By Marlena Tanya Muchnick
This is my introductory article for More Good Foundation. I sincerely hope that my readers will enjoy my postings to this blog and that they will respond with questions and suggestions for future articles, clarifications, questions. My main thrust is to compare and contrast the Jewish people with the Latter-day Saints – the many ways in which we are alike and different. Come along with me on this journey to understanding and acceptance. There’s a lot to discover…
Next month’s article will cover the Jewish High Holy Days: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Let’s begin with a seminal question: How long has Christianity seemed a threat to Judaism?
Almost from the time of the first apostles. They preached many things of the kingdom of God that had been lost to the Jewish people, and these principles were originally given to Abraham and Moses. These great men taught the truths that God gave them. But during the intervening years, from the entering of Canaan until the Savior appeared on the scene, many changes were made to the original Gospel. Some of the Pharisees were responsible for these major changes in doctrine and in worship. So when Jesus came to teach and to organize his primitive church some of the major tenets were already unrecognizable to the Jewish population. They rejected what they thought was heresy.
The situation worsened when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in ad 306. He made it the religion of the Roman Empire. While it is true that most of Jesus’ followers were also Jews, eventually, years after his death they became mistrustful and suspicious of the apostolic teachings. The apostles focused on a common faith rather than on a common history and legislated way of life. Slowly the Jews were pushed out. The idea of a personal savior conflicted with Jewish rabbinical authority and with the centuries-old Jewish dream of a mortal rescuing king who with his army would return his people to their home in Israel. Since that time, many more kings and rulers subjugated the Israelites and Jews during the six millenia they have been traceable as a gathered people. The most brutal treatment of Jews has come at the hands of professed Christians, many of whom now deny the so-called “final solution” of the Nazis. Is it any wonder we resist more pressure to change?
Here are the main doctrines of Christianity which were given to the ancient prophets and which they taught. These were dropped from Jewish beliefs by the time the Savior came.
Baptism by immersion
Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands
The nature of the Godhead
Resurrection through the atonement of Christ
Temple ordinances for the living and the dead
In the book of Romans, chapter 11, Heavenly Father tells us that He has not cast away His chosen people but given them for a time the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, ears that they should not hear. We have paid mightily for our blindness and deafness in that refiner’s fire. What is most unfortunate of all? Judah has not learned to know and love her true Messiah though he was predicted and confirmed by their many prophets. That greatest gift was given to the Gentiles. But God is gathering His wayward children together. I am testimony that some of us can be awakened. Remember the story of the prodigal son – I see Judah as the strayed seed of a prodigal people and Joseph as the homecoming father.
How can we then show our Jewish brethren that the time has come – that we are family? You, family of Joseph, have a mandate – not to envy but to commiserate, to understand, fellowship and eventually, when it is right in the sight of the Lord, deliver the lost sheep of Israel, the latter-day carriers of the seed of Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph of the coat of many colors, even Jesus our Redeemer, and that they need not fear us, but follow. I quote
from 2Nephi 30, verse 5, referring to the remnant of the Jews:
And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.
The word “Israel” refers in part to blood relationships, that is, any descendant of the twelve original families of Israel. A second affiliation is the Israelites of land – that includes the subdividing of the land inheritance of Joseph into three allotments Ephraim, Manasseh and Manasseh’s son, Machir. Israel refers to anyone inhabiting the ancient lands of Israel, Samaria, Canaan, Judea and the Holy Land.
The third group covered by the word “Israel” is the Latter-day Saints who are referred to as Covenant Israel, meaning anyone accepting God and the covenants of Israel made through baptism and other ordinances of the Gospel as taught in this Church. As Latter-day Saints you know you are both blood and covenant Israel.
There is much to be learned from Judaism. In D&C 3:16 the Lord assures the Prophet Joseph:
11 “Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people.”
Brothers and sisters, truth waits to be discovered. Even a small knowledge of Hebrew is very helpful in gaining deeper insight into the New Testament. Seeing the world and reading scripture through the eyes of six centuries of wisdom and research is invaluable to a Christian of any stripe. Listening to a Hebrew prayer or hearing the cantor sing in a synagogue will move you to tears at his outpouring of love for his holy Father. Reading in Talmud will give you appreciation for some of the finest and most spiritual minds of the past. Discussions on law, revelation, social, domestic, moral physical life, the Messiah, the hereafter. God and the Universe. How does a Jew envision his God? The creedal prayer, given in Deuteronomy 6:4 and again in Mark 12:29 when the Savior pronounces it, is the basic confession of faith of Judaism.
I hope this post has been helpful. Next month we’ll continue our search and discover more similarities between faiths. As we do so, we will move into deeper territories of belief and why faith is such an important tool of discovery, not only of knowledge that people are different – but that at the core of life, we are all children of our Heavenly Father and beloved in His eyes.
Shalom Aleichem . May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Marlena Tanya Muchnick