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).