The following is a notice that appeared as “Missionary Discussions for the Jewish People,” Ensign, Apr. 1979, 72–73:
The Missionary Department has announced the recent implementation of new Missionary Discussions for the Jewish People.
The three new discussions were written in response to President Spencer W. Kimball’s declaration in the April 1975 Regional Representatives Seminar that the Jewish people “must hear the gospel; they must accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master, and that day, I think, cannot come until we, the witnesses of Jesus Christ, get busy and present the message to them.” (Missionary Training Manual: For Use in the Jewish Proselyting Program, 1978, introduction)
After a brief review of Old Testament prophets, the first discussion introduces Joseph Smith as a modern prophet and discusses both the Book of Mormon and prayer.
The second discussion traces Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and then shows how Jesus Christ fulfills them.
The third discussion applies Old Testament prophecies to the apostasy that occurred after the deaths of Christ and his apostles, and then introduces the message of the restored gospel.
After they receive the three special discussions, Jewish contacts are taught just as other contacts are. The missionary plan recommends that for the next meeting with the family, the missionaries choose one of the standard discussions, and that during the process of teaching the family, all of the concepts in the discussions be taught.
Included with the discussions are a flipchart and six tracts: A Message to Judah from Joseph by President Ezra Taft Benson, The Greatest Message of Our Time, What is the Book of Mormon?, The Messiah, Apostasy and Restoration, and We Have Found the Messiah.
Also accompanying the discussions is a supplement, the Missionary Training Manual: For Use in the Jewish Proselyting Program. This supplement has been prepared to help missionaries understand Jewish people and to teach them effectively without offense. It includes such helpful information as a history of the Jewish people, results of a survey of modern Jews, definitions of Jewish terms, and instructions on contacting Jewish people.
All missionaries called to serve in an area with a heavy concentration of Jewish people will receive specific orientation at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Then the mission presidents in each mission determine which missionaries will learn and use the new discussions.
I happened to be on my mission at the time, and I received these materials. As far as I could tell, this program was almost completely unsuccessful, and before long was shelved.
I used to have copies of the three special lessons and six special tracts, but I have since lost them. But I do still have in my possession the MIssionary Training Manual. It’s actually a pretty useful little booklet. Its focus isn’t on proselyting but on understanding. As a young man with little exposure to Judaism, I actually learned a lot from it.
Section One, “One of a City,” is six pages and is a fairly remarkable little essay where you imagine that you have grown up in a Jewish home, and it describes the religious culture you would have experienced along the way, including such things as your bar mitzvah, wedding, sabbath observances, etc. The idea is to give some sense of what it is like to be Jewish and observant.
Section 2 is “A Condensed History of the Jewish People.” This starts with origins and distinguishes terms like Semites, Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, and Ephraimites. There is a section on Old Testament history, a long section on the development of Jewish scripture, another long section on the Diaspora, and finally a shorter section on Zionism.
Section 3 is a “Dictionary of Jewsih Terms.” This eight-page glossary defines over 130 terms. Humorously, a substantial minority of the terms defined are traditoinal Jewish foods (the first page features bagel, blintz and borscht).
Section 4 is a “Religious Survey of Jewish People.”
The most explicitly missionary section is the final one, Section 5, “Referrals and Fellowshipping.”
One problem with the booklet is that it is not dated. So a Jew who encounters it today would assume it relates to a current program without realizing that the proselyting effort that gave rise to it was short-lived and unsuccessful.
Anyway, I think a lot of our members would benefit from materials like this, without the overt missionary emphasis, but simply to increase our understanding of the faith of others.