Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, were in Jerusalem last week to attend the 2015 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference. During the trip, Elder Andersen visited Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. They were joined by Sister Andersen; Stephen Rockwood, the newly announced managing director of the Church’s Family History Department; and Eran Hayet, director of the Brigham Young University (BYU) Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. They discussed the BYU Jerusalem Center, a Church-owned landmark for the past 27 years, and the Church’s work to preserve family history.
Mayor Barkat, a Jewish businessman known internationally for his role in promoting tourism and social projects, has been in office since 2008. He expressed his positive impressions of Salt Lake City, Utah, the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The genealogy conference held in Jerusalem attracted hundreds of participants, including family history experts and researchers from Israel, North America, Europe and other parts of the world.
Church leaders had close ties with the former Jerusalem Major Teddy Kollek, who died in 2007 at the age of 95. Mayor Kollek visited Utah and even received an honorary degree from BYU in 1995.
The former mayor was instrumental in BYU building the 125-thousand-square-foot Jerusalem Center on Mount Scopus, which overlooks the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley and the Old City of Jerusalem. People of many faiths visit the center for scholarly conferences and concerts.
The BYU Jerusalem Center is used by full-time BYU students for religious studies, and public tours are offered of the building and five acres of landscaped gardens. Former Church President Spencer W. Kimball dedicated the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem in 1979. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir toured the Holy Land in late 1992 and early 1993.