Summarized by Rosemary Pollock
LDS Struggle to Keep Proxy Baptisms Appropriate
Salt Lake Tribune 9Oct99 N6
By Bob Mims: Salt Lake Tribune
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' well-known practice
of posthumous baptisms, has come under attack for Jewish Holocaust
victims, noble and ignoble historical figures and other questionable
submissions by members of the Mormon faith.
Church officials have acknowledged their concern for renegade records
and are doing their best to honor their 1995 agreement to keep Holocaust
victims out of temple rites and to eradicate "fictious and
inappropriate" figures like, Hitler.
Members are encouraged to limit their submissions of names for
vicarious temple work to their own ancestors. Yet, the list of tyrants
and madmen exists. Herod the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Dracula, Hitler
& Eva Braun, Buddha, King Henry the VIII and Marx and Stalin are only a
few of the submissions that are under question.
An anonymous member of the church from Salt Lake City said, "I firmly
believe (Hitler) will be in Outer Darkness, but I am not the judge."
The man quoted a plaque that is posted near the elevator in the Salt
Lake Temple that gives doctrine from the scripture Doctrine and
Covenants: "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive but of you it
is required to forgive all men."
Church spokesman, Michael Purdy, cleared up any questions regarding
this issue. "Policy is to remove them as soon as possible. Moreover,
in the case of the names in question, Hitler, Eichmann, etc., the temple
ordinance work for these individuals has already been nullified," Purdy
Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has
always had praise for the faith, in particular the work of the Mormon
genealogists who helped support restitution claims from World War II
financial institutions on behalf of Holocaust victims. Yet, he had this
to say. "Whether official or not, the fact remains that this is exactly
the kind of thing that enraged and hurt, really, so many victims of the
Holocaust and caused alarm in the Jewish community."
"Whatever framework in which it is presented, the notion of performing
these sort of rites for Hitler, Himmler and Nazis....is beyond
(understanding). "Since 1995, there has been a new spirit in terms of
relations and activities in many quarters even a sense of trust (between
Jews and Mormons)," Cooper said. "This kind of behavior, showing up in
official documentation of the church hurts that."
Lisa Davidson, a spokeswoman for the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyr and
Heroes Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem also called for more stringent
measures to prevent improper submissions.
Purdy responded, "Members of the church have a preeminent obligation
to their own ancestors (and) should not submit for temple ordinance work
the names of celebrities and non-approved groups."
The Most Rev. George Niederauer, bishop of the 100,000-strong Catholic
Diocese of Salt Lake City, cast a different light. "I don't take it as
an insult to my faith in large part because I don't think it was meant
as one," he said. "If there is not harm intended, why should I concoct
harm?" "I really don't believe that Joan of Arc and Ignatius Loyola are
bent out by this," he said.