Posthumous Baptisms Continue, as LDS Church Lays Claim to Anne Frank
The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have posthumously baptized another notable Jewish figure this past week. Anne Frank, the fifteen year old youth who perished in the Holocaust, was the latest victim of the practice that has piqued the anger of a number of prominent Jewish authorities. In addition to Anne Frank, the families of Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal were reportedly slated for the ritual in recent weeks, leaving the Mormon Church apologetic and practitioners of different faiths in a strange situation.
Posthumous proxy baptisms are conducted by members of the Mormon congregation, and the purpose of the activity is to offer the deceased another opportunity to embrace the Mormon Kingdom of Heaven. The Church’s doctrine dictates that Mormonism cannot be hoisted upon the dead without their consent, but Jewish authorities contend that, regardless of the religious implications, the utilization of this measure to grant salvation undermines Holocaust victims, especially, whose deaths were perpetrated in the name of Judaism. It attempts to cloud the religious identifications of the deceased victims, opponents say, and, from a Jewish perspective, appreciably contributes to the denial of the Holocaust, an issue of increasing concern among Jews as the number of survivors continue to dwindle. When genealogical databases associate prominent Jewish figures, such as Anne Frank, with words like “Baptism,” a misleading example is left for future Holocaust deniers to exploit.
Helen Radkey is an investigator in Salt Lake City who has played a significant role in notifying the public of some of the controversial aspects of the Mormon practice of proxy baptism. She tied the introduction of Anne Frank into the Mormon database to an LDS church in the Dominican Republic. Representatives of the church allege the perpetrators of such callous crimes are adequately punished, and suggest they are making the greatest efforts to ensure that worshippers of differing faiths do not take offense with the well-intentioned Mormon ritual.
“We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names,” said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the LDS church. “We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person’s ability to access our genealogy records.”
“It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the Church’s policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention,” the church added in a statement Tuesday.
The Apostolic practice of proxy baptisms are performed regularly in temple fonts worldwide. One church member immerses himself in the ritual pool, while another recites a list of names. Those names have included many renowned personalities, including: Joan of Arc, Charlie Chaplin, and Marilyn Monroe. Jewish authorities have striven to craft a mutually agreeable relationship with the LDS church in recent years, but the baptisms have repeatedly complicated matters. In 2010, a meeting held between leaders of the two congregations led to an agreement to refocus attention on the disrespectful baptisms of Holocaust victims. While Jews had been generally used for the practice in previous years, both sides concluded that baptizing Jewish martyrs was an especially distasteful ritual. The problem has unfortunately continued to resurface.
Some, however, see disillusionment with the Mormon rituals as deeply irreligious. By taking offense with the Mormon ritual, Jews have essentially ascribed a modicum of authenticity to the efficacy of proxy baptisms. Recent statements made by prominent officials, however, demonstrate that fallacy, rather than fear, is the source of growing fury with the Mormon ritual.
“We believe the Mormon Church is trying to act in good faith to live up to its agreement to prevent the names of any Jewish Holocaust victims from being submitted for posthumous baptism,” Abraham Foxman of the ADL said in a formal statement. “They understand that this issue is extremely important to the Jewish people, as Holocaust victims died precisely because they were Jewish. Listing Jews as ‘Christian’ on one of the most researched genealogical sites in the world inadvertently aids and abets denial of the Holocaust.”
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