An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

On this week’s PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly  program, Professor Amy-Jill Levine, an observant Jew, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach discussed their new books about Jesus. Levine, who teaches at Vandebilt Divinity School has co-authored the Jewish Annotated New Testament. Boteach’s book Kosher Jesus  has been labeled heresy by some Orthodox Jewish groups.

Both authors believe that Christians and Jews alike benefit from understanding the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived as well as the parables and messages from the New Testament. Levine claims her study of the New Testament has made her a better Jew. Boteach feels Jews have much to teach Christians about the Jewish Jesus and dismisses claims that learning about Jesus will lead Jews to convert.

I loved the discussion of both religions on this segment. I think the fear that some Jewish people have about learning about Jesus might apply to Mormons.

A few years ago, our Sandy, Utah ward had the unusual experience of having a Hindu, a Moslem, and a Jewish family living within our ward boundaries. I suggested to the Relief Society president that inviting each of these women to tell us about her faith and religious practice would make for stimulating enrichment meetings.

Of course, that did not happen. I was disappointed at first, but then realized it was for the best. Our RS pres could not have seen interaction with a person of another faith as anything but a missionary opportunity. Instead of providing a learning experience for Mormon women, the meeting would have focused on telling the guest speakers why our faith is so much better.

Learning about other faiths does not have to diminish one’s own. Mormon converts prove that many people prefer the doctrines and practice of Mormonism to other faiths in which they have participated. If “the truth shall make you free”,” shouldn’t we follow Joseph Smith’s counsel and “receive truth, let it come from whence it may,”? (TPJS 313)

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