May 28, 2012
Shavuot and Mormons
But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? – 2 Nephi 29:4-5 (Book of Mormon)
This year more Jews than ever have asked me whether Shavuot has any meaning for Mormons. It may be that the Romney campaign is causing more members of the tribe to want to learn more about LDS beliefs and practices. After all, if Mormons believe that they’re latter-day Israelites, doesn’t the giving of the Torah to Moses have deep meaning for them? Indeed it does.
I have often said that while history shows it is possible to read the Old and New Testaments and still be an anti-Semite, it is impossible to read the Book of Mormon and the Bible and remain a Jew-hater. As the above verses in the Book of Mormon suggest, Mormons have enormous gratitude and respect for the Jews’ role in bringing Torah truths to the world. If it were not for their role in preserving the Hebrew Bible, both Jews and Gentiles would be spiritually impoverished.
Like many Jews, Mormons believe that Moses came down from Sinai with the first set of plates, saw the golden calf, broke the plates, and came down a second time from Sinai with a different set of plates. I’ve been unable to pin down exactly how Jews believe the second set of plates differed from the first, but for Latter-day Saints the plates represented a different set of laws and commandments for the Israelites.
The first set of plates (pre-calf, that is) contained commandments tied to the laws of the higher priesthood, named after Melchizedek. These are the laws that govern LDS priesthood, temples and worship today. Since the Israelites showed that they were incapable of living the higher law, God gave them commandments tied to the lower order of priesthood, named after Aaron. They involved animal sacrifices in temples and other rituals designed to point Israelites toward the ultimate blood sacrifice, which Mormons and other Christians believe was made by Jesus Christ.
There’s no question that most Mormons would be very supportive of a holiday that encourages Jews to read from and celebrate the Torah, the foundational text of both of our faiths. My wife and I are planning to read the Torah this year once again, only this time I’ll be reading it in Romanian. Hag sameach to all of my Jewish friends on a holiday that I wish were universally observed.