AirTalk for March 1, 2012

Mormons baptize Daniel Pearl posthumously

Daniel Pearl's Kidnappers Sentenced

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This undated photo shows Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal newspaper reporter kidnapped by Islamic militants in Karachi, Pakistan.

It's been revealed a group of Mormons performed a baptism ritual for slain "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl last year. Pearl, who was Jewish, was infamously kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002 while investigating Al-Qaeda operatives.

His widow Mariane Pearl is disturbed to learn about the ritual. "It's a lack of respect for Danny and a lack of respect for his parents," she told the “The Boston Globe.” Mormon Church officials have denounced the baptism by independent members of their church. While "proxy" and "posthumous" baptisms are a central tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the rite can only be performed with a family relation of the chosen one.

Nevertheless, Jewish Holocaust victims were baptized for years, before the Church agreed to halt the practice in 1995. NPR spoke with Helen Radkey, a former Mormon who has become a whistleblower for controversial church activity. Radkey says the number of such baptisms "is reaching really ludicrous proportions. [Mormon] officials promised time and time again that they would stop and they haven't done it."

Last month, records indicate the parents of the late Jewish-rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized. Church officials apologized for that rite, too. Another widely-reported posthumous baptism was performed on the atheist father-in-law of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. The Mormon Church has considered disciplinary action against members who violate rules of the rite.

What is the Mormon Church’s rationale for these baptisms? What exactly upsets the opponents of this practice? How can the Church do a better job of controlling such activity by independent groups of people?

Guests:

Rabbi David Wolpe, Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles

Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University


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