History of LDS - Jewish Connections

LDS Contacts with Jewish Communities

Pre-World War I contacts with Jewish communities were apparently influenced by Brigham Young's dictum. Jews immigrated into Utah after 1864, aligning politically with non-LDS "Gentiles." Yet they related well to the LDS majority, which did not proselytize them. Indeed, to the earliest Jewish settlers in Utah, the LDS Church provided meeting places for services and donated land for a cemetery. Utahans have also elected several Jews to public office, including a judge, state legislators, and a governor (see Brooks, 1973).

An LDS Near East mission (from 1884) was based temporarily at Haifa, where a cemetery contains graves of missionaries and German converts. Teaching mostly Armenians and German colonists, this mission ignored the longtime resident Jews of the Old Yishuv and had few contacts with new Zionist immigrants.

After World War I some LDS leaders felt impressed to begin "gathering" Jews. New York Mission President (1922-1927) B. H. Roberts wrote pamphlets later consolidated into Rasha—The Jew, Mormonism's first exposition directed at Jews.

In this same vein, Elder LeGrand Richards composed Israel! Do You Know? and then received permission to launch experimental "Jewish missions," the largest being in Los Angeles.

This and smaller Jewish missions (Salt Lake City; Ogden; San Francisco; Portland, Oreg.; New York; Washington D.C.) were disbanded in 1959, when the First Presidency directed that Jewish communities not be singled out for proselytizing.

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