07 May 2009

President's mother baptized posthumously

According to the guidelines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members are only supposed to enter their own relatives for posthumous baptism and other rites. Additionally, members must obtain permission from living relatives to enter non-members.

However, it is the ethical and moral responsibility of each church member to do that. Quality control on the church's part (e.g. presenting proof of documentation for the purported family relationship) is not part of the process.

If this proof had been a requirement, we would not be seeing Jewish individuals and Holocaust victims still being subjected to this disrespectful rite. Additionally, if such a documentation process would have been required, we would not be seeing Holocaust victims removed from the International Genealogical Index and then later added again. It is easy to see who Holocaust victims are as the place of death is often the name of a well-known death camp, such as Auschwitz.

According to researcher Helen Radkey of Salt Lake City, the posthumous baptism of President Barak Obama's mother - Stanley Ann Dunham who died in 1995 - was performed on June 4, 2008 in the Provo, Utah temple. The "endowment" rite was also performed on June 11 in the same location. Radkey found the record while researching in the Family History Library in SLC. A tireless researcher, she has discovered thousands of Holocaust victims' records in the IGI for whom posthumous baptism was performed in contradiction of past agreements with Holocaust survivor organizations.

Was a request for permission to perform this rite on his mother received by then-candidate Obama while he was campaigning back in June?

According to the story, neither the church (except for general comments on the continuing practice) nor the White House has commented officially on this. The SLC Tribune story did not address the guidelines that Mormons are supposed to follow before entering an individual's name for such rites.

The story is here, although it has now been picked up nationwide.

Tracing the Tribe believes that these posthumous rites are both offensive and disrespectful to the deceased - and to his or her living relatives - as it indicates that the deceased's practiced religious beliefs (while alive) and life choices (while alive) were inferior to those of the LDS church. The deceased - through an involuntary LDS posthumous rite to which he or she has not agreed - is being provided an opportunity to supposedly rectify "errors" in judgement he or she made while alive. This is insulting.

Kim Farah, an LDS Church spokeswoman, confirmed in a story for USA Today that Dunham's posthumous proxy baptism did take place. She added that these are outside of LDS policy, which requires that the person registering a proxy baptism for someone who has died can only do it for a relative.

Is Judaism inferior to the LDS church? No. Are Buddhism, Confucionism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, other Christian denominations or Islam inferior to the LDS church? Millions of people say no, but their deceased are still subjected to involuntary rites in the hope that - in the afterlife - all these people will see the "errors" of their ways. It is insulting.

Genealogically, it is also confusing. Most genealogists know that the IGI is a database of those on whom Mormon rites have been performed. If my Jewish ancestors are in there, it is because they have been posthumously baptised by proxy and may have had additional rites performed on them as well. If my future descendants do not know what the IGI is, and see my name there, they will think that I have been baptised a Mormon. Thus, my IGI "record" will be fraudulent as I will not have changed my mind as to my beliefs, traditions, heritage, history and religion.

Do read some of the comments (hundreds at last count). One writer suggested creating a "Do Not Baptize" List, similar to the telemarketing "Do Not Call" list.

When the news broke about the posthumous baptism of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and there was a very strong negative reaction to this - Wiesenthal's record was removed from the IGI. Tracing the Tribe is sure that this is also the next step for the President's mother's baptism record. I wouldn't be surprised if it is already gone from the public database - but one cannot unring a bell in regard to private LDS records of such rites.

One comment to the USA Today story even quoted me (from some time ago) - that was a surprise:

Proxy baptisms were the focus of fierce controversy in the last decade of the twentieth century. Under intense public pressure, the LDS Church signed an agreement in 1995 with major Jewish organizations saying the Church would stop doing ordinances for deceased Jews without the written permission of all their living descendants. The LDS Church reportedly subsequently purged its own records of proxy baptisms and endowments of over 380,000 Holocaust victims. This is little comfort to many Jews whose relatives’ “fraudulent” records will reflect that they were Mormons.

“The only thing that a family researcher will see—or know, unless they’re conversant with the issue—is that their great-grandfather was a Mormon, when we all know the person lived and died as a Jew,” said Schelly Talalay Dardashti, genealogy columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

Another writer, ex-Mormon Martin Wishnatsky, was even more bitter: “The only solace I have in knowing that the Russian Communists obliterated my ancestors’ graves in Lemburg, Poland, is that no hungry Mormon name-robber, looking for records of dead persons to feed the ghoulish endowment factories, will ever be able to uncover any trace of them.”

Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to stop the disrespectful practice of posthumous baptism.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for continuing to call attention to this issue. Few things infuriate me more.