What Catholics Should Know About What Mormon’s Believe?
It is always good to have some back ground of the other faiths in the world. Understanding other faiths, in relation to your own, will give you better knowledge to your own beliefs and conviction when speaking to others of other faiths.
Some basic information Catholics should know about what Mormon’s believe:
- The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. Its official name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, aka LDS Church.
- In 1820, Joseph Smith Jr., age 14, went into the woods near Palmyra, New York to pray concerning the different denominations of Christianity. Mormon’s believe God the Father and Jesus, his son, appeared to him. They told him not to join any of the existing churches.
- Shortly after, an angel appeared to Smith and told him to translate a book written on golden plates. Smith claimed to receive the plates along with instructions to begin the translation. This became the Book of Mormon. Smith wrote three books which the Mormons claim as sacred scripture: Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
- Smith claimed that during the translation process, John the Baptist appeared to him and ordained him to accomplish the divine work of restoring the true church by preaching the true gospel which had been lost from the earth.
- Joseph Smith then started the Church of the latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.Joseph Smith made very clear statements about his importance in God’s plan: “Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p.408-409).After much persecution in New York, Illinois and Missouri, Joseph Smith was murdered and the religion was then led by Brigham Young and eventually settled in Utah.
- In the late 1800’s the Mormon leaders outlawed polygamy, which was practiced and accepted by the early Mormon leaders. This outlawing helped enable Utah to become the 45th state of the union in 1895.
Core Differences and Beliefs:
Church Established (Mormon): The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr in 1830. He claimed that John the Baptist told him to restore the true church. That is why he established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormon Church). Mormons believe that beginning with Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been led by a prophet of God. The prophet receives direct revelation from God and spiritually guides the Church along with its self-appointed 12 apostles. Prophets serve as presidents of the Church and direct the affairs of the Church. All of the apostles are regarded by Church members as “special witnesses” of Jesus Christ throughout the world. They travel frequently, addressing and encouraging large congregations of members and interested nonmembers and meeting with local leadership. When the President/Prophet of the church dies, a New Prophet is derived from the 12 apostles. It is usually the President of the apostles.
Church Established (Catholic): The Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ and with His words spoken in Matthew 16 to St. Peter, He established the Church’s first leader. “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Apostles of the Catholic Church were the men that walked hand in hand with Jesus. The Apostles taught what Jesus taught them initially orally and eventually wrote it down, becoming the New Testament. The Pope is the leader of the Church with the Bishops also being leaders, usually of specific Diocese or regions. All Bishops, including the Pope can follow a line a bishops before them to one of the original Apostles. As of today, there have been 265 Popes in direct succession to Peter. Because the Church was established by Christ, the Church has no authority to change his teachings on faith and morals. It never has changed. Pope is elected by the Cardinals, senior ecclesiastical officials, usually a bishop, of the Church.
Modern Revelation (Mormon): The ninth article, which comes from the Articles of Faith of the LDS church and is an official statement of doctrine, states; ”We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things.” Mormons maintain that the need for divine guidance is as great or greater in our modern, complex world as it was in the comparatively simple times of the Hebrews. Thus, revelation continues both privately and publicly.
Modern Revelation (Catholic): Catholics hold that public or “general” revelation ended at the death of the last apostle (Catechism of the Catholic Church 66, 73), but private revelations can be given still—and have been, as Marian apparitions at such places as Fatima and Lourdes testify (CCC 67). Such revelations can never correct, supplement, add new doctrines, add new scriptures or complete the Christian faith, which is precisely what Mormon “revelations” claim to do. Lastly, no Church Father ever taught that new doctrines or inspired Revelations from God were possible after the death of the last Apostle.
The Godhead (Mormon): Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, Three Persons in One God. Mormons believe in three separate and distinctive beings, each with the same goals and purposes. God is a personal being that has a body and flesh and bones. He was once a man that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ did. According to Mormon theology, Jesus is the literal son of god and his goddess wife. He was born through physical sexual relations with Mary. Brigham Young taught that Jesus was not born with any involvement of the Holy Spirit. Mormons teach that Christ is a secondary, inferior god. He does not exist from all eternity. Mormons now believe that Christ’s divinity is virtually equal to that of his Father’s. Holy Spirit is a ghost that’s mission is to bear record of God and Jesus. Mormons describe this as the Godhead – three gods in the godhead. The Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is 3 persons in one God.
The Trinity (Catholic): Catholics and all Christians believe in the Trinity, three persons in one God. The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons in one God. Each person is understood as having the one identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. Through this natural unity the whole Father is in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and the whole Holy Spirit, too, is in the Father and in the Son. None of these is outside any of the others; because no one of them precedes any other of them in eternity or exceeds any other in greatness, or is superior to any other in power. God the Father is eternal and the creator. God the Son, Jesus Christ, is eternal and was begotten, not made by the Father. God the Holy Spirit is eternal and resides as the guiding advocate within the Church on Earth. (Side note: The incarnation is often an indicator of Christ’s divine nature when “the Holy Spirit overshadowed” Mary to conceive God the Son.)
Heaven and Hell (Mormon): Mormonism teaches that practically no one is forever damned to hell. Aside from Satan, his spirit followers, and perhaps a half-dozen notorious sinners, all people who have ever existed will share in heavenly “glory.” Not, mind you, all in the same heaven. There are, in fact, three heavens.
The lowest heaven is populated by adulterers, murderers, thieves, liars and other evil-doers. These share in a glory and delight impossible to imagine. Their sins have been forgiven, and they now enjoy the eternal presence of the Holy Ghost.
The middle heaven contains the souls and bodies of good non-Mormons and those Mormons who were in some way deficient in their obedience to church commandments. They will glory in the presence of Jesus Christ forever.
The top heaven is reserved for devout Mormons, who go on to become gods and rulers of their own universes. By having their wives and children “sealed” to them during an earthly, temple ceremony, these men-gods will procreate billions of spirits and place them into future, physical bodies. These future children will then worship their father-gods, obeying Mormon commandments, and eventually take their place in the eternal progression to their own godhood.
Heaven & Hell (Catholics): Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face. All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self- exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”
The Bible (Mormon): The Mormon Church claims that the Bible has been corrupted and does not contain the “fullness of the gospel”. Therefore additional (Latter-Day) revelation was and is necessary: Hence the Book of Mormon and other Mormon writings are used to help better explain the Bible. Together they work, alone they are mis-interpreted. But, the church members officially regard the Book of Mormon as the “most correct” book of scripture, in that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.”
Catholic Opinion on the Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon fails on three main counts. First, it utterly lacks historical or archaeological support, and there is an overwhelming body of empirical evidence that refutes it. Second, the Book of Mormon contains none of the key Mormon doctrines. Third, the Book of Mormon abounds in textual errors and factual errors. Example: We read that Jesus “shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem, which is in the land of our forefathers” (Alma 7:10). But Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1). Also, Scientists have demonstrated that honey bees were first brought to the New World by Spanish explorers in the fifteenth century, but the Book of Mormon, in Ether 2:3, claims they were introduced around 2000 B.C. Furthermore, the Book of Mormon describes two Jewish tribes who came to the New World around 600 BC. Archeologists and historical studies have failed to find any evidence of these tribes. In fact, not one of the Book of Mormon’s historical or archaeological references can be objectively verified.
The Bible (Catholic): The Catholic Church views The Bible (or “Sacred Scripture”) as a historically accurate account of the events taking place from Creation to the Apostolic Age. The Catholic Church also teaches that Sacred Scripture is truly the Word of God. Through the Bible, God unveils Himself, communicates His plan of salvation, and calls us to a relationship with Him.
The Church has long taught that we can approach the Scriptures with a rock-solid confidence because they are inspired by God Himself and therefore contain no error. This inerrancy is a great gift because it gives the Bible a credibility on which we can base our lives. God inspired the Scriptures in order to give us a fully trustworthy source about what we are to believe and how we are to act. When reading within the Church’s living tradition and magisterial teaching, the Bible is a sure guide for our lives.
The basis for the Church’s teaching on biblical inerrancy is inspiration. Here we must remember that the Bible is different from any other book. It is unique because it has a unique author: God Himself.
In regards to the historical aspect of the Bible, most Bible cities have been located, inscriptions have been found and archaeologist often do use the Bible as a guide for locating ancient ruins. God set the Bible in the context of history, and it is within that context that its truths may be verified.
Baptism of the Dead (Mormon): Mormons believe people who have died can be baptized by proxy, thus allowing them the opportunity to become Mormons after their death and so then can enter heaven.
Baptism of the Dead (Catholic): Catholics do not practice this. There is one single mention of baptism of the dead in the Bible by St Paul; “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29). But the Church does not believe St. Paul was referring to baptizing our dead. Although we have no way of knowing for sure who was engaging in this practice, it is certain that Paul was not referring to orthodox Christians baptizing the dead. Catholic and Protestant scholars agree on that.
The Mormon religion was founded on a theory of the “Great Apostasy”. Mormons believe that there was a complete corruption of the Catholic Church after the last Apostle died at about 100AD. Mormons teach that Christ’s Church completely disappeared from earth until it was restored by Joseph Smith in 1829. That means there was 1729 years of false teachings. But the New Testament is clear that Christ left the Church that would last forever and would always faithfully teach the Gospel. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” If the Church was corrupt for nearly 2000 years, did the gates of hell prevail against it and Jesus was then wrong in his teaching? I do not believe this is true. There are other scripture readings that also enforce that the Church will last until the end of time. Mt:24-27; Mt 18:15-18; Mt 28:20, 1 Tim 3:15. Scripture is clear: the Catholic Church has not and cannot be corrupted in her Apostolic authority and teaching. Also, the early Church fathers, especially if we look at those from the years 100 – 200 AD, such as, St. Clement, St. Ignatius, St. Justin Marytr, St. Irenaeus, taught the same Catholic doctrine as the Apostles. (St. Clement – Describes the mass as a sacrifice; St. Ignatius – defends the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; St. Justin martyr – Describes the Catholic Mass; St. Irenaeus – warms that one must follow the Church of Rome to follow the Apostolic teaching). There was no great apostasy.
If the Mormon position is correct, the early Church Fathers should have been teaching Mormon doctrine but they eventually were abandoned after the Apostles died. But there is no evidence EVER, prior to the Mormon church of teachings of polygamy, baptism for the dead, multiplicity of gods (Can become a god in heaven) , or celestial marriage (Heaven will include marriage, sex and child bearing). The evidence, on the contrary, was that the early Church teachings were distinctly Catholic. The Catholic Church has not changed those teaching to this day.
If we wish to go deeper into this theory of “Great Apostasy” lets discuss the Bible. The canon of the Bible happened around 400 AD. The Mormons accept the Bible as a matter of faith and they accept the New Testament exactly as the Catholic Church defined it. But this was 200 years after “the Great Apostasy” happened. How could the Mormons hold the Bible as a matter of faith if the cannon of the New Testament happened during the Great Apostasy?
There is no evidence of a “Great Apostasy”, when or where it began, who started it, defended it. There are no facts to support it.
The other glaring holes are in the Mormons church belief of Modern revelations. The Mormon “prophets” have had a number of false prophecies or failed prophecies, such as Joseph Smith said he would be alive for the second coming, US government would be overthrown due to its treatment of the Mormons in Missouri, Brigham Young foretold the Civil War would not Free the Slaves, not to mention the revelation that abortion is acceptable in certain circumstances… Mormon prophets have made many false prophecies, if this is the case they cannot truly be profits.
In general, the Mormon people I have met or know seem to be very nice family oriented. They are very loving people. I also know they have done a lot of good in helping other in their missionary work, but the goodness of some of the individuals does not change the facts many of their beliefs very much contradict Church teachings and the teachings of most other Christian churches. Lastly, there is no evidence in their teachings prior to Joseph Smith and there are very few to no archeological or historical evidence to the claims of the Book of Mormon. Mormon missionaries will ask you to pray to God and ask you if “the Mormon Church is the right church and the Book of Mormon is the word of God”. But in my opinion, it is pointless to do this and leads you down the wrong path; this is how they build doubt in your mind. Be confident in your faith. Look at the facts, read the Bible, read the early Church fathers and you will see the consistency and truth that Jesus taught.
If you wish to dig deeper, the website: www.catholic.com has a lot of great resources. Here is a list of all their articles on the Mormon Church on Catholic.com. http://www.google.com/cse?cx=008187825485874300314%3A1bfkl0u3vji&ie=UTF-8&q=mormon&sa=Search
I also recommend Beginning Apologetics 2 – How to Answer Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons by Fr. Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham. You can purchase this at The Catholic Company
I used both sources to research my answers.