Many converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come from a variety of religious backgrounds. One such religion is Judaism. These converted Jews to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a special understanding of Jewish culture and even some Jewish history, depending on which sect they were from. Those from either Orthodox, Conservative (not to be confused with the political view) or Reform sects come with different backgrounds and ideals, but the one ideal they have in common is their testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah.
These converts are drawn to each other and bound by their testimony of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is why the B’nai Shalom group was born. Those Jewish converts in Salt Lake City came together in 1967 to celebrate both Latter-day Saint and Jewish culture, enjoying the music, dance, culture, food and genealogy specific to Judaism. Since that time a group in the Pacific Northwest area formed in 2014, and now Mesa, Arizona, has formed a group of B’nai Shalom with their fourth meeting planned this September.
Gatherings feature ethnic Jewish/Yiddish food and dance, and speakers which have included LDS Church personalities, scholars and authorities on subjects of interest to both Jewish and LDS members. A common topic is of bringing Joseph (Ephraim) and Judah together.
The last meeting in March of 2019 was the largest gathering yet, with many bringing traditional Jewish foods to share. Traditional Jewish dance took place and a special speaker, Gary Porter, talked about the Mesa Temple remodel. Gary Porter of Porter Brothers, the general contracting firm that built the Phoenix Temple, is now remodeling the Mesa Temple. A slide presentation gave attendees a virtual tour of past, current and proposed changes.
All are welcome who would like to attend the next B’nai Shalom (Children of Peace) meeting on Saturday, September 28, 2019, located at the Mesa Lehi LDS Stake Center on 1430 N Grand in Mesa. The same outline will be followed from previous meetings: 6 PM starts the welcome, opening prayer and potluck dinner. Around 6:30, Jewish cultural dancing starts, which will last about an hour. We will have a special instructor, Liz Graden, from Bountiful, Utah, teaching these traditional dances and then our special speaker will focus on Jewish genealogy. For more information, see http://www.mormonsandjews.org.