Daniel Pearl’s father: Void posthumous baptisms of Jewish people


A decade after Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists in Pakistan, his father, Judea Pearl, is far from worried about his son’s afterlife.

“I think my son feels very comfortable wherever he is,” Pearl said in a phone interview Wednesday.

At least some members of the Mormon Church, however, were concerned about the spiritual fate of the Wall Street Journal reporter. They posthumously baptized Pearl last year.


It’s the posthumous baptism of his son -- and other Jewish people -- that worries Judea Pearl.

The UCLA professor and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation fears that future generations may mistakenly stumble across records that suggest a Jewish person converted to the Mormon faith.

Pearl said he was considering rallying a group of Jewish leaders to send the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a stern message:

Stop performing unauthorized posthumous baptisms of Jewish people -- and nullify any of those that have been performed.

Since learning of the baptism, which occurred in Idaho last summer, Pearl said no one from the church had contacted him to apologize for the ceremony, which is common practice in the Mormon faith.

The purpose of the sacrament is to ensure that ancestors can join church members in the afterlife.

The practice has long stirred controversy, leading to a 1995 agreement between Jewish leaders and the Mormon Church that was supposed to prevent the baptisms of Holocaust victims.

Church rules stipulate that only direct descendants of the dead can submit names for the sacrament, but the church has repeatedly posthumously baptized even those whose descendants haven’t asked for the ceremony, including President Obama’s mother and the parents of late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Individual Mormons submit to the church the names of people they wish to have baptized. Then a baptism is performed “by proxy,” meaning another person stands in for the dead.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Pearl’s mother, Ruth, said she and her husband were dismayed when informed of the ceremony by a reporter from the Boston Globe, which first reported the news after a Utah researcher made the discovery.

“We realize that the Mormon ministers who baptized our son posthumously meant to offer him salvation in the most honorable way they know how,” she said in statement. “To them we say: We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld. He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew -- blessed, accepted and redeemed.”

Daniel Pearl, who was raised in Los Angeles, was working as a Wall Street Journal reporter when he was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

A spokesman for the Mormon Church said in an email Wednesday that Pearl’s posthumous baptism was a breach of protocol.


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