The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported on a lecture given in Salt Lake City’s Jewish Community Center by LDS speaker Mark Paredes. A blogger for the online Jewish Journal, Mr. Paredes believes “Mormons have much more to say to Jews than do other Christians.” He sees parallels between Mormonism and Judaism “everywhere and on every level.” One such parallel Mr. Paredes detailed in his lecture was persecution. The Salt Lake Tribune reported,
“The two faiths also have suffered at the hands of various Christians.
“’History shows that the nearly 14 million members of our church, which has been the most persecuted major religion in American history,’ Paredes said, ‘do have special feelings for the 13 million members of the most persecuted religion in world history [the Jews].’
“In 2007, a Christian ministry distributed 18,000 anti-Mormon DVDs to homes throughout Arizona. The only non-LDS group to denounce the effort was the Jewish Anti-Defamation League in Phoenix. When Paredes, who was working with the LDS Public Affairs Council at the time, called the ADL’s regional office to offer thanks, one of the leaders remarked, ‘They can’t fool me, Mark. I know that the anti-Mormons of today were in many cases the anti-Semites of yesterday.’”
Does he have a modern Christian version of Kristallnacht in mind here? Is there really a parallel between the persecutions of the Jews and the Mormons? Think of the WWII concentration camps, the German gas chambers, the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe that resulted in the deaths of six million Jews within a span of ten years; now consider the distribution of 18 thousand DVDs in Arizona.
Within the greater context of Mormon history, Latter-day Saints have suffered true persecution for their chosen religion and political views. As Bill McKeever pointed out in a previous thread here on Mormon Coffee, Mormon historians have suggested that the number of LDS deaths due to persecution amount to “dozens” or “more than 50.” While there is no justification for religious persecution, and any loss of life is reprehensible, how can one compare fifty+ with millions?
Regarding Mr. Paredes remarks about anti-Semitism, the Salt Lake Tribune reported,
“State-sponsored anti-Semitism began, according to Paredes, in the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea. The assembled Christian bishops proclaimed that Jews are ‘odious,’ ‘detestable’ and ‘blind,’ Paredes said. ‘It is not a coincidence that the same council that condemned Jews also proclaimed the false doctrine of the Trinity, a three-in-one god that does not exist. Both Jews and Mormons reject the Trinity, and we both reject anti-Semitism as a departure from true faith in God.’”
Christians are obligated by Scripture to reject anti-Semitism as well. Anti-Semitism exhibited by Christian bishops or anyone else is wrong. Period.
However, Mr. Paredes was rather quick to cast stones at “other Christians.” Back in December, Bill McKeever participated in a discussion at Mr. Paredes’ blog. Responding to the statement that Mormons accept Jews as their “brothers and sisters in Israel,” Bill provided a couple of comments by early Mormon leaders demonstrating the early LDS view regarding the Jewish people. In hindsight, Bill says he should have prefaced his Brigham Young quote with a question asking people how they would explain the Mormon prophet’s words. This may have diffused a little of the harsh criticism Bill received merely for quoting Brigham Young. As it was, though, not one Mormon – not even Mr. Paredes – condemned Brigham Young’s comment; instead, Mormons made excuses for Young’s words.
This is what Brigham Young said:
“I would rather undertake to convert five thousand Lamanites, than to convert one of those poor miserable creatures whose fathers killed the Savior, and who say, ‘Amen to the deed,’ to this day. Yea, I would rather undertake to convert the devil himself, if it were possible. Then I say to the Elders in those regions, be not astonished if you have to see hard times. And if I had a voice that would reach the ears of all those Elders, I would say, LEAVE THEM, AND COME HOME, THE LORD DOES NOT REQUIRE YOU TO STAY THERE, FOR THEY MUST SUFFER AND BE DAMNED. Now, sisters, write to your husbands who are in regions where the Gospel has been preached anciently, to come home; and I say to all the Elders who are in lands where the Gospel has been preached previous to our day, come away from that people, and leave them to live and die in their sins and ignorance. For the sins of their fathers are a sweet morsel to them, and they take pleasure in their wickedness; therefore, let them alone, and come home, and preach to the Lamanites” (Brigham Young, December 3, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:143. Caps in the original).
Another prominent Mormon said,
“The Jews have been trampled under the feet of the Gentiles for 1800 years, and they are to-day being persecuted in European nations. Why? Because that curse of God rests upon them and will rest upon them until Shiloh comes, until they are regathered to Jerusalem and re-build the city in un-belief. You cannot convert a Jew. They will never believe in Jesus Christ until he comes to them in Jerusalem, until these fleeing Jews take back their gold and silver to Jerusalem and re-build their city and temple, and they will do this as the Lord lives” (Wilford Woodruff, June 12, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:173. On the Jews and Mormons blog, Bill accidentally attributed this statement to Heber C. Kimball.).
As is often the case, Mormons have failed to recognize (or in the case of Mr. Paredes’ lecture at the Jewish Community Center, disclose) the skeletons in their historical and doctrinal closets. Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in Mormonism’s history.
Furthermore, do Mormons really believe their own history of religious persecution, as opposed to that endured by “other Christians,” more closely parallels the persecution of the Jews? Christian persecution is strong and continuing even today. While “persecution of Mormons” can be seen as rampant only when Mormons redefine the word “persecution” to be akin to criticism, it is estimated that tens of thousands of Christians around the world have been — and continue to be — martyred each year for their Christian faith. Even so, I wouldn’t be comfortable drawing a comparison between Christian and Jewish persecution. Mormons and Christians both suffer for what they choose to believe; this is not parallel in any way to the organized attempted annihilation of an entire race of people.
Bill McKeever has said the comparison Mr. Paredes (and other Mormons) make between Mormon and Jewish persecution only serves to demean the awful atrocities against the Jewish people. I would have to agree.