Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mormons at Your Door: What to Expect

Yesterday, my friends Cary and Meg invited me to join them at dinner with a couple of Mormon (LDS)* missionaries.  They were both in their young twenties (and I suddenly felt old, at 26, for the first time). I thought I'd share my experiences, for two reasons: to help prepare Catholics for Mormons who come knocking, and to get us to think more seriously about our own call to Evangelize.  Today, I wanted to talk about what to expect; tomorrow, I want to focus on how to respond to Mormon arguments, and which arguments you might consider making on your own.

I. How Mormon Evangelization Works

I think as Catholics, there's a lot there that Mormons do in their missions which we could learn from, particularly about the role of laity in the New Evangelization. Here are the basics, both from what I've observed and what they described.  Mormon missions last two years (for men) or eighteen months (for women), and they don't get to choose where you're sent. Most missionaries are young men, ages 19-21.  Women may also be missionaries, but must be at least 21, and it's much less common. Nearly every religiously-active young man becomes a missionary: "approximately 30 percent of all 19-year-old Mormon men in the United States serve, while between 80 percent to 90 percent of those from active LDS families go. At BYU, for example, there are virtually no 19-year-old men."  As the above stats show, the Mormon missionaries are some of the best Mormonism has to offer.  There are a surprising number of nominal or religiously lax Mormons, but they're not the ones likely to knock on your doors. 

That said, the missionaries still have a lot to learn. And counter-intuitively, that's why they're there.  As Catholics, our natural tendency would be to worry about sending half-prepared young people out to Evangelize, worried that they're spread inaccurate information (and that does happen with the Mormon missionaries). But by being put in a position where they're questioned and challenged about their faith, most of the half-prepared Mormons come back with a better grasp of what their church teaches. 

That said, Mormons aren't sent out completely unarmed.  First, there's the Missionary Training Center in Utah, which prepares them for the challenges and realities of two years as a missionary, from language skills (if necessary) to learning the basics they'll need.   Second, missionaries are sent in two-man teams, with a clear senior and junior missionary.  Last night was no different.  One guy was meek and a little nervous seeming. He was from a small town in Idaho, and while he was on month five of his two year mission, he had only been in the D.C. area since last Thursday.  The other guy was (I think) nearing the end of his two year stint, and was a charming and outgoing, talking during dinner about his desire to be a coach, and how much he enjoys surfing.  When tough questions would come up, if the junior guy would start to fumble it, the senior guy would step in to help.  

II. The Best Weapon in the Arsenal

What all three of us Catholics were surprised about was that they were in no hurry to discuss theology.  After hearing their personal testimonies, it made sense.  While the senior missionary had grown up Mormon, the junior had converted at eleven (from nothing in particular) after he began going to an LDS church with his grandma.  That is, he wasn't persuaded by some dogma or apologetic argument. He just found a loving community, and came to trust them, and what they taught.

I have no doubt that this is exactly how a lot of Mormon conversions happen. You have someone, maybe they go to Mass every Sunday and slip out after without talking to anyone. Despite going there for years, they're relatively anonymous, and in any case, don't see the other parishioners except on Sunday morning.  Then a couple of Mormons meet with them, and simply act Christian towards them. They don't persuade them (at first), they simply witness through their conduct.  Perhaps they'll do a few meals together and get to know one another, and one day, the missionaries will probably invite this person to their church, where the same thing happens: they find a welcoming community.  

By the time hard questions of dogma come up, it's a battle between logic and emotions, which looks like a battle between the head and the heart. Missionaries know to constantly emphasize two points: (1) just pray on it, and (2) look for the fruits. If those are the only two ways you're seeking truth, it's easy to come away with the impression that God must want you to be Mormon, and that the LDS church must be God's Church, since it bears such good fruit.

III. Watch out for Proof-Texts

Finally, Mormons, like nearly everyone else, have a few proof-texts which they rely heavily upon.  If you're not familiar, a "proof-text" is a passage from Scripture used to prove a particular doctrine. The term is often negative, suggesting that the verse or passage is being taken out of context.  For example, Evangelicals use 1 Timothy 2:5 as a proof text, to say that since Jesus is our "One Mediator," they say there's no room for a Catholic priesthood, or we shouldn't pray to Saints, etc.  Of course, in context, the verse doesn't actually support these claims. Mormonism is no different. One of the proof-texts is Amos 8:9-12, which they claim is an Old Testament prophesy of a Great Apostasy in which the Church would disappear from the Earth.  Out of context, it sort of sounds like that:
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.
But in context, we discover a couple things fatal to the Mormon interpretation:

  1. God's talking about Israel in exile, how she will be shaken and humbled, but then restored (read Amos 9 for the context).  That is, in context, this isn't some passage about the New Testament Church falling away at all. It's God punishing the Israelites, who have been chasing after pagan gods (Amos 8:14).
  2. He also promises that a remnant will remain (Amos 9:8).  So regardless of whether it's about Old Testament Israel or the New Testament Church, it's not a total apostasy.
  3. The people is Amos 8 are viewed as thirsting after "the words of the LORD," and unable to find them. But Mormonism believes that the Church, even after the alleged Apostasy,  honored and faithfully preserved every Old and New Testament Book.  As an offshoot of Protestantism, they use the King James Version (meaning that they reject the Deuterocanon), but my point is that they don't actually think that the post-Apostolic Christians were left searching for the "the words of the LORD," and unable to find it. They think we had it all along. 

So the passage which might have seemed, on the surface, to be a really surefire proof of a Great Apostasy turns out to fall apart on closer inspection.  Of course, unless you happen to know the Book of Amos really well (and I admittedly don't), you're not going to know the context of the passage.  So what do you do?  Write it down, and look it up.  Look for Catholic Scriptural commentaries (particularly what the Church Fathers said on these passages), ask an apologist, and so on.

For example, you might not have thought about this angle, but Origen taught that the Amos 8 prophesy was brought to complete fulfillment with Christ.  That interpretation makes some sense.  After all, God promises, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping.”  And what do we see at the death of Christ?  Darkness over the land, starting at noon (Luke 23:44), and mourning and weeping (Luke 23:26-27) on Passover (John 18:39).  This marks the transition point from when God's revelation is revealed through Israel, and when His revelation is revealed through His Church.  The first-century Jews would have expected that God would continue to provide new and ongoing revelation, more and more Books of the Old Testament.  But He doesn't. They suddenly find themselves in a famine, hungering for more Scripture, but not finding it.  Is Origen's interpretation right? Maybe. But it's certainly a lot stronger than the idea that this was about the New Testament Church going into a total Apostasy.

Conclusion

So this, more or less, is what to expect if you get visited by Mormon missionaries. Expect a few convincing-sounding passages to support controversial doctrines, but as part of an overall outreach that focuses more on Goodness than Truth.  Tomorrow, I'll go into the details of the arguments Cary, Megan and I raised, to give you a sense for things you might want to say (or not say) if you find yourself in this position.


*I know that there's some controversy over the preferred nomenclature ("LDS" v. "Mormon"). Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints owns both LDS.org and Mormon.org, I don't think either is viewed as particularly offensive.

UPDATE: Part II is now posted.  Enjoy!

31 comments:

  1. This is fantastic!

    I've struggled with this subject since I was 11 months old. My parents were LDS, but after their separation, my mom converted to Catholicism, and they agreed that when I was 12 I could make my own decision. My dad was of the most effective Missionaries Spain had ever seen, but being raised predominantly by my mom and later my wonderful Catholic step-dad, I chose Catholicism. They encouraged me to explore theology from a young age and make an informed decision. I was the one who had to request signing up for CIC. I never looked back, but I never had to stop reliving it around my dad's side of the family. It's a bit intimidating, honestly.

    One of his favorite proofs is in the introduction to the Book of Mormon, where it says (paraphrasing) that Mormonism and Catholicism are the only two possible religions because they are the only two claiming apostolic succession.

    ...our apostolic succession is historically founded, while theirs has a convenient shortcut, but this could be a helpful text to hang on to for people in dialogue with Mormon friends, family members, or even missionaries.

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  2. I've always been confused as to how exactly an apostate Church can be expected to reliably assemble and preserve the Canon of Scripture...

    It also doesn't speak much of God's providence that he left His Church in apostasy for 1800 years...

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  3. Restless Pilgrim,

    I agree. The conversation was very confusing on this subject.

    Chloe,

    Thanks! The Apostolic succession issue came up right away, both as something we had in common, and something we had distinct. For example, I discovered that the LDS Church teaches that that John the Baptist became an angel and ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, so that they would have lineage directly from the Apostles. You can find that view here: http://lds.org/hf/art/display/1,16842,4218-1-4-119,00.html.

    It's wrong on a number of levels. First of all, angels aren't dead men, and second, John the Baptist wasn't an Apostle. And those are just the obvious theological problems, excluding the problems with credibility. The only two witnesses to these ordinations were the men themselves, which is awfully convenient. There's no parallel to this sort of event anywhere in Scripture. And the whole idea that they didn't know about Baptism until discovering the Book of Mormon is a bit incredible, given that every Protestant church around them baptizes, and given that Mormons use the Protestant language for Baptism (calling it an "ordinance"), rather than any of the Biblical language.

    I'm thrilled to have someone who's seen things through both Mormon and Catholic eyes. If you get the chance, I'd love it if you commented tomorrow, after I finish the second half of this series, so you can tell me how strong or weak the various arguments against Mormonism seem to you.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  4. Thanks for this article.

    These days, I just proclaim my solid Catholic faith to them right at the door. The young missionary is completely helpless and too inexperienced in scripture expostulation to argue against 1500+ years of the Church's existance, so a long winded debate is futile.

    Most protestants are completely ignorant of what the Church even teaches, often believing in the famous "myths" of the Church instead. The subject of history seems to also be a little understood discipline, and this become evident if you attempt to discuss Church history with them. To top it off, I have had some Mormon missionaries who did not even know who Joseph Smith was!
    That really gets me wondering at what they are being taught--and why.

    If you are going to follow the Truth, than proclaim it with an unshakable confidence that often will have the Mormon missionary truly doubting their position--it will get them thinking, which is the first step to helping them abandon their errors.

    Our mission is to correct error where we find it, even when it decides to come to us first. Be prepared with leaflets and knowledge of scripture in context. Be prepared always to give an answer.

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  5. I'm really glad you spent so much space pointing out what good people Mormons are. I'm with Robbie George, who says: "Every group has its bad apples, and I'm sure the LDS is no exception. But anyone who knows a large number of Mormons will, I'm sure, be struck as I have been by how many members of the Church really do lead faithful and honorable lives---lives of selfless service to others. As a community, the selflessness, generosity, and public-spiritedness of the Latter-day Saints is extraordinary." http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2010/04/thank-god-for-the-latterday-saints.html

    That certainly is the best thing the LDS have going for them. What is troubling is that they seem to beat out other Christians in this regard, despite having a deficient theology. Is there any good answer to why this is?

    When I was a Protestant, everyone told me it was b/c they were into "works righteousness". And that might be true, maybe they are essentially Pelagians, but since that is the knee-jerk response of Protestants to every thing about non-Protestant Christians, I'm not so sure.

    My only guess is that some of it stems from the prohibition on alcohol. I find this prohibition totally perplexing given that the Founder of Christianity drank alcohol, but, nevertheless, it probably eliminates lukewarm Mormons. It makes you take a public stand either for the LDS, by teetotaling, or against them, by imbibing in something plainly prohibited.

    But shouldn't NFP be like that? And yet we're told the majority of Catholics contracept and don't think twice. So I don't know, but it is much to their credit in my book.

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  6. And then there are the Jehovah's Witnesses!

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  7. Robert,

    I agree with you and Robbie George. I think part of it is that the Mormons are better at getting their faithful members into the spotlight. I find that there are a lot of well-known bad Catholics, and a lot of good Catholics nobody's heard of. Mormonism is (largely) the reverse: the lukewarm don't go on missions, don't proclaim parade their Mormonism (at least in the Midwest or East Coast -- it may be different in the West).

    All that said, Mormons do seem to be better at producing good (nice, friendly, giving, moral) members. Part of it is probably that their emphasis is on Goodness rather than Truth. They don't have seminaries, and their theology and spiritual energy tends to be focused on the family, and the role of the family in the afterlife. That emphasis tends to produce a certain kind of person, who is simultaneously likable and less able to tackle the tough questions. I do think it comes at a steeper cost than we recognize, but I wish we could harness some of that. Certain strains of Evangelicalism are in a very similar place right now.

    As for alcohol (or the Mormon ban on coffee and tea, which I find yet more extreme), Mormons are great at doctrinal strictness. That tends to make their members very fervent. Obviously, fervent doesn't automatically mean "nice" (as some other strict religions show), but it does pronounce the natural tendency to promote moral goodness.

    The fastest growing denominations are ones which are "full-body experiences," where you don't give an hour a day, but your whole person. We see it in Islam, Pentecostalism, and Mormonism. I think we Catholics need to strive to be more like.

    You would think we would be, given how involved Catholicism is (days of fasts and feasts, prohibitions against meat on Friday, condoms, etc.), and amongst Traditional Catholicism, I find that this is the case. But I think a lot of mainstream Catholics have downplayed their Catholicism to seem more American. And perhaps because NFP is something a shade more private than beer-drinking, it's easily to ignore. All that said, we also have been dealing with an entrenched culture of dissent for the last generation and a half, quite unlike Mormonism. If orthodox Catholics were the norm, I'd be interested in how similar or dissimilar we looked from Mormons.

    Long comment, I know - just thinking "out loud."

    Joe

    P.S. Is there any chance you could do for the second interview what you did for the first, where you shave it down to just a couple minutes? I really appreciated it last time.

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  8. Yea, nice points. It's an interesting thing to look at to see if we can learn and what we rightfully disagree with.

    And yes. Once I finish today's dose of barbri (fun, eh?) I will get on that. It is very easy to do.

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  9. Ha! If I knew you were doing BARBRI, I wouldn't have even asked. One of my friends is down here in D.C. (from New York) to study for the Missouri Bar. We were talking about the sacraments, and he grimaced when I mentioned "requisite intent," because he's in the middle of being traumatized. Which bar are you taking?

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  10. Are you still able to play or download the big podcast file? I went here

    http://sacredheartradio.com/podcast/index?p=episode&name=2011-06-27_2011_podcast_archive_jun_22.mp3

    and it looks like its just an empty file. Let me know if you can get it to play online (or download it), because I should be able to extract it if it is still available.

    My guess is that the 6/22 file is just corrupt b/c the two other ones on the site (http://sacredheartradio.com/podcast/) download fine and the 6/22 file is listed at 9.5 times the size. Were you ever able to play it? In any event, sorry about that and let me know if it seems to be working for you.

    Strangely, I was studying "requisite intent" myself today in Torts. I can assure you he had good reason to be unhappy about its being brought up in social situations. The whole thing is quite painful. I'm back in Texas. Those 27 non-summer Boston months provided a lot of motivation to move back to where 70 is a normal temperature in February.

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  11. Over the years, I have tried different techniques with Mormons. I have had to learn from my mistakes.

    One day, at my parents' apartment complex I met Elders Rose and Griffin. We agreed to talk, and met at a local McDonald's. I would call that meeting a success - and I made a deal: they would try the Church Fathers and I will try to read the Book of Mormon. I flipped through it, found it to be just as apostate plagiarized as I had heard. (I had no intention in asking the Mormon "Holy Ghost" for guidance).

    Once again, at my parents, I ran into Missionaries again. Elders Cook and Bramhoff and I met at an LDS Church / Ward(?) and we had an interesting conversation - but they shut down fast when I began to grill them on the Early Church Fathers. They did not want a theological discussion and basically gave me the party line about asking the "Holy Ghost" to witness to me that everything they said about the Book of Mormon was true. That was the end of our theological discussions. But don't despair. Elder Cook, the second time I ran into him, had asked me if I was drunk. I don't drink alcohol at all (my choice) and don't act the part. He felt really bad - and I told him that I forgave him because I am a Christian. I kept in contact with them until my cell phone broke. The last conversation I had with Elder Bramhoff he thanked me for the kindness I bore towards him.

    To be honest, I am able to relate to these Mormons because after I graduated from High School I worked in Americorps, spending almost a full year in Community Service. While their motives are religious - mine were civil - the similarity sacrificing a year of life for something that does not pay and commits your entire life is similar.

    Let me be very clear: I believe the Mormon "Church" to be a cult, a non-Christian sect. But Mormon missionaries are people too. Being kind and loving towards them opens them up to you. Indeed, if all's you do is rip into them (tried a few years ago, didn't work)or provoke them (failed miserably), then they won't listen. But if you show loving concern to them they will begin to listen.

    I think it is also very important to have good knowledge of Scripture, Church history - especially the Fathers - to deal with their "apostasy" nonsense, and most of all the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You don't have to be an apologist, but just knowing your Faith and being faithful to It is a powerful tool. Spouting off confusing nonsense about Vatican II is not going to help.

    I do not favor being soft on Mormons. I truly don't. But I think being kind really, really helps. Mormons are trained to mistrust the Christianity of orthodox Christians. By loving them you can possibly change their outlook. They will know we are Christians by our love.

    I do have a suggestion: if you befriend a young Mormon, offer him the Catechism of the Catholic Church (if he is a more knowledgeable Mormon) or if not, get him a copy of the YouCat. Let them know that you are someone that truly cares about them.

    In Christ,
    Peter

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  12. Great post!

    Here's an interesting site that features Mormons and non-Mormons in dialogue:

    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/

    Sometimes it's pretty interesting over there.

    Thanks.

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  13. very interesting indeed oldadam...

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  14. @Restless Pilgrim
    The Mormon faith does not claim that the Bible canon was reliably assembled and preserved. One of the central tenants of the Mormon faith is that all scriptures are vulnerable to alterations through the process of transmission and translation. That is where the "pray on it" part comes in whereby the reader is expected to look to God for guidance on the issue.

    As for God leaving the church in apostasy for 1800 years, the idea is that man is responsible for that, not God. It is important that even while Christianity has existed ont he earth, that significant parts of the world have not been exposed to the message, so one might argue that there is a functional apostasy (lack of knowledge/church etc.) for significant parts of the world even today - so how does that speak for God's providence? Anyways, Mormon theology includes a process whereby each person may learn Christianity in the next life, so in effect they aren't abandoned by God but just have to wait a bit.

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  15. @rutilus,

    "learn Christianity" is a stretch since to learn Christianity one would have to become Christian, which Mormons aren't

    but indeed each of us will learn the truth after this life. God shall judge what is written on our hearts. Nowhere does The Church say that just because you are not Catholic or not Christian that you will be condemned, that is not for us to decide.

    also big difference between what you describe as functional apostasy and a Global Apostasy as I understand the LDS teaching

    God Bless

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  16. Joe,

    As a Mormon, I appreciate your respectful discussion here and felt I should clarify at least two inaccuracies.

    1) You are correct that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught that John the Baptism appeared to them as an angel. (Mormon theology holds that angels are either the disembodied spirits of righteous men who haven't been born yet, or of ones who have died, or resurrected beings with glorified bodies. John the Baptist was in the latter category. See http://lds.org/scriptures/bd/angels?lang=eng.) However, this is not where his apostolic authority came from. John the Baptist conveyed the lesser, or "Aaronic" priesthood to Joseph and Oliver. However, several months later Peter, James, and John appeared to them as angels/resurrected beings, and conveyed the greater, or "Melchizedek" priesthood to them and gave them the apostolic authority. It is that latter authority that enabled them to start the church.

    2) You wrote, "the whole idea that they didn't know about Baptism until discovering the Book of Mormon is a bit incredible". You misunderstood something. They were both raised Christian and undoubtedly were very familiar with baptism. Joseph wrote that he was at one time close to joining the Methodists; see his short autobiography here http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng. What they did not know, was the proper form baptism should take (i.e. by immersion, sprinkling, etc), who could baptize, and so forth. It was while inquiring of the Lord on those types of details -- after having translated a passage in the Book of Mormon that emphasized the importance of baptism -- that John the Baptist appeared to them.

    By the way, it's no secret that the missionaries have a sequence of lessons that they use to introduce the LDS church to curious people (called "investigators"). You can even browse to the guide that missionaries are given, on lds.org: http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8057-1-4424-1,00.html. The lessons are found in chapter 3, if you want to read them on your own.

    John

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  17. Thanks, John! Your corrections are well-taken. If I could edit the earlier comment, I would. If I can ask a few questions:

    (1) How do you rectify the Mormon view of angels with the view taken by the early Jews and Christians, that angels were different creatures entirely?

    (2) Don't the Old and New Testament take the classical view (e.g., Heb. 2:7-9, 1 Cor. 13:1, etc.) seem to distinguish men from angels as separate classes of beings?

    (3) Why are these the only reported Baptisms in which angels baptize?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  18. Nothing will hone your "Catholic Apologetics" than to have regular sessions with well intended Mormon friends.

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  19. If it makes you feel better, we Mormons focus on truth and believe you all are lacking in truth as well. Our faith is ALL about truth. Truth is eternal.

    And the missionaries who said that they didn't know who Joseph Smith was had to be deaf and dumb and shouldn't be on a mission.

    Also, most of us don't care about sitting and arguing. Believe it or don't. Ask God in faith and try to hear his answer to your question, or don't. We want everyone to partake of the goodness of Christ, but if you don't want to our way, we're not going to shame you or fight with you about it.

    Plus, we believe every faith has some truth and God honors all His children's sincere efforts to show faith in Him and pray to Him because He loves all His children. We truly have nothing to prove if you don't want to hear it. And hearing other people's firm convictions of faith is great, and I'm glad they have it because everyone's faith is real and legitimate.

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  20. Hi! I'm a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seattle, WA and I found this post and subsequent comments very interesting. I hope you don't mind if I chime in.

    I observe a recurring statement that LDS missionaries won't try and reason with you, or discuss the intricacies of Christian history, etc. Someone said that they take an approach that is all heart and no head. That is pretty much correct. Full-time missionaries are instructed to keep their message very focused. They testify of Christ through the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost), and they encourage people to give up their sins, be baptized, and embrace their identity as a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. And that's pretty much it!

    It's not because we don't have a substantive theology or history that our missionaries focus on the basics. It's more of a line upon line, precept upon precept thing. Everything we do and teach should point to Christ, help us live more like Him, and put the Atonement to work in our lives. So, in fact, we have a rich and fascinating theology, but you really can't understand any of it without first being oriented to the basics. But, like John said, if you want to understand where it goes from there you can check out the missionary manual that he linked to, or any other of the many sources on lds.org and mormon.org.

    Moreover, though you're probably not going to get a full-time missionary to discuss theological minutiae, history or politics with you, there are a bunch of members (many of them returned missionaries) who would love to have those conversations. I, for one, would love to have a respectful and Christ-centered conversation on any aspect of theology or Christian history that you desire.

    I want to suggest one more thing. I am a student at a very secular university in a very secular city and I am frequently attacked for my religious beliefs. When I meet a practicing Catholic, I instantly feel an alliance with them. I'm not sure if they feel the same about me; I would hope so. But what I am getting at is that, in the midst of a climate of so much hostility towards religion, where secularism is encroaching more on religious freedom every day, I truly believe that any individual who tries to submit their life to the will of God is an ally of mine. I am not suggesting that we gloss over our differences, because cherishing our differences is part of religious freedom as well. But I do think it is helpful to put those differences in the broader faith context, and when I do so, I feel very grateful for the Catholics in my community.

    Lastly, on a more personal note, I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about five years ago. I feel that I owe that life-changing conversion to a number of people, one of them a practicing Catholic. I think about that sometimes, about how grateful I am that he, a very close friend of mine at the time, could see how happy my newfound faith made me and encouraged me to wholly give myself over to it - even though he knew that following his advice would inevitably draw me further from him and from the beliefs that he held dear. And actually, my husband, whom I met shortly after my conversion, had a similar experience with a Catholic friend of his who provided some much-needed encouragement at a difficult time in his life. I would only hope to be that same source of encouragement and Christlike love for the people I meet throughout my life, whatever their type or degree of religious faith may be.

    I know this is a super long comment, and I apologize. Thanks for the respectful conversation and for the chance to reflect on some beliefs and experience that I hold dear. And again, I welcome questions and comments on any topic, either here or to my email.

    Have a great day!

    Anna
    ap.krey@gmail.com

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  21. Anna - that's awesome! I hope you continue to seek truth, holiness, and the path God calls you to!

    God Bless

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  22. Joe,

    Regarding your three follow-up questions:

    1) Simple... those who believed that angels were different creatures entirely were mistaken.

    2) Does the Bible teach that angels are separate classes of beings? I don't really want to get into a "proof text duel" with you, so I'll just point out some scriptures that Mormons look to, to show consistency with Biblical teachings. But keep in mind that the real source of our beliefs regarding angels is NOT through Biblical interpretation, but rather through the revelations to Joseph Smith.

    a. Acts 1:10 - The angels who announced Christ's ascension were described as "two men dressed in white". (That's basically identical to Joseph Smith's description of the angels who visited him.)

    b. Genesis chapter 19 - Lot entertains angels who look like men.

    c. Hebrews 13:2 - "some have entertained angels unawares" - possibly referring to the Lot story, but probably implying that other such incidents have occurred.


    Regarding the scriptures you mention, I'll give you what I see as the typical LDS interpretation.

    a. Heb 2:7-9 - Angels are holy, men (in their current state) are not.

    b. 1 cor 13:1 - The Book of Mormon has a verse that says, "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost", so that implies a fundamentally different communication method between angels and men.

    Let me emphasize that we don't see angels as the same as men, but angels as men who have transformed into something greater. In that sense, we all strive to be angelic, as it were.


    3) Sorry, I likely wasn't clear in what I wrote earlier. In the account of John the Baptist visiting Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, John the Baptist did not perform the baptisms. Rather, he taught Joseph and Oliver the method of baptism, gave them the authority to do so, and directed them to baptize each other.

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  23. Joe. I don't know what early Christian beliefs were about angels, or how to rectify them with modern day revelation (I'm a mormon), but I do have a few answers for your questions. One is that John the Baptist, as a resurrected being (angel) didn't do any baptizing at all. He bestowed the priesthood of Aaron (the Levitical Priesthood) upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and then they baptized each other.
    Through modern day revelation we learn that the angel Gabriel is Noah and that Michael, the ancient of days, is Adam. Michael and Gabriel were their pre-mortal names.
    Also, I am curious to know, if Jewish and early christian thought was that angels and men were separate races completely, what did they classify Elijah and Moses as when they appeared to the Lord on the mount of transfiguration?

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  24. John,

    Well put. We still disagree, but you did a good job clarifying where you see Scriptural support for your beliefs. As you said, the nature of angels is likely not going to be the central point either of us look to. It was more something I was confused about the Mormon stance on, and you answered it well.


    Radical Mormon,

    We call Elijah and Moses "men," glorified men, certainly, but men nevertheless. That's also how Luke 9:33 describes them.

    I realize that, as John points out, angels are also sometimes referred to as "men" in Scripture, when they're appearing in the form of men.


    John, Radical Mormon, Susie and Anna,

    I've appreciated all of your contributions so far. I get into more of the meat of where we agree and disagree in part II. I'd love it if you were to look it over and let me know what your reactions were. God bless!

    Joe.

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  25. I don't believe the verses in Amos 8 are the key verses we use in Missionary work. I served a two-year LDS mission recently, and I personally gravitated away from using those versus.
    Much rather, missionaries are taught to use The Book of Mormon as the key verses for evangelizing the faith. I don't think you really hit that point with your article. The missionaries do not (and should not) use the Bible verses to convince people of our faith; that would make us no different from any other Bible-believing church.

    The missionaries gave you a Book of Mormon, hopefully, and asked you to read it. You failed to mention that. Please discuss that part of the Mormon missionary process a little more.

    God bless,
    ~Josh

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  26. For anybody who truly has a desire to know the difference bx Catholics & Mormons needs to read
    "Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest" by Eric Shuster.

    If people would just read this book a lot of the rancor on the internet (not necessarily this current conversation) would be dispelled.

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  27. I'm not familiar with that book, but here's something else that people may find useful: http://www.transporter.com/Mormonism/Keys_Debate.htm. It's a friendly debate between a Mormon and a Catholic about "Who hold the keys? (Pope or Prophet)". Fairly lengthy, but well worth the reading if you have the time.

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  28. Mormon missionaries really are not that well studied, and their biggest selling point is 'good looks' and a smile at the door. The fact every Mormon boy receives the title "elder" at 19 years old is a clear indication there is something wrong. On top of that, all these boys from a young age are sent to regular classes they call "Seminary". Now that word carries the connotation of advanced learning, but that's not true, since they only go over basic stuff. And Mormons will dispense with the Bible if they feel pressure, since they Believe the Bible is inferior to the BoM.

    In my experience, Mormons are nice, polite, but largely ignorant in theology. I even walked into a LDS institution one day to ask some questions, and they sent out these two missionary guys who were like 19. I felt bad because they were shaking in their boots just out of nervousness of being infront of people, but when I asked basic questions they were even more uneasy.

    One favorite tactic of Mormons is to use standard Christian terminology to sound 'orthodox' when in fact they mean something different. And since theological consistency isn't a priority, they gladly will allow or give the nod to heterodoxy if they think they can make progress later (e.g. they don't believe in the maxim "the end does not justify the means," just as most religions do not).

    One final note is that I've noticed conversions to the LDS are so that they can marry an LDS person they are in love with.

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  29. a member of the LDS Church, I enjoyed the even temper and consideration of your article. Discourse is enlightening to all when sincere.

    I want to say that my understanding of the political and severe violent environment the early Church struggled in, finally destroyed its authorities. With all the persecutions and atrocities they became maryters. Then Constantine embraced the movement thus securing his power.

    I have never heard that the "Christians were evil." There was, however, splinter groups formed and false doctrines spread.

    As for the "Middle Church," I understand that, yes, the Priesthood did not function during that time. Yet, God loves his children and good men and women ministered in love and faith with what knowledge they had. I am in awe of their dedication and longsuffering.

    The Church organization was able to be re-established when the Western World evolved to allow its survival. Of course, here is the fundamental difference between the Catholic claim to sovereignty and the Mormons.

    History and scripture chases may offer some explainations of each others theological constructs but, often are subjective stalemates.
    The success of the LDS Church is not only our "welcoming community" but, faith in the Lord to answer sincere prayer.

    We hold sacred the admotition of James..."ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraidth not." This is the principle which has converted millions to the Mormon Faith. Ultimatley, God is the source and He will answer a sincere prayer from His child who comes to Him, in faith, and asks.

    This is the proclaimnation The Church of Jesus Christ makes to the world: God is not dead, He lives and speaks today.
    Thank you for your goodhearted article

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  30. I just finished read the book of Amos just the other day. When I read the particular passage you described, I immediately thought of the crucifixion of the Christ. To me, Origen was definitely on to something with his interpretation.

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