Highlights in Jewish - LDS History
from research by Mark Paredes

David Ben Gurion: "You know, there are no people in the world who understand the Jews like the Mormons."

Ben Gurion was the first president of Israel when it became a nation in 1948.

The following accounts speak for the feelings and support that Joseph Smith and other church leaders have shown for the Jewish people.

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ was founded during Pesach on April 6 , 1830 ("of Latter-day Saints" was latter added to the name).
  2. The first edition of the first Church newspaper, Evening and Morning Star, was published in June 1832. In the first article, "To Man," Church leaders announced that the newspaper "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."
  3. A "School of the Prophets" was founded in 1833 to provide secular and spiritual instruction to Church leaders and members. After the Book of Mormon had gone to press, with all its Hebraisms, the Hebrew School was established as a course of study (10 hours/week). The instructor was Joshua Seixas, son of Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas, rabbi of Shearith Israel in New York.
  4. In response to an article entitled "What Do Mormons Believe?" written by a newspaper editor, an 1834 article in the Church's newspaper Messenger and Advocate stated our beliefs in the form of a creed. Among them was "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."
    The closest thing Mormons have to a creed today are the 13 Articles of Faith (number = 13 Principles of Maimonides). The 10th Article affirms: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the 10 tribes."
  5. On March 28, 1836 the Church's first temple was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio by Joseph Smith. Excerpt from the dedicatory prayer: "But thou knowest that thou hast a great love for the children of Jacob, who have been scattered upon the mountains for a long time, in a cloudy and dark day. We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem from this hour, may begin to be redeemed; and the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David; and the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father."
  6. In 1839 the Saints founded the town of Nauvoo. Joseph Smith got the name from "naveh" ("oasis" in Hebrew), and the town in its heyday rivaled Chicago in size.
  7. Joseph Smith dispatched Apostle Orson Hyde to dedicate the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews.
    • On October 24, 1841, Orson Hyde offered that prayer on the Mount of Olives Toggle painting of Orson on the scene...
    • The Orson Hyde Memorial Garden was dedicated in 1979 on the Mount of Olives by Church President Spencer W. Kimball and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, who also awarded Pres Kimball the Medal of the City of Jerusalem.
    • In addition, a park honoring Orson Hyde was dedicated in 2005 at Natanya Academic College in Israel, where a chair in Mormon Studies was established.
    • Apostle George A. Smith rededicated the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews in 1873. The Land of Israel received at least 11 apostolic blessings before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
    • Two apostles (including future Church President David O. McKay) were in Jerusalem in 1921 when the Allenby proclamation was made.
    • David O. McKay prayed, on November 4, 1921, on the Mt of Olives for the return of the Jews to their homeland.
  8. On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. They were slain shortly after reading together a book written by Josephus.
  9. After the murders the presiding apostles 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."
  10. For more than five decades (1870s-1920s), the Church seriously considered establishing a Mormon colony in Palestine.
  11. Mormon pioneers arrived in the Utah territory in 1847.
    • The first Jews arrived in 1849.
    • The first Jewish worship service was held in 1864 in Salt lake City. Rosh Hashana was celebrated in Temple Square (the city center) in 1865.
    • Brigham Young donated his personal land for a Jewish cemetery in 1866.
    • The Jewish High Holy Days were celebrated in the Seventies Hall (used by Church leaders) in 1867.
    • 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.
  12. In 1851 Jacob Rich, a Jewish settler traveling with a Mormon caravan to California, brought the first Torah (which had a separate cart) to the San Bernardino valley; For decades it was the only Torah between Pasadena and Phoenix.
  13. Louis Cohn was elected to the Salt Lake City Council in 1874. The Chamber of Commerce founding charter of 1887 lists the names of several prominent Jews. The first Jewish governors in the country were elected in Idaho (1941) and Utah (1916). Salt Lake City had a Jewish mayor by 1932, more than four decades before New York City.
  14. Heber J. Grant (Church president, 1918-45), a strong critic of anti-Semitism, was a Jewish National Fund booster. He pointed to the Balfour declaration as a divine prophet and called for the Saints to look forward to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
  15. In 1948, Church President George Albert Smith publicly and privately assured prominent Jews of Church support for the new state. We have always maintained good relations with the government of Israel.
  16. 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 or sympathy with the effort being made to establish the Jews in their homeland."
  17. Brigham Young University began sending students to study in Jerusalem in 1968. a permanent facility on Mt. Scopus was opened in 1987.
  18. The Mormon Tabernacle choir toured Israel in 1993 and performed with the Jerusalem Symphony.
  19. Prominent LDS scholars serve with Prof. Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University on the Dead Sea Scrolls foundation (BYU was asked to digitize the scrolls.).
  20. The Church donated $50,000 to Magen David Adom in Israel during the recent war in Lebanon.
  21. Many Jews ask about the Angel Moroni statue that sits atop many of or temples.
    On Rosh Hashana, September 21, 1823, the Angel Moroni appeared to 17-year-old Joseph Smith three times in one night and quoted, inter alia, from the 11th chapter of Isaiah, saying it was about to be fulfilled ["And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth"].
Useful books:
Holy Lands: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Near East by LaMar C. Berrett and Blair G. Van Dyke
Abraham Divided by Daniel C. Peterson
All Abraham's Children by Armond Mauss (chapters 6 and 7)