LDS may have posthumously baptized Obama's African ancestors
Religion » Church declines to say whether rites performed.
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Mormons have not only posthumously baptized President Barack Obama's mother into their faith, but they may have performed the ritual for the president's African ancestors as well, including his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, according to researcher Helen Radkey.

She has uncovered records in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's new FamilySearch database that include personalized identification numbers for Obama's relatives, including his father, Barack Obama Sr.

The president's father was Muslim, but later in life became a nonbeliever, according to the family.

Records in the FamilySearch database do not indicate if the "baptism for the dead" ceremony was actually performed in an LDS temple, saying only that the information is "not available."

Radkey, a Salt Lake City-based researcher critical of the practice, provided The Salt Lake Tribune with the documents. Earlier this year, Radkey found records that confirmed the "baptism for the dead" of Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama's mother, who died in 1995, took place on June 4, 2008, in the Provo temple.

"Baptizing Obama's African relatives, or putting their names in the LDS temple system for them to be posthumously baptized, is offensive because it sends a wrongful message that Obama's ancestors were of inferior religious stock," Radkey said.

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter declined to comment about the specifics involving Obama's family, but has previously confirmed the Dunham baptism. At the time, he said it ran counter to the faith's policies. Mormons are only supposed to submit names for baptism for people they are related to.

He promised to investigate what he called "a serious matter."

"While the vast majority of names submitted by church members fall within applicable guidelines, it is virtually impossible to ensure that no improper submissions will be made," Trotter said.

Mormons believe these proxy baptisms give people in the spirit world a chance to reject or accept LDS gospel. But the practice has created controversy in the past, particularly with Jewish organizations that have objected to the baptisms of Holocaust victims.

In reaction to objections, the church removed 300,000 names from its International Genealogical Index.

A review of the index shows that the faith has removed Dunham's name and that none of Obama's relatives show up either.

The White House declined to comment, other than to say that Obama and LDS President Thomas Monson did not discuss the topic during their brief meeting Monday in the Oval Office.

During that meeting, Monson and apostle Dallin Oaks provided the president with a detailed genealogical report on his family presented in five leather-bound volumes.

mcanham@sltrib.com