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Posted 07 May 2001   For week ended May 04, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 03May01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Church Will Remove More Jews from Baptismal Records

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- A Salt Lake City genealogist recently discovered the names of more than 200 notable Jews in the LDS Church's records of baptisms for the dead, in violation of a 1995 agreement with Jewish organizations. The discovery has now lead to renewed controversy over the practice and a new agreement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remove the names. Genealogist Helen Radkey discovered the names in her research and alterted the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which negotiated the new agreement with the Church.

The list of names includes many notable Jews of the past century, including Sigmund Freud, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and relatives of holocaust victim Anne Frank. Weisenthal Center senior researcher Aaron Breitbart says that Jews find the baptism of their ancestors offensive. "These people were born Jews, they lived as Jews and many of them died because they were Jews," Breitbarttold the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday. "They would not have chosen to be baptized Mormons in life, and there is no reason they would want to be baptized by proxy in death."

Under a deal negotiated with the Church, the names on a list of more than 200 Jews will be removed from the Church' records. In addition, Wiesenthal Center staff will work with the Church to find ways to prevent the addition of Jews in the future.

The Church first faced the vocal objections of Jews to posthumous baptism in 1995, when an article in the New York-based Jewish newspaper The Forward disclosed that many Jews, including thousands of holocaust victims, had been baptized posthumously. The resulting controversy led the Church to reach an agreement with several Jewish organizations that called for the names to be removed.

According to LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills, the names removed number in the hundreds of thousands, and Church genealogists are looking for ways to filter out Jews from future work. From that time the Church's policy asks members not to submit the names of Jews unless the names submitted are their direct ancestors or unless the immediate family members of the deceased consent in writing. However, the Salt Lake Tribune credited "zealous mormons" who submit the names of "prominent historical and religious figures" for the presence of the names in Church records.

Bills emphasizes that with records that number in the billions, submitted and maintained by volunteers and open to any amateur genealogist, identifying and removing one class of people is next to impossible. As most genealogists know, the original records don't necessarily indicate a person's race, religion or heritage, and the Church's records don't necessarily include that information in the data collected.

Many Mormons simply don't understand the objections of Jews to the practice. To Mormons, baptism is a sacred ordinance necessary for salvation, and the practice of posthumous baptisms simply allows the departed the choice of accepting -- or rejecting -- the ordinance. In addition, Mormons claim a kinship with the Jews, believing Mormonism to be an extension of the Jewish beliefs, along with a belief in a Messiah that has already come. This leads Mormons to see the practice as important for decesased Jews.

Many Jews, however, find the practice offensive, something akin to the forced baptism of Jews prracticed for centuries in Europe during the Middle Ages. Others see the practice as an anti-semitic attempt to diminish the place of Jews. "During the Crusades, Jewish people were given the choice of baptism or death. While many chose death, many of them did not get a choice. They were baptized against their will," says Breitbart. "Though that occurred in the Middle Ages, it still sticks in our craw."


LDS Try to End Unauthorized Work for Jews
Salt Lake Tribune 2May01 N1
By Bob Mims: Salt Lake Tribune

Mormon church to remove names of 200 Jews baptized after death
Riverside CA Press-Enterprise (AP) 2May01 N1
Associated Press

LDS Struggle to Keep Proxy Baptisms Appropriate


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