Latter-day Saints Becoming Catholic


#1

I have a question about Latter-day Saints becoming Catholic. One of the banners on this forum leads to the following page about becoming Catholic:
catholic.com/library/How_to_Become_a_Catholic.asp

This page talks about how the conversion process for Christians is different from the conversion process for non-Christians. I have heard that, for purposes of conversion, Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are considered non-Christians by the Catholic Church. Here are my questions:
[list]
*]Is it true that Latter-day Saints are considered non-Christians by the Catholic Church for purposes of conversion?
*]If it is true, why is it so? (It seems to me the average Latter-day Saint would not need the same kind of instruction as your average Southeast Asian or Amazonian native.)
*]Furthermore, if it is true, what other groups (if any) that identify themselves as Christian are not considered Christian by the Catholic Church for purposes of conversion?
*]If Latter-day Saints are not considered Christians for conversion purposes, does that mean that there is no difference whatsoever between the conversion process prescribed for Latter-day Saints and that prescribed for, say, the aforementioned Amazonian native?
*]And finally, what about Catholics who become Latter-day Saints and then later decide they want to return to the Catholic Church?
[/list]

And please, I’m looking for catholic answers, not private interpretations — please provide authentic sources for your information, preferably something I can verify (either through hyperlink or a chapter-and-verse sort of quotation or what have you).

Thank you in advance for your help.


#2

Hello Studens;

Let me take a stab at addressing your questions…

Yes and No. The LDS form of *baptism * is not recognized as a valid form of baptism in the Catholic Church because the LDS doctrinal understanding of the triune nature of God is not in accordance with the nearly universal christian understanding of the Trinity accepted by the Catholic Church. Because the LDS doctrine is so unique in its teaching on the trinity, the baptism performed by the LDS church is not recognized as a valid form of baptism. Thus, LDS members who have only been baptised in the LDS church must - in addition to receiving the other sacraments of initiation, also receive a validly recognized baptism.

Your question assumes that to be a “christian” one must have received a valid baptism. To some extent that is technically correct. However, there are different forms of baptism in addition to the normal water baptism. There is baptism of desire and baptism of blood. However, if a “christian” is defined as simply a follower of Christ, then to the extent a member of the LDS church can call himself a follower of Christ, they are christian.

Here’s a link to Baptism in the CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church

[quote=Studens]If it is true, why is it so? (It seems to me the average Latter-day Saint would not need the same kind of instruction as your average Southeast Asian or Amazonian native.)
[/quote]

Instruction is not the issue. The issue is one of valid reception of the sacraments of initiation into the Church. Most non-catholic christian denominations have an understanding of the trinity that is in line with the Catholic understanding and, therefore, the baptism they received in their denomination is accepted and recognized by the Catholic Church. On the other hand, LDS members have not received a valid baptism, even if their time spent studying the scriptures might be greater than, say, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism. The amount of instruction is not the problem. The problem comes from the doctrinal differences between the LDS and Catholic Church.

[quote=Studens]Furthermore, if it is true, what other groups (if any) that identify themselves as Christian are not considered Christian by the Catholic Church for purposes of conversion?
[/quote]

Again, I think there needs to be a distinction drawn between whether or not one is considered a “christian” and whether or not one has received a valid baptism. If a “christian” is simply a follower of Christ, then LDS members are “christians.” But if by using the term you mean that a person has received a valid baptism, then the Catholic Church does not recognize any baptism that is not trinitarian. Thus, e.g. JW baptisms are also not valid because they also do not accept the Trinitiarian nature of God. Also not accepted are baptisms performed solely “in the name of Jesus Christ” as opposed to in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

[quote=Studens]If Latter-day Saints are not considered Christians for conversion purposes, does that mean that there is no difference whatsoever between the conversion process prescribed for Latter-day Saints and that prescribed for, say, the aforementioned Amazonian native?
[/quote]

No. The two persons’ conversion experiences would - I imagine - be quite different on a personal level. However, it is true that both the LDS member and the Amazonian native would have to receive baptism in addition to the other sacraments of initiation, whereas, a convert who was baptised in the Lutheran Church, for example, would not have to receive baptism because the baptism received in the Lutheran Church would be recognized as valid.

[quote=Studens]And finally, what about Catholics who become Latter-day Saints and then later decide they want to return to the Catholic Church?
[/quote]

They are already baptised, and would not have to be re-baptised. Catholics believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. There is nothing a person could do to lose the grace of baptism. (See the link posted above)

I hope this helps.


#3

Thank you, Robert, this is helpful. I can understand this principle behind requiring Latter-day Saints to undergo baptism before admission into the Catholic Church. Even though we both baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” our two understandings of the meaning of that phrase are sufficiently different to justify considering them two distinct rituals.

It seems that the official documentation that I could indicate to anyone who asks about it is CCC 1256 (is that the correct method of citation?):

1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation. [emphasis added]

I can see how this can be interpreted to mean that even those who use the Trinitarian baptismal formula, if they use it to refer to something that they believe to be very different from what the Church does when she baptizes, are not performing a baptism that would be considered valid by the Catholic Church.

I can see other possible interpretations of all of this, but the emphasis on tradition used in conjunction with what is written to determine canonical law is, I think, sufficient to explain the stance of the Catholic Church on the issue given the foregoing text. Furthermore, I think most Latter-day Saints are fully comfortable with the idea that scripture is usually not properly or fully understood in the absence of long-standing ecclesiastical tradition, so those who would also see other interpretations of this text could be convinced of the authenticity of the doctrine by an appeal to the traditional Catholic interpretation of the idea. I think this would be an adequate explanation for those Latter-day Saints who want to understand why their baptism is not accepted by the Catholic Church while the Lutherans’ is.

I do have some further questions, though.

The webpage (from this site) that I first referenced in my post talks about how Christians are not to be considered catechumens, even if they need to undergo all the same instruction as a catechumen would. It also says that Christians who become Catholic should not participate in the scrutinies, or in the presentation of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Book of the Gospels (and here specifically, the focus is on distinguishing Christians from “those who have received no Christian instruction and formation”). Furthermore, it says that Christians who become Catholic should probably not be initiated at the Easter Vigil.

How are Latter-day Saints treated in regard to all of this? Are they treated like other Christians, but for baptism? Or are they treated like non-Christians in every way?


#4

Allow me. I am former LDS and my soon to be former LDS wife is currently going through RCIA. We attend the same RCIA classes as everyone else. The whole process is the same. Those who didn’t receive a valid (by Catholic definition) receive that additional sacrament (many in the class fit this category and are not former LDS) but other than that everything else is the same. The entire class, catechumens AND candidates became “elect” at certain point in the process and all will receive the sacraments of initiation at easter vigil.


#5

[quote=majick275]Allow me. I am former LDS and my soon to be former LDS wife is currently going through RCIA. We attend the same RCIA classes as everyone else. The whole process is the same. Those who didn’t receive a valid (by Catholic definition) receive that additional sacrament (many in the class fit this category and are not former LDS) but other than that everything else is the same. The entire class, catechumens AND candidates became “elect” at certain point in the process and all will receive the sacraments of initiation at easter vigil.
[/quote]

Thank you for your reply!

So your experience was different from what is described here:
catholic.com/library/How_to_Become_a_Catholic.asp
Is that correct?


#6

Studens,
I admire and appreciate your intellectual honesty. A rare virtue.
Paul


#7

[quote=Studens]Thank you for your reply!

So your experience was different from what is described here:
catholic.com/library/How_to_Become_a_Catholic.asp
Is that correct?
[/quote]

No it was exactly as described under the section titled preparation for the unbaptized. Note that preparation for Christians covers this under the provision for those who have not received Chrisitian instruction or lived as Christians. I think you will find in practice that it is up to the local RCIA director under the guidelines of the bishop of that diocese how the program is carried out. (at least the details) our candidates do participate in the scrutinies and such. What is described in this article as preparation for Chrsitians is interpreted in our parish at least as being more for Catholics who are unconfirmed and high church pretestants and such who are pretty close to Catholic and are basically just uniting with Rome.

Please refer to reception in special cases for the canonical basis for baptized going the the same process as catechumens.


#8

[quote=majick275]No it was exactly as described under the section titled preparation for the unbaptized. Note that preparation for Christians covers this under the provision for those who have not received Chrisitian instruction or lived as Christians. . . . What is described in this article as preparation for Chrsitians is interpreted in our parish at least as being more for Catholics who are unconfirmed and high church pretestants and such who are pretty close to Catholic and are basically just uniting with Rome.
[/quote]

All right, I guess I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that everyone underwent the same process as non-Christians, even Lutherans or other such traditional Protestants. If I understand you correctly, then you’re saying that you underwent the process described at that webpage for non-Christians, and that many other people who also believe in Christ were there right alongside you, but no traditional Protestants were among the group going through all the rites (even though some may have been receiveing instruction with you). Is that right?

[quote=majick275]I think you will find in practice that it is up to the local RCIA director under the guidelines of the bishop of that diocese how the program is carried out. (at least the details) our candidates do participate in the scrutinies and such.
[/quote]

This makes sense.

[quote=majick275]Please refer to reception in special cases for the canonical basis for baptized going the the same process as catechumens.
[/quote]

I’m not clear on what you mean by this.

Studens,
I admire and appreciate your intellectual honesty. A rare virtue.
Paul

Thank you, Paul! The way I see it, if you can’t have honesty, you can’t have Jesus — John 14:6.


#9

[quote=Studens]All right, I guess I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that everyone underwent the same process as non-Christians, even Lutherans or other such traditional Protestants. If I understand you correctly, then you’re saying that you underwent the process described at that webpage for non-Christians, and that many other people who also believe in Christ were there right alongside you, but no traditional Protestants were among the group going through all the rites (even though some may have been receiveing instruction with you). Is that right?
[/quote]

Yes, although be careful on definition of protestants. We have baptists and even methodists in our class. I am not aware of any “high church” protestants in our parish going through RCIA right now but the standard practice here is everyone goes through the same RCIA classes unless the pastor privately decides with them to do something else. (I am not aware of any such cases in our parish).

[quote=Studens]This makes sense.
[/quote]

Good. i’m not he expert on all things RCIA but I can tell you what I’ve seen here.

[quote=Studens]I’m not clear on what you mean by this.
[/quote]

The article on CA that you refernenced has a section that mentions even baptized Catholics going through the whole process if/when appropriate.


#10

[quote=majick275]The article on CA that you refernenced has a section that mentions even baptized Catholics going through the whole process if/when appropriate.
[/quote]

I am aware of the fact that baptized Catholics will frequently attend RCIA classes (though surely they wouldn’t be rebaptized or reconfirmed [unless of course they haven’t received confirmation] — it’s entirely instructional for them, rather than sacramental, right?), but I’m afraid I don’t understand what it is you’re telling me to do when you say:

Please refer to reception in special cases for the canonical basis for baptized going the the same process as catechumens.

Would you mind spelling that out a little more for me? It sounds like you’re telling me I’m saying something wrong and trying to tell me how to say it properly. If so, will you please tell me exactly what I’m saying wrong and exactly how it should be said instead?

Thanks.


#11

Just thought I’d stick in my 1.5 cents here. When I returned to the Catholic Church after being a Mormon for 10 years, all that I was required to do was to confess and receive absolution. As was pointed out previously, a revert does not have to be baptised or go through any special rites or procedures.

Once a Catholic, always a Catholic! :amen:


#12

[quote=Studens]I am aware of the fact that baptized Catholics will frequently attend RCIA classes (though surely they wouldn’t be rebaptized or reconfirmed [unless of course they haven’t received confirmation] — it’s entirely instructional for them, rather than sacramental, right?), but I’m afraid I don’t understand what it is you’re telling me to do when you say:
[/quote]

(from the CA article you linked to)
*Reception in Special Cases

In some situations, there may be doubts whether a person’s baptism was valid. All baptisms are assumed valid, regardless of denomination, unless after serious investigation there is reason to doubt that the candidate was baptized with water and the Trinitarian formula (". . . in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"), or that the minister or recipient of baptism did not intend it to be an actual baptism.

If there are doubts about the validity of a person’s baptism (or whether the person was baptized at all), then the candidate will be given a conditional baptism (one with the form “. . . if you are not already baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).

“If conditional baptism . . . seems necessary, this must be celebrated privately rather than at a public liturgical assembly of the community and with only those limited rites which the diocesan bishop determines. The reception into full communion should take place later at the Sunday Eucharist of the community” (NSC 37).

Another special case concerns those who have been baptized as Catholics but who were not brought up in the faith or who have not received the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist. “Although baptized adult Catholics who have never received catechetical instruction or been admitted to the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist are not catechumens, some elements of the usual catechumenal formation are appropriate to their preparation for the sacraments, in accord with the norms of the ritual, Preparation of Uncatechized Adults for Confirmation and Eucharist” (NSC 25). *

There is only one baptism in the Catholic church. If you leave and come back you don’t get rebaptized. If you received a valid baptism in another church you don’t get baptized. Thus the difference between catechumen and candidate. However, in practice they usually go through the same classes together and the same rites. (scrutinies, etc.) after the rite of election they are all “elect” althouh at easter vigil the catechumens will get baptized. Other than that it’s the same. For full scale “reverts” (confirmed catholics who left and came back) as the other poster said, they just need the sacrament of reconciliation. (confession, absolution, penance) If they feel a need for instruction they can attend sunday school of religion, private instruction from parish staff or if they wish attend the RCIA classes. (although they would just be “auditing” and wouldn’t participate in any of the rites. Most of the baptized folks in our RCIA program have been baptized in churches other than the Catholic. My wife was baptized Catholic but her parents became LDS when she was a baby. So in her case she is a candidate but needs the whole program because she was not brought up Catholic and thus never received any of the other sacraments or religious intstruction.

[quote=Studens]Would you mind spelling that out a little more for me? It sounds like you’re telling me I’m saying something wrong and trying to tell me how to say it properly. If so, will you please tell me exactly what I’m saying wrong and exactly how it should be said instead?

Thanks.
[/quote]

My fault. I’m not expressing myself well. Sorry. My wifes example above is what I was trying to cover. People who were baptized
Catholic but not raised Catholic and folks who were validly baptized in other churches are “candidates” and in our parish go through the same RCIA classes and rites. They just don’t get baptized. The article you linked to had a section covering the “official” justification for this that I quoted above. Hopefully that helps.


#13

Thank you, majick275. I think I now understand what you’re saying. I’m sorry for being so dense on that.


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