Mormon Activities in Israel Denounced by Christian Officials

Orthodox Jews who bitterly oppose plans to build a Mormon educational center on Mt. Scopus have found new allies among Christian groups who claim the Mormons are not, in fact, authentic Christians.

Representatives of eight Christian denominations held a press conference here this evening to denounce a planned extension of Brigham Young University next to the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus and to attack the Mormon Church and its motives in coming to Jerusalem.

Brigham Young University, in Salt Lake City, Utah, seat of the Mormon faith, is named for the Second Prophet of the church which was founded in the early 19th century by Joseph Smith Jr., known as the First Prophet. The Mt. Scopus extension on five acres of land, will contain housing and catering services for nearly 200 students, a 400-seat auditorium for cultural events and classrooms for academic programs.

It was designed by Jerusalem architect David Resnick and Frank Furguson, an architect from Salt Lake City. The project was approved as long ago as 1977 by the Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin which was especially solicitous of Orthodox sensibilities, and by the Jerusalem municipality.

REAL PURPOSE OF CENTER

Speakers at the press conference claimed the real purpose of the Mormon center was to proselytize Jews and warned that many young Israelis would be conditioned to leave the country to join the Mormons. This is precisely the argument of the Orthodox establishment, headed by the two Chief Rabbis. It has been vigorously denied by spokesmen for the Mormon Church here.

Dave Hunt, author of several books on religious cults, called the press conference. He and other speakers charged that the Mormons pretended to be Christians but subscribed to beliefs that were far from Christianity. They claimed the official name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, was a misnomer and that the Mormon’s believe they must take over the world before Jesus can return. Hunt charged that the Mt. Scopus center was part of that plan.

Another speaker, Rev. Jim Cantalon of the Jerusalem Christian Center, accused the Mormons of trying to deceive Israel. But a shade of embarassment hung over the press conference. Last Sunday night, the Mormon Center located in the consular district of East Jerusalem was vandalized. Hunt opened his remarks with a condemnation of the vandals.

MORMONS DENY ALLEGATIONS

Mormon representatives were present at the press conference but remained silent. Afterwards, however, Dr. Ellis Rasmussen, former Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, told reporters that he was shocked by the allegations which he said were falsities and half truths.

The purpose of the academic center on Mt. Scopus is to enable Mormon students to get to know Israel, he said. He reaffirmed the Church’s pledge not to engage in missionary activity in Israel.

The Mormon Church in the U.S. has been especially sympathetic to Israel and Jews. Last November, thousands of Mormon school children along with their parents and teachers, gathered in Cedar City, Utah to participate in a “Jewish Week” sponsored by the Southern Utah State College, a Mormon college. (See JTA Daily News Bulletin of November 27, 1984.)

NEXT STORY