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18 February 2012

Mormon church defends ritual of baptizing the dead

February 17, 2012

Kansas City Star (Missouri)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has apologized for a Mormon who baptized the late parents of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

But despite calls this week from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and others to rethink the controversial rite, the church is unlikely to drop it entirely.

Latter-day Saints trace posthumous baptism to the Apostle Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:29: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead not rise at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, their faith’s founding prophet, restored the apostolic practice after centuries of neglect by mainstream Christians.

Proxy baptism was also Smith’s answer to a classic Christian conundrum: What happens to people who, through no fault of their own, did not join the church during their lifetime? Should they be barred from heaven?

Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom.


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FAITH & VALUES: Mormons apologize for posthumous Jewish baptism

February 17, 2012

North County Times (California)

Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized, a controversial ritual that Mormons believe allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but offends members of many other religions.

Wiesenthal died in 2005 after surviving the Nazi death camps and spending his life documenting Holocaust crimes and hunting down perpetrators who remained at large. Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion, and the baptism of Holocaust survivors was supposed to have been barred by a 1995 agreement.

Yet records indicate Wiesenthal’s parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized in proxy ceremonies performed by Mormon church members at temples in Arizona and Utah in late January.

In a statement, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the baptismal rites.

“We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center.


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The Mormon card is now being played against Mitt Romney

February 17, 2012

Daily Mail (United Kingdom)

Mitt Romney is in an impossible situation. He’s a devout man who has stayed true to his faith and to his family. But unlike Rick Santorum, who is a Catholic, Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – a Mormon – whose religion is considered strange and suspect by many Americans.

Now, that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do after Mormon church leaders apologised to the family of Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate who died in 2005, after his parents were posthumously baptised – a hugely controversial practice that the church outlawed in 1995.

Eli Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and also a Holocaust survivor, has dragged Romney into it by telling MSNBC: ‘Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and I respect all religions, including the Mormon religion. How come he hasn’t spoken up after all?

‘It’s not, I’m sure he’s not involved in that. But nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up, because he is running for the presidency of the United States, which means it’s too serious of an issue for him not to speak up.’


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Pastor’s Corner: Are Mormons Christians?

February 18, 2012

Times-Herald (Georgia)

Mormon leaders want to blur the lines of doctrinal differences, claiming their sect is just one among many denominations. In their world the worst thing you can be is an apostate — someone who left the Mormon Church. The LDS Church warns its members about reading literature not published by LDS.

Mormons argue they are Christians, claiming that anyone is Christian if they profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. When speaking with a Mormon, it often will not be long before they will start to share their testimony. They “know these things are true” because they think they have had feelings given by God.

Mormonism cannot be considered orthodox Christianity because the religion itself begins with a rejection of historic Christianity.

The Earth is one of several inhabited planets ruled over by gods and goddesses, who were at one time humans on other planets. Mormonism is polytheistic — multiple gods — in its core.


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Is it really true there isn’t one Mormon living in South County?

February 17, 2012

WPRI (Rhode Island)

Slate posted a map showing the share of Mormons in each county across the United States. Unsurprisingly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has relatively few adherents here in staunchly Catholic Rhode Island.

Bristol County is 0.67% Mormon, the most in the state, followed by Newport County (0.43%), Providence County (0.21%) and Kent County (0.15%), according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

Washington County is listed as 0% Mormon. Is that right? Does anyone know a Mormon who lives in Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Narragansett, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown or Westerly?


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Mindful of history, Mormon Church reaches out to minorities

February 17, 2012

Washington Post

Davis, who is African American, finally found what he was looking for in the Mormon Church, whose history includes a period of more than 120 years during which black men were essentially barred from the priesthood and few Americans of color were active in the faith.

But since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began ordaining African American men into the priesthood in 1978, after the church’s then-president said he had a revelation from God, Mormons have reached out to minorities and worked to address the religion’s racially fraught history. A new documentary, “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons,” is shedding further light on the issue.

The number of blacks embracing the faith is climbing. Ryan Cragun, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa, said there were almost 3.2 million Mormons in the United States in 2008. About 94,700, or 3 percent, were black.


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Elie Wiesel asks Mitt Romney to denounce baptisms

February 18, 2012

Boston Globe (Massachusetts)

Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize laureate, whose name was entered into a database so that he could be baptized in a Mormon ritual after his death, said yesterday he wants Mitt Romney to speak out against the Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Jews.

“He is a Mormon, and since he’s running for president – the highest office in the world, not only in America – he should know what is happening, and he should have said simply, ‘It is wrong,’ ” Wiesel, a professor at Boston University, said in an interview.

Wiesel’s comments could put Romney in the uncomfortable position of defending one of his church’s rituals that is little understood outside the world of Mormonism and has been the source of controversy with Jews in the past.

Romney’s campaign said yesterday that any questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be directed to the church.


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Should Romney take the rap for Mormon Church’s ‘proxy baptisms’?

February 17, 2012

Los Angeles Times (California)

As if Mitt Romney didn’t have enough problems with a surging Rick Santorum, the former Republican front-runner now finds himself pressured by Elie Wiesel to intercede with the Mormon Church to stop the “proxy baptisms” of Holocaust victims. Wiesel said he hoped Romney would get involved after it was reported that Wiesel’s name and those of his father and grandfather were found on a genealogical database kept by the church. A church spokesman said that the Wiesel names “were not submitted for baptisms” and never would have been under a policy prohibiting the proxy baptism of Holocaust victims.

Wiesel’s exasperation is understandable, but it was unfair to demand that Romney take responsibility for a policy that, even if it existed, wasn’t his doing. Granted, Romney has served in lay leadership positions in the church and has contributed generously to it, but he is not the Mormon candidate for president any more than John F. Kennedy was the Roman Catholic candidate for president in 1960. It would have been inappropriate at that time to have asked Kennedy to try to end the then-common practice of Catholics praying for the conversion of living Jews. Publicly asking Romney to oppose the retroactive baptisms of Jews is equally unfair. The complaints should have been directed at the church.


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Will 2012 Be a Referendum on Mormons?

February 17, 2012


This past week, the Mormon Church, and Mitt Romney, came under fire when it was discovered that the parents of Simon Wiesenthal were proxy-baptized by the Church. In 1995, the Church of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, outlawed the baptisms of anyone outside of their members’ ancestors in response to outrage over their baptisms of Holocaust victims (which Wiesenthal’s parents were). In an apologetic statement released after the Wiesenthal baptisms became known, the Church explained that a rogue member had submitted the names without the knowledge or consent of leadership and that there would be action taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Immediately after the baptisms hit the headlines calls came for Romney to condemn the action, from Elie Wiesel to top leadership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pushing the story onto front pages. Given that the Church had already officially prohibited the baptisms of Holocaust victims, there was little for Romney to do but condemn his own Church, publicly, with no chance of accomplishing anything but further embarrassing his faith.

What kind of statement was expected of Romney? There was outrage not only about these baptisms, but proxy-baptisms in general. Was he supposed to call his own religious ritual offensive and cast judgement upon it?


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Some Mormons Less Cultic Than Others?

February 18, 2012

Blogger News Network

A cult can be any group that splits off from one of the larger world religions and is distinct from the parental creed it has separated itself from by either renouncing the more orthodox formulations of a doctrine or by promulgating a new dogma or revelation that the more orthodox adherents of the larger faith cannot embrace in good conscience.

For example, Mormonism holds that God was once a man not all that different than the rest of us who worked his way up to that status and that we too can also one day become deities over our own little planets as well. Traditional Christianity holds to the idea, that Beck snidely derided, that God exists externally from everlasting to everlasting in the form of three distinct unified persons. God is complete in Himself and does not grow or learn over time as claimed by the Later Day Saints.

The prominence played by Mormonism in the 2012 election cycle has presented American Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular with a unique set of challenges. On the one hand, believers are obligated by Scripture to speak in a firm but loving manner in defense of their own beliefs while pointing out distinctively where that faith is incompatible with Mormonism. And on the other, in a constitutional republic recognizing the freedom of religion we each posses as individuals created in the image of God, Mormon citizens have every right to engage in the same forms of civic participation that all Americans enjoy and sense a profound duty towards.


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PSYCHOLOGIST: Powell complained of stress, in-laws, Mormon Church

February 17, 2012

Bellingham Herald (Washington)

A psychologist who evaluated Josh Powell as part of the custody case involving his two sons found the father had a good relationship with the boys and competent parenting skills.

But, the psychologist also noted that Powell had a high degree of stress in his life and had trouble containing his negative talk about his in-laws and the Mormon Church in front of his sons, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden.

Dr. James Manley raised further concerns about Powell after viewing some of the 400 images of sexual and incestuous images found on Powell’s computer after it was seized in 2009 in connection with his wife’s disappearance. Powell had been the only person of interest named in Susan Powell’s disappearance.


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Mormonism isn’t Romney’s problem

February 17, 2012

Washington Post

So to Carter’s point, I think many candidates like Romney have lacked a common touch because it is in fact mostly alien to them. I’m not sure Mormonism is Romney’s problem.

I’ve been waiting for the “alien or exclusionary precepts” of Mormonism, as Carter puts it, to come under attack. I’ve said that Romney could not win a majority in Dixie-state GOP primaries because of his Mormon beliefs and a church history that create prejudices.

I’ve thought the big attack on the Mormon faith would come as the last resort in the primaries or certainly in the general election. But Romney’s weaknesses have made the unflattering and un-American “last resort” option unnecessary in the nomination contest so far. The general election is not yet upon us and it may not include Romney anyway.

Theology isn’t Romney’s problem yet. And if he doesn’t get better on live TV and in unscripted settings, he won’t have to worry about it.


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Wiesel to Romney: Stop LDS Baptisms of Holocaust Victims

February 16, 2012

Religion Dispatches

In practical terms, this means that users who accesses the LDS “Family Search” genealogy database today must scroll through a list of policies including the proviso that names of “Jewish Holocaust victims” should not be submitted by non-family members, and then must indicate that they are in keeping with policy when they submit names for proxy rites.

But violations continue, and they are a source of great shame and embarrassment. Perhaps more can be done. Listening in on conversations among Mormons this week, I’ve heard important ideas bubbling up from within the community about how to instill greater accountability:

What if LDS Church members who use the Family Search database to submit names for proxy religious rites were required to complete an annual online training with explicit instructions and penalties for inappropriate submission of names?

What if LDS Church members who use the Family Search database were required to provide an electronic signature each time they submitted names for proxy religious rites acknowledging that they agreed to forfeit access to the database if they were found in violation of the policy?

What if high-volume submitters were randomly audited for documentation of direct ancestral ties to the names they submitted for baptism, on penalty of being denied access to the database, or worse?


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