LDS Struggle to Keep Proxy Baptisms Appropriate Baptisms For the Dead Stir Controversy
Date:10/09/1999 Edition: Final Section: Religion Page: C1
BY BOB MIMS, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Four years after the LDS Church agreed to stop posthumous baptisms for Jewish Holocaust victims, perhaps the best-known of death camp martyrs Anne Frank and members of her family continue to pop up in Mormon temple and genealogical records.
Further, the records show temple work has also been done vicariously for the Holocaust's chief perpetrator, Adolf Hitler, and many of his Nazi henchmen.
Church officials acknowledge the renegade records are thorns in the flesh, but they insist they have done their best to honor their 1995 agreement to keep Holocaust victims out of temple rites -- and to eradicate records for "fictitious or inappropriate" figures, like Hitler, when they are discovered. . .
Mormons believe proxy baptisms give the dead an opportunity to join the church in the spirit world. Similarly, dead spouses and their children can be "sealed" for eternity, just as living Latter-day Saints enter into eternal marriages and families are "sealed" together in the faith's temples. Only Mormons "in good standing" i.e. those who regularly tithe, live moral and law-abiding lives and adhere to the church's prohibitions against alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea are issued "temple recommend" cards that allow entry to temples. . . church genealogical records contain a "Who's Who" of historical figures targeted for Mormon baptism for the dead, family sealings and marriages in the hereafter.
The list spans both the noble and ignoble, famous and infamous. On one hand is a host of Roman Catholic popes and saints, among them Joan of Arc, Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, the latter now listed as married, or sealed, despite lifelong celibacy.
Columbus also is there, sealed to a Beatriz Enriquez Haran the explorer's mistress; so are Buddha and the mysterious "Mrs. Buddha." King Henry the VIII, along with several of his six wives, have appeared in church genealogical records, along with the Communist foursome of Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and Ho Chi-Minh.
It is harder to understand why some Mormons choose to offer posthumous salvation to history's tyrants and madmen. Herod the Great, whom the Gospels recount massacred Bethlehem's infant boys in an unsuccessful bid to kill Jesus, was baptized in the Logan Temple in 1994; Ivan the Terrible, Dracula (Vlad "The Impaler," Prince of Wallachia) and Rasputin, spiritual adviser to the doomed Romanov family of Imperial Russia, also have cropped up in church files.
And then there is Hitler, whose dreams of a German Third Reich resulted in the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews and the deaths of tens of millions of others during World War II.
It took only seconds recently to retrieve Der Fuehrer's record and that of wife Eva Braun from the LDS Church's Ancestral File via the FamilySearch Internet site...
...The fact that such figures of infamy continue to crop up in LDS genealogical records at all angered Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which operates the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
"Whether official or not, the fact remains that this is exactly the kind of activity that enraged and hurt, really, so many victims of the Holocaust and caused alarm in the Jewish community," Cooper said. "Whatever framework in which it is presented, the notion of performing these sort of rites for Hitler, Himmler and other Nazis. . .is beyond [understanding].
"It also can be utilized by forces who always are looking to marginalize the murderous behavior of the Nazis and in many ways try to rehabilitate them," he added. "Even if that wasn't the goal of the people who did this, in the real world that is what could happen.". . .