SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 15, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took their Jewish counterparts to visit welfare facilities and the newly renovated Jordan River Utah Temple this week.
A delegation of 11 Jewish leaders from Los Angeles and New York visited with Latter-day Saint leaders, according to a news release from the Church.
This week’s visit was part of an ongoing series of relationship-building experiences between Latter-day Saints and Jews. In May 2017, Jewish leaders hosted LDS leaders in New York City, and in Oct. 2016, some members of this same Jewish delegation gathered in Jerusalem with Mormon leaders to commemorate the 175th anniversary of an early Mormon apostle’s journey to Jerusalem.
For Saba Soomekh, who is assistant director of inter-religious and inter-community affairs for the American Jewish Committee, viewing the LDS Church’s welfare and temple operations is a way of practicing what she preaches to her university religious studies students, she said.
To help them deepen their understanding of other faiths, she asks students to visit mosques, synagogues and other worship spaces.
“People just want to be understood,” said Soomekh, who teaches religious studies, women’s studies and Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“It is so important to learn about other faiths, especially in the time that we’re living in today where there is so much misunderstanding and so much animosity,” she said.
“It is so important to really truly understand what people believe, how it’s not a threat to you and how you could work to better (the) community.”
Former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, who toured several LDS temples in years past, said he was once again struck by the Jordan River Utah Temple’s Jewish connection.
“To go through this temple today and to see so many of the Jewish Old Testament themes found in this temple and memorialized in this temple — it just really reaffirms the connection between (Jews and Mormons),” Abrams said. “And there’s a powerful feeling of peace when you come out of the temple.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said this week’s face-to-face interfaith outreach can serve as an example for Latter-day Saints, as well as people of other faith or no faith.
“We talk about communities getting together in organizations and so on, but really it’s the people within those communities, within those organizations, and their individual relationships that make the kind of difference that we’re talking about,” Christofferson said.
“Everyone ought to feel they can have a part. When they don’t have the capacity to range across the world, if they do it locally in their neighborhood and they reach out and they invite people over and they take advantage of the opportunities that are quite naturally there, that’s what we’re looking for.”