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April 24, 2011

Mormon Night in God’s Assembly

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/mormon_night_in_gods_assembly_39110424/

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Thousand Oaks, CA was the setting for last month’s “Mormon Night” at Reform synagogue Temple Adat Elohim. Rabbi Ted Riter has long been active in interfaith affairs, and he had the good fortune to befriend Larry Bagby while serving on a local interfaith council. Larry is a former LDS bishop who currently serves as his stake’s public affairs director, and it was my pleasure to serve as his warm-up act at the event.

The synagogue’s interfaith lecture series was organized by Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe (pictured), the world’s first ordained deaf female rabbi and one of the kindest people I have ever met. After she welcomed us, Larry got out his accordion and set the tone for the evening with a John Denver song. That was a tough act to follow, which I did with a brief lecture on Jewish themes in LDS belief and practice (a subject for a semester-long course, to be sure).

Larry then got up and showed why he inspires so many people through his outreach efforts. He humbly shared with the audience his testimony of the LDS Church, its prophets, and the Book of Mormon. It takes considerable skill to do this in front of Jews without sounding preachy, but Larry pulled it off. We then took questions, including one from a 10-year-old boy who wanted to know the state of LDS-Buddhist relations. Larry pointed out that the next speaker in the series was going to be a Buddhist who used to be a Mormon, and suggested that the boy ask him the question. Another accordion number closed the memorable evening.   

I commend Rabbis Dubowe and Riter (who was also in attendance) for exposing their congregation to other faith traditions. This kind of interaction often makes people grateful for their own faith and more tolerant of others. Good things are happening on the interfaith front in the Conejo Valley, and I’m grateful to the rabbis and Larry for inviting me to participate.
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I will be leading a trip to Israel next March for one of the nation’s largest travel agencies. For more information, please visit the following link: http://www.morrismurdock.com/tours/tour_detail.cfm?ID=420&Grouping=Holy&page=tours  

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