only Mormons have access to the church’s genealogy database, which also can be used to submit a deceased person’s name for proxy baptism.

The discovery comes in the same month that it was discovered that the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized last month, and Anne Frank was posthumously baptized earlier this month.

Also earlier this month, the names of the father and grandfather of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel were found to have been submitted for proxy baptism.

Pearl’s parents, Judea and Ruth, told the Boston Globe that learning of the proxy baptism was “disturbing news.”

“To them we say, we appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld,” the Pearls told the newspaper in an email. “He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled-for ritual.”

The reaction should come as no surprise to Mormons. Jews have for years fought the efforts of Mormons who want to leave the door open to deceased Jews through posthumous baptism. It’s also a religious conviction for them, as Mark Paredes explained at his Jews and Mormons blog in December:

Mormons have an obligation to perform temple ordinances for their deceased relatives. Indeed, we believe that we will not reach heaven without our kindred dead who have accepted the rites. However, church members have no such duty towards others’ relatives. For decades church leaders have asked members to perform temple ordinances only for their own ancestors. In the past, a small number of Mormons inappropriately performed temple ordinances for Holocaust victims who were not related to them, in violation of church policy (for more details, please see my first and second blogs on the subject). This understandably raised the ire of Jews, and a series of discussions took place between LDS and Jewish leaders over many years.

Mark writes more here, and Samuel Brown has a general backgrounder on the practice at the Huffington Post.

The posthumous baptisms obviously do not convert the deceased into Mormons—nor do Mormons believe that they do. But they look and sound like a forced conversion, especially to those who aren’t familiar with the details of the practice, and Jews have had too long and painful a history of forced conversion to let this one go.

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