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LDS Church toughens stand against 'improper' proxy name submissions

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 21 2012 7:10 p.m. MST

The Salt Lake Temple on Sunday morning prior to the 181st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church is taking a tougher stand against the unauthorized submission of the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism.

According to a statement that appeared Tuesday afternoon on the church's Newsroom website, official church disciplinary action may be taken against the offending parties.

"It takes a good deal of deception and manipulation to get an improper submission through the safeguards we have put in place," the statement reads. "While no system is foolproof in preventing the handful of individuals who are determined to falsify submissions, we are committed to taking action against individual abusers by suspending the submitter's access privileges. We will also consider whether other church disciplinary actions should be taken."

Those "other church disciplinary actions" could ultimately include excommunication, or loss of membership in the church.

The new, tougher statement comes in the wake of a tumultuous week, during which it was learned that the parents of Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal had been inappropriately baptized for the dead in an LDS temple, while the names of fellow-Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and his father and maternal grandfather had been submitted to an LDS genealogical database.

The LDS Church publicly apologized for the Wiesenthal baptisms and removed the Wiesel records from the database.

During the course of media coverage last week, it was noted that other famous Holocaust victims — including Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose poignant diary was published and subsequently turned into a stage play and feature film — have been similarly baptized by proxy, in some cases multiple times. The Huffington Post is reporting that Anne Frank's name was used in a proxy baptism in the church's Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple as recently as last Saturday.

Such baptisms run contrary to policy adopted after discussions between the LDS Church and several Jewish and Holocaust survivor organizations. That policy establishes that the names of Holocaust victims will not be accepted for proxy baptism unless the person submitting the name is a direct descendant of the victim.

"The church keeps its word and is absolutely firm in its commitment to not accept the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism," Tuesday's church statement said. "It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the church's policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention."

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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