Some personal reflections on Catholicism and Mormonism.


#1

Hello again Casen,

From the thread on the BoM forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=717931#post717931 ] you requested the following:

I would be interested, perhaps in another thread, in hearing what you feel you gave up and also gained by choosing RCC over CoJCoLDS in terms of doctrine. For example, I’d have a real problem giving up the beautiful doctrine found in D&C Section 76 which describes the Plan of Salvation in so much detail and for which I’ve received a personal witness (but I’m no expert on Catholicism so perhaps there is something similar in Catholic teachings, considering the Bible talks of “many mansions”).

That’s just an example but I’m curious if there were items taught in the D&C or PoGP you felt you were “giving up” or RCC beliefs that differ from LDS beliefs that you are grateful to have gained. Your answer might help me better appreciate the RCC.

Me: Wow, interesting, but complex, and tough questions to answer. I will give it a shot, but please keep in mind that much of I will have to say is very subjective. Here goes.

D&C 76 expounds the three degrees of glory/heaven from the LDS perspective. Though I have found no explicit official teaching (i.e. Ecumenical councils and/or *ex cathedra *Papal decres) on degrees in heaven, I personally find solid evidence in the scriptures for such a belief.

For instance, we find 3 distinct rewards/degrees in Jesus’ parables of the “talents” (Matt. 25:14-30), and of the “pounds” (Luke 19:11-27).

There is also the Pauline reference to what appears to be 3 distinct rewards/degrees; “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars” (1 Cor. 15:41).

And we have some very interesting thoughts on this issue related to us by St. Irenaeus:

And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendor of the city; for everywhere the Savior shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy.

[They say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that it was on this account the Lord declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved…(Against Heresies, 5.36 – ANF 1.567)

More later, the Lord willing.

Aug


#2

One of the teachings of the Catholic Church that I find reassuring is the belief in infallibility (both for the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition – note the big “T”). Believing, faithful Catholics do not have to mull over certain aspects of our faith (those that have been infallibly defined in an Ecumenical Council and/or *ex cathedra *Papal decrees) asking if they are infallibly true; there are aspects of Catholic dogma and morals that irreformable, and will never change.

However, the same cannot be said for the CoJCoLDS. Latter-day Saints do not believe in infallibility, neither for the Quad, nor for continuing revelation. I am aware of many Latter-day Saints who like this kind of paradigm, for its seems to offer more “freedom” of thought in certain respects. The LDS concept of personal revelation is a profound one (if true), as is the concept of continuing revelation for the corporate Church. But, I remain uneasy with vagueness of what truly constitutes “official” LDS doctrine, doctrine that cannot change, doctrine that is irreformable, doctrine that remains eternal truth.

Grace and peace,

Aug


#3

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the Catholic interpretation of this passage is that understanding heaven is as difficult as understanding the universe and that we should focus our energies on doing God’s will and not on conceptualizing heaven.

I always wonder why people try to understand heaven? Are they trying to understand how much beteer than hell it is? Are they looking at if the cost you pay on earth is worth the price in heaven? I’ve always gained comfort in knowing that God IS everything and that obedience to His Word and lving a Sacramental life will fully unite me with Him on Judgement Day.

Just my thoughts…

SG


#4

Augustine,
I appreciate you responding to my request and have found your posts interesting. It seems to me that if Joseph Smith was a fraud he must have been a genius to have expounded the concept of distinct rewards/degrees in heaven as alluded to in the Bible with such clarity. The doctrine certainly rings true to me and seems to mesh well with the Bible. In any case, it appears RCC teachings don’t preclude a belief in such a doctrine.

Also, I can appreciate the Catholic belief in infallibility. The LDS view certainly gives the church more “wiggle room” but I agree that church members (and non-members) sometimes get confused as to what is official doctrine vs. speculation from church leadership.

I curious what your thoughts are regarding baptism for the dead and other LDS temple practices. Does the Catholic Church have a doctrine that addresses people that don’t hear the gospel in mortality and thus never have a chance for a baptism?

I hope I’m not boring you too much; I’m just finding your perspective very interesting and your non-combative approach refreshing.


#5

[quote=Casen]I curious what your thoughts are regarding baptism for the dead and other LDS temple practices. Does the Catholic Church have a doctrine that addresses people that don’t hear the gospel in mortality and thus never have a chance for a baptism?
[/quote]

I know I’m not Augustine (and not nearly as smart either), but I thought I would provide an answer (if that’s ok)…The Church entrusts those types of people to the mercy of God. It wouldn’t really be fair to judge them based on Jesus and/or God if they had never heard of either.

CCC:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

1283 With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation.


#6

Hey Casen,

I appreciate your response to my initial posts. You wrote:

I curious what your thoughts are regarding baptism for the dead and other LDS temple practices. Does the Catholic Church have a doctrine that addresses people that don’t hear the gospel in mortality and thus never have a chance for a baptism?>>

Me: About 4 years ago, there was a very interesting discussion on baptism for the dead on another message (ZLMB). A couple of professors from BYU were participating, so I really had to do some homework on the subject. The following is from one of my posts on ZLMB:

Simon J. Kistemaker in BakerBooks New Testament Commentary - 1 Corinthians had the following to say about 1 Cor. 15:29 on page 558: “Throughout the centuries, explanations for verse 29 have been numerous and varied; many of them concern the phrases baptized for the dead and baptized in their behalf. In spite of all exegesis, a satisfactory solution appears to be elusive. I am not presenting a resume of every possible suggestion; instead I mention several attempts to clarify the text.” Kistemaker then provides a list of 7 possible explanations. The first explanation listed is, “** Living members of the church were baptized vicariously for those believers who had died but had not received the sacrament of baptism**.” (Emphasis mine) Kistemaker himself does not like this explanation and says so. But he later on admits that, “…many scholars suggest a literal interpretation as a vicarious baptism…”; to which he adds, “the objections are formidable.” They are formidable for Kistemaker because he is a Reformed Calvinist, and if he accepts the literal interpretation of this verse he would have to radically change his view of the role and nature of baptism, both for the living and dead. As to the other six explanations, Kistemaker concludes with, “In all humility I confess that the sense of this text escapes me; verse 29 remains a mystery.” (ZLMB thread, “Paul Taught Against Baptism for the Dead?”.)>>

But our good Protestant commentator neglected to mention an interesting interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29 presented by a Catholic saint, St. Francis de Sales, for reasons that should be become obvious. (Due to posting limitations I shall provide de Sales interpretation in my next post.)

Aug


#7

The following in St. Francis de Sales interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29:

  • What shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why then are they baptized for them? *This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized as often taken for afflictions and penances: as S. Luke, chap xii., where Our Lord speaking of his Passion says: *I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished ! – *and in S. Mark chap x., he says: *Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of; or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized ? – *in which Our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism. This then is the sense of Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? (St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, Tan Books, p. 368.)>>

As one can see, de Sales incorporates the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, and the work for the dead on the part of living for those therein, as an explanation for the passage. His remarks that baptism does not always refer to the rite of baptism, but also to “afflictions and penances” should be noted.

The above interpretation, incorporated with the Catholic doctrine of “baptism of desire” (see tdknick’s helpful post) offers the only reasonable alternative explanation to the literal reading of 1 Cor. 15:29 in my opinion. Though, I must admit, the LDS view remains the most natural (i.e. literal) reading.

Grace and peace,

Aug


#8

Augustine,
Thanks for responding to my question. I also appreciated tkdnick’s response regarding those that don’t hear the gospel in mortality. Both answers seem reasonable. I’ve asked these questions of Protestants and haven’t received a satisfactory answer (perhaps I just asked the wrong people). The typical protestant response I get is that if you don’t accept Jesus in this life you’re damned, even if you were unlucky enough to be born in the mountains of Afghanistan, that’s just too bad. That never seemed fair to me so I appreciate the Catholic take on the issue much more.


#9

I have been thinking about this thread for a while and I wanted to provide a few ideas. To begin with I will mention D&C 76. My guess is the Casen has been attending Sunday School just like I have. We discussed this just last Sunday.

The Sunday School teacher and a few others were very happy to be part of a religion that had so much additional knowledge concerning our post mortal existence. I can sympathize with this view. I believe the idea of degrees of glory can preserve some of the importance of being a committed follower of God and God’s characteristic as the perfect judge AND preserve the idea of God’s characteristic as the perfectly merciful one (whatever prefect mercy is).

In addition to this, when one’s final rest is to be a harp strummer (I do not think this would be a fair assessment of the Catholic Church or many Protestant churches, but some see this is the ultimate goal), one needn’t progress too far in this life; but when ones final “rest” is to be a co-ruler with Jesus Christ it might be reasonable to expect a little more progress.

That being said, we did talk about the fact that the Bible and the BOM do not speak with clarity concerning the subject in D&C 76. One other person and I suggested this is because our final “rest” while perhaps being a wonderful piece of additionally knowledge does not necessarily give us more information as to how we can be like Christ. The Bible and the BOM do a lot to tell us how to live. The D&C (and PGP too) do a lot to explain some of the particulars of LDS beliefs and practices. Of course there are beliefs and practices found in the Bible/BOM and aspects of how to be like Christ in the D&C/PGP, but I think the broad strokes are more the other way. I also would acknowledge that “how to be like Christ and thus partake of God’s greatest gifts” and “what are the particulars of doctrine and practice” are linked in many places.

Charity, TOm


#10

Now on to the LDS doctrine that I would be giving up and I think I would miss. The 4th Lateran council seems pretty authoritative in the God created everything from nothing. In truth I do not have a huge problem with this simple fact, but I think much that derives from it would cause me problems. I am not clever enough to follow Plantinga’s theodicy without compromising the omnipotence of God (I am not convinced Augustine or Aquinas did significantly better, but I am less familiar with their contribution than with Plantinga’s and not familiar enough with any of the three). To me creation ex nihilo results in two things. First, God created evil. Second, those who return to God are 100% predestined to do so and those who do not are 100% predestined to not do so.

If there was once only God and then God created, and now there is evil, then God ultimately is the author of evil. I totally respect Plantinga’s ideas that this world possesses more good because free will agents can exist than would a world in which there was no evil. Essentially the present world system totaled up contains more good because there is good and evil than would an alternative world system in which there was no evil. But I wonder if there is free will in heaven and if there is evil in heaven. If there is no free will in heaven then per the above it contains less good than our present existence (perhaps). If there is free will in heaven and still no evil then why didn’t God create this heavenly existence first? If heaven is a possible “world A” then conventional total omnipotence dictates that God can create “world A” from nothing.

I think Augustine in a very simple way suggested that evil is the absence of good and is thus not spirit, matter, or reality. That evil is the tendency of free will agents to choose non-being over being. This holds some appeal for me, but God still created the free will agents who choose non-being from nothing.

Aquinas I believe suggests that God is responsible for the evil that is the outcome of the faulty choices, but that the choices were first made by the free will beings. Again I say that God created the free will beings from nothing.

So Plantinga, Aquinas, and Augustine all give me a little trouble.

Now concerning strict predestination as a result of creation ex nihilo: If everything that the first free will beings experienced was created by God from nothing AND if everything that the first free will beings were was created by God from nothing; I see their choices as a direct result of God’s creation (in freshman philosophy I suggested that quantum uncertainty was an out for this conclusion, but I am uncomfortable with a God who “plays dice” too). In effect God created some to be elect and some to be non-elect. Who am I to deny this prerogative to God, but it is something that I find less palatable than other options.

I find the idea of eternal intelligences (specifically, with eternal matter as a helper) to solve the all of the problems above. I still lean on a Plantinga-esque greater good achieved when free will agents can (and in some cases do) choose evil, but this greater good becomes associated with the perfecting of eternally existing intelligences and not with the progress of ex nihilo beings. No longer is double pre-destination part of the equation, no longer is God responsible for every component of the being who choose to introduce evil into the mostly good world. Even natural evil (or seemingly horrible/evil disasters) produced by our fragile world becomes a component of the prefect environment for the molding of eternal intelligences into omnibenevolent co-heirs with Christ. Strangely enough at first glance this seems like the doctrinal sacrifice I would most miss.

Charity, TOm


#11

I feel like answering this question from the other direction too. What would I gain if I became a Catholic? Or if I were a Catholic what would I be most reluctant to put down? For me this answer has been the same one thing for at least two years. I feel like mentioning it and I hope to not create too much stress.

I have “holy envy” of the real presence in the Eucharist. I see this as a solid doctrine with Biblical and Early Church roots, but more than this I see this as a beautiful doctrine. As one who would take CCC460 farther than most of my Catholic brothers and sisters, I would link the Eucharist solidly to this. If we let it effect us, non-Catholics can see great power in the symbolic uniting with God as we eat His flesh and drink His blood. But how much more can a Catholic get when they add to all the wonderful symbolism the reality of God’s actual presence. If we are to transform our fallen selves into ones who through His grace can stand in His presence and be co-heirs to the glory of the Father (to all that He is), would not physical transformation through physical uniting be a powerful way to escape from our fallen nature.

Stealing from those better read than me (as usual) let me quote the following:

Saint Joseph Daily Missal:
O GOD, Who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it, grant that through the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His Divinity, who has condescended to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord: Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen. (Saint Joseph Daily Missal, 1961, pp. 660, 661.)

We believe that the Unblemished Lamb died for our sins, why would we baulk at the thought of literally partaking of His body and blood like John 6 says we should?

Charity, TOm


#12

On Infallibility:

I am mostly a fan of what I see within the CoJCoLDS as greater freedom AND responsibility to develop our own understandings of God’s message to us. I once said it would be nice to have a CCC for the CoJCoLDS, but I have reconsidered this and I am happy to not have such an authoritative document.

Given the choice between an infallible Pope who cannot receive supernatural public revelation that defines truth beyond what can be derived from the Bible and tradition OR a fallible Prophet who receives revelation but must filter it through his human nature and may not perfectly translate it; I choose the Prophet. I might be a little happier if the Prophet spoke with “thus sayeth the Lord” language a little more, but I can respect the fact that many others in the world would be uncomfortable with such things. And the Pope’s infallible charism does not get exercised too often either.

The Bible and scripture in general is a different story in some ways. I am very comfortable with what I consider to be a functional semi-infallibility of scripture including the Bible in the CoJCoLDS. While LDS will usually claim to not believe scripture is infallible, I almost never see any LDS say that this bit of scripture is corrupted (I am comfortable and even happy with the idea that some scripture could have been included in the canon but was not). I hope this does not change within the CoJCoLDS and I fear there is some who might move us in this direction. Give me a fallible scripture that we embrace 100% and I will be more happy than with either an infallible scripture or a Swiss cheese scripture that everyone wants to take apart.

Charity, TOm


#13

The last thing I want to mention before I leave the country (I do not think I will be able to respond for the next week), is concerning what it means to be reluctant to give up this or that.

I am torn between two ideas so I will share both of them.

We are to “be as little children.” We are counseled that there will be preachers who preach to those with “itchy ears.” If “sola scriptura” is what you believe is true and the Bible teaches semi-arianism, then you should be a semi-arian. Or if the Bible teaches strict predestination then you should embrace strict predestination. If you subscribe to the authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope explains something in an authoritative way, why would you feel the need to tell the Vicar of Christ that he is way off base? To take a different path on any of these issues would require a pretty strong spiritual reason in my book. We do not choose our beliefs because to believe something different would be uncomfortable. We choose our beliefs because we think that God is the author of truth and we wish to align ourselves with that truth. Who cares what we leave behind when we become a LDS or a Catholic, we are to walk with God. The Pearl of Great price is had for the singular amount of ALL that we have. This includes our sacred cows and our learned prejudices.

But what of the divinely beautiful? Can we not find God through the incredible resonance His truth has with His children, namely us? Are we sure that God did not make doctrines like Eternal Intelligences and the Real Presence so that we could hear Him calling to that part of us that longs to reunite with Him? I suspect this is part of it. It was not until I decided that the Catholic Church and CCC460 could offer me something of the truth I had learned to see in most of God’s interactions with His children that I felt that I could seriously look at what the Catholic Church had to offer. Would God make the idea that He is my Father and I am to become like Him through the Grace proffered by His Son Jesus Christ so incredibly important to me if it could not serve as a signpost on my path back to Him? I think not!

What do I do with the above conflict? I pray. I have faith. I know that a rock is not what I receive when I ask the Father for His will. His Grace is sufficient even for me.

Charity, TOm


#14

Tom,
Your posts are very interesting. You and Agustine are much more intelligent and well read then me. We did indeed cover D&C 76 last week but unfortunately I was in the hall with our baby and missed the lesson. I have been fascinated with this section and its connection to the temple for quite some time though. I agree it inspires one to work harder since it helps us better understand our divine potential.

RE: But what of the divinely beautiful? Can we not find God through the incredible resonance His truth has with His children, namely us? Are we sure that God did not make doctrines like Eternal Intelligences and the Real Presence so that we could hear Him calling to that part of us that longs to reunite with Him? I suspect this is part of it. It was not until I decided that the Catholic Church and CCC460 could offer me something of the truth I had learned to see in most of God’s interactions with His children that I felt that I could seriously look at what the Catholic Church had to offer. Would God make the idea that He is my Father and I am to become like Him through the Grace proffered by His Son Jesus Christ so incredibly important to me if it could not serve as a signpost on my path back to Him? I think not!

Could you please explain this paragraph a little more? I’m no intellectual and I’m not sure if I understood correctly.

Thanks,

Casen


#15

Holy Smokes! TOm presented so much stuff I don’t think it’s possible to respond.

One thing though - God did not create evil. He cannot create evil. You may take a indirect route and say He allowed free will, and free will led to evil, and thus God indirectly is involved. But it was never God’s plan (nor intention) for there to be evil.

Something I have always struggled with in regards to predestination…God in omnipotent. That means He knows if, or when, you will come to Him. If that’s the case, why does He try before that time? Or, if He knows you will never come to Him, why does He try? It is one of those mysteries that I have to submit my will to The Church.

Something I dislike about LDS theology is that there is too much detail for me. Too much is known. This takes away from the mystery of it. For me, I think it brings God down closer to our level. Makes Him too easily understood and tangible.

Those are my wandering thoughts.


#16

Since we’re on the topic of giving up/gaining, I thought I would provide some from the opposite direction. If I were to leave the CCC and go to the LDS.

  1. I would gain the support system the LDS church has.

  2. I would gain the solid family environment.

  3. I would gain the great social evironment.

  4. I would lose the wonderful real presence of Jesus.

  5. I would lose the lives of the saints.

  6. I would lose that spiritual connection all Catholics have that I don’t think anyone else does (at least that I’ve seen).

  7. I would lose the largest church “family” (1.1+ billiion members).


#17

Tkdnich,
You seem to be arguing that receiving further “light and knowledge” from God is a bad thing? That you don’t want to know more about God because you prefer the mystery.

I would think that if God chooses to reveal more about himself to mankind we should count that as a blessing.


#18

[quote=Casen]Tkdnich,
You seem to be arguing that receiving further “light and knowledge” from God is a bad thing? That you don’t want to know more about God because you prefer the mystery.

I would think that if God chooses to reveal more about himself to mankind we should count that as a blessing.
[/quote]

I’m not trying to say that more knowledge of God is a bad thing. Of course it’s a good thing. To me though, LDS just have too much information. It’s too specific on some topics. Maybe that is just some members speculations though.


#19

[quote=TOmNossor]Now on to the LDS doctrine that I would be giving up and I think I would miss. The 4th Lateran council seems pretty authoritative in the God created everything from nothing. In truth I do not have a huge problem with this simple fact, but I think much that derives from it would cause me problems. I am not clever enough to follow Plantinga’s theodicy without compromising the omnipotence of God (I am not convinced Augustine or Aquinas did significantly better, but I am less familiar with their contribution than with Plantinga’s and not familiar enough with any of the three). To me creation ex nihilo results in two things. First, God created evil. Second, those who return to God are 100% predestined to do so and those who do not are 100% predestined to not do so.

[/quote]

Have you seen this thread?:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=54702

another link:
peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

Peter Kreeft’s website has more on why there needs to be an Uncaused Cause, whether you call that “God” or not.

Also, be careful with the use of the word “predestined”. It has a wide range of senses. To some, God sees all history at once, but his seeing it perfectly does not eliminate our ability to reject him and seek lesser goods by our own wills.

peterkreeft.com/topics-more/freewill-predestination.htm


#20

It’s striking to see you, a Mormon I presume, admit that you believe Mormon prophets can teach doctrinal error!

I’ve never encountered that before, but then again, I’ve never asked.


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