The Associated Press reported on yesterday’s American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors (AGHS) press conference. The organization claims the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hasn’t enforced a 1995 agreement to permit its members to submit for posthumous baptism by proxy (often described as “temple work”) names of only those Holocaust victims who are direct relatives.
Posthumous baptisms by proxy are central to Mormons’ faith because the practice allows families to be reunited in the afterlife. They see the baptisms as an offer that the deceased individual can refuse; many Jews view the practice as disrespectful to those who were killed for their religious beliefs.
A researcher the AGHS hired reported finding several thousand names in the LDS church’s genealogy databases, some submitted as recently as July.
The church removed Jews’ names after the 1995 agreement, but told the Associated Press that since then a few well-meaning members have “acted outside of policy.”
In a written response to the press conference, the LDS church claims AGHS refuses to provide the names of the Holocaust survivors found in the database or respond to LDS proposals stemming from a Nov. 3 meeting of both organizations.
New FamilySearch, the online family tree tracking program slowly being released to church members (it’ll eventually be publicly available), should help resolve the problem by discouraging mass submissions, and separating names intended for baptism from those submitted for genealogical purposes.