Touring the new Mormon temple

Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Kol Ami, right, tours the new Mormon temple in Gilbert with Gov. Jan Brewer on Jan. 16. 

Photo courtesy of Rabbi Jeremy Schneider


I spend a lot of time at temple these days. Actually, I go to temple every day, at Kol Ami. On Jan. 15 and 16, however, I found myself at the Gilbert Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

On Jan. 15, in my role as vice president of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis, I facilitated a VIP tour of the Gilbert temple for area synagogue clergy and senior lay leadership; 50-plus attended from the Jewish community. 

We were personally escorted by an elder of the church from Salt Lake City, the president of the Gilbert temple and the architect himself. We were treated with the utmost respect, and they were proud to show us what they believe to be their holiest place on Earth. 

This magnificent temple is more than 85,000 square feet and houses exquisite furnishings from all over the world, including Jerusalem stone. (There are free tours before the temple is consecrated and sealed in March. Check it out!)

On Jan. 16, I represented the Jewish community of Arizona as I toured the facility again, this time with Gov. Jan Brewer and other government officials, including the Arizona Senate president, speaker of the House, various legislators, local government and religious leaders and educators. 

In last week’s Torah portion, we read about Moses learning a valuable lesson from his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro tells Moses to appoint judges who will handle the burden of judging the people from morning until night, taking only the most difficult cases for himself. Jewish sages note that Moses learns this valuable lesson from his non-Israelite father-in-law Jethro, a Midianite. 

Our tradition asks the question based on this interaction: “Who is wise?” The answer, “One who learns from ALL people” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). 

I believe a common misconception that many religious people hold is thinking that wisdom can only be found in their own tradition. Jews read the writings of other Jews, Christians read the writings of other Christians, Buddhists read the writings of other Buddhists. In fact, sometimes within a faith, people limit their study to those who agree with them.  Orthodox Jews and liberal Jews often do not read each other’s teachings; evangelical Christians and liberal Christians feel they have nothing to teach one another. When we limit our reading to our own, we are closing our minds.

My Jewish beliefs are strongly built on the Jewish idea of covenant (humans as partners with God) and Israel (humans wrestling with God). These beliefs have given Jews our passion for struggling with the world and trying to perfect it, for arguing with God when necessary, for an emphasis on action. So what can we learn from other faiths?

From the Mormons I know and have worked with over the years, I have learned about complete faith. It gives them serenity and an acceptance of adversity, which I admire. As a Jew, I am always ready to argue with God. But maybe there is a time simply to say, “I believe in God and I trust in God.” 

I believe in Judaism. But I think we can all learn from our Mormon neighbors and many other worldviews. Wisdom is the ability to learn from all humans and points of view. Such open-mindedness can only make our religion and our faith stronger.

Rabbi Jeremy Schneider is the spiritual leader of Temple Kol Ami in Scottsdale and vice president of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis.


(12) comments


We are going to be going to the new Mormon Temple tomorrow, and are looking forward to what always seems to be such a secretive religion. I always go with an open mind to learn and that is what we will be doing. one should always do something ,, to learn from it.

Sharon Friendly


Thanks Rabbi,

I am a Mormon and yes, we do believe in trusting in God and accepting His will. But you wrote about arguing with God, which is a perspective I haven't thought about for a long time. I do believe that sometimes God wants to bless us with something, but he wants us to fight for it first. Even the Book of Mormon tells about a "wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins."

There is something specific that I want badly in my career, and maybe God is willing to grant it to me if I ask, even "argue" as you say, still trusting in Him even if he doesn't let it happen.



Dear "Brother" Schneider. Thank you very much for your positive comments regarding your recent visit to the Gilbert Temple. I have a happy heart when I see others with different views, accepting each other, and indeed, building friendships. Thank you very much for your article.


Life is what God intended it to be...a struggle. The integration of spirit with the body brings with it, in this imperfect life, many lesson to be learned. for one, this life is subject to the law of entropy (decay, degradation), and as is the natural order of things material must eventually fail, and that it is only through and by God that all these things exist (this world our bodies)...God in a direct manner of speaking is the external force that provides the energy to put matter in its unnaturally organized state (law of thermodynamics). Therefore, it is good that nothing is handed to us on a silver platter, and that we struggle /wrestle with God, and struggle through life because it is for our benefit and learning. coincidently, a life without God is like living in a large and spacious building that has no foundation (or this material life), because in accordance with the laws of entropy it must eventually fall. This parallels the laws of sacrifice, which essentially teach us to put spirit before matter, to give up something good for something better, and to have some level of control over ourselves which is the natural man.


Thank you Brother (Rabbi) Schneider. I am a Latter-day Saint and sincerely appreciate your respectful, kind, and warm words about the Gilbert Temple. Latter-day Saints are taught to look for the good in all things. I personally read the words of other faiths and find them informational and inspiring. The 13th Article of Faith for the Latter-day Saints states "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."


Brother Schneider - you said that Moses learned from his non-Israelite father-in-law Jethro, a Midianite - did you mean that as Jethro was not a Jew who had been in Egypt?

Jethro had to have been a Jew who was a descendent of Abraham with non-defiled blood lines or Moses could not have married one of his daughters.

Is not that correct..?

Oh yes - I am of the LDS faith & a Christian - who loves history & is a descendent of Ephraim.


I'm a Mormon. Thank you for your comments. They struck me particularly because the Jewish tradition of struggling to find the truth by asking questions is one of the things I admire about your religion. It is true that sometimes I do find peace in simply trusting God, but I know there is a very important place for asking questions and struggling with truth. I appreciate the example of Judaism in this. After reading your commentary, I wonder if there might be wisdom in knowing when to question and when to simply trust.


I'm a Latter day saint (Mormon) and lived in Aretz Yisrael for 20 years before coming to the US. As I'm sure you learned in your visits,Temple worship is important to us too. Covenant making and keeping is also important to us. The Lord still has no temple in Jerusalem, but I frequently felt the Spirit of place present at the Kotel and temple mount. Some day, in the Lord's time, He will return to a temple-worshipping and covenant-keeping people in Yerushalayim. I appreciated your thoughtful comments.

In response to Sharon (s4friendly) below, our faith is not secretive. We share it with all who will listen. Our chapels are open to anyone. We publish our doctrine and policies for all to see. Our temples, like those of ancient Israel have areas for the gentile, but restrict certain areas for the worthy believer. I trust you had a pleasant visit, and hope it inspired you to learn a little more and remove the notions of secrecy you've associated with our faith.


Big Daddy, I don't know about if Moses was allowed to marry someone who was not Israelite, but Jethro, if I'm not mistaken, was descended from Abraham and Hagar.


Like several of those who commented, I am also LDS. The idea of wrestling with God is a concept that I have not heretofore thought about deeply enough. At first glance, the concept is a little strange, as God could easily win any such concept. However, on further reflection, I believe that God allows - indeed encourages - us to wrestle with him, putting up enough resistance for us to test our strength and find out exactly what we do believe, why, and how deeply. In essence, God serves as a mirror of ourselves, giving us a way to learn about those parts of our spiritual life that would otherwise remain unexpressed. Thank you for reminding me of such a useful and thought-provoking idea. I suppose the best part is that God always lets us win!


Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful words! I, too, am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I joined almost 40 years ago. One of the aspects that truly impressed me was the fact you brought up in your own faith--that I could ask God, my eternal Father, if the things I was learning were true. Since those first days, I have been blessed to receive His direction and teachings. I have also been blessed to work and serve in two temples--Chicago and now, in St. Paul, Mn. I have visited the Mesa temple as a patron (different from a worker) along with many other temples. We, too, long for the day when the Lord will make the way for His people to erect a temple in Jerusalem.

As to another comment: We don't know from which tribe Jethro originated. He was from Midian, but I don't know if he was actually a Midianite, as that is a confederation of Arabic tribes which warred with Judah and the Northern Kingdoms. I do know (from Doctrine and Covenants that Jethro received the Melchizedek priesthood through the lineage of Abraham. see the following: Doctrine and Covnenants 84:6 And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro;

7 And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb;

8 And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu;

9 And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy;

10 And Jeremy under the hand of Gad;

11 And Gad under the hand of Esaias;

12 And Esaias received it under the hand of God.

13 Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—

14 Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah;

I am looking forward to the day when Ephraim and Judah join hands. I am from the House of Ephraim.
Blessings on you all.


Rabbi, I appreciate the thoughts you share in this article. I am LDS myself, and we are very often not seen as we really are, just people striving to be the best we can and wanting to follow God's plan for us.

You may not be aware of this, but most LDS people are descendants of Ephraim, so we are also of the house of Israel, though differ as we are followers of Christ.[smile]

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