Jews and Mormons: Two Houses of Israel

Frank J. Johnson, Author, William J. Leffler, Joint Author Ktav Publishing House $25 (228p) ISBN 978-0-88125-689-5
In the tradition of 1997's How Wide the Divide? A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation, old Dartmouth roommates Johnson, an LDS high priest, and Leffler, a retired Reform rabbi, enter into a dialogue about Mormonism and Judaism. But this t te- -t te never quite matches the level of the historic 1997 book, because the writing is mediocre and because the authors lack the fundamental attitude of interfaith respect that characterized the earlier work. After discussing their traditions' history, theologies and basic practices, the authors focus on areas of common misunderstanding, including Mormons' claim to be descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel (a lineage many Jews dispute or find offensive). Some intriguing issues arise here--e.g., the controversy over Mormons' former practice of performing proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims--but these points of interfaith controversy are underdeveloped. The book may have been aided by a less stilted, impersonal tone; we know from the author biography that Johnson converted to Mormonism thirty years ago, but we never learn why. The authors refer to each other as ""Mr. Johnson"" and ""Rabbi Leffler,"" rather formal titles for men who have been friends for half a century--perpetuating the sense that this is not an interfaith conversation but a standard debate, with a projected winner and loser. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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