Are Mormons Zionists?

I guess it all depends on what you mean by Zionist. If you define Zionism as an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, then you will have to ask each individual member their opinion. The church does not take sides. Personally, I’m all for the state of Israel having a right to exist. Other Mormons do not feel this way.

Consider this oft-quoted statement from President Howard W. Hunter on the subject: “We do not need to apologize nor mitigate any of the prophecies concerning the Holy Land. We believe them and declare them to be true. But this does not give us justification to dogmatically pronounce that others of our Father’s children are not children of promise. … Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each.” (Devotional speech BYU 1979)

The future of Israel

I have written previously about the future history of Israel and why Mormons are so interested in the events in that Jewish state. “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.” (Tenth Article of Faith). But is the literal gathering of Israel defined as a gathering of the Jews to the Holy Land or a gathering of the Saints to the Stakes of Zion? Is a ‘literal gathering’ to be interpreted as a political establishment of the state of Israel?

Members of the church have long anticipated a return of the Jews to Palestine as part of Israel’s gathering. The Prophet Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde, an apostle, to Jerusalem, where in October 1841 he dedicated the land and prayed “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants” (HC 4:456). Some members of the Church are confused as to how this prayer is to be understood. Is this evidence that we are in support of Israel’s right to exist as a nation?

Differences of opinion

Even modern apostles have expressed differences of opinion on if Zionism is the same as the ‘literal gathering’ of Israel. Elder LeGrand Richards identified Zionism and the State of Israel as the expected “return,” the physical prelude to the spiritual “gathering.” Others, such as Elder Bruce R. McConkie, wrote that the Zionist ingathering was not that “of which the scriptures speak…. It does not fulfill the ancient promises.” He saw it as a “gathering of the unconverted” but “nonetheless part of the divine plan” (Millennial Messiah, Salt Lake City, 1982, p. 229).

To read several in-depth articles from an official church source that considers the subject, read the May 1972 Ensign which is all about Israel and the Holy Land. In there you will find this: “Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ have been to the Holy Land and have dedicated that country for the return of the Jews; and we believe that in the due time of the Lord they shall be in the favor of God again. And let no Latter-day Saint be guilty of taking any part in any crusade against these people.” (President Heber J Grant, General Conference, April 1921)

Conclusion

What do you think? Is Zionism officially recognized and endorsed by the church or is support for Zionism strictly a personal matter to be left up to the individual members?