Regarding Mormonism

Regarding Mormonism April 23, 2012

One of the downsides of having a blog on Patheos is that the stupid software runs ads for stuff I would urge every one of my readers to ignore.

Among these ad are the ones for Mormonism.

Lots of Christian apologetics subculture folks have labored over long arguments against Mormonism. However, the quickest reply to the claims of Mormonism is simply this: Mormonism is the resolution to a fake problem.

Mormonism claims to re-establish the Church since it all went off the rails in the Great Apostasy some time Way Back When. The proper question then is, “What Great Apostasy? Where? When? Documentation please?” No Great Apostasy, no need for Jesus to re-establish the Church.

And there was no Great Apostasy. End of story. Mormonism is therefore unnecessary.

After that, Catholics can then press the question, “Since Mormonism is demonstrably unnecessary, what actual evidence is there for it that does not reduce to emotionalism (a burning in the breast) and 19th century quackery about fake ancient languages that nobody, absolutely nobody, except highly invested Mormon apologists take seriously in the slightest? Why, in short, should anybody regard the book of Mormon as something other than King James Version fan fiction?”

So, while there are any number of very good and kind Mormons, I cannot for the life of me see why anybody should take seriously the factual claims of Mormonism. “I am a Mormon” is certainly a true statement for the people in the ads. And Mormons have many admirable qualities. But Mormon*ism* is, manifestly, bunk.

I note with interest (and no, there was no coordination on this) that Fr. Longenecker is also remarking Mormonism this morning and that both he and his readers are noting that Mormonism appears to be backing off on truth claims altogether. In other words, the primary (and increasingly only) selling point for Mormonism appears to be that there are a lot of nice people there who feel good about Mormonism. This doesn’t appear to be a healthy indicator for long-term survival. But given the fact that the historical and theological claims of Mormonism are in complete ruins I can’t really see what else they can do.

Anyway, I dissent from the Mormon ads, though I like pretty much every Mormon I’ve ever met.

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  • Michael

    >Anyway, I dissent from the Mormon ads, though I like pretty much every Mormon I’ve ever met.

    I think you a word.

  • Ted Seeber

    Having grown up around Mormons and German Apostolic Christians (hard to find an area where Catholics are criticized for having SMALL families) the one thing I can say for Mormons is that they had the same idea as Pope Leo XXIII, but actually did the work to implement it. Bishops Pantry stores have kept many a Mormon off welfare. The prohibition about caffine means that their farms can actually be self-sufficient (can’t do that with anybody addicted to coffee or tea for obvious reasons). And the whole idea of the Zion Mercantile Corporation looks so much like the Spanish Catholic Mondragon Corporation that the similarities are scary. One would hardly know that they were 100 years apart in conception!

    Having said that, though, you’re right about all the rest.

  • Harry

    Mormonism probably won’t survive the internet. Any curious Mormon kid with access to broadband is inevitably going to start picking up on serious problems with their faith, and within five minutes of Google you can bet that they won’t be feeling so sure of anything their church has taught them.
    And that really sucks. There’s an awful lot of young, happy, impressionable people who are going to have their hearts broken by the transparent wrongness of Mormonism, and we can only pray they don’t become bitter and fall into the “Embittered Ex-Religious” group of atheism.

    • A lot of them are former Catholics…..prayerfully they’ll come back home to Rome.

    • I’ve met a lot of embittered ex-Mormons. The sad thing is that their mistrust for religion in general often becomes total and all-encompassing, and they believe that sense their religion turned out to be false, all others must be as well.

    • Beatus

      Mormonism will survive whatever you want to throw at it. If raping our women and pillaging our homes won’t do it, probably nothing will.

      • What exactly do you mean by raping your women and pillaging homes? No one has done that to Mormons. In fact if you look at Mormon history, it was the Mormos who practiced polygamy, something along the lines of rape using religion as a right to get away with it. As for pillaging homes. History is replete with stories of Mormons pillaging homes in Missouri using their church teaching as a reason for “throwing out the Gentiles of of their land” as they saw it. Blood atonement, Lying for the Lord, and constantly changing so-called revelation by Joseph Smith only proves the religion is in fact a cult.

    • D. Arthur

      People have been predicting the demise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for nearly 200 years and here in a few years it will be the third largest church in the United States. Do you think any youth might go to LDS.Org or Mormon.Org and feel an awakening? If I were you, I wouldn’t bet the farm on your premise.

      • Mormons never consider those who leave the church as non-Mormons and have inflated their numbers considerably. The Mormon practice of “milk before meat” finally catches up with Mormons onec ethey realize the truth behing the Mormon church’s violent history,

  • Charlotte

    I’ve just read a slew of books on polygamous Mormons, which are sort of a beast of a different color from mainstream Mormons. But in the process of reading these memoirs, it becomes blatantly obvious to anyone that Mormonism is a false religion. Actually, I was thinking to myself that one would have to be nuts to believe any of Joseph Smith’s proclamations! Mormonism makes Jehovah’s Witnesses look really, really good! Anyway, I too have liked every Mormon I have ever met. Some things they get right.

  • MarylandBill

    The following occurs to me.

    The Mormons accept the Bible as scripture (at least the Protestant Version of the Bible).
    The Bible’s Canon was not finalized until the 4th/early 5th century.
    The essential beliefs and practices of the Orthodox and Catholic faiths were established before the Bible’s Canon was finalized.
    Therefore, if the great Apostasy occurred, it had to occur before the Church finalized the Biblical Canon. So somehow or other the Bible was assembled by Apostates?

    • rakowskidp

      Yep. I made precisely that argument in one of my apologetics lessons on Mormonism. It’s awfully similar to the argument made by non-Catholic Christians regarding the canon of the New Testament, which is, in my opinion, the equivalent of the “stopped clock is right twice a day” argument. Bizarre stuff, ain’t it?

    • Jan

      Minor correction: Mormons accept the Bible as accurate ONLY in-so-far as it is accurately translated – and of course, the veracity of the translation of any given passage is up to them!

  • Amy

    Perfect timing! I have someone interested in joining my RCIA that comes from a Mormon background. Unfortunately, my memory in matters of Mormonism is a bit fuzzy (well… really, it’s a bit fuzzy on most matters, but that’s neither here nor there). Can anyone recommend any good books on Mormonism?

    • Brian

      “Inside Mormonism” by Isaiah Bennett is really good. He also has a shorter book called “When Mormons Come Knocking.” Also, there is a Catholic Answers ‘special report’ by Jimmy Akin called “Mormonism: A Catholic Perspective” which is pretty cheap.

    • Kathy

      Just read the Book of Mormon itself. You’ll scratch your head and wonder how anyone could ever believe it.

    • It always shocks me when religions look at other religions and judge them as obviously and patently false, especially when they do so using arguments that look more like they should be coming from New Atheists about all religion (i.e, “Prove it.). It’s not that simple.

      • Mark Shea

        Sure it’s simple. Demonstrate there was a Great apostasy. It’s a historical claim, not a claim about some spiritual reality in the heavenlies. Historical claims demand evidence. You have none.

        • EHS

          A Catholic! talking about “crazy beliefs”! LOL!

          • Mark Shea

            You’re the only one who is talking about crazy beliefs. I’m talking about historical claims that are counter-factual. There was no Great Apostasy. Don’t poison the well by putting words in my mouth.

    • Beatus

      Uh, the Book of Mormon?

  • Your point about whether there was an apostasy and if there is a need for a restoration reminds me of a quote from a Catholic priest who spoke to a Mormom, Elder LeGrand Richards. This is what he said:
    “You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there was no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the Gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the Gospel in latter days.”
    I enjoyed the post and the thread of comments. I think Mormons and Catholics can get a lot accomplished together.

    • Ted Seeber

      After that, I think I may actually have a Mormon answer to this conundrum:
      The Apostasy only affected Protestantism, and since Joseph Smith came from a New York County that had been Protestant with no Catholics for more than 6 generations, it’s a CULTURAL need.

  • Noah D

    “Mormonism is the resolution to a fake problem.”

    Could the same be said about Islam?

    (Not a slam on the post, but an actual theological question!)

    • Muhammad’s claims are more substantaited though, because he only claimed the jews and christians corrupted the scriptures, he might have referred to bad transcriptions and what not, not to mention the high number of apocripha that there was.

    • Ted Seeber

      Islam was the solution to a real problem; Christianity would have been a better solution and I’m not sure I understand why Mohammed didn’t try it first.

      The real problem that Islam attempted (and is still working on) is intra-racial tribal warfare that has infected the Middle East and Africa and just about all the tropical nations for the entire time humanity has been around. It hasn’t been entirely successful, but at least it’s got them to stop being pantheists.

  • I have a theory on Mormonism and human nature. Everyone needs a certain amount of eccentric whackiness in their life, and Mormon religious practice is sufficiently whacky to use up the need for eccentricity in the human heart and allow the rest of their lives to be fairly normal. Mormons are no crazier in their beliefs than most sports fans and baseball players, who conduct far stranger rituals, and far less crazy than your average secularist. And this craziness is oriented to worthy values and codes of conduct and toward worship of God.

  • Scott

    Has this post anything to do with the fact that Romney is the candidate who will face the god king and he happens to be a Mormon? His Mormonism is the least of our problems. Obama’a secular humanism is a very big problem.

    • Mark Shea

      No. It has to do with the fact that ads for Mormonism are appearing on my blog and I want to make clear that I do not endorse them. I don’t care that Romney is a Mormon. Irrelevant to the presidency.

    • EHS

      Don’t you mean his *Christianity* – to which he’s affirmed *countless* times. Politically Liberal Christians exist in the real world. Are you ready to write them all off too?

    • You obviously do not understand Catholic social teaching dating all the way back to Pope Leo in 1896. You do not understand the consistent ethic of life, and you do not understand Christ’s mission so profoundly stated when he started his mission by reading for the Book of Isaiah to His own town and promptly being chased out of it. It is the Church’s far right turn post Vatican Council II by Pope John Paul II and now Ratzinger that is destroying the Catholic Church and turning it into something like Protestant fundamentalism. I yearn for the day another John XXII emerges to finally put a stake in the heart of the right-wing nature of the present church leaders.

  • caroline

    What we should be pondering is “What can we Catholics learn from the Mormons as opposed to Mormonism.”

    • Mark Shea

      I agree.

  • Mark R

    I wish people would stop saying that they wished former Catholics would come back to Rome, rather than back to Jesus Christ.

    • Well, it’s the same thing. Jesus Christ is the King. Peter is His prime minister. See Isaiah 22:19-22 and Matthew 16:18-19

    • Noah D

      Considering that ‘coming back to Rome’ means ‘Coming back to Jesus Christ through the Universal Church he established’, I’m not sure that I understand your objection.

  • ds

    I’ll keep the mormon ads if you can dump the ASPCA. Those dogs are just too sad!

  • Spera

    A central focus of the Mormans is marriage and the family. I understand that this focus and the practical assistance given to their members is the main reason people convert to LDS. Their Family Home Evenings are said to be impressive. No other Christian faith gives so much of their resources to strenghtening their families. I am Catholic and I am impressed with this. However, their theology is not something I could believe.

    • Maiki

      But see, they end up making an idol of the idea of marriage and the family above the worship of God. Their actions with regards to families are directly tied to their theology of salvation. The theology is not that everything is for the Greater Glory of God or that we are saved through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but that we are saved by marriage and eternal families and for the sake of eternal marriages. Mormons believe that in the structure of marriage and the family they can become Gods. So you get things like temple marriages being required for salvation. It completely destroys the virtues of chastity and virginity by relegating it simply to the “state before marriage” and renders the sacrifice on the cross meaningless.

      • jacobus

        Exactly, Mormonism’s absolute disdain for perpetual virginity (and, related, martyrdom) show that its claim to be the reconstructed 1st-2nd church is completely baseless.

      • EHS

        You misunderstand the Mormon understanding of salvation. It doesn’t fit into the heaven/hell narrative of creedal Christianity.

      • Raymond Takashi Swenson

        The entire focus of the ordinances of the Latter-day Saint temples, which culminate in marriage for eternity, is on following Jesus Christ and the Atonement he wrought which rescued us from the Fall. You obviously have never read more than a couple of pages in the Book of Mormon, which is saturated with the message of the essentiality of the Atonement of Christ as the only means of obtaining ternal life. Your condemnation of Mormons exhibits an amazing ignorance, which can only be safely displayed around people who are equally ignorant.

    • Katherine

      Unfortunately, for all their pro-family messages, they find abortion permissible.

      • EHS

        If a woman is raped? Ok, will give in. Otherwise, Mormons believe that abortion is a grevious sin.

  • Phillip

    Regarding IB Bill’s: “Everyone needs a certain ammount of eccentric wackiness in their life”. How about these two concepts?
    (1) The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
    (2) I’m going to create man and woman with original sin. Then I’m going to impregnate a woman with myself as her child, so that I can be born. Once alive, I will kill myself as a sacrifice to myself. To save you from the sin I originally condemned you to.
    Pretty stark when you hear it put like this?! – As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I would ask who does anyone serve by trying to mock anybody’s religious faith? We are taught’ as Mormons, to respect all other faiths and work to find how we can serve one another (as Christ taught in his “golden rule”). Really it’s true – there never was a monument erected to a critic…

    • Mark Shea

      The problem here, of course, is that in addition to committing the fallacy called Poisoning the Well by stating falsehoods about what Catholics believe in order to make them look silly, you fail to note that I have spoken no falsehoods about the premise of Mormon belief. Mormonism absolutely predicated on a Great Apostasy. No great apostasy, no need for Mormonism. The only other factual claim I have made (which is, you know , factual and not “mocking”) is that Mormon claims to the existence of “Reformed Egyptian” are supported by absolutely nothing (except Mormon apologists). No linguist on planet earth takes it seriously outside the hothouse of Mormon apologetics. That’s not mockery. That’s reality.

      • Just to specify about Reformed Egyptian:

        While some Mormons believe it was a language, there is really no evidence in the Book of Mormon to support that. More likely is that is was a writing system – just as we use “Roman” or “Latin” letters to write in English.

    • sibyl

      Wow. I had thought until now that Mormons accepted Jesus Christ AS the Christ; I thought we had that much in common. Is your statement about Jesus a joke? Surely you wouldn’t speak this way about Him if you really knew Him. What you have just said seems to indicate, if your implied views are what they seem here, that Mormons are not even Christian. I thought you were.

      • sibyl

        I was responding to Phillip above. Sorry.

      • He’s using a rhetorical strategy that many use against Mormons: articulate another’s doctrine in the weirdest-sounding way possible. Unfortunately, he is guilty of misrepresenting Catholic beliefs, but so is pretty much everyone who talks about Mormonism.

        Also, Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ, but of course our theology differs somewhat (i.e., no consubstantiality).

        • Mark Shea

          Your theology differs by being polytheistic. But, as I say, no Great Apostasy, and the Mormon claim collapses completely. And “reformed Egyptian” is rubbish. The Book of Mormon is King James Version fan fiction.

          • EHS

            Tell a Muslim or a Jew that Catholics are monotheistic. Watch em scratch their heads.

    • Andy s


      Being a member of the LDS, you are obviously responding in some way to know God. I pray that you continue to be open to his call and promptings, and be a seeker of truth yourself.

      However, your comments have some significant issues… In point one, I’m not aware of any orthodox Christian that would refer to Christ as a “Jewish Zombie”. Christ died…then he rose again…he was resurrected. Pretty materially different from the mythology of zombies. Also in point one, you reference “symbolically eat his flesh”. Catholics, primarily derived from Christ’s words in John 6, really eat his flesh. That is one of the many amazing things about being an Original Bible Christian…we accept all of the Bible as it was intended by the sacred authors.

      Your point two seems to be getting at a few different things, but is confusing, non-biblical, and way out of whack with the early Church Fathers and 2000 years of Christian orthodoxy. Adam and Eve were created by God, of course, but we’re without sin until the fall. They were not created with original sin. Next, if you are referring to Jesus, he did not kill himself. I would encourage you to take a look the Gospels for a Christian view of the story of Jesus’ death by crucifixion. I think you will find that he did not attach himself to the tree. Your final point here is also foreign to orthodox Christian ears…The Fall was the source of original sin, as opposed to being any sort of original condemnation by God. Calvinists believe something vaguely along these lines, but even there they don’t believe all men were condemned.

      I don’t think there was anything particularly stark in your comments. Rather you are reaching really far in a crude attempt to compare the divinely inspired scriptures of the Bible and the divinely established Catholic Church with a quasi-Protestant sect founded in the 1800s. Check out the historicity of the Bible as compared to the lack of historicity associated with the Book of Mormon.

      • Phillip

        Andy s – Sorry if I did not make myself clear when I posted the “Jewish Zombie” allusion I was trying to show that someone (not me) had explained our beliefs (the Christian narrative if you like) in those dismissive terms. When we as followers of Jesus Christ hear this it shocks us – Just imagine how we feel as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – we endure this denigration of our sincerely held beliefs all the time. That was the point I was trying to make – personally I would not denigrate the Catholic or any other Church. Again sorry for my lack of clarity in the “Zombie” post.

        • Andy s


          Catholics get denigrated all the time. More than any Mormon, and all Mormons combined, ever will be. There are over a billion of us after all. But I mention this merely as a fact, not in a “woe is us” sort of way. Ultimately, I get to appeal to the Bible and actual history to support my faith.

          This is where we are different. There is no historical evidence whatsoever for the claims of Joseph Smith or his Book of Mormon. What you wrote above, or attempted to restate from someone else, isn’t hurtful in anyway, because of its ignorance. It can easily be refuted from both a historical perspective and a biblical perspective.

          I pray that you be open to the truth and history and come join the Church Christ founded one day.

          • EHS

            Historical evidence for the Virgin birth and Resurrection?! Please do tell.

    • ds

      Really it’s true – there never was a monument erected to a critic…

      The Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which presents world-class independent, international and classic cinema, was renamed The Gene Siskel Film Center in honor of him in 2000.

    • Except Mormonism mostly believes all that. If a Catholic blogger wants to be ignorant on a Catholic blog, that’s his lookout. We Mormons shouldn’t try to return the favor.

  • laurie coykendall

    Even though you are reporting that the petition for Ref.74 is being made available at many parishes with the okay of the good Archbishop, many people a unaware that Ref74 is a restatement of the law signed in February by Gov. Gregoire and the Legislators. Please let all know that signing the referendum petition is a statement that this law should be voted on by the general electorate, not that you oppose gay marriage. If you disagree with the new definition of marriage, which is the point, then you should sign the petition in order to be able to express that opinion and vote “no.” Even if you agree with the law, signing the petition will give each of uscthe right to vote, instead of leaving the defining of the word “marriage” up to those in Olympia. It also allows us to express the opinion that our freedom of religion is being threatened as those who deny employment benefits to a man’ s “husband” or woman’ s ” wife,” can be charged with discrimination, even if the employer is for example, the Archdioses of Seattle. So sign the petition, but vote “no”: no government should be allowed to redefine a religions’ beliefs and values. I am sorry that some people can’ t get married, but they received all those rights in the “everything but marriage act” that was signed a few years ago here in WA. I can’t marry my cousin or my brother or my father- but I could marry my sister’ s best friend Janie. There is something intrinsically wrong when state and national governments begin to dictate immorality is okay.

  • Thomas R

    Although no longer emphasized isn’t some kind of “Great Apostasy” kind of inherent/rooted to virtually all Protestantism? (I’m not counting Anglicans as Protestant for this as their origin is somewhat unique) Particularly the “Restorationist kinds” like “Stone-Campbell Movement denominations”, Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and possibly Adventists?

  • EHS

    Mark, Mormons don’t claim to be restoring 1st and 2nd Century Christianity – but a restoration of “all things” from Adam to Jesus Christ to now. And more will be restored in the future. Catholics on the other hand DO claim to be an unbreakable continuation of the 1st C. Church. How’s that looking now? Not even close. Looking at the Bible, its like Catholic doctrine just veered where ever the winds of the last 2000+ years took it. Oh, right. That is exactly what happened.

    • Mark Shea

      Bunk. They teach there was a Great Apostasy and the Joseph Smith was commissioned to re-establish the Church. You can try to spin it how you like, but the Great Apostasy is a core part of the narrative. No Great Apostasy, no need for the Mormon “revelation”. And there was no Great Apostasy.

  • EHS

    Looking forward to the next post about how Protestantism is the resolution to a fake problem. You know, b/c the Church was absolutely correct in teaching that freedom from God’s punishment for sin can be purchased with money.

    • Mark Shea

      False. The Church never taught that. I’m done with you poisoning the well. Bye.

    • Kal

      Indulgences were given to people as a reward for good deeds done in faith. Maybe there were some corrupt priests that abused it, but most did what they were supposed to do.

      But since you want to insult The Church founded on Christ, let me insult your hero, Martin Luther. He was so anti- Catholic, that as (Muslim) Turkish forces were arriving near his homestead of Germany, he basically said they are better than the Catholics. Think about that he would rather have Sharia law than the just court systems the Church set up. he would forgo the loving care of Pope Leo X (who accepted 41 of his more reasonable requests and begged him not to leave the Church as a father begs a rebellious son not to leave child not to leave his house) for a khannate that would kill him just for being a Christian and only interested in his power. It also shows how little he cared for Christ. If he did care for Christ, wouldn’t he rather see the Catholic forces fighting the Muslims win instead of lose? I mean, they are Christians and they do believe in Christ. But no, he shows how cold he is by supporting the very force that seeks to snuff out the Church, Satan. I mean, I’m no rocket surgeon, but from what I see here, I can deduce that this Luther man was a rebellious, repulsive and destructive fellow that cares more about his delusion than Christ, a common trait found in the Protestant theology (You don’t need an authority that has been around since the days of the Apostles, made of spiritual descendants of the man Christ ordained as a priest and has made major contributions to Christian theology/philosophy since day 1. You can interpret it by yourself, for yourself. (And from hence secular humanism, the 30,000 Protestant denominations which disagree on most everything, atheism and modernism were born). So before you talk know the strength of your argument.

    • Kal

      Also, I find it hard to believe that “true religion”:
      1. Contradicts the religion it came from (Catholicism doesn’t really have any problems with Judaism. In fact, some Jews who covert to the Church say they, in actuality, have become more Jewish)
      2. Not have any historical facts correct (bees were introduced to America in the 1500s AD, alongside Jews, horses, steel, carts,etc. How did Joseph Smith get that wrong?)
      3. Basically have a guy who wasn’t willing to die for this “truth” (Joseph Smith died after an anti-LDS mob shot him, but not after shooting to members of the mob dead with a gun he hid under his prison bed [which he smuggled in after planning to break out. He even had a dramatic speech about how he was ” a lamb going to the slaughter” as if he were innocent of the fraud a jury charged him with])
      4. He basically makes an Egyptian burial scroll (that had nothing to do with Judaism) into a story about Abraham

      The only logical conclusion is that Joseph Smith is a liar and Mormonism is basically like Islam, a fake religion made for man-made purposes (Islam the unification of the Arab people and Mohammed’s pleasure; Mormonism solely for Joseph Smith’s pleasure).

  • Left Field

    Of course, whether or not there was an apostasy is the very point at issue between the Catholic and Mormon beliefs. If you start with Catholic (or Mormon) perspectives as a premise, it’s easy to claim that there was not (or was) an apostasy, and therefore the Mormon (or Catholic) Church is superfluous. But either way, you’re just begging the question. You believe there was no apostasy; Mormons believe there was. It all comes down to what earthly church authority is sanctioned by God. If there was an objective way to settle *that* question, then there wouldn’t be a difference of belief. But all you’ve done here is take us in a big circle. We know Elvis was better that the Beatles because all the Elvis fans repeatedly assert that he was. And we know there was no apostasy because a Catholic repeatedly asserts that there wasn’t. And we know there was an apostasy because Mormons repeatedly assert that there was. You can assert all you want that Elvis was better, just don’t expect it to carry any weight with those who say he wasn’t.

  • steve

    Mark: How can you walk through Vatican City, and through St. Peter’s cathedral, and see any… I mean any… relationship to Jesus? The insane spending and flaunting of wealth… the adoration of Mary (with no scriptural backing) the robes, the pomp and ceremony. How can you draw a line from Jesus of Nazareth to those truly beautiful, but monsterous, buildings and their traditions? Jesus would not recognize the Catholic church. The pagan rituals and traditions interwoven into the modern Catholic church are undeniable. The historical problems only seem less problematic because for the Catholic church the historical impossibilities are so ancient that they no longer seem odd to us. But really… pot, meet kettle.

    • Mark Shea

      Only Americans can turn a blind eye to Wall Street and obsess over a little tiny postage stamp of land in the middle of Rome. The Church does not adore Mary. Learn what Catholics believe. Robes, pomp, and ceremony were all commanded by God for the Levitical priesthood. The temple was ornate and beautiful and Jesus called it “my Father’s House”. No pagan traditions are part of sacred tradition. None. It all comes from the apostles. The church honors little human traditions because it honors humans. But it does not confuse those traditions with apostolic tradition.

      You are, in a word, ignorant. You should learn what Catholics actually believe.

  • MoiMeme

    If the author can so cavalierly dismiss any concept of a great apostasy by just stamping his foot and saying “no there wasn’t”, then how does he explain the entire 15th to 17th centuries? The Dark Ages didn’t get that name for nothing. Nor did the Renaissance get it’s name for nothing. Killing people for translating the Bible, burning at the stake every “witch” with a wart on her nose, banishing the losers of religious debates (if they were lucky), and the papal history of blood and gore, is not exactly as easy to dismiss and ignore as this author would feign believe. Logic dictates that there would be no Protestants, if there hadn’t been something to protest. If every protestant soul who’s ever lived did not believe in an apostasy then why aren’t they still Catholic? By weight of evidence, its obvious that all Christians who aren’t Catholic–or at least their progenitors–believed in an apostasy long before the Mormons came along. It then is just a debate about “how much” of an apostasy. 50%? 80%? Even the Mormons don’t claim it was 100%. So frankly, the Catholic view of “there was never any apostasy” is the minority opinion. How the apostasy was resolved (reformation or restoration) is the very valid question that all but the Catholics (and maybe Greek Orthodox) agree upon. Even if they don’t know that they agree.

    • Mike Edwards


      I like your comments which reveal an honest attempting to understand. Certainly, the Catholic Church suffered some major abuses in the middle ages and the validity of the line of apostolic delegation was muddied somewhat. Many Prostestants would feel the Church was in Apostasy just based on that. Mormon’s don’t feel that the “great apostasy was a single great event, but rather a gradual detetioration to the degree that when their Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord for guidance on which religion was true, God appeared to him and told him that none of them retained the complete truth–even though it Mormon’s do believe that truth still exists within other religions. I personally believe that God works through all religions and attempts to come to us through whatever vehicle we allow. Certanly, the Catholic Eucharist is a most sacred experience; as is the Mormon temple experience.

      An aside here–Recently I read several articles about the third secret of Fatima and why it has not yet been released to the public–even though they were originally opened by Pope John XXII in 1960 (articles are easy to find on Google). The gist of the speculation seems to be that the third secret revealed a period of Apostasy beginning for the Catholic Church — with some speculation that some of the reforms of the Ecumenical Council were initially responsible. Personally, I thought at the time that the reforms were refreshing. That may be another item for discussion at some time.

      One of the reason’s it is so hard for Mormons and Catholics to understand each other is their respective approaches to interfaith dialogue. Catholics are accustomed to arguing their positions from a logical perspective. They have adopted Aristotelian logic and adapted it to a rigorous logical reasoning and study system called Scholasticism. They will challenge others beliefs on such logic–demanding “proof” and sometimes use the language of informal fallacies like “poisoning the well” or “insufficient proof”. Mormons on the other hand, will put a higher priority on Scriptural citation and personal testimony. Ask a Catholic about the Eucharist and he is likely to give you a lecture about hylomorphism, consubstantiation, and the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Holy Communion. Ask a Protestant and she will tell you that Christ said, “where two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am with you.” and that the Eucharist, while symbolic, nevertheless involves the real presence of Christ. Ask a Mormon and they will cite a scripture and tell you that the “sacrament” is a ritual following Christ’s instructions and that it entails forgiveness of sins and renewal of baptismal covenants if worthily received. A Mormon will then instruct you to pray for the personal testimony of the Holy Spirit as to what is true. So it is a hard dialogue, with Catholics generally relying on logic and Mormons relying on trust in God. Is one approach really superior to the other? The only Mormon I know who has made the attempt to reason with non-Mormons using the Aristotelian logic system is Blake Ostler who has written three volumes exploring the nature of God and Christ. In the first two volumes he argues from an Aristotelian perspective. In the third volume, he uses a Mormon scriptural appoach to express a Mormon “Christology”.

      Mormon writers tend to express the heart of the Apostasy in the Catholic viewpoint of the Trinity. They feel the Church abandoned the old Hebrew traditions about the nature of God in favor of a Greek philosphical approach endorsed especially by St. Thomas Acquinas and St. Augustine. God became the Eidos of Plato’s hierarchy, closely associated with “being” itself. The Morman viewpoint goes back to the Hebrew Council of Gods beliefs of the Second Jewish Temple. The Mormon concept that men can evolve to become Gods might be expressed in Catholic terms where Christ said, “All that I am, you can become.” And that by taking seriously our membership in the mystical body of Christ, we can evolve to become like-unto-Christ as gods (small capital) in our own right through our participation in Christ as God. Thus we can become one of the “hosts of heaven”; but even in Mormon thought, there is One God above all–and the rest of us have the potential to become gods in so far as we can ‘put on the Christ”. Of course, Mormons would not normall express it in these terms.

      I believe that, for Mormons, the heart of the “Apostasy” lies in the differing views of the Trinity and in some of the directions perhaps that logic instead of inspiration has led the traditional church.
      However, Mormons do beliefe in the Resurrected Christ who atoned for our sins–which is the basic belief of all Christians. For me, we are all more alike in our sharing of the importance of Christ and the need to lead a righteous life in the imitation of Christ than we are different in our other doctrinal assumptions–so many of which have little to do with how we treat one another and choose to lead our lives.

  • steve

    “The Church does not adore Mary.” “No pagan tradition is part of sacred tradition.” “It all comes from the apostles.”
    Your level of self deception is profound. Before casting stones at Mormons for their crazy beliefs and lack of historical authenticity, remember to include the Catholic tradition as just as irrational and every bit as lacking in historcity. Study your own history a bit, please.

    • Mark Shea

      Actually, I’ve written a trilogy of books on the subject. I know whereof I speak. You don’t.

  • Marcus Smith

    If I were ever tempted to start my own Church (I have no such inclination, by the way), I would posit a “Great Apostasy from Civility in Public Discourse about Religion,” and I would posit that there was once a time when people contributing ideas about religion on the internet knew how to do it in a beautiful and charitable way, without rancor or sanctimony. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Bishop John Wester, Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City, on a couple of occasions, for radio. I can never imagine him adopting the ungracious tone of the rhetoric I have seen in this post and in the subsequent comments. He is a role model to follow and has a beautiful spiritual countenance. I commend that kind of public voice. Having read this full exchange, I’m so sorry for our society as a whole, because this exchange and the the initial post are, in my experience, symptomatic of a society that fundamentally has lost the capacity to do as Jesus did … walk with the unclean, talk to the harlot, preach in parables and stories without shouting or being perpetually sarcastic, basically … the capacity to approach The Other in true compassion and in a spirit of service, grace, and love. Should I add that I’m Mormon. Or does that matter?

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    While the Roman Catholic Church does not believe that its own institution originated through an apostacy or rebellion against the original Christian church organized by the Christ and then led by Peter and the other original apostles, don’t the Nicene and later councils, and the creeds adopted by them, represent a reaction to a belief that some Christians were in a state of apostacy? Various factions claiming to be Christian were declared to be in rebellion against the true Church of Christ, and the collecting and canonization of the books of the New Testament was performed in the context of different lists of canonical books being embraced by different Christian factions.

    Since the Eastern Orthodox churches disagree with the description of the Trinity in the Catholic creeds, and split fromo communion with the Roman Church, doesn’t that mean that at least one of them is in a state of apostacy?

    Since the Protestant Reformation rebelled against the authority of the Catholic Church, aren’t all Protestants in a state of apostacy from Rome? On the other hand, didn’t most of the Reformers argue that the Roman Church had departed from the teachings of the Bible and create the narrative of a major apostacy requiring a return to a pre-Roman Christian Church?

    There were a number of church movements in the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries in which people declared that a comparison of the Bible with existing churches showed that the original Christian Church had been lost. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of the few of those movements which asserted that it had been chartered by Christ to restore his original Church to the earth in its purity, with real apostolic authority conferred by the resurrected Peter himself.

    Clearly, every Christian denomination on earth has been declared to be heretical or apostate by some other Christian church. And every Christian church, including the Roman Catholic, has declared the other churches to be in a state of rebellion or apostacy against its authority as the true descendant of the original Church of Christ. The possibility of apostacy is real, even within the Catholic viewpoint.

    It is one thing to assert that, as a result of examination of history and comparison between the Christian Church of the First Century described in the New Testament, and one’s own denomination, that you are satisfied that your particular church is not now nor ever has been in rebellion against God’s program, while all other Christian churches are therefore apostate. All should respect your conclusion as sincere, even if they disagree. At the same time, being an honest person, you should acknowledge that other reasonable persons draw different conclusions about which of the extant Christian churches represents any level of apostacy from the main stem of Christianity.

    Mormons are quite frank that their belief in the existence of an apostacy early on in the Christian era is based, not on a detailed study of the history of Christian factions from 33 AD to 325 AD, but rather from the assertion of a miraculous appearance by Jesus Christ to a fourteen year old Joseph Smith in answer to his prayer about which church he should join to find salvation. Nine years later, in 1829, Smith attested that, together with a man named Oliver Cowdery, he received an ordination under the resurrected hands of Peter, James and John, the original leading apostles who had received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven from Christ.

    Since these are unusual and visionary events involving the appearance of God and angels, whether one accepts them as real experiences or not depends on an assessment of the credibility of Smith and Cowdery in the context of all of the things they said and taught about this and other joint visionary experiences, some of which were also witnessed by other men, sober farmers like Martin Harris and David Whitmer. The most prodigious product of these visions is the Book of Mormon, over 500 pages asserting that it is a scriptural record of a branch of Israel, rooted in the Old Testament, from 600 BC to 400 AD, which attests that ancient prophets had a clear understanding of the nature of Christ’s atonement for mankind hundreds of years before his birth, and which invites its readers to ask God directly for revelation as to its truthfulness, in much the same way young Smith prayed over which church he should join.

    The logic the Mormons offer is this: If you ask God in prayer whether the Book of Mormon is a true narrative, and receive a positive answer, then Smith is a bona fide prophet, and his vision of Christ declaring an apostacy of other Christian churches is supported. You are welcome to refuse to read the Book of Mormon, to read it and refuse to ask God about it, or read it and ask God and conclude that you did not receive the promised confirmation. The Mormons offer it to you and invite you to perform the test that has been confirmatory for millions of them, including the majority of each new generation of Mormon children.

    It is the positive outcome of this test that motivates Mormons to be the kind of individuals whom so many of you admire, despite your disagreement with their beliefs. Getting to that point is not the product of passive exposure to Mormon teachings. Every Mormon is constantly challenged by those outside his faith to question the teachings of his church. Those who remain committed to those beliefs have invested study, prayer, and sacrifice in order to obtain an intellectual and emotional assurance that the things they believe in are from God. For Mormons, there is a strong correlation between the level of education and commitment to Mormon beliefs, because it takes intellectual effort to come to those beliefs.

    To offhandedly dismiss Mormon beliefs as ridiculous or obviously incredible is a demonstration of your own lack of study of what Mormons do believe and why. Hardly any of the people who criticize the Book of Mormon have actually attempted to read it with any comprehension, including comoprehension of why many (of course not the majority) of the people who do read it are profoundly convinced it is an inspired writing on a par with the New Testament. Anyone who has actually written a book must stand in awe of the fact that Smith dictated the entire text wihtin about 90 days, with no outline or notes or revisions, yet produced a complex narrative that includes internal cross references hundreds of pages apart, presentations of several different narratives of events that took place simultaneously in different locations, Egyptian personal names, Hebrew grammatical patterns and literary devices such as inverted parallelism, a knowledge of Mediterranean olive husbandry, Arabian geography, and a sober description of a supervolcano eruption, from a largely uneducated Smith, at a time in 1829 when at most a handful of scholars in Western society knew anything, individually, about any of these topics. These facts were so poorly known during Smith’s lifetime that neither he nor any of his supporters was aware of them until a century later. To persuade a Mormon to abandon the Book of Mormon, you have to come up with a better explanation for the form and content of the Book of Mormon than the simple one that Smith gave, that it is a translation of a true record of Christ’s dealinigs with an offshoot of ancient Israel.

    • Rade Hagedorn

      You don’t appear to be clear on what apostacy means. Apostates reject Christ, or Christanity if you will, after having been baptized as a Christian. Schismatics reject the authority of the Church. Heretics reject (and usually promulgate said rejection) a doctrine or doctrines of the Church.