Mormonism and Judaism

From Academic Kids

Mormonism was established in the early 19th century as a part of what is called Christian Restorationism, and practitioners (called Latter Day Saints or often "Mormons", the largest sect being The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) consider themselves to be part of Christianity. (See Mormonism and Christianity)

However, there are many Mormon doctrines and practices that Mormons claim are more closely connected to primitive Christian rite and to ancient Hebrew Judaism than to modern mainstream Christianity.

Judaism is the religion and culture of the Jewish people. The tenets and history of Early Judaism or Hebrew Judaism constitute the historical foundation of Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam.

Contents

Tribal Affiliations

The Jews and Mormons both regard themselves as Israelites, that is belonging to one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Judah

Jews come primarily from the tribe of Judah (from whom they get their collective name), the tribe of Levi, and the tribe of Benjamin. While many members of the tribe of Levi still know their tribal status, most other Jews have lost the knowledge of their tribal affiliation over the course of history, and identify simply as "Israelites".

Joseph

Mormon doctrine states that the early ancient Mormons were descendants of the House of Joseph, to include both tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh are by far, the two largest tribes in the Mormon faith. The position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that members of the church are primarily from the House of Joseph.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe they are members of one of the tribes of Israel, either by blood lineage or by adoption, when the recipient is not a literal descendant of Jacob, also known as Israel. Latter-day Saints believe that all of the tribes exist within their numbers, though not every tribe in every country. Mormon patriarchs believe the one country to have the most confirmed coexisting tribes is Mongolia, missing only the Tribe of Zebulun. [1] (http://cumorah.com/12tribes.html)

LDS assert peaceful coexistence with the Jewish people, whom they recognize as Israelites who simply never lost the knowledge that they are Israelites. The Church is consequently very philo-Semitic by doctrine, and the Jewish people are generally held in high esteem.

The Star of David

The LDS Church includes among its traditional symbols the Star of David, which has been in use among Jews since at least the 13th century. For the LDS Church, it represents among other things the divine Israelite covenant, Israelite regathering, and affinity with the Jews, and is prominently depicted in a stained glass window in the landmark Salt Lake Assembly Hall.

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Salt_Lake_Assembly_Hall_Star_of_David.jpg

Jesus

One distinction between Judaism and Mormonism is the belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Judaism still awaits the coming of the Messiah, while Mormons believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah whom the Jews awaited.

Additionally, Judaism accepts the God of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (known to Christians as the Old Testament) as being the one and only God. Mormon belief, however, holds that God as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (who is called Jehovah in some Christian Bible translations) is Jesus, who on behalf of God the Father, is directing his covenant people, prior to his mortal birth in Bethlehem.

Prophecy

Judaism holds that prophecy temporarily ceased after the destruction of the Solomon's Temple, and will be restored with the Messianic Age, whereas Mormons believe that Joseph Smith restored prophecy to the earth from an age of apostasy. Thus they believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that all of his successors are prophets as well.

Elijah and Elias

Judaism

Judaism is awaiting the arrival of the Prophet Elijah, to announce the comming of the Messiah and mark the beginning of the Messianic Period. A special chair is designated for him at every bris, and during the Passover seder, a cup of wine is left out for him.

Mormonism

Mormons believe that during the dedictation of the Kirtland Temple (on Shavuot, April 3, 1835), Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and Elias appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery , restoring the Gospel. They committed to Joseph and Oliver the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, the leading of the ten tribal families from the north, the administering of the keys of the Abrahamic dispensation, and the keys of sealing powers. (D&C 110:3-4,7).

Priesthood

Judaism

Judaism holds that literal male descendants of Aaron are Kohanim, or priests (see Y-chromosomal Aaron). As well, other literal male descendants of Levi are Leviim, members of the Hebrew tribe of Levi who form a different order of priesthood. Kohanim and Leviim have specific religious rights, duties, and (in the case of Kohanim), restrictions. Judaism recognizes no other forms of priesthood.

Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives absolute legal right of Kohanim to constitute the Presiding Bishopric. (D&C 68 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/68)) When and where Church Kohanim are not available, Melchizedek priesthood holders substitute. As there are very few Kohanim in the Church, Melchizedek priesthood substitution is the typical situation.

The orders of the priesthood are the Aaronic and Levitical(Kohanim) priesthoods, which are modeled after the priesthood of Aaron and his descendants (Kohen), the Melchizedek priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of the Prophet Melchizedek, and the Patriarchal Priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of Abraham.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not recognize a Patriarchal order of priesthood separate from the Melchizedek priesthood.

Mormon doctrine also holds that Wards, Stakes, and Temples are controlled and operated by the Aaronic and Levitical priesthoods.

The Aaronic and Levitical priesthoods have only minor differences. Members of the Tribe of Levi are said to be born with the Levitical priesthood, whereas holders of the Aaronic priesthood receive the priesthood at the age of twelve through the Laying on of hands. Mormons believe the Aaronic priesthood was instituted by Jesus in Hebrews 7:10-16, as a result of the difficulty in locating Levites. (See Bible Dictionary for a detailed history and comparison between the Leviticial and Aaronic Priesthood (http://scriptures.lds.org/bda/arncprst))

Dietary Restrictions

Both Judaism and Mormonism have strict dietary requirements. These rules also vary depending on religious sect, and personal faith.

Judaism (kashrut)

The laws of kashrut ("keeping kosher") are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. From the context of the laws in the book of Leviticus, the purpose of kashrut is related to ritual purity and holiness. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not keep kosher, Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews do keep kosher, to varying degrees of strictness.

Mormonism (The Word of Wisdom revelation)

The revelation, which is found in LDS D&C 89, contains three parts: (1) a list of substances such as wine, strong drink, and tobacco that should not be used (verses 1-9), (2) a list of foods that should be used, sometimes with certain limitations (verses 10-17), and (3) a promise to those who follow the guidelines (verses 18-21).

Among the substances which the revelation indicates should not be used, the first is "wine or strong drink", which the revelation says should not be drunk, except as part of the Sacrament (like Communion). The revelation gave the further precaution that if wine is used, it should be pure, and made in Mormon wineries. The revelation also advised against the use of tobacco and "hot drinks" (which was immediately interpreted by Joseph Smith and his associates as meaning coffee and tea).

The list of foods and substances which the revelation encourages includes "wholesome herbs", "fruit", and meat, however meat was to be eaten sparingly, and ideally only in winter, famine, or "excess hunger". (Though see D&C 49:18-19 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/49/18-19#18) that says that whoever advocates abstaining from meat is not of God.)

The revelation also encouraged the use of grains, particularly wheat. Barley was also encouraged for use in making "mild drinks" such as beer.

The word of wisdom was a "principle with [a] promise". The promise given to those who followed the advice of the word of wisdom was as follows:

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.[2] (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/89/18-21#18)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has all together done away with wine. Water replaces the wine in the Sacrament, and members are encouraged not to drink any spirited beverages.

Sabbath

Judaism

Seventh Day Sabbath

Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from Friday night to Saturday night, celebrates God's creation as a day of rest that commemorates God's day of rest upon the completion of creation. It plays an important role in Jewish practice and is the subject of a large body of religious law. Some consider it the most important Jewish holiday.

Mormonism

First Day Sabbath

After the ascension of Christ, the members of the Church, whether Jews or gentiles, kept holy the first day of the week (the Lordís day) as a weekly commemoration of our Lordís resurrection (Acts 20: 7; 1 Cor. 16: 2; Rev. 1: 10); and by degrees the observance of the seventh day was discontinued. (Excert taken from the LDS Bibical Dictionary)

Jewish Mormons

If a member of the LDS church has an established Jewish Heritage, and lineage, then they are of the Tribe of Judah, and as such, are both Mormon and Jewish.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Bible Dictionary defines Jew as the name indicated first of all a man of the kingdom of Judah, as distinguished from persons belonging to the northern kingdom of Israel. Its first chronological occurrence in the Bible is in 2 Kgs. 16: 6, about 740 B.C. It has become customary to use the word Jew to refer to all the descendants of Jacob, but this is a mistake. It would be limited to those of the kingdom of Judah or, more especially today, those of the tribe of Judah and his associates. Thus all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews, because there are descendants of the other tribes of Israel also upon the earth. Cf. 2 Ne. 33: 8.

When interfacing between the Jews and Mormons, the LDS generally refer to the members of the Church as Joseph, and the Jewish as Judah, thus re-enforcing the tribal connection. Holidays celebrated by many LDS Jews include Christmas, Easter, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukah. (There are sometimes minor variations, allowing for modern prophecy. )

Demographics

Jewish

The American Jewish Year Book published in 2000 by the American Jewish Committee reports

  • Worldwide: 13,191,500
  • U.S.: 5,700,000
  • Canada: 362,000

Mormon

The Church of Latter-Day Saints web site reports (As of December 31, 2003) (http://www.lds.org/newsroom/page/0,15606,3899-1---10-168,00.html)

  • Worldwide: 11,985,254
  • U.S. (approximate): 5,503,192
  • Non-U.S. (approximate): 6,482,062
  • Female 53 percent
  • Male 47 percent
  • Number of Church units worldwide (congregations): 26,237

Relationship between Jews and Mormons

Middle East Conflict

Jews and Mormons, as a whole, are largely pro-Israel. Mormons are also at the same time in favor of coexistence in the Holy Land of whom they believe to be children of Abraham, including both Jews and Arabs who live in the region.

Jews in Utah

The first Jewish cemetery in Salt Lake City was on land donated by the LDS church, and the first Reform temple in Salt Lake was funded by the LDS Church.

Mormons in Israel

The LDS church has two congregations in Israel. The Galilee Branch in Tiberias, and the Jerusalem Branch in Jerusalem.

Holocaust victims controversy

A long-time practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been to vicariously baptize their ancestors, both direct lineal ancestors and related lines. From time to time zealous Latter-day Saint genealogists have submitted the names of other prominent individuals, including at one point the Holocaust's Jewish victims and others. Official Church policy states that Church members submit the names of their own relatives for these type of ordinances, and requires that a surviving family member's permission be obtained for any Baptism that is to be performed of deceased individuals that have died within a certain time period (usually 50-75 years).

However, some Baptisms were done for Holocaust victims, without proper approval or permission. When this information became public, it generated vocal criticism of the LDS Church (though not rising to the level of anti-Mormonism) from Jewish groups, who found this ritual to be insulting and insensitive (though not rising to the level of anti-Semitism). Partly as a result of public pressure, Church leaders in 1995 promised to put into place new policies that would help stop the practice, unless specifically requested or approved by relatives of the victims.

In late 2002, information surfaced that members of the Church had not stopped this practice despite directives from the Church leadership to its members, and criticism from Jewish groups began again. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, is on record as opposing the vicarious baptism of Holocaust victims. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Center holds: "If these people did not contact the Mormons themselves, the adage should be: Don't call me, I'll call you. With the greatest of respect to them, we do not think they are the exclusive arbitrators of who is saved." Recently Church leaders have agreed to meet with leaders of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

In December 2002, independent researcher Helen Radkey published a report showing that the Church's 1995 promise to remove Jewish Nazi victims from its International Genealogical Index was not sufficient; her research of the Church's database uncovered the names of about 19,000 who had a 40 to 50 percent chance of having "the potential to be Holocaust victims...in Russia, Poland, France, and Austria." It is not necessarily well-known that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports the world's largest genealogical collection. Access to many of these records is freely available online at their Family Search website.

Genealogist Bernard Kouchel conducted a search of the International Genealogical Index, and discovered that many well known Jews have been vicariously baptized, including Rashi, Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Menachem Begin, Irving Berlin, Marc Chagall, and Gilda Radner. Some permissions may have been obtained, but there is currently no system in place to verify that these permissions were obtained, which has angered many in various religious and cultural communities.

In 2004, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Jewish genealogy columnist for The Jerusalem Post noted that Jews, even those with no Mormon descendants, are being rebaptised after being removed from the rolls. In an interview, D. Todd Christofferson, a church official, told The New York Times that it was not feasible for the church to continuously monitor the archives to ensure that no new Jewish names appear. The agreement referred to above did not place this type of responsibility on the centralized Church leadership.

On April 11, 2005, Jewish and Mormon officals met and created a joint Judah/Joseph Inter-Tribal Committee with the goal of preventing future issues. The committee will attempt to determine how the names kept getting on the list, and how the problem can be solved. Jews will have their names removed from the vast LDS genealogy database, and any new names of deceased Jews will require approval from both Judah and Joseph (Jewish and Mormon) members of the committee.

See also

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