Category Archives: LDS

Sola Scriptura is unbiblical


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

During his four-year tour, he became involved in ministry with various Assemblies of God communities. Immediately after his tour of duty, Tim enrolled in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and became a youth minister in an Assembly of God community. During his final year in the Marines, however, Tim met a Marine who really knew his faith and challenged Tim to study Catholicism from Catholic and historical sources. That encounter sparked a two-year search for the truth. Tim was determined to prove Catholicism wrong, but he ended up studying his way to the last place he thought he would ever end up: the Catholic Church!

He converted to Catholicism in 1988 and spent the following six years in formation for the priesthood, earning a degree in philosophy from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. He then studied theology on a graduate level at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for two years. Realizing that his calling was not to the priesthood, Tim left the seminary in 1994 and has been working in Catholic apologetics and evangelization ever since.

“Sola Scriptura was the central doctrine and foundation for all I believed when I was Protestant. On a popular level, it simply meant, “If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!” And it seemed so simple. Unassailable. And yet, I do not recall ever hearing a detailed teaching explicating it. It was always a given. Unchallenged. Diving deeper into its meaning, especially when I was challenged to defend my Protestant faith against Catholicism, I found there to be no book specifically on the topic and no uniform understanding of this teaching among Protestant pastors.

Once I got past the superficial, I had to try to answer real questions like, what role does tradition play? How explicit does a doctrine have to be in Scripture before it can be called doctrine? How many times does it have to be mentioned in Scripture before it would be dogmatic? Where does Scripture tell us what is absolutely essential for us to believe as Christians? How do we know what the canon of Scripture is using the principle of sola scriptura? Who is authorized to write Scripture in the first place? When was the canon closed? Or, the best question of all: where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible? These questions and more were left virtually unanswered or left to the varying opinions of various Bible teachers.

The Protestant Response

In answer to this last question, “Where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible?” most Protestants will immediately respond as I did, by simply citing II Tm. 3:16:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

“How can it get any plainer than that? Doesn’t that say the Bible is all we need?” Question answered.

The fact is: II Timothy 3—or any other text of Scripture—does not even hint at sola scriptura. It says Scripture is inspired and necessary to equip “the man of God,” but never does it say Scripture alone is all anyone needs. We’ll come back to this text in particular later. But in my experience as a Protestant, it was my attempt to defend this bedrock teaching of Protestantism that led me to conclude: sola scriptura is 1) unreasonable 2) unbiblical and 3) unworkable.

Sola Scriptura is Unreasonable

When defending sola scriptura, the Protestant will predictably appeal to his sole authority—Scripture. This is a textbook example of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning which betrays an essential problem with the doctrine itself. One cannot prove the inspiration of a text from the text itself. The Book of Mormon, the Hindu Vedas, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Koran, and other books claim inspiration. This does not make them inspired. One must prove the point outside of the text itself to avoid the fallacy of circular reasoning.

Thus, the question remains: how do we know the various books of the Bible are inspired and therefore canonical? And remember: the Protestant must use the principle of sola scriptura in the process.

II Tim. 3:16 is not a valid response to the question. The problems are manifold. Beyond the fact of circular reasoning, for example, I would point out the fact that this verse says all Scripture is inspired tells us nothing of what the canon consists. Just recently, I was speaking with a Protestant inquirer about this issue and he saw my point. He then said words to the effect of, “I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth as Jesus said in Jn. 16:13. The Holy Spirit guided the early Christians and helped them to gather the canon of Scripture and declare it to be the inspired word of God. God would not leave us without his word to guide us.”

That answer is much more Catholic than Protestant! Yes, Jn. 16:13 does say the Spirit will lead the apostles—and by allusion, the Church—into all truth. But this verse has nothing to say about sola scriptura. Nor does it say a word about the nature or number of books in the canon. Catholics certainly agree that the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to canonize the Scriptures because the Catholic Church teaches that there is an authoritative Church guided by the Holy Spirit. The obvious problem is my Protestant friend did not use sola scriptura as his guiding principle to arrive at his conclusion. How does, for example, Jn. 16:13 tell us that Hebrews was written by an apostolic writer and that it is inspired of God? We would ultimately have to rely on the infallibility of whoever “the Holy Spirit” is guiding to canonize the Bible so that they could not mishear what the Spirit was saying about which books of the Bible are truly inspired.

In order to put this argument of my friend into perspective, can you imagine if a Catholic made a similar claim to demonstrate, say, Mary to be the Mother of God? “We believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and guided the early Christians to declare this truth.” I can almost hear the response. “Show me in the Bible where Mary is the Mother of God! I don’t want to hear about God guiding the Church!” Wouldn’t the same question remain for the Protestant concerning the canon? “Show me in the Bible where the canon of Scripture is, what the criterion for the canon is, who can and cannot write Scripture, etc.”

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

The Protestant response at this point is often an attempt to use the same argument against the Catholic. “How do you know the Scriptures are inspired? Your reasoning is just as circular because you say the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so and then say the Scriptures are inspired and infallible because the Church says so!”

The Catholic Church’s position on inspiration is not circular. We do not say “the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so, and the Scriptures are inspired because the infallible Church says so.” That would be a kind of circular reasoning. The Church was established historically and functioned as the infallible spokesperson for the Lord decades before the New Testament was written. The Church is infallible because Jesus said so.

Having said that, it is true that we know the Scriptures to be inspired because the Church has told us so. That is also an historical fact. However, this is not circular reasoning. When the Catholic approaches Scripture, he or she begins with the Bible as an historical document, not as inspired. As any reputable historian will tell you, the New Testament is the most accurate and verifiable historical document in all of ancient history. To deny the substance of the historical documents recorded therein would be absurd. However, one cannot deduce from this that they are inspired. There are many accurate historical documents that are not inspired. However, the Scriptures do give us accurate historical information whether one holds to their inspiration or not. Further, this testimony of the Bible is backed up by hundreds of works by early Christians and non-Christian writers like Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and more. It is on this basis that we can say it is an historical fact that Jesus lived, died, and was reported to be resurrected from the dead by over 500 eyewitnesses. Many of these eyewitnesses went to their deaths testifying to the veracity of the Christ-event (see Lk. 1:1-4, Jn. 21:18-19, 24-25, Acts 1:1-11, I Cr. 15:1-8).

Now, what do we find when we examine the historical record? Jesus Christ—as a matter of history–established a Church, not a book, to be the foundation of the Christian Faith (see Mt. 16:15-18; 18:15-18. Cf. Eph. 2:20; 3:10,20-21; 4:11-15; I Tm. 3:15; Hb. 13:7,17, etc.). He said of his Church, “He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). The many books that comprise what we call the Bible never tell us crucial truths such as the fact that they are inspired, who can and cannot be the human authors of them, who authored them at all, or, as I said before, what the canon of Scripture is in the first place. And this is just to name a few examples. What is very clear historically is that Jesus established a kingdom with a hierarchy and authority to speak for him (see Lk. 20:29-32, Mt. 10:40, 28:18-20). It was members of this Kingdom—the Church—that would write the Scripture, preserve its many texts and eventually canonize it. The Scriptures cannot write or canonize themselves. To put it simply, reason clearly rejects sola scriptura as a self-refuting principle because one cannot determine what the “scriptura” is using the principle of sola scriptura.

Sola Scriptura is Unbiblical

Let us now consider the most common text used by Protestants to “prove” sola scriptura, II Tm. 3:16, which I quoted above:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The problem with using this text as such is threefold: 1. Strictly speaking, it does not speak of the New Testament at all. 2. It does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians. 3. The Bible teaches oral Tradition to be on a par with and just as necessary as the written Tradition, or Scripture.

1. What’s Old is Not New

Let us examine the context of the passage by reading the two preceding verses:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood (italics added) you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

In context, this passage does not refer to the New Testament at all. None of the New Testament books had been written when St. Timothy was a child! To claim this verse in order to authenticate a book, say, the book of Revelation, when it had most likely not even been written yet, is more than a stretch. That is going far beyond what the text actually claims.

2. The Trouble With Sola

As a Protestant, I was guilty of seeing more than one sola in Scripture that simply did not exist. The Bible clearly teaches justification by faith. And we Catholics believe it. However, we do not believe in justification by faith alone because, among many other reasons, the Bible says, we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, emphasis added). Analogously, when the Bible says Scripture is inspired and profitable for “the man of God,” to be “equipped for every good work,” we Catholics believe it. However, the text of II Tim. 3:16 never says Scripture alone. There is no sola to be found here either! Even if we granted II Tm. 3:16 was talking about all of Scripture, it never claims Scripture to be the sole rule of faith. A rule of faith, to be sure! But not the sole rule of faith.

James 1:4 illustrates clearly the problem with Protestant exegesis of II Tim. 3:16:

And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If we apply the same principle of exegesis to this text that the Protestant does to II Tm. 3:16 we would have to say that all we need is patience to be perfected. We don’t need faith, hope, charity, the Church, baptism, etc.

Of course, any Christian would immediately say this is absurd. And of course it is. But James’s emphasis on the central importance of patience is even stronger than St. Paul’s emphasis on Scripture. The key is to see that there is not a sola to be found in either text. Sola patientia would be just as much an error as is sola scriptura.

3. The Tradition of God is the Word of God

Not only is the Bible silent when it comes to sola scriptura, but Scripture is remarkably plain in teaching oral Tradition to be just as much the word of God as is Scripture. In what most scholars believe was the first book written in the New Testament, St. Paul said:

And we also thank God… that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God… (I Thess. 2:13)

II Thess. 2:15 adds:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions you have been taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

According to St. Paul, the spoken word from the apostles was just as much the word of God as was the later written word.

Sola Scriptura is Unworkable

When it comes to the tradition of Protestantism—sola scriptura—the silence of the text of Scripture is deafening. When it comes to the true authority of Scripture and Tradition, the Scriptures are clear. And when it comes to the teaching and governing authority of the Church, the biblical text is equally as clear:

If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone … But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you … If he refuses to listen … tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Mt. 18:15-17)

According to Scripture, the Church—not the Bible alone—is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith and discipline. But isn’t it also telling that since the Reformation of just ca. 480 years ago—a reformation claiming sola scriptura as its formal principle—there are now over 33,000 denominations that have derived from it?

For 1,500 years, Christianity saw just a few enduring schisms (the Monophysites, Nestorians, the Orthodox, and a very few others). Now in just 480 years we have this? I hardly think that when Jesus prophesied there would be “one shepherd and one fold” in Jn. 10:16, this is what he had in mind. It seems quite clear to me that not only is sola scriptura unreasonable and unbiblical, but it is unworkable. The proof is in the puddin’!”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Idols – Ex 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” –Ex 20:4-6

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region (commonly referred to as the Amazon synod) met in Rome from 6 to 27 October 2019. Pope Francis announced on 15 October 2017 that it would work “to identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region”, specifically the indigenous peoples.

The Amazon basin, according to one Vatican report, covers some 6,000,000 km^2, with a population of 2.8 million divided among 400 tribes that speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families. The Synod defines the region to include all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.

On Oct. 21, five statues were taken, apparently quite early in the morning, from the Carmelite Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, four blocks from St. Peter’s Basilica. They were thrown off a nearby bridge into the Tiber River. These events have been a source of much controversy in the Church.

In a Universal Church, especially one that spans the globe, just like in any society, some Catholics do weird things; depending on what side of weird you may be standing on from the viewpoint of the other doing weird things from your point of view, being human.  They may be misunderstood, culturally, or not, or they may be wrong, or somewhere in between.  Welcome to being human.  Love one another.  Even if they throw your artwork off a bridge.  -cf Jn 13:34-35


-pachamama statue in Santa Maria in Traspontina

-Amazon synod participants bow in tree planting ceremony, Vatican gardens

Catholics ONLY WORSHIP GOD!!!!!!!! – dulia, hyperdulia, honor, veneration vs latria, adoration, worship

CCC 2132 “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”


-by Karlo Broussard

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church approve of religious statues when the Bible forbids having graven images?

Catholics are known for putting statues and images in their churches and using them in their private devotions. The Catechism affirms such devotions, calling the “honor paid to sacred images” a “respectful veneration” (2132).

But, for many Protestants this is problematic, biblically speaking. God commands in Exodus 20:4-5,

You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.

God says, “No graven images,” but yet the Catholic Church has images all over the place. God says, “Don’t bow down to images,” but the Catholic Church encourages such acts of piety. These Catholic practices contradict God’s word.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. In these verses, God can’t be condemning religious statues and images, because elsewhere he explicitly commands making them.

Consider, for example, the two gold cherubim (cast sculptures of angels) that God commanded to be put on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exod. 25:18-20). God also instructed that cherubim be woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Exod. 26:1).

When God gave instructions for building the temple during the reign of King Solomon, he commanded that two fifteen-foot tall cherubim statues be placed in the holy of holies (1 Kings 6:23-28) and that “figures of cherubim” be carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Later, in 1 Kings 9:3, we read that God approved of such things, saying to Solomon, “I have consecrated this house which you have built, and put My name there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there for all time.” God’s blessing on the temple is certain evidence that He doesn’t oppose having statues and sacred images in places of worship.

Another example where God commanded the making of a statue is Numbers 21:6-9. The Israelites were suffering from venomous snakebites; in order to heal them, God instructed Moses to construct a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so that those who were bitten could look upon it and be healed (Num. 21:6-9). God did later command that the bronze serpent be destroyed, but only because the Israelites started worshiping it as a god (2 Kings 18:4).

2.  What God’s commandment forbids is the making of idols.

The context bears this out. Consider the prohibition that precedes it: “You shall have no other gods before me” (v.3).

Then after the passage in question, we read, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Given this contextual prohibition of idolatry, it’s reasonable to conclude that God’s command not to make “graven images” refers to making images to be worshiped as deities, or idols.

Accordingly, we note that every time the Hebrew word for “graven images” (pesel) is used in the Old Testament it’s used in reference to idols or the images of idols. For example, the prophet Isaiah warns, “All who make idols [pesel] are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.” Other examples include, but are not limited to, Isaiah 40:19; 44:9, 17; 45:20, Jeremiah 10:14; 51:17, and Habakkuk 2:18).

Since making idols is what this commandment forbids, the Catholic custom of using statues and images for religious purposes doesn’t contradict it, because Catholics don’t use statues and sacred images as idols. The whole of paragraph 2132 (referenced above) states the following:

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone.

Catholics don’t treat statues, or the people whom the statues represent, as gods. As such, the biblical prohibition of idolatry doesn’t apply.

This challenge from modern Evangelicals shows that there’s nothing new under the sun. The Catholic Church dealt with this sort of objection all the way back in the eighth century when it condemned the heresy of iconoclasm at the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

Iconoclasm was the belief that all religious images are superstitious. In response to this heresy, the council declared that religious images were worthy veneration and that any respect shown to a religious image is really respect given to the person it represents.

In having images or statues of Jesus, angels, Mary, and the saints in its places of worship, the Catholic Church is following the Old Testament precedent of incorporating images of heavenly inhabitants that serve as reminders of Who is present with us when we approach God in liturgical worship.

The representations of the cherubim in the Old Testament served as reminders that they were heavenly inhabitants present with God. Since humans have been admitted into heaven (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 6:9; 7:14-17), it’s reasonable to employ representations of them, too.

What about pious acts directed to the statues, such as bowing? Doesn’t Exodus 20:4 prohibit “bowing” before graven images? Well, the Bible forbids bowing before idols. It doesn’t forbid the physical act of bowing before something or someone when that something or someone is not an idol.

For example, Solomon was not guilty of idolatry when he bowed before his mother in 1 Kings 2:19. It was simply a gesture of honor given her as queen mother. Jesus Himself says in Revelation 3:9 that He will make “those of the synagogue of Satan” “bow down” before the feet of the Christians in Philadelphia. If bowing before another were, in and of itself, an act of worship, Jesus would be causing idolatry. But that’s absurd.

So, pious acts and postures can be legitimate when directed to the person that a statue or picture represents if the action is not used as a sign of the adoration or worship that is due to God alone. And such honor for the saints is their due because of what God has done for them. Jesus says, “If any one serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). The saints in heaven, who our statues represent, have served and do continue to serve Jesus. As such, the Father honors them. And if the Father honors them, we can too.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Are all religious images idols? How can you know?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Among some Christian communities, the commandment not to make “graven images” is listed as the second of the Ten Commandments. This differs from the Catholic numbering of the Ten Commandments. But seeing the prohibition to make “graven images” as part of God’s overall prohibition of idolatry provides an explanation for why the Catholic Church doesn’t consider it a separate commandment.”

Love,
Matthew

The Protestant Challenge

Oral Torah


-by Karlo Broussard

Q. What is the Protestant challenge that you meet in your new book?

Karlo: In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for holding to traditions that entail a rejection of God’s commandment and make void God’s Word. Many Protestants claim several Catholic beliefs fall under this condemnation, because they think such beliefs contradict the Bible.

The challenge usually takes the form, “How can the Catholic Church teach X, when the Bible says Y?” For example, how can the Catholic Church teach that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth when the Bible says that Jesus had brothers (Matt. 13:55)? Or how can the Catholic Church teach that works have a role to play in our salvation when the Bible says in Romans 3:28 that “we are justified by faith and not by works of the law?”

It’s this sort of challenge that I meet in the book, covering fifty of the most common challenges that Protestants make.

Q. Is this challenge the only Protestant challenge? Or, are there other kinds of challenges? If so, how do they differ from this one?

Karlo: The challenge that I meet in my book is not the only challenge. Any Catholic who talks religion with Protestants has at some time been challenged with the question, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

Much of Catholic apologetics, especially since its revival in the late eighties, has centered on answering that question, offering positive arguments for the biblical basis of Catholic doctrine. But, since Catholics don’t operate on the principle of sola scriptura, we don’t believe that every Christian truth has to be explicitly found in Scripture. We also appeal to truths revealed by God and preserved outside of the Bible in Sacred Tradition.

For example, Protestants may ask, “Where is Mary’s bodily assumption in the Bible?” But a Catholic can simply reply, “I don’t need to justify it with Scripture, since I can accept it on the basis that it’s a part of Sacred Tradition as infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII” (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).

Of course, a Protestant is not going to find the above response persuasive (and it would open up other debates about Christian teaching authority). But at least he can’t charge a Catholic with incoherence in his belief.

The kind of Protestant challenge that I address, however, does charge a Catholic with incoherence. And this is the kind of challenge that a Catholic must meet, because whatever the Church teaches, even if derived principally from Sacred Tradition and not the Bible, can’t contradict the Bible. Scripture and Tradition are two streams of revelation that flow from the same source, God.

Our task as Catholics, therefore, is to show that Catholic teaching doesn’t contradict those Bible passages that some Protestants think pose a threat to it. The purpose of this book is to help the reader fulfill this task.

Q. What are some of the main Catholic beliefs that our Protestant friends challenge us on that you show don’t contradict the Bible?

Karlo: I examine fifty challenges that cover a variety of beliefs concerning Church authority, Scripture and Tradition, salvation, the sacraments, Mary and the saints, eschatology (study of the last things), and Catholic life and practice.

So, for example, with regard to Church authority, I defend the Catholic belief that Jesus established his Church with a hierarchy with Peter at the head. With regard to Scripture and Tradition, I defend the Catholic belief that a Christian must accept and honor “both Scripture and Tradition” (CCC 82), because the Church “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone” (82).

On the topic of salvation, I meet challenges to the Catholic belief that salvation and justification are not one-time events of the past but have different stages, and that good works play an essential role when it comes to the ongoing and final stages.

The sacraments that I defend include Baptism, the Eucharist, Confession, the Priesthood, and Marriage.

The challenged beliefs about Mary are the familiar ones: her perpetual virginity, her sinlessness, and her Queenship. The main belief about the saints that I deal with is the intercession of the saints.

With regard to eschatology, I tackle challenges that deal with Purgatory and the Catholic view of the end times in relation to Protestant views on the Rapture and the millennium in Revelation.

Finally, I meet challenges made against the Catholic practices of clerical celibacy, abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, calling priests father, praying the rosary, moderate use of wine, and Catholic statues.

Q. Can you explain a little bit about what the reader should expect when they read each chapter?

Karlo: Each chapter begins with a brief statement of the Catholic belief, usually derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Then, the Protestant challenge to the belief is explained.

The section where I meet the challenge usually consists of two to three ways in which one can show the Catholic belief doesn’t contradict the Bible. Also, some of the responses require that I give positive biblical evidence for the belief. And this, of course, equips the reader with what’s needed to answer the other Protestant challenge, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

After learning how to meet the challenge, the reader is given a “Catholic Counter,” which is a brief question that a Catholic can ask a Protestant as a sort of counter challenge. We can’t always be on the defensive. We have to learn to challenge our Protestant friends’ beliefs as well.

Q. What is the ultimate goal for this book? In other words, what do you hope it will accomplish for the person who reads it?

Karlo: My hope is that the reader will become more efficient in their conversations with Protestants. Also, I hope the book will strengthen the reader’s own faith, helping him or her know that in embracing Catholic teaching he or she is not “making void the word of God through [his or her] tradition” (Mark 7:13).

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Mormonism

Is Jesus Our Eldest Brother?

Once a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane noticed I was reading a book about Mormonism. She said she had recently joined the Mormon Church (the official name for Mormons is “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which some people abbreviate to “LDS”) and so we struck up a conversation. She said she didn’t like it when people held ignorant views towards Mormons and I agreed that bigoted attitudes are unacceptable.

“I mean, we all believe in Jesus, so isn’t that what matters?” she asked.

I gently explained to her that Christians and Mormons don’t mean the same thing when they refer to the person of Jesus. Gordon Hinkley the former president of the Mormon Church, even said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”

Christians believe there is one God who exists as three divine, eternal persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that only God is eternal (see Psalm 90:2).

Mormons, on the other hand, believe there are an infinite number of “intelligences” that have existed for all eternity. God, whom Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” transforms these intelligences into human beings and the faithful Mormons among them will become gods in the next life, going on to create more human beings who will continue this cycle of “exaltation.”

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” like us who existed from eternity past. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “first-born” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body. In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that said, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the first-born among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”

Instead of being completely different in kind from human beings, this counterfeit Christ is only different from us in degree (hence the term “eldest brother”). He is just a more exalted spirit-child of God the Father, which reduces him from being the eternal creator of the universe to being merely one highly praised part of it.

But how can that be true if . . .
…There Is Only One God

Mormonism can best be described as a kind of henotheism, or belief in the existence of many gods (in this case, infinitely many), only one of whom deserves our worship. Mormons strive to become “exalted” and develop into a god just like Heavenly Father, who was once a man like us. Joseph Smith even said at a funeral for Mormon elder King Follett, “You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”

Christians, on the other hand, are monotheists who believe there is one God, though he exists as a Trinity of three persons, each of whom equally possesses the divine nature. And although Mormons will tell you that they, too, believe in “one God,” what they mean is that they believe in one collection of gods. For Mormons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or “the Holy Ghost”) are three gods who cooperate so perfectly they might as well be one God. But this is like saying that a perfectly cooperating baseball team has but one player.

If God or Heavenly Father used to be a man who was later exalted into godhood, then the entire universe would be without an explanation, because we could always ask the atheist’s favorite question: “Who created God?” Positing an infinite cycle of men becoming gods does not explain the existence of the universe any more than an infinitely long chain could explain why a chandelier is hanging in a room. It has to be attached to the ceiling, and likewise, the only explanation for why the universe exists at all is because the God of Christianity, who just is perfect existence itself, created it.

Scripture also clearly teaches there is only one God, and we are to worship him alone.

There’s no doubt that the early Israelites were also henotheists, because they were often tempted to worship other gods that they presumed really existed. But through gradual, divine revelation God’s people came to understand that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods—he was real and they were not. In Isaiah 45:5, God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”

Isaiah 43:10 God declares, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” This can’t refer to false gods or idols, because many of those are still “formed” to this day. Instead, the Bible teaches that no other god besides the one true God has ever existed, and no other god ever will exist. Even scholars who reject evidence for practices of monotheism early in the Old Testament agree that the prophet Isaiah is a witness to God’s people having finally rejected the existence of all other deities except for their own God Yahweh.

The New Testament also firmly teaches not just that Jesus is God, but that there is only one God.

Jesus described God as “the only God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). St. Paul describes God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) and the only being who possesses immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). St. Ignatius wrote in the early second century that the early Christians were persecuted because they “convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son.”

If there is only one God, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully divine and distinct from one another, then the doctrine of the Trinity logically follows. Jesus could not have been an “intelligence” that another god elevated to divinity, but must instead be an inseparable part of the one, triune God who alone has eternal, necessary existence.”

Love,
Matthew

Asking the Right Questions: Mormons

Catholic Answers

“In your discussions with Mormons, they will most often wish to direct the topics presented into those areas where they feel most informed and comfortable. We suggest that you take charge of such conversations. Besides acquainting yourself with the basics of Mormon teaching (in addition, of course, to the fundamentals of the Catholic faith), consider presenting the Mormon apologist with a few questions he will have a difficult time answering.

Does the Mormon church attack other churches?

Many Mormons, including their hierarchy, look upon any criticism—regardless of how honest and sincere—as perverseness inspired by the Evil One. But these same individuals ignore their own past (and present) attacks on Christian churches. You might like to point out a few of these to those Mormons who say their church “never attacks other churches.”

1. “I was answered that I must join none of them (Christian churches), for they were all wrong . . . their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] sight; that those professors were all corrupt” (Joseph Smith—History1:19).

2. “Orthodox Christian views of God are pagan rather than Christian” (Mormon Doctrine of Deity, B. H. Roberts [General Authority], 116).

3. “Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast” (Journal of Discourses, John Taylor [3rd Mormon President], 13:225).

4. “The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon” (Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, Orson Pratt, n. 6, 84).

5. “All the priests who adhere to the sectarian [Christian] religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels” (The Elders Journal, Joseph Smith, ed., vol. 1, n. 4, 60).

6. [Under the heading, “Church of the Devil,” Apostle Bruce R. McConkie lists:] “The Roman Catholic Church specifically—singled out, set apart, described, and designated as being ‘most abominable above all other churches’ (I Ne. 13:5)” (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, 129).

7. “Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls (Morm. 8; Moro. 8)” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, Bruce R. McConkie, 177). Keep in mind that McConkie, who died in 1985, was raised to the level of “apostle” in the Mormon church after he had written all these things.

Is the Mormon church pro-life?

Didn’t you assume Mormons were pro-life? That’s certainly the image their church attempts to broadcast, and most Mormons, in fact, mistakenly believe their church opposes abortion and regards it as an objective evil. But not so.

Indeed, the Mormon church accepts abortion for a number of reasons. The Church Handbook of Instructions, approved in September, 1998, states that abortion may be performed in the following circumstances: pregnancy resulting from rape or incest; a competent physician says the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy; or a competent physician says that the “fetus” has severe defects that will not allow the “baby” to survive beyond birth. In any case, the persons responsible must first consult with their church leader and receive God’s approval in prayer (156).

This same Handbook also claims: “It is a fact that a child has life before birth. However, there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body” (156). Previous teachings by former Mormon prophets referred to the unborn child as “a child,” “a baby,” a “human being,” and decried abortion as “killing,” “a grievous sin,” “a damnable practice.” Spencer W. Kimball, the “prophet” who died in 1985, taught, “We have repeatedly affirmed the position of the church in unalterably opposing all abortions” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 189).

It appears that this “unalterable” position, constantly “affirmed,” is just another in a series of doctrinal and moral teachings that Mormons have reworded, reworked, rescinded, or reneged—though never officially renounced. Such is the quality of the Mormon belief in “continuing revelation.”

A further statement in the Handbook says: “The church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion (156).”

Your Mormon friend will offer the excuse that his church leaves many decisions to the free agency (free will) of its people, and that abortion is one such concern. You might point out the irony in the fact that the Mormon church has no hesitation or uncertainty in making the following declarations:

1. “The church opposes gambling in any form” (including lotteries). Members are also urged to oppose legislation and government sponsorship of any form of gambling (Handbook, 150).

2. The church also opposes [correctly, of course] pornography in any form (158).

3. Church members are to reject all efforts to legally authorize or support same-sex unions (158).

There is no need for a member to pray for divine guidance or seek church approval for such activities, for there will be no divine or ecclesiastical finessing of morality to permit even an occasional bingo game. A prayerful game of poker, unrepented, will bar the member from the temple and ultimate salvation; a prayerful abortion, unrepented, won’t.

Do Mormons know the true nature of God?

Because they believe the Church established by Christ 2,000 years ago fell completely away from his teachings within a century or so of his death, Mormons argue that only a thorough “restoration” (and not a simple “reformation”) of the true Church and its holy doctrines would lead man to salvation. Joseph Smith organized this “restored church” in 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints preaches a belief central to most religions: one must know the true nature of God. “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God” (Teachings of Joseph Smith, 345ff).

No Christian disputes the absolute necessity of knowing the nature of God (to the extent our reason, aided by grace, can apprehend this great mystery). Indeed, the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have been united in a constant belief in the supreme God as almighty, eternal, and unchanging. Mormons have not been favored by similar clarity from their self-described “prophets” who receive “direct revelation” from the gods.

You may wish to ask your Mormon acquaintance to consider the following authoritative statements by their earlier and present prophets.

1. In an early book of “Scripture” brought forth by Joseph Smith, the creation account consistently refers to the singular when speaking of God and creation: “I, God, caused . . . I, God, created . . . I, God, saw. . . . ” The singular is used 50 times in the second and third chapters of the Book of Moses(1831).

2. In another of Smith’s earlier works, the Book of Mormon(1830), there are no references to a plurality of gods. At best, there is a confusion, at times, between the Father and the Son, leading at times to the extreme of modalism (one divine person who reveals himself sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son) or the other extreme of “binitarianism,” belief in two persons in God. The Book of Mormon also makes a strong point for God’s spiritual and eternal unity (see Alma 11:44 and 22:10-11, which proclaims that God is the “Great Spirit”).

3. Another early work of Smith is the Lectures on Faith(1834-35). There is continual evidence that the first Mormon leader taught a form of bitheism: the Father and the Son are separate gods. The Holy Spirit is merely the “mind” of the two.

4. At about the same time, we begin to see a doctrinal shift. Smith had acquired some mummies and Egyptian papyri. He proclaimed the writings to be those of the patriarch, Abraham, in his own hand, and set out to translate the text. His Book of Abrahamrecords in chapters four and five that “the gods called . . . the gods ordered . . . the gods prepared” some 45 times. Smith thus introduces the notion of a plurality of gods.

5. The clearest exposition of this departure from traditional Christian doctrine is seen in Smith’s tale of a “vision” he had as a boy of fourteen. Both the Father and the Son appeared to him, he wrote; they were two separate “personages.” This story of two gods was not authorized and distributed by the church until 1838, after his Book of Abrahamhad paved the way for polytheism.

6. Readers will notice that the Father is said to have appeared, along with his resurrected Son. In his final doctrinal message, Smith showed how this was possible.
In the King Follett Discourse (a funeral talk he gave in 1844), Joseph Smith left his church with the clearest statement to date on the nature of God:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens[.] That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.”

As the Mormon church has taught since that time, God the Father was once a man who was created by his God, was born and lived on another earth, learned and lived the “Mormon gospel,” died, and was eventually resurrected and made God over this universe. As such, he retains forever his flesh-and-bones body.

7. Aside from some temporary detours, the Mormon church has constantly taught that God the Father is a perfected man with a physical body and parts. Right-living Mormon men may also progress, as did the Father, and eventually become gods themselves. In fact, the Mormons’ fifth president, Lorenzo Snow, summed up the Mormon teaching thus: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” (See Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian?, 60, note 1.)

8. “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” What is stranger than a God who starts off as a single Spirit, eternal and all-powerful; who then becomes, perhaps, two gods in one, and then three; who never changes, yet was once born a man, lived, sinned, repented, and died; who was made God the Father of this world by his own God; and who will make his own children gods someday of their own worlds?

That all believing Christians are shocked and disturbed by this blasphemy may be nudging the Mormon leadership to soften their rhetoric (if not actually change their heresy). A case in point is an interview with the church “prophet,” Gordon B. Hinckley, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 13, 1997. When asked: “[D]on’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?” Hinckley demurred. “I wouldn’t say that. There’s a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now, that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about” (3/Z1).

A surprising admission, as Hinckley seems to disparage the constant teaching of all his prophetic predecessors.

Choose, if you like, any one of these three questions: on Christians; on the sanctity of life; on God. Ask your Mormon listener to explain the contradictions of his church. If they aren’t forthcoming, be prepared to offer the truth.”

Love,
Matthew

Mormon becomes Catholic

-by Kendra Clark

“My conversion from Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or LDS) to Catholicism was a bittersweet experience. I am convinced, though, that the events unfolded beautifully according to God’s will. From beginning to end, the story comes full circle. This story takes me home, to a home where I belong.

I was raised in Southern California, in a loving family that did not particularly stress the importance of religion. My mother converted to Mormonism when I was a small child, and I occasionally attended church with my mother.

At the age of 17, I was accepted to Brigham Young University. It was at BYU that I became truly converted ​to Mormonism — or so I thought. In hindsight, I believe I was attracted more to the conservative nature of the LDS church. I appreciated the fact that families could be “together forever,” in eternal marriage, and found the LDS Plan of Salvation attractive. It was a sugar-coated story with a happy ending, and at the tender age of 21, it all was very enticing.

Upon graduating from BYU in 1989, I was married in the Salt Lake Temple and immediately started my family. We lived in Utah for the majority of our marriage and was highly influenced by the LDS culture there. I seemed to fit the ideal Mormon profile: married in the Temple, four beautiful children, attended the Temple regularly, extremely active in my ward and so on.

Later on, I went to medical school at the University of Utah, and while there, logistically distanced myself somewhat from the church. Engrossed in my studies, training, and raising a family, I had to disengage from my usual activities and church responsibilities. When I graduated from U. of Utah in 2007, I returned to the Mormon church on a regular basis. It was at this time that I was able to see Mormonism from a different perspective. As I returned and began to listen to the teachings, something shifted inside of me. I was no longer seduced or convinced by the LDS doctrine, but rather craved the essentials of Christ, His teachings and His word. The journey began with barely perceived but spiritually significant promptings by the Holy Spirit. Looking back, God knew what I needed and supplied it. The draw to stay in the LDS church is supplied by the pressures of family, friends, community, and culture. The promptings that led to my testimony of the fallibility of the LDS church needed to be small but steady, so as not to threaten my conscience that I was being led away by the Adversary.

The Holy Spirit led me, spoke to me and guided me as I craved the essentials of Christ and Christ alone. For the first time, I became aware of the discrepancies in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, man-made ideologies, etc. The LDS teachings and lessons are filled with peripheral teachings that are labeled as modern day revelations, when in fact they are orchestrated by man and are not biblical. Some of the main tenets that led to my disillusionment with the Mormon religion were:

1. Mormons believe that there are many gods (polytheism), and through our obedience to the Gospel, we can become gods. Lorenzo Snow summarized this teaching by stating, “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be.”
2. Mormons believe that God was once a man, and God and man are the same species. The belief is that we can create our own planets and become gods.
3. Mormons believe that God is made of flesh and bones.
4. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was not always divine and that Jesus was once an “intelligence” like us, not always the Son of God.
5. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is our elder brother, even the brother of Lucifer.
6. Mormons believe the Godhead consists of three distinct beings.

This is a small sampling of the discrepancies that I found disturbing after investigating the Bible and its teachings. There are numerous other issues, such as plural marriage in heaven, baptism of the dead, Mormon exclusivity in the Celestial Kingdom, the discrepancies of The Book of Abraham, and the many wives of the early pioneers.

This realization was painful and disconcerting. Church attendance produced conflict in my heart and soul for many months as I researched and scrutinized the various teachings.

I experienced sadness, disappointment, and confusion as I realized the changes I needed to make in my life. I then spent a year and a half living a double life. I would get ready for church with the family, take two Bibles, drop off my children at the LDS church, pretending I was going in as well. Then I would change Bibles, get in the car and drive to the closest local Christian church, where I would worship and praise the Lord, simply and sincerely. I would then rush back to the Mormon church, sit in the pews with my family and live the Mormon dream — with tears in my eyes.

I lived this double life until my oldest son, Austen, was called to the Warsaw, Poland LDS mission. I did not, under any circumstance, want to influence him negatively before his mission, so I kept my double life between my husband and myself. Fortunately, we supported each other in this effort, and my husband eventually decided to join me in distancing himself from the LDS church. Family, friends, neighbors, and people in our ward often wondered why I was becoming less involved in the church and appeared less committed. Mormons are known for their tight-knit, know-everything-about-everybody style. People talked, questioned, wondered about us.

We sent our oldest son to Warsaw, Poland in September of 2009 for a two-year LDS mission. Six months into his mission, we received a heartfelt phone call from him stating that he was experiencing great difficulty teaching the LDS religion to the wonderful, committed, and faithful Catholic people in Poland. He shared with us that he does not believe the things he was teaching, yet in fact, he was quite impressed with the Catholic people and their faithful devotion to Christ. He wanted to return early from his mission, and we supported him fully in this desire. He returned, then, only eight months into his two-year commitment, creating questions, concerns, and judgment from friends, family, and ward members.

Shortly after my son’s return from Poland, my husband received a job promotion which transferred us to Arizona. We were able to start fresh in a new area, worshiping as we wished. Before leaving Utah, we had discussed the changes in our faith with the three younger children. They became very confused and discouraged. It was a difficult transition for them, but since then they have all accepted this decision and are faithful Christians.

The next several years were personally very challenging for me. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, my husband decided to end our 21-year marriage. Within a few months of leaving the church, I moved to a new area, experienced divorce, sent two children off to college, and my mother committed suicide.

I lost my mother, my church, my support system, my friends back home, and I felt utterly alone. But I’ve always been a woman of faith, and I continued to be faithful and committed in my relationship with Jesus Christ and to attend a Christian church regularly.

There were a few significant voids in the non-denominational Christian church I had chosen. I was not comfortable with the informal nature of worship, the rock-’n-roll style of praise, and lack of regular communion or sacrament. I missed the traditional and respectful nature of prayer, and quite honestly, the relationships and fellowship I had enjoyed in the LDS church.

My spiritual journey seemed to have stalled, and I did not know what direction the Lord wanted me to go. However, I knew that He loved me, He would not forsake me, and He wanted to bless me with a full knowledge of truth. There was a period of two years where that full knowledge was not evident to me. I continued to attend church faithfully, worship, pray, read the Bible, all the while offering my heart and soul to Lord, knowing in faith that I would someday be led to His true Church.

It wasn’t easy discerning truth from error after leaving the LDS church. LDS teaching is that, if one leaves the church, he can no longer obtain salvation in the highest Kingdom of Heaven and will forfeit his Eternal Exaltation. After much prayer for strength, clarity and peace, I could eventually see a little more clearly, and for this I was truly thankful.

Three years after this depressing time, I met (my now husband) John. John is a cradle Catholic; however, he was not actively practicing his religion. I also met two wonderful women friends who were Catholic. It seemed that, everywhere I turned, I was meeting Catholics. Maybe I had my Catholic radar active, but it seemed that my closest relationships were with Catholics. I also vaguely recalled being told that I had been baptized Catholic at six weeks of age. I interpreted these “coincidences” as signs from God to pursue the Catholic Faith and approached the opportunity prayerfully.

From that point on, I was increasingly led by the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit to enter the Catholic Church. My beloved father, who was my rock and my strength, suddenly died in 2013. My father was raised Catholic; however, he had distanced himself from Catholicism for most of his adult life. I believe that, after my father’s death, it was his influence which led me to the Catholic Church. I initially had no intention of becoming Catholic, and in fact had always heard negative things about the Church from my father. My intent was one hundred percent fact-finding and, to be quite honest, I believed that I would eventually disprove the teachings of the Catholic Church, check off the box, and go on to the next denomination in my search for truth. After consulting God in prayer, I decided to sign up for the next RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) session at the local parish, knowing zero about the Catholic Church but carrying a laundry list of questions, child-like curiosity and an eager attitude.

I attended RCIA classes with an outward attitude of openness, humility, and an open mind to what might be forthcoming. I clearly hungered after the authentically revealed word of God and any Catholic teaching I could get my hands on. I decided to put my heart and soul into studying and learning about the Church, its doctrine and history. For every doctrine that was taught, I understandably compared it to LDS teachings, and as much as I humbly inquired on the outside, I critiqued thoroughly, and somewhat skeptically, on the inside. I now realize that I was critiquing the doctrine in my head to prove to myself that Catholic doctrine was not correct. Yet with each doctrine taught, I prayed, researched, and prayed some more. The more I studied, researched, and prayed, the more I was drawn toward the Church rather than away from it. The more I questioned the tenets of the Catholic Church, the closer I felt oriented to my True North. This was not at all expected; however, I did not fight it. I embraced the truth as I knew it and had faith that God (and my late father) were leading me home.

I was very involved in my RCIA group. We met for two to three hours every Sunday following Mass, and it was a peaceful and wonderful experience for me.

After prayerful reflection, I decided to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. At the Easter Vigil in April 2014, I was confirmed as a member of the Catholic Faith at St. Patrick’s Parish in Scottsdale, Arizona.

During my RCIA process, I had discussed with my husband the importance of us attending church together on a regular basis as a couple. He agreed and has been very supportive and faithful in his effort and continued spiritual growth.

Before I was confirmed, I decided to file for an annulment of my previous marriage. Because I had been baptized Catholic as an infant and married in the Mormon Temple, an annulment was granted on the basis of lack of form. (The Catholic Church recognizes only those marriages solemnized under Catholic auspices for those who have been baptized Catholic.) My annulment was granted in two weeks’ time, and John and I were sacramentally married in October of 2014.

Interestingly enough, I also found out that the parish in California where I was baptized is also named St. Patrick’s. Patrick is a popular name in our family lineage. My father’s middle name is Patrick, my brother’s middle name is Patrick, my son’s middle name is Patrick, my baptism and confirmation was performed in parishes named after St. Patrick.

Following my father’s passing, I was comforted by the hope that, as a baptized Catholic, he now has the fullness of truth and is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also believe that, now that he has the fullness of truth, he has been guiding me from above in my journey to Catholicism.

As I look back on my spiritual journey, I can see how everything has come about according to God’s will. As a young girl, I can recall believing in God the Father and in Jesus Christ, my Savior. Although I was not raised in a particular religion, I was always a spiritually minded young lady, continually seeking Him and wanting a relationship with Him.

After my conversion to Catholicism, I now feel a sense of completeness such as I had never felt before. I now understand that I don’t have to be perfect to be accepted by my Savior and Redeemer. I now believe that my “worthiness” does not define His love and acceptance of me, but rather it is by His mercy and grace that we are called to be in His presence once again, both here on earth and, afterwards, in heaven.

As a Catholic, I am more tolerant of myself and others, knowing that we are all in this thing called “life” together, and I no longer have an exclusive claim on heaven because of my religion. As followers of Christ, our claim rests in the fact that we have a Savior Who sacrificed His life for us so we can inherit the fullness of salvation.

What I love about being Catholic is the fact that I have saints and angels accompanying me throughout life. What I love about being Catholic is that I have Mother Mary by my side, praying with me, and I am most thankful for her presence in my life. What I love about being Catholic is that we have a worldwide community of believers who strive to be more like our Savior, more charitable and more loving, and when we combine the over one billion Catholics across the world, this is a powerful force for greatness. What I love about being Catholic Church is the sacred gift of Communion. The fact that we can honor our Lord by partaking of His Body and Blood is a blessing beyond measure. What I love about being Catholic is the power of its rich history and tradition. What I love about being Catholic is the fact that we worship an almighty God, Who sent His beloved Son Jesus Christ as the beacon of perfection and truth. Because of this eternal gift, we can once again appear confidently in His presence.

I was alone in my conversion to Catholicism; however, I am never really alone. My children have chosen other faith systems; however, I am at peace knowing that Catholicism is my True North, and perhaps someday, in His infinite wisdom and understanding, they too will receive those same barely perceptible but deeply significant promptings to “come home.”

I have “come home” to the truth offered to me from God. I feel at peace with my decision and want to share it with the world. I am committed to serving others — particularly those leaving the LDS church — in their journey toward spiritual growth.”

Love,
Matthew

A Catholic responds to a Mormon

Moroni-mormons-330203_1745_1920
-Moroni

I love Mormons. I do. They are sincerely the nicest people I have ever met, consistently. I have been to the Temple in SLC. I have my copies of Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. I worked for a lovely family of Mormons, the Humphries, in Stone Harbor, NJ, when I was in high school and college. They owned an ice cream parlor called Springer’s. They still do. It is the social heart for young adults in that beach resort town. They could not have been kinder to me. I went to their local stake with them.

I know it’s hard to believe that Matt would run up to people to talk about religion, shocking, I know, but whenever I see Mormons on mission, I do. I love them. They are the NICEST people in the world!!!

If you drive around the beltway in DC, you will have the pleasure, it is spectacular, of watching a golden statue rise from the leaf canopy in spectacular fashion. It is breathtaking, and obviously, dramatically, intentional. When I returned to the civil engineering firm in Cape May Court House where I was interning that Summer in college, I promptly told the secretary there, who is a Latter Day Saint, that I had seen the Angel Gabriel on top of the Temple in DC rise from the trees!!!!! She gently informed me it wasn’t Gabriel, it was Moroni. 🙂

http://gentlyhewstone.com/2015/08/01/an-open-letter-to-trent-horn/

Horn Trent

-by Trent Horn, a convert to the Catholic faith.

“After my July 27th Catholic Answers Live appearance, I was directed to an open letter written to me by a Mormon English teacher. Most of his objections are addressed in my new booklet 20 Answers: Mormonism, but I felt it would be worthwhile to respond to this critic, Jamie Huston, on this blog.

What are your sources?

Huston begins by posing ten questions based on general observations of my responses given during the CA Live broadcast. His first five questions are basically variants of the same question, “Have you done your homework?” He asks:

Have you engaged many Latter-day Saints in conversation about your claims regarding us? What have been the primary sources of your education about Latter-day Saints? How many sources have you studied and are they published by the LDS church?

To answer Mr. Huston: yes, I have done my homework. In my booklet on Mormonism, I cite primarily from the Mormon “standard works” (e.g. the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price) as well as official announcements from the First Presidency, which is the highest governing body in the LDS Church. I’ve also read extensively the work of contemporary Mormon apologists and have visited the website of FAIR Mormon, an online LDS apologetics website.

So, yes, I am well aware of the arguments made for Mormonism, as well as Mormon rebuttals to arguments made against the faith, all of which I have found unconvincing. That is not to say that I find them to be irrational or easy to refute (an attitude Huston accuses me of having in questions 7 and 10 of his post).

It means only that, after weighing the evidence, I have found the Mormon position unable to account for what we know from the Bible, from history, and from natural theology. I’m sure Mr. Huston feels that Catholicism and all other non-Mormon faiths also do not account for the available evidence, so he can’t fault me for having a similar attitude toward his faith.

Question 6 asks, “Are you aware of any accusations that have ever been made about LDS belief or practice that were distorted or inaccurate?” Yes; in fact, question 2 of my booklet corrects mistaken views people have about Mormon polygamy, temple garments, and endowment ceremonies (while respecting the confidentiality of these ceremonies).

Concerning the Strange and the Speculative

Question 8 says that some of my arguments against Mormonism rely on “strange or unappealing [details],” such as my comments about the phrase “and it came to pass” in the Book of Mormon. Huston asks if this is a good standard for judging if the Book of Mormon is true.

My comment about the phrase “it came to pass” was a passing one about the Book of Mormon. The fact that this phrase occurs almost twenty times more often in the Book of Mormon than it does in the Bible should be expected if the former were just an improvised dictation and not divinely inspired writing. (See Thomas Finley’s critique in the anthology The New Mormon Challenge of how the Book of Mormon uses this phrase.) But this wasn’t my main argument against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

In my booklet, I showed that there are other, more serious reasons to question the Book of Mormon, including passages that are plagiarized from the New Testament (which was supposedly not available to the ancient authors of the book of Mormon) and anachronistic details about ancient America. And, yes, I have read Mormon defenses against these charges but have found them unconvincing.

For example, some Mormon apologists say that the descriptions of swords in the New World are not anachronistic, even though steel did not exist in the New World prior to Spanish colonization. That’s because some New World tribes made swords out of clubs laced with volcanic glass called obsidian. But this doesn’t explain the Book of Mormon’s description of these swords rusting (Mosiah 8:11), which glass cannot do.

Question 9 says that my analysis of the Mormon concept of God represents “digging” into “obscure and trivial parts of [the Mormon] religion.” Huston asks if this is “a tacit admission that the vast majority of Mormonism is innocuous if not actually positive?”

This raises the question as to what the “main parts” of the Mormon faith are. I would argue that God is a central part of not just the Mormon faith but of any faith. So the fact that Mormons believe that they will become gods (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20) and that God the Father has a physical body (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22), lives near a celestial object called Kolob (Book of Abraham 3:3-4), and created us with the assistance of a Heavenly Mother (Origin of Man, 1909) are not obscurities but crucial doctrines that must be evaluated.

And, no, I haven’t had to dig into some obscure archive in order to find these details. They are readily available in the standard works of the Mormon faith, particularly Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. The First Presidency taught in 1909 that alongside heavenly Father there is another divine figure called “Heavenly Mother” who was involved in creating human beings. Past LDS President Gordon Hinkley even said, “Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.”

Finally, the absence of compelling historical evidence for the events described in the Book of Mormon is troubling, and certainly Mr. Huston would agree that what is recorded in the Book of Mormon is not an “obscure” or “trivial” part of his faith!

The Witness of the Spirit

After his general observations, Huston addresses three specific issues I brought up in my CA Live appearance. The first is the Mormon practice of asking people to pray in order to discern if the Book of Mormon is true. I said this is a subjective and therefore poor way to discover if a religion is true, which Huston countered by citing Luke 24:32, James 1:5, and Matthew 7:7-8.

But in Luke 24, Jesus actually appeared and disappeared in front of the disciples on the Emmaus road, thus confirming his message and identity beyond what those two men felt. Matthew 7 deals only with asking for spiritual gifts, not knowledge about religious truth, and James 1:5 promises only that God will help us be wise, or apply our knowledge in prudent ways.

James does not teach us that God will give us knowledge about other religions or confirm if they are true or false simply through prayer and personal feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” Instead, as 1 Timothy 3:15 says, the “the pillar and foundation of truth” is not a personal testimony but “the Church of the living God.”

Huston also says:

How do you account for the millions of people who have felt the power of the Holy Ghost testifying to them the truth of the Book of Mormon and the restored gospel? Can such a wide variety of people, over centuries and around the world, be deceiving themselves in such a consistent way? If it’s wishful thinking, when else has wishful thinking led to lives of compassionate charity and devotion fueled by sacrifice and self-denial?

But this argument could justify any religion. How does Huston account for the millions of people across the centuries who felt the spirit of God move them to embrace Catholicism, or Protestantism, or Islam, or Hinduism, or Buddhism? Don’t these faiths also possess people with lives of “compassionate charity and devotion fueled by sacrifice and self-denial”?

If this argument proves Mormonism is true, then it also proves every other major religion is true, and therefore it becomes useless as a defense of Mormonism. This also applies to Huston’s other argument: “If the Book of Mormon isn’t true, and someone prays about it, wouldn’t God clearly answer, ‘No! Get away from those lies and back to the Bible alone!’ Why wouldn’t God answer a prayer like that?”

So, according to Huston, since God doesn’t often correct people who accept the Book of Mormon, that means the book of Mormon is true. Okay, but God doesn’t routinely correct people who dismiss the book of Mormon, nor does he usually tell people who read the Qu’ran or the Catechism of the Catholic Church “get away from those lies!” Does that mean that Islam and Catholicism are true? Once again, Huston’s argument proves too much.

I agree with Huston that God can speak to someone’s heart to help him see the truth of the gospel message, but God also left us with evidence to help us determine when he actually has revealed himself. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says we should test everything and retain what is good, not that we should pray only about important matters of faith. When Mormonism is tested for historical accuracy and sound theology, it falls short in both areas.

Becoming “Like” God, or Becoming Gods?

Huston says that the doctrine of “becoming like God” supposedly “got on my nerves,” but it’s not the doctrine of becoming like God that I found to be absurd (this is called theosis and is referenced in paragraph 460 of the Catechism). It’s the Mormon doctrine that those who follow all their ordinances will actually become gods—and, yes, we should be alarmed at a doctrine like that. Huston asks, “Which official LDS sources do you base the many extensions of this teaching that you cited?”

I’m glad he asked.

Along with the famous couplet from the fifth Mormon president, Lorenzo Snow (“As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be”), we have the words of Mormonism’s greatest prophet: Joseph Smith. Huston says I don’t have sources to back up the first half of Snow’s couplet; but in his King Follett sermon, Joseph Smith said, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!”

Mr. Huston, is Joseph Smith wrong or right about God? If he’s right, then why not just accept Snow’s couplet? If Smith is wrong, then why should we trust the other things this so-called prophet said?

Huston explains the second part of Snow’s couplet by saying that we are “literal spirit children of God” and that “throughout the eternities of the next life, we can continue growing until we grow up to become like our Father and we will enjoy the same great blessings that make Heavenly Father God.” This includes the ability to “someday create spirit children of our own.”

But the Bible never says we are God’s literal children, only that we are his children through adoption (Romans 8:15). Jesus is the “only begotten” Son of God or the “one of a kind” Son of God (Greek, monogenous [John 3:18]). It’s true that in heaven we will share in many of God’s communicable attributes, like his holiness, but we can never become God, since God is the uncreated and infinite act of being.

We are and always will be creatures who, if we die in a state of grace, will adore the infinite God for all eternity. The Bible and Sacred Tradition never speak of us having “spirit children” in the next life, and they affirm that there is only one God, which means we cannot become “gods” (see Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:8, John 5:44, John 17:3, 1 Timothy 6:16).

Joseph Smith and other early Mormon leaders were more explicit about the Mormon doctrine that believers will “become gods.” Smith said in the King Follett sermon:

[Y]ou have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation.

Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, said, “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, 93.) In the twentieth century, the Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie said, “This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and those who obtain it are gods” (Mormon Doctrine, 472). The current Encyclopedia of Mormonism says, “This process known as eternal progression is succinctly expressed in the LDS aphorism, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”

It’s true this teaching is not explicitly found in Mormonism’s standard works, but consider the words of prominent Mormon theologian Stephen E. Robinson:

It is the official teaching of the LDS Church that God the Father has a physical body (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). The belief that God the Father was once a human being rests mainly on two technically uncanonized sources (sermons of Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow) which have, however, in effect become normative” [emphasis added] (How Wide the Divide?, p. 79).

Finally, I agree with Huston that the LDS Church has not defined how “spirit children” are made or who will be exalted, but what it has defined is heretical and must be rejected by orthodox Christians.

Is Jesus God or god?

Huston next says I was “flat-out” wrong in saying that Mormons don’t believe Jesus is God and demands sources for this allegation. Of course, that depends on how you define the word God. Mormons believe Jesus is “God” in the sense that we are all “gods.” According to their theology, we are all God’s literal spirit children (including Jesus) and were fashioned from eternally preexisting “intelligences” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29).

Jesus allegedly told Joseph Smith, “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the First-born; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the First-born. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants, 93:31-33).

The First Presidency taught in 1909,“The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the first-born among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God.” Jesus is our sibling because he was created like we were (which means he can’t be God, since God is uncreated).

Jesus is even the Devil’s brother, since God created both of them. The Mormon apologetics website FAIR Mormon admits, “[I]t is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are ‘brothers,’ in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father.”

However, to distinguish our faith from this heretical belief, Christians say in the Creed that the Son was “begotten, not made” (the term made applies to creatures like us or the angels), “one in being with the Father” and not a distinct being he created.

Huston says, “Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. (Did you know that?).” I did, but Mormons erroneously believe that the Bible teaches the existence of two Gods, Elohim and Jehovah. Elohim is supposed to be God the Father, while Jehovah is God the Son; but this doesn’t explain passages that identify one God by both these designations. One example of this would be Deuteronomy 6:4, which says, “Hear O Israel, Yahweh [Jehovah] our Elohim is one.” Notice also that Huston restricts Jesus to being “the God of the Old Testament” as if there is a different God of the New Testament. But isn’t Jesus the God of the whole Bible?

Huston also says, even though they each have their own glorified but physical body, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are absolutely united in all things, as both the Bible and Book of Mormon teach. Therefore, they are both God.

But if we are talking about two embodied beings, then we are talking about two gods, not one. Saying they are one being because they cooperate perfectly is like saying a miraculously cooperating Penn and Teller are one magician! Huston’s language is reminiscent of the previous LDS president Gordon Hinkley, who said of the Father and the Son, “They are distinct beings, but they are one in purpose and effort” (Gospel Principles, 37) and the LDS official website, which says, “each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”

So, if the Father and Son are separate beings (plural), and God just is being itself (singular, infinite, and undivided) then the Father and Son can’t be God. They would instead be gods, with the Father having a higher ontological status than the Son. But this contradicts Christian theology, which teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons who exist as the one being of God. The Catechism says:

We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity” . . . the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another (CCC 253, 255).

Finally, I’ll close with some questions of my own for Mr. Huston:

When Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18) and instructed believers to bring sinners to “the Church” (Matt. 18:17), did he mean it? If Jesus is God, then wouldn’t he have known about the so-called “great apostasy” involving the Church “falling away” from the gospel (until it was restored by Joseph Smith?). If Jesus knew that would happen, why did he speak and act as if it would not?

How many gods are there? If there is more than one god, then how do you explain Isaiah 44:8, where God says, “Is there a God besides me? I know not any”; or John 5:44, where Jesus speaks of the glory of “the only God”?

In Acts 7:59, Stephen prayed to Jesus before his martyrdom, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Would you be comfortable directly asking Jesus to receive your spirit before death like Stephen did? Would you say to Jesus, “You are my Lord and God” like Thomas did (John 20:28)? Now, it’s true Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, but where in Scripture did Jesus say we must pray only to the Father? Since Jesus taught his disciples to pray only the Our Father, do you say only that prayer, or are other kinds of prayers allowed?

Can you tell me with any certainty and specificity where the events in the Book of Mormon took place? Doesn’t it concern you that even atheistic archaeologists agree with Christians and Jews on where many major events in the Bible took place but no such agreement is found regarding the events described in the book of Mormon?

Is there anything that would convince you that Mormonism is false? If not, then why should you expect other people to leave their faiths and become Mormon when you aren’t prepared to do the same?

In closing, I thank Mr. Huston for his response and encourage him, and anyone else reading this, to evaluate the evidence and not rely on emotions, which can lead us into error.”

COMMENTS:

“#1 Gene Fadness – Boise, Idaho
Your response, Trent, is thorough, correct and well-documented. As a former temple Mormon and missionary, I can tell you that the struggle we face is getting our LDS friends to acknowledge their entire faith history and theology. It’s a young faith, but there are already clear demarcations made between “old” Mormonism and “new” Mormonism. In the last 30 years, there is great reluctance to talk about eternal progression and men becoming gods. Google the Gordon Hinckley interview with Larry King where he does all he can to gloss over it. Some LDS who truly understand their faith and history even accused Hinckley of denying an essential doctrine. The modern church “glosses” over all those unpleasant topics such as men becoming gods, how Jesus was conceived, the existence of Kolob, the reasons for polygamy or a priesthood that once excluded people of African descent. Because they believe in modern revelation they have a convenient way to deny what past “prophets” and “apostles” have written.

August 11, 2015 at 11:56 am PST”

Love,
Matthew