If Romney wins: Five things every Jew should know about Mormonism

1. Devout Mormons can be found all across the political spectrum.

The Mormon Church doesn’t endorse candidates or political parties, and although most American Mormons are Republicans, a Mormon Democrat has served as the Senate Majority Leader for the last five years. Owing to our history of persecution and emphasis on self-reliance, there is also a noteworthy group of Mormons with libertarian sympathies who do not easily identify with either party.

Mormons can be found on all sides of most issues. On immigration, for example, many Mormons tend to be more liberal than other Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter). Many of us have served missions abroad, and tend not to be too judgmental of people who come here seeking a better life. Although Mormons generally agree on many important moral issues (see below), there is no consensus on economics and the proper role of government. We all agree, for example, that we have an obligation to help the poor. However, the extent to which government should help meet their needs by taxing others is a point of contention among followers of most faiths, including ours.

2. Mormonism is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Our church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) bears the name of the Christian Savior, we believe in the God of Israel, we accept the Hebrew Bible and New Testament as Scripture, we worship in chapels and temples, and we consider ourselves to be covenant Israelites. Mormons follow the Ten Commandments and are Noahides. In addition, the Abrahamic Covenant is central to our faith. Like Jews, the family is central to our faith, and our idea of heaven is to live with our spouses and families for eternity.

3. A Mormon president would not take orders from Salt Lake City.

If Mitt Romney wins, he’ll undoubtedly have the same arrangement with top church leaders that other Mormons have with local leaders: They don’t tell us how to do our jobs, and we don’t tell them how to run the church. Even Romney’s most intractable foes haven’t accused LDS church headquarters of drafting Romneycare in Massachusetts, and it’s safe to assume that church leaders aren’t behind Harry Reid’s shameful promotion of Las Vegas gambling interests in Washington. Mormons are used to looking to their leaders for spiritual advice, not professional guidance. While I would certainly expect Romney to consult with Mormon leaders as part of his general outreach efforts to faith communities (including Jewish leaders), I am confident that he will be his own man when it comes to formulating policies for the nation. I am also confident that Mormons will not be overrepresented in his administration, as Romney has a history of hiring capable people from all backgrounds to work for him.

4. On moral issues, Mormons are not extreme right-wingers.

A closer look shows the views of most Mormons on these issues to be much more nuanced. Let’s take abortion, for example. The LDS church is very much against it but does allow for possible exceptions in the case of rape, incest, a threat to the mother’s life or when the baby is not expected to survive childbirth. That’s pretty much Romney’s campaign’s abortion platform.

On gay issues, it is accurate to say that Mormons oppose state-sanctioned, same-sex marriage. However, it is both inaccurate and insulting to say that we are anti-gay. We can and do support many other issues that are important to gays. For example, former LDS Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced a Senate bill that would have added sexual orientation to the list of protected categories for hate crimes. Every Mormon I know is opposed to discrimination against gays in education, employment and housing. We also support rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, probate rights, etc., so long as the integrity of the traditional family is not affected. As for theology, the LDS church teaches that homosexuality is not sinful in and of itself, as long as one remains chaste.

Although Mormons tend to have more children than the national average, our church doesn’t take a position on birth control. In addition, the church takes no position on capital punishment, stem-cell research, evolution or global warming. As a result, faithful Mormons are advocates for positions on all sides of these issues. 

5. Mormons are philo-Semites and pro-Israel. 

One of our basic Articles of Faith affirms: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.” In 1841, LDS Apostle Orson Hyde offered a prayer on the Mount of Olives dedicating the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews. Israel went on to receive at least 11 apostolic blessings before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. For more than five decades (1870s-1920s), the church seriously considered establishing a Mormon colony in Palestine. Today, Brigham Young University has a beautiful center on Mount Scopus with the best view of the Old City in Jerusalem.

In the United States, Mormon pioneers arrived in the Utah territory in 1847. The first Jews arrived two years later, in 1849. The first Jewish worship service was held in 1864 in Salt Lake City. Rosh Hashanah was celebrated in Temple Square (the city center) in 1865. Brigham Young donated his personal land for a Jewish cemetery in 1866. In 1903, church President Joseph F. Smith spoke at the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone for the state’s first Orthodox synagogue, which was largely paid for by the church. The second and third Jewish governors in the country were elected in Idaho (1914) and Utah (1916), the two states with the highest percentage of Mormons. Salt Lake City had a Jewish mayor by 1932, more than four decades before New York City.

Most Mormons in this country are very pro-Israel, and Romney is no exception. He has a close, decades-long personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who looks likely to be elected to another term. If Romney is elected, Jews and Israelis can be assured that they will have a true friend in the White House.

Mark Paredes writes the Jews and Mormons blog for the Jewish Journal and is a member of the LDS church's Jewish Relations Committee for Southern California. Read the Jews and Mormons blog at

Opinion: Stop Christian missionaries at Israel festivals

On Sunday April 29, 2012 at the Israel Festival in Los Angeles, many people visited Jews for Judaism’s booth to acquire literature and show their support for our efforts to keep Jews Jewish.

During the day we received numerous complaints about the presence of three different organizations that were granted booths at the festival.

1) The Mormons / Latter Day Saints

2) The Kabbalah Centre

3) The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries

For this report we will focus on Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries even though we share concerns about the Mormons who are a missionary religion, and the controversial Kabbalah Centre that has gone so far as to claim Jesus was a Kabbalist and the potential messiah of his era who was turned over to the Romans for execution by the anti-Kabbalists. (Source: Audio lecture by Yehuda Berg)

The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries booth was located not far from the Jews for Judaism booth. After receiving our first complaint we visited their booth, obtained two pieces of literature and asked their representatives to explain their mission. Their answer was very revealing. “Our mission is to support Israel and proclaim the truth.”

When asked what the truth is, they replied, “Jesus is the Suffering Servant who died for our sins.”

Another representative of Friends of Israel, who happened to be a Jewish convert to Christianity, told us “Jews and Israelis are mostly secular and don’t even believe they are the Chosen people. They follow Judaism blindly out of tradition and can only know the truth by accepting Jesus.”

The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries has been on Jews for Judaism’s radar for many years. They are known for disguising their missionary activity under the banner of being supporters of Israel. However, their website and literature sheds light on their true agenda.

The Friends of Israel website reveals that their approach of “studying the Scriptures with an appreciation for Israel and the Jewish people” has a goal to enhance “opportunities to minister effectively.”

Also found on their website is Friends of Israel’s Statement of Faith. It says they believe in the Trinity and that Jesus is God. They also believe that mankind is born into spiritual death and can only be saved by accepting Jesus. Whoever fails to accept him will suffer eternal punishment.

The Friends of Israel literature distributed and the Israel Festival is also quite revealing.

In their Israel My Glory magazine the majority of articles are preaching the Gospel.

Additionally, several articles are written by Jews who have converted to Christianity.

Here are some of the most disturbing statements in this magazine:

1) The Jewish Prophet Isaiah alluded to the Trinity and clearly all three entities are God… Page 8

2) Buy the book Zechariah by messianic Jew David Levy and discover that “Zechariah is second only to Isaiah and his prophesies include the future Tribulation and glorious return of the Lord…” Page 12

3) God is a Tri-unity… Page 18

4) We must seek and call on [Jesus] to receive redemption… Page 19

5) Jesus Christ fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies. Isaiah also revealed the Messiah is a God-Man. He is virgin-born, a descendant of Jesse and King David and the Suffering Servant…” Page21

6) Friends of Israel writer and messianic Jew Steve Herzig wrote, “More than 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied that God would send a unique sin-bearer, born of a virgin… Do you have trouble? No one can help you like He can…” Page 33

7) The book of Hebrews was written to provide evidence of Jesus Christ’s divinity … and the law has been abrogated in Christ…” Pare 36

Friends of Israel also distributed another brochure at the Israel Festival. Entitled Five Facts You Should Know about Israel, the brochure included the following statements:

1) “Messiah will not crush Satan and reestablish God’s rule over the world system until the nation of Israel repents of its rebellion against God. This repentance will involve accepting Jesus as the Messiah Savior…” Page 9

2) “One third of Israel will repent when they see Jesus Christ in His glorious Second Coming and recognize that he is their Messiah…” page 10

There is abundant evidence that The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries is a missionary organization. As their name implies their mission is to spread the gospel to the Jews.

It is our opinion that Friends of Israel and other missionary organizations pose a threat to Jewish survival and continuity. They should not be provided a forum to share their message at community Jewish events or allowed to distribute their literature to unsuspecting Jews.

In conclusion, we have two recommendations:

1) Implementation of a community policy that groups seeking to actively proselytize Jews through deceptive means should not be allowed to participate in Jewish community programs. By allowing them to participate gives de facto communal support for their deceptive activities.

2) Prior to community events, organizers should actively seek to determine if a particular group is problematic. This can be facilitated by investigating the group in consultation with Jews for Judaism, the Board of Rabbis or the BJE who can help evaluate if the group has a hidden agenda that is inconsistent with the goals of the Jewish community.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz is founder and director of Jews for Judaism www.JewsForJudaism.org

Paredes Found

Without much fear of contradiction, Mark Paredes observes, "I think I’m the only biracial Mormon representing the state of Israel abroad."

Paredes, a personable bachelor in his early 30s, appointed earlier this year as press attaché at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, has other claims to distinction.

He speaks seven languages fluently (English, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Portuguese), served as a U.S. foreign service officer in Mexico and Tel Aviv, and studied at Brigham Young University, University of Texas and the Moscow University of Steel and Alloys.

Paredes was born in Bay City, Mich. (otherwise famed as Madonna’s birthplace), the son of a white mother and a black father, though he was raised by a Chilean stepfather. He joined the Mormon Church at age 11, later served as a missionary in southern Italy, and, in line with his religious upbringing, has never had an alcoholic drink, never smoked a cigarette and doesn’t swear.

However, it wasn’t necessarily the latter virtues that convinced Consul General Yuval Rotem to hire Paredes as spokesman and liaison to the African American and Christian communities.

"When I first came to Los Angeles in September 1999, I realized that to promote Israel’s interest in as diversified an area as this city and the southwestern region of the United States, I had to reach out beyond the Jewish community," Rotem says.

The need to add to his staff people with a natural feel for non-Jewish communities struck Rotem when he visited Utah, where the Mormon Church is a key influence, during an initial trip to the states within his jurisdiction.

His first non-Jewish hire was Dr. Lauren Foster, whose roots are in the Mormon Church. Foster was selected as Rotem’s liaison to Utah, on top of her job as the consulate’s director for academic affairs.

Next, Rotem turned his attention to Los Angeles’ Latino community, the largest in the United States, which is playing an increasingly crucial role in California and national politics. He appointed as his community affairs specialist Naomi Rodriguez, a young woman savvy in the ways of Latino culture and politics. One of the fruits of her labor was last month’s yacht cruise, which brought together 100 Latino leaders, and an equal number of their Jewish counterparts, for a casual evening of Jewish and Mexican cuisine, Israeli and Latino music and transethnic networking.

One of the participants was Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who observed, "It’s funny how it took a foreign diplomat to put this together."

Rodriguez is leaving to work for Mayor James Hahn, but Rotem has been so impressed by the effectiveness of her work, that he is already interviewing for her successor.

Paredes got a quick start on his job when he arranged for the consular staff to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the AME Church, the city’s premier black church.

Police Chief Bernard Parks and other top African American officials participated in the event. "We received a terrific welcome, it was unbelievable," Rotem says.

Paredes, who worked in the economic section of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv between 1994 to 1996, after taking an intensive six-month Hebrew course, may be the only person who can compare the working styles of American and Israeli diplomacy from the inside.

"In the U.S. foreign service, the rules are very clearly defined," he says. "The Israeli service is less hierarchical, more open and has more flexibility."

This flexibility is clearly part of Rotem’s modus operandi. Since his regular budget does not provide for the special community liaisons, he pays their salaries through some judicious local fundraising.

He says his unorthodox initiative has been warmly endorsed by his boss, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and, following his example, the Israeli consulates in Houston and Miami are considering the employment of Latino liaisons. Rotem notes: "I think it reflects Israel’s growing sense of maturity that there is room for non-Jews to represent us."