Answers for a Messianic Jew who wants Mormons to preach to Jews

July 11, 2015

I was recently copied on the following email that was also sent to other Mormons who are interested in Jewish outreach. Since I did not ask the sender's permission to publish it, he will remain anonymous (though he is free to identify himself in the “comments” section below if he so chooses). I had never heard a Jew express these sentiments before, but some of his points got to the heart of Jews' relations with Christians, especially those who love them.

Here is the relevant part of the letter:

“I attended a Mormon service yesterday. In one of the classes after the sacrament meeting, the teaching was about the priority of “Flooding the World with the Book of Mormon”. During the discussion time, I asked if this is such a great priority why did the LDS church sign an agreement with the Israeli government never to translate the Book of Mormon into Hebrew? … Why would they do this? Isn't this a form of anti-Semitism? One of the participants suggested the church did this 'out of respect for the Jewish religion.' I humbly disagree. If you really believe that Jesus is essential to a person's eternal destiny, and that the Book of Mormon powerfully presents His Gospel, then it is extremely disrespectful to the Jewish people to withhold from them the Book of Mormon! … And furthermore, the Israeli government does not speak for all Jews in the world. There are many Jews who speak Hebrew scattered across the globe who could benefit from this book. Why would the Mormon leadership grant veto power to an Israeli government that anyway consists of unbelievers and apostates? This really perturbs me … Did the church build its Jerusalem Center at the expense of evangelizing to Jews? Is it like so many Christian tourists who take their five star luxury vacations to Israel and happily ignore the spiritual starvation of the Jews and Arabs who live in that tormented land?”

All became clear when I googled the author's name and discovered that he is a prominent Messianic Jew (i.e., a Christian).

A few points of clarification are in order.

First of all, I am unaware of any promise by Mormon leaders not to translate the Book of Mormon into Hebrew. In fact, there was already a Hebrew translation available at the time the agreement was reached with the Israeli government, and the church decided to stop printing it in order to avoid even the appearance of proselytizing in Israel.

The author is 100% correct on one point: Mormons do believe that it is important to share the Book of Mormon and other scriptures with non-Mormons. However, it is hardly “anti-Semitic” to refrain from doing so with Jews right now. There is a time and a place for everything, and Mormons believe – as do Jews – that God has His own timetable for bringing to pass the redemption of the world. Does the author also consider the LDS Church to be biased against North Koreans because their country is currently not being flooded with copies of the Book of Mormon? Our leaders have shown a great deal of sensitivity on this issue and others that relate to the Jewish community (e.g., the proxy ordinances performed in Mormon temples), and they don't seem to be inclined to target Jews in any way for conversion. The contrast with Messianic Judaism could not be more clear.

While the Israeli government does not speak for all Jews worldwide, it was necessary for Mormon leaders to negotiate with Israeli leaders because the proposed BYU Jerusalem Center was going to be built in their country. While many leaders in that country are secular, it's quite a stretch for a Jew-turned-Christian to refer to them as “unbelievers and apostates.” Do I believe that some Jews and Arabs are starving spiritually? Yes, I do — just as I believe that there are people in every country — indeed, in every neighborhood — who are starving spiritually. As I indicated above, my prescription for this spiritual starvation would not be to put the spiritual cart before the horse by engaging in premature proselytizing.

As some members of the Los Angeles Jewish community know, ever since I began working for the Israeli consulate more than a dozen years ago I have avoided preaching to or teaching prospective Jewish converts to Mormonism prior to their baptisms, which I do attend if invited. Once Jews join the Church, I treat them like any other member. I continue to believe that it is improper for a Christian who works in the Jewish community and/or writes for a Jewish magazine to seek to convert Jews in his spare time. It's hard to believe that real Jews would consider this stance to be anti-Semitic.     

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