SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon leaders reminded church members Saturday about the importance of performing ceremonial baptisms on dead ancestors who didn't receive the ordinance while alive — a practice unique to the faith that came under fire in the past from Jews when they discovered Holocaust victims were being baptized.
Henry Eyring told a worldwide audience during a twice-yearly Mormon conference in Salt Lake City that God wants all his children “home again, in families and in glory.” He encouraged listeners to use the religion's massive genealogical database to trace their roots.
Ceremonial baptisms occur when a member brings an ancestor's name to a temple. Mormons believe the ritual allows deceased people a way to the afterlife if they choose to accept what they see as an offering of love. The belief that families are sealed for eternity is one of the faith's core tenets.
The practice is becoming more common because young church members have embraced it, said Eyring, a member of a top governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“They have learned that this work saves not just the dead; it saves all of us,” Eyring said.
But ceremonial baptisms offend members of other religions, especially Jews, who became upset years ago when they discovered attempts by Mormons to alter the religion of Holocaust victims. They included Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager forced into hiding in Amsterdam during the Holocaust and killed in a concentration camp.
Nearly 100,000 church members are expected to attend five sessions today and Sunday. Thousands more around the world will listen to the conference or watch it on television, radio, satellite and internet broadcasts in 90 different languages.