Posted by Mark Paredes
Since I will be celebrating Christmas with my family next week in Michigan, I decided to spend Christmas Eve with observant Jews attending the annual Orthodox Union’s Torah Convention. The first Christmas Eve OU event that I attended was a 2006 debate on Orthodoxy between Dennis Prager and my good friend Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Tonight a few dozen people gathered at the regal home of Dr. Steven Tabak and his better half Linda to hear two of America’s great rabbis share their thoughts on defining Jewish values. They discussed several topics that are of interest to Mormons, and the LDS Church was mentioned several times. The discussion lasted two and a half hours, and was so wide-ranging that the rabbis only managed to address one of three questions that the eloquent moderator, Rabbi Adir Posy, had planned to cover. No one present seemed to mind.
Rabbi Steven Weil, the OU’s National Executive VP, began his presentation by identifying Jewish parents as being primarily responsible for the transmission of Jewish values and moral character to their children, with schools and synagogues serving as concentric circles around the parents. This responsibility requires parents to behave in an ethical manner so that their children will be drawn to Judaism; hypocrisy on their part will cause their kids to leave the faith. Rabbi Weil went on to say that it is ethical behavior, not outward signs of Orthodoxy like Sabbath observance, that truly characterizes an Orthodox Jew. He could have easily made the same speech to Mormon parents.
The other presenter was Rabbi Michael Broyde, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta and a member of the Beth Din of America (the nation’s largest Jewish law court in the country). I had heard Rabbi Broyde speak on the halachic principle of dina d’malchuta dina (equivalent to the LDS Twelfth Article of Faith), and was eager to hear his thoughts on this topic. He focused on economic issues related to living an Orthodox life, lamenting the fact that many Jewish institutions granted Jewish immortality (i.e., honors including having their names engraved on buildings) to big donors instead of adhering to the past practice of honoring learned rabbis, scientists, judges, etc. Needless to say, a lively discussion ensued between several audience members and the rabbis.
The rabbis were kind enough to include me in the discussion by mentioning that both of them have engaged in dialogue with LDS leaders and praising Mormons’ desire to work with Orthodox Jews on school vouchers and other issues of interest to both communities (the LDS Church does not take an official position on vouchers). They also mentioned Mormons while addressing two issues: tithing and excommunication of unethical members of their community. Both rabbis appeared to advocate an arrangement of lifetime tithing for the Orthodox in exchange for the provision of certain services, including tuition for their children at Orthodox day schools. They pointed to the LDS Church as a model to be followed in this regard (i.e., the building of chapels, temples, universities). Rabbi Broyde then initiated what became an intense discussion of what to do with donations given by people who had engaged in criminal and/or unethical behavior. He went on to point out the difficulty of applying the LDS practice of excommunicating members guilty of serious sins to the Bernie Madoffs of the Jewish community.
When an audience member asked whether Mormons debate similar issues, I was asked to respond. While Latter-day Saints do pay tithing and are required to be honest in their business dealings in order to enter an LDS temple, there is very little debate within our community on the suitability of individual members to give money to our church. Our leaders’ general policy, as stated by Joseph Smith, is to teach members correct principles and to let them govern themselves. However, I assured those present that people of all faiths do wrestle with these issues. By way of example, I shared with them my personal boycott of Marriott hotels, which bear the name of a prominent Mormon family, due to the pornographic TV channels and alcohol that they make available to their guests. Eight years ago I discussed this issue with an official spokesman for Marriott hotels, and he confirmed that the money from pornography and alcohol was not segregated, but made its way along with other revenue to the bank accounts of the company’s board members, including Marriott family members. Since that day I have never paid for a stay at a Marriott hotel. The Marriotts are prominent donors to Mormon causes, and as far as I know their donations have never been refused or questioned. [I am not suggesting that they should be; my boycott is a personal one].
The first Christmas Eve was memorable because of one Jewish baby, and tonight was memorable because of the efforts of many Jews to define and engage their tradition with intellect and passion. I’m grateful that they allowed me to participate in this dialogue, and look forward to attending the convention’s Christmas Day lectures.
Merry Christmas to my Christian readers and Merry Shabbos to my Jewish ones.
I will be speaking at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on January 12 at 7:00 p.m. I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on January 16. Single LDS women who love Jews are especially encouraged to attend.
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December 22, 2010 | 4:15 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
BYU students are in luck this academic year. Not only do they have an opportunity to take a comparison course on Judaism and LDS Christianity, but their teacher for both semesters is Dr. Fred Woods. More than 180 students have already signed up for three classes on “Judaism and the Gospel” that will be taught by Fred next semester. I’ve known him for several years and consider him to be one of the most energetic, dedicated teachers on BYU’s religion faculty. He and BYU colleague Dr. Andrew Skinner (the subject of a future profile) are speaking on Mormons and Jews in St. Louis in April of next year; it will be the third in a series of presentations by leaders of the two communities in that city.
Fred was kind enough to take a few minutes from his Christmas preparations this week to answer a few questions about the class.
1) How did you become involved in interfaith work? I was appointed to a Richard L. Evans professorship of Religious Understanding from Fall 2005 to Fall 2010. My background fit this assignment very well inasmuch as I grew up in the melting pot of the LA region, had a family of diverse religious backgrounds and converted to Mormonism as a young adult.
2) How did you develop an interest in Judaism? I have always been interested in Jewish studies inasmuch as I have had an interest in the Bible since I was a boy. I studied in Israel in 1980 and have a PhD in Middle East Studies: Hebrew Bible from the University of Utah. I have been teaching the Bible for the past three decades.
3) What do you plan to discuss in the course? I plan to discuss the basic beliefs and practices of the Jews and use the textbooks on these two topics written by Louis Jacobs.
4) What is the purpose of the course? To help students have a basic understanding of Judaism and compare its teachings with Mormonism.
I am obviously very pleased that more than 360 LDS students will learn about the Jewish-Mormon connection at BYU this year, and I long for the day when Fred and other LDS instructors will be able to teach similar classes at Brandeis, JTS, HUC, Yeshiva University, and other Jewish educational institutions.
A very Merry Christmas to my Christian readers.
I will be speaking on LDS-Jewish relations at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on January 12 @ 7:00 p.m. I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on January 16. Single LDS women are especially encouraged to attend both lectures.
December 18, 2010 | 6:42 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
And he [Jacob] blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. – Genesis 48:20
This week’s Torah portion or parsha, Vayechi (Gen. 47:28 – 50:26) is the most important one for Jews seeking to understand Mormons’ views of their place in covenant Israel. Before we get to patriarchal blessings and their promises, a brief summary of the biblical narrative is necessary. As we begin reading the parsha, Jacob the patriarch – also known as Israel – calls his son Joseph to him, tells him that he is about to die, and makes him swear not to leave his body in Egypt. Mormons believe that Joseph inherited the birthright in Israel after Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn) committed a serious sexual transgression (1 Chron. 5:1-2), so it was only proper that Joseph be asked to make this promise on behalf of his brothers.
In the next chapter, Joseph and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, visit the ailing Jacob. The aged patriarch rises from his sickbed to bless his two grandsons, but while doing so he places his right hand – the favored one for blessings – on the head of Ephraim, the youngest. Joseph is “displeased” (v. 17) and tries to place Jacob’s right hand on the head of Manasseh. Jacob refuses to do this, saying that while both men will become great nations, Ephraim will be greater than his brother (vv. 19-20). Mormons agree with Jeremiah (Jer. 31:9) that Ephraim inherited the birthright from Joseph after his death.
In chapter 49, Jacob pronounces blessings upon each of his 12 sons, then dies. Of particular interest to Mormons are the promises made to Joseph, the birthright son, who receives the longest blessing. Joseph is a “fruitful bough” (great nation) whose “branches run over the wall.” For Mormons, this has reference to the fact that some of Joseph’s descendants would be led to the ancient Americas, where their story is told in the Book of Mormon. During Joseph’s blessing, Jacob also declares that the Messiah would come through his [Jacob’s] bloodline (“from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel”). In modern revelation, Mormons are told that Joseph prophesied in chapter 50 that Moses and Aaron would be his descendants.
Once in his lifetime, a faithful Mormon receives a blessing from a church official known as a patriarch. The blessing is recorded and sent to the recipient, for whom it is considered a personal revelation. The member is told in which tribe of Israel he will receive his spiritual blessings, and he is also given promises, blessings, and warnings that the patriarch feels inspired to give. In many cases, the person is told that he is a literal descendant of the designated tribe. However, regardless of the person’s blood lineage, he is promised the blessings associated with that tribe (and by extension the House of Israel and the Abrahamic covenant) if he leads a worthy life. The first thing that most people do after receiving their patriarchal blessing is to read Genesis chapter 49 to learn more about their tribe’s blessing given by Jacob. Since Ephraim is the birthright tribe, we believe that his descendants have been called to lead the gathering of Israelites in the latter days. As a result, most LDS Church members have been declared to be Ephraimites, including the author of this blog.
Latter-day Saints believe that there are two gatherings of Israelites going on today: the physical gathering of Jews to Israel (and, I would add, to the United States) and the spiritual gathering of Israel led by Ephraim. The two tribes didn’t exactly get along in ancient times, but there is a growing rapprochement in modern times that is heartwarming. It is my belief and hope that blessings from patriarchs both ancient and modern will strengthen bonds between Israelites in modern times much as they did anciently. Shabbat shalom.
December 15, 2010 | 6:54 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
Since I began this blog seven short months ago, several local LDS leaders have written me to ask for a general profile of a person to call to work with Jews in their areas (remembering, of course, that divine inspiration is the overriding factor in issuing these callings). When I was the Director of Jewish Relations for the LDS Church in Southern California, I called three wonderful members to serve on our Jewish Relations Committee. Several years later, all three are still serving with great dedication. Based on our experience, and on the success that other LDS public affairs representatives have enjoyed elsewhere, I would recommend that members of similar committees have a deep love and respect for Jews, a desire to get to know them better, and the time to devote to the calling. In addition, the person should not be a Jewish convert to the LDS Church.
Like most people with a history of persecution, Jews have an uncanny ability to detect who their friends really are. If a Mormon really loves Jews and can express that feeling in a genuine way, Jews will respond with equal warmth and sincerity. Doors will be opened to her in the Jewish community that would otherwise remain shut. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this attribute, which cannot be feigned and does not depend on one’s previous callings, marital status, gender, or other irrelevant factors. There are some people in the Church who have been blessed with a deep love for Jews and the ability to connect with them. I pray that a way can be found to use them in LDS outreach efforts throughout the world.
Here I must mention two factors that are very relevant when choosing LDS ambassadors to the Jewish community: orthodoxy and presentation. A young couple that I called to serve on our committee were married in an LDS temple, went on their honeymoon to Israel, and have other callings in the Church. The other committee member is a former bishop with a wonderful wife, and they are pillars of their stake (diocese). The current Director of Jewish Relations is a former stake president who has served as a public affairs representative along with his lovely wife. As you can probably tell, I’m the slacker in the group.
It is no secret that Jews are some of the most highly-educated people in the world, and are overrepresented in the professions, on university faculties, and on lists of Nobel Prize winners. Leaders in the Jewish community are almost always professionals with advanced degrees. As a result, Mormons who wish to deal with people at all levels of the Jewish community should have a good presence and be well-read and articulate. While a graduate degree should not be required of those who are called to serve, intellectual curiosity and intelligence will serve them well in working with this intensely intellectual, dynamic community.
Ideally, an LDS liaison should have the time to attend important events in the Jewish community and to meet with contacts as needed. Personal contacts are very important in interfaith outreach, and the more events one attends, the more people one can meet. A flexible schedule also permits more opportunities to serve in this kind of calling.
Now we come to the sensitive issue of Jewish converts to the Church. I know from personal experience that they are exemplary Mormons and harbor abundant feelings of goodwill towards their Jewish brothers and sisters. In almost all cases, they insist that they remain Jewish in spite of their conversion. Some even consider themselves to be more fully Jewish following their baptisms. While it might seem logical to call former Jews as LDS representatives to a community that they knew very well, there are good reasons not to do so. The reason for this has little to do with how Mormons view Jewish converts, and everything to do with how they are viewed by their former coreligionists.
Although Jewish converts to Christianity may continue to think of themselves as Jews, they are not regarded as such by the Jewish community. According to mainstream Jewish thought, when a Jew is baptized, he essentially excommunicates himself and is no longer considered to be part of Klal Israel (the worldwide Jewish community). Unlike a Mormon who leaves the LDS Church, a Jewish convert rejects both his ethnic identity and his religion. For this reason, it would be very counterproductive to have as an LDS representative to Jews someone who has voluntarily excommunicated herself from their community.
The above examples involve official contacts between LDS and Jewish representatives. Ideally, their efforts should supplement those of ordinary Mormons and Jews who create friendships every day throughout the country. While the LDS Church is somewhat limited in terms of which events it can officially co-sponsor with Jewish organizations, individual members of the Church do not face institutional constraints. When a Mormon tells me how much he loves Jews, I always ask him which Jewish organizations he has joined. Invariably the answer is “none.” With a Jewish organization for every political orientation and interest, there are almost unlimited opportunities for Mormons to befriend Jews who share their political views, interests, and passions.
It is heartwarming to see the mutual trust and respect that Jews and Mormons are developing for each other. To Mormons, we are seeing the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that Ephraim will cease to envy Judah, and Judah will no longer vex Ephraim. As of this writing, Jews are one of the religious groups that have been given priority status for official LDS outreach. This can only augur good things for the future.
December 12, 2010 | 11:23 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
Tonight was the annual Festival of Lights dinner sponsored by the international pro-Israel educational organization StandWithUs (SWU), one of the highlights of my year. I’ve been affiliated with SWU from the beginning, and had the honor of serving on its first speakers panel with Tashbih Sayyed (of blessed memory), Roberta Seid, and Cookie Lommel. More than a thousand people of many ethnicities, religions, and races crowded the Century Plaza Hotel to pay tribute to the efforts of an effective organization that is working to educate leaders in several countries about issues relating to Jews and Israel.
Truth be told, the SWU dinner and similar events in the Jewish community are always a little bittersweet for me. While I love seeing my friends and celebrating their achievements, I always find myself asking the same question that was put to me during this evening’s reception by a rabbi: when are the Mormons going to have their own pro-Israel organization? I gave him my usual retort about the Mormon Church already being the world’s largest pro-Israel organization and quickly changed the subject.
While it is true that the LDS Church has always supported Israel (indeed, it is the only country whose creation was prophesied and publicly sanctioned by church leaders), the rabbi’s point was valid. The LDS Church does not take official positions on political issues, including those related to the Middle East. I believe that this is a wise policy for a church to take. However, in a time when Iran is threatening Israel while developing a nuclear weapons program, boycott and divestment movements are gaining steam in the U.S. and Europe, and efforts to delegitimize Israel and Zionism are increasingly targeting mainstream Christian churches, it would be nice for the many Mormons across the country who staunchly support the Jewish people and Israel to have an LDS organization that speaks for them, while not claiming to speak for their church. There is already a wonderful Utah-based LDS organization (B’nai Shalom) that seeks to further Jewish-LDS understanding, but it does not take positions on political issues.
Without an organization that deals with local Jewish leaders on a daily basis, Mormons will never have a seat at the Jewish community table. Right now the only Christians at that table are Evangelicals, and wise Jews will accept their support. Indeed, I know several Mormons who regularly attend events sponsored by prominent pro-Israel Evangelical groups. However, as I have attempted to show in this blog, Mormons have much more to say to Jews than other Christians, and our theology concerning the House of Israel is much more complete. In addition, we can show others how it is possible to support Israel without being anti-Muslim or anti-Arab. Some Mormons worry about whether non-Mormons could mistake the positions of unofficial LDS groups for the official positions of the LDS Church. Thankfully, this is not a concern with Jews: since no Jew can speak for the entire Jewish people, Jews do not assume that a Mormon (or Baptist or Catholic) is speaking on behalf of his faith unless he explicitly says so. A simple, repeated disclaimer by the pro-Jewish LDS group should be sufficient. There are always reasons not to reach out to other groups, but in this case any Mormon fears of possible confusion do not accurately reflect the thought processes of the target group (the Jewish community). Jews are highly intelligent people, and I have absoute faith in their ability to distinguish between an official position taken by Mormon officials and statements of support made by Jew-loving Mormons.
The proverbial field is white for Mormons to become an important part of the organized Jewish community. At tonight’s event, the rabbis and pastors in attendance were not announced by name, but the LDS representative was. Two important Jewish newspapers allow Mormons to blog on LDS-Jewish issues on their websites. Mormons work for many Jewish organizations, and their numbers are growing every year. I can think of many fine Mormons around the country who should be interfacing with local Jewish leaders as leaders of an unofficial pro-Israel Mormon organization. There is no doubt that the Jewish leaders who came to the StandWithUs event tonight would be happy to attend a similar event put on by Israel-loving Mormons. I pray that the day will soon come when Mormons who want to support Israel will not need to attend events sponsored by Evangelical groups, but will have the resources to organize their own. I welcome any ideas and/or suggestions from LDS and Jewish readers on this topic.
I will be speaking at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on the evening of January 12. I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on the evening of January 16. Single LDS women are especially encouraged to attend.
December 8, 2010 | 4:12 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
“We have been pursuing a moratorium as a means to create conditions for a return to meaningful and sustained negotiations. After a considerable effort, we have concluded that this does not create a firm basis to work towards our shared goal of a framework agreement.” – State Department spokesman Philip Crowley
Yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration will no longer push for a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was a welcome acknowledgment that settlements are not the central obstacle to peace after all. That said, I remain equally baffled by the Israeli, Palestinian, and American positions on this issue.
First the Israelis: six prime ministers (Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon, Olmert, and Netanyahu) have endorsed, however reluctantly, a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Everyone understands that this will involve the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with exact borders to be determined through negotiations. A lot of pro-Israel rhetoric on settlements tends to focus on the right of Jews to live on the West Bank, or historic Judea and Samaria. It seems to me that the question for Israel ought to be whether building houses on disputed land is a good idea, not whether Israelis have a right to live in the historic Land of Israel pending a final settlement. If two neighbors have a serious dispute over the exact location of their property line, the one who continues building on the land in question is generally considered to be acting in bad faith.
Don’t get me wrong: I think that good arguments can be marshaled both for and against a two-state solution. I am not necessarily saying that Israel should proceed with the peace process. However, since Israel has repeatedly promised the U.S., European Union, Palestinian leaders, and the world that it will pursue negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, its continued building on that territory looks schizophrenic at best. Either abandon the peace process and continue building, or stop building and negotiate the borders. I am not suggesting that settlements are the only obstacle to peace; I am merely pointing out that they erode Israel’s moral authority because they call into question its commitment to the peace process.
Now the Palestinians: it remains a mystery to me why Arab claims to land in Palestine have always involved the expulsion of Jews. When Transjordan (later Jordan, the first Arab state in Palestine) was created in 1922, the few Jews living east of the Jordan River were forced to leave. To this day no Jews live in the country of Jordan. When the Jordanians occupied Judea and Samaria (which they renamed the West Bank) and the eastern part of Jerusalem, they expelled Jews, destroyed synagogues, and paved some streets with Jewish headstones. No Jews currently live in Gaza (they were expelled by their own government in an ill-fated attempt to placate Gazan authorities), and Palestinian leaders have made it clear that they do not want any Jews living in the future Palestinian state. About 1.3 million Arabs live in Israel as full citizens, but the state of Palestine must be Judenrein. For those looking for apartheid analogies in the Middle East, the Palestinians’ desire for a complete separation of the two peoples is much closer to the Afrikaner ideal than the Israeli model of granting citizenship and full legal rights to more than a million Arabs.
Finally, it must be emphatically stated that the number of Israelis allowed to live on the West Bank by their government is not properly the business of the United States. Our history of meddling in the peace process over the last two decades has led to bus bombings, the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza, an Israeli counterattack invasion, and many other ills. While our desire to bring the two parties together is commendable, we can’t want peace more than they do. Everyone involved with these negotiations has known the outline of the eventual final agreement for many years. Preventing a few more Jews from living in Judea and Samaria is not going to fundamentally alter that outline. I think that each member of the American peace team, including our President, should be required to recite St. Francis’s immortal prayer before every trip to the Middle East: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I will be speaking at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, January 12 (time TBD). Single LDS women are especially encouraged to attend.
I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on January 16.
December 4, 2010 | 1:25 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
“We are here to say we are sorry. We no longer want to reject you or look at you as not being God’s people. You were God’s people long before we were.” – Amish Bishop Ben Girod, during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem
I now have one more reason to love Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Last month dozens of Amish Christians from the U.S. and Switzerland made a pilgrimage to Israel for one purpose: to apologize to the Jewish people. Arutz Sheva reported that Bishop Ben Girod submitted an official apology to the Western Wall Rabbi for his religion’s past anti-Semitism. This gesture was apparently so important to the Amish travelers that they temporarily set aside their faith’s restrictions on use of modern technology in order to fly to Israel and drive around the country.
I’m not an expert on Amish theology, but it appears that they believe in supersessionism (so-called “replacement theology”), which holds that the Christian churches have replaced Israel in God’s plan, that Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and that the Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled in Christianity. It looks like at least some Amish leaders are prepared to reject supersessionism and speak out strongly in support of Jews and Israel. Israel now has 250,000 more friends around the world. Good for them.
This is as good a time as any to explain what Mormons believe about replacement theology, a topic that I am frequently asked to discuss. In order to illustrate why the whole debate makes no sense to Mormons, let’s look at what I did yesterday. We are a temple-centered church, and I performed what are called initiatory and endowment ordinances in the LDS Los Angeles Temple. More specifically, I entered a building with the phrases “Holiness to the Lord” (inscribed on the high priest’s mitre in ancient Israel) and “House of the Lord” (“Beth El” appears many times in the Hebrew Bible) engraved on its facade. During the initiatory and endowment ceremonies, I was repeatedly promised specific blessings containing the words “House of Israel.” The pinnacle of our temple worship is the sealing of couples and families together in the Abrahamic Covenant. Children born to these couples are said to be “born in the [Abrahamic] covenant,” and people who are baptized into the LDS Church are also considered to have entered the covenant as a member of the House of Israel.
It should be easy to see why a church whose members believe that they are members of the House of Israel and whose temple worship is centered on the Abrahamic Covenant cannot possibly believe that promises given to Israelites are no longer in force. I like to say that instead of replacement theology, Mormons believe in inclusion theology, at least as far as Jews are concerned: we accept Jews as our brothers and sisters in Israel. [Of course, this belief is usually not reciprocated, but Mormons are – or should be—unfazed by this]. Even if we set aside the Abrahamic Covenant for a moment, it is an article of our faith that other Christian churches do not have divine authorization to “replace” anything, let alone the Jewish people. If you ask a Mormon to join a debate on supersessionism, don’t be surprised if he declines. Claims that Israelites (including Jews) no longer have a covenant with God or that they have been replaced by modern Christian churches are non-starters for us.
Compared to Judaism, LDS theology posits an expanded definition of the Abrahamic Covenant. For Jews, the only affirmative obligation listed in the Torah in order to receive the blessings promised to Abraham is to circumcise their newborn boys (though Moses certainly lengthened the list). For Latter-day Saints, the covenant involves the higher priesthood and related covenants (including eternal marriage) that Abraham entered into and that we believe were also given to Moses on the first tablets, which he destroyed following the golden calf incident. While Mormons and Jews may differ on the scope of the Abrahamic Covenant, we definitely agree that it is as valid today as it was on the day that God called Abraham to serve Him. It is very heartening to see that more and more Christians around the world are reaching the same conclusion.
I will be speaking at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on January 12, 2011. I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on January 16.
December 1, 2010 | 7:09 pm
Posted by Mark Paredes
As Jewish families light Chanukah candles this evening, I too will give thanks for two wonderful gifts that have been given to further LDS-Jewish relations on my favorite holiday. The first is Rabbi Jeff Marx of The Santa Monica Synagogue, a dynamic Reform congregation in its namesake city. Rabbi Marx’s involvement with the LDS Church has been fairly extensive: he made a trip to Utah with other LA-based rabbis two years ago, he is a frequent visitor to the Church’s regional Family History Center, he lectured on Judaism to my LDS interfaith class, and he invited my stake president, our stake director of public affairs and me to make a presentation on LDS beliefs to his congregants. Tomorrow he will be speaking on Chanukah and Judaism at an Institute (= LDS Hillel) class at Santa Monica College. The class is taught by Gary and Leisel McBride, who have spent much time living in Israel. Their students are in for a treat.
The second gift is Christa Woodall, an LDS journalist who has been asked to write a blog on Mormons and Jews for J., Northern California’s Jewish news weekly. Here is her inaugural post:
Christa had the good fortune to intern for the Michael Medved Show in Seattle during college, which inspired her to take courses on Judaism at BYU. She has worked as a journalist for the Orange County Register and currently lives in Utah. I couldn’t be happier for Christa or for the LDS and Jewish communities of California. I hope her column is wildly successful.
When I asked J.’s publisher Marc Klein why he had agreed to host a blog on Jewish-Mormon relations, his answer showed that he shares the same vision as my editor, Rob Eshman: “I think there is a tremendous interest in the Jewish community about the Mormon religion, but few Jews understand it or know much about Mormon ritual. The interest will only be growing with the chance that Mitt Romney plays an even greater role in the primary for the 2012 elections. Our readers should also understand the Latter-day Saints because of the large number of Mormons in our local community. The Mormon temple sits proudly at the top of the Oakland skyline and is viewed daily by thousands of Bay Area Jews. We’re lucky to have an experienced journalist writing our new blog. Christa Woodall is a Mormon who knows a tremendous amount about the Jewish religion. Who better to help all of us understand one another?”
With any luck, there will soon be a Rabbi Marx in the Bay Area. Chag sameach!