Holy Envy? Things I Appreciate About Mormonism

Oftentimes, over at Catholic Answers Forum in the LDS-related threads, there can be a heavy emphasis on pointing out the issues that non-LDS have with the LDS faith.  Some posters seem to always bring up negative issues, and seem to be incapable of not making emotional arguments and vilifying Latter-day Saints.  For them, there is always some negative, ulterior motive behind LDS participants there, things that the LDS Church does and says, etc.  If someone says something admirable or appreciative about Mormonism, they will quickly insert something negative into it.

So, in this post, I thought it would be nice to talk about things that I appreciate about the LDS faith.  While doctrinally I find nothing that I wish the Catholic Church had (and I find that my time as a Latter-day Saint helped me to appreciate Catholic teachings more, and actually understand things that I didn’t understand when I left Catholicism for Mormonism, such as revelation and prophets), there are certain practical matters that I think many Catholics could learn from.  With that said, many of these items are not limited to Latter-day Saints; it’s merely the example I use as it comes from personal experience.

“Holy envy” comes from Krister Stendahl, former Bishop of Stockholm in the Church of Sweden, Professor of New Testament, and Dean of Harvard Divinity School.  He died in 2008.  To him, “holy envy” meant that we can look at other faiths and find things that are admirable and meaningful that may not necessarily be found in your own faith.  There are five main areas of Mormonism that I appreciate:

  • Emphasis on Scripture Study– LDS leaders heavily emphasis reading the scriptures (which of course includes, in addition to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants).  Whether in General Conferences, in the Ensign Church Magazine (the latest issue has an article on the matter-“Scripture Study for Family Strength“, local leaders, etc, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to read and study their scriptures every day.   Practically every LDS congregation has a Sunday School hour where members read from and learn principles from their scriptures (each year is devoted to a specific volume of scripture).  I’d venture to guess that LDS tend to read their personal copies of their scriptures more than Catholics do.

 

  • Emphasis on Personal Revelation-Revelation is a concept that is very important in Mormonism.  While I think that there are misunderstandings with how LDS view the Catholic understanding of revelation, both faiths believe that God still speaks, and that He can speak to us individually.  However, Latter-day Saints are well known for their emphasis on personal revelation and finding answers for oneself through prayer.  LDS missionaries encourage “investigators” to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God to know whether it is true.  Mormons go to the temple to receive guidance from God on difficult or important matters in their lives.  Practically every General Conference includes a talk or two about how to receive personal revelation.  The latest issue of the Ensign Church Magazine has three articles on the topic: “Opening Our Hearts to Revelation“, “In His Own Time, in His Own Way“, and “The Leader’s Road to Revelation“.  Mormons quite frequently talk about how they prayed about something and believe that they received an answer from God to help them.

 

  • Young Adults in Church-As someone in their 20s, I really appreciated the “Young Single Adult” (YSA) scene in the LDS faith.  It was nice to be around young people that not only attended church every Sunday, but were active participants and leaders in the running of the congregation (I was a member of a YSA ward, or congregation, which is comprised solely of single adults between the ages of 18 and 31.  Once you turn 31, you are asked to attend the conventional, or “family” ward).  Seeing young adults go to church for 3 hours, many times more (such as for ward council, “linger longers” after, etc) was great.  Now, Catholic parishes on university campuses, or near universities also tend to have large numbers of young adults attending and participating in the life of the parish.

 

  • Religious Education and Activities-Formal Catholic religious education many times tends to end in the teenage years, after Confirmation.  While most Catholic parishes and cathedrals have a host of liturgies and devotions, which are indeed a form of religious education (I’m sure LDS that have attended the temple understand the concept of learning through ritual), there tends to be a lack of formal religious education classes for adults, excluding of course the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), which is for “investigators” of the Catholic faith.  Most LDS congregations on Sundays have Sunday School for about an hour, as well as Priesthood/Relief Society meetings for about another hour where further religious education is received.  During the week, many areas, especially those with many young adults that are “college-aged” (i.e. 20s), have “Institute”, classes on specific topics offered either on a college campus or at a church building.  For example, in my area this summer, there are classes on Teachings of the Living Prophets, the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, Old Testament Minor Prophets, and Doctrines of the Gospel.  These are opportunities for more in-depth study than would be found in Sunday School, as well as a social opportunity.  I loved having these ways to study my religion with others, especially people around my age, in formal church settings.  In addition, I loved all the activities that are available to socialize with members of the congregation, as well as other members in the area.  Whether it’s stake conference, YSA regional conferences (oh the church dances…), barbecue or ice cream after church (“linger longer”), Family Home Evening activities every Monday, monthly ward temple trips, etc, there is always something to do if you’d like.
  • Missionary Work-Mormons are well known for their missionary work.  Young men (and, less often, young women, as well as senior couples) going around with their characteristic name tags are a well known sight, at least in the United States.  Young men are strongly encouraged to serve a full-time, 2 year mission.  It is admirable that young people give up part of their youth to preach their faith, full time, instead of doing what many other young people would be doing at that time.  Further, all members are strongly encouraged to participate in missionary work, and are taught to be “member missionaries“.  Whether it’s sharing a Mormon.org profile, giving a friend a Book of Mormon, going out with the full-time missionaries, trying to help an inactive member come to church, etc, Latter-day Saints emphasize the importance of helping all come to their faith.  While the Catholic Church certainly has converted much of the world, and various Church-affiliated organizations aim to bring people to Catholicism, such as Catholics Come Home, there is something that can be appreciated by Latter-day Saints going out two by two to convert people, as well as the culture surrounding missionary work and how all members participate in it.
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7 Responses to Holy Envy? Things I Appreciate About Mormonism

  1. Syphax says:

    I really appreciated this post. The Internet is just so polarized – it’s not a place where moderate, balanced voices easily cut through the noise. I share a lot of your appreciations of the Mormon church. I should make my own one of these.

    PS, I agree with you about Catholic Answers, and while I was first questioning Mormonism I just avoided it completely. If they were just a little bit more forgiving/welcoming/fair I probably would have found a lot of good information there.

    • Thanks. Yeah I think that some people think that because you left a faith, or disagree with its claims and beliefs, you can’t like any aspect of it. There are many admirable things in Mormonism, just like there are many admirable things in Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.

      And yeah, I try to be much more moderate and objective in my discussions on Catholic Answers Forum, and I completely understand why many, including some Catholics, refuse to participate there in the Mormon-related threads. I want to talk about substantive issues, and that can be hard there, especially with those that repeatedly bring negativity to the threads.

  2. iepurastx says:

    Thank you for this post. As you know, I was born in the covenant and I am now an ex Mormon. This was a good reminder that there are some good things in Mormonism. I was in a YSA ward until I married at age thirty and I must say that it was a mixed bag for me. I had many good friends for which I am grateful. As a woman who did not fit the Molly Mormon mold, the dating aspect or lack thereof was extraordinarily frustrating. I did not meet my husband through the YSA ward. He was a Mormon convert from Orthodoxy and he left Mormonism when I did. I did really like the idea of forever families but this idea is not really all that unique to Mormonism. However their idea of forever families is a bit different from the rest of Christianity. I am so grateful to be coming home to the Catholic Church. It is so fulfilling for me. All I can say is that God has guided me to the Catholic Church and I have no regrets with how I got here.

    • I’m glad you have found the Truth that God has led you to, in His Church!

      The YSA wards can be frustrating at times, especially when some desire to create “Utah Mormon” culture outside of Utah (I had a chat about this recently with an LDS friend). What I really appreciated was being in a congregation of young people that essentially run the congregation (I’m sure one can find Catholic equivalents on or near college campuses).

  3. HojaVerde says:

    At the beginning of the year, at evening, when I just went out from my (catholic) church, I was stopped by two Mormon missionaries. We were talking that day for a while, and we meet again six or seven times later. We were sharing our faiths, and it was very useful for myself, due to the fact that I studied (and lived) more deeply my own faith. I learned a lot about how to defend my faith from Mormonism, and also I tried to plant a seed on these missionaries. They were fantastic, awesome and polite guys.

    To be honest, I could have ended up being Mormon, except for some facts. For example, that I know their doctrines are not supported by the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition:
    – there was no great apostasy, thus there is no need for restoration.
    – there’s only one eternal high priest Jesus, not as many high priests as they have.
    – the Aaronic Priesthood was REPLACED by the Jesus’ Priesthood (and His ministerial priesthood) as explained in the letter to the Hebrews.
    – the church was foretold by Malachi, to have a holy sacrifice to offer (Mass) around the world, they do not have it.
    – the Kingdom of God started with Jesus’ first coming (the church as a seed that grows), and it will have no end from that point on, as foretold by the prophets (for instance Daniel), and according to the teachings of our Lord Jesus (the parable of the wheat and the tares, his promise about his church or the great commission, to name just a few).
    – we are made children of God by adoption, not that we were children of God before we were born.
    – Etc…

    But according with your post, I felt a holy envy since they all are sent as missionaries or by the fact that they are so social people (although I see them as if they were pelagians, like if they could obtained salvation by their works and not by grace), the role they have as priests, etc.

    We have to learn some positive things about them.

    Thank you for your very valuable blog. By the way I follow CAF (I’m HojaVerde), and sorry for my English.

    • Thanks for sharing.

      I completely agree with you. I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and yes, Mormonism really is nice on the surface (I actually am pondering devoting a blog post to that concept). Apostles, Prophets, Continuing Revelation, Open Canon, Temples, Proselytizing Missionary Work, etc all sound great, and Biblical. That’s the draw of the LDS faith. Plus, as I mention in the post, I really do appreciate the lifestyle and the culture. There’s a lot going on if that’s what you’d like (lots of service related opportunities to fellow ward members), and there’s a heavy emphasis on scripture study and gospel-related classes for all ages (of course, we can start the same in Catholic parishes, however in the LDS Church, this is something found in all congregations). But, once you go deeper, things don’t seem as nice as what you see on the surface. I’m not saying that people are mean or deceptive, but things just don’t add up. The prophets, seers, and revelators are not prophesying, seeing, nor revelating, at least like the Biblical ones, or even like Joseph Smith. Continuing revelation seems to operate no differently than found in any Protestant church. The Book of Mormon has a host of problems, and LDS apologetics have varying views on where exactly it takes place (the actual Prophets don’t say/don’t know).

      And really, as you say, it comes down to the Great Apostasy. I don’t see any Biblical nor historical evidence for it, therefore there was no need for a Restoration. Instead, we see Biblical and historical evidence for the continuity of Christ’s Church as established anciently, guided by the Spirit into all Truth. So, as much as I appreciate the LDS lifestyle and the various things I “envy” (I similarly “envy” things related to Islam, Hinduism, Evangelical Christianity, etc), that doesn’t lead one to believe it is the True Church.

      Thanks again!

  4. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post! I agree wholeheartedly about our LDS neighbors, they are a wonderful and devoted group of people, I have no doubt of their sincerity, love and devotion to God, and to what they believe to be truth. They try hard to persevere and hold fast to the faith they’ve been handed on, truly believing Smith to be the prophet who began the final dispensation. Whenever I come across missionaries, or speak with friends/neighbors who are LDS, I always try to keep in mind that I need to speak respectfully when questions of faith arises, they are not trying to be deceptive. It saddens me that so many who do leave the LDS church, become atheist, they feel so deceived they’re not sure who to trust anymore 😦 I often try to put myself in their shoes, how would it feel if I came to the sudden realization that everything I had been taught about God and the plan of salvation was untrue? It would break my heart! Being antaganostic to them isn’t reflecting Christs love and will never get anybody anywhere. Love them, as they love us, and plant little seeds in their hearts as they Holy Spirit prods us, and then trust in Gods great love and mercy to help that seed sprout and grow.

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