Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest-Book Review Shortly

So I’m about halfway through the book Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest by Eric Shuster.  This book discusses the conversion to Mormonism of the author and his wife.  After their conversion story, he then dedicates subsequent chapters to compare and contrast the LDS and Catholic views on specific doctrinal matters, such as the Creation, the Trinity/Godhead, Priesthood, Mary, the Sacraments, etc.  So far, I’m not impressed at all by this book.  Shuster attempts to present himself and his wife as previously “informed” Catholics, knowledgeable about Catholicism and therefore making an informed decision to leave the Catholic faith for the LDS faith.  Unfortunately, actual knowledgeable Catholics will not be in agreement with this self-assessment.  Only halfway through, Shuster makes numerous fundamental mistakes in expounding on Catholic doctrine, even when claiming to derive his understanding from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an official compendium of Catholic beliefs.  He shows that he does not understand Catholic doctrines as a Catholic would, and he ends up critiquing a straw man, and not actual Catholic teaching.  This is readily apparent in the section on the Trinity, where he bungles the definition of the Trinity (no Trinitarian would ever claim that it means that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three beings but not three beings but really one being), and ends up critiquing the heresy of Modalism (this is a frequent LDS mistake, even occurring in General Conference, where they rhetorically ask why  Jesus was praying to Himself, which no Trinitarian would ever claim, nor is that a valid result of Trinitarian belief, but is one of the ancient Modalism heresy, and it seems as if Shuster is not aware of the difference between Modalism and Trinitarianism).  The “mystery” explanation is not a valid excuse for his misunderstanding, since the Catechism clearly defines the Trinity, and “mystery” does not mean that the Trinity does not have a clear definition, which it does.

Shuster does not understand the Catholic view on Revelation.  Catholics do not believe that God stopped speaking, nor do we believe that God is quiet.  When Catholics speak of Revelation ending with the death of the apostles, we mean that all that is necessary for salvation has already been revealed, culminating in the birth, ministry, death/atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Catholics don’t believe that next week a revelation could be received saying “now, anointing with the blood of a goat on your 21st birthday is necessary for salvation”.  God has already revealed how we are to be saved and receive eternal life, therefore there is no more Revelation to be given on that.  However, that does not mean that God stopped speaking, or that the Heavens closed.  Indeed, Catholicism is rich with various miraculous and Divine events throughout its history, up to the present day.  Catholics are well aware of God not only providing personal guidance through the Holy Spirit, but miracles, healings, visions, visitations, etc.  The Marian visions are one subset of such matters.  Catholics believe that the Ecumenical Councils are guided by the Holy Spirit.  Catholics believe that the Church is guided by God and will never fail or fall into apostasy.  Therefore, Shuster fundamentally misunderstands how Catholics view revelation.

Shuster also does not understand how Catholics view prayer.  He criticizes the Catholic practice of intercessory prayer, without realizing that he condemns a very common, Biblical, Christian practice: asking others to pray for one another.  He asks “why pray to Mary or a saint, when you can go right to the Father himself with prayers?”.  The answer is simple: for the same reason that you would ask your wife or your neighbor to pray for you!  Why ask your mother to pray for you when you can just pray to God directly?  Catholics believe that the Church is a Communion of Saints.  The saints on earth can ask the saints in Heaven to pray for us just like we can ask our friend next door to pray for us.  I don’t know about his parents, but my parents and catechists explained that we don’t pray to statues (he expresses that he prayed to statues as a child based on his misunderstanding what others were doing), and that God answers our prayers, and we can ask our friends on earth and Heaven to help us by praying for us too.  Further, his commentary on “vain repetition” is not based on how knowledgeable, practicing Catholics understand things like the Rosary or elements of the Mass (no actual Catholic would view them as “vain”, or would go about such things without actually understanding what they’re doing, which seems to be the problem with Shuster’s criticism).  Many times, Shuster bases his criticism or negative observation on his own misunderstandings and failings, and not on how the practice is supposed to be done (and anyone that has been to a LDS ward for an extended period of time will become familiar with formulaic prayers.  While they are not written down prayers, they all follow the same format, 9/10 times you’ll hear something like “we’re thankful for this beautiful Sabbath day…please bless that we will get home safely…we pray for those that were unable to attend today…please bless us as we go about the rest of our meetings/our day…etc”.  And nowhere is repetition more present than in the LDS temples, I say from experience in all of the ordinances performed therein).

A detailed review of this book will be published on this blog hopefully in a week or two (busy with the new semester), however so far, I cannot recommend this book, nor do I think it is convincing to a Catholic that actually understands their beliefs (see the Amazon reviews and comments for a few others that agree).

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8 Responses to Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest-Book Review Shortly

  1. April says:

    I am also reading this book, and I agree with you. I emailed Mr. Shuster with some points about his misunderstandings, and misrepresentations. I found it difficult to believe that he and his wife failed to understand or in some cases didn’t even know fundamental Catholic doctrines, especially given his claims about their Catholic education. His response was that “most Catholics” don’t know anything about their faith, so he was in a better position than them to critique Catholicism. He also stated that he based his assessment of Catholicism “experience” with Catholic people, instead of actual Catholic doctrine. It seems to me that he and his wife were just looking for someone to tickle their ears, and the Mormons told them exactly what they wanted to hear.

    • I completely agree. While the book isn’t a complete failure in presenting Catholic doctrine and thinking, it does get major, foundational, things wrong.

      I don’t see why he would say “most Catholics” don’t know anything about their faith, which has no relevance to his own apparent lack of knowledge on his former faith. Further, basing his assessment of Catholicism “experience” with Catholic people, instead of actual Catholic doctrine makes no sense. Many times, he ends up critiquing a straw man, and not what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Whether individual Catholics know what their faith actually teaches is not relevant to those actual teachings and comparing them to the actual teachings of the LDS faith.

      Shuster attempted to present himself and his wife as devout, knowledgeable Catholics. While they may have been devout, it seems that they were not as knowledgeable as they think they were (looking at comments by actual Catholics on Amazon and elsewhere shows that it isn’t just me thinking this).

      Thanks!

  2. Phillip says:

    “This is readily apparent in the section on the Trinity, where he bungles the definition of the Trinity (no Trinitarian would ever claim that it means that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three beings but not three beings but really one being), and ends up critiquing the heresy of Modalism (this is a frequent LDS mistake, even occurring in General Conference, where they rhetorically ask why Jesus was praying to Himself, which no Trinitarian would ever claim, nor is that a valid result of Trinitarian belief, but is one of the ancient Modalism heresy, and it seems as if Shuster is not aware of the difference between Modalism and Trinitarianism).”

    Even though growing up Mormon I had nearly 40 years of anti-Catholic indoctrination, after a only a couple of weeks studying Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy I knew better than that. Sheesh! The sad thing is that when I converted to Catholicism my father bought that very book and read it. Now he probably figures himself an expert on all things Catholic since he has an “insider’s” perspective. Hard for me to correct it since religion is still a sensitive topic for us 😦

    • That’s hard. Maybe one day it’ll be easier to discuss. I know how those things go, especially when I converted to Mormonism, since my family is Catholic. Perhaps one day you can share another book with him so that he has a better idea of what Catholics believe!

    • HojaVerde says:

      Hi Philip. It’s a great thing, a gift from Heaven, to become catholic. Congratulations! I wish some day your family understand catholic teachings as well. Pray a lot and know that God is always with you. May the Lord Bless you!

  3. Bertrand says:

    The dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum (par. 8) contains a statement that should disarm the common LDS mischaracterization of the Catholic view of divine Revelation —

    “God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).”

    In short, the Catholic Church asserts that God’s conversation with her is without rupture.

  4. HojaVerde says:

    ldsguy2catholic, I have a question. Does the writer say anything about Monotheism (Catholicism) and Polytheism (Mormonism)? As the Bible is totally clear regarding to the existence of only One God, I couldn’t understand his position. I’m just curious.

    By the way, and a bit of topic, today I’ve seen Mormon missionaries. I knew one of them (from previous talks) so we’ve been talking for five minutes or so, but only to know how we were. They seemed to be in a hurry so they have gone on their way, so me too. I don’t know if they see me as a spirit of contention (I don’t remember if that is the right expression) or what.

    My question here would be what to do, if try to talk with missionaries (of course, very nicely) or only try to avoid them. What should I do? Sometimes I feel I ought to help them as best as I can as a moral duty, and try to plant a seed on them. I really appreciate them. Sometimes I think I should forget them and focus in other issues.

    The rest of the people in my country (Spain) seems not to worry about them (and about JW’s, 7-day adventists, and so on). Native people here don’t convert to Mormonism (they are now very indifferent towards religion in general), but foreign people from South America here, convert to them very easily and get baptize. I’m sure they don’t stay active so long though.

    • Jessica says:

      HojaVerde, when you come across missionaries, be polite and respectful. Listen to what they have to say and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your words. Let them know where you stand w/Christ and your faith and if you have any questions for what they told you, don’t be afraid to ask them and then tell them what you believe. If you have a testimony, give it, and then offer to pray for them. I always offer them water when they come to my door and make light conversation so that they feel more at ease. I’ve read the BOM, and I do have an actual testimony of it (though not a good one for them), and that helps me when they ask. All in all, just try to be a good representative of Christ to them, show them through your words and actions that you do have a relationship w/Christ and that will be a seed sown.

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