Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, may not have been Catholic, but he certainly made some very interesting points, which can easily be used as apologetics for the true Church.
From a sermon on 16 June 1844 (found in The New Mormon Challenge, p. 41):
“The old Catholic church traditions are worth more than all you have said. Here is a principle of logic that most men have no more sense that to adopt. I will illustrate it by an old apple tree. Here jumps off a branch and says, I am the true tree, and you are corrupt. If the whole tree is corrupt, are not its branches corrupt? If the Catholic religion is a false religion, how can any true religion come out of it? If the Catholic church is bad, how can any good thing come out of it? The character of the old churches have always been slandered by all apostates since the world began…”
From JS-History 1:9-10 (Pearl of Great Price):
“My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”
Notable, too, is a story from Orson F. Whitney, recounted in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (p. 3-4), a top Mormon apologetic book:
“Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: ‘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 is 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.'”
Mormons should take this into account.
From p. 15-17 of Eastern Orthodox theologian Vladimir Solovyov’s wonderful work, Russia and the Universal Church:
There is in the Christian Church a materially fixed point, an external and visible center of action, an image and an instrument of the divine power. The apostolic see of Rome, that miraculous ikon of universal Christianity, was directly involved in the Iconoclastic struggle, since all the heresies were in the last resort denials of the reality of that divine incarnation, the permanence of which in the social and political order was represented by Rome. It is indeed historically evident that all the heresies actively supported or passively accepted by the majority of the Greek clergy encountered insuperable opposition from the Roman Church and finally came to grief on this Rock of the Gospel. This is especially true of the Iconoclastic heresy; for in denying all external manifestation of the divine in the world it was making a direct attack on the raison d’être of the Chair of Peter as the real objective center of the visible Church.
The pseudo-Christian Empire of Byzantium was bound to engage in decisive combat with the orthodox Papacy; for the latter was not only the infallible guardian of Christian truth but also the first realization of that truth in the collective life of the human race. To read the moving letters of Pope Gregory II to the barbarous Isaurian Emperor is to realize that the very existence of Christianity was at stake. The outcome of the struggle could not be in doubt; the last of the imperial heresies went the way of its predecessors, and with it the circle of theoretic or dogmatic compromises which Constantine’s successors had attempted between Christian truth and the principle of paganism was finally closed. The era of imperial heresies was followed by the emergence of Byzantine “orthodoxy.” To understand this fresh phase of the anti-Christian spirit we must revert to its origins in the preceding period.
Throughout the history of the great Eastern heresies, extending over five centuries from the time of Arius to that of the last Iconoclasts, we constantly find in the Empire and Church of the East three main parties whose alternating victories and defeats form the framework of this curious evolution. We see in the first place the champions of formal heresy, regularly instigated and supported by the imperial court. From the religious point of view, they represented the reaction of Eastern paganism to Christian truth; politically, they were the declared enemies of that independent ecclesiastical government founded by Jesus Christ and represented by the apostolic see of Rome. They began by conceding to sar [sic], whose protégés they were, unbounded authority not only in the government of the Church but even in matters of doctrine; and when Cæsar, impelled by the orthodox majority of his subjects and by the fear of playing into the hands of the Pope, ended by betraying his own creatures, the leaders of the heretical party sought more solid support elsewhere by exploiting the separatist and semi-pagan tendencies of the various nations which were free, or were aiming at freedom, from the Roman yoke. Thus Arianism, the religion of the Empire under Constantius and Valens, but abandoned by their successors, claimed the allegiance of the Goths and Lombards for centuries; Nestorianism, betrayed by its champion Theodosius II, was for a time welcomed by the Eastern Syrians; and Monophysitism, thrust out from Byzantium in spite of all the efforts of the Emperors, finally became the national religion of Egypt, Abyssinia and Armenia.
At the opposite extreme to this heretical party, trebly anti-Christian — in its religious doctrine, its secularism, and its nationalism — we find the absolutely orthodox Catholic party engaged in defending the purity of the Christian idea against all the pagan compromises and in championing free and worldwide ecclesiastical government against the onslaughts of Cæsaropapism and the aims of national separatism. This party could not count on the favor of earthly powers; of the higher clergy it included only individuals here and there. But it relied on the greatest religious force of those times, the monks, and also on the simple faith of the mass of devout believers, at least in the central parts of the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, these orthodox Catholics found and recognized in the central Chair of St. Peter the mighty palladium [sic] of religious truth and freedom. To indicate the moral weight and ecclesiastical importance of this party, it is enough to say that it was the party of St. Athanasius the Great, of St. John Chrysostom, of St. Flavian, of St. Maximus the Confessor and of St. Theodore of the Studium.
[Note: This post deals with the how and the why more so than the that. In the philosophical section, I sought to address the why and move into the how. With the beginning of St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, I intended to touch on how the Holy Spirit might have served in place of the male sperm as an “agent” that brought instructions and form to the genetic material already within the Blessed Mother’s body. I only sought to “prove” (or, rather, sketch out proofs) that this could have happened.]
With the Virgin Birth, you actually have more evidence that it is true rather than untrue.
We have great historical testimony to it, and there is no proof that it did not happen — obviously. But there is more.
How can it be proven by science? Well, I suppose this depends on your definition of “science”. If you refer to that of the exact (quantitative), of course, it could be difficult. But theology, “the highest form of philosophy”, does have an answer. And, just as you trust astronomers to tell you about many things beyond earth, you should trust the Church to tell you about God.
Before I can get into that, you must consider something: how did you come into being, and why do you exist? You cannot know much else aside from that you were ordained for some purpose. If you were not around, things would be different, the environment would be changed — perhaps, this would not just cause some sort of “gap”, but it would be destructive, even. You are necessary, to us and to the “Something” (God) from which you spring.
Let us say that the Virgin Birth, too, was necessary for things to properly function. It was ordained from the beginning, as God knew that He would come to reach out to the lost tribes of the house of Israel (Gentiles). The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection were necessary for God’s “re”-marriage, this time to the Church, His Bride. (This connects to the Church’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage.) The destroyed Temple and Jewish sacrificial method had to be replaced with a new, universal and eternal system. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22). If something is truly necessary to proper existence, it comes into being.
Why has this Birth not been replicated, though? It was only needed once, just like you are only needed once. Likewise, there has to be a mystery to it, as there is mystery to you. Uniqueness and mystery pervade.
But St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, also, “According to the Philosopher [Aristotle] (De Gener. Animal. i, ii, iv), in conception the seed of the male is not by way of matter, but by way of agent: and the female alone supplies the matter. Wherefore though the seed of the male was lacking in Christ’s conception, it does not follow that due matter was lacking.” (Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 28, A. 1, R. to Ob. 5)
That point is key. Mitochondrial DNA, for example, come exclusively from the mother, and there is also talk of “female sperm“. “Female sperm” could, theoretically, develop within a woman, given the right impetus. (Of course, the impetus for normal procreation is male sperm.) The point is, the material necessary for life sufficiently exists within women — that is evidenced by the fact that the X-chromosome contains far more genetic material than the Y-chromosome. All the material needs is the masculine influence to trigger it, to give it form and shape. Even without the Y-chromosome from a man, one could still be a “XX male“, at least. And it is clear that the distinctions and origins of the Y-chromosome are a mystery, anyway [1, 2]. In Mary’s exceptional case, this trigger was the Holy Spirit, which poured out abundantly on her and directed her body on what to do (Luke 1:30-35). “…[T]he Divine power, which is infinite, can transmute all matter to any form whatsoever” (Aquinas). This mutation can be rationally explained — “random mutations” occur frequently.
Is it not ironic that we have confirmed this by reckless science, which has sought to artificially create “test-tube babies” [1, 2] and introduce “transgenderism”? God has drawn straight with our crooked lines, yet again.
Christ’s body was not tangled to any imperfect man. This connects to scientific proof of Mary’s perfection, too. It has been shown that groups of cells from infants transfer to mothers’ brains [1, 2], after traveling through the placenta. Because of this, the Blessed Mother must have been perfect, for she literally had, in purity, the mind of Christ.
Why else must the Theotokos be a virgin? St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For it behooved that our Head, on account of a notable miracle, should be born after the flesh of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born after the Spirit, of the Church a virgin…” (Of Holy Virginity)
Let me try to explain, simply, what the Church teaches on the Trinity vis-à-vis monotheism.
The Trinity’s source is the Father. The Son is “begotten” from Him — not created by Him, “for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence” (St. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, Book I) — and the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son”, “proceeds from” the Two, and is “co-equal” to Them.
All must “honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23) and recognize the Holy Spirit as “the voice of the Lord” (Isaiah 6:8-10, Acts 28:25-27). All are key to the “I Am”, the Logos, the principle on which everything — including reason itself — depends.
Philosophically speaking, because the Persons are so intricately connected (in mind, substance, action, etc.), They are One. This unity is to be mimicked in both the Church and sacramental marriage.
However, They clearly act distinctly (but not separately). This makes most sense, I think, in the context of the Eucharist: Father as being sacrificed to, Son as Sacrifice, Holy Spirit as the Person Who inspires sacrifice. They each have a place in the communitarian model.
They all must be God, though, because only God has these authorities. They must all be of equal power, also. How else could the Son be our Lord (John 20:28) and perfectly alike to the Father (John 5:19)? How else could the Holy Spirit bring forth the Son to earth (Matthew 1:18), how else could lying to the Holy Spirit equate to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4), and how else could our bodies belong to this same Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?
That, in a nutshell, is how Catholics look at the Trinity — One, but Three; Three, but One. Thus, we chant, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
(cf. Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed)
Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?
“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.
I like to think of sola fide in terms of criminal law. Imagine that someone went before a judge and was proven guilty of heinous crimes, but then pleaded to the judge that he believed in the judge’s authority to convict him and so the judge should not do so – and had that as his only defense. Should the judge convict him – to any degree – or should the judge completely let him off, and then give him a reward?
Do you find the “faith alone” argument compelling in such an instance? I do not. Of course, a “faith alone”-r would say that there is some sort of significant difference between such a scenario in terms of temporal law and such a scenario in terms of eternal law, but there really is not. Protestant arguments for the belief simply do not stand in the face of such scenarios or substantial scrutiny.
I strongly believe that sola fide is at the heart of many Western problems. Self-professed Christians have used it as an excuse to not care for the disadvantaged, to engage in profane sexual activity, etc. – the list goes on and on.
Martin Luther told his followers to “sin and sin boldly” (among other things, as I have documented) because he taught that we are saved solely by our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, apart from our actions. This method of thinking has been adopted by millions of Protestants since his time. But is it supported by the Bible? No. See Hebrews 10:26-27:
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
“Faith alone” has had a terrible impact on society. People often now shy away from discussing religion or morality with others, fearing conflict. Take, for example, something that transpired between a Lutheran family member and me. After I privately and politely informed her that she had committed a grievous sin (like we are called to do – see Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Ephesians 4:15), she immediately jumped to the “Who are you to judge?” defense and paired it with the “Jesus paid the price” line. I am sure that, for many Catholics, such occurrences are unfortunately familiar.
God has written in our hearts (Romans 2:15) that we should serve Him and others, not our selfish desires — and we will be punished if we defy Him. The necessity of both good works and abstinence from grave sin gives our lives concrete meaning. If someone takes away the eternal significance of our actions, they rob us of any real purpose: we all just become random, faceless, unimportant beings.
Sola fide does not work either logically or practically; it fails on all counts. Now, you know why I hate it.
In defiance of Deuteronomy 17:17, Matthew 19:4-6, and other Biblical passages, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, endorsed the practice of polygamy. However, the largest Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), later outlawed the practice. This presents a problem for LDS theology.
In verses 61-63 of Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith reveals a “revelation” about polygamy supposedly given to him by God. The verses teach that a man “cannot commit adultery” — even if “he have ten virgins given unto him by this law” of polygamy — as long as his women are “vowed to no other man”.
So, polygamy was allowed in the first 46 years after Joseph Smith’s death. But in 1890, due to Official Declaration 1 — which is “authoritative and binding” — polygamy was banned by the LDS church.
While the Declaration says that the church never “inculcate[d] or encourage[d]” the practice, it at least never claims that it did not allow or officiate it.
In the “Excerpts” section at the bottom of the online Declaration, it quotes LDS President Wilford Woodruff as saying that it would have been unwise “to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage,” because “adherence to this principle” of polygamy resulted in “suffering” for the church’s members, due to strong U.S. federal laws against it. Woodruff bluntly said that it was time to “cease the practice and submit to the law”.
All of this, taken together, shows that the church did accept polygamy, and it only backed down on the issue so that it could continue to exist and thrive. Basically, it changed its religious teachings to suit the secular laws of the government, which would obviously go against Biblical teachings, because God’s laws are not subject to the State. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), one verse reads: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What makes this all even more interesting is that even the Book of Mormon seems to oppose polygamy. Jacob 2:27 reads: “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none..”
This all leads to the big question: Do you think that an organization could be so wishy-washy with its teachings if it were really “The Church of Jesus Christ”? I do not think so, and I must therefore conclude that this Mormon magisterium (teaching authority) is invalid.
John 3:14-18 doesn’t support the “faith alone” position.
For Protestants, John 3:14-18 might seem like the ultimate “Gotcha!” passage to use against Catholics. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll recognize that the passage does not defend the “faith alone” position and is totally in line with Catholic teaching.
The passage reads as, “‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.'”
That might seem a little damning to the Catholic position that good works are necessary, right? Well, in truth, it’s not.
With God, to believe means to obey. God does not desire a lukewarm, vague belief in Him, but a devoted life in His service. This is evidenced later in the chapter. John 3:36 reads as, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
And if one looks at verses 19-21 of the chapter, they will see that Christ said that those who “love darkness” and do “evil deeds” will not reach “the Light” (Heaven).
Sin — which, at its heart, is anything offensive to God — is a heinous, damaging thing that we must cleanse ourselves of. This cleansing is done through Christ, of course, but meriting it requires a little more than a belief in Him. It requires a repentant heart (see Luke 13:3) and, in the case of mortal sin, sacramental confession (see my video about Confession).
On top of all of this, Christ told us in John 13:15 to follow the example that He set and He also told us — in John 15:10 — that we must keep His commandments to “abide in [His] love”.
We can’t just sit back and relax non-stop, counting on our vague “faith” to save us — we have to do things! Like St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24, we must help the Church in “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
So, when reading the Bible, remember that true belief requires obedience and good works.
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)
A video that examines Genesis 15:6, Romans 4, and James 2 in context to conclude that Abraham was NOT saved by “faith alone,” and neither are we.
I asked famous apologist Dave Armstrong for his opinion on this video, and he said that it “looks great (and orthodox)”.
In the video, I point out…
1. the importance of having an active faith (Abraham had to have sex with Sarah to have Isaac, which was key to God’s covenant with humanity; Abraham also had to be willing to sacrifice Issac)
2. that Abraham seemed to already have some sort of faith in Genesis 12, and what changed between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15:6 was that Abraham had done good works (he had built three altars in honor of God and had done what God told him to do)
3. that people still had to do works at the beginning of God’s covenant (e.g. circumcision), or risk being cut off from Him, and that baptism is, basically, the new circumcision
4. and what Paul meant when he denounced “works.”
A video explaining why Ephesians 2:8-9 does not support the “faith alone” position, and why the passage is completely in line with Catholic teaching.