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Judaism is foundational to the history and doctrine of Mormonism. Jews and Mormons both agree that keeping commandments is essential to their religion. Jews and Mormons both agree that Moses was a prophet. Jews and Mormons both diverge from a literal interpretation of the Tanach (Biblical commandments). But as they diverge: Jews and Mormons disagree about the specifics of what is commanded and how commandments are received. Mormons regularly receive commandments anew through personal revelation according to the authority, dominion, and worthiness of the individual. Jews inherit a scholarly tradition of commandments and eschew any contemporary revelation as presumptively false.
The Latter Day Saint movement teaches that its adherents are either direct descendants of the House of Israel or adopted into it. As such, Mormonism regards Jews as a covenant people of God, held in high esteem and respected in the Mormon faith system. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) refers to itself as philo-Semitic in its doctrine.
Studies have shown that Jews generally view Mormons more positively than any other religious group, despite often voting on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Explanations for Jews' high regard for Mormons is speculated to come both from their solidarity with other historically abused religious minorities and the philo-semitism of Mormon theology.
Although monotheism is a fundamental tenet of Judaism, the Jewish religion arose and was codified during a time when polytheism and idolatry were the norm. In polytheistic religions, gods are typically ascribed human or human/animal bodies (including gender and race), family relationships, and both super-human traits and common human failings (including intra-familial struggles, jealousy, revenge, and similar shortcomings). It was rejection of both polytheism and idol worship that distinguished Judaism in the ancient world. Judaism holds both that God is one (as reiterated in the daily prayer Shema Yisrael) and that it never had, nor ever will, assume human form.
LDS theology maintains that God the Father (Heavenly Father), Jesus Christ (his son), and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings in person and in substance, yet one in purpose and glory. James E. Faust expounded this LDS Church doctrine, when he said that, "The First Vision confirms the fact there are three separate Gods: God the Father-Elohim, to whom we address our prayers; Jesus the Christ-Jehovah; and the Holy Ghost-the Comforter, through whose spirit we may know the truth of all things." Together, the three comprise the Godhead, unified in purpose and heart. God the Father and Jesus Christ have tangible, perfected bodies of flesh and bone. Humans are literal children of a Father in Heaven, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ they can return to him and become literal gods.
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret... It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know...that he was once a man like us. Here, then, is eternal life--to know that only wise and true God, and you have got to learn how to become Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you. .. God himself, the father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ."—Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 342-345.
Jesus is not mentioned in Jewish records of the time, and no Jewish religious practice recognizes Jesus as a divine figure. Jewish responsa to Jesus take two paths, addressing the issue of his divinity and his identification as the Jewish messiah (Hebrew moshiach). With regard to the divinity of Jesus, a basic tenet of Judaism is that God is one; therefore a trinity, even of divine persons, can have no place in the Jewish belief system. Jews also do not believe that God has a physical manifestation. As a result, God does not have a physical body and the idea that God might have physical, "begotten" children is therefore not possible. In addition, Jews believe God is the only being to whom we should offer prayer.
With regard to the question of Jesus as the messiah, there have been many claimants to the title in Jewish history, and none are regarded as having fulfilled the requirements of that role. Jesus is not considered differently from any of the others. What individual Jews think of Jesus ranges from "never existed," to "irrelevant," to "actually Mithras," to "Jesus never claimed to be a messiah or a prophet." In any case, however, the Jewish messiah was never expected to be, or described as, anything but an ordinary person.
According to Mormon beliefs, Jesus Christ was the Only Begotten Son of God the Father. Latter-day Saints identify Jesus with the Old Testament Jehovah, not with God the Father, indicating that the Israelites' covenant with Jehovah was actually with Jesus. Due to Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection, all mankind is saved from death and will rise again and receive a perfected physical body. Furthermore, the Atonement satisfies the demands of justice; grace, forgiveness, and mercy (i.e. salvation) are extended to all who accept Christ as their personal Savior and become his lifelong disciples.
In Latter-day Saint beliefs, the atonement goes so far as to cover everyone who is doing his best to be good (including Jews, Buddhists, etc.), eventually even rescuing the spirits of the wicked from hell. The type of reward they receive, however, depends on the level of their acceptance and obedience.
Judaism holds that prophecy ceased after the death of Malachi, and will be restored with the Messianic Age, whereas Mormons believe that revelation was restored during the dispensation of Jesus, and that Joseph Smith restored prophecy to the earth from an age of apostasy. Thus they believe that Joseph Smith and his successors are prophets.
Mormons believe that, in addition to the various prophecies from the New Testament, divine prophecy has been restored beginning with Joseph Smith. Additionally, during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and Elias appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, giving them authority. 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).
Solomon's Temple held the Ark of the Covenant in a room of the temple referred to as the Holy of Holies. The presiding high priest would enter into this room, said to contain the Shekhina (the presence of God), once a year on Yom Kippur.
The Salt Lake Temple of the LDS Church contains a Holy of Holies wherein the Church's President—acting as the Presiding High Priest—enters to fulfill the relationship between the High Priest of Israel and God, in accordance with the LDS interpretation of the Book of Exodus (Exodus 25:22). Hence, this Holy of Holies is considered a modern cognate to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem.
Of the 136 temples operated by the LDS Church today, only the Salt Lake Temple has a Holy of Holies; previous to the completion of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, the Manti Temple housed a Holy of Holies for the use of the President of the Church. While the room itself still exists in the Manti Temple, it was used as a sealing room for marriages for time, but since it is such a small room, it is now only open for viewing by temple patrons.
Judaism holds that literal male descendants of Aaron are Kohanim, or priests. 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. The daughter of a Kohen (a bat-Kohen) also has specific rights and restrictions, but does not pass on the status of Kohen to her offspring (unless their father is also a Kohen). Judaism recognizes no other forms of priesthood.
Rabbis are not necessarily Kohanim; rather they are Jews who are particularly learned in Jewish law and practice. Although not required, it is typical for a congregation to have at least one rabbi. While it is typical for rabbis to act similarly to spiritual leaders in other religions—delivering a weekly sermon, visiting the sick, officiating at weddings and other life events, and so on—a rabbi's most important function in his congregation is interpreting and teaching Jewish law.
Training to become a rabbi includes extensive education in Jewish law and practice, and may also include education in Jewish history and philosophy. In general, a congregation will hire a rabbi after reviewing applications and interviewing several candidates—there is no central body that assigns a rabbi to a congregation.
Orthodox Judaism accepts only male rabbis. Reform Judaism ordained its first woman rabbi in 1972, Reconstructionist Judaism in 1974, and Conservative Judaism in 1985. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements also accept openly gay and lesbian rabbis. Conservative Judaism (typically a more conservative branch than the Reform or Reconstructionist movements) moved to allow individual congregations to choose whether or not to accept both gay and lesbian rabbis and same-sex commitment ceremonies in December 2006. There are no restrictions in any branch of Judaism with regard to race or descent.
The LDS Church allows "literal descendants of Aaron" the legal right to preside as bishop, when so directed by the First Presidency. (See The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 68). When no LDS descendants of Aaron are available, Melchizedek priesthood holders preside instead.
The orders of the priesthood are the Aaronic, modeled after the priesthood of Aaron the Levite, the first high priest of the Hebrews, and his descendants (Kohen); and the Melchizedek priesthood, modeled after the authority of the Prophet Melchizedek. The LDS Church does not recognize a Patriarchal order of priesthood separate from the Melchizedek priesthood, and considers that both the Patriarchal and Aaronic priesthoods are subsets of the Melchizedek.
Members of the Tribe of Levi are said to have held the Levitical priesthood by right of birth before Jesus, whereas after Jesus, holders of the Aaronic priesthood have received it "by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands". The Doctrine and Covenants, however, contains an indication that the Aaronic priesthood is only available until the Tribe of Levi again "makes an offering unto the Lord in righteousness." (See D&C 13:1) It is now typically given at the age of twelve.
Just as the priests and the high priest's line were subsets of the tribe of Levi, Latter-day Saints sometimes observe parallels between levels of authority within the offices of their Aaronic priesthood and offices under the Law: deacons, corresponding to Levites; teachers, corresponding to Kohathites; priests, corresponding to the priestly line; and bishops, corresponding to the Aaronic High Priest's descendants (not to be confused with the High Priesthood of Melchizedek).
The LDS Church believes in an all-male priesthood. All worthy LDS males are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood at the age of twelve. At age eighteen, worthy members of the Aaronic priesthood are usually ordained as Elders in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Depending on the needs of a church, an Elder may be ordained a High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Males of African descent were prohibited from receiving the priesthood until 1978, at which time the LDS church announced they had received a new revelation permitting all worthy males to receive the priesthood. Some fundamentalist sects reject this revelation.
Some smaller sects, including the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), have adopted the use of women in clerical roles, which is not accepted by the LDS church.
The laws of kashrut ("keeping kosher") are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. Kosher laws address what kinds of animals can be eaten, and requires separation of milk and meat, that vegetables be thoroughly inspected for insects, that animals be ritually slaughtered by certified persons, and that many food products be produced under rabbinical supervision. Produce of the Land of Israel has further restrictions.
Jews are expected or required to drink wine on certain occasions. Wine is typically consumed at Sabbath evening meal, after a special blessing. In addition, the drinking of wine is an important part of the observation of two major Jewish holidays—Passover and Purim.
Mormons believe the Word of Wisdom to be modern revelation similar to the laws of kashrut. The revelation, which is found in LDS D&C 89, contains three parts; a list of substances such as wine, strong drink, and tobacco that should not be used ( ), a list of foods that should be used, sometimes with certain limitations ( ), and a promise to those who follow the guidelines ( ).
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 for wine, which may be used as part of the Sacrament (like Communion). The revelation gives the further precaution that if wine is used, it should be pure wine and "of your own make" or made by fellow Saints. The LDS Church has done away with wine altogether. Water replaces the wine in the Sacrament, according to a revelation on the subject, section ( ), and members are not to drink any alcoholic beverages.
The revelation also advises against the use of tobacco and "hot drinks" (which was explained by Joseph Smith and his associates as meaning coffee and tea). Ingestion of tobacco is forbidden. The limitations on the use of tobacco are stated as "not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill."
The list of foods and substances which the revelation encourages includes wholesome herbs, fruit, and meat; however, meat is to be eaten sparingly, if at all, and ideally only in winter, famine, or "excess hunger". Other references ( and ) expand on meat and flesh. The revelation also encourages the use of grains, particularly wheat. Barley is also encouraged for use in making "mild drinks."
Shabbat, lasting from sunset Friday night to the appearance of three stars on Saturday night, celebrates God's creation with 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. The most notable law with regard to observation of Jewish Sabbath is the requirement to abstain from creative work of any kind (the most widely known implication of this being the prohibition against kindling a fire). Observant Jews will prepare food ahead of time to avoid having to cook on Sabbath, and observant Orthodox Jews will avoid turning on electric lights (which "creates" an electric circuit) or driving.
While almost all work is forbidden on Sabbath, acts of leisure and pleasure are appropriate, as long as they do not violate any proscription with regard to doing work. A special meal is eaten (including wine and meat, if possible, even if the household cannot afford these luxuries the rest of the week). Married couples are encouraged to engage in sexual relations.
The Sabbath for Latter-day Saints is Sunday. This is explained in the LDS Bible Dictionary as: "After the ascension of Christ, the members of the Church, whether Jews or gentiles, kept holy the first day of the week (the Lord’s day) as a weekly commemoration of our Lord’s resurrection (Acts 20: 7; 1 Cor. 16: 2; Rev. 1: 10); and by degrees the observance of the seventh day was discontinued." (Excerpt taken from the LDS Bible Dictionary) There are some notable exceptions, such as Israel and some Arab countries, where Latter-day Saints celebrate Sabbath on Saturday or on Friday.
The focus of Sabbath for Latter-day Saints is as a day of rest from worldly concerns and endeavors and to concentrate on spiritual matters such as attending church, scripture study, visiting the sick and infirm, and family activities. Members are further encouraged not to make any purchases on the Sabbath, unless an emergency demands otherwise. Members are also to fast on the first Sabbath of the month from the night before Sabbath until the evening of Sabbath. This period of fasting is used to pray and reflect on their own relationship with God. The money that would have been spent on the two missed meals is usually donated as a fast offering to the church. These fast offerings are dedicated to feed the poor and the needy, be they church members or not.
Judaism's most holy book is the Torah. Virtually all Jewish congregations own at least one sefer Torah (copy of the Torah, hand-calligraphed on parchment) of which a portion is read aloud every week. The Torah, the Nevi'im (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (the Writings), make up the Tanach.
The Tanach is explained and supplemented by the Talmud, which is made up of two parts: the Mishnah (Oral Torah) and the Gemara (rabbinic commentaries and analysis). More recent work explaining Jewish law includes the Shulkhan Arukh, which was written in the 16th century. Traditionally, Jews believe that the Torah was given to Moses at Mount Sinai, to be passed on to the Jewish people. Scrolls of the Torah are copied by hand by specially trained scribes.
Joseph Smith Jr. said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." Thus, the study of The Book of Mormon is emphasized by LDS leaders and teachers, but they also encourage the study of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and believe in literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecies and covenants, including the Abrahamic covenant. The eighth Article of Faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." In addition to these two books, in keeping with the meaning of the ninth Article of Faith, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price are also considered canonical scripture.
According to Mormon doctrine, the Book of Mormon was originally written in "Reformed Egyptian" by a group of the House of Israel who had migrated from the area of Jerusalem. The book was translated by Joseph Smith "by the gift and power of God" (see the introduction to the BofM). The Book of Mormon is in a style that closely resembles King James English (the language of the King James version of the Bible). There are, however, some variations in grammar, particularly with regard to verb tenses.
Jewish beliefs with regard to an afterlife are highly variable. Physical resurrection of the dead at the time of the Mashiach is a traditional belief (with some European Jews being buried facing Jerusalem, so they would be ready on that day). Other Jewish sages promoted the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection. Adherents of Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism are more likely to believe in a general Messianic Age than in a physical Moshiach, with or without resurrection. There is also the possibility of reincarnation in some cases.
In general, religious Jews believe that the soul undergoes a period of reflection and penance after death, before moving on to whatever comes next. This period does not exceed 12 months, and Jewish mourners will say special prayers for the dead during this time, to ease the departed soul's passage. (See Kaddish).
Heaven and Hell as they are understood in Christian theology are roughly analogous to the Jewish Olam habah and Gehenna, with certain major differences. Jewish faiths generally agree that reward in the afterlife or world to come, whatever its form, is not exclusive to Jews, and that punishment in the afterlife is not eternal but corrective.
Mormonism teaches of a physical resurrection at the time of the second coming of Christ. It is held by the LDS church that between the time of an individual's death and the second coming (when the individual will be resurrected), the individual inhabits an intermediary afterlife in the Spirit world, corresponding to Sheol. The nature of this afterlife depends on the individual. Deceased persons who lived good lives and repented during their life of any major sins they had committed are said to inhabit Paradise. However, spirits inhabiting spirit paradise may also receive an assignment to do "missionary work" to other souls in paradise or to the souls in spirit prison, the condition in which Mormons believe the spirits of the "rebellious and ungodly" reside. The term "spirit prison" is sometimes used to describe the condition of any spirit who is awaiting being taught the gospel or having the opportunity to accept ordinances that allow them to progress in gaining further knowledge during their time in the spirit world. Mormons hold that missionary work in the spirit world was started by Christ during the days between his death and resurrection. (Doctrine and Covenants 138)
As Smith's personal writings as well as the Prophets indicate, it is also possible that if one follows the commandments exceptionally well (authorized baptism, temple marriage to be bound forever, etc.), then one may be worthy of becoming a literal god and assist the Father in "bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) Gospel Principles, an official book of the LDS Church, states that God the Father was a mortal on another earth the same as Jesus Christ was, and like Christ was resurrected. Following that example, Latter-day Saints hope to attain same godhood status, while eternally worshiping the Father and the Son. (Gospel Principles, chapter 47) In 1977 Spencer W. Kimball said, concerning this doctrine of exaltation: "We remember the numerous scriptures which, concentrated in a single line, were said by a former prophet, Lorenzo Snow: 'As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.' This is a power available to us as we reach perfection and receive the experience and power to create, to organize, to control native elements. How limited we are now! We have no power to force the grass to grow, the plants to emerge, the seeds to develop.
Mormonism teaches the existence of the three heavens or kingdoms of heaven, and three "degrees of glory" within the celestial world, as well as outer darkness, a "kingdom of no glory". Outer darkness is considered to be the second spiritual death, for those few souls who know a fullness of truth and openly rebel and fight against God. The other levels have been labeled the Telestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Celestial Kingdom, which itself consists of "three heavens or degrees." (See Doctrine and Covenants 131, which says the "celestial glory" consists of "three heavens or degrees"; some hold that the term "celestial glory" used in this section refers to all the "kingdoms of glory", not specifically the celestial kingdom, but the traditional interpretation is that it refers specifically to the celestial kingdom.) This afterlife is what Mormons believe comes after the an individual's resurrection and judgment. The exact timing is not clear except that it takes place sometime after the second coming of Christ. It is also not clear if this is one specific event or a process that begins with the resurrection.
The LDS faith believes that all three kingdoms, Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial, are kingdoms of glory. They are all places of glory suitable to the individuals that will reside in them, based on the desires of their hearts. Mormonism teaches that baptism and other covenantal ordinances performed by proper authority are required to enter the Celestial Kingdom, because of the sacred nature of that kingdom of glory.
As a general rule, Jews refrain from active proselytizing, and some denominations discourage conversion. In Judaism, conversion is not a requirement or prerequisite to goodness or salvation, and if a person truly wishes to convert, they will seek out a community and rabbi they feel comfortable with and begin the process there. Conversion to Judaism involves extensive instruction in Jewish law, renouncing of other religious affiliations, immersion in a mikveh, and, for males, circumcision. If the potential convert is already circumcised, a procedure known as hatafat dam brit is performed, in which blood is drawn from the penis. Orthodox Judaism also requires acceptance of the entire code of Jewish Law.
The LDS Church has a widespread proselytizing program, with its missionaries encouraged to invite others to convert and be baptised. Baptism carries with it not only membership in the church, but also, according to Mormon belief, the blessings of the covenants given to the House of Israel. Individuals must be living by the Word of Wisdom: not consuming alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea, living the Law of Chastity, committing to attend church, committing to pay tithes, and declaring that they have repented of any outstanding sins. Like most Christian churches, Mormonism does not require circumcision, denying its necessity as a covenant or token of covenant.
To achieve a state of ritual purification, observant Jews immerse in a Mikveh. Certain kinds of utensils and other objects are also immersed (this practice should not be confused with the physical cleaning required for kashrut).
The most common use of the Mikveh is the practice of immersion after menstruation, miscarriage, or childbirth. This immersion marks the end of a period of sexual separation, and the woman's rejoining with her husband. It is also required that a woman immerse before her wedding. Some men use the Mikvah regularly, either daily, weekly, or before Yom Kippur. This is especially true in Hasidic circles. It is also required for Conversion into Orthodox Judaism for both sexes.
Jewish laws with regard to Mikveh are extensive. The most notable aspect of these laws is that a Mikveh must be filled with "living water," namely, water that has come directly from the earth in the form of caught rainwater or spring water (water flowing in a river or stream is also acceptable in some cases). Once water has been carried in a vessel or run through a pipe, it is no longer considered "living." Additionally, immersion must be complete (including the head and hair), and there can be nothing between the water and the person immersing—not only clothing, but also makeup and jewelry are removed. The common practice is to wash thoroughly before immersion (to remove any dirt or dead skin on the body), and to enter the Mikveh while still wet (to avoid any air bubbles that might be trapped on the skin or in the hair).
Unlike baptism, immersion is a private event—unless a physical handicap makes it impossible, the person undergoing immersion enters the Mikveh alone, and says any appropriate prayers themselves. When performed as part of Conversion to Orthodox Judaism, the act of immersion needs to be witnessed by a Beth-din of three Rabbis; however, the person immerses his/herself.
"Symbolic" immersions, where only drops of water are applied, where "carried" water is used, or where the immerser wears any kind of clothing or underclothing, are not considered valid immersions under Jewish law. Jews do not practice or recognize any kind of "Proxy" immersion, where one person immerses in the place of another person (living or dead).
Baptism is a water purification ritual where one is immersed in water. The practice of purification via immersion exists in many cultures. The word baptize derives from the Greek word βάπτειν (the infinitive; also listed as the 1st person singular present active indicative βαπτίζω, which loosely means "to dip, bathe, or wash").
The Christian ritual of baptism traces back to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, who the Bible says baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Mormon belief holds that baptisms were performed as early as with Adam, and that Jesus reintroduced that ordinance during his ministry.
Baptism is a required ordinance and ritual cleansing process when joining the LDS Church, and is considered to be a purification process in one's conversion. In the event of one's excommunication or adoption of another faith, individuals are required to be rebaptized when returning to the church. Baptism is also seen as symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the water representing the grave. After the one being baptized is determined to be worthy through an interview with their priesthood leader, he is dressed in white clothing, symbolizing the purification of the baptism. The ordinance is performed by a priest of the Aaronic priesthood or any holder of the Melchizedek priesthood. Mormon children are not baptized until they after they turn eight years old, which is considered to be the age of accountability.
In the past, it was common for Mormons to be re-baptized for health, or as a re-affirmation of belief. This practice slowly diminished, and is no longer practiced by any of the mainstream denominations.
In Mormonism, washing and anointing (also called the "Initiatory"') is an ordinance (ritual) that symbolizes ritual cleansing and anointing to be a king or queen in heaven. In the LDS Church, the ritual is performed in temples. The ordinance of washing and anointing symbolizes the ritual cleansing of priests that took place at Israel's Tabernacle, the temple of Solomon, and later temples in Jerusalem (see Exod. 28:40–42, 29:4–9, 29:20–21, 29:29–30, 30:18–21).
The Hebrew Bible recounts several cases of polygamy among the ancient Hebrews. One source of polygamy was the practice of levirate marriage, wherein a man was required to marry and support his brother's widow (the source of the - much misunderstood - sin of Onan).
Ashkenazi Jewry has not practiced polygamy since Rabbenu Gershom's ban in the 11th century "except in exceptional circumstances requiring obtaining in advance the permission of 100 rabbis." Some Sephardi and Mizrahi groups, in particular those from Yemen and Iran (where polygamy is the cultural norm), only discontinued polygamy much more recently, for non-religious reasons. When these groups immigrated to the State of Israel after its 1948 creation, existing polygamous families were "grandfathered" in. Polygamous marriage is banned in the State of Israel, however, and no new polygamous marriages are permitted among those groups.
Early in its history, the LDS Church practiced polygamy in the United States and referred to it as "plural marriage". The practice was introduced by the church's founding prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. in LDS scripture, as from "the Lord thy God …the Alpha and Omega" (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1, 2, 66). It was publicly announced by the Church in 1852, and the marriage ceremony was believed to be a sacred, eternal ordinance. Only some members of the Church, including several LDS leaders, practiced polygamy. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, rejected polygamy and declared themselves an independent church in 1860 under the leadership of Joseph Smith III, the eldest son of the LDS founding prophet.
The practice of polygamy quickly led to opposition to the Church and the enacting of anti-polygamy laws. (The U.S. Congress made the practice illegal in U.S. Territories in 1862.) Many members of the Church fled to Canada or Mexico in an attempt to set up communities free from prosecution; for example, Cyril Ogston founded Seven Persons, Alberta. Although Latter-day Saints believed that plural marriage was protected by the United States Constitution as a religious practice, opponents used it to delay Utah statehood until 1896. Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation stripped Church members of their rights as citizens, revoked the right to vote for LDS women, disincorporated the Church, and permitted the seizure of Church property until the Church ordered the discontinuance of the practice in 1890.
National attention in the United States again focused on potential polygamy among the Church in the early 20th century during the House hearings on Representative-elect B. H. Roberts and Senate hearings on Senator-elect Reed Smoot (the Smoot Hearings). This caused Church president Joseph F. Smith to issue the "Second Manifesto" against polygamy in 1904. Since that time, it has been Church policy to excommunicate any member either practicing or openly advocating the practice of polygamy.
The ban on polygamy resulted in a schism within the LDS Church, with various splinter groups leaving the Church to continue the practice of polygamy. Collectively such groups now comprise less than three tenths of one percent when compared to the LDS church. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah and neighboring states, as well as among isolated individuals with no organized church affiliation. Polygamists of this kind often refer to themselves as "Mormon fundamentalists", despite their lack of affiliation with the mainstream Church. The largest sect supporting polygamy is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, believed to have about 10,000 members. According to one source there are as many as 37,000 Fundamentalist Mormons, with less than half of them living in polygamous households. Most of the polygamy is believed to be restricted to about a dozen extended groups of polygamous Mormon fundamentalists.
Judaism encompasses a spectrum of observance with several recognized branches: Hasidic Judaism, Haredi Judaism (often referred to as "ultra-Orthodox"), Orthodox Judaism, Conservative/Masorti Judaism, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, and Humanistic Judaism. Further divisions exist within the divisions.
Approximately 97% of Mormon adherents are members of the LDS Church; however, there are several other groups such as the Community of Christ and numerous smaller sects within Mormon fundamentalism. The second largest group, the Community of Christ (RLDS) do not refer to themselves as Mormons, but they do continue to use the Book of Mormon as scripture. Their doctrine has changed markedly since their founding by Joseph Smith III. Two major changes have been the acceptance of the trinitarian concept of God and ordaining women to the priesthood. Fundamentalist Mormons, in contrast, claim adherence to traditional beliefs and practices that have been rejected or changed by the mainstream LDS church.
Mormons consider themselves to be the descendants of the Biblical Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also known as "Israel") or adoptees into the House of Israel, and contemporary Mormons use the terms "House of Israel" and "House of Joseph" to refer to themselves.
The Book of Mormon tells of families of the Tribe of Manasseh and the Tribe of Ephraim that migrated from Jerusalem to an unknown location in the Americas. According to Mormon doctrine, this migration fulfilled the prophecy of Jacob on his son, Joseph: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). The Book of Mormon also tells of a group from the Tribe of Judah who came to the Americas after its defeat by Babylon around 600 BCE.
The official position of the LDS Church is that those who have accepted Mormonism or are a part of the Latter Day Saint movement are primarily from the House of Joseph. Adherents 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. Individual church members are told their tribal affiliation through a patriarchal blessing. The LDS Church teaches that all of the tribes exist within their numbers, though not every tribe in every country. Ephraim and Manasseh are by far the two largest tribes in the LDS Church. Some Latter-day Saint patriarchs believe the one country to have the most confirmed coexisting tribes is Mongolia, missing only the Tribe of Zebulun.
Tribal affiliation is not usually discussed in everyday LDS life, and all members, regardless of tribal affiliation, worship together. The knowledge of one's tribal affiliation is usually only shared with one's immediate family.
In modern Jewish culture, by contrast, it is generally accepted that knowledge of individual tribal affiliation has been lost to antiquity, except in the case of Levites and Cohens, where such knowledge is relevant to religious practice. Some Jewish families, however, hold family traditions of descent from other tribes. The Sephardi Chief Rabbinate of Israel has recognized the Beta Israel of Ethiopia as the Tribe of Dan, and the Bene Menashe of India as the Tribe of Menasseh. The Bene Israel of India and the Lemba people of Africa claim descent from Kohanim - according to a government report, these claims are supported by DNA analysis.
The position of those who consider themselves Jewish with regard to Mormons is similar to their feelings about other Christian groups—while peaceful coexistence is strongly desired, attempts at conversion are considered inappropriate and unwanted.
Some Jewish groups like Jews for Judaism reject wholesale the claims of the LDS that the conversion to Mormonism reveals a familial connection between the convert and ethnic Jews. They base their position on Judaism's interpretation of Hebrew scriptures and advances in biological science, saying "No amount of genetic testing or DNA sampling will show the Jewish people and the Latter-day Saints to be of the same ancestry. The Latter-day Saints are simply not of Israelite origins.... For all their assertions and genealogical research, the Latter-day Saints are not descendants of Joseph and can never join Judah in fulfillment of a nonexistent prophecy."
On similar grounds they reject LDS claims that American Indians have Hebrew origins, saying "There is no genetic, linguistic, or cultural evidence to substantiate this claim that the Mongoloid native American Indians are descended from Semitic Israelites." They also critique LDS scripture for, in their view, an erroneous use of the word "Jew", saying "If the American Indians are descendants of Manasseh that would make them Israelites but not specifically Jews. The term 'Jews' is associated with the tribe of Judah and those of Israelite descent who practice Judaism. ...in the Book of Mormon the inhabitants of what are now the Americas are referred to as descendants of Jews although the dominant group supposedly stems from Manasseh. Thus, Nephi is alleged to have written, 'And thus shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews' (2 Nephi 30:4)."
The LDS Church includes among its traditional symbols the Star of David, which has been the symbol of Judaism since at least the 13th century. For the LDS Church, it represents the divine Israelite covenant, Israelite regathering, and affinity with Judaism; a Star of David is prominently depicted in a stained glass window in the landmark Salt Lake Assembly Hall.
Not long after the LDS church reached Utah, those who practiced Judaism also arrived. Alexander Neibaur, a Jewish convert to Mormonism, arrived in 1848. The first permanent Jewish family in Utah is thought to be Julius Gerson Brooks and his wife Isabell. The first Jewish cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah, was on land donated by Brigham Young in 1869, and the first Reform synagogue in Salt Lake was funded by the LDS Church. Inspired by the Jewish back-to-the-land movement, Eastern European Jewish immigrants from Philadelphia and New York established the Clarion colony in Sanpete County in 1910. The colony was organized by the Jewish Agricultural and Colonial Association, and with approximately 200 individuals at its height, was one of the largest Jewish farming colony initiatives of its era.
Simon Bamberger, the fourth Governor of Utah (1917–1921) was Jewish; antisemitic publications targeting Bamberger were denounced by most Utahns. B. H. Roberts, a Mormon politician and church leader, supported Bamberger's campaign by nominating him for the governor.
A longtime practice of the LDS Church has been to vicariously baptize their relatives. This stems from the LDS belief that all individuals must receive all saving ordinances (i.e., sacraments) to achieve exaltation. Under Mormon theology, vicarious performance of the ordinance of baptism and other temple ordinances does not automatically make a deceased individual a Mormon, but rather allows the person (believed by Mormons to be alive in the afterlife) the option of freely accepting or rejecting the ordinances performed on their behalf. Mormons do not believe they have the right or power to compel acceptance of vicarious ordinances or change a deceased person's religious affiliation against his will.
From time to time, and contrary to LDS Church policy, zealous Latter-day Saint genealogists have submitted the names of other prominent individuals, including at one point Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust. Official Church policy states that Church members submit the names of their own relatives for these type of ordinances, and requires that permission of the closest living relative be obtained for any baptism that is to be performed for deceased individuals born within the last 95 years. Regardless, 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 from Jewish groups, who found this ritual to be insulting and insensitive as attempting to contact the dead is forbidden under Jewish law, as one of the 613 commandments found the Torah. In 1995, in part as a result of public pressure, Church leaders promised to put new policies into place that would help stop the practice, unless specifically requested or approved by the surviving spouse, children or parents of the victims.
In late 2002, information surfaced that members of the Church had not stopped the practice of baptizing dead Jewish Holocaust victims despite directives from the Church leadership to its members. Criticism once again arose from Jewish groups. Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center is on record as opposing the vicarious baptism of Holocaust victims. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the center stated, "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."
Genealogist Bernard Kouchel conducted a search of the International Genealogical Index, and discovered that many well-known people from within Judaism 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 rebaptized 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 officials met and created a joint Jewish/Mormon committee with the goal of preventing future issues. The committee met intermittently over the next few years. On September 1, 2010, Jewish and Mormon leaders issued a joint statement "acknowledging that concerns between members of both groups over [the] sensitive doctrinal issue have been eliminated." However, in February 2012, the issue re-emerged after it was found that the parents of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal were added to the LDS Church genealogical database.
The LDS Church is officially neutral when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mormons, as well as many Jews, are also in favor of peaceful coexistence between Jewish and non-Jewish (Muslim and/or Christian) Arabs in the Holy Land. The LDS Church considers non-Jewish Arabs to be children of Abraham.
The LDS church has two congregations in Israel: the Galilee Branch in Tiberias and the Jerusalem Branch in Jerusalem. Latter-day Saints in Israel hold their worship services on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
"Missionaries are allowed to proselytize, although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) voluntarily refrains from proselytizing under an agreement with the Government."
Brigham Young University has a study center in Jerusalem that is active in research and cultural activities (e.g. classical music concerts). Its creation was initially protested by Haredi Jewish groups which claimed, despite Mormon reassurances, that it would be a center of proselytizeing activities. Brigham Young University was allowed to open an extension in Jerusalem only after promising the mayor that no proselytizing would take place and that all students would be foreigners. The courses at the center, attracting students from BYU and other institutions of higher learning in the US who wanted to do credit coursework in Israel, were temporarily suspended due to security concerns.
The BYU building is located on Mount Scopus with a dramatic view of the old city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. It is considered prime Jerusalem real estate, a prestigious location, and a high-profile symbol of the friendship between the LDS Church and the Jewish State.
The Book of Mormon, part of the scripture of Latter-day Saints, on its title page states that its purpose is "the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ." However, it contains a specific condemnation of antisemitism:
The Book of Mormon also specifically uses the Greek word "synagogues"' in Alma 16:13:
"And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews" (Alma 16:13).
In addition, it states:
The Book of Mormon also calls for those who identify with Judaism to repent and accept Jesus Christ but also emphasizes that the Jewish people remain the Lord's chosen with whom he has made a covenant.
In 1982, Bruce R. McConkie published a book titled The Millennial Messiah, which devotes an entire chapter to "The Jews and the Second Coming". It states:
Benson called on Mormons to understand, learn from, and befriend the Jewish people:
Benson then criticizes the Crusades' violence: "Some of the most evil of those deeds were perpetrated upon the remaining Jews in Palestine in the name of Christianity during the Crusades. Will Durrant has correctly written of this sad chapter of human suffering, 'No other people has ever known so long an exile, or so hard a fate.'"
Benson laments the suffering and "ruins of what was the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe in the Jewish section of Warsaw, Poland":
The following references are based on previous Wikipedia research, and are also found in the supporting articles, where much of the information for producing this article was obtained.
Books on LDS observance for Israelite Feasts