Romney Follows Well-Trodden Mormon Path

LDS Visitors Promise Not To Prosletyze While in Israel

Israel Bound: Mitt Romney is heading to Israel, a voyage many of his fellow Mormons have also taken.
getty images
Israel Bound: Mitt Romney is heading to Israel, a voyage many of his fellow Mormons have also taken.

By Blair Thornburgh

Published July 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

“It’s not sightseeing so much as insight,” said Rona. “There’s no intent to convert anyone.”

As well as busloads of tourists passing through historic sites, Brigham Young University draws hundreds of Mormon students to its program in Jerusalem. The campus, which provides a diverse roster of courses including Hebrew, Arabic and dual history courses from Palestinian and Orthodox Jewish teachers, is the university’s largest study abroad program, says James Kearl, Assistant to the University President for the Center.

In its 1990s heyday, the center would run five programs a year with a total of around 800 students. Though classes were halted from 2000 to 2006 due to the Second Intifada, interest has resurged. Still, economic belt-tightening has left the center at half its former capacity.

The construction of the campus in the 1980s drew protests from Israeli leaders worried that the center would serve as a missionary base. As such, all students must uphold not just the school’s standard code of conduct, but also a Jerusalem-specific non-proselytizing agreement.

And most of them see no problem with pausing their usual missionary practice. Mormons have long felt a kinship for the Jews, likening themselves to a lost tribe of Israel and seeing the western United States as their own promised land. Rona, for one, feels the two faiths are continuous, saying that he “doesn’t stop being Jewish” just because he has accepted the Mormon teaching of a returned messiah.

This desire for insight and connection in the nexus of intellectual, political, and religious activity makes Israel an incredibly appealing destination for students both in and outside of the university context. But though the ultimate goal for many is to explore the Mormon faith in a personal, tangible way, many have left with an intellectual, as well as spiritual renewal.

“Deepening faith” is what first drew Kerry Muhlestein, now an associate professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, to Jerusalem as an undergraduate student. He told the Forward that he left “on fire and dedicated. I never would have made it through grad school without it. I even met my wife there.”

Muhlenstein has since lived Israel with his family, working as a teacher at the BYU center to guide students to the physical reality of biblical legends in the land around them. “It’s amazing to look over Gibeon, thinking about Joshua,” he said.

Bryan Bozung, a BYU graduate who helped discover a rare mosaic floor on an excavation in Israel earlier this summer, said that his first trip to Jerusalem was what catalyzed his career. “It was the right choice. It all fell in to place,” he said. A practicing Mormon who is also married to a fellow Jerusalem student and who will go on to study ancient Judaism as a graduate student at Yale this fall, Bozung feels indebted for his success.

“I owe the happiest of my life to Jerusalem,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.