What would be the reaction for my conversion to Mormonism? Which friends would come to greet me and congratulate my progress and who would despise my change of faith? Many friends would leave my side, but who would continue to stay and preserve all that we have been through?Many reactions came after I was baptized in 2006, but no reaction would surprise me more than an old friend from the Jewish faith.
In the Catholic church; with much respect to their faiths, I had one thing that troubled me. Growing up in that faith for twenty-five years, nothing bothered me more than the Easter Vigil. Obviously we all have different viewpoints on an experience and I had something that rubbed me the wrong way since the second I first saw it. The traditions presented in my Catholic faith consisted of role-playing the PASSION week at a Sunday Service. The Passion week is the week where Jesus was tortured and crucified for the sins of the world. Their wouldn’t be much props at our church, but I have seen some churches who re-enact the whole thing (as they would in a play). At St. John Fisher, it was more simple and quite conservative. Their would be volunteers; children, and usually the priest acting as Christ would be the typical scenario. Their has been a long debate on who crucified Jesus the Christ. It was either the Romans since he died a Roman death or the Jews who considered Jesus a blasphemer. What we tend to forget is that Jesus was a JEW. Also, we need more context before we jump to any conclusions of our own. However, if we cannot tolerate other faiths, we tend to only learn one side of the story.
Jesus Christ was a Jew. His earthly parents were Jews, and he was raised within a Jewish culture. In addition, all the men chosen by Jesus to lead the church he created were Jews. Understanding Jewish culture at the time of Christ, and knowing what the Jews of the time believed and taught, is CRUCIAL for anyone striving to know Jesus as a person.
– Kevan Kingsley Clawson
As far as the personal debates of who Killed Jesus; a small seed would grow within me that I personally discarded early on in my Catholic Faith. THE PLAY BEGINS and NOW THE CONGREGATION WILL PARTICIPATE.
Who did the congregation play? We (the Catholic Congregation) played the Jews. As soon as Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate for his crucifixion sentence, the Jews had their verdict. At the appropriate time; as part of the play, I saw these words on paper. It truly made me feel disgusted and I didn’t participate…I just stayed quiet and I felt coldness in my church sweater. Here is what I read:
JEWS: (CONGREGATION SAYS IN A LOUD VOICE) CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM !
I refused to recite this part because of a simple reason. Did this not plant a seed of hate for our Jewish brothers and sisters? . I decided to not repeat it and not follow the congregation during that portion. No one would notice me and I felt like no one cared if I joined along. As far as I remember, my mother never told me to speak up or to participate. You may be Catholic and say ” We were just acting or its a tradition we have kept for a while.” I am just sharing my views of a child (a sponge who kneels at all information) who could very well interpret things differently. Maybe I wasn’t alone. Maybe I would feel the rub of intolerance when I would later convert to another faith.
Back to my conversion of Mormonism. Where did all my hatred stem from after I was converted? Would the Christians I grew up with be upset if I found a new faith like Mormonism? As I mentioned in the beginning of this post…who would come to my rescue after my conversion to Mormonism. THE JEWS.
The Jews have a massive respect for the Mormon faith and feel that we have many family life values that are very similar. We need to give praise to the great Jewish culture that groomed our Savior Jesus Christ. He could have grown up a Levite; someone from the Persian descent; but he was chosen to spring forth from a Jewish heritage. In fact, he was within the descendent line of David the King. Judaism groomed the man we know as Jesus. My friend who is Jewish gave me such praise over the phone. He was the first one who ever said “Congratulations”. In fact, our church had an interfaith event where we went to the Jewish building called Congregation Ner Tamid in Palos Verdes, CA. We had the Rabbi talking to us and we had a member of our faith talk about Adam and Eve. It was a truly edifying event for both parties. Jewish people are not recognized enough for their understanding of the Talmud and Old Testament. By understanding Hebrew, the scriptures open a whole new world where understanding and light may come more freely to those who study the word. In fact, one of the most revered Mormons came from the Jewish faith: Richard Neitzel Holzapfel. He wrote a book called ” Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament”. He knew that his knowledge from being raised in the Jewish Faith combined with Modern Revelation found in Mormonism would enhance the understanding of Jesus Christ’s mission.
This was the first time I have ever heard someone sincerely appreciate my conversion. In fact, he told his father and they both were questioning why I converted in a kind and truly curious way. He even asked for me to share my story with him. It was a relief!!! In my book ” 25 Catholic, Mormon26″ , I talk about the struggles I had with my family and friends within the Christian faith. Everyone close to me turned on the new faith I found. Hatred on our faith continues today. My wife was converted and the persecution she went through made me feel like no one can escape the critics. I can recall bigoted comments probably in the last few weeks. I expect it to never end since Christ told us that he came as a sword.
We can learn many things from the Jewish Faith. We share a very simple principle that could change the world in less than 10 years. Tolerance for others and their beliefs would radically improve our life. If something has grown in the Christian faith, it is the intolerance for others to find God their own way. You will never hear a Mormon doing a sermon against another faith. You will never hear a Jewish person preach on how Christians are misguided. You will only hear words of God that will enhance their family and bring them closer to their Creator. What value do you bring by rebuking other people’s faith? None. Add don’t subtract. Edify don’t debate. In the Mormon Church, we have something called The Articles of Faith. These are principles every Latter-day Saint tries to live by. There are two that are quite ironic when they were written by our founder Joseph Smith Jr. One had to do with tolerance and the other is the effect of being tolerant with other faiths.
Tolerance. What is ironic is that we were the most persecuted faith in American History. Our Church history is tainted with those that didn’t believe this principle and killed members of our church due to intolerance.
13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
If we allow others to live their faith, we can find so many virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy things. We can learn so much from our Jewish brothers and sisters. I truly admire their work ethic, family values, and their intense study of the scriptures. We need to be tolerant and be a seeker of truth within other faiths and that will even complete our own puzzle if you are looking to understand the Savior. I read a few pages of a book that I have recently picked up called ” THE ENHANCED NEW TESTAMENT 1″ by Kevan Kingsley Clawson. I started reading about what type of Rabbi Jesus was considered in his day. Everything Jesus did had a Jewish residue and it made me appreciate Him more. I love learning about my Savior. I love reading a book written by someone in my faith who started studying the Jewish faith to acquire a more whole research on the Savior. I pray that we all seek the good of other faiths so that we may understand our own more completely.