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Our Friends the Mormons

I learned that the Mormons have great respect for Jews and the state of Israel.

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With large families, a deep love of Israel and the Jewish people, simultaneous dedication to our faith and engagement with the broader world, dietary restrictions and modest dress, and being misunderstood (even by our coreligionists), Orthodox Jews surprisingly have much in common with one of the fastest growing religions in the United States – the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), colloquially known as the Mormons.

I would like to share reflections on last week’s meetings, coordinated by the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, with the church and its political leadership in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There are fourteen million Mormons worldwide. There are fourteen million Jews worldwide. Six million members of each faith live in the U.S., three million of whom are centered in one particular geographical area (the East Coast and Mountain states respectively).

We both believe we are descended from the twelve tribes of Israel. Around the age of thirteen, Mormons receive a personalized Patriarchal Blessing that they consider their life’s mission statement.

Like us, Mormons send their children away after high school for one or two years to experience spiritual growth, are committed to giving ten percent of their earnings to charity, and permit abortion when the mother’s life is endangered.

Like us, the Mormons have Thirteen Articles of Faith (though we of course do not subscribe to most of them). Mormons call their homeland (Utah) Zion, consider their Temple holy ground, and only allow people who are pure in their eyes to enter it.

Mormons were persecuted and killed, but are quick to point out that the persecutions of the Jews are unparalleled.

Mormons are disproportionately represented in many walks of life, including the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 2012 presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are members of the LDS. The founders of Marriott Hotels and JetBlue, as well an increasing number of high-level lawyers and bankers, are Mormon.

To be clear, there are certainly differences between the two religions. The Mormons respect these differences. To address just one of the misconceptions many people have, bigamy has been strictly prohibited for over 140 years by the LDS and is only practiced by some splinter groups.

Though we both are dedicated to inspiring our co-religionists with our faith, Mormons do this in many countries even with non-Christians. They do separate their humanitarian and religious arms, so people understand that the aid to underprivileged people throughout the world does not come with any strings attached.

Most of us associate the Mormon church with two “parshiyot” – the construction of the Mormon Center facing the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1980s and the posthumous baptism of Holocaust survivors in the 1990s. In fact, the church uses its Mt. Scopus facility to inspire its own members with a love of Israel and is committed to not proselytizing in Israel. And the church also forbade these posthumous baptisms.

LDS is governed by a president (and his two counselors), twelve apostles, and two groups of seventy elders. We met with two of the apostles and one of the elders. They provided and ate kosher food with us and offered to drive us to minyan at the Chabad of Utah. Neither they nor we brought up matters of theology. We spoke exclusively about issues of common cause such as the increasing secularization of American society, legislation, and how to keep our youth in our respective folds.

We met with Utah’s senators – veteran Republican Orrin Hatch and Tea Party freshman Mike Lee – as well as Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell. Each of them deeply shares our concerns for guaranteeing religious liberties (e.g. not forcing religious institutions to provide benefits that are not in keeping with their beliefs), maximizing constitutionally-appropriate funding and tax breaks for religious institutions, and not pressuring Israel to make dangerous concessions in the name of peace.

I learned that the Mormons have great respect for Jews and the state of Israel and truly want to help us. We should work toward building bridges to the LDS in our local areas, as these people share many of our values, ideals and concerns, and essentially are our allies.

Nathan Diament (executive director of public policy) and Maury Litwack (director of state political affairs and outreach) of the OU’s Advocacy Center masterfully organized this important mission. Together with my fellow mission participants, Rabbis Lenny Matanky of Chicago, Shalom Baum of Teaneck and Pace Cooper of Memphis, I am indebted to these extremely talented professionals for letting us help them build bridges with an important group of Americans with whom we have so much in common.

About the Author: Rabbi Perry Tirschwell is executive director of the National Council of Young Israel. A graduate of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshiva University, and RIETS, he holds a Master’s Degree in School Administration and Supervision.


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125 Responses to “Our Friends the Mormons”

  1. Todd McKinley says:

    I really enjoyed this article.

  2. KyleJudah says:

    mickhagen hunterschwarz I can vouch that this is an entirely true and widely held belief across The Tribe. Props to my Mormon brothas

  3. As a life-long Mormon (i.e., a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I am honored by Rabbi Tirschwell's commentary in this article, especially the part where he refers to us as being "allies" of the Lord's covenant people. I am grateful for my Jewish friends and neighbors. As an international tax and finance attorney, I have had the blessing to know many wonderful Jewish colleagues. I believe that our affinity toward modern Judah is not prompted merely out of mutual suffering or historical similarities; but as the article indicates, it is prompted out of a knowledge of our peculiar relationships together—relationships which, at least from our part, claim a common heritage. I believe that we Mormons need to know more about the Jews, and the Jews ought to know more about the Mormons.

    Thank you for your kind words, Rabbi Tirschwell. We too consider you our friends.

  4. This was great. I love my Jewish friends!!!

  5. Dave Lobell says:

    And I love my Mormon friends as well. I do not for one moment deny the possiblity that the Mormons are descended from one of the ten lost tribes of Isreal. I do question how exactly this lineage would be traced given the relative young age of Mormonism vis a vis Judaism. If any of our Mormon Brothers or Sisters would care to explain I would love to hear it.

  6. I am certainly no authority, but as a practicing Latter-day Saint for many years, let me give this a shot. Latter-day Saints believe that salvation is "of the Jews" (cf. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/john/4.22-23?lang=eng). Namely, that the covenant made with Abraham and renewed with Isaac and then Jacob is the way whereby man is reunited to God. Hence, all must be placed within the house of Israel. The patriarchal blessing mentioned as the roadmap for life in the article also includes an identification of lineage. Much more could be said about whether this is a spiritual adoption or a literal blood descent, but that is not my focus here. To me the larger point for Latter-day Saints is a deep theological and practical respect for the descendants of Israel, and their role as the covenant people. To cite just one other example, the Book of Mormon chastises the world for not respecting the Jews as the covenant people and for bringing scripture to the world. (Cf. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/29.4?lang=eng#3). Hope this helps.

  7. Matt Hughes says:

    As a believing Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon) I might be able to answer your question with the understanding that I am not an official or authorized spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ so take what I say with a grain of salt. According to my understanding the Latter-Day Saint claim to Israelite heritage is based more on their covenantal relationship with God rather than direct lineal descent from ancient Israel. While most, if not all people living today probably have at least one Israelite ancestor somewhere along their line (based on what little I know about population dynamics) that is not the most important factor. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was established through Joseph Smith we believe that the covenant between God and Abraham, which was inherited by Israel and his descendants, was re-established and those who are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gain access to the blessings that ancient Israel enjoyed by right of their lineage. It is conceivable that some Latter-Day Saints may actually be direct lineal descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel, the rest of us, we believe, are adopted into the family through covenant (which we define as a formal set of promises we make to God to serve Him and our fellow human beings across the world). Because of this it is natural for us to feel a kinship with modern Jews. In fact the Book of Mormon tells us that modern Jews are God’s covenant people as well so we see ourselves as cousins in a sense. Hopefully this answers your question at least somewhat :)

  8. In writing this, I am not trying to gloss over the fact that there are significant differences in belief (beginning with the obvious central role of Jesus). But that does not diminish at all our respect for our Jewish friends and the prominent role they play in G-d's plan for His children.

  9. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    Most dead Jews have rachmana litzlan become Mormons. On the plus side, most dead Mormons have embraced the toeiva lifestyle. http://alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com/

  10. I am a mormon and I loved this article. Thanks Rabbi Tirschwell. I don't know any jewish but now I want to now at least one of you and now more about your beliefs because of this article.

  11. Thanks for sharing your time with our church leaders and embracing each other in the true light it's been shared with

  12. Jill P. Lex says:

    We have had a tradition of lending our Mormon church building to one of the local Jewish congregations (Or Shalom in Vernon Hill, IL) for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

  13. It is just a brotherhood; the way it should always be.

  14. Linda Dawson Fiatoa says:

    Vicarious baptism does not make anyone Mormon, unless they choose it themselves. We believe that the dead have the same free agency after death that they have in life. So, in case they did not have the chance to make that choice in life, we give them the chance after they have died. We do the baptism in their behalf, and then it's between them and God.

  15. Lucinda Dunn Wade says:

    Thanks for sharing! It is a great article.

  16. Carmen J Lopez says:

    Thanks Rabbi, we truly appreciate the friendship and the goodwill!

  17. Christopher Kirkland says:

    Having spent some time at BYU Jerusalem's Mount Scopus campus, I can tell you the next time I get back to Israel, I'd kiss the ground as soon as I stepped off the plane! I am also someone who has a deep love for the LDS Temple, which in our eyes serves the same purpose as the ancient Israelite's temples: bringing man back into God's presence. As a Mormon, there is no religion I feel more yearning for than the Jews. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I know they are a remnant of Jacob's seed, and are entitled to great and precious promises.

  18. Lorilee Saunders Roskelley says:

    Very good. Just one correction…the official name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Thanks for a wonderful article.

  19. MahonriStewart says:

    An interesting commentary on the LDS view of other nations and peoples was made by Mormon leader Howard W. Hunter in 1979 during his address “All Are Alike Unto God.” He specifically mentions the Mormon/Jewish kinship: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/06/all-are-alike-unto-god?lang=eng

  20. Sc Woz says:

    And our Brothers and Sisters the Jews.

  21. Rodger Worthen says:

    Considering the Jewish state of Israel has few friends in the world I am happy the LDS church is considered to be one of them. Abraham's people are truly among us.

  22. Lance Peterson says:

    We see the Jews as our brothers and love them as a tribe of Israel.

  23. Mike Makuch says:

    The lineage probably cannot be directly traced. The lost tribes were indeed lost and scattered throughout the earth. It would take divine revelation or intervention for the knowledge of their lineage to be known again. Joseph Smith had known he was of the lineage of Ephraim because of such revelation. He felt that it was his duty, due to his location in a Gentile nation, to start the process of the great gathering of the house of Israel. Isaiah 11:10-16 come to mind here. Anyway, there is a great article on the whole of this topic found here:
    http://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/01/of-the-house-of-israel

  24. Ryan Scott Hunter says:

    Excellent article. It's a joy to see an article focusing on our common ground rather than our differences. Thank you.

  25. Jon-Michael DeShazer says:

    I was a full-time Mormon Missionary in Los Angeles late 1990's, and some of the best experiences I ever had with people not of my faith were those affiliated with Judaism. I still have a print of a wood carving done by a Jewish man of whom I came in contact with out there. It's a beautiful portrayal of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and Exodus 12:24 written in Hebrew as the border. One of my favorite pieces of artwork I ever received. Thank you for a very thought provoking and informative article Rabbi. The world needs more people like you in it!

  26. I have recently reconnected with my best friend from growing up in Upstate New York. The Jewish boy and the Mormon boy, we were as close as brothers. As we are catching-up on our life stories, we find that we still have much in common. I will always richly value the teachings of the Jewish faith from what I learned being in his home. It has helped me to be a better Latter-Day Saint.

  27. Linda VanCott says:

    Loved this article. I have been a Mormon all my life and have always loved the Jewish people. I took Hebrew at BYU and joined the Hebrew club, and my brother married a Jewish girl, so I am thrilled to know that their children will be considered Jewish (if it's true that it goes through the mother's line?) I got a chance to go to Jerusalem and was thrilled to be there! It's always nice to know we may not be so "disliked" by people we hold in such high esteem.

  28. Debbiee Eyre says:

    Wonderful article. Yes, we Mormons love Israel and our Jewish brothers and sisters!

  29. I really enjoyed this article. I'm a convert to the Mormon church but my wife was raised LDS on the east coast and has a lot of fond memories of her Jewish friends and their families growing up together.

  30. AprilSaundersAnderton says:

    Some of my most wonderful memories are of my  years spent in Boston as a nanny for a Jewish family. I claim them as my own. Our conversations on religion were amazing and inspiring and I will never forget them. This article listed so many of the points we covered around the dinner table with love and genuine interest in each other’s beliefs and practices. Thanks for bringing back great memories.

  31. Rosie Kiser Jones says:

    As a young mormon mother, one of the most inspiring books in creating my home has been "how to run a traditional Jewish household' by Blu Greenberg… for the reasons explained in this article! I may not run a kosher home, but in nearly every commandment and holiday I have found a meaningful parallel. I feel a great love and kinship for my Jewish brothers and sisters! :)

  32. Jose G Ochoa says:

    finisimo my dear brother

  33. What a great article, and love the picture of Jarom!

  34. Great article- thank you for sharing!

  35. Jan Johnson Parker says:

    Great article! Although I have a (newly converted – from agnostic to Judaism) friend who can only see our theological dfferences and is even more antagonistic. I guess there is no convincing of some people?

  36. Lee Baroldy says:

    What a great and positive article. Wouldn't it be nice if more of the great religions of the world got together like this and compared their many similarities rather then focus on divisive differences. Of course, there was the exclusion of "Jesus Christ" in the name of our Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), but overall, a great article and great example of how complimentary religions should associate with one another. I hope this example will be repeated between all of the great religions of the world. What Joy that would bring. :)

  37. Eva WB says:

    I am Jew-loving Mormon too! I love this feeling of comraderie (sp?) and dearly wish that it would extend even further; that everyone could see the common brotherhood of mankind. Division and contention are not of God. Alas, that will not happen until all people learn to set aside their differences to build something much greater: love.

  38. Tonia Izu says:

    I have always felt that if I were not LDS I would have converted to Judaism.

  39. Tonia Izu says:

    Thank you, Rabbi Perry Tirschwell! I love this article. During my freshman year at UCLA, I dated several Jewish men. I think there was at least one mother trying to be a matchmaker! I attended synagogue and celebrated Jewish holidays with my friends. I attended Jewish weddings and enjoyed the traditions therein. I have always felt that if I was not LDS, I would have converted to Judaism. I have a great love and appreciation for that faith.

  40. LarryHilliard says:

    Enjoyed the article.  I’m a fan of Dennis Prager and appreciate his kind words about Mormans.  Thru listening to his program I’ve attended a couple CUFI (Christians United For Israel) gatherings here in Phoenix and have often thought that it would be great if there was an organization MUWI… Mormans United With Israel.

  41. Lori Lyn Price says:

    I am a Mormon and several of my colleagues are Jews. I always enjoy learning more about their religion and holidays. One of the highlights of my year is participating in the Seder dinner with one of my Jewish friends and her family.

  42. Lori Lyn Price says:

    I am a Mormon and several of my colleagues are Jews. I always enjoy learning more about their religion and holidays. One of the highlights of my year is participating in the Seder dinner with one of my Jewish friends and her family.

  43. Edward Simms says:

    We have a lot in common. Great article, lets continue bridging the gap and growing together. There are no coincidences in Heaven.

  44. Edward Simms says:

    We have a lot in common. Great article, lets continue bridging the gap and growing together. There are no coincidences in Heaven.

  45. Who is this lovely looking young lady?

  46. Remember we share the abrahamic covenant.

  47. Leslie Leap Broad says:

    Hi Lorilee, we both enjoyed the article: Our Friends the Mormons. The spelling of our church is very precise. The word day in Latter-day always has a lower case "d" unless the entire name is capitalized. Maybe you overlooked that in your response. I've found it often written incorrectly even in Ward programs. Wishing you well.

  48. Scott Shields says:

    I am a Mormon and have Jewish ancestry – I love both religions! Love the article!

  49. Mv Nieves says:

    I'm LDS of Jewish ancestry and I feel very complete in both my faith and heritage. I feel very blessed to have both.

  50. MamallamaKantrow says:

    As a woman of Jewish heritage with membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am so grateful for my lineage and my faith.  There are so many wonderful similarities between them. This beautiful and well-written article affirms that for me.

  51. It's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not the Church of Latter-day Saints…. A common misprint/oversite.

  52. Matt Warren says:

    Indeed, as a Mormon I feel we have much in common. Judaism and Jewish heritage are fascinating subjects of study, and very inspirational. I hope a lasting relationship continues into the future.

  53. Ben Budick says:

    I see the good Rabbi didn't dig too deep…

  54. Dear Tonia, being LDS should not stop you from converting to Judaism if you felt it deeply in your heart.

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I learned that the Mormons have great respect for Jews and the state of Israel.

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