Sit down to the traditional Passover meal at Brigham Young University and things may seem a little strange:
Inside the student center, the tables were set with all of the Passover staples: bitter herbs, haroset, parsley sprigs and salt water, a Haggadah at each place setting. By 6:15 on a recent Friday evening, the hall had filled up with college and graduate students, alumni, faculty and a smattering of “townies” — more than 160 people in total. It was a scene reminiscent of the Seders that so many Jewish campus centers host at Passover time.
But this was no Hillel-sponsored event, a fact that would become apparent as soon as the invocation was given “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Rather, this Seder was hosted by Brigham Young University, the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The “Mormon Seder” freely weaves together traditional elements of the celebration with new additions. There’s no wine present at the meal on this dry campus, but there are references to the Latter-Day Saints’ own Exodus (from the Midwest) and to college sports:
Ludlow’s version of “Dayenu” included all of the customary lyrics — about the parting of the sea, the manna from heaven, the giving of the Torah — in addition to some with unique significance to the BYU community: “Had He scattered us among the nations, but not gathered us in the Rocky Mountains, dayenu; had He gathered us in the Rocky Mountains, but not given us Latter-Day Temples of our own, dayenu; had He given us Latter-Day Temples of our own, but not given us a special university, dayenu; had He given us a special university, but not a mighty basketball team, dayenu.”
There’s something wonderful and quintessentially American about this enthusiastic interfaith embrace. But I can’t help but wonder what the Jewish students on campus (according to the article there are a mere three) make of all this.