Mormons, Jews In New Pact On Baptisms

Computer technology credited for ‘breakthrough’ on exemption of Holocaust victims for proxy ritual.

Wed, 09/01/2010
Editor And Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

Two years after a rupture in Mormon-Jewish relations in America, leaders of the two groups believe they have achieved “a breakthrough” and finally solved an issue of major contention between them — the Mormon Church’s practice of proxy baptism of souls, including of Jewish Holocaust victims.

The new pact, which was announced in a statement Wednesday simultaneously through The Jewish Week and The Deseret News, the Mormon-owned Salt Lake City daily, stipulates that the Mormon Church will allow Jewish Holocaust victims to be the only category exempt from Church doctrine that calls for vicarious baptism for the dead, giving souls the choice to enter the Kingdom of God.

Since 1840, the Church practice has been to gather the names of every person who ever lived and offer their souls the choice of baptism.

As a result of the resolution, both sides predict major efforts of future cooperation.

The statement noted that “as a result of dialogue and extraordinary efforts of the Church, computer systems and policy initiatives have been put in place that resolve the issue, which is greatly appreciated by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, the result of which will be felt throughout the world.”

“What the Church has done [to accommodate requests from Jewish leaders] is extraordinarily significant,” noted Bob Abrams, the former New York State Attorney General who spent the last 13 months negotiating a compromise with Mormon officials.

“Out of all humans who ever lived, the Church has carved out Jewish Holocaust victims as the only exception to a universal doctrine,” asserted Abrams, who called the decision “an enormous concession” based on the Church’s “desire to have a warm and strong relationship with the Jewish community.”

The statement said that “goodwill and friendship” have marked the relationship between the Mormon Church and the Jewish people, but acknowledged that “over the years, survivors of the Holocaust have pointed out to the Church that its practice of posthumous/proxy baptism has unintentionally caused pain due to the inclusion of names of those who perished in the Holocaust.

“It is gratifying,” the statement continued, “that the good faith efforts undertaken over the years to deal with an important issue of sensitivity to the Jewish Holocaust survivor community have eliminated a source of tension between our two groups, enhancing our ability to cooperate, including important programs of humanitarian aid across the world.”

Ernest Michel, a founder of the American Gathering group of survivors and one of the first to raise the issue of insensitivity over the inclusion of Holocaust victims’ names, had given up hope of reaching a resolution.

“We are hopeful now that they will keep their word,” he said this week of Mormon officials, “and that this will lead to a much better relationship.”

Survivors Had Given Up

That’s a far cry from Michel’s mood on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, in November 2008, when he and other leaders of the American Gathering group of survivors held a press conference here to announce that 13 years after an initial agreement was reached between Jewish and Mormon leaders on exempting Jewish Holocaust victims from the Church practice of posthumous baptism of souls, negotiations with the Church were over. Mormon leaders were accused of repeatedly violating their promise.

“We said they didn’t live up to their policy,” said Michel. He admits he essentially gave up on getting the Church to comply, despite repeated attempts to impress upon its leaders that the practice of including Jewish names for baptism — including his parents and grandmother, who were murdered by the Nazis — was deeply offensive to Jews.

For its part, the Church insisted that it was doing its best to expunge the names of Holocaust victims from its enormous database. It said it had removed hundreds of thousands of such names, while admitting that tens of thousands remained on file.

“We had believed all along that the changes and enhancements to our computer systems would allow us to control this,” explained Mike Otterson, managing director of public affairs for the Church. “We weren’t able to convince Mr. Michel of that, and it looked like we would have to agree to disagree.”

But when Abrams was invited by a close Mormon friend in June 2009 to put together a delegation of prominent New York Jewish leaders to come to Salt Lake City and see the good works of the Church, the positive visit led to revisiting the proxy baptism issue.

“We’ve always wanted to enhance our relationship with the Jewish community,” said Otterson, noting “a great sense of commonality” between the Jewish and Mormon religions, despite “significant theological differences.”

He said the invitation last year was made in conjunction with the opening of a new Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, a time for welcoming leaders of different faiths.

(While there are about 20,000 Mormon chapels worldwide, where weekly services are held, there are only 140 temples, reserved for the faith’s highest sacraments, including the baptisms for the dead.)

“Our delegation [of 10 leaders from New York] was amazed at how responsive our hosts were,” said Abrams. “We experienced a sense of the Church leaders’ love and exuberance for Jews.”

On seeing the baptism pool at the new temple and visiting the Family History Library, several Jewish leaders raised the longstanding issue of the inclusion of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism, which in turn led to negotiations, headed by Abrams, that went on for more than a year.

Michel credited Abrams’ volunteer efforts with achieving the breakthrough. “We survivors could never have done it,” he said.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Jewish Week he played a role as well in achieving the compromise.

“I’ve been quietly involved,” he said, holding meetings in Salt Lake City with Church leaders over several days in April and offering advice. “Success has a lot of fathers,” he noted.

Foxman called this week’s statement “a historic gesture,” adding that for the Church to improve relations with the Jewish community, “it’s one thing to love us and another to understand our pain.”

Computers A Key Element

What distinguishes this latest resolution from previous ones over the last 15 years is a combination of persistent negotiating efforts, primarily by Abrams, and on the Mormon side a policy shift, public acknowledgment and more sophisticated computer technology.

Jewish leaders note that in past responses to complaints about Holocaust victims being included for proxy baptism, Mormon officials said that souls had the choice of declining the offer, and that despite their best efforts to delete victims’ names from the Church’s enormous database, errors inevitably occurred.

“The key ingredient now is a more advanced computer system that can better implement the policy of not having Holocaust names appear on the list,” according to Abrams, and deleting them if they are found.

Mormon officials noted a “shift of emphasis” for Church members in entering names for baptism by computer.

“It is the personal responsibility of Church members to submit temple work [proxy baptism] for their own families,” noted Mormon spokesman Otterson.

He explained that for the first time Mormons would have to show a direct family lineage to the names they choose to enter for proxy baptism. In addition, computer instructions will inform members of the exemption for Holocaust victims and ask if the entries are in compliance with Church policy.

“The whole emphasis has changed and that is a very significant development,” he said.

Describing today’s announcement as “a statement of acknowledgment” rather than “an agreement,” Otterson said Mormon leaders recognize the Holocaust as “a unique situation — no crime in history has been better documented — and we wanted to be sensitive from the very beginning.”

He added that “this removes an obstacle” to greater cooperation between the Mormon and Jewish communities, with both sides noting a new willingness to explore opportunities to work together, particularly in the area of humanitarian aid on an international level.

Jewish leaders consider the Mormon Church a strong supporter of Israel, and Abrams observed that “we need as many friends and allies as possible.”

The Israeli government cooperated in the establishment of Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies on Mount Scopus. Before it opened in 1988, the campus was the subject of an international controversy, initiated by haredim concerned about the Church’s mission to proselytize. The matter was resolved when the Church pledged not to engage in missionary work among Jews in Israel.

The Mormon faith is believed to be the fastest growing religion in the world, and its numbers — about six million adherents in America and close to 13 million worldwide — appears to mirror those of world Jewry today.

In addition, both communities place an emphasis on family life, charitable giving, education and performing good deeds.

Rabbi Peter Rubinstein of Central Synagogue in Manhattan and a member of the New York delegation that visited Salt Lake City last year said he “came away amazed by the sense of volunteerism” he saw among Mormon young people. “Think of what we could do if we had that kind of commitment,” he said.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he is pleased that “the survivor community feels this issue has been addressed,” and added that it “removes an area of sensitivity and attention” in dealing with the Mormon community over Israel.

Jewish leaders initially sought to have the Church remove the names of all Jews from proxy baptism but gave up when they saw that would not happen.

Says survivor leader Michel, who served as professional head of UJA-Federation of New York from 1970 to 1989, “we are living in a very difficult and critical time, and as an American Jew, I felt we shouldn’t keep on fighting a church that principally is very friendly to the Jewish community and has created an important center in Israel.

“I am ready to live with reality,” he said. “We have enough.”

E-mail: Gary@jewishweek.org

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Mormons, listen up. I have placed a paragraph in my will instructing my heirs to set aside some money for a lawsuit... just in case they discover you ignorant, superstitious, pompous, self-important, self-righteous Mormons baptize me by proxy after my death. Note that I am not providing my name.

Oh my goodness. Let's say you do not believe at all in Mormon doctrine. Then you would not believe in baptisms for the dead, and basically all that would happen is somebody somewhere reads your name out and nothing happens after that. If you do believe, then well it's a good thing. See personally I am a Mormon, but I wouldn't mind if a bunch of other religions performed after-death rituals with my name because I don't believe it would do anything. It would simply show that they value me as a person, nothing more.

As a Mormon with some Jewish heritage, I have always had a great respect for the Jews. I do not tolerate Jew jokes, and I cry when I watch anything about the holocaust. For people who don't understand why Jews wouldn't want proxy baptisms done for holocaust victims, I would like to explain something. It is not necessarily a religious issue, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the Jews are trying to prevent us from performing an ordinance. It is because the victims of the holocaust died as Jewish martyrs, and the Jews probably just don't want the ancestors to be considered Mormon because they died for their faith. I am glad this issue was worked out and I look forward to greater brotherhood between our two religions.

I just thought it would be helpful to quote the New Testament scripture reference used by the LDS church that dates the practice of baptisms for deceased ancestors back to the times of early Christianity and likely prior to the birth of Jesus. "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:29, King James Version) I am quite happy to hear of the good harmony that exists among the two faiths. They share a lot in common.
Sharon, I understand your hurt and frustration. However, as a member of the Church, I do not believe this was intentional. I am an attorney in Salt Lake City; one of my closest and dearest friends in my firm is a member of the Jewish faith. Please know that my Church does not teach that it seeks to supplant Christianity or Judaism. Our 11th Article of Faith clearly states: “We claim the privilege of worshiping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.” Aside from members of the Jewish faith and heritage, I think you will find that Mormon Christians understand tolerance and the horrors of religious persecution more than any other faith. Prophets of our Church teach tolerance, understanding and compassion for all faiths in working together to provide peace and understanding in this world. There are numerous LDS writings on this belief of tolerance and acceptance for all faiths that you can find on LDS.org. In recent years, our prophets, seers and revelators have been very active in emphasizing this belief. If our leaders, who we deem as prophets, have entered into an Agreement with our Jewish brothers to assist in upholding the sanctity and security of your noble faith and heritage, then you can be assured that the Church members will do whatever we can to willingly honor that agreement in the spirit of love, unity and understanding. Warmest Regards, Jeff
I think that everything appears just. ¨Mormon¨ Doctrine has not been compromised as some may be unled. With this decision, both religious groups have an oppurtunity to function according to the dictates of their own conscience and that of their leaders. The difference is clear that only direct family members of Jewish descent with aproval of family members present may do ¨the work of salvation on behalf of the dead¨. This does not change doctrinal theology of the ¨Mormon¨ Church nor choose to ignore the requests of some members of the Jewish community. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, and as a human being, I have my convictiones. I would like to share them with you. Just as it would interest me to hear your convictions and learn from them. I speak of ¨communication¨. I believe .We should really ask to hear the best from everyone, ¨hear¨ their convictiones, and ask them what they like most of their religion, and how it has helped them, then start speaking about how our common bonds have helped us. This is something that has helped me with my friends many of whom differ in religious viewpoints. We have felt very good, we have felt strong feelings (a sensation that is difficult to describe, but that is invited in this form of respectful communication). This manner of communication has helped me feel a greater sattifaction inside, spiritual and those of my friends with whom I have talked with, and will help all of you I promise if you have enough character inside of you to share with friends not of your faith. This form of communication can help move religiones to work together. To make this world a better place, to fill it with guided leaders (political) (and religious) to replace those who seek to put their own understanding, wants before that of their ¨God¨. Everybody has their own beliefs, I invite everybody to understand them, so as to be their better friends. Everybody believes they are correct, and that is fine. Thats a Godly characteristic (because my beliefs are that ¨we are made in the image and likeness of God¨). Another godly characteristic is to be humble and ¨listen¨. I believe That this doctrinal theology will never change because it is in the divine design of Everyone who is in the earth who is progressing for the pursuit of happiness, to think they know everything, and to be humbled by our Creator for it, in order to learn and progress. My peronal belief and study is that History shows this pattern and practice of ¨Baptisms for the dead¨. Today we believe that we must do the same things as have always been. We believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The times and seasons change, but God is a constant variable, and so are his ordinances of his kingdom. May I share more of my convictions? It is also my belief When the Messiah comes he will be received by those who have prepared for his coming. Those who have built temples in his name. Not to save us in our sins, but of our sins. To purify us of sicknesses, physical and emotional, of misunderstanding. To redeem his people, to govern the earth. To liberate us from the true enemy of all humanity. (the inability to communicate, to understand.) To prepare for this time, I suggest that We ourselves must be made a pure temple, cleaned from influences that detract from our ability to understand from a genuine interest, one in the other.
@ Michael- As a Member of the "Mormon" Church i would absolutely welcome any member of any church to practice proxy work for my ancestors. My beliefs are not threatened by someone else's. @ Sharon, you really don't understand how this church works. I have to agree with the previous posts that explain that it is the individual members that tend to be a bit zealous, not the leaders of the church lying! Plus, has no one realized that family trees are enormous? Someone may be upset that a relative has been baptized and not realize that another descendant of that person is the one who requested the baptism!
This is absolutely correct. I have done Temple work for my Jewish family. Frankly, I've been tired of the infantile whinning and displays of anger that has been shown by ... just a handful... of neurotically sensitive Jews who have been fanning the fires of this issue. I also acknowledge the non-Jewish Mormon-haters who have been all to pleased to help fan these fires of divisiveness. Why do we cater to these people? I lived in a neighborhood of Holocaust victims and heard their crying and screaming at night caused by their memories. I'm fully aware of their pain. The leaders of the LDS Church cannot be patrolling all the actions of disobedient members who overstep the boundaries and do work for those not related to them. I, myself, just last week discovered work had been done for a famous family member of mine by someone not related to me. And such is life. Learn to let it go.
Fifteen years after Mormons eneter into an agreement with the Jews to discontinue this practice and remove every name of every dead Jew, they still continue and did not remove the names. I am curious to know if there are any Jews who actually believe that the Mormons are really going to stop this time. They even listed President Obama's dead mother as being batpitzed Mormon. When I found my dead gradma listed as a baptized mormon, I accused them of libel. When I demanded they remove her name, they argued with me, I then accused them of intentional infliction of emotional stress. Her name has been removed. The solution to this 15 year old problem is obvious to me, sue this 20 billion dollar a year industry and they will stop. Mormons are just one more christian organization claiming that they are here to replace another's faith. Christians believe they replace the Jews and Mormons bevieve they replace the Christians and the Jews. Another way to get this arrogant offensive behaviour to stop would be to create a data base and start listing dead mormons as practicing say, Islam.
It always touches my heart and make me feel good when I read comments shared by LDS because they are always full of love and kindness. In addition, 99% of the time they are reasonable and practical. In only shows that we truly "live" the gospel. Let us keep up the good work and good words and that even though the Mormon heritage were also full of pain and suffering in the beginning, we have always kept our sight forward believing that the Lord in all His Wisdom and Love will correct everything when the right time comes! And more power and love to our Jewish brothers and sisters!
As an LDS(Mormon) Church member, I know it has been taught over a decade ago that unrelated Holocaust victims were not to have their names submitted for Baptisms on behalf of the Dead. I don't think the LDS Leaders were being 2 faced; I think a few LDS members had too much zeal without wisdom about ignoring Church Leaders. Also, I have *never* heard any LDS Church members deny the Holocaust happened. You can't say that about some Religions! Yes, I would like to have better communication with the Jewish community as well.
Matt, that is beautiful. The perfect illustration of what we, members of the LDS faith, have as our intent when performing ordinances by proxy for the dead. We are not out to convert the dead, but to just make every blessing, in our understanding, available to those who have passed on if they choose to accept them. I'm a little disappointed that this concept has been so hard for everyone to grasp. Everything we do, we do out of love. If one doesn't believe our church is the true church of Christ on this earth, then why be threatened by our practices? I am in admiration of the compromise given and the efforts put forth to encourage further cooperation of faiths. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I will exercise faith in our leadership and support it. Heavenly Father knows what is going on here and has a plan with all of this. Perhaps right now our camaraderie with our Jewish brothers and sisters needs to take precedence over the work for their dead. I'm sure Heavenly Father is keeping them close with assurances that there will be a time in the future when their work will go forth once more.
I'm a Mormon, but my father and his parentage is Moslem. When I heard his mother had made a trip to Mecca, not just once, but several times on behalf of her Mormon grandchildren in hopes of ensuring their salvation, my response was, "How sweet that she should do this on my behalf; that she would want to make every blessing, in her understanding, available to me." That is the essence of the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. Her efforts didn't change my beliefs, but they made me appreciate her more.
Reply to Gary. Gary if you do geneology and are worried about not finding your ancestors you would probably love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That's right. You're probably not an atheist. You might just be a Mormon.
There are times when Mormon general authorities must grow weary of trying to shepherd goats. They announce clear guidelines against gratuitous proxy baptisms of Jewish holocaust victims and independent thinking church members think they know better and ignore even their own prophet. (Isaiah 53:6) On the other hand, I have taken courses at Yeshiva University and the YIVO, where one can experience among only 4 participants 5 or more strongly debated view points on any one issue. I have to ask, "Where in all of Jewry, or even within the state of Israel for that matter, could Mormons go to seek the level and standard of community-wide consideration and compliance that Jews have required and received of Mormons?" Now let's move on in union. We are alike surrounded by ravenous beasts.
The LDS Church has a lengthy friendship with those of the Jewish faith. This is just one bump in the road to that friendship which thankfully now appears to have been resolved.
As a member of the LDS Church, I see this as a welcome step forward. To our Jewish friends, I hope you will see previous missteps as being borne of over-enthusiasm rather than ill will; and I hope you will see the current effort as a sign of our sincere consideration for your feelings and beliefs. To my Mormon friends, I hope we can support the leadership in the decisions that they have made on this matter. Nobody is being denied the ability to perform proxy work for their own kindred dead; should the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust request that proxy work be done for their kindred dead, the door for that is open. What is being recognized here is that, just as we claim the right to stand in the place of our own kindred dead, we respect the right of others to represent their own kindred dead, and to decline that these ordinances be performed if they so choose. The Jewish concern for their ancestors is every bit as real as our concern for ours, even if they manifest themselves in different ways.
I wonder why our Jewish brethren don't join our Church (i.e., Mormon Church,) since we believe in the Book of Mormon, which we believe is the record of ancient Jewish prophets that migrated from Jerusalem into America, back in 600 B.C. As someone said, we are probably the more pro-Jewish religion in the world... Therefore, I wonder if any Jewish person that have read the Book of Mormon (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/contents) would be willing to share the reasons that prevent him/her from joining our Church, or at least getting indirectly involved with our practices, such as the baptism for the deads, which I udestand had their roots based in Judaism. On the other hand, I don't understand the issue concerned to the after-death ordinances that our Church performs on behalf of some Jewish people, based on the fact that: (1) they have been performed only after a dead's relative has solicited it, and (2) that according to Jewish's doctrinal beliefs our ordinances would have no real effect on the dead's souls, if they believe that our doctrine or faith is not true. I would really appreciate any comments comming from Jewish people, with experience and knowledge required to comment on these matters. You can reply to my e-mail address: hernan.moraga.muller@gmail.com Sincerely, HERNAN MORAGA Quebec, CANADA
In my recent indepth study of the Old Testament I have gained a great love and respect for our heritage. Four of my genealogical lines go back through Judah making me a decendent of Father Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as Judah but I am not considered Jewish today although still a children of Isreal. Please help me understand what the insensitivity issues are here ...if I submit an ancestial name of mine for whatever purpose even a future baptism. I just dont get it. Could there be a fear that the holocaust victim in their misery came to know their higher power (the God Abraham Isaac and Jacob) and may accept this baptism? What is it that Mormons do that is being insensitive to the holocaust survivors?
I was born and raised Jewish and had many relatives killed in the Holocaust. I'm an atheist now. My take on this is that if you think you are Jewish but you believe Mormon rituals have an effect on your ancestors, you may actually be a Mormon, because you apparently believe in that religion. All this controversy has accomplished in the real world is to make it more difficult for genealogists (like me) to find information about their relatives who died in the Shoah. And that's a shame.
Mormons can still submit names of Holocaust victims, the policy below has been the policy, the only change is the software the LDS Church uses and perhaps the steps for submitting a Holocaust victims name. Restricted Submissions Church members should not submit individuals that they are not related to (with the exception of close friends as described above). This includes: * Jewish Holocaust victims. Members cannot do the ordinances for Jewish Holocaust vicitims except under the following conditions: o They are an immediate family member of the deceased (defined as parents, spouse, or children), or o They have permission of all living immediate family members, or o They have permission of the closest living relative if no immediate family members are living.
To me, one who is LDS and just participated in baptisms for the dead last week in the Dallas temple, one of the most sacred ordinances we practice, it feels like being spit in the face. I don't see what is offensive about baptisms for the dead. The fact that the church submissivley buckled to this possition is a mistake. I have Jewish ancestry who moved to San Francisco in in 1800's and have done much of their work. I can't immagine telling any other faith to discontinue their sacred ordinances. It would be like demanding the jews to immediatley stop prepairing a place for Elijah during passover since we believe he has returned and by placing a cup for him it's an insult to our beleifs. We wouldn't do that. So why are we told not to practice baptims they don't believe in?
Not to worry, Mormon individuals can still do temple work for their own family regardless of the heritage, though it may be more difficult to get approved for family members that are holocaust victims. It is the practice of doing work for these Jewish victims who are not related that is being put to rest. This is very reasonable request from Jewish people. The policy was in place a few years back but not everybody would follow it. If I understand correctly the biggest controversy was how it was/was not being implemented to insure work was not being done by non-family that has been settled. My personal belief is that when the Messiah comes there will not be anything holding people back from doing the work that needs to get done and then there will be plenty of time to do it. I've heard rumor that it we might even have 1,000 years or so;). In the mean time there is plenty of other work to do.
Anonymous-- In order to perform Baptisms for the Dead in the Dallas Temple, you would be required to hold a Temple Recommend. The LDS Temple Recommend requires that members of the Church meet certain strict worthiness requirements. One of these requirements is that you "sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints... members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators... [and] other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church". It was the General Authorities of the Church that worked so hard to come to a decision so important is this. It would be your obligation, as a "Temple Worthy" member of the Church, to sustain their decision. There are many things within the Gospel that we may never understand in this lifetime, and this may be one of them. If you find yourself troubled over a the decisions of the Church, seek revelation and confirmation through prayer and study, just as you gained the current testimony of what you now believe. Let's not breed contention over the decisions of the men whom we sustain as our Prophets and Leaders.
I totally agree with your comment.
My feelings towards Jews are such that I need to point out that they have been targeted mostly by those who called themselves "Christians" ever since the first century AC. I cannot forget the slaughter of innocent men, women and children massacred in Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon in 1099 (Jews and Muslims alike) until his soldiers/knights had to walk knee-deep in blood and corpses. It was that event remembered as a massive break between Jews and Muslims that lasted until today. Never to forget is the Holocaust in WWII during which my father (a non-Jew) was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp (Kamp Erika) near the eastern border of Germany. I know what it feels like. Since the first century, those who called themselves Christians have forced conversions upon the Jews. Ther still is a sign placed above the entrance of a church deliberately placed in front of the only entrance/exit of the Roman ghetto ordered by pope Paul IV in 1555 in Rome to warn "I spread out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good", and issued his bull "Cum Nimis Absurdum (Enough is Enough", to place 4000 Jews in a one square mile walled enclosure. Hence, no Christian, or whatever they call themselves, has any right to convert or do otherwise convert (or in this case baptism for the dead unless asked by the Jewish person him/herself) except by the Messiah when He returns to His people in Jerusalem. Hands off! The time is at hand for the Jews everywhere to see better things happen, even though bad times may get worse. The Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuild and the blessings of the promises given to the Jews wll all be fulfilled no matter what small and/or large nations (Muslim/Christian) may try to control Jewish destiny. For me, I will rejoice with them when it happens, and they will partake of everything and more that the world had to offer today.
I am a Mormon. My great-great-grandpa was baptized by Joseph Smith, he then spent his life in service to the church and carried out very difficult tasks in the settling of Southern Utah. He spent his last years in hiding because he was a polygamist. Each of his 4 wives were taken at the request of Brigham Young, starting at 19 when he married a middle-aged woman with a young son. Throughout his life, what he did, he did in service to his God. I want him to always be remembered as a Mormon, and as someone that gave his life for his faith. In a day when our children will satisfy all of their curiosities through "googleing", it is easy for me to be sensitive to the concern that children of holocaust survivors have, that Jewish martyrs are documented as something other than Jewish martyrs, anywhere, especially in digital databases. Although I believe in the temple ordinances and in the freewill of the dead to choose or reject them, I cannot expect living peoples of other faiths to accept the memory of their martyrs tarnished by another church's efforts to save souls. I am so very hopeful that Jews and Latter-day Saints can work together without such tensions.
Are there any comments to this article? How do I see the comments?
Speaking as one Mormon of millions, During my upbringing (as Mormon) the Jewish people and their religion was always spoken with respect and with a sort of reverence. As a teenager after learning about the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust my feelings of love for the Jewish people was only deepened. This is a part of who Mormons are. (at least the ones I know) It would be against all that we (Mormons) hold dear to intentionally or unintentionally hurt the Jewish survivors of the holocaust or their families. I'm grateful that things were able to be worked out in regards to the proxy baptisms. I hope and pray that those doing the genealogy/proxy baptisms work will respect and follow the policies that have been put in place.
As a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and having recently spent 10 exhilirating days in Israel, I must express my deep affinity to my Jewish brothers and sisters. I welcome every step that members of our two faiths take to bring us closer. I see the common yearnings of virtually all people to rightly receive the respect from others that is born of understanding the others' views. May it ever be so. May it ever increase in the world among all nations, tongues, and people. This is one Mormon who prays for the Peace of Jerusalem. I invite every good hearted person to join in. Shalom!
If the mormon missionaries knock on my door, I politely tell them i'm not interested. Why can't dead people just say, "I'm not interested." I fail to understand how people are hurt by this action. Are you in pain if someone knocks on your door? Are in pain if someone knocks on my door? Be polite, and say no thanks. What the Jews should have done was said, "God has given us liberty in this life and the next life. We choose not to take our ancestors' liberty away. We hope they don't accept the baptism, but we will not take away our ancestors' liberty. Good luck to the Mormons in their efforts to bring peace, joy, and love to this world, we look forward to working with them."
Amen to that.
What a great development! I enjoyed the article. I am a 36 year old Mormon man, and have a deep respect for Jewish culture and heritage. May the holocaust survivors be forever blessed, may we all remember the awful atrocities committed against those innocent people, and may it never be repeated on any people.
As a member of the LDS church I am glad to see this cooperation.
I am Mormon who has a deep affinity with the theology of Judaism and also a great sympathy to the sensitivity this issue raises for the Jewish community. I appreciate very much the thoughtful and analytical contribution Mr. Rosenblatt has made through this article to greater understanding of and cooperation between our faiths and our adherents.
To All Jews World-wide As a fourth generation Mormon, I can say that my family and the other Mormons I personally know have nothing but the highest regard for the Jewish people of the world. We feel a kinship to them because of our common ancient scriptures. We appreciate and reverence the Jewish ancestry of Jesus and consider ourselves brothers and sisters to all Jewish people even thought we have some differences in who and what we worship. We like many Jewish groups in history have been persecuted, pillaged, and plundered; my own Great grandparents being among those subject to the Missouri Extermination Order signed by Governor Wilburn Boggs in the late 1830s. That we occasionally desire to share our faith with our Jewish friends is only evidence of our high regard for them asd children of God and our personal good friends. Should a terrorist nation every go to war against Israel, you can be certain that your Mormon friends worldwide will do all they can to relieve the suffering and rebuild what has been destroyed, even your homes, synagogues and other places of worship. We have provided such help in many nations across the world and we don't leave as soon and the journalists consider the story old and abandon future reports. We consider the Jewish as kindred spirits and friends and you can count on us as Mormon people to do all we can to foster friendship and admiration for the Jewish people and their history. The way the Jewish leaders of Holocaust Descendants dealt with the baptism controversy demonstrated to me that you are good people and worthy of respect and admiration. May our friendship continue through the difficult times that lie ahead. Your Friend In Portland, Oregon
It is nice for people of different faiths to find common ground, especially in the instance of these storied faiths both whom have persecuted for merely having different beliefs. Maybe some other groups will take the hint from these groups and find out what they have in common,not what their differences are. An example for therest of us to follow. Shalom and Amen!
Why should anyone care what these Mormons do? It has no effect on reality. Holocaust victims are no longer alive and cannot make these decisions. If there is an afterlife, the dead already know what the answers are and cannot be fooled. For all I care, the Mormons can vicariously convert me while I am still alive; it will have no effect. It's not as if they are then going to force me to live in Utah; that might be worse than death.
I would encourage you to check out mormon doctrines. Mormons believe they are here to restore both christians and jews to mormonism. If this issues is ignored, how long will it take for any living Jew to have no jewish ancestory?
You are wrong about one thing:living in Utah is (almost) like having died and gone to heaven. This is something you could actually check out (unlike "afterlife".)
Been there. Nice place to visit but I wouldn't like to live there.
You won't find a more pro-jewish, pro-israel, christian group than mormons. Who really cares what happens after your dead. We have problems enough right now on earth,
Mormons are not pro Jewish. Mormons believe they are here to restore all faiths to mormonism.
I am a Holocaust Survivor. What the Mormons do, or do not, has no effect on my murdered relatives. It will neither hurt them nor bring them back.
I am impressed by your comment about how "wht the Mormons do or do not do has not effect on your murdered relatives" YOu are absolutely right. And what everyone fails to forget is that God gave each and everyone of us the most prescious gift besides life itself and that is the gift of "Free Agency" to choose for ourselves and whether or not your deceased loved one has had this ordinance performed for them, clearly does not make that individual a Mormon by membership. After all, they too were given their freedom to choose, accept or reject the work the Mormons do. THat is their priviledge and right. ANd It really is an act of love on the part of the Mormons when you think about it. But even Mormons accept that the individual has the right to choose. AS far as you being a Holocast victum, I respect you and have deep sadness for what happened to you and your family and community. I have made sure my daughter who is 16 years old know what happened to you and your loved ones. We make it a point to watch documentaries so we don't forget what is most important in this world and that is humanity and that we need to love one another. Please know that we love you and we learn love, compassion, and heartbreak for each other no matter what religion or faith we are from.
I applaud the Church's decision and efforts in this area, and I am glad that a workable compromise could be achieved to address the injuries and pains caused by this practice to Holocaust victims and their descendants. As a matter of good will and respect for others, I would hope to see an extension of this exclusion process implemented by the Church. I would suggest that a process be made available to the general public to allow non-Church members to indicate that they opt-out of such baptisms now and forever, and that the choice they make be made irrevocable by anyone other than that person themself. This would prevent anyone, including a relative, from acting contrary to the wishes of the person during their life, or at any future time. Given the existence of the technology and systems now in place, I would think it a relatively simple matter to activate the appropriate mechanisms, in order to further reduce the possibility of offensive results in future. Thank you.
Seems like these ancestors might have descendants that could disagree on what they want for them.
As a member, and not an authority, of the Mormon Church, I think I can answer your question, and I do so, with the greatest respect. As you may know, our church is formed under the premise that Jesus Christ, who was a Rabbi, a Rabboni, formed his own church, and we believe that he was the Son of God. The official name of the church is not the Mormon Church, but it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If that is true, if he WAS the Son of God and if he DID form his own church, then would that not be the True Church? While I realize that you, being Jewish, may disagree, and while I also realize that you may be right, that there IS a chance that that may not be true, I am banking on the possibility that it IS true, so I am a Mormon, while you are banking on the possibility that it is false, so you are Jewish. Now, what would happen if you were to die and find yourself face to face with Jesus Christ and find out for yourself that he IS the Son of God and that his church IS true? Remember, you’re dead, so you cannot do anything about it. Now how would you feel if Jesus were to say to you, "Do not worry. You’re in luck. A Mormon has been baptized in your honor by proxy baptism. You may decide whether to accept it and join me and have your chance to go to the Celestial Kingdom [the highest kingdom], or you may choose not to accept it, and thus only have a chance to go to the Telestial Kingdom [the lowest of the three kingdoms]. Would you like to accept that baptism?" How would you feel? Would you be grateful? Of course, this IS hypothetical and based on OUR Mormon beliefs. And please allow me to add that this baptism is not mandatory for the receiver to accept. Once the baptism has been made, we believe that either a spirit representative (an Angel) or Jesus himself, will approach the person and ask if he or she would like to accept the baptism, and that that person IS granted the freewill agency to say no. On the other hand, how would you feel if he were to say, "Oh! You were Jewish! Well, if you were any other religion, then you could accept this baptism, but because of a deal made between your church and mine, we could not be baptized in your honor, so you cannot accept this. Sorry!" How would you then feel? As a Mormon, I feel that this is unfair that we have to do that, because I feel that of all the religions in the WORLD that the Jewish should be the FIRST in the pecking order to have this chance to accept this kind of baptism, because after all, Jesus WAS Jewish! But sadly, now we cannot offer that to them.
It seems clear from this article that the Mormon Church has learned greater empathy for the victims of the genocide and extended significant concessions, but it seems somewhat one-sided. What has Abrams learned about the Mormon practice of proxy baptism and why Mormons consider it a supremely gracious offer? Can he see and empathize with the Mormon perspective that latter-day saints are genuinely offering help to the deceased?
Its a matter of perspective. Would Mormons be offended if some group somewhere were to offer resignation by proxy for the names of those who have been baptized? Or if a Catholic group were to begin to baptize dead Mormons by proxy in a "correct" trinitarian formula? The offense is taken in that people of one religion don't feel "help" or a "gracious offer" from another group is necessary for their dead. It strikes at their beliefs, their faith, to the very core. Empathy for the practice of one's religious beliefs is fine, but when those beliefs materially or spiritually impact those of another, certainly you can see the result. You called the empathy one sided. It is necessarily so. The Jewish community was doing NOTHING that would impact negatively the sensibilities of the Mormon community. The entire issue was one sided to begin with, the LDS seeing nothing but the "blessings" they were supposedly bestowing on the dead of the Holocaust, and apparently surprised that the Jewish survivors didn't see it their way. I respect the LDS's right to their belief, but they can be extremely myopic when considering how others will percieve their practices.

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