The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors have reached an agreement over the issue of posthumous baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The final agreement will be signed at the New York Office of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday, May 3, 1995, at which time a press conference will be held by leaders of both groups.
"The issue came to the attention of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors as a result of an article in a Jewish newspaper which stated, correctly, that a Jewish Holocaust victim who was killed in the Gurs (France) concentration camp was posthumously baptized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," said Ernest W. Michel, Chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and an authorized representative of the American Gathering.As a result of this article, Mr. Michel, in behalf of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, initiated discussions with the Church that extended over a period of several months.
"From the very beginning these discussions were conducted in a positive and friendly manner," Mr. Michel said. "They concluded in today's agreement between the Church and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors," he added.
In a statement issued today, the Church agreed, among other actions to be taken, to remove from the next issue of its International Genealogical Index the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims who are not ancestors of living members of the Church.
The American Gathering agreed to communicate with and inform other major Jewish organizations as to its agreement with the Church. Four other major Jewish organizations have also approved this agreement."For more than a century the First Presidency of the Church has taught that members of the Church have a solemn responsibility to identify their deceased forebears and to provide temple ordinances for them regardless of ethnic background or origin," said Elder Monte J. Brough of the Church's Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of its Family History Department.
"However, in violation of Church policy, lists of Jewish Holocaust victims and other non-related groups and individuals have been submitted for temple ordinances. The First Presidency directed in March 1991 that temple ordinances for Jewish Holocaust victims be discontinued," Elder Brough said.
"Unfortunately, subsequent submissions of lists of Jewish Holocaust victims were made by certain individuals and posthumous baptisms in contravention of Church policy occurred," he added.
On Jan. 6, 1995, the First Presidency again directed that the temple ordinances for Jewish Ho-lo-caust victims be discontinued unless they were direct ancestors of living members of the Church.
As a consequence of these discussions and the First Presidency's directive, the Church has agreed to:
- Remove from the next issue of the International Genealogical Index the names of all known posthumously baptized Jewish Holocaust victims who are not direct ancestors of living members of the Church.
- Provide a list of all Jewish Holocaust victims whose names are to be removed from the International Genealogical Index to the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors; United States Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, D.C.; A Living Memorial to the Holocaust-Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City; the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles; and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, and confirm in writing when removal of such names has been completed.
- Reaffirm the policy and issue a directive to all officials and members of the Church to discontinue any future baptisms of deceased Jews, including all lists of Jewish Holocaust victims who are known Jews, except if they were direct ancestors of living members of the Church or the Church had the written approval of all living members of the deceased's immediate family.
- Confirm this policy in all relevant literature produced by the Church.
- Remove from the International Genealogical Index in the future the names of all deceased Jews who are so identified if they are known to be improperly included counter to Church policy.
- Release to the American Gathering the First Presidency's 1995 directive.
The First Presidency reaffirmed that the Church, in accordance with past policy, will continue to make its family history records available to the public regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation.