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September 7, 2009

A Hitchhiker's Guide to Kolob


A Fictitious Discussion Between a Mormon Missionary and a Catholic Layman

"Now let me get this straight, Elder Kimball. Are you trying to tell me God the Father lives on a planet named Kolob somewhere out in space?"

"Well, yes, and no. Actually, he lives on a planet near a star called Kolob, but we don't know exactly where it is."

"How can you people possibly believe God lives on a planet near a star named Kolob?"

"Well, the prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation from God in which. . ."

"...How? Did God transport him to this Kolob so he could get a good look at it?"

"No. Joseph Smith received this revelation in the form of a divine record contained in an ancient Egyptian papyri which he translated by the gift and power of God. The message is now known as The Book of Abraham."

"How can I get to Kolob?"

"You can't. God wouldn't permit it."

"Then how can I find out more about Kolob?"

"As I said, the bulk of the information is in The Book of Abraham."

"Where could I get a copy?" . . .

(continue reading in PDF form)

11 comments:

  1. What traditional Christian apologists don't get is that they opened the door to this themselves.

    If you can take three beings and make them "one God", then you can do the same thing with more beings. It's not all that hard.

    Of course, the Christian apologist then retorts - "well that's not in the Bible."

    To which the Mormon can easily respond - I'm not limited by just the Bible in the first place, so I don't accept your parameters for debate. And why should I take your word for it that the Bible is definitive here?

    You see, it's easy to create a parodied conversation with a strawman of an ideal "stupid Mormon." I can do the same thing with an ideal "stupid Evangelical" or "stupid Catholic." I can't tell you how many Evangelicals I've watched completely fall apart and just start brainlessly mouthing - "I know the Bible is true." Even though they utterly fail to give me one good reason why I should limit myself to that book.

    So I've seen people on "your side" fall apart as utterly as your mock missionary. And brainless adherence is hardly a uniquely Mormon attribute. I've seen plenty of Christians "bear their testimony" to me as well. They just don't like to admit that this is what they are doing.

    So... Maybe you can explain to me - why should I accept the Bible as the definitive parameters of human knowledge about God. Any good reasons?

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  2. Hey Seth: you the same Seth that hangs out over at Todd's blog?

    Short answers: first, the Traditional doctrine of the Trinity does not posit three "beings". It is one Divine Being/one Essence, three Divine Persons, two of whom derive their existence, eternally, from one of the Persons, the Eternal Father, who generates the Eternal Word/Son and breathes forth the Eternal Holy Spirit.

    Second, you shouldn't limit yourself to the Bible. The Bible points beyond itself: "hold fast to the traditions," as St. Paul writes in the New Testament. The traditions in question, of course, are those of the Church founded by Christ, "the cornerstone" on the "foundation" of the "Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers". The New Testament calls this Church "the pillar and ground of the truth," and "the fulness of Him [Christ] who fills all in all". Jesus Himself, as recorded in the New Testament, promises that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against" this Church and that He, Jesus, will be with this Church "until the end of the age".

    There is no room in any of this for any great apostacy; the Church of the Apostles, a visible, historical, organized society and institution, is continuous over time, without interruption, from the Day of Pentecost (at least) until Jesus returns "in glory to judge the living and the dead". Therefore, any suggestion to the contrary is prima facie false; therefore, the "new prophecy" of Joseph Smith is false. There is no room for it. The Church indeed must be reformed and renewed continually; it must even be reunited on the universal level; however, it has never, and will never, completely cease to exist. If it were to do so, Jesus' promises would be proven false, HE would be proven false, and then, the ground would be removed out from under all Christian faith. IOW, Mormonism is inherently self-contradictory at its very foundation.

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  3. Hi Seth, As Fr. Greg already mentioned, not even the Bible claims *sufficiency* for itself, so you won't hear Catholics defending that claim. Concerning the Bible's *effectivity*, however, I think this conclusion emerges naturally when one approaches the Bible with a sincere desire to learn the truth about what kind of book it is. That is, with as little baggage as possible and a great deal of openness and sensitivity. Faith in the special character of this book then becomes a choice to believe what one has actually seen.

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  4. I got into a debate almost like this with a mormon once, but it doesn't end like you've written. It just continues in a confusing circle of "one god, three gods, one god". Then they start denying things like Kolob or many gods or some other "lie about mormonism" or they "don't believe that anymore." I don't think the trinity is a good place to start with Mormons or any of the other shifting teachings.

    Afterwards it occured to me that there might be a better way. The very first thing you're told by the mormon is that "all other churches are apostate". Have them prove that before anything else. Prove that the Catholic Church is apostate and I'll consider Mormonism. (Knowing that the Chruch teaches pure truth makes this a safe challenge)

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  5. Christina.

    I don't typically go around picking fights with other religions. I wasn't extremely aggressive as a Mormon missionary, and I haven't really changed in that way since then. The only thing I was responding to was the attack on my people as a bunch of hyper-emotional, irrational religious dingbats that this mock interview was clearly implying.

    Mormon testimony is not properly based on cheap emotionalism. It takes into account all the learning and experience a person has, and synthesizes it into a new faith. My own convictions are based on my reading of the Bible, my spiritual experiences with God, my reading and understanding of Mormon scripture, my reading of Christian history and theology, and all secular learning I've gained as well.

    I have never, not ONCE in my life, ever had the popularized "burning in the bosom" some people talk about Mormons having. I follow Mormon theology because I find it Biblically compatible, spiritually enlarging, and frankly superior to other Christian theologies. That is why I follow it.

    I don't deny Kolob at all. I don't see why it even matters.

    Why should the mere reality of God's materiality be a limitation on him?

    I think the fact that you object to a material God says more about your narrow view of matter than it does about Mormon views of God's supremacy. There's nothing particularly objectionable about matter per se. I really think the only reason traditional Christianity finds it so objectionable is a legacy of gnosticism and Greek philosophical prejudice and nothing more.

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  6. Oh and Greg, yes I am the same Seth. Although I haven't dropped by Todd's blog in a while.

    Thanks for the reminder that I'm not dealing with "solo" scriptura Evangelicals here. I assume Roman Catholicism? I know Greg is a part of the Orthodox tradition...

    Anyway, we both agree that there is more to understanding God than just the Bible. We add our authoritative traditions as well.

    I'm not particularly interested in arguing the Great Apostasy here. I believe one happened. But, for what it's worth, I don't really lay the blame for it at the feet of the Roman Catholic Church. I put the date of apostasy back to the time of Peter and Paul actually. I think you see the first signs of things breaking down during their lifetimes. In fact, I think the seeds were even present during the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. Take that for whatever it's worth. I know Catholic-bashing was a popular pastime for some Mormons (even in high leadership), but I personally am not particularly interested in that line of argument.

    If anything I feel grateful to the Catholic Church for heroically preserving as much of Christianity as they did (an accomplishment for which they get too little praise in my mind).

    But, I don't back down from defending the "reasons" for my faith or the faith of my people. I felt the above mock interview caricatures the faith of my people and selectively cherry-picks the weak Mormon arguments encountered online. But that doesn't reflect the true strength of our belief or our theology.

    Ask yourself:

    Could a Mormon construct a mock interview with a Catholic grilling them over how the Trinity is even logically possible? Could the Catholic not be made to look ridiculous?

    There will always be those in both of our faith traditions who are not prepared to give reasons for the faith that is within us.

    But does that justify us in attacking the weak among the other camp and then declaring victory over the entire opponent?

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  7. Well, Seth, if there was a great apostasy, beginning whenever, then Jesus lied and your faith, as well as mine, is in vain.

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  8. Seth, I appreciate and have enjoyed reading your comments on this thread, but I'm not able to discuss any of this with you because of some pressing writing deadlines I have to meet in the next 24 hours. But I did notice your mention of the Mormon Church's Great Apostasy doctrine. I wrote an article about that in This Rock Magazine, back in 1992, which might be of interest to you and our other readers. I'll try to post it on this blog in a PDF format sometime soon, but for the moment, here's the link to it on the Catholic Answers site: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9203fea.asp

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  9. Hi Patrick, i must say that satan has thrown all these mormons, lutherans, and non-demoninationals all at me at once. God has helped me stand against the mis-information they present. I certainly have caused them to not respond to many of my probing questions. I sure would like to do even better answering all their objections to the Catholic faith. Do you have any amunition against Dave Hunt and his book "A Woman Rides the Beast"? He seems to be all over the place and does not present a clear case against the church..but he is so scattered I don't know where to begin debunking his theories he claims as undisputable facts against our church...ths in advance for your help....Tim Flaherty

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  10. "I must say that satan has thrown all these mormons, lutherans, and non-demoninationals all at me at once."

    That must hurt.

    Seriously though, I know what you mean (even if I don't agree with me being from "Satan" - at least, not the Mormon part of me). I usually have about 5 different debates with all sorts of people, from Evangelicals, to atheists, to ex-Mormons, to whoever else going at any one given time. And it is tiring. Like Catholicism, Mormonism gets attacked from a lot of different directions at once.

    Patrick, I'll have to check out the article.

    Greg, I would dispute that exegesis of Jesus' words, of course.

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  11. Here is a conversation I had with a Mormon:

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=321607

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