I often speak with missionaries who have found in their travels a Jewish man or woman who, piqued by the message of the Gospel of Christ, desires to know more but then retains many questions and poses rebuttals when the missionaries present the Book of Mormon. Oftentimes the Elders or Sisters are at a loss to proceed and call upon a Jewish convert for relief.
Such is the case with me. I become that relief pitcher and perhaps the batter, too, in the sense that my Gospel thrust is expected to be all the investigator needs to finally make a home run into the nearest font, become a happy, fulfilled member of the Church, and never look back upon his/her origins or history.
None of this can be accomplished without a windup, without understanding the mechanics of the body, the ball, the needed speed to make the velocity of the pitch strike the bat with extreme force so the home run can be effected. So it is with teaching the Gospel to a Jew who doesn’t really know if he/she wants to be present at bat or is merely a curious onlooker. Forgo the metaphor. This is not a game nor a gambit but a life challenge of the most urgent kind. Let me explain.
A great many Mormons work hard on their genealogy and are greatly rewarded. They know their predecessors; they have caught in the sieve of centuries those numerous souls whose lives have been directly and tangentially responsible for their own. They have traced their maternal and paternal lines extensively. Many will happily tell you the slight of their nose, the set of the ear or mouth, the dimples and the birthmarks – had their origin on the faces of their kin. Identity is personalized. They know who they were and so they know who they have become.
Jews who convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot rest upon their new-found genealogy of the moment (Lamanites, Nephites, Jeredites), the protagonists of latter-day scripture. We need to know our own history. What does that contain? The answers lie mainly in the lives and preaching of prophets.
Begin in Written Torah (Tanakh) with Genesis (Bereshith – in the beginning) 12. Verses 2-7 contain the essential blessings Avraham received from God. These promises and provisions are based upon the character and sovereignty of Yahveh, our Heavenly Father Who bestowed upon His Chosen tribes a great nation, numberless increase, the land of Israel, much more. Read Chapters 12, 17 and 22:17 where it is written Abraham’s seed will overcome its enemies.
Read of the other covenants made through the prophets: Edenic (Gen 1:26-31), Adamic (Gen 3:16-19), Noahic (Gen 9:1-18) Mosaic (law established for the nation of Israel), Land (Deut 30:1-10), Davidic (2Sam, 1 Chron) where Yahveh promised King David an unending royal lineage, throne and kingdom. The final, New Covenant given through the mouth of Jeremiah (ch. 31:31-40) prophecies that Christ Jesus (Yeshua, Mashiach) is the mediator, established at the cross on Calvary. Read Hebrews 5:9 and learn that our Messiah is the “source of all eternal salvation” to those who obey him, as well as the cornerstone and head of the Church (Eph 2:20-22).
Explore Exodus (Shemoth-the names). Learn the laws and traditions that made up the Hebrew people. Jewish law is Halakhah. It means the path one walks, the trail from childhood to the golden door of Yahveh. Our individual relationship with the Divine Essence leads us to the embrace of Yeshua – called also Jehovah – as we traverse the life path upon which we learn all that our present journey is prepared to teach.
Read about the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex 27), a place set apart for worship of God. Our commandments, the Tables of the Law (Ex 25:16, 31:18) were inscribed upon stone and delivered to Moses – the Mosaic Covenant. And remember that the Israel of Christ’s day rejected the “chief cornerstone,” even though he had been engraven by Yahveh‘s hand. The sacred history of the Jews is about their temples, their laws, their prophets, their misdeeds and their promises, blessings and curses, salvation through Messianic prophecy, promises.
Deuteronomy (Devarim – repetition of the Law). Learn of the advancement in the story of redemption. Learn what the Lord requires of Israel if they are to cross the Jordan River, their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and rootlessness, their banishment from Eden. Learn of the Lord’s love for Israel and God’s call to total commitment to Him in worship and obedience.
In Malachi find the promises given for the binding of generations to one another. In Lamentations find the wails and sorrow of the Jews as they mourn the destruction of their Temple. Study deeply the prophecies of the book of Prophets – Mica, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah. I think many of their writings can be interposed upon the Book of Mormon as a body of prophetic literature that is germane to the latter-day themes. Reading the Doctrine and Covenants, which contain numerous chapters from Isaiah, it is easy for me to insert the words of Ezekiel 37 (coming together of Bible and Book of Mormon), or Jeremiah (calls to righteousness, warnings to the non-compliant).
Consider the Book of Mormon’s writings as another book of Torah, explicating, summarizing, making clear the words of God and the works of mankind as in a bas relief – the fruit of the Tree of Every Life.
Scripture is one long record of Hebrew history that all people, including the Jews, must study, digest and revere. Latter-day scripture is like a summary of all that has gone before, as we each are a type and fulfillment of those who begot us.
In modern prose, “read the book first, then see the movie”. Doesn’t it make more sense that way?
I see each soul as an evolving, ever growing model of the promise made before its timeline of birth. Our growth continues throughout eternity.
And this is what the missionaries must emphasize – the history of the Jewish people is the precursor and example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Belief in and understanding of him as the ultimate prophet of God is the sum total of all the intelligence, beauty, life and faith in the universes. He has bestowed upon mankind all we need to become perfect in him. He came to lead us to the Father through the lives of the prophets and the history of earth.
It is simple to see, all the above being accomplished and continuous, that the Spirit will be the leader of the investigator to latter-day scripture, commitment to Christ and baptism into the Church, if this process is emphasized. The identifying quote from Isaiah will then be understood:
Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed…
Let the LDS missionaries teach Jewish investigators of their precious beginnings and learn for themselves the great wisdom, joy and devotion that is necessary to do the work of the Lord in bringing souls to the Father through him.
To believe, to then believe in and follow the Savior of the world in all things is to know profound joy, to pitch a home run every time, to always hit the mark, to bullseye the path homeward, to join the gathering of Elijah, to build and rest upon the immovable rock of Christ, the cornerstone of eternity. I believe that is essentially, even if unconsciously what every Jew wants. Missionaries – show them the path, walk with them. Do what you can and the Lord will, as always, help you to do the rest!
Comment from GE Hagloch:
I followed the link and read Care and Feeding of Jewish Covert. Excellent summary of our responsibility! Having the proper foundation to our own LDS faith will help us understand more fully our owns beliefs but make us more effective as the fullest of the Gentile comes to an end and the Gospel is taken to the Jew. These ancient covenants form the basis for our latter-day covenants – the Mosaic covenant is the basis for the Baptismal covenant, the Davidic covenant is the basis for the Temple Endowment covenant, the Abrahamic covenant is the basis for the Temple Marriage covenant.