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D. Kelly Ogden
Friday, September 06 2013

How Should Latter-day Saints View the Conflict in Israel?

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I have met some people over the years who felt the political situation in the Holy Land was all “cut and dried”: that we Latter-day Saints are all for the Jews (because of our understanding of scriptural prophecy) and against the Arabs (because they don’t seem to fit in God’s ultimate plans for that part of the world). Some think that the State of Israel is fulfillment of one prophecy after another. On the other hand, there are those who dislike the often brusque and aggressive Israelis, who have reversed the David and Goliath syndrome that the Jews historically suffered—with the Jews now in the Goliath position and their Palestinian Arab neighbors more like the underdog David.

I have learned a lot over several decades of residence and contact with the peoples of that land. In the first place, I believe both sides are very right and both sides are very wrong. There have been atrocities committed by Israeli Jews and by Palestinian Arabs. I definitely believe, also, that some prophecies have been fulfilled by the reestablishment of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and raising up Jerusalem as the capital of a latter-day nation (that is clearly foreshadowed in the writings of Old Testament prophets and in the dedicatory prayer of Orson Hyde in our day)—but not all prophecies. There are more changes to come. Much has yet to be fulfilled.

I do, however, feel we have to be careful in dealing with both sides in this volatile political situation. In fact, as President Howard W. Hunter and others of our authorities have warned us, it is very unwise to “take sides” in this conflict. At first I thought the proper word to describe our perspective of the matter was “neutral,” but I’ve changed my mind. A better word is “impartial.” We must maintain an impartial view of the issues, not taking sides but working sensitively with both peoples to promote understanding leading to peace.

Do we as a country, the United States of America, favor Israel more than we should? That’s a hard question to answer. In economic and military aid we obviously give a disproportionate amount to Israel, but they are the most dependable ally we have in that critical part of the world (not to mention the fact that several wealthy Arab and Muslim nations could supply the Palestinians with as much aid as we give to Israel—but they won’t). Do the Israelis “get away with” more than they should? Undoubtedly. They are sometimes more vengeful and belligerent than we would like, but how much pressure can we put on a sovereign government and cause a mutually advantageous relationship to sour? It is, without question, a very tricky set of issues.

Several years ago the editor of the Ensign invited me to address the question, “What are the political and religious reasons for conflict in the Holy Land and how should Latter-day Saints view the conflict?” Dr. David B. Galbraith joined me, and together we published a response to that question which circulated in English (Ensign, September 1993) and, through the Church’s International Magazine, in other languages (December 1997)—for the Saints in all the world to ponder these big questions and some answers given in the scriptures and by modern prophets. That response was also published in the Meridian Magazine on June 7, 2011, under the title “A Latter-day Saint View of the Conflict in the Holy Land.

For those who are interested in learning more about the political situation in the Holy Land, we invite you to secure a copy of the definitive work on Jerusalem from a Latter-day Saint perspective: Jerusalem, The Eternal City (by David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner). It is available from Deseret Book.


  1. Excellent observations! Bro. Ogden has correctly observed that there really ARE two sides to every story. I know God isn't pleased with all of the behavior of either side to this drama. Our role should be to love and serve and support the positive behaviors of both sides, when those positive elements emerge.
  2. Kelly, I love you, but there is no moral equivalency between the Muslim attempts to destroy Israel and Israel’s attempts to defend themselves. This is like saying there was a moral equivalency between the Lamanite attempts to destroy the Nephites and the Nephite attempts to defend themselves. Do you also consider Captain Moroni to have been “vengeful and belligerent?” There would have been peace between them decades ago if the Muslims would accept Israel’s right to exist, but they refuse to do this to this day. The foundation of the Muslim-Israeli conflict is not complex, it is very simple; God wants the Jews back in their ancient homeland in these Latter-days, and Satan does not. Theodore Brandley
  3. Thank you, Dr. Ogden, for reminding us that things are often not as simple as they may first seem.
  4. Thank you for the open minded comments. I look forward to getting the book and reading it. As always, nothing is absolute except God's truth.
  5. We know Jerusalem is a sacred place. Any who have visited it also know everybody in the city hates everybody else in the city. Can't even remember how many houses in which Mary was supposed to have been born, and there are at least as many money changers and pushy street vendors as there likely were in the time of Jesus. My one pleasant experience, was seeing two young Arab brothers react to customers of their small Mom and Pop store. They were kind to customers, to passersby, to a small boy who lost his first tooth, and even to me, as I sat on Lion's Gate, across from their stand. All other experiences made me want to leave the city ASAP.
  6. Your political agenda seems to be showing. Palestinians have and do live peacefully within Israel. The Israelis do no espouse the annihalation of Palestininas rather the reverse. The entire Arab world at one time or another has called for the destruction of Israel. Israel is a geographic and economic spec when compared to the Arab countries, If the Arabs were so concerned about the Palestinians why not set aside land for them. Sorry but you won't see me rushing to the aid of the Palestinians any time soon.
  7. Well, if Israel is no Goliath; if they were, they would simply annihilate their enemies. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs live quite peacefully in Israel, thank you. Israels are doing more than their part for peace. It is those who think Israel must be destroyed who perceive Israel to be belligerent and vengeful. It is true: If the Palestinians et al. would lay down their weapons, there would be peace for all; if Israelis did the same they would be wiped out. To be impartial is not to consider these facts. By the way, we have given millions of aid to the Palestinians, who use it to rain missiles down on Israel. Israel's excesses are an inevitable result of persecution -- the LDS in the same situation avoided such only because of prophetic counsel, and the ability to simply move away. Israel has neither.
  8. Three questions we should ask ourselves when weighing which side in this political conflict truly occupies the high moral ground: 1) Which side espouses democracy as its cherished political system? 2) Which side has never suggested wiping any of its neighbors off the face of the earth? 3) Which side not only allows, but encourages its peaceful neighbors to live within its borders, while the other side would never allow such heresy? May be this issue should be viewed in a simpler way than some wish to portray it....
  9. Thanks for the balanced view Dr. Ogden. Unfortunately lots of people have strong opinions about Israel and the Palestinians without much knowledge. The fact of the matter is that in 1967 Israel occupied the Arab-inhabited West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 4 million Arabs who inhabit these regions do not have equal rights in Israel. They do not have Israeli citizenship, they can't vote, they have no recourse in Israeli courts in the event of a grievance involving an Israeli citizen, the Palestinian territories are not an internationally recognized sovereign state, the Palestinians in these territories do not have the freedom of movement even within the territories themselves, and for every Israeli that has been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts since 2000, seven Palestinians have been killed. Israel occupies the lands inhabited by the Palestinians, therefore they are responsible for their welfare and must either find a way to integrate them into an unified Israeli state and give them equal status or make way for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians have their hands tied by Israel. How do they bear most of the blame for the conflict?
  10. Steve (Sept. 8), I decided to answer your questions to weigh out which side occupies higher moral ground. 1) The Palestinian National Authority has held parliamentary, presidential, and local elections in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2012. Israel does not allow four million of the twelve million people under its control to vote. 2) In 1937, the founder of Israel, David Ben Gurion, said, "We must expel Arabs and take their places." In 1976, Israel Koenig, member of the then ruling Alignment Party, wrote a secret memo which contained the phrase, "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." 3) In 1914, on the eve or WWI, approximately a half a million Jews lived peaceably alongside their Muslim neighbors. The Ottoman Empire even allowed the Jews to have their own constitution in the 1860s. Jewish forces caused the expulsion of some 750,000 Arabs from their homes in 1948.
  11. Theodore - your dogmatic view of what the Lord wants regarding those that call themselves "Jews" (with a significant descent NOT of Judah but of a Turkic peoples known as the Khazars which converted en masse to Judaism in the eighth century) and their conflict with the peoples that they disposessed from Palestine is part of what covers the atrocities that Israel visits upon its neighbors. It's not hard to figure out. The Zionists that settled in Palestine with British sponsorship (Balfour Declaration of 1917) have increased their foothold and driven out their Arab neighbors. We LDS, or Americans overall, should NOT get involved. Until we were friends with Israel, we had no enemies amongst the Muslim peoples.

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