The following is excerpted from the Church Newsroom. To read the full report, CLICK HERE.
Photo: Elder Quentin L. Cook, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, laughs with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, left, and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams in Brooklyn on Friday, March 4, 2022. Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Thomas L. Kane was curious when he first heard about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1800s. So he attended one of its conferences in the eastern United States.
Kane never joined the church. His Christian wife lamented his lack of faith. But Kane spent most of the rest of his days crisscrossing the United States and lobbying U.S. presidents on behalf of the Latter-day Saints.
Brigham Young once marveled at Kane’s commitment, saying “from some cause he feels very much interested in behalf of our people.”
Last week, I asked former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, a faithful Jewish man from the Bronx, what causes him to be so interested on behalf of Latter-day Saints today.
“Well, first of all, I think there is much that the Jewish community has in common with the LDS community,” he said a few hours before he was presented with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s Thomas L. Kane Award by senior Latter-day Saint leaders.
“I was ticking off various values,” he continued. “You know, they believe, they have deep faith, they believe in God. They believe in education. They believe in family. They believe in helping other people. They believe in philanthropy. They’re a small community but growing. They’ve suffered persecution, discrimination and yet they’ve held their head high, and they have moved forward and they’ve grown. I widely respect the kind of contributions they bring to the total community and to the discussion and debate. While there may be a different perspective on a given issue or two, they’re very civil about it. We can talk to one another, we can love one another. These are the messages that come forth from the leadership of the LDS Church. And I think those are important messages.”
It wasn’t just talk. A second question elicited some of the similarities between Kane and Abrams.
I asked Abrams if he was aware that Kane was an abolitionist who worked on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, helping slaves escape the American South.
“He was a man of incredible positive actions and values,” Abrams said. “Obviously, the underground railroad has a history in New York, too. It’s such an honor for so many reasons to many reasons to get an award bearing his name and I’m just thrilled.”
Last week, I wrote about how Abrams helped broker a critical repair in Jewish-Latter-day Saint relations.
That isn’t the only time he has modeled “positive actions.”
For example, the Commission of Religious Leaders in New York historically excluded the Latter-day Saints.
“When I learned that I was really deeply hurt and moved by that, concerned about it,” Abrams said. “I talked to my friend, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, who represented the Jewish community at that council. I said, ‘It’s not right, Joe. It’s not right.’ And through his efforts, the LDS Church now has an appropriate seat at that table with every other religion.”
Rabbi Potasnik and other members of the commission will be at BYU this week to join the university’s Religious Freedom Annual Review summit.
“There are many, many, many things that we can do for each other, together with each other, helping each other and helping the cause of humanity,” Abrams said.
One of those, he noted, is sharing one another’s traditions. He talked about two examples.
To read the full report, CLICK HERE.