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September 7, 2009

Coming Soon to a Doorbell Near You: Mormon Missionaries



Last week, during my EWTN "Open Line" radio show (Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. ET), I took a call from "John in Harrisburg, PA." He wanted my advice regarding his growing doubts about the Catholic Church which have arisen since he began studying with Mormon missionaries who've been trying their best to convert him to Mormonism. And their efforts have been paying off big time. Their discussions with John have left him feeling confused and doubtful about his Catholic beliefs and increasingly drawn toward the Mormon Church. Click the image above to launch the 11-minute MP3 audio clip of our on-air conversation (or click here).

Also, be sure to book mark and take a look at the online version of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's monumental (and monumentally helpful) exposé of the manifold problems with Mormon theology, The Changing World of Mormonism. Please be sure to share it with any Catholic you might know who has sucumbed to the wiles of the Mormon missionaries or who may be studying with them now and is on the road to sucumbing.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Patrick. Jeff Hendrix here. A former pastor colleague (before my conversion) made a "Primer of Mormonism" available, having Mormon as a close relative. He says most the youthful Mormon "missionaries" do not have all their religion's theology when they do the door-to-door two-year stint.

    Here is a portion of the "primer":

    A Primer on Mormonism from the Rev. Tim Tate, May 1997 1

    The Mormon Church has now become the seventh largest religious group in the United States. There are more Mormons than Presbyterians or Episcopalians. Since we are active in pastoral ministry, Mormonism has an increasing impact on all of us, and if we do not understand it, it will throw us for a huge loop.

    Here is a primer on Mormonism. Pay attention! These beliefs may seem ridiculous, but if you understand them, a lot of puzzling personal interactions will become clear -- if not now, then in the coming years. Much of this information comes from “GOSPEL PRINCIPLES,” a textbook for converts to Mormonism.

    Mormon Beliefs

    The universe has always existed and was never created. The gods organized the universe into stars and planets. Gods are exalted men; that is, men who progressed through the Mormon religion and became gods. One Mormon church leader said that there could be millions of gods. Another leader said that there are many gods, but we worship only one.

    Man is created in God’s image. That means that God is a physical being. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are discreet beings with bodies, and are each gods. God the Father is addressed in Mormonism as “Heavenly Father.” The Heavenly Father’s residence is on the star Kolob. (I do not believe that Kolob is an actual astronomical name.) Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, or they may use the term to refer to three gods. Most Mormons, especially Mormons from Utah, do not understand that there is a difference between their concept of God and the orthodox understanding, and this causes confusion in both directions when they ignorantly try to become members of mainline groups. If you do not know the Mormon concept of God and you have a Mormon in your membership class, you’ll be very, very confused.

    In accordance with the Mormon saying, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man shall one day be,” God was once a man who exalted himself through Mormonism. He was given this planet as his domain. God and his nameless and unworshipped wife (in whom Mormon feminists have keen interest) gave birth to many spirit babies. The eldest child was Jesus. Lucifer (who is identified with Satan) was another child. God the Father asked for suggestions on how to redeem his spirit babies. Jesus and Lucifer offered suggestions, Jesus’ suggestion was accepted. Lucifer became Jesus’ jealous rival.

    Mormon prayers are always directed to the “Heavenly Father.” Note that Mormons are begotten by the Father before the existence of the world and are one in substance with the Father just as Jesus is. Jesus is just our eldest brother. Mormons never address prayers to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. Mormons do not have the concept that we are artifacts of God and adopted through grace...(continued)

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  2. Thank you for posting this. I had several neighbors who were morman that I still talk to as our children are friends and when listening to your show the other day I was at work and listening as carefully as I could but missed several things. Thanks again for posting this!

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  3. More resources on the LDS Church:

    "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise" by Richard and Joan Ostling, veteran religion reporters. Non-LDS. This book is, I think, considered honest and fair-minded by both Mormons and their adversaries alike.

    "Encylopedia of Mormonism". The writers and editors are mostly BYU professors. Multi-volume, should be available at any public library. Also online at the BYU site.

    The doctrine that opens the space for Mormonism to emerge is that of the "Great Apostacy". This notion, not entirely orginal to Joseph Smith, is that the Apostolic Church derailed entirely at some point after the death of the last Apostle, in contradiction, of course, to Jesus' promises to the Church and other statements about the Church recorded in the New Testament. Early on, the date for the GA was usually set quite early. Now, however, the Council of Nicea is often the event noted in connection with the GA.

    Another fundamental problem underlying all this weirdness is the notion that "spirit is matter", recorded by Joseph Smith in "Doctrine and Covenants", which are part of LDS scripture. In essence, objectively speaking, Mormonism is therefore a form of materialist atheism, in that, for Mormons, there is no God truly worthy of the name, One who transcends the universe, Who exists apart from and independent of it. Here is something I wrote a while back concerning Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy vs. Mormonism:

    http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-hath-rome-to-do-with-salt-lake.html

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  4. Greg, I like your book suggestions better than something from the Tanners.

    The Tanners are famous for distorting the statements of past Mormon figures through creative use of ellipses. In the most egregious case, one of the Tanners' ellipses will encompass as much as two whole pages to accommodate their fishing expeditions for disconnected statements making Mormons look as bad as possible.

    For a detailed LDS rebuttal of "The Changing World of Mormonism" see here:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/The_Changing_World_of_Mormonism/Index

    Also Greg, I think calling Mormonism atheism is a little cheap.

    I could easily say the same thing about your religion and say that traditional Christianity seems more interested in worshiping a philosophical abstraction than a real being. But I'm not sure this really gets either of us anywhere.

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  5. It's also very easy to see what Mormon Doctrine is by examining their main website, http://lds.org. That site is used by members of the LDS church. It contains all of their scriptures, magazines, lesson manuals and transcriptions of major addresses by their leaders.

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  6. Seth: the (inter)personal God of "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" is obviously not a "philosophical abstraction". However, a god who is essentially an "exalted man" (apart from, and prior to, the Incarnation) is no god at all.

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  7. Well Greg, if you're not backing down on this misguided and useless Mormonism = atheism thing...

    My experience with traditional Christianity is that they are more concerned with making sure that their God is philosophically correct - meaning that he matches some artificial neo-Platonist "greatest conceivable being" test - than they are in actually tuning into a living being.

    They seem more interested in making sure God fits into their philosophical parameters than they are in having an actual relationship with him.

    Your objection to God being an "exalted man" is a prime example. Because there is nothing stopping both of us from having a physical progressing God except your own gnostic/neo-platonist/Nicene baggage. Why couldn't God have been a human being like me?

    Note - I do not, repeat NOT accept your caricature of Mormon doctrine that we all believe that God was once a "sinful man." Mormons are NOT required to believe this to be Mormons. It's not demanded by our scriptures at all. In fact several modern Mormon theologians are concluding that saying God was ever a sinful man like you and me is contrary to Mormon scripture.

    But, let's just pretend this is actually an official Mormon doctrine (even though it isn't, and you ought to be experienced enough with Mormonism to know this).

    What's wrong with the idea?

    It's actually not that far of a stretch for us to get there.

    I mean, you already believe that God was once a limited mortal man - Jesus Christ.

    So I'm not sure what you're problem with other notions of God as a man is. After all, if your philosophically correct God could reconcile with the imperfection of Jesus Christ, then there seems to be no bar with reconciling God with other imperfections as well.

    Unless you think the Atonement is so weak that it isn't capable of making each and every one of us "fully God."

    Are you willing to admit that? Are you willing to stipulate to a limited God and a limited Atonement?

    And what is more, a Muslim or Jewish theologian could easily tell you that this Mormonism business is really your own fault. You opened the door.

    If you can unite three beings in "One God", you can unite more into that same "One God." By these lights, Mormonism is just as monotheistic as Christianity is.

    It's really that simple. It's the same theological concepts - simply taken to their logical conclusion. Really, the only defense against such multiplication that you have left is "it's not in the Bible."

    And we both know that no Mormon worth his salt is ever going to be impressed with that argument.

    Greg, I'm not really interested in bagging on traditional Christianity here. This seems like a nice enough group. But if you're going to keep on with the whole "Mormonism = atheism" line of attack, I'm not just going to sit here politely and take it.

    Your call.

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