December 4, 2010
Replacement Theology, Mormons and the Amish
“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
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temple worship is centered on the Abrahamic Covenant cannot possibly believe that promises given to Israelites are no longer in force.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 Claims that Israelites (including Jews) no longer have a covenant with God or that they have been replaced by modern Christian churches are non-starters for us.
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.