SALT LAKE CITY — Strong bridges of friendship and commonality are being built between Mormons and Jews.
That is the message Mark Paredes plans to share at the I.J. and Jeanne Wagner Jewish Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
“There are things that Mormons and Jews have in common. A lot of people think there is a big diversion theologically, and there are some things obviously, but I think we have a lot more to talk about,” Paredes said. “I think Mormons who are interested in reaching out to Jews at any level will find something in the talk they can relate to, perhaps advice, counsel, maybe ideas, for their stake or ward, or even families, to reach out and build bridges of friendship.”
Paredes plans to share insights on Israel and Jewish-Christian relations gleaned from his experience as a United States diplomat in Israel; press attaché for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; regional executive director for the Zionist Organization of America; national outreach director for the American Jewish Congress; and speaker on Jewish-Latter-day Saint relations in the United States and in 14 European countries. There is no cost to attend, and everyone is welcome.
Paredes blogs on Jewish-LDS issues for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, the most popular Jewish website outside of Israel.
Paredes was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 11 and served an LDS mission in Italy. Since then he has graduated from law school, lived in five countries and learned to speak Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Hebrew. At some point he plans to learn Mandarin and Arabic.
Paredes likes to tell people that Mormons have more to say to Jews than any other Christian group.
“My stake president has been conducting a theological dialogue — not Kumbaya sessions — with a conservative Rabbi for three years now,” he said. “Rabbis don’t do that with other Christian faiths; they just don’t, not a series of theological sessions.”
In 2009, five rabbis toured the Draper Utah LDS Temple during the public open house, Paredes said. One of the rabbis, a 75-year-old who has been doing interfaith work for 50 years, removed his yamaka while in the celestial room and said “it was the holiest place he had ever been in,” Paredes said.
“Things like that are happening all over the world, and people should be aware of them,” Paredes reiterated. “There is a genuine Mormon-Jewish connection.”
Paredes continued, “I think it will also make Latter-day Saints appreciative of their own faith. Mormons who deal with Jews really have a profound appreciation for their own doctrines, temples, etc.”
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