At a news conference on Monday (Nov. 10) in New York, leaders of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors said that their negotiations with the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) had ended rather badly.
The Jewish holocaust survivors had asked the LDS leaders to refrain from posthumous baptism of Jewish victims of the holocaust. Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said in a statement:
“We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion.We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough.”
The Jewish leaders and the LDS were supposed to have an agreement in place that would limit the baptism of Jewish dead by proxy in the Mormon Temples, but the Jewish group is complaining that the Mormons have violated it on numerous occasions. Apparently the agreement is not completely workable from the LDS perspective.
One of the major practices of the Mormon Church in their Temples is to baptize the dead by proxy. The LDS search genealogical records from all over the world and continue to posthumously baptize all the names of the dead that they can find in any records–that would include Jewish folk and victims of the holocaust.
The practice started with baptizing all the ancestors and relatives of LDS Church members and then expanded from there. For that reason, over the years most faithful Mormon families have been interested in expanding their family genealogy. Baptism by proxy allows faithful Mormons to have their ancestors officially baptized into the LDS Church with the hope of reuniting complete families in the afterlife.
The Mormons believe that the dead have an opportunity to receive the truth and the gospel after death and can receive a better position and a higher kingdom in the afterlife if they are baptized posthumously by proxy in an LDS Temple.
From the Mormon perspective–they are doing something good for the holocaust victims. According to a church representative in Salt Lake, Elder Lance B. Wickman:
“We don’t think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines,” Wickman said. “If our work for the dead is properly understood … it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It’s merely a freewill offering.”
The whole idea that their dead relatives are being baptized into the Mormon Church is revolting and outrageous to Jews, especially those who went through the holocaust. For them, it is an act that violates their religion and their own family traditions–a religion and tradition that six million paid the ultimate sacrifice for.
This is a conflict that probably can not really be resolved and in the end will only bring some more bad publicity to the Mormons.