Recently, we had some conversations with our neighborhood LDS missionaries. These talks really began a conversion in me– to a deeper appreciation for my Catholic Faith. I’d like to share some of those reflections here. By way of disclaimer, I would first like to say that I have the utmost respect for Elder M., Elder H., and the more established member they brought the last time. I admire their zeal (they remind me of my days working with the NET team members), and genuinely liked them as people. I wish we could invite them over for a BBQ sometime. Also, it goes without saying that I am no LDS expert. If anyone out there is a Mormon and wants to correct my understanding of their doctrines, please do!
Perhaps our discussions left me most grateful for the way that the Catholic Faith respects our God-given gift of reason. Right away, after all of us shared our faith stories, the thought occured to me: How could all four of us pray to the Holy Spirit, and have Him tell half of us to be Mormon and half to be Catholic? These faiths are incompatible. Much of the Mormon faith seems to be based on a feeling of confidence given by the Holy Spirit. But how do you know the feeling you had is of God, and not just excitement, peer pressure or what you had for lunch?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is based on a revelation given directly by God the Father (who has a body) and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in the mid 19th Century. God told Joseph that the Church had been corrupted since the original apostles’ death, and that he was to be given the restored Gospel of Jesus. The missionaries mentioned all the miracles that Jesus did during his time on earth, but failed to give any outside evidence that would back up this revelation to Joseph Smith. No miracles (except that he translated the Book of Mormon with only a 2nd Grade education), no archeological evidence that backs up the claims that there were prophets that came over to North America during the time of Jeremiah, not even another person that witnessed the revelation. Now, of course, we need faith to grasp the truths of God. But we also need reason. God gives us ample evidence that points toward Jesus’ divinity and his messianic mission. Prophesies, miracles and the Church herself. The Gospel writers take great care to describe the credibility of their sources for their accounts. We have two millenia of scholars, some of the world’s most brilliant, who have poured over the Truths of the faith and clarified it for us. (Interested? Pick up St. Thomas’ Summa!!) Catholics who engage their reason will ultimately fall more in love with Jesus Christ.
Further, the Church takes a very skeptical approach to private revelation. The popular devotion at Mejugorie has not yet even been officially approved. The reason is that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is the Father’s last Word. We won’t get anything more from legitimate private revelation than encouragement for our times. This is to protect us from getting off track. All this is not to discount the roll of an experience of the Holy Spirit in igniting one’s faith. I wish all the youth I work with could really have a deep experience of God’s love for them personally! This is precisely why we take them on retreats. But any youth leader knows it can’t just be about a good feeling, because feelings don’t last. I am so grateful that after an experience with God they can gather up their questions and dive down deep into the beautiful truths of their faith. And the more they learn, the more they can love, and the more their Faith will increase.