SALT LAKE CITY — Orthodox Jews have a lot in common with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and should consider them friends, according to a rabbi who recently met with LDS church leadership in Salt Lake.
In an opinion piece for The Jewish Press, Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, executive director of the National Council of Young Israel, wrote, "We should work toward building bridges to the LDS in our local areas, as these people share many of our values, ideals and concerns, and essentially are our allies."
His article, "Our Friends the Mormons," points out several similarities between the religions, including that members of both faiths believe they are descended from the 12 tribes of Israel, and both consider their temples to be holy places.
Additional similarities he noted:
- Worldwide membership: 14 million each
- U.S. membership: 6 million each
- 3 million of those members are centered in one particular geographical area (East Coast for Jews, Mountain states for Mormons)
"To be clear, there are certainly differences between the two religions," he wrote. "The Mormons respect these differences."
Most Orthodox Jews associate the LDS Church with two things, he said -- construction of the BYU Jerusalem Center in the 1980s and controversy over the posthumous baptism of Holocaust survivors in the 1990s.
"In fact, the church uses its Mt. Scopus facility to inspire its own members with a love of Israel and is committed to not proselytizing in Israel. And the church also forbade these posthumous baptisms," he wrote.
He concluded that the Mormons have great respect for Jews and the state of Israel and truly want to help them.
The rabbi and three others met with two members of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and one member of the Quorum of the Seventy in a session arranged by the Orthodox Union's Advocacy Center, according to Rabbi Tirschwell.
These people share many of our values, ideals and concerns, and essentially are our allies.
–Rabbi Perry Tirschwell
He said they did not discuss theology but spoke about issues such as the increasing secularization of American society, legislation, and engaging youth in religion.
The rabbi's group also met with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Mike Lee and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who he said share concerns over religious liberties, tax breaks for religious institutions, and "not pressuring Israel to make concessions in the name of peace."