Every so often, I receive questions as to why a Catholic should become a Latter-day Saint, or what resources would be helpful for a Catholic considering conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As someone who considered his own conversion and testimony for quite some time recently, I hope this post will be helpful.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that the claims of the LDS Church and the Catholic Church are at odds with each other. Both claim to be the “one true church” with the proper authority from God. They both can’t be right in that regard. The LDS Church claims that it is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ as we read in the New Testament. In this belief, Latter-day Saints find that certain doctrinal truths were lost over time, and have since been restored in the LDS Church, along with newly revealed and expanded on beliefs and practices.
Further, Mormons believe that the priesthood authority of God has been restored, and is only found in the LDS Church. This brings me to an important issue: that of authority and sacraments/ordinances. Latter-day Saints believe that only the LDS Church has the authority from God to perform sacred ordinances, such as baptism, confirmation, ordination, eternal marriage, etc. In contrast, while the Catholic Church regards itself as being the one true Church, it still believes that valid baptisms can be performed outside of its formal confines, and certain churches, such as the Orthodox Church, can validly perform all of the sacraments, even though they are not in formal communion with the Catholic Church (regarded as being in schism). This concept never made sense to me. In Mormonism, the authority of God is only found and validly exercised within Christ’s Church, and only members of the priesthood of Christ’s Church, in communion with its prophets and apostles, can validly perform sacred ordinances.
There are a number of doctrinal issues that separate Latter-day Saints from traditional Christians, and from Catholics specifically. While each topic could be a separate post, I’ll list some of the issues that I find relevant to Catholics considering Mormonism, as well as some books and resources that would be helpful as you investigate the Church of Jesus Christ.
Apostles and Prophets
-Mormons believe that the true Church is led by apostles and prophets, just like the New Testament Church. The authority and calling of Apostles is present today. As we read in the Bible, the Church had twelve Apostles, and there were also Apostles outside of the Twelve. Similarly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a Council or Quorum of Twelve Apostles, as well as a “First Presidency” composed of three Apostles. All are also regarded as prophets who receive revelation from God in directing the Church of Jesus Christ, just like the ancient Church.
-Mormons believe that revelation continues to this day. In addition to the personal type of revelation that seems to be found in practically all Christian faiths, we also believe that the words of living prophets become like scripture to us, and we have an open canon of scripture. Our canonized scriptures can be added to when necessary, and the words of our inspired leaders in settings such as General Conference (a twice a year meeting of the worldwide Church) are studied in addition to the scriptures.
-Catholics are used to not only praying directly to each member of the Trinity, but also praying to/through canonized saints and the Virgin Mary. In contrast, Latter-day Saints only pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. We readily accept the reality of Heavenly persons and angels interacting with people on earth, however we do not pray to/through them.
-As mentioned, Latter-day Saints believe that only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the authority from God to perform necessary ordinances (what Catholics would term “sacraments”). Therefore, all converts to the LDS Church are baptized, whether or not they were baptized in another church. Baptism is performed by full immersion, as was done anciently. I’ve found it interesting that proselyte baptism has been performed in Judaism, and was always done by immersion. Further, Jews sometimes immerse themselves in a “mikveh” for purification.
-Latter-day Saints also do not practice infant baptism. LDS follow the example of Jesus Christ and lay their hands on infants to bless them. LDS believe that infants and children prior to the age of 8 do not need baptism, and if they die, they go to Heaven. In contrast, Catholics do not know with certainty what happens to unbaptized infants, though they find sufficient reason to hope in the mercy of God (though some retain a belief in Limbo of Infants). I find the LDS belief very comforting, and based on revelation from God.
-Like the early Christians and Jews, Latter-day Saints have two types of worship services. First, on Sundays, we go to our meetinghouses/chapels, where we pray, sing hymns, participate in the Lord’s Supper (we call this “the Sacrament”, and it is blessed bread and water), and listen to sermons or “talks” by members of the congregation. We also have Sunday School classes where we study the scriptures and doctrines of the Gospel, and other types of classes (women attend Relief Society, men attend various Priesthood meetings depending on their priesthood office).
In addition, we also have temples, which are separate sacred structures, regarded as the literal House of the Lord. God’s presence is there in a special way, and we participate in various sacred ordinances there. Like the Biblical temple, access is limited. One must be living the commandments of Christ, and receive a “recommend card” from their Church leaders to present upon entry. Because Latter-day Saints believe that certain ordinances are necessary for eternal life (for example, the Bible repeatedly says that baptism is necessary, and gives no exceptions, such as “baptism of desire” or “baptism of blood”, as Catholics believe). Therefore, God has provided a way for these ordinances to be performed for our ancestors that did not have the opportunity to receive them in life (it is believed that once performed, such “proxy ordinances” present them with the opportunity to accept or reject them in the spirit world). LDS therefore perform ordinances such as “baptism for the dead”, which was also performed anciently (1 Corinthians 15:29-“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”).
In the temple, eternal marriages, called sealings, are also performed. In this sacred ordinance, the couple kneels at an altar, holds hands, and is married for time and all eternity. Behind them are mirrors that reflect each other into eternity, symbolizing the union. Another ritual is known as the “Endowment”. This temple rite involves many ancient temple practices, such as washing, anointing with oil, receiving a new name, clothing in a sacred garment, ceremonial robes, a presentation on the Creation, the making of covenants with God, prayer, and passing through a veil into the presence of God. It is very beautiful, highly symbolic, and unique to the Latter-day Saint faith (though again, there are many ancient confirmations for the ritual). Going to the temple for one’s own Endowment is a great, spiritual day. In the temple, all “patrons” wear white clothing.
Temple worship is very important to Mormons, and is something many converts look forward to participating in. The temple is literally my favorite part about being LDS, and what drew me back after a short period of inactivity. The feeling of the Spirit present in the temple is unlike anything else. Being in the House of the Lord is something that confirms to many of us the reality of God and His Gospel.
Although I could go on and on, I think it would be helpful to provide some resources for Catholics looking into Mormonism. For me, these resources have been extremely helpful, not only when I considered leaving Catholicism, but also helpful in further confirming to me the reality of the Restoration, that Joseph Smith and/or his associates didn’t make it all up, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is the Lord’s Church, with truly restored ancient beliefs and practices. As much as I love Catholicism, even miss aspects of it, I know that this Church has the authority from God to perform sacred ordinances, and has the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that I have never felt as happy and as at peace as I have with the restored Gospel in my life.
Please click the links to get to the resource:
Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (outstanding resource!)
Naturally these are a lot of books. If I had to choose one or two for you to read, I would suggest “Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest”, and “Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church?” to begin with, as they are easier to read and are targeted to the typical reader. If you’re interested more in patristics, Early Church Fathers, ancient evidences for LDS beliefs, etc, I’d highly recommend “Restoring the Ancient Church”, “Mormonism and Early Christianity”, and “The World and the Prophets”. If anything, you must read Restoring the Ancient Church.
Official LDS Resources
First and foremost, please check out Mormon.org to get a basic understanding of what Latter-day Saints believe and do. You can also find a link to chat with missionaries online, and frequently asked questions. This is probably what you should do before reading any books, articles, etc.
You can request a free copy of the Book of Mormon here. Note that the missionaries will contact you to see if you’re okay with them hand delivering it to you, and sharing a message. I believe they can also just have it mailed to you if you don’t want that. I remember way back in 10th grade, when I was curious about the Church, requesting a Book of Mormon, and the missionaries called! Naturally my mother who answered the phone said we don’t need the missionaries over, and they just mailed it.
If you feel like you’d like to meet with the missionaries, use the request form here. This is how I ended up meeting with the missionaries. You can contact them if you’d just like to chat about Mormonism, or if you know that you’re ready to become a member of Christ’s Church. It may take a few days for them to get back to you, so don’t worry like I did. Also, if you aren’t comfortable meeting with them in your home, they can meet you anywhere, such as a local cafe, park, or the local LDS church building. I met with the missionaries at the church building.
If you’d like to read more about the basic beliefs of the LDS faith, you can read the Gospel Principles manual online here.
In a later post, I’ll share what it’s like actually converting!
Also, check out this recent devotional talk by an LDS leader, Elder Tad Callister, called the Blueprint of Christ’s Church. In it, you’ll see that the LDS Church is Biblical, and matches the blueprint of the Church Christ Himself designed. It is things like this which caused me to get out of my comfort zone in Catholicism, and come to the fulness of the Gospel found in the LDS Church.
The Church has also published a video that documents the beginnings of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ entitled Joseph Smith-Prophet of the Restoration. It is long, but well worth it. View it here:
Finally, the LDS Church has published a new series of videos to introduce people not members of the Church to the basic beliefs, practices, and ideals of Mormons. I encourage you to view these if you are pressed for time and can’t view the other two videos. You’ll get an idea of what Mormons believe and what it’s like to be Mormon. You can find all of them here: Introduction to the Church. Here are a few that I enjoy: