Pix by Ravell Call, Deseret News

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (left) and Ernest W. Michel exchange farewells following a news conference with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jewish representatives regarding LDS practice of baptism for the dead.

This month marked a milestone event for Judaism when the Mormon church announced it had “ changed its genealogical database to better prevent the names of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps from being submitted for posthumous baptism by proxy” (Mormon Times, Sept. 1, 2010, by Michael Purdy)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement with a coalition of Jewish leaders to the effect that their new computer system and policy changes related to the practice “should resolve a yearslong disagreement over the baptisms”.

This agreement followed another in 1995 with the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors organization. The agreement stated that Mormons would not perform proxy baptisms or other rites for Holocaust victims except when they have living descendants who are Mormon. The church also agreed to remove the names of Holocaust victims from its database. But in ensuing years the agreement failed to prevent the work and a dispute developed between the Jewish group and Mormons. In 2008 the church said the issue could not be resolved.

But after another coalition of rabbis and community leaders toured a new LDS temple and its downtown Salt Lake City genealogy library to better understand the process, thanks to Attorney General Robert Abrams, Jewish leaders feel assured that the interests of Holocaust dead are being carefully respected.

Mormons believe that posthumous baptism by proxy gives an opportunity for deceased persons to receive the savings rites of baptism by proxy, and sealing ordinances whereby families can be together forever in the afterlife. These ordinances are performed in Mormon temples around the world. Those deceased who receive these ordinances have full choice to accept or deny them.

Information gathered from Yahoo News and Mormon Times, September 1, 2010.

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