SALT LAKE CITY – A top Mormon leader reminded church members Saturday about the importance of performing ceremonial baptisms on dead ancestors who didn't receive the ordinance while alive.
Henry Eyring told a worldwide audience during a twice-yearly Mormon conference that God wants all his children to come "home again." 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 it. The belief that families are sealed for eternity is one of the faith's core tenets.
The practice is becoming more common than ever because of young church members who embrace it.
"They have learned that this work saves not just the dead; it saves all of us," 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. "There are now many people who have accepted baptism in the spirit world. ... This is the work of our generation."
But ceremonial baptisms offend members of some 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.
In the 1990s, after negotiations with Jewish leaders, the church agreed to end the ceremonial baptism of Holocaust victims. After it was revealed that they continued, Mormon leaders put up a virtual firewall in the database to block anyone who attempted to access the names of people who died in the Holocaust.
Erying gave the opening speech of a two-day conference in which leaders speak about a range of topics aimed at providing guidance and inspiration to the faith's more than 15 million members worldwide.
Nearly 100,000 church members are expected to attend five sessions on Saturday 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.