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LDS Church Removes Jewish Leader's Name from Genealogical Index

   |  Posted Dec 18th, 2006 @ 9:25pm


Sam Penrod Reporting

Questions tonight about a well-known Jewish leader, whose name appeared on genealogy records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Simon Wiesethal died last year, after surviving the Holocaust and dedicating his life to fighting anti-Semitism. But his name on Latter-day Saint records has upset Jewish leaders. They call it a violation of an agreement between Holocaust survivors and the church.

The name was apparently only on the church records for less than a week and was removed today as soon as the church learned of it.

But tonight, it may have put a strain on the relationship between the two faiths. It's the second time Jewish leaders have expressed concern the agreement is being violated.

Simon Wiesenthal is one of the most respected names in modern Jewish history. He died last year at age 96, but his name lives on in a center dedicated to further his life's work.

On December 11th, Wiesenthal's name appeared on the LDS church's International Genealogical Index.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center: "This is very offensive to Jews. It violates an agreement that the Mormon Church had with the American Gathering of Holocaust survivors."

The LDS church believes in performing baptisms for those not of their faith, after their death. But in 1995, the church agreed with Jewish leaders to remove the names of all Holocaust survivors who were baptized for the dead in LDS temples, and to stop adding them to their rolls.

In this case, no baptism was ever performed in Wiesenthal's name.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center: "We do not charge this was done maliciously." "But their good intentions is considered by others insulting because to people in our community, it sort of says, 'We're the gatekeepers of heaven.'"

An official statement from the LDS church says: "In response to a request by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and 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."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center: "Such a posting is offensive to Jews because it suggests on your own, you Jews, you can't get to heaven and therefore you need our assistance. We reject that out of hand and find that offensive."

Tonight no one knows who submitted Wiesenthal's name to the church index.

But the church tonight says it will re-emphasize its policy that church members only submit names of their own ancestors for vicarious baptisms.

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