March 28, 2020

Why Mormons can’t be anti-Zionists

After reading Ray Filar’s inane, vapid essay on why she is an “anti-Zionist Jew,” I googled the phrase “anti-Zionist Mormon” to see whether one of my coreligionists had published a similar piece. Although there are slightly more Mormons than Jews in the world, I was pleased – though not surprised – to find that no Mormon has written such an article. While I have come across Mormons who have criticized specific actions by the State of Israel, only Mormons who are unfamiliar with church history and doctrine could possibly oppose Zionism.

The Mormon Church has supported the Jewish people and Israel for all of its 184 years.  In fact, Israel is the only country in the world whose creation was officially supported by the LDS Church. In its earliest days, the Church called on Jews to gather to Palestine and form a state. The first edition of the first Church newspaper announced that it “comes to bring good tidings of great joy to all people, but more especially to the House of Israel scattered abroad, for the Lord hath set His hand again the second time to restore them to the lands of their inheritance.” 

In response to an article entitled “What Do Mormons Believe?” written by a newspaper editor, an 1834 article in a Church newspaper stated: “We believe that God has set His hand to recover the remnant of His people, Israel; and that the time is near when He will bring them from the four winds and reinstate them upon their own lands which He gave their fathers by covenant.”

Orson Hyde, a prominent early apostle, traveled to Europe in 1841 to warn European Jewish leaders to flee to Palestine in order to escape an inevitable catastrophe. Unfortunately, they ignored his warnings. He then went to Palestine, which he dedicated specifically for the gathering of the Jews. In his dedicatory prayer (the first of at least 11 recorded apostolic blessings given in the Holy Land), Elder Hyde made the following request of God for the scattered children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs.”

At the dedication of our first temple in 1836, Joseph Smith — the first president of the Church — asked that “the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father.”
In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered by an Illinois mob. A year later, the leaders of the church issued a “Proclamation to the World.” It said, in part, “The Jews among all nations are commanded to prepare to return to Jerusalem in Palestine, and to rebuild that city to the Lord.  And also to organize and establish their own political government under their own rulers, judges, and governors in that country.”

We are not a creedal faith, but the closest thing Mormons have to a creed today are the 13 Articles of Faith, similar to the 13 Principles of Maimonides.  The 10th Article affirms: “We believe in the literal
gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the 10 tribes.”

LDS Church President Heber J. Grant, a strong critic of anti-Semitism, was a Jewish National Fund booster.  He pointed to the Balfour declaration as a divine portent and called for the Saints to look forward to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1948, Church President George Albert Smith publicly and privately assured prominent Jews of Church support for the new state. 

Israel Bonds were first issued in 1951. In 1952, Church President David O. McKay purchased $5000 of them on behalf of the Church and made the following statement: “This is done to show our sympathy with the effort being made to establish the Jews in their homeland.”

Brigham Young University began sending students to study in Jerusalem in 1968, after Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula  and the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War.

Politically correct Mormons will often point out that their Church is “neutral” when it comes to Israel (as it is with all other countries, for that matter). They are correct that the Mormon Church does not take public positions on the world’s many conflicts. However, the Church has never been neutral on the question of whether there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. As we’ve seen, its leaders were “Zionists” decades before Theodore Herzl came on the world scene.

I thank God for Zionism, and am grateful to belong to a philo-Semitic church. If there are Mormons (or self-hating Jews like Ray Filar) who oppose Zionism, they must be mistaking support for a Jewish state in Palestine for unqualified support for all of Israel’s policies, which is certainly not the dictionary definition of Zionism.

I would go so far as to say that an anti-Zionist Mormon is even more mystifying than an anti-Zionist Jew. After all, there were many prominent Jewish leaders in the pre-WWII era who opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, and extremist Jewish groups like Neturei Karta still do. By way of contrast, pre-WWII Mormon opposition to Zionism was virtually nonexistent, and there are no contemporary Mormon anti-Zionist groups. In light of a continuous history of their church’s support for Israel, those few Mormons who oppose the country's creation are on their own.

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