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.