The name of Simon Wiesenthal the Holocaust survivor who dedicated the rest of his life to hunting down Nazi perpetrators is on the Mormon database of posthumous ordinances, says the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
However, upon request from the center Monday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints removed Wiesenthal from the list and referred to its policy of encouraging members to submit only names of their own ancestors for vicarious baptisms.
"In accordance with the commitments the church made in 1995, no church ordinance was performed for Simon Wiesenthal and his name was immediately removed from the International Genealogical Index," said Bruce Olsen, press secretary to the church's First Presidency.
The center had issued a statement calling on the church to immediately remove his name from the vast online International Genealogical Index.
"We are astounded and dismayed that after assurances and promises by the Mormon Church, that Mr. Wiesenthal's life and memory, along with so many other Jews, would be trampled and disregarded," Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center's founder and dean, said in a press release.
Hier said Monday that the center "accepts fully the apology offered" by the church and said the "only objection we had was that the posting violated the agreement we had." He believes the posting was not done maliciously, but perhaps by someone who thought they were "doing Wiesenthal some good."
"From the point of view of the Jewish people, that is insulting," he said.
Hier said it implies that there is some gatekeeper in heaven who will determine whether Wiesenthal may enter.
"We believe the only gatekeeper to heaven is a life of good deeds," Hier said. "He was a great Jew and will merit heaven on his own without anybody's help."
Wiesenthal, the rabbi said, "proudly lived as a Jew, died as a Jew, demanded justice for the millions of the victims of the Holocaust and, at his request, was buried in the State of Israel. It is sacrilegious for the Mormon faith to desecrate his memory by suggesting that Jews on their own are not worthy enough to receive God's eternal blessing."
Hier also urged the LDS Church to remove the names of "all other Holocaust victims immediately."
"Mormons can have their point of view, I'm not arguing that. But Mormons must recognize that Jews do not subscribe to that point of view," he said.
At the heart of the issue is the LDS Church's practice of posthumous baptism, a sacred rite performed in LDS Church temples to offer church membership to the deceased. Church members are encouraged to do family genealogy research and to forward the names of their ancestors for baptism.
According to Helen Radkey, a Salt Lake City researcher who has fought against the Church's practice of listing Jewish names, Wiesenthal's name first appeared on the database around Dec. 11. She called it "an appalling indignity" and charged that "even if Mormons decide to hastily remove Wiesenthal's name from the part of the IGI database that is visible to the public, they will forever keep private records of any LDS proxy temple rites that he may have already been subjected to."Comment on this story
The church's position is that church membership can be rejected in the afterlife and that the baptismal rite is only an offer of membership.
Jews offended by the practice signed an agreement with LDS leaders in 1995 that should have prevented the adding of the names of Holocaust victims to the database. The agreement also limited Jewish entries to only those persons who are direct ancestors of current church members."A joint committee of church leaders and leaders of Jewish Holocaust organizations work diligently to maintain good-faith, cooperative relationships," Olsen said.