I Got Questions from a Mormon

23 comments
Are Mormon's right?

I recently had a very nice Mormon fella comment on another one of my posts regarding the Catholic Church. I started responding and just decided to make it a full post because it was getting a little long for the combox.

Here were his questions:

If the Catholic church is the original church of Jesus Christ, where is the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods? Why don’t you have apostles and a prophet? Why is the period when the Catholic church ran supreme ruler commonly called “the dark ages”?

He also asked:

When one reads the Book of Mormon and ponders it with much consideration and then prays to God for understanding of whether it is true or not, the confirming sensation one feels leaves absolutely no doubt that it is true. There are no willy dillies that you get after reading the ‘yellow pages’. To know if something like the Book of Mormon is true or not, don’t ask your fellow man. Ask God. Does it not say in St. Matthew 6:7-8 to ask God and he will giveth you an answer?

I think they are good questions – and honest ones. And I enjoy responding to honest questions as I usually learn something more in the process. I’m no expert theologian, but here’s a crack at it and I’ll provide some links at the bottom for some more advanced reading.

My response:

First, the Catholic Church participates and carries on the priesthood of the New Covenant, the priesthood of Jesus Christ – which was prefigured by the priesthood of Melchizedek and which fulfilled the priesthood of Aaron.

Here is what the Catechism says about Jesus’ priesthood:

Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.” The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”; “holy, blameless, unstained,” “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,” that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood: “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.”

In the Catholic Church we have Deacons, Priests and Bishops – modeled after the Levites, Priests and High Priests of the Old Covenant priesthood (The Crucified Rabbi, by Taylor Marshall). Our Bishops are direct descendants of the Apostles.  Jesus appointed and commissioned the Apostles to go out, forgive sins in His name, bind and loose on heaven and earth, and He trusted their leader (Peter – the first Pope) with the keys to His Kingdom. Those apostles (and their leader) passed that same authority to bishops/popes, who subsequently passed it down directly to our current Pope and bishops we have in the same Church today – the Catholic Church. That is why we still have the same priesthood, model, and hierarchy that they helped establish and pass on.

We don’t have “apostles” and “prophets” in the sense you are referring to because that is not how Jesus set up His Church. I suppose if Jesus had wanted it that way he would have set it up that way from the beginning. But he didn’t, so I think it’s best to keep it the way that he did.

As for your question about the “dark ages,” I’m not sure I understand. Was the Church not also a “supreme ruler” during the renaissance? I’m not sure what you are getting at. And it’s not clear what you mean by “dark ages.” The term “dark ages” was originally coined by a Catholic to refer retrospectively to a lack of recorded history (and therefore “dark”) during a couple of time periods in the early middle ages. It was later used more pejoratively and inaccurately by Protestants and humanists to try and smear the Catholic Church. So you’ll have to be a little more specific and then maybe I can answer your question.

But let’s be clear. Having leaders that sin doesn’t disqualify a Church from being true. Jesus started a Church with imperfect leaders. Ones that even denied him in his hour of need. The Church, like humanity, has had dark and light spots in history. But you’ll have a very tough time making a case that the Catholic Church has not been an absolutely overwhelming force for good in history. If you’re being objective, that is. And if we’re being honest, it’s hard not to see it’s unity, longevity, consistency of teaching, all of its fruits, its continued miracles, its Saints, its preservation of Jesus’ sacraments and it’s unrelenting moral authority in the world as not being divinely guided and inspired.

Finally, I don’t let my eternal salvation and that of my family’s rest on whether or not reading something gives me the “willy dillies” or not. I’ve read the Book of Mormon (large parts of it). In fact, I have two extremely nice copies of the Book of Mormon with my name engraved on them. I did ask the Holy Spirit if it was true and the Holy Spirit gave me a resounding no as an answer. So either the Holy Spirit is lying to one of us (which we both know isn’t true), or there is more to it than just asking the Holy Spirit in faith and waiting for an answer or the willy dillies to overcome us. We have to use our reason, the entirety of scripture, and Apostolic Tradition. And we should most definitely use the Church that Jesus gave us. That’s why he gave it to us.

One of the fundamental premises of the entire Mormon religion is a total “Apostasy.” I don’t believe that any Church Jesus Christ started would totally fail (or go into total apostasy). Jesus began a real, visible Church with real and imperfect people (Matt 16:18). He gave them real, meaningful authority (Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18, John 20:22-23). He promised that the Holy Spirit would guide this Church unto all Truth (John 16:12-13) – not that the Holy Spirit would guide each individual all by themselves unto all truth. And He promised that the “gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

There is also no historical evidence that the Church ever went into total apostasy. Being imperfect or messing up doesn’t count as total Apostasy (otherwise I’m quite sure the LDS church has fallen into Apostasy on a number of occasions). The Catholic Church has never taught anything contradictory to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. And those teachings, along with their authority, have been faithfully passed down without interruption or corruption.  So even if the LDS story was remotely plausible, which it isn’t, the entire need for Joseph Smith to “restore” an apostatized Church in the first place is non-existent.

God bless you.

Further reading:

[photo credit]

23 comments Add comment

Kathryn July 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

Wow, what a great response. I am so glad that you decided to share it with your readers. Thanks!

M July 5, 2010 at 10:44 am

I think you started following me on twitter and I thank you for the follow.

I checked out this post upon viewing your tweets and have to say that I found at least one thing that I don not agree with and isn’t very Biblically sound.

You said “We don’t have “apostles” and “prophets” in the literal sense you are referring to because that is not how Jesus set up His Church. I suppose if Jesus had wanted it that way he would have set it up that way from the beginning. But he didn’t, so I think it’s best to keep it the way that he did.”

What I’m getting at is that I see no where in the New Testament where Jesus gave any specific instructions for setting up any such hierarchy as is now in place in the Catholic church. Yet you seem to make it sound like that is the way He set things up. Would you like to back up your claim with Biblical references?

Matthew Warner July 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Sure thing, M! Good question.

Although, you may have to be a bit more specific as it’s a pretty broad question with lots of caveats and nuances.

If you check out this link it has a lot of scriptural references/support for the structure of the Church. That may help you.

But you’re question is a bit limited, also. The New Testament is not the only source of history from the early church. And if we are truly interested in finding the truth about how the early Christians structured themselves, we should examine what the early Christians wrote and taught and how they lived. After all, they actually lived and learned and were commissioned by the Apostles themselves and their successors. So how they lived out their faith is surely a more accurate interpretation than ours. Additionally, Jesus lived and taught these people. Surely everything else that Jesus and the Apostles did is very important to us in addition to the stuff that happened to be written down in scripture. Nowhere in scripture does it say that everything Christ taught was written down. In fact, it says the opposite…that it wasn’t all written down and that we are supposed to pass ALL of His teachings down through His Church…not ONLY the stuff written in scripture.

Anyway, if we look at all of that, we can not only confirm this hierarchy, but we can confirm all of the other distinctly Catholic beliefs so many people question today.

You may be interested in my post on Why Do Catholics Believe in Things Not in the Bible?

Jason July 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

Very well put Brother! Good & concise.

Bobby Bambino July 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

“Why is the period when the Catholic church ran supreme ruler commonly called “the dark ages”?”

I agree- this question is oddly phrased and I’m not sure what it means. It’s a question about a term being used, which I know is obviously not what our LDS friend was getting at. But I think you answered more or less what he was probably intending to ask.

Scott Maentz July 6, 2010 at 6:32 am

Excellent response and great supporting links. I’ve shared it in my Buzz. Keep up the good work!

ycw July 6, 2010 at 9:31 am

“In fact, it says the opposite…that it wasn’t all written down and that we are supposed to pass ALL of His teachings down through His Church…not ONLY the stuff written in scripture.”

That’s very interesting.

I am not a Roman Catholic, but I don’t call myself a Protestant (I don’t consider myself to be protesting the Catholic Church). I attend a Baptist Church (just to give you some of my background.)

Over the years it seems that many of the complaints I have heard about the Catholic Church have turned out simply to be misunderstandings, sometimes merely semantic, so I listen to those who are Catholic and understand and teach Catholic teaching with an open mind. In other words, I ask out of genuine interest and curiosity, not out of a desire to trap anyone.

You mention that the Church officials today are (spiritual) descendants of the apostles. If the Pope is a descendent of Peter, who are the descendents of the other apostles? Is it direct descent, or just making sure there are 12, or not even that? The actions of the early church (selecting Matthias to replace Judas, when it was the will of Christ to appoint Paul/Saul) show that it is easy for humans to make mistakes in determining the process of how that succession can run, so how does the Catholic Church determine in their selection process that they are acting in accordance with the will of God?

If the pope is inerrant (and forgive me if this is incorrect), how then could Paul challenge Peter on the issue of circumcision, and Peter relent to Paul’s logic? If the Pope is Peter, who is Paul?

Thanks for your time.

Bobby Bambino July 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi ycw! Nice to see you here! I know your question was to Matt, but I’ll take a stab at just one of your questions (I don’t have too much time because I’m watching my kids today and time is limited, but I’m happy to return to anything later.)

“If the pope is inerrant (and forgive me if this is incorrect), how then could Paul challenge Peter on the issue of circumcision, and Peter relent to Paul’s logic? If the Pope is Peter, who is Paul?”

The Catholic Church’s teaching about the Pope is that he has the charism of infallibility. This means that he is prevented from teaching error as truth or truth as error given some special circumstances laid out by Vatican I which we’ll get to in a minute. But infallibility is a negative charism meaning that he won’t say the right thing at the right time or in the right way; only that he is permitted from teaching error when the following conditions are met:

1. He must be speaking in matter sof faith or morals. There is no guarantee to the accuracy of his statements about history, statistics, trivia, etc.

2. He must be speaking in his role as Supreme Pontiff. In other words, he must be speaking on his official capacity as Pope.

3. It must be adressed and intended to the whole faithful. It can’t be a personal letter or a letter to a group of bishops or just women or anything like that.

There also should be definitive language. In the infallible statements the pope has made, they say something like “We define…” or “We declare…” These are solmn pronouncements that let the faithful know that what follows is a definitive statement (and possibly infallible).

So what we want to get out of this is that when it comes to bad popes or their behaviour, this does not touch the relm of infallibility. A pope could spend his whole pontificate eating Doritos, doing drugs, and watching TV, and this would never contradict infallibility (scandalous as it may be).

Now we turn to Galations 2 that you mentioned. Here Paul is rebuking Peter for not eating with certain people. Paul is criticizing (and rightfully so) Peter’s behavior. But remember, that is okay. Popes can behave poorly, be hypocrites, inconsistant, etc. Paul was not rebuking Peter for a TEACHINg of Peter’s, but rather his hypocrisy shown through his behavior. There is another example of this in history. St Catherine of Siena rebuked the then pope (can’t remember who) who had moved to France. She told him that he needed to move back to Rome, criticizing him harshely. And he did!

So popes can be bad people, they can make errors in judgement, they can even make factual or theological errors, though all of the theological errors popes have made have either not been their teaching to the Church as a whole or their personal opinions which they never taught or something like that. remember the criteria that must be satisfied in order for a pope to make an infallilble statement. It is made as doifficult as possible for a pope to ho-hum make an infallible statement or do it matter-of-factly.

I hope that makes sense, YCW. Please let me know if you have any other questions, and I”ll try to get to them either today or over the next couple of days. God love you.

Marcelle July 7, 2010 at 4:09 am

Matthew & others, great questions responses. It’s good to see discussions like this on the internet that are so well informed and gracious. I’m Catholic but owe my return to the faith to an evangelical group so never like to assume that we have it more right than anyone else. In the end it’s not about gettting it right anyway. It’s only ever about Jesus. God bless all.

Chris Altieri July 7, 2010 at 9:31 am

Dear Matthew,

When you write, “There is no longer any need for the sacrifices of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods,” it strikes me that you miss the very important point, emphasized in the Church’s liturgical prayer and in the rite of ordination itself, tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem melchisedek – “[T]hou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.”

The perfect high priesthood of Christ is not merely prefigured by the priesthood of Melchisedek, nor does it simply replace the Aaronic priesthood – but please, do not take my word for it. Here is the Holy Father himself on the subject:

He is not a priest according to the Mosaic law (cf. Lev 8-9), but “after the order of Melchizedek”, according to a prophetic order, dependent only on his special relationship with God. – BXVI, Corpus Domini, 2010

The Holy Father elaborates, saying the following:

Jesus was not recognized as a priestly but rather as a prophetic and royal Messiah. Even his death, which we Christians rightly call a “sacrifice”, had nothing to do with the ancient sacrifices; indeed, it was quite the opposite; it was the execution of a death sentence by crucifixion, the most ignominious punishment, which took place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

In what sense, therefore, was Jesus a priest? The Eucharist itself tells us. We can start with the simple words that describe Melichizedek: He “brought out bread and wine” (Gen 14: 18). This is what Jesus did at the Last Supper: he offered bread and wine and in that action recapitulated the whole of himself and his whole mission. That gesture, the prayer that preceded it and the words with which he accompanied it contain the full meaning of the mystery of Christ, as the Letter to the Hebrews expresses it in a crucial passage that we should quote: “In the days of his flesh”, the author writes of Our Lord, “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (5: 8-10). In this text, which clearly alludes to the spiritual agony of Gethsemane, Christ’s Passion is presented as a prayer and an offering. Jesus faces his “hour” which leads him to death on the Cross, immersed in a profound prayer that consists of the union of his own will with that of the Father. This dual yet single will is a will of love. Lived in this prayer, the tragic trial that Jesus faces is transformed into an offering, into a living sacrifice.

I think the main thrust of the Holy Father’s interpretation here is that Christ’s priesthood is according to the order of Melchizedek, i.e. more ancient than the Aaronian priesthood and more perfect; at the same time, the Aaronian priesthood is not so much replaced as it is perfected and universalized in and through Christ.

Best,
Chris

Matthew Warner July 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

Chris – thanks for the help! I think what I was trying to say was that the old covenant sacrifices of the Melchizedek priesthood are no longer necessary, but have been replaced and fulfilled by the sacrifice on the Cross in the priesthood of Christ in the new covenant.

It appears I need to fix some wording to be clear that Jesus’ priesthood is still “after the order of Melchizedek” while still recognizing that he has perfected it and, in doing so, changed the way it was practiced.

Would that satisfy your objection there?

But I don’t see where you are getting your conclusion about the Aaronic Priesthood? Where do you support that it is “perfected and universalized in and through Christ”?

Thanks!

Chris Altieri July 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

Dear Matt,

Forgive me, but it sounds like you are confusing the priesthood of Melchisedek with the Aaronic priesthood.

You say, “[T]he old covenant sacrifices of the Melchizedek priesthood are no longer necessary.”

The problem is that Melchisedek was never a priest of the old covenant (cf. Gen 14:18-21), and his “sacrifice” was of bread and wine – prefiguring Christ’s own Eucharistic sacrifice.

As for how Christ informs and perfects the Aaronic priesthood: the people of Israel are chosen by God to bring His saving love into the world, to share it with all people, and to make all nations holy.

This work of God is accomplished in Christ, the High Priest, whose flesh is life for the world (cf. John 6:51).

The late Cardinal Lustiger (a Jewish convert to Catholicism) was particularly good on this point:

I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.

Now, I do not think that the late Card. Lustiger’s comments are entirely unproblematic, but they do help to see the continuity thet there is across the covenants within the whole arc of salvation history.

Best,
Chris

Matthew Warner July 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Chris – I didn’t mean to imply any discontinuity between Old and New. You are right…the fulfilling, perfecting and continuation is a major point! I overstated my case a bit and I appreciate you helping me through it!

I wasn’t getting the priesthood’s mixed up. I was, however, misunderstanding the extent of the “Melchizedek priesthood” in the Old Testament amidst the confusion of the Mormon extra-biblical teachings and practices regarding…which I’ve had my head stuck in. That was my mistake.

I actually updated the post and just deleted the portion you were questioning so as not to add any confusion from my insufficient understanding (my tone wasn’t as charitable as it should have been either). I appreciate the additional info you’ve contributed here in the combox.

Peace, sir!

Invanwho July 8, 2010 at 5:39 am

If the apostle John (the Beloved) outlived Peter as his writings from the Island Patmos indicate, how can there be a Pope after Peter who isn’t John?
My understanding that a few were just called Bishops between Peter and the first who was called Pope. Does a Bishop outrank the apostle John?
Lastly, is having a female Pope not some form of Apostacy, which you claimed never happened, or did the Apostacy happen much earlier before most of the original apostles died and which Apostacy necessitated all those letters of Paul and others to correct doctrine?

Invanwho July 8, 2010 at 7:05 am

Your links marked further reading talk about how Mormons believe their prophets and apostles are infallible to use the Catholic word and then lists mistakes they have made. Then Bobby Bambino gives an explanation of the Pope’s infallibility with the conditions defined by Vatican I. These are very similar to what Mormons understand about when a prophet is speaking doctrine for the whole Church and when they are speaking their opinions as imperfect human beings. (Let’s not have double standards, allowing Papal (Catholic Pope) mistakes, but disallowing Prophetic (Mormon Prophet) mistakes. Only the Prophet, not the other Apostles can make doctrinal declarations that are binding, become scripture. That is why doctrinal decisions had to go to Peter rather than just any of the Apostles. For Mormons Peter, James, and John are the equivalent to the Prophet and his counsellors and the other Apostles after that.

Changings subjects, cannot the Greek Orthodox Church claim the same succession going back to Peter? Could they not be Christ’s Church built upon the Rock of Peter? If not, why not? (Reasons wanted, not an answer of “they are not”.)

Launa July 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Ivanwho,

Thank you for pointing out the similarities between Papal Infallibility and the Mormon understanding of prophets speaking doctrine for the whole church.

However, I don’t follow why “Only the Prophet, not the other Apostles can make doctrinal declarations that are binding, become scripture.” We know that Peter didn’t write the entire New Testament and that he wasn’t even alive by the time some of it was written. For that matter, the canon of the New Testament wasn’t established until the Fourth Century at the Synod of Rome in the year 382 (and ratified at the Councils of Hippo {393} and Carthage {397 and 419}). Does this mean the New Testament as we know it is not binding?

As to your question regarding the Greek Orthodox church (and all Eastern Orthodox churches), my understanding is that it _can_and_does_ claim the same succession going back to Peter. From the same site to which Matthew refers in several “further reading” links, the Orthodox churches “have valid holy orders and apostolic succession”.(http://www.catholic.com/library/Eastern_Orthodoxy.asp)

Peace in Christ,
Launa

Raiofoz August 26, 2010 at 7:40 am

Several points are well taken here. For instance, in the midst of the so-called Dark Ages, some of the most spectaular architecture, reason and art were generated in the ‘Western’ world. Among the great reason displayed though, by such as Luther but not only him, was the contention that they, experts in the Catholic Church, could see no validity in it.
Also there were during the Renaisance many who strove to bring such scripture as was to be had-to the masses. The avowed Catholic penalty for translating scripture into language accessible to the masses was death, often by the most gruesome means: Strangulation; Burial; Disinterment of the corpse and; Burning of the exhumed corpse at the stake. True, some say not all of that was done to the Englishman who published the German translation but not all are agreed on that dispute.
So some very expert opinion weighed against the Catholic Church half a thousand years ago.
A chief expression of the ‘inexpert opinion’, also from that time, is taken to be the exodus of those who fled the Catholic dominated Europe, seeking freedom of speech and freedom to worship according to their own conscience. That is a vastly potent body of reason. The Human Conscience, intuitively, is expressive of Christ, the Messiah, the Creator God, inherent in His own Handiwork – us.
So it must seem the cry for enlightenment, from the midst of a darkened world, a world suffering a famine not of earthly sustenance but of the Spirit, was increasingly prevalent among those who fled the dogma and darkness of their religious mentors in the Catholic Church.
Be it will as it may, no Will can create Priesthood Authority to act in the Name of God, or to perform the Work of God upon the Earth.
So far as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lays claim to this authority and that it was personally restored by the Saviour Himself, the Apostles and Angels, there is only one way to determine this fact. It lies in the Fruits but also in the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
We reserve unto the Catholic Church the right to teach who they will and what they will. We claim that right for ourselves. We joy in the fact, we know every Catholic is a true Brother or Sister who was with us in Heaven until the moment we each were born upon the Earth. We know we are here to shed the further light and knowledge of the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ among all who feel a place in their heart to receive it. We accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master in this life and throughout all eternity.
We certainly love all Catholics. It has been said by members of the saints, “A good Catholic Family is a very good Family indeed”.
Touching upon offices of the Priesthood, the Catholic Church must ordain its right to hold such. Such is the priesthood of their Church, a paid position and a ministry of men among men for the benefit of those men. Called intuitively, perhaps and laboring valiantly, perhaps, they are worthy of the love of all men and we pray they will all, one day, feel called to seek the Saviour in His true Church.
There is nothing Catholic about His Church. It embraces only one belief, one faith, one Baptism, one Priesthood-the Holy Priesthood which is after the Order of the Son of God.
But an excellent Site and the level of commentary is enjoyable. No doubt, our words here are blunt but bear with us. We know who we are, where we come from, why we are here and how Truth demands our feet walk in circumspect paths for us to return home to our Father, God, in Heaven.
Please excuse a typically lengthy post.

Matthew Warner August 26, 2010 at 8:29 am

Raiofoz – since we’re being blunt…what you just wrote is an extraordinary piece of absolutely ridiculous, un-serious revisionist history. Anyone who believes that is living in their own dark age.

Jason August 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Amen, Brother Matthew.

avd September 11, 2010 at 12:17 am

I encourage all of you to read and study early Christianity. There is much you do not understand. The Catholic church has fallen far away from what Jesus has setup, there’s no denying that. Before you even consider a reply, please educate yourself by studying this topic thoroughly. Do not say you studied Christianity in your Catholic schools.

Matthew Warner September 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm

avd – thanks for the enlightenment. Of course, I do deny that the “Catholic Church has fallen far away from what Jesus has setup.” So you’re wrong. There is denying that. But which books would you suggest we read so that we can learn the truth on this topic? Thanks!

Bobby Bambino September 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

Hi AVD.
I studied The Great Apostasy by James Talmage and was even more convinced of the truths of the Catholic Church after reading it. Like Matt said, what would you suggest?

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