The Catholic Defender challenges the Mormons
A standard line I am often told by some Fundamentalist Protestant groups, they group Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah Witnesses together as to show their opposition to what they see as "cults"?
My response has always been that Mormons were founded by Joseph Smith 1829 time period, Jehovah Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell 1879 time period. The Catholic Faith was founded by Jesus Christ 33 A.D. time period. In fact, these Fundamentalist groups were founded 1500 years later themselves. Most of them are founded in the past 100 years in America.
Catholics are often associated (by Fundamentalist) with a "works" base theology that Fundamentalist oppose. The Catholic Church recognizes Grace is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8) and that Faith is a free gift (Ephesians 2:9). However, we understand that our "Yes" requires cooperation on our part (Ephesians 2:10). This debate is grounded because Martin Luther's false doctrine "Sola Fide".
All that being said, if anyone were to take an honest look, the difference between Catholics and Mormons are like night and day. Besides basic biblical values, there are few doctrines we hold in common.
The Mormon teachings are derived from four sets of scriptures they recognize as "divinely 'inspired," are:
1. The Book of Mormon 2. The Doctrine and Covenants 3. The Pearl of Great Price 4. The King James Version of the Bible
These writings are the foundation to the Mormon faith. The Mormon teachings began officially on April 6, 1830, after Joseph Smith claimed to have had visions of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He claimed they told him the "true church" was not on the face of the earth. From age 14 he claimed supernatural occurrences would come to him. Eventually, he claimed to have found golden plates through the help of an angel called "Moroni." Eleven other men testified they had seen the golden plates "by the gift and power of God" and published the Book of Mormon. From Fayette, New York, the Mormons moved to Kirkland, Ohio in 1831. Here ex-Campbellite (Church of Christ), Sidney Rigdon and part of his congregation became Mormon adding strength to the new group.
By 1839 the Mormons were fleeing Kirkland and moved up the Mississippi River settling at Commerce, Illinois, which they renamed "Nauvoo". The practice of polygamy began by the 1840's and continued until 1890 when then president 'Wilford Woodruff'' issued a manifesto overturning this lifestyle. Still, several small groups even today, defied the threat of ex-communication. Black men were never ordained to the Mormon priesthood despite the fact that all "worthy males" at the age of 12 received such ordination. This policy was reversed in 1978, when the President stated that ordination would he granted "without regard for race or color". Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were assassinated in 1844 while serving at Illinois Carthage Prison.
Joseph Smith III, only 11 years old at the time, was challenged by individuals like Lyman Wright, James J. Strang, and William Bickerton. This led to more than 20 different splinter groups. In 1860, when Joseph Smith III decided to accept leadership of the largest branch of dissidents, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (RLDS), was established making its headquarters at Independence, Missouri. The majority of Mormons led by Brigham Young, who was head of the "twelve" since 1847, traveled and stayed at Salt Lake City, Utah. Eventually, more than 300 settlements stretched from California to Colorado, from Mexico to Canada. The Mormons, like the Catholic Church, is hierarchical and authoritarian. At the top of this hierarchy is the president referred to as "The Prophet." The President and his two counselors regularly meet in conjunction with the "Council of Apostles." (there are 12 Apostles) New apostles are chosen by the "apostles" themselves. When the president dies, the senior "apostle" becomes the next president. Local groups are called Wards, they are headed by a Bishop and two counselors. Above the Wards are Stakes, a collection of several wards make up a Stake, very similar to our "Parishes" and "Dioceses."
Despite the resemblance, there is no actual recognition or acceptance by each Church. The Mormons, who teach the doctrine of authority, helped my Mother in seeing the rightful authority of the Catholic Faith. This would become very important for my life as my Mother would desire to raise my Brother and I into the Catholic Faith. Four generations ago, a lot of my Father's family background were involved with the establishment of the R.L.D.S. at Independence, Missouri. Before going to Saudi Arabia, my Father calls me concerned about the potential of war, He began to lament the fact that I was the first eldest son in four generations not practicing Mormonism. I responded that my being Catholic was a matter of conviction, not chance. I told him that there is only one God in three Divine Persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), one in substance and nature. Similar to h20 (water) which can be used as liquid, steam or ice. Also the same outcome can be found with fractions, decimals, and percentages. That Jesus is the second part of the Blessed Trinity, truly God and truly man. Mormons reject the divinity of Jesus. I also reject Mormon teaching that God the Father was once a human being now living on a planet called "Kalob." We can never be his equal nor will we ever own a universe. Mormons believe if they live the commandments of God to the full, attain the status of godhood in future eons. In short, they believe they can become God.
They believe in prenatal existence of human souls to include that Jesus and Satan were once brothers. This I totally reject. John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son so that who ever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". I then told my father that I do not believe in what Mormons call the "Great Schism" that indicates the destruction of the true faith. I believe in "Apostolic Succession", where Jesus confers authority upon the Apostles (Matthew 28:16-20), and they appoint successors (Titus I:5-11). I do not believe the "True Church" was ever lost as Jesus promised his protection (Matthew 16:18), and his continued presence until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). It is important for Catholics to understand this because some of us have been susceptible to Mormon missionaries that periodically will come calling on you.
It doesn't take much investigation to see there are little areas of agreement between Catholics and Mormons. I would say that there are more things in common between Mormons and these Fundamentalist groups in that they were all founded by false prophets. St. John instructs us to test the spirit (1 John 4:1) and St. Paul warns us not to follow even an angel from heaven with a gospel different from that handed down from the Apostles (Galatians 1:7-9). Pope Francis today is the 266th successor of Peter. This authority did not begin in 1830, nor 1917. It began with Jesus Christ in A.D. 33. For kicks and giggles, the average reign of the Popes is 7 years! 7 is the perfect number of Christ, considering some reigns were 30 days and others 30 years, really cool!