A Couple of Interesting PostsSeptember 19, 2007
I recently came across a couple of excellent posts on the Mormon Blog, “Times and Seasons” that might be of interest to Two-Sticks readers. Both are from the LDS perspective and both are overwhelming positive toward Jews and Mormon-Jewish relations. Particularly interesting are the comments.
Hopefully we can address most or all of the issues raised in these posts.
The first post, “Jews and Mormons” looks at the relationship from the point of view of Mormons who seem to have a natural affinity with Jews. In the post, the author, a Mormon, seems to have his good will return by the Jews he has met. Some of the those commenting though, seem to wonder if the affinity is reciprocated.
I would say “yes,” “no” and then “yes” in that order. Many Jews enjoy a stimulating intellectual conversation and might find affinity with a fellow religious or cultural “outsider” but will be wary of conversations that revolve around religion. Most Jews have little knowledge of Mormonism, let alone Mormonisms penchant for “Israelisms.” Further, many Jews, though enjoying Jewish holidays and having a great sense of “peoplehood” with other Jews, are not “theological” and are simply not interested in conversation about religion.
Secondly, almost all Jews see attempts at proselyting not as a loving offer of a precious gift but as an assault designed to crush the Jewish soul and end our existence as a distinct people. This is a natural reaction, I believe, to centuries of persecution and forced baptisms. (This is the issue at the root of the Proxy baptism controversy between Jews and Mormons as well. More on this in another post). This Shabbat (Saturday), is Yom Kippur and part of the service is devoted to a “martyrology” that recounts the horrendous actions taken by (mainly the Roman Catholic) Church to force Jews to convert and the heroic resistance offered by Jews who gave their lived to avoid baptism. When Jews are approached my missionary-minded Mormons, the natural reaction is to recoil. Even when the goal of the Mormon is to simply learn more about Judaism or to start a respectful dialogue, the Mormon reputation for proselyting creates a barrier that must be overcome before real dialogue can take place.
Finally though, once the air is cleared and it’s clear the proselyting is off the table, I think many knowledgeable Jews (would) find the parallels between Mormonism and Judaism interesting and even stimulating. The idea of Mormons being literal (or, more recently, adopted) members of the tribe of Ephraim, a little odd or even off-putting but, at least for me, after awhile the idea becomes a little endearing. Not something I take seriously at a literal level but kind of “cute” (forgive me, LDS readers) and a point of common embarkation on a journey of understanding. For some reason, the LDS claim seems so much easier to hear than the (thankfully fading) supersessionist idea of the Church (Roman Catholic or generic) becoming the “New Israel.” Your view of adoption (and or literal descent from the lost ribes of the “north countries”) merely add you in, rather than kicking us out of the category of God’s beloved Israel.
Anyway, once a few shockers are out of the way and once the threat of proselyting is off the table, relations can and I believe should, become rather cordial.
The second post follows a different vein. In “What do we think of Jews ” The author speculate on why Mormons tend to feel differently toward Jews than to other non Christians. He correctly affirms that the biggest single issue between us is that of whether Jesus is the Messiah (Moshiach) or not but still, he regard Jews differently than other non-Christians and take the position that Mormons do not and should not go out of their way to proselyte Jews.
The comments on this post are also fascinating. The majority seem to agree with the author. A few raise some quirky issues regarding the prominent Mormon senator from Utah, Orin Hatch, wearing Jewish symbols under his clothing. (?!) I have to admit, I had never heard this before… Fascinating!