Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are very disappointed over statements made in a media advisory from Mr. Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors. The advisory announced a press event on Monday, 10 November, in New York.
The Church stands by its word. It has no intention of performing baptisms or other rites in its temples for Holocaust victims, except in the very rare instances where such people may have living descendants who are members of the Church. Such exceptions were noted and agreed to in 1995. The understanding reached in 1995 determined that the Church would remove Holocaust names from its public database immediately, which the Church has done. It further said that Jewish groups would provide to the Church any names that reappeared on the database so the Church could remove them. The Church cannot understand why Mr. Michel has refused now to provide those names to the Church so the Church can maintain the spirit of that 1995 understanding.
The media advisory also claimed that Church leaders had refused to meet and “broke off negotiations in July. “ This is absolutely false. Church leaders met with Mr. Michel in New York on 3 November, along with representatives of other respected Jewish community organizations. The Church’s written response to Mr. Michel and to that meeting is found here. It did not receive a reply.
Church leaders and members empathize with the depth of feeling of all Jews regarding the Holocaust. Such regard and empathy have motivated the Church to remain in talks about this subject for so many years. However, with his press conference, Mr. Michel seems to have unilaterally terminated those discussions and has presumably rejected the proposals set forth in the Church’s 6 November 2008 letter. Those steps by Mr. Michel on behalf of the American Gathering were both unnecessary and unfortunate, and belie the long and valued mutual regard that has existed in the past years.