Last week, an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- also known as the Mormon church -- apologized for the proxy baptism of the parents of the late Simon Wiesenthal, a Jewish Holocaust survivor. The baptism was conducted by proxy inside of a Mormon temple, which is the only place that ordinances for the dead are allowed to be performed.
Church spokesman Michael Purdy called it "inappropriate" that Wiesenthal's parents' names were submitted for baptism, and explained that the church's policy is that people can only submit the names of their own ancestors. Just last Saturday, though, according to Andrea Stone of the Huffington Post, Anne Frank (of "The Diary of Anne Frank," the memoirs of a Jewish girl who was killed during the Holocaust) was baptized by proxy inside of a Mormon temple in the Dominican Republic. And according to ex-Mormon whistleblower Helen Radkey, this is at least the 10th time that Mormons have baptized Frank, despite a 1995 agreement in which the church agreed to stop the posthumous baptism of Jews except for direct ancestors.
Frank isn't alone. According to Slate's Forrest Wickman, Mormons have repeatedly disregarded their Church's directive not to baptize Holocaust survivors posthumously. And a 19th-century Mormon prophet, Wilford Woodruff, was personally baptized for the signers of the Declaration of Independence "and fifty other eminent men," as recounted in a widely circulated talk by 20th-century prophet Ezra Benson.
Why is this so important to Mormons?
Mormons believe that people must go through a number of ordinances in order to reach the Celestial Kingdom of heaven. These include being baptized and confirmed a member of their church, as well as receiving one's "endowments" and being "sealed" to one's family in sacred temple ceremonies, which they do not discuss the specifics of.
Mormons believe that people who do not receive these ordinances do not go to heaven, and that people who haven't been sealed to their families (or who don't obey the church's leaders, including by paying a 10 percent tithe) will be split up from their families in the next life. This includes all non-Mormons who have ever lived, as well as all people in same-gender partnerships -- Mormons believe that LGBT individuals and asexual people will be cisgender and heterosexual in the next life, and that same-gender partnerships won't be allowed in heaven.
It's not a question of "whether"
For believing Mormons, the only question is "when" Holocaust survivors and everyone else in the world will be given the chance to be baptized. Mormons believe that people who have died can still have the ordinances done for them by proxy in a Mormon temple, allowing them to leave "Spirit Prison" (sort of like Limbo in Catholic theology) and go to heaven after the final judgment.
Mormons believe that the people for whom these ordinances are done posthumously have the chance to accept or reject them -- that Anne Frank wasn't made into a Mormon unless she wanted to be one, in other words. Holocaust survivors, however, consider the ordinance objectionable.