Mormons…the new Jew?: Exploring the Jewish-Mormon Connection

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BYU’s Jerusalem Center

Rabbi Perry Tirschwell wrote an interesting comparison of Mormons and Jews in the Jewish Press yesterday. Ever since Orson Hyde dedicated the Holy Land and prophesied about the Zionist movement, Mormons have had a vested interest in witnessing the restoration of the Jews’ place in the world. It should be clear, though, that Latter-day Saint Church leaders are on record in expressing love for towards both Jews and Muslims, lest people think we’re taking a side in certain Middle-East conflict. The late Mormon president/prophet Howard  W. Hunter said in his excellent 1979 address “All Are Alike Unto God”:

As members of the Lord’s church, we need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons. Sometimes we unduly offend brothers and sisters of other nations by assigning exclusiveness to one nationality of people over another.

Let me cite, as an example of exclusiveness, the present problem in the Middle East—the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. We do not need to apologize nor mitigate any of the prophecies concerning the Holy Land. We believe them and declare them to be true. But this does not give us justification to dogmatically pronounce that others of our Father’s children are not children of promise.

We have members of the Church in the Muslim world. These are wonderful Saints, good members of the Church. They live in Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Sometimes they are offended by members of the Church who give the impression that we favor only the aims of the Jews. The Church has an interest in all of Abraham’s descendants, and we should remember that the history of the Arabs goes back to Abraham through his son Ishmael.

Imagine a father with many sons, each having different temperaments, aptitudes, and spiritual traits. Does he love one son less than another? Perhaps the son who is least spiritually inclined has the father’s attention, prayers, and pleadings more than the others. Does that mean he loves the others less? Do you imagine our Heavenly Father loving one nationality of his offspring more exclusively than others? As members of the Church, we need to be reminded of Nephi’s challenging question: “Know ye not that there are more nations than one?” (2 Ne. 29:7).

At the present time we are engaged in a project of beautifying the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem by a garden, in memory of Orson Hyde, an early apostle of the Church, and the dedicatory prayer he offered on that site. It is not because we favor one people over another. Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews, but it is also sacred to the Arabs.

A cabinet minister of Egypt once told me that if a bridge is ever built between Christianity and Islam it must be built by the Mormon Church. In making inquiry as to the reason for his statement I was impressed by his recitation of the similarities and the common bonds of brotherhood.

Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each. The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring about love, unity, and brotherhood of the highest order. Like Nephi of old, may we be able to say, “I have charity for the Jew. … I also have charity for the Gentiles.” (2 Ne. 33:8–9.)

Yet I think Rabbi Tirschwell is right to say that there is a special kinship and commonality with our Jewish brothers and sisters and the similarities shared between us. There are some startling corollaries, ancient and modern, and those are not lost on many Mormons. We feel the sweet tug from where there is a common heritage and an honorable respect.

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