Mormon vs. Catholic Faith

In the video I posted on the bogus Mormon Book of Abraham some Mormon believers were interviewed. They said, “We are encouraged to examine our faith, and I have thought it through and prayed about it, and I know in my heart that it’s true. I know some people may doubt it, but I have faith that what I have been taught is true.”

This made me think twice because you can meet a number of Catholics who would say much the same thing, “We are not mindless robots. We are encouraged to think our Catholic faith through and examine the beliefs. I have done this and I just know in my heart that it is true, and if I can’t explain it or prove it, then I accept it as a mystery.”

So is the reliance on ‘faith’ the same for Catholics and Mormons–or for that matter for Catholics and Seventh Day Adventist or Jehovahs Witnesses or Moonies or the Church of the Foursquare Gospel of the Revelation of the Planet Zorg of the Fourth Degree? In other words, are all faith claims equally unprovable and therefore the reliance on ‘faith’ is the same for all religions?

This is to misunderstand the Catholic view of faith. Faith is not simply trying hard to suspend your disbelief and convince yourself that you really do believe something which common sense tells you is untrue. Faith is not blind belief in a statement that has been proven wrong or impossible. Neither is faith a personal subjective experience–the Mormons’ ‘burning in the heart’ of personal conviction which proves to you that it is all true. Neither, for the Catholic, is faith a personal subjective experience of ‘encountering Christ’ or having a personal emotional experience of the religious in some way. Neither if faith going along with a particular way of life or moral teaching because it makes sense and helps you and your family be nice people. None of these are faith.

Instead, for the Catholic faith is a process similar to that engaged in by a scientist. We says that ‘faith seeks understanding’. In other words, faith is a quest to observe phenomena, gather facts, gather testimonies and witnesses, sort the data, learn how the data can be organized and understood. Then once the facts have been gathered, the witnesses listened to, the information analyzed and the mentors’ wisdom assimilated then–when these facts and education can take you no further faith completes the transaction.

The best example of how this should happen is the resurrection of Christ. The sincere and objective enquirer will consider the historical data. He must look at the life and death of Jesus Christ. He must examine the witnesses and evidence of what took place. He must consider the veracity and possibility of fraud or the witnesses making a mistake. He must weigh up the evidence and consider what other alternatives there are to such a stupendous story. This is the duty of the intelligent enquirer. If the evidence doesn’t hold up and another explanation can be given, then he must find out what it is and then supply it and dismiss the Christian claim.

However, if that cannot be done, then he must ask for faith to make the investigation complete and personal and to enable him to make the commitment to the religious truth and ask in faith for the encounter to be verified in his own experience.

This is very different from the claims surrounding the establishment of Mormonism and virtually every other religion than Judaism. The miraculous claims are bogus. The personality of the cult founder is dubious or downright scandalous. The history of the movement contradicts the claims of the religion. There is no foundational veracity. Faith in this circumstance must be a blind faith which goes against the known facts, common sense, historical research and scientific knowledge.

While there are Christians who also demand this sort of faith–and no doubt some ignorant Catholics who demand this sort of faith, this is not true Catholicism. Instead true Catholicism invites us to embark on a rigorous way of discovery. If they claims made by the Catholic church can be disproven then disprove them. We do not demand blind faith in the face of outright contradiction.

The Catholic claim is indeed stupendous, but it is also true. Faith is the God given gift to embrace that truth and make it one’s own.

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  • shadowlands

    Another thing Catholics must do, according to a priest I once spoke with, is to fulfill their obligation to fully inform their conscience regarding matters of faith and morals. Also to examine the latter at night before sleep, in order to get a good night’s rest. It sounded easy, until I looked at all the things I tend to overlook. Ouch!

    Sweet dreams………….

  • MK

    Faith without reason is foolish. Reason without Faith is pointless. Both are dangerous. How awesome is our Catholic Faith, the perfect complements of Faith and Reason.

  • Malvenu

    Father, you wrote:
    “This [a reasoned faith based upon evidence] is very different from the claims surrounding the establishment of Mormonism and virtually every other religion than Judaism. The miraculous claims are bogus. The personality of the cult founder is dubious or downright scandalous. The history of the movement contradicts the claims of the religion. There is no foundational veracity.”
    Do you know of a source (or sources) to provide more information to back these statements up? I don’t doubt what you have written, but it would be good to have some more details, examples, etc. to know why such, ‘miraculous claims are bogus’, etc.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      There are plenty of websites that detail the anachronisms in the Book of Mormon which show it to be a bogus document and not Scripture inspired by an angel.

  • Kat Starnes

    This Protestant loves the way you put this! I remember Josh McDowell saying something very similar, that God does not expect us to have blind faith, but to know why we believe what we do. The Lord certainly has given us enough reason to have faith, between prophesy fulfilled and witnesses to the same, miracles both old and new, and the obvious changes He makes in people’s lives through repentance, forgiveness and ongoing sanctification. Even modern science supports the Word of God, if we are willing to see beyond man’s limited, self-serving and generally temporary interpretations. Peter tells us to be prepared to defend our faith, and we can hardly do that is all we have to say is, “Yes, I know it’s unbelievable, but I believe it anyway.” Thanks for your encouragement to move beyond feelings to truth, and to let that truth then move our feelings!

  • Brandon Vogt

    As Frank Sheed would say, a mystery is not that of which we can no *nothing* about. It’s that which we can’t know *everything* about.

    The Catholic faith is both mysterious and knowable, strange and rational, incomprehensible and simple.

  • SteveD

    One of the most unhappy aspects of Mormonism is that the growing number of members who discover it to be false are generally so bitter about being misled that they are deeply sceptical about the claims of all religions and so either become militant atheists or indifferent agnostics. Having read a fair amount of Mormon history, this religious scepticism by LDS ‘apostates’ seems to have been true since the very early days results from the very heavy investment in terms of time, money and faith that most LDS members make and is then recognised to have been wasted. If only we could effectively reach them, what Catholics they would make.

    • Robert


      You highlight something very important. My own sister has left Mormonism. She is an atheist, as is her husband. It is a very sad thing, indeed.

      As for me, as an ex-Mormon now a Catholic, I think the thing that saved me was outreach by Evangelical Protestant friends. They helped me to realize that giving up on Mormonism did not mean giving up on Jesus. I am so grateful to them, though I think they were disappointed that I didn’t stay with Evangelical Protestantism but became a Catholic instead.

      I was always interested in Catholicism, perhaps because of the forbidden element to it, but especially because of the beauty of Catholic ritual. While Protestants often have better preachers than Mormons do, I wanted real worship. For me, that meant going liturgical. I knew that Jews had liturgy and that some Christians did as well. Going to Mormon meetings is more of a chore than anything. There is nothing quite so deadly dull as an LDS sacrament meeting.

      I attended my first Catholic Mass on the feast of St. Bonaventure. It was just a daily Mass celebrated by an elderly Blessed Sacrament Father, who would later on become my main confessor. I thought it was so beautiful, even though there was no singing. There was kneeling and great reverence.

  • Ken

    I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not because of archaeology, or history, or linguistics, or any other secular discipline. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ for the exact same reason that you are a member (and leader) of the Roman Catholic Church: because it bears good fruit in my life. If it did not bear good fruit in my life, I would not associate myself with it. You are perfectly welcome to your convictions of the truth claims of your faith, Father, and I laud your devotion to them even if there are many things related to faith about which we would disagree. And accepting your contention of a lack of evidence underlying Mormon holy writ as true for the sake of argument, that argument rests on a simple fallacy: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    With due respect, however, I wonder if your approach to other faiths (and to your own faith vis-a-vis other faiths) is the most productive course. My devotion to my own faith and belief in its truth claims notwithstanding, I would never claim, as you essentially have, that God gives me fruit, bread, and fish when I ask Him, while giving those of other faiths who ask him thorns, thistles, stones, and serpents. I believe God gives His children, even those of varying religous stripes, grapes, figs, bread, and fish when they ask for them, period. While I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ because I believe it bears the best possible yield of good fruit in my life, I would never look down my nose at anyone, of whatever religious stripe, just because his or her yield differs from mine: I would congratulate him for the good fruit which devotion to his convictions bears in his life.

    I believe the old adages that one should choose one’s friends wisely, and that one can tell a lot about a person by who his friends (and who his enemies) are. If part of your motivation for posting this, however small, is to attempt to curry favor with Protestant, self-styled countercultists who take a similar approach to Mormonism, I wonder, once you run out of the red meat of anti-Mormonism to feed your like-minded fellows, if you won’t be surprised to find that they’ll turn and rend you and your faith just as easily as you have attempted to rend Mormonism. There seems to be no shortage of countercultists of varying stripes: I would be surprised if anti-Mormon countercultists outnumbered anti-Catholic countercultists by a great deal.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You misunderstand why I am a Catholic. I am not a Catholic because “it bears good fruit in my life”. I could go to the gym or read a self help book for that.

      I am a Catholic because in through the Church I receive the saving sacraments of Christ’s body and blood, the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son–who took human flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through faith in his redemptive action on the cross and his glorious resurrection I hope for the salvation of my soul and eternal redemption.