Polygamous fundamentalists baptized by proxy into LDS Church, researcher says

The Salt Lake Tribune/June 3, 2009

Prominent fundamentalist Mormons, most of whom were excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for practicing polygamy while they were alive, have been posthumously re-baptized in LDS temples, a Salt Lake City researcher says.

Helen Radkey said in a new report that she obtained church records on 20 fundamentalists - from murderer Ervil LeBaron to Joseph Musser to Rulon Jeffs - showing that they've been baptized and have had their plural marriages "sealed" for time and eternity by proxy LDS members, one as recently as this year.

Radkey, who was briefly a member of the church years ago, has previously delved into LDS proxy baptisms of a range of prominent people, from Adolph Hitler to Ted Bundy to President Obama's mother, as well as Jews who died in the Holocaust. The later ordinances angered Jewish leaders, who first protested 14 years ago.

The LDS Church teaches that those who have died and are in the spirit world can accept or reject baptisms and other ordinances performed on their behalf by church members in temples. Under pressure from various religious groups for more than a decade, however, the church has reminded members to submit only their own ancestors' names for proxy ordinances.

"Our policy for submitting names for temple work is well documented," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Tuesday. "We have been over this ground before, and we're not going to keep revisiting it."

Radkey said it's not clear from the records whether descendants submitted the names of fundamentalists.

But performing the proxy ordinances for men who were booted from the church for clinging to the early Mormon practice of plural marriage shows "polygamy is the going thing in the hereafter," for the LDS, she said.

The LDS Church officially stopped practicing plural marriage in the 1890s, and today excommunicates those who defy church teaching on the matter.

"The LDS Church appears to be reinventing its polygamous history, as it ushers excommunicated Mormon fundamentalists back into the LDS fold through a postmortem back door," Radkey wrote in her report.

Among the ordinances Radkey said she found in her research, was that Rulon Allred, leader of the Apostolic United Brethren who was murdered in 1977 on orders from Ervil LeBaron, head of a rival group, was baptized in 2001, 2002, 2008 and on Jan. 29 this year in the Ogden Temple. He also was sealed to two of his wives last December in the same temple.

LeBaron, who was believed to have killed a brother and ordered the death of his own child, died in a Utah prison in 1981. He was baptized by proxy in 2004, Radkey said.

Rulon Jeffs, father to Warren Jeffs, president of the largest fundamentalist group, the FLDS, died in 2002. He was baptized and endowed in 2005, and sealed to his parents in 2006, all in the St. George temple.

Perhaps the most puzzling ordinances, Radkey said, are those that "seal" women to men whom they had divorced, mostly over the polygamy issue.

Among the polygamists "sealed" to wives they were divorced or separated from are Allred, Jeffs, LeBaron, Charles Zitting, Alma D. LeBaron and Joseph W. Musser, she said.

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