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In the Book Episode 8: "Another Jewish Book: Lindsey Perlman"

Episode Transcript


[00:00:00] Rebecca: How many copies do you have total, do you think?

[00:00:02] Lindsey: I don't know. I've given a lot of 'em away, four. And I stick them in different places so that I just have 'em. And this one was sitting in the glove compartment of my car.

[00:00:11] Rebecca: That's amazing. That's a good place to have it.

Yeah. I love having it. It comes up!

Rebecca: A graduate of Connecticut College, Lindsey Perlman is a dancer, a skier, and a young professional.

[00:00:24] Lindsey: I kept noticing that I was really at peace while I was reading the Book of Mormon, and I experienced this when I was reading bits and pieces, was just that sense of peace. But when I really sat down and read it all the way through, that was when I started to notice that this was a Jewish book.

[00:00:51] Rebecca: Lovingly connected to her Jewish roots, Lindsey has studiously poured over the writings of the prophets and rabbis. Upon opening the Book of [00:01:00] Mormon, she found herself reading not only another text about her own people, but a book all about, in her words, the greatest rabbi who ever lived.

I'm Rebecca Devonas, and this is In The Book.

This is a podcast where we flood the earth with testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

We're starting off this episode in a place I personally love.

This hub of the three monotheistic religions of the world isn't just a place bustling with shops in the four quarters of the city, but a place of profound religious conviction.

We're in [00:02:00] Jerusalem.

This is a place to which people make pilgrimages.

This is a place of sanctuaries, alters, worship covenants, and sacred clothing.

This is a place unlike any other on earth.

Though the influence of many different religious persuasions has sculpted and shaped every corner of it, this city attracts people who, in many ways, have more in common with each other than they do differences. They are covenant makers. They not only believe in God, they believe in worshiping that God and doing so in one of the holiest of cities on the planet.

 [00:03:00] Lindsey Perlman is one of these people, and her road to Jerusalem started back in the United States as an undergraduate student.

While she was studying dance and religious studies at Connecticut College, Lindsey found a joint program through Hebrew University to study in Jerusalem.

[00:03:15] Lindsey: It was a really beautiful experience for me to just deepen my knowledge and also, it's so easy there to keep your commandments. It's so much easier there, truly. You go to a grocery store and everything is kosher. I mean, everything shuts down on Shabbat. Like just logistically, suddenly things were a lot less hard. And so that energy could go towards deepening other aspects of my faith rather than constantly worrying about where am I gonna get kosher food next.

With the exception of maybe New York and some really large Jewish communities in the States, that's really hard thing to deal with.

[00:03:57] So I just had a lot more time to [00:04:00] think and to think about what I was going to do next and and also just to connect with my Jewish community.

Rebecca: Shabbat is another word for Sabbath and is observed from sundown on Friday to sundown On Saturday.

Shops close, cars are turned off, and the sounds of Shabbat services are heard throughout the city. People are seen walking the streets with their families, and Shabbat meals are shared within the walls of Jewish homes.

For twenty-four hours, the Sabbath day rests over the city.

For every day of the week, living life in Jerusalem as an observant Jew is, in many respects, much easier than anywhere else in the world.

[00:04:40] Lindsey: I was surrounded by a really great community of young Jewish people that loved God and loved keeping commandments and loved living a Jewish life, and so that community aspect I really had [00:05:00] there.

When I was in Connecticut where I went to college, I, for the most part was the only one of anyone I really knew that was keeping Shabbat. So I was alone for a lot of it versus when I was in Israel, I'm surrounded by all of these people where we're staying at each other's houses and sitting and reading together and talking and having like this huge community experience that was really wonderful. And having these deep conversations.

[00:05:29] Rebecca: Up on a hill overlooking the Old City is a building occupied by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that houses students who are studying abroad and Sabbath day services as well.

[00:05:43] Lindsey: In Israel, the Church has their Sabbath on Saturday, like everything happens on Saturday. And so because of that, I lived too far to get over there without being in a car. And I didn't wanna be in a car because it was Shabbat.

[00:05:59] Rebecca: [00:06:00] But why would Lindsey want to attend church at the Jerusalem Center?

Before she went to Jerusalem, Lindsey had already been attending church back in Connecticut. However, her route to the church building wasn't a typical one.

She wandered in one day.

[00:06:20] Lindsey: I loved learning about other faiths and so, showed up and I think people just assumed for the most part that I was a member, that I was just traveling or something, cause I didn't really talk and I didn't want them to really notice me because I wasn't trying to participate! Eventually they caught on.

[00:06:36] Rebecca: The preamble to this tale of the visitor in the chapel starts with friendship.

[00:06:41] Lindsey: The first introduction that I had was with a friend when I was sixteen, who was a member of the Church. She didn't actually give me a Book of Mormon, which I think is a really significant part of my story, because we really just sat and had these really [00:07:00] beautiful conversations about our relationships with God.

I didn't learn a lot about what happens in the Book of Mormon; I had a general sense of it, but I really just left with more of a picture of what her relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ looked like and how that affected her life. And so I left that very curious. I felt that she had this really, really personal relationship with God and I really wanted that in my life.

[00:07:32] Rebecca: And what about prayer?

Did she pray personally?

[00:07:35] Lindsey: I definitely prayed, but prior to that time, I felt a really deep connection with this kind of collective covenant between the people of Israel and God. That was a big part of my bat mitzvah. And when I prayed, I was connecting to this broader group [00:08:00] of people that I was a part of. And that group of people was not just me and my family, it was all of my ancestors and all of these people that go back and back and back to the Israelites that we learn about Exodus and all the way back to Abraham, to the patriarchs and the matriarchs. And that was, for me, the relationship. It wasn't as direct.

[00:08:26] Rebecca: As the young Lindsey began strengthening this relationship with God, she did so in two ways. First, through observance.

[00:08:34] Lindsey: The main ways that I felt like I could deepen that personal relationship was to first off keep commandments: to keep kosher, to keep Shabbat; that obedience was a big part of it. And feeling like in every little mundane aspect of my life like I could see God in it and express that love.[00:09:00] And so I started becoming more observant.

There's a large spectrum of observance within Judaism and a lot of different communities with different names. And we talk about Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox. Then there's communities within Orthodoxy, stuff like that. So at that point, I am starting this Teshuva journey towards returning to a higher level of observance, really thinking about the Sinai Covenant, wanting to edge a little more towards orthodoxy.

And then the second thing for me, was Torah study.

[00:09:40] Rebecca: The Torah, or the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, comprises Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

[00:09:49] Lindsey: College was really the time when I decided, “I want to be able to pray, be able to go to traditional services and participate [00:10:00] and, have deeper knowledge of Hebrew; to start learning biblical Hebrew.” And also just a more in depth interest in the scriptures as a whole. I wanted to study Torah and I knew that, and when I read the words of these rabbis in the Talmud, I really see this pattern of their personal revelation.

[00:10:25] Rebecca: It was her studies of Hebrew, the Torah, and the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings, that actually prepared her to see Hebraic patterns in another book of scripture: the Book of Mormon.

What was it that she was finding in the Book of Mormon that rang so true to her while she was pouring over it online?

[00:10:44] Lindsey: When I really sat down and read it, all the way through, that was when I started to notice that this was a Jewish book.

They are [00:11:00] of the people of Israel in the Babylonian exile.

They have a way of thinking of things that is very, very, at its core, Jewish, and an example of that is I'll do 2 Nephi 9:26. “…and they're restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel…” the God that gave them breath, and so then of course I'm reading that and I'm thinking, alright, “Ruach”. Ruach is a Hebrew word that means breath. It also, depending on the context, means breath, spirit or wind. “Ruach Elohim,” = the spirit of God. And then again, it's translated to the breath of life. There's also this concept of when you wake up, you're thanking God for breathing life into you.

So this God who gave them breath, that little bit of wording is so to me,[00:12:00] reminiscent of a Jewish way of thinking that I see in rabbinic texts.

[00:12:07] Rebecca: Lindsay soon realized the Book of Mormon was more than just another book of scripture. It was a missing link.

[00:12:16] Lindsey: I feel like in a lot of ways, because I had read the New Testament, and given I had read it in a very critical way, arguably more critical than the way that I read the Book of Mormon, because there's so much history of the New Testament being used against the Jewish people. And that was how I was first introduced to studying it, but for me, the Book of Mormon was a bridge between I prefer to call it the Hebrew Bible over the Old Testament, but between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and it made them make sense because without it, the New Testament didn't feel like it was for me.

The Book of Mormon is truly meant for the Jew and the Gentile.

[00:12:58] Rebecca: [00:13:00] This concept of the Book of Mormon being the bridge between the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament and the New Testament was huge for me. Up until she said that, I thought of them like they're stacked in my scripture set. First, the Old, then the New, followed by the Book of Mormon and other restoration scripture.Though they might have been published in that order, chronologically, that's not how they fall, nor theologically. The Book of Mormon connects the Old World and the law of Moses to the New World and the fulfillment of that law. It fills in a major gap between the two books of the Bible. Really, the Book of Mormon is overlaying both. It spans the time from the Tower of Babel to roughly 400 years after Christ.

Now, let's go back to that chapel in Connecticut. Lindsay was attending week after week and reading the Book of Mormon.

[00:13:58] Lindsey: I kept [00:14:00] noticing that I was really at peace while I was reading the Book of Mormon. And I was also really at peace in these LDS spaces that I would find myself in. And I just liked being there and I wanted to learn.

I didn't see myself as an investigator of the Church. I did not see myself in that way; it really started as I just, I love this. I want learn more about this and I'm happy here.

And then it turned into, Okay, I definitely find truth in this, but I'm a Jew that finds truth in the Book of Mormon. That was always what I said whenever anybody asked. Like, I have this obligation still. And so I can't make this change in my life.

And so baptism was at that point, totally off the table, and then it turned into, Well, I'm going to get baptized, but I just don't know when. It's just not happening yet. I need to read more.

[00:14:55] Rebecca: And so she kept reading. She even made a move across the country, [00:15:00] kept going to church there and kept reading. 2 Nephi 9:53 in particular spoke to her.

[00:15:07] Lindsey: And behold, how great the covenants of the Lord and how great his condescension unto the children of men. And because of his greatness and his grace and mercy, he has promised us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them. And in future generations, they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.

Grief is a huge part of my story, and it's a huge part of the story of other Jewish converts too, because Judaism can't be like left. It is always with you. And it is a core part of you. And, for me, I read this and I see that same grief reflected here, because they're leaving the land of Israel and they're worried, of course, [00:16:00] like the same way that I worry, okay, how can I pass this down now? It's so important that I keep this alive. How can I make sure that children and my children's children still have it? And I see them having that same worry and I see that reflected them too.

I'm always Jewish, that doesn't change. But it can feel a little bit like you're cut off from your people and I always felt from the beginning a huge sense of belonging and being Jewish. So that's a sacrifice, and it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make, but it's not one that I take lightly.

I remember I got baptized and I was crying in the hallway; like right before, tears of absolute like grief and loss. It was just like, something has irrevocably changed. But I was sure [00:17:00] that was the path that I was going to take.

[00:17:02] Rebecca: Lindsay's decision to be baptized also had much to do with the temple.

The temple is such a strong focal point in Judaism that the hope in it alone brings Jews from far and wide to the heart of Jerusalem. They haven't worshiped inside a temple since the last standing temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. But as such, they're found praying for it at the same Western Wall all year round.

But a temple of the restored church of Jesus Christ built anywhere on Earth would be one Lindsey could finally enter.

[00:17:38] Lindsey: I felt very strongly that I was supposed to go to the temple, and I could not do that if I did not get baptized.

There was a lot of praying and a lot of thinking, and sometimes it's not really about us. I think if I was going back and I was saying it was just me deciding what kind of [00:18:00] life I'd want to live, I would probably be living in Israel, and be very Jewish. That's what I would've chosen.

But, I felt very strongly that was what God wanted for me, and I've felt like the gospel was giving me the peace that I really desperately needed at that time. And, I felt that I needed more of that. I needed to lean into that, and because that was given to me that I should do something in return. And so baptism felt like the thing I could do in return as well.

That's the same way with covenants. God gives so much to us and so we give these things in return. And, getting baptized was a part of it.

[00:18:48] Rebecca: And the other reason for her baptism also had everything to do with someone else.

[00:18:53] Lindsey: I always had questions about Jesus Christ from a really young age, but I didn't have a completely [00:19:00] solidified belief in him. And so, I'm opening this book and I'm coming at it with all of my education to this point is that he was a false Messiah, so of course I'm skeptical.

I was seeing this language where you're seeing “the Lord” and the “Holy One of Israel” and then you see it throughout the text being transformed into Jesus Christ. And then those words are still being used and so I think that gradual transformation and those references to him that didn't even necessarily say his name were the things that had the biggest impact on me.

I read of him and I read of his life and I very much want to follow Him.

And he's our Savior and Redeemer and there are so many titles, but I mean, to me, he's also just the greatest rabbi that ever lived.

[00:19:53] Rebecca: [00:20:00] The first time the name of Jesus Christ is mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in 2 Nephi chapter 10, verse 3, when Jacob mentions it. The Holy One of Israel mentioned prolifically in the chapter before was we find out indeed Jesus Christ.

[00:20:22] Lindsey: And I love to question things. I love to ask questions; that’s probably how I got myself here. I love questioning as a way to study the scriptures as a way to deepen our connection with God. I think that's really important. And I still do to some extent pick up this book and I look at it and I am picking it apart, which is different from reading it through the lens of doubt.

[00:20:46] Rebecca: I have often thought about how questions and doubts are not really synonymous.

Doubt inherently has a skeptical tone to it. It doesn't come with the assumption that something could be true. [00:21:00] Questions have a sort of hunger and thirst about them. Questions want answers and questions when earnestly asked, find treasures of new knowledge.

Lindsey's story is a testament of the fruits that come from having an open heart and an open mind, actively searching and questioning and being willing to accept the conclusion God leads you to.

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This is a Scripture Central podcast directed by James Dalrymple, and I produced this episode with script contributions by Ryan Kunz. I'm Rebecca Devonas, and this is In The Book. 22 May 2023