(JTA) — A letter to be read in all Mormon churches warns members to stop all unauthorized posthumous baptisms, including those of Holocaust survivors.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the highest governing body of the Mormon church, issued a letter on Feb. 29 that was to be read Sunday to its congregations.
"Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter," the letter reads. "Without exception, Church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims."
The letter follows the discovery in recent weeks that several prominent deceased Jews have been baptized posthumously, including Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, welcomed the letter, calling it "an important step by the LDS Church to further educate its worldwide members about the Church’s policies regarding posthumous baptism, particularly its prohibition of baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims."
Foxman and the ADL called on the church to "reconsider" the practice of posthumous baptism and "to increase its monitoring and education to ensure that the proxy baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims are stopped. Church members should understand why proxy baptisms are so offensive to the Jewish people, who faced near annihilation during the Holocaust simply because they were Jewish, and who throughout history were often the victims of forced conversions."
Last month, Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel called on Mitt Romney, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, to tell his church to stop performing posthumous proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. Some members of the church reportedly had submitted Wiesel’s name for proxy baptism, as well as the names of Wiesel’s deceased father and maternal grandfather.