On December 4th, 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune published a lengthy and well-written article about one of the true anti-Mormon hatemongers out there. Helen Radkey is to the LDS Church what Andree McLeod is to Sarah Palin - a regular thorn in the side. The article describes her background and lays out how she became so obsessed with the practice of baptism for the dead by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yes, she's another one of those losers who got excommunicated from the Church for cause, but instead of taking it like an adult and either working her way back, or else finding another path to spiritual satisfaction, she decided to wage war against the Church.
The LDS website discusses baptism for the dead HERE. The Family Search website is HERE.
Summary: During her life, Helen Radkey has migrated from Catholicism to Mormonism and to the New Age movement. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, she grew up a Catholic, but became dissatisfied with it. In 1963, two Mormon missionaries knocked on the door where she was a wife and mother, but for eight years, her husband refused to let her join the Church. Nevertheless, Radkey persevered, and in 1971, she relinquished the marriage and custody of her son and daughter for a chance to join.
Later that year, Radkey met Stuart Olmstead, an American who was living in Australia. He also joined the LDS Church; they were wed and later sealed in a temple. They had identical twin sons after moving to Sydney. But shortly thereafter, trouble set in. In a neighboring LDS ward, four members were excommunicated allegedly after a disagreement with LDS officials in Sydney. Radkey was outraged and complained loudly about the treatment. Because of their open apostasy, Radkey and her husband were disfellowshipped and both stopped attending. Three years later, she condemned blind obedience in a tract called Free Agency in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Australia and distributed 300 to 400 copies to members in the area. This resulted in her excommunication, but by then she had long stopped believing in Mormon doctrine. She decided the LDS Church was a "cult".
Fast forward to 1984, when she moved with her sons to Utah. She had some unresolved concerns with Mormonism, and thought she could help Mormons who had gone through what she had. But she also had a premonition that she would have something to do with Jews, and became obsessed with the Holocaust. "I developed a passion for the Holocaust. I have five crates of Holocaust books, took Israeli dancing and even took Hebrew classes," said Radkey. She also met Anthony Radkey, who worked in a flour mill and installed windows, but before she would marry him, Radkey insisted the nonpracticing Mormon have his name removed from LDS Church records. Mercifully for Anthony, the marriage ended in 1992. Helen also became a minister in the New Age-oriented Universal Life Church.
But her crusade against proxy baptisms really kicked off in July 1993, when Radkey visited the (Jesuit) Martyrs' Shrine in Ontario, Canada. Moved by what she saw, she returned to discover that Mormons had performed proxy baptisms for Gabriel Lalemant and the other martyrs. Thus began her dogged effort to publicize every posthumous LDS baptism that might offend others' religious sensibilities, beginning with Roman Catholics. In the mid-1990s, she remained focused on Catholic names, reporting findings to the Salt Lake City Diocese's bishop, George H. Niederauer, who dismissed her concerns.
After 1995, when LDS officials agreed to remove more than 350,000 Jewish Holocaust names from their records after the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors started dogging them, Radkey explored whether those names were back on the list. By 2000, she reported some 19,000 names had reappeared. In September and October 2002, she met with Family History Library officials to offer them her research for a price -- $30,000 and a continuing fee of $18 an hour, according to the Jewish magazine Forward -- but the LDS Church declined. Instead, the Jewish Holocaust group compensated her for the hours and hours she had spent scrutinizing LDS genealogical records for Jewish-sounding names of people who died in Europe between 1942 and 1945. Today, when she uncovers in those temple records any names she considers inappropriate or outrageous, she often alerts the press. "I don't think it's right to impose [LDS] rituals on those who didn't share their beliefs when they were alive," she says. "We should be letting souls rest in peace and let them be who they were."
Rabbi Benny Zippel of Salt Lake City's Congregation Bais Menachem disagrees with posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims, believing that a conversion requires a full-fledged, conscious willingness. He finds any kind of proxy baptism morally offensive and deeply hurtful to both the survivors of the Holocaust, as well as to the souls of those who died and laid down their lives for their faith. But he refused to have anything to do with Helen Radkey or her efforts. "I don't like nurturing or enhancing negative energy," Zippel says. "I have been here for 18 years, enjoyed a very positive, enriching experience interaction with the LDS Church, with [former] President [Gordon B.] Hinckley and now with President [Thomas S.] Monson. I don't want to get involved with anything that is damaging to other people."
Helen Radkey's fires of obsession may finally be burning out, though. Radkey says she is finished digging up questionable proxy baptisms. After completing a writing course at Salt Lake Community College, she plans to pen a screenplay about serial killer Ted Bundy, aka Theodore Robert Cowell.
Here are a small sampling of the 254 comments posted to the story:
griffinkay: 12/4/2009 11:38:00 PM
Goodness, what a waste of energy. I'm an excommunicated Mormon myself, but I feel like this woman is consumed with negative energy that would be better spent doing something more productive. It seems she has an ax to grind. Even if one finds the idea of proxy baptisms objectionable or offensive, they have no meaning unless the people for whom they are done accepts them. I understand the idea can be unsettling to those relatives who are still living, but I think this woman's relentless drive is a bit misplaced. Too bad. I kind of feel sorry for her.
Skankin Pickle: 12/4/2009 5:46:00 PM
So, let me get this right... She abandoned two children and a husband to JOIN the church, then introduced the next guy to the church and had two more kids. She then bails on that old boy, and moves the boys to Utah, home of the church she now hates.
OK. As an encore, she finds another dude, forces him to sever what little ties he has with a church that he is not aligned with in any meaningful way, then bails on him, too.
Quite a gal.
Quite a role model.
I think I'm inspired.
lizzysher: 12/4/2009 3:44:00 PM
This lady needs to get a life. Does she seriously want to spend her life worrying about what dead people think? They are dead! Oh, I guess she likes to be a tattletale too and stir up misery among relatives of the dead. What a waste of time and a downer way to live your precious days. Why doesn't she engage in organizations that help the LIVING people on earth. Now that's the way to live a good life! Does she seriously want to go to her grave with such a negative agenda as her life pursuit? What a pathetic life!
lawpunk: 12/4/2009 12:53:00 PM
Her son totally gets what so many fail to get. It is all about the belief system. If you don't buy it, why does the harmless act bother you? And it is harmless. Similar to Buddhist teachings as well, where many "baptize" sticks for the souls of the dead. Can;t say that bother me one bit. In fact, should a Buddhist remember me, and take that step, I'd be honored to be remembered by them.