Ask The Rabbi

Going to Mormon "Family History Libraries™"

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Topic: Genealogy, Mormon Family History Libraries (tm)

Benjamin Horowitz of Australia writes:

Is it permissible to go to the Mormon reading rooms in order to research my Jewish family roots?

Dear Benjamin,

A few introductory words about the issue. The Mormons have the largest collection of genealogical data that exists. It is stored in a structure that is built into a mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah, and contains information on over two billion people. This material is also made available via reading rooms located in cities around the world. The motivation for gathering this material is that if they have the name of the person, and the place and date of his death, they can baptize him via proxy. This means that they will have someone stand in for the deceased and go through a baptism in his name. The deceased is then given an opportunity to convert in Heaven (according to their belief.)

Therefore, is it forbidden to approach the Mormons for the purpose of benefiting from something that is a vehicle for conversion to their faith?

I asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, and he said that it is irrelevant whether or not the genealogical material is technically a forbidden idolatrous substance. What is relevant is the fact that the Mormons use this material for conversion - a purpose akin to idolatrous practices. Therefore, one must not go to the "Family History Library™" in Salt Lake City, Utah, or to one of their numerous reading rooms.

In Rav Scheinberg's words: "Stay away! Stay away!"

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