Mormons in Israel

by gale on May 18, 2011

In an article found in Covering Sacred Ground, by Kelly Boyce, Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who live permanently in Israel are given a voice.  Ann Hansen, who contributed the articles on the Nazi camps found on this website, has lived most of her adult life in Israel with her husband Michael and their children.  She is quoted in the article in reference to the signed agreement by students at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies not to proselytize in Israel: “…all members who live here permanently or temporarily, or are even visiting, have been asked by Church Headquarters to abide by what is written in the agreement.”

Although Mormons love to proselyte, one of the Articles of Faith of the LDS Church, which are 13 statements of LDS belief, states that “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

mormons in israel

The Sea of Galilee from Ann Hansen's house

Even though it is not against the law to proselytize in Israel, due to sensitivity over the issue, “the Church has asked the members here to keep a low profile,” Hansen said. “We were asked by the leaders in Salt Lake City [the LDS Church headquarters] not to answer questions about the Church or its doctrine in any but the most general terms, and on no account to do anything which could even remotely be considered missionary work.”

 

There are three branches of the LDS Church in Israel.  A “branch” is a congregation too small to constitute a “ward,” which can have around 600 members.  The three branches are in Jerusalem (which includes students and expats in Israel temporarily), Tel Aviv (which usually includes Mormon expats working at the embassy and private business), and Tiberius, mostly made up of more permanent residents.

Ann Miller was born and raised in Utah, but felt a strong attraction towards the land of Israel since the time she was five. As she grew older, she studied the Old Testament and learned of the history of modern Israel.  After graduating from college, she went to Israel for six months with the American Zionist Youth Organization.  Although she was not Jewish, her love for the Jewish people and her knowledge of Jewish history greatly impressed the interviewing committee.  She lived on a kibbutz, learned Hebrew, and toured the country.

Michael Hansen, like Ann, had been born and raised in the United States as a Mormon, but his family, of Jewish lineage, immigrated to Israel when he was in high school.  Michael’s maternal great-grandfather died in an overcrowded train on its way to Poland in 1941. Michael’s maternal grandparents were both Jewish and came from Chernowitz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and what is now the Ukraine, but moved to the United States in 1921.  Michael’s mother ended up joining the LDS church at the age of 16.  Michael’s paternal grandmother was Jewish but his paternal grandfather was Christian, and Michael’s father joined the LDS church at the age of 21.

Before Ann left for Israel, she asked one of her LDS church teachers, who had just returned from a sabbatical studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, if he knew of any Israeli students who might be willing to write to her.  “He gave me the name of Michael’s youngest brother,” Hansen said, “and we wrote for two years before I went to Israel.”  Ann was able to meet the entire Hansen family except for Michael, who was serving in the Israeli military at the time.

Ann and Michael corresponded through letters, and stayed in touch after Ann returned to the United States, still not having met.  After Michael’s stint in the military, he served a two-year LDS mission in the New York City mission, which at that time included most of northern New Jersey, all of Long Island and the metropolitan NYC area, and even up to West Point, and kept writing Ann throughout this time.  After completing his mission, Michael finally met Ann, and they got engaged and were married in an LDS temple in Utah.  They both felt strongly that they should live in Israel, so they moved back to Israel after their marriage and have raised their family in Israel.  The Hansen family members all hold dual Israeli-American citizenship and all three of the older Hansen children, two sons and one daughter, have also served as Israeli soldiers. The youngest son will serve when he reaches the age of 18.

Mormons feel a strong connection to the land of Israel and to the Jewish people.  The Book of Mormon is the story of Lehi, a descendant of Joseph, who prophesied in Jerusalem at the same time as Jeremiah.  Because his life was in danger, G-d commanded him to take his family and friends and depart into the wilderness.  The Lord then led this group to the Americas, where He could protect and nurture a branch of Israelites, promising that eventually, their descendants would regather with the other tribes of Israel.  These people encountered another group that had been led away by the Lord.  They were led by Mulek, the only surviving son of King Zedekiah.

Mormons consider themselves “Israel.”  Most are literal descendants of Ephraim, and converts who are true gentiles are adopted into Israel’s lineage.   Mormons are told their Israelite lineage through Patriarchal Blessings which are received through direct revelation.  All of the tribes have been represented in such blessings.

Mormons also see religious history differently than all other faiths.  They believe that the entire plan of salvation and G-d’s plan for the world was revealed to Adam and all succeeding prophets.  Since Adam knew the whole truth, other sects than that with G-d’s true authority are just remnants of the truth.  All the prophets knew and testified that Jesus would be the Messiah, but priestly authority was lost with the destruction of the temple among the Jews, and the martyrdom of the apostles among the Christians.  Now, the same knowledge and keys to G-d’s authority have been restored through living prophets.  Eventually, all things will be gathered into one, Israel will be restored as a holy people, and Jerusalem will be sanctified.

The material in this article was adapted from the following url:

http://coveringreligion.org/2011/05/mormons-in-israel-feel-close-to-religious-roots/

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