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My Jewish Mormon Obsession

I wasn’t even cognizant of my first Mormon exposure. It was the book by Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a revered book in our household and my parents subsequently went to a highly regarded rabbi’s seminar on the topic. When I was around 16, my mother even bought me The 7 Habits for Teens, a book written by Stephen’s son, Sean Covey.

The values and ethics in these books stunningly mirror Jewish belief and thought. That’s because Stephen is Mormon and his book is basically a secularized version of Mormon dogma which has many parallels in Judaism. Marketing Mormon ideas for a wider audience is second nature to Mormons. They are beyond expert salesmen after their two year missionary work where they have the extremely unpopular task of spreading their gospel where they must learn to market their religion as favorably as possible.

Their sacred temple undergarments remind me of tzitzit and tefillin, which also have the same task of reminding the wearer of a covenant with God. Their two year missionary work almost sounds like Chabad shlichus, the main difference being that Jews don’t proselytize, and instead only educate and influence wayward members of the tribe. Mormons also have dietary restrictions of no coffee, tea, or alcohol, which is like a less encompassing kosher. 

Like Orthodox Jews, politically they are mostly constituents of the religious conservative right. Their strong family values give them a squeaky clean wholesome image and promise a steadfast fallback safety net to their descendants. They usually marry young and have more children than average as that is strongly encouraged in their communities. 

Although Mormonism is not an ethnoreligion like Judaism, the majority of practicing members of the Church of Latter Day Saints were born into their religion and a significant number of them can trace their lineage to many generations back. They compose a total of 16 million members worldwide, almost the same as Jews who compose a total of 15 million worldwide. 

Utah is their Zion, the cultural birthplace of Mormonism. It contains their historic landmarks, their many vast and beautiful temples, as well as their beacon of pride, Brigham Young University or BYU. It’s here that they’re able to study secular subjects at a top tier university without compromising any of their Mormon values. 

Even though education is a priority for Mormons, marriage and raising children is still the highest virtue for Mormon women. This means that a significant amount of Pinterest home decorations, hearty recipes, and kid’s activities are all from Mormon creators. The top DIY and home styling influencers are also many times inconspicuously Mormon. 

Mormons and Jews both have a complex religiously inspired culture. This encompasses both the names they give their children and their essential recipes for different occasions. American Jews like naming their kids universal biblical names like Adam, Daniel, and Micah and cooking brisket and matzah ball soup for the Jewish holidays. Mormons are actually more similar to Israeli Jews in creating a whole culture of trying to find the most unique name possible. Their recipes are mostly spin offs of old American traditional staples like funeral potatoes and pineapple jello. 

The Jewish identity is a lot more expansive and broadly includes liberal secular Jews as well as conservative religious Jews. It also includes different ethnicities from many different countries who have historical Jewish roots, whereas with Mormons most non Americans are converts. And yet for some reason I’ll always view Mormons as the most Jewish goyim who have ever existed. They are pretty much just non Protestant WASPs and the whiter and more patriotic version of American Jews.

About the Author
Chava Berman Kaplan grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in her early twenties, first residing in Jerusalem, then Bet Shemesh, and now in Holon. She has two children, ages twelve and ten, who study in a mamlachti school in Holon. She works as an English teacher and has always enjoyed writing as a hobby.
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