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For week ended October 10, 1999 Posted 24 Oct 1999

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LDS Struggle to Keep Proxy Baptisms Appropriate

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 said.

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 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.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information