Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Passover Mormon Style

When I was at BYU it seemed that Passover during the Easter season was a huge deal among a small group of students and teachers. At the time I thought it was a cool idea. Mormons believe themselves under Covenant to the Lord in the same way as Israel in ancient days. It would seem only natural that Mormons would pick something from Jewish tradition to share.

This year the Jewish news has taken notice of the practice among Mormons:

On Monday evening, Jews around the world began the holiday with a Seder, the traditional meal during which the biblical story of the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt is retold. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be holding one of their own this week.

Avraham Gileadi, a Mormon who is also a Hebrew scholar, will direct "A Passover for Joseph and Judah" at Provo's Scenic View Academy on Friday.

Gileadi, 69, is affiliated with the Seder's sponsor, The Hebraeus Foundation, an organization promoting biblical scholarship. He said that Mormons and Jews share similar attributes and that while Passover isn't an LDS tradition, it could be.

"A lot of LDS people are also part of that heritage," Gileadi said. "It's as much about us as it is about Jews."

Why are some Mormons embracing this religious meal? Is Gileadi correct that it could become a Mormon tradition? Should it be?

I really don't have a strong opinion about this, but am interested in its increased prominence. At the moment the tradition is done among a very small group and usually in Provo or BYU. There doesn't seem to be a movement among grass-root Mormons to incorporate it as part of a yearly worship service. Even while writing this there was a talk in General Conference that mentions the Passover, but connects it to Communion/Sacrament taking. That might be why it has never been more than a curiosity. It is tied to a Christian holy rite done year around.

Probably the reason the Passover continues to come up in Mormon circles every now and then is the lack of Mormon religious celebrations. Christmas can be filled with personal and community activities both secular and religious similar to the mainstream, but Easter is a blank slate. Candy and Egg hunts are done by families, but there is nothing beyond General Conference of LDS leaders and that might take place during another week. It also isn't specific to the season. Passover for some Mormons could be a way to commemorate the Easter Holiday with religious meaning. I know some that go to or watch on television Catholic Mass during the holiday. Must Mormons reach beyond their own religion to worship at this blessed time or is there something within that might be used to create a unique tradition? Whatever the answer, I believe there are those who are searching for a greater than Easter Bunny to celebrate the Risen Lord.