Mormon leaders to followers: Stop posthumous baptisms of celebrities ...
89.3 KPCC reported
Mormons around the world are getting this warning Sunday: Stop posthumous baptisms of "unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims."
"Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors," says a letter to be read in every Mormon congregation. "Those whose names are submitted for proxy [baptisms] should be related to the submitter."
Mormons who continue to embarrass the faith by submitting the names of celebrities and Holocaust victims for the proxy baptism rite will lose access to the Mormon genealogical records, the letter warns. "Other corrective action may also be taken," it says.
The letter is signed by church President Thomas Monson and his two "counselors" in the Mormon First Presidency, the top leadership of the faith.
The warning follows an avalanche of criticism about the Mormon practice of baptizing deceased souls into the faith. In recent weeks, an excommunicated Mormon who continues to do genealogical research in church baptism records has found the names of prominent Jews and Holocaust victims, including Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter captured and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.
"We welcome this as an important step," says Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor.
"Church members should understand why proxy baptisms are so offensive to the Jewish people," Foxman adds, citing "near annihilation during the Holocaust simply because they were Jewish" and "forced conversions throughout history."
Jewish leaders first raised concerns about the practice and the inclusion of Holocaust victims in 1992. Several meetings with Mormon leaders in the two decades since have resulted in promises to remove the names of Holocaust victims from Mormon baptism rolls and to screen baptism lists for those who died in concentration camps.
But some Mormons continued to place the names on baptism lists and conduct proxy baptisms in which the name of the deceased is read aloud while a living proxy is immersed in water.