As I viewed the picture of Mitt Romney standing at the Wailing Wall during his current trip to Israel, I clearly remembered my first time at the wall. It was one of the spiritual highlights of my life. Like many Mormons who have traveled to the country, I feel like Israel is my second home. I’m sure that Mitt was moved by the wall’s otherworldly grandeur. As a devout Mormon, it’s likely that he was pondering some of these thoughts as he offered up his written prayer to God:
*LDS apostles have dedicated the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jewish people on many occasions, beginning with Elder Orson Hyde in 1841. In 1845, all of the apostles called on the Jews “in the name of the Messiah, to prepare, to return to Jerusalem in Palestine; and to rebuild that city and temple unto the Lord.” Today there is an Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the Mount of Olives.
*Netanya Academic College has Orson Hyde Square, which features an olive tree planted to honor each prophet of the LDS Church.
*Israel is the only country in the world whose creation was expressly called for and supported by Mormon leaders. George Albert Smith, LDS Church President at the time of Israel’s creation in 1948, publicly and privately assured many Jewish leaders of his support for their efforts to establish a Jewish state.
*Israel Bonds were first issued in 1951. One year later, Church President David O. McKay purchased $5000 of Israel Bonds on behalf of the church, stating that he was doing this “to show our sympathy with the effort being made to establish the Jews in their homeland.”
*Brigham Young University has been sending students to study in Israel since 1968. It currently leases land from the Israeli government for its magnificent Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, which looks down on the Old City.
*Two presidents of the LDS Church (Spencer W. Kimball and Howard W. Hunter) and an apostle (LeGrand Richards) have been awarded the Jerusalem Medal.
Whether it’s Mitt or Glenn Beck, I’m always pleased to see prominent Latter-day Saints get warm receptions in Israel. I take great pleasure in knowing that If Israelis could decide the winner of November’s election, Mitt – the Mormon candidate—would win in a landslide. As more and more Jews and Israelis become familiar with the history of LDS-Jewish relations, they will better understand why Mormons feel a special closeness to them. In the case of Mitt, I believe that his religious beliefs and his strong support for Israel and Jews can’t be separated; they merely feed off each other.
Mark Paredes is a member of the Jewish Relations Committee of the LDS Church’s Southern California Public Affairs Council. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jewsandmormons.