Why Are Jews Offended By Mormons Baptizing Dead Jews?

This post is not an answer to the broader and really altogether different question “Do Mormons baptized dead people?” which I’ve already answered here. Rather it’s a question I’m asking. In recent years there has been some controversy over posthumous baptisms being performed by Mormons on behalf of deceased Jewish persons, including Anne Frank.

I’ve tried to understand why anyone would be offended by this, and I still struggle somewhat with understanding it. In my discussions with others on this matter one person asked me “Wouldn’t you be offended if Catholics told you that they baptized your grandmother into their church after she died, and that she’s now a Catholic?”

First off, this question misrepresents what we Mormons do in our baptisms. We do not baptize the dead into our religion. We perform a baptism, but it could be rejected by the dead person. They are not forced into being a Mormon. They are not automatically members of our church. Your ancestors could be on the other side watching us perform their baptism and be saying “Naw…I’m good.” We Mormons, as we see it, are merely making the baptism available to those who have passed on. It’s up to them to accept it.

But second, and more to my point, why would anyone be offended by the acts of a religion they don’t believe is true, and which are done in a private, non-confrontational way. Sure, I don’t believe the Westboro Baptist Church is the true church of God, but the only thing that offends me about them is that they get in people’s faces and disturb funeral ceremonies that should be private, solemn affairs. If they want to preach hate in their congregation amongst themselves I think they’re wrong, but to each his own.

Mormons don’t perform baptisms and then rub it in the face of anyone saying “Hey, guess what? Your grandma’s a Mormon now!” Nobody would know if it weren’t for people who are trying to stir up controversy going and digging up the info. If someone in the Catholic Church told me they had baptized my dead grandmother and she was now a Catholic, I’d recognize that they think they’ve done something to help my grandmother, and I would honor their intent by thanking them for their kindness and concern. It’s the same if someone not of my faith tells me they’re praying on my behalf that I might leave the Mormonism and come to a knowledge of the truth. I thank them for their concern, even if I believe it to be unfounded. And so I’m puzzled as to why anyone would get offended over Mormons performing baptisms on behalf of Jews. It seems that rather than getting offended they would say “Aw, those crazy Mormons, what will they think of next? Well, bless their hearts, at least they have good intentions and make good cookies, even if many of them seem to be baking with alternative sweeteners these days.”

Even though I don’t understand the reasons for taking offense I understand that people are offended and so I agree with the LDS Church’s decision to restrict the process. One doesn’t have to understand another’s position in order to be sensitive to it, and I am. But I would like to understand, and if you think you can clarify things for me please do.


  1. I appreciate the sensitivity of your post. I am not Jewish but I attended Hebrew School as a young person and so have a somewhat unique perspective — which is not to say I have any expertise whatsoever.

    My take on this is that part of the true horror of the Holocaust is that is was a genocide. The intent was to rid Europe of the Jewish people, to erase all Jewish art, language, culture, history, religion, and to demolish all Jewish individuals, families, communities, congregations, towns, etc. It was not entirely “successful” in that respect because there were survivors, but one need only look at the Jewish populations in specific European countries in the years 1935 and 1945 in order to feel the gravity of this loss.

    To have experienced such a catastrophic loss is something very few of us can even begin to comprehend.

    I think that part of what is so offensive about the baptisms of Holocaust victims in particular is that it feels like a celestial echo of the work of the Nazis on earth: an attempt to erase the Jewishness of the Jews. I know that is not the intention, but can you see how it might be just one more hurt or insult? It is beyond merely praying for someone; it is a way of saying that you do not respect or recognize the choices a person made during his or her life, that you know better. Particularly within the context of the Holocaust, that feels particularly inappropriate. Although to you it may feel like a way of giving the dead person more options, somehow, to many people it feels insulting.

    It is a deep human need to have our dead treated with respect — and here, again, is part of the terror and grief of the Holocaust, where the dead were afforded no decent burial, no grace on this earth. Perhaps because of this, the imperative to respect their traditions might feel even more important — and any perceived threat or insult might be worse.

    Finally, do keep in mind that there are still many people out there who deny that the Holocaust occurred, or that Jews were the subject of a genocide. I think that one concern some Jewish people have is that if somehow Jewish victims are baptized after death and that information is recorded somewhere, as we get further and further from living memory of the camps it is possible that somehow those created records might replace actual history, such that it might appear that millions of LDS people were murdered in the camps. I don’t know that this could ever possibly occur, but please just keep in mind that there are many people who will leap at any opportunity to cast doubt on the experience of Jews in Nazi Germany.

    These are just some thoughts. I hope it is in some way helpful. I truly appreciate your insights and generosity in writing this blog. Kindest regards to you.

    • Thank you Elizabeth, this is helpful.

      • I’m glad to hear that, Joshua. I’ve just discovered your Web site and greatly appreciate your candor and the obvious care and time you’ve put into your writing. It’s refreshing to read the work of someone who writes with conviction and intelligence and isn’t a polemicist. I feel confident that even on those points at which you and I might disagree we could have a cordial conversation, something that’s all too rare these days. It only strengthens your position that you are so articulate and polite.

        Looking forward to reading and learning more.

  2. From Salt Lake City is your rebuttal? Keep in mind, this is where the altenaliogs began! If you think Salt Lake City is an advocate for Mormonism, then you probably haven’t lived there, no offense.

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