Church and Jewish Delegation Gather at Historic Jerusalem Site

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 7 November 2016

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to a Mormon and Jewish delegation during a visit to the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem, October 27, 2016.

Article Highlights

  • A gathering of Church leaders and Jewish dignitaries marked the 175th anniversary of Elder Orson Hyde’s journey to Jerusalem.
  • Elder Holland and Elder Cook noted the friendship between Mormon and Jewish communities.

“[Ours] is a friendship based on our shared faith, based on our shared values, and based on a vision, on a sense of destiny of what Zion means to both faith communities, which is unity, peace, and justice throughout the world.” —Joseph Lieberman, former vice presidential nominee

A delegation of Latter-day Saint leaders and Jewish dignitaries from the United States gathered recently at a historic site in Jerusalem to mark the 175th anniversary of an early Mormon Apostle’s journey to Jerusalem.

On October 24, 1841, Elder Orson Hyde climbed the Mount of Olives under the direction of Joseph Smith to offer a prayer to dedicate the land as a gathering place for the Jewish people.

“Orson Hyde’s 1841 mission to Jerusalem to dedicate this land for the return of the Jews and for Jerusalem to be its capital city was an important moment in the latter-day Jewish return to their homeland. We believe the work of Elder Orson Hyde has played a key role in God choosing Jerusalem again,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking at a commemoration event at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, Thursday, October 27.

Elder Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder James J. Hamula of the Seventy traveled to the Holy Land with a group of distinguished Jewish leaders.

The delegation included former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams; former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut; Rabbi Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Marlene Post, former U.S. national president of Hadassah; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University.

“There is nothing more noble than extending the hand of friendship to fellow human beings. The world needs more understanding and respect among people, and it is encouraging to see the fostering of that core value here today,” said Robert Abrams, who has been involved in cultivating a stronger relationship between Mormon and Jewish communities for many years.

“Over the years we have toured the facilities of the Church and discussed various topics in meetings with Church leaders, including Elder Holland and Elder Cook, aimed at creating greater bonds of friendship and understanding,” he said during the Jerusalem visit. “These events enabled me to learn more about the Mormon community and to discover that there are strong areas of common ground with the Jewish community.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, visits the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem, October 27, 2016.

Marlene Post, former U.S. national president of Hadassah, was part of a Mormon and Jewish delegation to visit Jerusalem, October 27, 2016.

He continued, “Each has a fundamental focus on family; each places a very high value on education; each has a strong commitment to charitable giving; each demonstrates humanitarian concern and response when there are international catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis around the globe; each has a history of disproportionate success due to ability, hard work, and determination; and each has been subjected to fierce persecution and prejudice.”

Elder Cook noted, “The genesis for this event was the extraordinary relationship and friendship that grew out of our collaborative effort to better get to know each other and our traditions that were important to both Jews and Latter-day Saints.”

“Interestingly, in the United States we each have a population of between 6 to 7 million. The center of Jewish influence is New York City and the East Coast; the center of Latter-day Saint influence is in Utah and the surrounding states,” explained the Apostle.

“The Jewish delegation is composed of exceptional individuals and is a remarkable representation of the mainstreams of Judaism,” said Elder Cook. “It also includes major Jewish organizations. We express particular appreciation to Robert Abrams, who has been the primary impetus in developing this relationship.”

“We are grateful to join together in this commemorative event, which is also a commemoration of our friendship and our desire to unitedly participate in certain humanitarian projects in the future,” he added.

Joseph Lieberman, a former vice presidential nominee, visited the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, in October 2011 to deliver an address on religious freedom.

“The relationship between Mormons and Jews is a natural one,” he said. “I’ve lived long enough now to know that a lot of things that are natural don’t happen unless people take action to make them happen.”

He continued, “If Humphrey Bogart were here today, I think he would say, ‘We are just at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’ It is a friendship based on our shared faith, based on our shared values, and based on a vision, on a sense of destiny of what Zion means to both faith communities, which is unity, peace, and justice throughout the world. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to our friends from the Mormon Church, and I look forward to all that we will do together.”

While in Jerusalem, the delegation met with top government leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Elder Cook expressed appreciation to the New York delegation for arranging the meeting with the prime minister. He said, “The prime minister gave an impressive and comprehensive overview and update with respect to Israel.”

The BYU Jerusalem Center, established in 1988, overlooks the Mount of Olives in the Holy Land, a part of the world considered sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Church worked closely with government and community leaders to get permission to build the center, as well as the nearby garden to honor Orson Hyde. Elder Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, was involved in a significant way and still has responsibility for relationships in the Middle East. The garden was dedicated on October 24, 1979, by Church President Spencer W. Kimball.

“We pray for the preservation of the Jewish people and for their peaceful association with all who dwell in what is truly the Holy Land,” said Elder Holland.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams meet in Jerusalem as a Mormon and Jewish delegation marks the 175th anniversary of an early Mormon Apostle’s journey to the Holy Land, October 27, 2016.

Former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams speaks at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center to commemorate the 175th anniversary of a visit by a Latter-day Saint Apostle, October 27, 2016.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to a Mormon and Jewish delegation at the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem, October 27, 2016.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles present former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams with a framed picture depicting an early Latter-day Saint Apostle’s visit to the Mount of Olives 175 years ago. Mormon and Jewish leaders gathered at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center to commemorate Elder Orson Hyde’s journey, October 27, 2016.

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem during the Mormon and Jewish delegation visit, Thursday, October 27, 2016.

Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem, Thursday, October 27, 2016.

Sunset over Jerusalem, Thursday, October 27, 2016.

A distinguished gathering of Mormon and Jewish leaders visits the mayor of Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat, on October 27, 2016.

Members of a Jewish and Mormon delegation visit with the mayor of Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat (center). Seated to his left is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve, and seated to the mayor’s right is former U.S. Senator of Connecticut Joseph Lieberman in Jerusalem, October 27, 2016.

Sunset over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives looking toward the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock, October 27, 2016.

Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut participates in a program at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Orson Hyde’s visit to the Holy Land, October 27, 2016.

A concert was held at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center to commemorate the 175th anniversary of a visit to Jerusalem by Elder Orson Hyde, October 27, 2016.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik addresses the audience at a concert at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, Thursday, October 27, 2016. The commemoration event marks the 175th anniversary of Elder Orson Hyde’s visit to the Holy Land.