It is hardly news that there are Jews who have converted to Mormonism, or any religion for that matter. In the 1960’s, a book called “Jews For Nothing” discussed Jewish attraction to new age cults, Eastern religions, and Jews for Jesus as well. If you really want to go far back enough, Jews have even been indulging other religions since ancient times, including the Hellenists of the Second Temple period and the idol worshippers of the First.
What seems to be relatively new (although it mirrors Hellenism to a certain extent) is the belief that a Jew can be both fully Jewish and fully something else, in this case Mormonism. It also appears LDS is attempting to capitalize on this to gain Jewish followers:
For Jewish Mormons, hybrid identity seen as no contradiction: SALT LAKE CITY (JTA) – Phyllis Miller’s experien… https://t.co/W6nluex6Og
— דוד לבבי (@davidlevavi) February 21, 2016
In order to subscribe to the fact that one can in fact be Jewish (in any way besides genetic relation), one must be ignorant of both Judaism and Mormonism.
There’s no lack of material on how belief in Jesus isn’t Jewish. For just a few websites to peak at, you can refer to judaismsanswer.com whatjewsbelieve.org jewsforjudaism.org and outreachjudaism.org just to start. I specifically want to focus on a few claims and issues that make claiming dual Jewish/Mormon status problematic.
Judaism’s belief system isn’t just based on a single revelation but on a consistent mesorah (tradition) that begins with our father Avraham 4,000 years ago to today, a historical tradition. Joseph Smith invented an alternate history where a certain branch of the family sailed across the ocean to the New World, and whose story ends in upstate New York where Joseph Smith claims to have found the gold tablets that were written by the descendants of this Jewish split off, who actually became Native Americans. To my knowledge, there are no traditions or customs that remotely look like Jewish practice, which would be odd considering how faithful Jews have been to tradition. Even groups like the Bnei Menashe of Manipoor, who have been estranged from their Jewish brothers for +2,500 years still kept customs such as the tallit and a song commemorating the Splitting of the Red Sea.
The practices of the people described in the Book of Mormon match Jewish practice, nor do the names match Hebrew. There is no mention of any of the ritual observance that the Prophets we do have complain the Jews aren’t doing, yet are conducting animal sacrifice outside of the Temple in Jerusalem, a practice that had been forbidden at that point. There is no mention of Sabbath observance, the holidays, or dietary restrictions, just to name a view. More than that, the focus of the Bible on right deed is done away with, replace by belief and faith. As for the Hebrew, Nephi, Laman, Moroni, Alma, none of these names come from Hebrew. For someone unfamiliar with Hebrew, this might not register. But a Jew with any knowledge of the mama lashon (mother tongue), these names would strike them as immediately odd, and a clear fabrication.
It concerns me little as a rabbi what Mormons believe in and of itself. They are entitled to their beliefs as much as anyone, and it is not for me to just go around refuting their beliefs. However, it very much concerns me that there are any Jews that have taken to it, and that Mormons might decide to preach the Gospel to Jews. In order to be Jewish and Mormon, one has to assume that one’s Jewish traditions are right, but only up to the point where the Book of Mormon contradicts, regardless of what the Bible, Jewish tradition, and even archaeology have to say about the issue. I find it quite sad that Jews are so ignorant of their own religion and culture that they could see a harmony between the two belief systems. I do hope this small introduction to the distinction will lead Jews that have adopted Mormonism to seek out the G-d of Israel, or at the very least to evaluate their belief systems.