It is an idiocy all the more pronounced since this is not an errant statement but an argument that has been pushed time and again over a number of years. That is all the more tragic because it is clear that the Simon Wiesenthal Center does some very valuable work and such puerile tactics threaten their otherwise well deserved credibility. But before getting into that perhaps it's worth setting out some of the background to the 'debate'.
Baptism for the Dead
The LDS baptise the dead. (Generally, although inaccurately, LDS is viewed as a synonym for 'Mormonism', which is rather like using the term Assemblies of God to describe all Pentecostals, but that is by the by). Saying LDS baptise the dead does not mean a physical rite involving a corpse. If that were the case you can be sure that I would be on the side of Rabbi Cooper! Unlike in much Christianity there is in Mormonism a clear expectation that death is not the end of an individual's decision to choose God; Joseph Smith, for example, taught that “the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.” By performing a rite of proxy baptism (based on 1 Cor 15:29) the LDS believe that those who die outside the faith are offered a way out of Spirit-prison and to enter God's into salvation – the practice of seeking out the names of all those deceased is, literally, an attempt to declare the universal love of God. Concerning the practice, A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life sets out this view clearly:
Church members are making every effort to identify every man, woman and child who ever lived on the face of the earth so that baptisms and other ordinances can be performed on their behalf. Until the Millennium, we are seeking out the dead, one name at a time.
This baptism is not, however, sufficient to make a person who died an atheist, Muslim, Christian, Jew or any of the hundreds of other faith and belief system a 'true mormon'. A confession and decision on the part of the deceased is necessary for that to happen.
And yet, Rabbi Cooper is adamant the LDS are performing a horrendous act of disrespect in baptising by proxy of the parents of Simon Wiesenthal who were victims of the Holocaust. Cooper explains “[w]e are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon Temples. Throughout his life, Simon Wiesenthal especially revered his beloved mother who was deported and murdered at Belzec death camp in 1942,” and further that "[t]heir physical lives were taken, their communities were destroyed and now somebody is coming along, however well-intentioned, and is suggesting that they're going to rebrand their souls … It just doesn't compute.”