-- Feb 7, 2006
by Helen Radkey
Proxy Baptism of Jews: The Splash Goes On
Behind closed temple doors, and unquestionably in defiance of the May 1995 agreement between Mormons and Jews, in which the LDS Church promised to cease temple ordinances for deceased Jews who are not direct ancestors of living Mormons, the practice never stopped. Since 1995, Mormons have performed proxy ordinances for most Jewish notables, including prominent Israeli political figures: Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Sharett, Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion and Theodor Herzl--along with hundreds of thousands of other Jews, including multitudes of Jews in the arts, the sciences and in the entertainment field--such as Gilda Radner, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. Even Jews on the Titanic, who went into the icy waters of the North Atlantic with the Jewish Shema prayer on their lips, spoken with their last breath, have been proxy baptized and proclaimed as members of the LDS Church.
... The baptismal and confirmation prayers used by Mormons in their temples are explicit in their content. Deceased parties are baptized by proxy without the option to decline. They are then confirmed as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by proxy and supposedly given the gift of the Holy Ghost, again without the option to decline. If Mormons, in general, are so adamant that the dead always have the opportunity to accept or reject these posthumous ordinances--then why is this choice not reflected in the wording of their baptismal and confirmation prayers?...
Mormons may have removed many names of Jews from their IGI records, currently available for public viewing, but the LDS Church maintains private ordinance lists. And, once performed, no LDS ordinance is ever undone, nor is there any procedure by which an ordinance can be reversed, despite vehement protest.
... Some of these Holocaust victims, murdered as young teenagers, have no direct descendants, yet the Mormon faithful submit their names anyway, falsely claiming descendancy. Zealous Mormons are still pouring names of Jewish Holocaust victims into the LDS temple system. ... (1)
-- Jul 2, 2006
Nu What's Nu?: News About Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu
Vol. 7, No. 10, (Excerpt)
Gary Mokotoff, Editor
London Birth Records Extracted
In the 1960s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, representing themselves as the Genealogical Society of Utah, approached the Beit Din of London and offered to preserve the birth records of the Jewish community on microfilm. The Jewish group consented. The agreement made no mention of using the records for Mormon rituals. After the microfilm reached Salt Lake City, the contents were distributed to Mormon volunteers who extracted the information, and the Church posthumously baptized hundreds of Jews identified on the birth records. In 1994, Charles Tucker, archivist for the Beit Din, wrote to me and said had they known the information would be used for Mormon religious purposes, they would never have consented to the microfilming of the records. (1)
-- Aug 27, 2006
Nu? What's New?: News About Jewish Genealogy from Avotaynu
Vol. 7, No. 13
Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won't Go Away
[August 7, 2006 meeting between officials of the Mormon Church and representatives of the Jewish Organizations] ... The meeting ended with handshakes, not because the parties agreed that the matter has been solved, but more that each group better understood the position of the other. ....
These were my conclusions of what happened. This is emes [truth].
Members of the Mormon faith will continue to posthumously baptize any person related to them no matter how distantly related. This is Church policy and they will not yield on this point even though the 1995 agreement limited the practice on baptizing Jews to direct ancestors. I stated to the senior Church official at the meeting that I have spent the past 25 years documenting the Mokotow family and placed all the names and vital information--a total of 1,200 people--on the Internet at the Family Tree of the Jewish People site on JewishGen. Was he saying that if my fourth cousin twice removed converted to the Mormon faith, it would be proper for this distant relative to use my research to posthumously baptize all deceased persons on my family tree who were born more than 95 years ago? The official said "yes."
...A new rule of the Church is that individual Mormons will be limited to performing temple ordinances on relatives only. A relative is any descendant of an ancestor. Previously, Mormons would submit lists of people not related to them for temple ordinances. .... Still open for discussion is the practice by individual Mormons to baptize all deceased persons with the same surname from the same small town on the grounds that, while it cannot be proved they are related, it is assumed they are because of the identical surname. I noted to one of the Mormon officials this does not necessarily apply to Jews. Since Jewish surnames are a relatively new phenomenon--less than 200 years old--two Jews named Schneider from a small town in Eastern Europe are not necessarily
related but may merely represent that they are descended from two men who were tailors ("schneider" means "tailor" in Yiddish).
The Church is serious about these new restrictions on members of their faith. The acts of individual Mormons in baptizing non-related persons are the ones that make the news media and are an embarrassment to the Church who considers posthumous baptism a sacred doctrine.
The Church plans to enforce these rules through education and discipline. ... Most importantly, members of the faith who violate the rules will be disciplined if they fail to follow the rules. .... In the past, it was generally agreed by non-Mormons that the rules were often ignored. ....
In reality, this probably represents less than 5% of the deceased persons on whom temple ordinances are performed. The vast majority of people are affected by the Church's Extraction Program. .... Here is how the Extraction Program affects deceased Jews.
The Church still plans to acquire Jewish records, but they will not be used as part of their Extraction Program. They state this was stopped immediately after the signing of 1995 agreement. Jews posthumously baptized through the Extraction Program were found as late as 2004. The Church explained that they were individuals for whom the extraction process started prior to May 1995 and that the total process can, indeed, take years. It appears they made not attempt to recall records after signing the agreement.
At the meeting, the senior Church official noted that the Church recognized that Jews are particular sensitive to the posthumous baptism of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. They stated that the 95-year rule would apply to any Holocaust victim independent of when the victim was born. Therefore, a Mormon who had relatives murdered in the Holocaust must get permission of the closest living relatives of the victim before baptism can be performed. If this rule is strictly adhered to, few Holocaust victims would be baptized. .... It was suggested that the IGI be purged of all persons whose death place was shown as a concentration camp site such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, etc. The Mormon participant who had the most technological knowledge claimed it could not be done. I disagreed, and nothing was formally concluded.
The Church will continue its practice of removing from the IGI Jews who are non-relatives of Mormons if a request is sent to them. The Church will research how the name got into the system, and if it violated any of the rules noted above or reached the IGI through the Extraction Program, the name will be removed.
The Church has future plans to combine their religious index (IGI) with their genealogical collections in what is being called the Combined Index. In 2005 the Church stated that it would be possible for a non-Mormon to tell whether a temple ordinance was performed on their relative because those entries would be flagged in the Combined Index. The Church is now saying this may not be true in the final system due to considerations that have nothing to do with the Mormon/Jewish controversy.
Why did the Church refuse to honor its commitment made in the 1995 agreement to limit baptisms to direct ancestors? In my opinion, it was because they came to realize they should never have signed the agreement in the first place. The 1995 agreement violates Church doctrine and policy, and no religion will violate its doctrine and policy.
This Mormon/Jewish controversy has not been put to rest; it is still a burning ember. It is highly likely that, in the near future, an incident will occur, such as the baptism of Holocaust victims which triggered the current controversy. It will fan the flames again. The Church will claim at that time that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives it the right to involve other people's families in the Mormon religion, because their stated mission is the salvation through Jesus Christ of the entire human race both living and dead. (1)
1 - A chronicle of the Mormon-Jewish controversy; The LDS Agreement: A JewishGen InfoFile, http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/ldsagree.html
LDS History Chronology: Unconventional Baptisms
Mormon History Timeline: Forms of Rebaptism in LDS History