Tuesday, November 11, 2008
American Gathering Of Holocaust Survivors Dogging LDS Church Over Posthumous Baptisms Of Holocaust Jews Once Again
Craftily taking advantage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' preoccupation with Proposition 8 reaction, and using their November 9th Kristallnacht as moral protective cover, the Jewish supremacists of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors have launched a new attack on the LDS Church over the practice of "posthumous baptisms", or vicarious baptisms for the dead. Full stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, and the Deseret News. Glen Warchol also discusses it in his Salt Lake Crawler blog. National story from CNN.
Additional reaction posted on Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network Forum.
The villain is Ernest "Ernie" Michel, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who is the honorary chair of the 180,000 member Gathering. This group has relentlessly dogged the LDS Church over the baptismal practice since 1995. Through repeated pressure, he extracted concessions from the Church that they would not knowingly perform baptisms on behalf of dead Holocaust survivors. However, Michel now believes the Church is doing it again.
On Monday November 10th, Michel and other Holocaust survivors gathered at The Center for Jewish History in New York to publicly denounce the practice and to proclaim an end to further dialogue between their group and the Church. But why is Michel so obsessed?
"I'm doing this in many ways to preserve the memory of my parents who couldn't speak up for themselves," Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz, said by phone Monday. "I refused any deep interviews until today. . . We want to show the public what the church has been doing".
LDS Church officials, who met with Michel just one week ago, say they are sorry the relationship seems to have ended this way and feel the church's work and intentions have been misunderstood. The official LDS response can be read in full HERE.
Here's a brief history of the issue. Michel was first tipped off to this practice in the mid-1990s when he read an article in a Jewish newspaper about a Holocaust victim who was posthumously baptized. Failing to get a response to his enquiry from then-Church President Howard W. Hunter, he got an explanation from Senator Orrin Hatch about the practice.
But apparently Michel did not grasp the concept. After a genealogist discovered that Michel's parents had also received the ordinance, Michel chimped out. "My mother and father were killed in the Holocaust for no other reason than they were Jews," he said earlier. "How can the Mormons victimize them a second time and falsely claim their souls for eternity?"
After a series of meetings with LDS officials, the Church agreed in 1995 to remove Holocaust victim names from its International Genealogical Index (IGI) and send out on First Presidency letterhead a reminder that proxy baptisms are intended only for one's own ancestors. On Monday, Lance B. Wickman, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, explained that the church at that time immediately removed 260,000 names submitted to IGI by nine individuals. Since 1995, Wickman said 43,000 additional names - 42,000 of them identified by the church - had made their way into the system, only to be removed. He called this "persuasive evidence" that the church was doing all it could to uphold its end of the deal.
It appears that the Gathering is too quick to designate any Jews who died during that period as Holocaust victims. After Michel presented 5,300 more names of "concern" to the Church in 2005, subsequent research, assisted by a Jewish genealogist, showed that many of them had NOT been Holocaust victims. Only the names of those verified to have been Holocaust victims were removed. This of course validates the concern expressed by Holocaust revisionists that the excessively-hyped "six million" figure is exaggerated. And if the total number of victims is exaggerated, then one must naturally wonder what else may have been exaggerated, such as whether or not gas chambers at Auschwitz were used for the actual murder of Jews, or if they were merely used to delouse clothing and other personal possessions in order to control the spread of typhus.
Now a Salt Lake City Holocaust researcher, Helen Radkey, is claiming that there are even more names on the Church's list. Radkey said hundreds of names, mostly Dutch Holocaust victims, have made the church's master list in the past few months. She alleges that some recently discovered records which were used to do proxy baptisms even had the words "Auschwitz" or "Polish death camp" on them. Radkey provided the information to Michel.
On November 3rd, five LDS Church officials, including Wickman, Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Marlin K. Jensen, also of the Quorum of Seventy, met with Michel in New York. He showed up with "pounds and pounds of paperwork" to illustrate his ongoing concern. However, Wickman said LDS officials weren't given copies of these new materials, so they have no way to verify the information and correct any possible errors.
But another Deseret News article discloses that a Utah Jewish leader is now stepping up to the plate in order to smooth ruffled feathers. William Tumpowsky, the President of the Board of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, disagrees with Michel's decision to draw a line in the sand and cut off communication. Tumposky believes it is worthwhile to remain on speaking terms.
Tumpowsky is no friend of the Church, though. He also opposes the baptisms and believes that the church is not doing enough to stop them. But he values the existing relationship between the Church and Utah's Jewish community, and believes that only through continued communication can LDS Church members eventually come to understand how deeply Jews are hurt by proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims.
Too bad the Jews don't want to understand how deeply we Mormons value vicarious baptism for the dead. This ordinance does not transform the dead into Mormons, nor does it have any involuntary effect upon them. According to our doctrine, the deceased must decide to accept the ordinances performed vicariously before they become effective. Furthermore, Jews don't believe it has any effect, so why should they have a problem with it?
Perhaps when the LDS Church reached their agreement with the Gathering in 1995, they didn't realize how they were setting themselves up. This agreement was not intended as a final solution to the problem, but as a means for the Holocaust Industry to endlessly nag and second-guess the Church. These are the same tactics used by the Holocaust Industry to allow Israel to continue extracting reparations from Germany 67 years after the Holocaust ended. Sixty-seven years! When is enough actually enough?
It's time for the Brethren to put their collective foot down and put an end to this nonsense. If the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors is sincerely interested in ensuring that no Holocaust survivors are vicariously baptized, then take Tumpowsky's advice and re-open communications. Accept their share of the responsibility and reach an agreement with the Church to permanently second an experienced Jewish genealogist to Church Headquarters as a technical liaison.