Despite a directive from Mormon leaders to stop posthumously baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims into the Mormon faith, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have continued the practice by adding numerous concentration camp victims to its roll of names offered conversion in the afterlife.
A New York Jewish organization is so outraged that it has asked U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton to intervene, prompting a meeting in early March between the former first lady and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, an LDS church member, The Associated Press has learned.
“It was a private meeting between two senators,” Clinton said when declining to comment.
Likewise, Hatch, through a spokesman, wouldn’t comment, calling it a private matter.
Proxy baptisms are conducted in Mormon temples and offer salvation to the dead.
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Church members stand-in to be dunked in water in the names of the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required to get to heaven.
However, the practice has caused tension with members of other faiths, especially Jews who find it arrogant and insulting.
Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said he asked Clinton to intervene to force the Mormon church to abide by a 1995 agreement to stop the posthumous baptisms.
It’s an agreement the church has reaffirmed only to have watchdogs find new Holocaust victims added to church’s database of 400 million names — each of which has had, or will eventually receive, a proxy baptism.
“We are very hopeful that we will be able to convince the church to stop,” Michel said.
If not, his group will consider other options, including possible legal action.
Under the 1995 agreement, the church directed its members not to include the names of unrelated persons, celebrities and nonapproved groups, such as Jewish Holocaust victims, for its “baptisms for the dead.”
Church leaders preparing for the today’s funeral of Majorie Pay Hinckley, wife of Mormon church president Gordon B. Hinckley, were not immediately available for comment.
In a Nov. 14, 2003, letter from church elder D. Todd Christofferson to Michel, Christofferson said the church did not agree to find and remove the names of all deceased Jews in its database.
“That would be an impossible undertaking,” Christofferson wrote. However, 400,000 names of Holocaust victims were removed and the church continues to delete names when asked.
The baptisms have long been a source of frustration for Jews.
“It’s ridiculous for people to pretend they have the key to heaven,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“And even if they say they want to do somebody a favor . . . it’s not a symbol of love. It’s a symbol of arrogance.”