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.


C.J. said...

I was thinking this same exact thing earlier today! It's strange how, given that Easter is arguably the most important day on the calendar, we really don't do much to celebrate it. I suppose one argument is that we benefit from the Atonement all year 'round, and since Jesus' Resurrection is so central to our faith, we actually celebrate it every day...? I don't know, though; I wish we did something special. I've often thought about incorporating Passover into our family's celebrations.

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

We have celebrated the Seder as a family for years. We emphasize those parts that point toward Christ.

Interestingly enough, I learned recently that my mother's name may have been Jewish. Her grandfather was left an orphan when the rest of his family died on ship coming to the US. Her maiden name is unusual and the only people I have found with it are Jewish.

Tigersue said...

Although I think we need to make Easter a more special and defined day of worship and I have a great interest in The Passover as a tradition that is significant to our religious history I do not think it should become a holiday or tradition that we should celebrate on a yearly basis. I do think that understanding what The Passover is would be intergral to our understanding of the atonement we must not forget that the Last Supper is not just the Last Supper of Jesus's mortal life but more importantly the Last Passover as after that Christ literal becomes our Saviour in the events that follow this Last Passover.

Yes the sacrament takes the place of The Passover meal, and our Covenants that renew every week when we partake of the sacrament is to remind us of that event that happened in the past; whereas The Passover was foreshadow of the forthcoming atonement, not just remembrance of the Exodus out Egypt.

Everything in The Passover was to teach about the eventual atonement that would be made. Now we have different reminders, and maybe we take those much too lightly if we are seeking spiritual significance in our own worship in something that has been already fulfilled?

Tigersue said...

Just to reiterate, I don't think partaking and participating in a Passover Feast would be a bad thing, if it can help us learn and understand the past better it can't hurt, but to do it as a yearly celebration I'm afraid that perhaps it could overshadow the importance of Easter.

RUMYKIN said...

I can remember this while at BYU and years later met a sister in our ward who was from a Jewish family. We asked her if she would help us prepare a Seder for our Relief Society. It was a wonderful experience and taught us the importance of these celebrations. When I look at the lack of respect for religious concepts, lack of reverence in our church building, and decrease in modesty among our people, no wonder the Jewish people have survived through the centuries by practices that bring to remembrance a worship of our Heavenly Father. Even though some do not know themselves the significance or even the purpose of the practices, they remain loyal to that foundation that was given to them as children of God. Those of them who have converted to the Mormon faith recognize the blessing that was in their lives.