10 Reasons You Should Be Mormon-A Response

So I was reading an LDS-related forum, and saw a thread about this blog post.  At the outset, I should say that I certainly appreciate the zeal and love that the poster has for her faith, which motivates her to want to share the things that she loves about it (coupled of course with the instruction from church leaders to be “member missionaries”, as well as utilizing technology to share the LDS view of the Gospel).  I thought I’d comment on a few of the points from my perspective (and of course I’ll shortly share a 10 Reasons You Should Be Catholic!):

1) ” Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. A lot of people believe we don’t worship Jesus Christ…but we do! (Just check out the church’s full name.) We believe in the same Jesus Christ that other Christian faiths believe in. He is the Son of God and died for our sins.”

My response: I do agree that Mormons love Jesus Christ, believe that He is the Son of God, and suffered and died for our sins.  Mormons believe that we are to follow His example.  However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they “believe in the same Jesus Christ that other Christian faiths believe in”.  Primarily, the Divine origins of Jesus Christ are fundamentally different.  Latter-day Saints believe that we are all sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents-God the Father and His spouse, Heavenly Mother.  Jesus Christ, known as “Jehovah” in the pre-mortal existence, was the literal firstborn spirit son of our Heavenly Parents (the Holy Ghost is also a spirit son of our Parents).  In contrast, Catholics and other traditional Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God the Son, but is also the eternal Son of God.  The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are believed to be in an eternal relationship, and the Son did not have to be spiritually born.  He is eternally the Son of the Father.  There never was a time when God did not exist as God, and there never was a time when Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost were not members of the eternal Trinity.   Also, God the Father is not married to a Heavenly Mother, therefore there is no reference to “Heavenly Parents” (an idea found nowhere in the writings of the earliest Christians, including the New Testament).  Latter-day Saints therefore see a “beginning” of sorts with Jesus in the pre-mortal existence, just like with all of us (noting of course their belief in an eternal, uncreated “intelligence” that we all have), while Catholics believe that Jesus has eternally existed as the Son, and did not have to be spiritually begotten at some point (He is said to be “eternally begotten”).

Another interesting difference is that traditional Christians are generally okay with praying directly to Jesus Christ.  Since Jesus Christ is God, is Divine, we can worship and pray to Him.  In contrast, Latter-day Saints believe that you can only pray to the Father, in the name of the Son.
2. “God still speaks to the world through a prophet. Remember in the Bible when God called prophets? Well guess what?? He still does! There is a living prophet today named Thomas S. Monson, and there are also 12 apostles. Joseph Smith was the first modern-day prophet who was called by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth after years of people creating their own faiths. The only way you can know there’s a prophet is through listening to what he has to say and praying to know for yourself.”

My response: Catholics agree that God still speaks to prophets.  Catholics don’t believe that God has ever stopped talking to His children, contrary to LDS beliefs about the Heavens being closed until they were reopened in the 1800s.  Catholic history is filled with wondrous and miraculous visions, Heavenly visitations, miracles, etc.  Indeed, these have happened, and still do, and are talked about, much more frequently in Catholicism than Mormonism!  Walk into any Catholic church, and you’ll most likely see a statue or painting/icon of Mary, the mother of Christ, depicting one of her many miraculous visitations around the world, throughout Catholic history.  There are many examples of Catholic visionaries and prophets.  Catholics believe that we can all receive inspiration and guidance from God, and also that the Church itself has Jesus Christ at its Head, and is protected by the Holy Spirit from ever failing, being corrupted, and its leaders are guided in Council, and the Pope individually, by the Spirit when they formally expound on Divine truths.  I find that the Catholic Church regards the guidance of God to His children in His Kingdom on earth much more highly than Latter-day Saints; so much more highly that an apostasy of the Church is an impossibility to Catholics, since God is a merciful God, despite our sins and human failures (the Church being a Divine institution, not a man-made one).

As mentioned in other posts, I also am troubled by  the 15 men sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators in the LDS Church.  I know others have expressed similar views.  They simply don’t function as prophets!  In my view, they don’t do or say anything different from the leaders of various Protestant churches.  Gone are the days of talking about Heavenly visitations for LDS (indeed, when asked if the leaders have actually seen Christ, we are often told that it is too sacred to talk about, which contradicts how the early leaders, including Joseph Smith, viewed such things).  Gone are the days of discovering ancient texts and translating them.  The last time the D&C was updated, in 1978, it was to open the priesthood to all worthy males, when blacks were restricted from holding the priesthood until then (they were also restricted from entering temples).  And even in that case, it is not an actual revelation that is found in the D&C; it’s only an official declaration that a revelation was received.  Where is the canonized text of the revelation, just like we can read in the rest of the D&C?  For that matter, where is the text of the revelation ending plural marriage?  In my view, the LDS prophets, seers, and revelators today do not function like the Biblical ones, let alone like Joseph Smith.   See these posts for more:

Is The Prophet a Prophet-Two Interesting Articles

The Heavens Are Closed?-LDS Misunderstanding of Orthodox Views on Revelation

6. Death does NOT separate families. God put us on this earth in families so we can learn and grow together. We all have a need for a family unit where we can learn how to avoid the evils of this world and become strong. Satan is constantly attacking the family today because it is the most important thing in our lives. But would God put us here in families just to break them apart at death?? Of course not! That’s why when we are married it is not til death, but for all time and eternity. This is done in the 141 temples around the world, where families are being united every day.”

My response: This is something that I thought about a lot.  Generally, we love our families, and want to be with them forever.  LDS claim to be able to seal families together for eternity, and that traditional Christians believe that families end at death.  Fortunately, as a Catholic, I can say that the LDS criticism does not hold water, and also that you have nothing to worry about.

I like beginning discussing this issue with a brief thought exercise:  the LDS view on sealing ends up with exactly how traditional Christians view life in Heaven.  When you hear about eternal families, it’s often explained and imagined as you being with your spouse and children forever.  However, here is how I see it ending up: I am sealed to my wife.  We are also sealed to our children.  I am sealed to my parents, and my wife is sealed to  her parents.  Our parents are sealed to their own parents.  Our children become sealed to their spouses (and remain sealed to us), and their spouses are already sealed to their own parents, who are sealed to their own parents.  So, how does this eternal families concept really work?  What ends up happening is that everyone is sealed to everyone else.  There is no eternal nuclear family unit, since we’re all sealed to others outside of our nuclear family (and our children will start their own nuclear families).  This is similar to the Catholic view on life in Heaven.  For Catholics, God does not break up families in Heaven.  Rather, He expands them!  In Heaven, we are all one Family, members of the family of God, united in Christ.  In Heaven, we love the way God loves, and He loves all of us.  If our spouses and children are in Heaven, we can be with them.  We’ll have all of our earthly memories.  There won’t be some sort of amnesia where we forget who our wife was, or who our children were.  So, while the LDS claim of eternal families is certainly attractive, it doesn’t end up working out how it is imagined, and the Catholic view of Heaven is much more expansive and demonstrative of God’s universal love for all His children.

7. Temples!!!!!!!!! You’ve probably seen a temple in a picture or real life, but they aren’t just pretend castles. In ancient times, God commanded His people to build temples to perform sacred ordinances, like marriage which I mentioned above. With the restoration of His church through the prophet Joseph Smith, temples became a commandment once again. They are beautiful and the House of the Lord on earth. You can feel the peace there even just walking around the grounds.

My response: As I’m sure you know, I love the temple and the temple concept.  The temple was probably my favorite thing about being a Latter-day Saint.  I loved going, and at one point, I went once a week.  Coming from a Catholic background, the temple was something I needed, especially when compared with the more bare and noisy meetinghouses.  So, I’ve read a lot about temples, ancient and the modern LDS ones, and have extensively read the LDS-related apologetics on the matter (I actually just bought the book “Ascending the Mountain of the Lord-Temple, Praise, and Worship“, composed of articles from the upcoming BYU Sperry Symposium).

Yes, in ancient times God commanded His people to build a tabernacle and temples.  However, no, marriage was not performed in those sacred edifices.  Nor were proxy baptisms and confirmations.  The primary ritual that occurred there was sacrifice.  Interestingly, as I’ve read about the temple and ancient rites (Margaret Barker especially), I have been strengthened in my belief in the authenticity of Catholic liturgical practices, finding them to be in direct continuity with ancient Israelite practices, including those related to temples.  Indeed, Catholic churches, basilicas, chapels, and cathedrals are all regarded as temples, being the literal House of God, where His presence dwells (i.e. the Real Presence).  Sacred rituals are performed there, including sacrifice (the Eucharist is regarded as a real propitiatory sacrifice offered by the priesthood), washings, anointings, the singing of psalms, sacred feasts and festivals, sacred vestments, blessings, incense, bread and wine offering, the presence of angels, altars, a division of the building into three major parts, etc.  As much as I loved the LDS temple, I found the Catholic equivalent to be more temple-like, and more in continuity with the ancient Israelite tabernacle and temples.  And as mentioned, the ancient Biblical temples did not involve the performance of marriages.

8. Authority from God. No one can just stand up and decide they have authority from God to start a church. That’s what people thought in the days after the death of Christ and His apostles. Many churches were formed and people had this idea that they could start a church however they wanted. Some had good intentions as well. But that authority that was given by God to baptize, preach the gospel, basically run His church on earth, was brought back! Now it lies in our church, because God restored it through a prophet just as He always has.-

My response: Catholics agree.  Catholics believe that authority comes from God, from those in authority from Him.  While there were people in the days after Christ that thought they could just decide for themselves that they have authority and start a church, the Catholic Church maintained the true authority from God to baptize, preach the Gospel, and run God’s Church.  That authority remained after Christ gave it, and it did not disappear (since Christ maintains His own Body, His own Kingdom).  A restoration was not necessary, since the authority was never gone.

10. HAPPINESS FOREVER! I am in no way going to say that being a Mormon means no trials. FALSE. Sometimes our trials are even greater because we have the whole truth. But, we can handle our hard times and our struggles so much easier with the knowledge we do have. Happiness is so much more abundant when we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and try to be better everyday. People often ask me how I can be so happy all the time, and it’s because I know where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going.-

My response:  Happiness isn’t limited to those in the LDS faith.  Indeed, since leaving the LDS faith and returning to my Catholic faith, I have literally never felt happier, including when I was LDS.  I do agree that happiness is much more abundant when we follow the teachings of Christ and try to be better everyday.  Indeed, by following His teachings, we can have eternal happiness.  However, people of many faiths would claim the same thing, including the Catholic faith.  What I find that is most important is what is eternally saving, and while LDS believe that is found in their faith, I believe that it is found in the Catholic one.  As a Catholic, I also know where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going (God willing).

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Is The Prophet a Prophet?-Two Interesting Articles

Recently, I participated in a discussion on a message board about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is really led by “living prophets” that function in the same way that the Biblical prophets, that Latter-day Saints tend to compare them to, did.  This topic is always interesting to me, especially because the concept of having “living prophets”, prophets just like Moses, Abraham, Noah, Isaiah, Paul, etc, sounds attractive, and implies a continuity  with the prophetic calling of the various Biblical prophets.  I particularly loved reading the phrase “living oracles”, as the word “oracle” particularly implies that these men are more than just everyday men that receive inspiration from God just like everyone else is able to.

When I would embrace my duties as a “member missionary“, I would almost always bring up the subject of having prophets and apostles, and how these were found in the Bible, and then disappeared, but now, through the Restoration, we have living prophets and apostles that guide God’s people, receiving Divine revelation, just like they did anciently.   I remember one conversation when the person I was talking to asked what the latest revelation was.  I wasn’t sure if I should bring up the issue of the priesthood restriction and how in 1978, the Prophet receive revelation from God to allow all worthy males to be ordained to the priesthood, when previously, blacks were restricted from ordination.  Somehow, being an African American, talking to another African American, it seemed as if bringing that up wouldn’t be conducive to my member missionary work (and indeed, another friend at a later time did his own research, found out about the priesthood restriction, read the various negative and racist statements various leaders made during that time, and was turned off).  So, I thought, and thought, and thought, and wasn’t sure what I should bring up as the latest revelation the Prophet received, that demonstrated his prophetic calling as distinct from the [non-prophet] leaders of other Christian Churches.  I could bring up building more, smaller temples, or the lowering of the missionary ages, or the Family: A Proclamation to the World, yet none of those had a recorded revelation in the same way that we have in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the latter day revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (and even with the priesthood restriction, there is no recorded revelation of the Lord speaking to His prophet, in the same way that we read in the rest of the D&C; there’s only an Official Declaration that says that a revelation was received), and didn’t really seem on par with the Biblical revelations and guidance received by the prophets, nor even on par with the experiences of Joseph Smith, recorded in the D&C.

It was this conversation that really got me thinking about the 15 men we sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and whether they really functioned as prophets, seers, and revelators, and were on par with Abraham, Moses, Noah, Malachi, Paul, etc, or whether they were no different than the leaders of other Christian Churches.

Rewinding back to the discussion I was having recently online, I happened upon two articles written at Zomarah’s blog, and found them very well written and expressed the viewpoint I came to hold, and a viewpoint that probably many Latter-day Saints have on their living prophets.  Here are links to them:

Thomas S. Monson: A Seer, A Revelator, a Translator, and a Prophet

Silent Revelations

So, I’m sure that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are well meaning men, who believe they are inspired in their duties, just like how most Christians believe they can receive inspiration from God to guide them.  I don’t ascribe any ill-will to them, however I really wonder how the “living prophets” claim is really something that provides something different than what can be found in other Churches, something different that resulted from the Restoration.  I believe I have my answer, hence why I reverted back to the Catholic Church, which believes that, although the Pope and the College/Council of Bishops are certainly guided by the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church, preventing doctrinal error and innovation, teaching God’s children by the Spirit, etc, that the Holy Spirit guides the unfolding understanding of the Deposit of Faith given anciently, and that when they gather in Council, the proceedings and conclusions are Spirit-inspired, we don’t necessarily believe that they are prophets, though God has called various men and women throughout Catholic history to be prophets, and prophetesses, who have received visions and visitations from Heaven, some including warnings and prophecies about the future, including the various popular visitations of Mary, and that many of these prophetic events have resulted in miracles, such as Lourdes Water from a spring in France.  These people had and have demonstrable prophetic encounters and abilities, and really are fascinating to me, especially in comparison to the leaders sustained by Latter-day Saints as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, 15 of them.