Mormon Convert

Richard Sherlock

Richard Sherlock is a professor of philosophy trained at Harvard. He has 2 wonderful adult children and many wonderful friends who are with him and supportive of him in this journey.

Converting to Catholicism: My Journey

Richard Sherlock
Prof. of Philosophy

Utah State University

 

One should never leave the religion in which one was born or raised for anything but the most serious of reasons. Warm feelings, family, friends, a social ethos, should never be the reason for joining or leaving a religion. The fact that you do not like the priest, pastor or parishioners should never be a reason for staying or leaving. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have never been a person to "go with the flow" or seek popularity. I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War and I have a 1-0 draft card to prove it. I have been an absolute opponent of abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment my whole adult life. When I was a professor of moral theology at Fordham University in the mid-1980's I happily defended the view that artificial birth control is morally wrong. This was at a time when many, if not most, actually Catholic moral theologians wouldn't do so, or wouldn't do so strongly. I have not left religion or Christianity. But I have left Mormonism. I have become a deeper, more intellectual, more spiritual and truer Christian than I have ever been, literally. I am converting to the Roman Catholic Church. All true roads do lead to Rome.

Though I grew up in a "Mormon" household my family was not the typical Mormon family. My mother was a member who was semi-active. My father was not a member until late in life. Neither my brother nor I went on missions when Mormon boys are supposed to at 19. I did not think I could bear witness to Mormonism. I was not active in college and I had my doubts. My brother is now a Rabbi. That leaves only my sister in the Mormon fold.

In my journey to Catholicism I have in some ways been the last to know that this is where I truly belong. On the first weekend of October 2010 my brother closed off the side street in downtown Salt Lake where he lives and had a great Oktoberfest party. At the party I pulled my brother aside and said, "we need to talk." He was the first person I told of my decision to leave Mormonism and become a Catholic. He looked at me and said straightforwardly: "Rick, you haven't believed in Mormonism in decades." As we talked he said that he knew when I was a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970's that I was essentially a Catholic theologian. After all, I wrote my dissertation using the resources of Catholic moral theology.

When I showed up to Harvard in the fall of 1970 I roomed in Divinity Hall with a budding Catholic patristic scholar from Notre Dame, Michael Hollerich. We have been friends for 40 years. 20 plus years ago he was teaching at the University of Santa Clara. I was presenting a paper at a conference in San Francisco. My family and I went down together and stayed with one of my brothers in law who has a big house in the bay area. I went down for part of a day to see Mike. After we talked for quite a while and he showed me around his campus, he turned to me and in all seriousness said " Richard, from the way you talk and think, you should be a Catholic." Even then something inside of me knew he was right. But life intervened.

A third example is another old friend and also Harvard graduate who is senior vice-president for academic affairs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is a devout Catholic. About 15 years ago we were at a small discussion conference I was running. The format allows for about 2 1/2 hours each afternoon for breaks, informal discussions, or walks. We went on a long walk together and talked animatedly. When I told him recently of my conversion he said that after our first long discussion he thought for sure that I was a conservative Catholic, until I told him I was not.

Finally, this last summer I was a speaker at a summer honors program for really talented undergraduates run by his organization. Two other faculty members, Jonathan Yonan from Eastern University and Paige Hochscheid from Mount Saint Mary's University became friends. Jonathan is an Oxford trained church historian and protestant. Paige is an Augustine scholar and like her husband a convert to Catholicism. Until I told them at the end of the week, they also both thought I was a conservative Catholic.

Enough of the "I am the last person to know" stories. What you want to know is "why."

Conversion must be a matter of both the head and the heart, both the intellect and the spirit. But it must be a whole reorientation of one's life, a whole that transcends just the sum of the parts. Two further points I must make. First, conversion in the Catholic faith is never a completed event. It is always a process. Even devout "cradle Catholics" are still on a journey to become closer to God. Second, conversion as an adult Catholic cannot be begun and completed in a short period of time. In Mormonism one can meet missionaries and be baptized in a few weeks. In my Catholic case I started attending weekly meetings of the adult conversion class in October, 2010. I hope to be a catechumen in June 2011 and I hope to be received into the Catholic church with baptism, confirmation and first communion at Easter 2012. I believe that this is superior. One should understand the Catholic communal, sacramental, liturgical, and theological life before making a true commitment.

Let me begin by telling you of 3 deeply moving experiences that brought my heart to where it is now, where it must be, and where it will always be.

In February 2010 I got a flyer for a conference In Rome at the end of May devoted to the work of the great Catholic phenomenologist (and convert) Dietrich von Hildebrand, especially his seminal work The Nature of Love. Since I had just finished working through the Christian love literature in Catholic and protestant forms I decided that if my university travel budget would pay at least part of my trip to Rome I should have a paper accepted so that I could see Rome for the first time. I persuaded good friends who are devout Catholics to come with me so we could see Rome together. The conference went from Thursday through Saturday. On Friday after the conference was over, the conference had a special Latin mass in a majestic cathedral next door to the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross where the conference was being held. If my friends had not been with me I probably would not have gone. But we did. In that mass I felt the power of the Holy Spirit in a way I had not felt in years. It was a feeling but it was more than a feeling. It was a grasp of truth; an illumination if you will. I both felt it was right and knew it was right.

A second decisive moment also was the result of what some would think a coincidence, but I do not. In early September last year I heard a rumor from someone I thought should know, that the monastery in Huntsville, Utah would be closing in the next 6-9 months. A friend and I decided that if this really was true then we should visit the monastery in September when the weather is good.

Suffice it to say that we spent time in the chapel twice. The first time was not very moving for me because several monks were deep in prayer and the door made a small noise. I was concerned that this would disturb the monks. We went to the chapel later and I brought my Catholic Jerusalem Bible. I was deep in meditation and reading the passion narrative in Luke. For only a second or two the Holy Spirit touched me like I had been touched in Rome, only stronger. I almost broke down. I am not one to break down easily. I will never forget it. Feeling was present but so was a Biblical narrative that anchored my feeling.

The third moment came on the first weekend in October. A Catholic friend in Cache Valley picked up an announcement at the parish for an Immaculate Mary, Divine Mercy, Pro-Life Conference in Park City.

We went in Friday afternoon and then to the conference Saturday and Sunday. I'll be blunt: Saturday was transformative. Saturday afternoon, hearing Father Wade Menezes and then Deacon Jones (for you old enough to remember not that Deacon Jones who played with Merlin Olson in the fearsome foursome), I was reduced to tears. I tried to hide it. I took my glasses and rubbed my eyes constantly, like I had something in them. I did, but not what I tried to have people think. A couple of times I thought I would have to go out for a minute to collect myself. The experience was majestic. The presence of the Holy Spirit to me that afternoon was more than just feeling. It was and remains a gift of truth that is more than just feeling. I knew it was right and what I was being called to do. That night was when I told my brother and then a few others.

Each of these moments was unplanned and unexpected. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I wanted them I might have said, "I don't know". I know now. As physical human beings such experiences will involve emotion. But it cannot be merely emotion. If it remains emotion it cannot ultimately lead to eternal truth

Conversion is a matter of both the heart and the head. Mormonism is all about feeling and almost never about a conversion of the head. But conversion must be more than just feeling. The experience of the Holy Spirit often, but not always, involves feeling to be sure; The Holy Spirit, however, is a profound sense of the presence of God, not merely emotion. It is hearing a music that is transcendent. But if it is truly the presence of God it will lead to wisdom and intellectual curiosity, not away. Reason is a precious Divine gift. We should use it. If the beliefs to which you become emotionally attached are intellectually wrong, emotional attachment won't magically make them right.

In a truly moving opening passage in his seminal encyclical Fides et Ratio Pope John Paul II expresses this marriage of faith and reason: " Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that by knowing and loving God, men and women may come to the fullness of truth about themselves."

I was a "head convert" much longer than I have been a heart convert. It began really at Harvard. Even a non-specialist study of patristic literature convinced me that the story I had grown up with about the "great apostasy" in patristic period was wrong. Of course the Nicene Creed is not found literally in the New Testament. But it is an essential development out of the teaching of scripture. I am not even in the same intellectual universe as Cardinal John Henry Newman. But my journey, like his, was begun by realizing that there is a development of Christian doctrine, not a sharp break.

A passage from a book chapter written by one of the most distinguished Mormon thinkers of the last 50 years tells a story so much like mine that I must quote it. It is from Edwin Firmage, a truly distinguished law professor at the University of Utah and grandson of the beloved Mormon leader Hugh B. Brown. Ed writes this after he has left Mormonism: " As I consciously look back, it began for me probably in the mission field because I smuggled into my digs in England and Scotland the writings of the early fathers—Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, ...as I read these writers of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries I felt that they had been touched by God ... I was laying some mines that would be detonated later, because the idea of preaching an apostasy and restoration was wrong. ... The idea that God was sort of snoozing until 1820 now seems to me absurd."

Augustine's theology is a theology that develops out of the Bible. It is not a break. But once you realize that the story of an apostasy is wrong, you must conclude that the need for a "restoration" is simply untenable. Once it starts to unravel it unravels. I have come to realize that the teaching of my former church is inadequate and in key cases, and I do not say this lightly, incoherent. If the theology developed by Joseph Smith in the 1840's, a theology that has become canonical for Mormons, is seriously wrong, then it should not be believed no matter how passionately it is asserted or how comfortable is the social environment where it is asserted.

Let me just give you four additional points that are central in my intellectual journey. I do not have time or space here to do anything more than a summary statement. But I am prepared to defend any of these points at length including the material about the patristic period and Augustine.

First

The central problem that theists must face, the problem that gives rise to serious atheism as opposed to the adolescent rebellion against all things traditional or the pseudo scientific claim that no one has proven the existence of God like one would prove the existence of a new asteroid, is the problem of evil.

When I was an undergraduate philosophy student and in graduate school every professor I had argued that the solution to the problem of God and evil was provided by John Hick in his magisterial 1966 book, Evil and the God of Love. It remains a great book, and the best defense available of perhaps the most commonly held theist response to the problem of evil.

Hick's solution was also a solution that Mormons might find and did find congenial. To be brief, Hick thought that evil could be understood as allowed by God for building human character, "soul making" he called it. Difficulties make people stronger, so a good God gives us difficulties. Character development requires human freedom so you get a combination of character building and free will as a comprehensive answer to the problem of evil.

Unfortunately, however, this sort of solution is biblically inaccurate, philosophically flawed, and spiritually deadening. The problem has been most deeply articulated by Marylyn Adams in her crucial book, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God from 1999. The problem is not some hard times that we all have and from which we typically grow better. Rather, it is "horrendous evils" that cannot, without special pleading, be interpreted as building character: e.g. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the genocides in Rwanda and Armenia. Consider just the current plague of child pornography and pedophilia. Pedophilia does not build character. It destroys souls and lives.

How then can horrendous evils be comprehended by those of us who are deeply committed to the Christian faith? The answer is not in a character building/free will theodicy. It is in scripture and it leads to a picture of God that is seriously at odds with that of my former church but which is richly reflected in the classic Christian tradition. The answer is in Job 13:15: " Though He slay me, yet will I trust (or hope) in Him." Job is faced with truly horrendous evils for himself and his loved ones. His 3 friends and then Elihu at the end want to find reasons they can comprehend. They want to make God, in a way, just like us. Job wants such an answer too. He pleads with God to answer one central question: why? But his insight in 13:15 is a breakthrough. It leads directly to God's answer to Job in chapters 38-42. God tells Job to have faith in him. He, God, has a larger purpose than Job can comprehend. God has created the whole universe for reasons that transcend human wisdom. Job must trust in God, even when reason fails.

But what kind of God is it in whom we can have such trust? What must be the nature of such a God in whom we can hope and on whom we can rely in the face of the most terrible suffering, sufferings that in Job's case and millions of others appear endless, undeserved, and purposeless? It is not a God whose wisdom, power, and goodness are limited or finite. It is not a God who is like a great scientist, a good friend, a brilliant philosopher, or a powerful ruler. It is the God of the tradition who is perfectly wise, good, and powerful; who knows the end from the beginning and who created the whole universe out of his bounteous goodness and love. Anything less cannot be our anchor in the midst of grave tragedy or horrendous evils. Christians cannot accept anything less.

Secondly

Mormonism is and must be committed to the idea that God is a physical being like us and, as a corollary, that matter is eternal. This belief leads to what philosophers call an inconsistent triad. This is three propositions that you cannot hold together.

  • 1. God created the whole universe.
  • 2. The universe starts with big bang that begins with a singularity of energy. No matter is present.
  • 3. God is a material being.

Mormonism is committed to number 3. I can demonstrate this with dozens, if not hundreds of citations from Joseph Smith onward. This means that they must either deny number 2 or number 1. Denying a very well established finding of modern science such as 2 seems equivalent to denying that the earth is several billion years old so you can preserve a literal reading of Genesis. Once this is granted matter cannot be eternal. If you think that matter is eternal then you have denied 2. I do not think that any Christian faith can be accepted as true if it requires us not to believe something very established science shows to be true.

Denying 1 is both philosophically wrong and deadening for faith. I have, however, seen eminent LDS astrophysicist Hollis Johnson say, in writing, that since 2 is true and God must be physical, members of his faith must deny that God created the universe. To be blunt, I stand aghast. If you are a passionate believer as I am then denying that God created the universe is, I believe, spiritually lethal. Theists of all people should believe that their lives have eternal meaning or purpose. But how can my life or yours have such a purpose if it exists in a universe that has no purpose because it was not created by God.

Furthermore, I believe that the cosmological or first cause argument is correct. Without it, the universe has no purpose. Basic to human beings' way of interpreting the world is the principle of sufficient reason. Basically this is the idea that everything that exists has a cause. Once this is granted as basic then the universe must have a cause. Things, i.e. matter, energy, etc, cannot have purposes. Only intelligent agents can have purposes or intentions. For those who are Christians as I am this cause or this intelligent agent must be God.

Third

Mormonism is also committed to the idea that God became God through a developmental process on a world like ours. However, if God created all the universe then He cannot have started out on a part of the universe. This is not debatable. Trying to believe both is incoherence. Many of my students say that God became God on some part of the universe or in an alternate universe. So the God they worship is only the God of this world or this part of the universe. But why worship the captain and not the 4 star general? When some students tell me after this sort of discussion that they do not believe in a "top god" I am speechless. I remind you again that warm emotional feelings cannot make the incoherent, coherent.

Fourth

Since the creator God is not "just like us" and our destiny is to rejoin His presence what then is required for us to do so? This topic is much too large to discuss here. Let me make one argument. For humanity to rejoin God's presence we need a mediator, a person who is both divine and human. As human, God the Son shares our pain and suffering, our hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and especially our mortality. As God, he can show us God's qualities of love and mercy, teach us God's way of life, and especially give us eternal life by overcoming the barrier of our mortality. This is why there must be an incarnation of God in human existence. The incarnate God is the only anchor of our salvation, the foundation of our hope, and the root of our trust. Mormonism does not invest much effort in thinking about the incarnation because a commitment to a God who is just an "exalted man" does not allow them to see the need. But a need there is.

Jesus as God the son is utterly unique. The New Testament shows this in a way we often ignore. The New Testament does not often call Jesus God or even the "son of God". But the phrase "son of man" is used about 40 times if we take out the textually doubtful cases and those places where one writer quotes another. In every case of " son of God " or "son of man" the phrase is preceded by the definite article. It is always "the son of man" or "the son of God". Jesus is not like us only better, as I might say that Plato is a mortal, physical being like me only a far better philosopher.

Since we need a mediator who is both Divine and human and since Jesus is the mediator, the son must have a special relation to the father. It cannot be that they are "really close friends." It has to be different. They must have the same divine substance, in Greek "homoousion". It cannot be anything less or Jesus cannot be a true mediator between the Divine and the human.

Once the nature of a God in whom we can have absolute trust is admitted and the place of Jesus as both divine and human is recognized we are right back with the Nicene Creed, which we joyously recite as a Catholic community every Sunday in the mass. Since the Creed represents a truth developed out of scripture and sustained by reason as I have done it cannot represent an apostasy from biblical truth. Since the Creed states essential truths, how can you not be a member of the Church that, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, developed and defended it for almost 1700 years?

I have not gone over to the dark side. I am a richer, deeper Christian than I have ever been. The other day I received an online poll that is done by a political scientist in Utah. I do this perhaps twice a year. One of the questions asks about one's religion and how strongly one is committed to it. It was truly liberating to answer Catholic with a strong commitment. The experience of Holy Spirit does, sometimes, have an emotional component. But it is more than just emotion. The Holy Spirit is one person of the triune God who is wisdom itself. One of God's greatest gifts to us is reason. Thus we cannot remain content with emotional moments or warm feelings. If we are to remain true to the gift God gave us we must use this gift, like the man in scripture who expanded his talents, to deepen and enrich our faith with the gift of reason.

As I am sending this in I have just gone through the Easter Tridium. This one of the most majestic spiritual experiences I have ever had. Before my journey began in earnest a year ago I had been to mass a number of times. But I had never been to a mass of the last supper, including the washing of the feet. Nor had I been to a stations of the cross with the seven last words. I even was asked to read one the seven last words. I was moved almost to tears with the request. But literally nothing in my journey could have prepared me for the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Coming into the dark chapel with little candles in our hands I realized in a way I never had before that Christ is the light of the world and we are his people in the church he left.

I know this journey is right and I have known it for a long time. But it has been more joyous than I could imagine. For those of you who are doubting or unsure, even for those on a different path: come on in. The water is fine and neither God nor those of us already on the journey will let you sink. 

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34 comments

  • Comment Link James Tuesday, 10 May 2011 13:48 posted by James

    Excellent article, good sir. Welcome home.


    The only 2 things I'm confused about are the following statements:

    "Basically this is the idea that everything that exists has a cause."

    I think maybe this needs to be changed a bit; everything that exists does not have a cause.. God exists, and He has no cause.

    "Things, i.e. matter, energy, etc, cannot have purposes.
    Only intelligent agents can have purposes or intentions. For those who are Christians as I am this cause or this intelligent agent must be God."

    Are you using purposes and intentions interchangeably here? If not, then isn't it true that matter has no intentions, but does have purpose?


    Take care! Keep up the good work!
    James

  • Comment Link donbtex Wednesday, 11 May 2011 11:22 posted by donbtex

    "First, conversion in the Catholic faith is never a completed event. It is always a process. Even devout "cradle Catholics" are still on a journey to become closer to God. Second, conversion as an adult Catholic cannot be begun and completed in a short period of time".

    I found this statement particularly relevant to our life long journey to reach our final goal of being with God for all eternity. It certainly goes against the popular "Are you saved?" philosophy so prevalent with our Protestant brethren.

    Thank you for your very clear witness and welcome home.

  • Comment Link Margarett RBC Zavodny Wednesday, 11 May 2011 16:58 posted by Margarett RBC Zavodny

    Welcome Home!

  • Comment Link Ronaldo Wednesday, 11 May 2011 19:30 posted by Ronaldo

    Thank you sir for this article, this just reminded me of the passage i read today in John 6:44. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. " I know this is not a coincidence.

    Peace and God Bless.

    Ronaldo

  • Comment Link Dan OSullivan Thursday, 12 May 2011 00:30 posted by Dan OSullivan

    Very lucid and lovely. Thank you!

  • Comment Link sallyr Thursday, 12 May 2011 01:34 posted by sallyr

    thank you for this. I have always found Mormons to be wonderful people, kind, family-oriented and sincere. But I could never figure out how they could believe the things this religion teaches to be true, based on the supposed revelations from an angel to a single man, when that revelation contradicts so much of what Christianity has taught for hundreds of years.

    In any case, I will pray that God will continue to bless you as you come into the Church, and that you will have the faith to overcome whatever obstacles the evil spirit tries to throw in your way (as he likely will try to do).

  • Comment Link Manny Thursday, 12 May 2011 02:26 posted by Manny

    Great story. I know so little of Mormonism. I find it very hard to relate to. But welcome to the R.C Church.

  • Comment Link Liz Thursday, 12 May 2011 04:22 posted by Liz

    Great article. I was raised LDS and was a very devout Mormon for the first 25 years of my life. A few weeks ago I was baptized, confirmed, and received the Eucharist (hooray!) at the Easter vigil. Having been removed from the influence of Mormon teaching for over a year now, it's easy to look back and see just how wild and inconsistent the claims were which I professed to believe, and it's only now that I'm able to spot the psychological reasons that allowed me to do so. It's a fascinating study, let me tell you. I consider it a miracle that I was able have my mind opened enough to even consider that I might find the Truth elsewhere. Three cheers for the Holy Spirit! I pray for everyone on their unique spiritual journeys.

  • Comment Link Will Thursday, 12 May 2011 08:05 posted by Will

    Welcome Home. Welcome to Peter's Barque. We are sailing toward our Homeland... I was a Protestant Convert who ended my rebellion and came home as well...

  • Comment Link Sharee  Friday, 13 May 2011 00:08 posted by Sharee

    I, too, converted to our Roman Catholic faith from Mormonism. The theological arguments made here are completely on point. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  • Comment Link Areruu B. Baati Sunday, 15 May 2011 08:27 posted by Areruu B. Baati

    I'm a fully Catholic since I was born until this age, 34. As a single man but still interesting reading reasons of "hows" and "whats" non Catholics believers want to join Catholicism. This helps me a lot to remain permenantly in my faith, particularly your sharings help me to know thinks that I don't see and have never feel them as a believer (thats only me). Thank you my brothers and sisters and welcome to the Church whom Jesus has been established........
    Baati

  • Comment Link Emmanuel C. Okorie Monday, 16 May 2011 17:04 posted by Emmanuel C. Okorie

    Well articulated story of a journey. The decision you have taken is surely not an easy especially having spent that number of years in your old faith. The Good Lordd who has led you thus far will not abandon you. May he continue to sustain you until you reach home. Welcome to the faith, the Catholic faith.

  • Comment Link Zena Monday, 23 May 2011 01:31 posted by Zena

    Awesome, beautiful...you made me cry in thanksgiving...i became more proud of my Church, our Church, the Roman Catholic Church...welcome home brother...we love you with the love of Christ.

  • Comment Link Jim Dandy Monday, 23 May 2011 02:24 posted by Jim Dandy

    I've been corresponding with a student at the University of Utah. I sent him a link to your story and suggested that he might want to talk to you.

    Thank you for sharing your journey! I'm a former Southern Baptist, agnostic, atheist, now ecstatic to be Catholic!

  • Comment Link John Thursday, 02 June 2011 03:09 posted by John

    To all of you folks here the converted to Catholicism, if you have not done so yet, please attend a Latin high mass. I stumbled through about 37 years of VatII masses and of course it's the true faith and I received graces. I was shocked, stunned, and amazed at the beauty of the Latin Mass and you will be too. The Latin Mass is the mass of all ages and the bedrock of Catholic faith and something which many evil men worked very hard to eliminate. Fortunately they all failed!

  • Comment Link Patrick Monday, 06 June 2011 19:01 posted by Patrick

    A convert from Pentecostalism, I have become deeply devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass, its sacred structure, cadence and transcendence. The sung High Mass is truly Heaven on Earth; the Low Mass, too!

    Our small TLM community celebrates on Sunday, "on loan" in a church building that is structurally inimical to the Sacred Liturgy (e.g. the altar is done in cedar shakes!). Even that no longer deters me from appreciating the solidity and depth of the TLM.

  • Comment Link Bosco Stromboli Wednesday, 08 June 2011 09:44 posted by Bosco Stromboli

    you are exactly right... horrendous evil is the core problem that any religion must explain to be credible. The Catholic answer, as found in Job is that God says 'trust me on this one'. ... and such asking of men to accept cruelty is why so many find Christianity to be not credible.

  • Comment Link Ruth Becker Friday, 10 June 2011 03:37 posted by Ruth Becker

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Conversion stories help not just those on the journey but us cradle Catholic. The stories strengthen our faith and help us help others on their journey. We have an awesome God and a beautiful faith. I can't imagine not having the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, the other Sacraments, Mary, sacramentals, etc., etc., We are so blessed. Although a life long Catholic, the journey continues. I feel like a child, empowered by the Spirit, journeying with Jesus to the Father. It is an awesome journey and I am so glad that you are also on it.

  • Comment Link Ron Hales Saturday, 09 July 2011 08:17 posted by Ron Hales

    Thank you for sharing your journey, I am on a similar one having left the Mormon faith 3 years ago. My reason for initially leaving was after 48 years of activity I finally looked deeply into the origins of my faith and came to the conclusion that reality and the claims of the church were often out of harmony. I spent about 18months studying and satifying my intellectual curiosity regarding the church andthen began my own open minded journey of faith. I attended many denominations and had wonderful experiences. I attended many Catholic churches as well. I found that the preaching may have not been quite as dynamic as those of some of the other protestant faiths but the reason for being there was always crystal clear. The focus was on the Eucharist and on worship of God. I begin R.C. I. A II this fall, and am also looking forward to the 2012 Easter Vigil. My study of the early fathers was another key area of awakening. Of course the church is not perfect but when did this great apostacy as we taught as Mormon Elders occur? It appears to me that there is amazing consistency with what the bible teaches and what the deposit of faith for 2000 years in the Catholic church teaches. The more I learn the stronger my faith is in the fact that God has been working with the church all along. Another tid bit of faith that has helped me is a daily reading of the Magnificat, it has been a transformative experience. Thank you for the information on the inconsistent triad. My question was alwasys who came first God or Man? It is a chicken vs. egg canundrum. I found Thomas Aquainus and his Shorter Summa to be very helpful when it comes to thinking deeper about God and our relationship with Him.

    Sincerely,
    Ron Hales
    Fresno CA

  • Comment Link ken masugi Saturday, 06 August 2011 04:00 posted by ken masugi

    Welcome home, Richard. Blessings. As a convert myself, I urge you to stay steady, as sometimes the exuberance of the early months fades.

    Ken

  • Comment Link Raymond Takashi Swenson Wednesday, 17 August 2011 00:56 posted by Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Dear Brother Sherlock:

    While I will miss your contributions to LDS intellectual dialogue, you know that we Mormons believe that good Catholics go to a heaven that suits their preferences. In God's plan, as I understand it, it is better to be a good Catholic than a poor Mormon.

    I have just one substantive comment on your very interesting and heartfelt essay about your spiritual journey.

    In your reasoning about the place of God, as conceived among the Mormons, in the universe, you state as your premise #2: "The universe starts with big bang that begins with a singularity of energy. No matter is present."

    This statement is incorrect. The whole point of the equation E=mc2 is the equivalency of matter and energy. In every volume of "empty" space energy is constantly collapsing into pairs of particles, one matter, the other its antimatter twin, and then the particles mutually annihilate back into energy. All of the matter of the universe (in the classic Big Bang Theory) was present in the energy at the point of the "Bang" and as the energy and space expanded, the energy cooled and started converting into all the matter in the observable galaxies.

    Additionally, you should also take note that the "classic" Big Bang Theory is being modified by physicists, who argue, for instance, that there was not a true "singularity" within a topologically closed boundary, but rather a smooth transition across an open boundary from a state prior to the "Bang". (See Stephen Hawking's new book.) Another view is that the "Bang" takes place when two parallel higher-dimensional "membranes" collide and spawn a new explosive expansion of the pre-existing matter and energy. (See Lisa Randall's book on higher dimensions.)

    One of the most significant issues for cosmology is the uniformity of the cosmic background radiation. To explain this, the theory of Cosmic Inflation has been proposed, which states that, shortly after the "Bang" started, the universe (with space, matter and energy) rapidly expanded at an effective speed many times the speed of light, and then settled down. A few years ago, astronomical observations led to the conclusion that the universe is not only expanding, its expansion is ACCELERATING, so that 80% of the mass-energy of the universe is the energy field that is driving this speeding up, called Dark Energy because we have no idea what it is. Many current cosmologists propose that Cosmic Inflation happens on a recurring basis, so that the underlying Universe is really eternal going back in time, and that at random times and places, a sudden Cosmic Inflation creates a "local" Big Bang within the eternal Universe.

    There are other cosmological theories, some of them related to String Theory and its variations. But the main point is that the traditional "Big Bang Theory" as you describe it is at best only a description of PART of the history of the real Universe. And some of the most current theories that physicists are supporting NOW (in 2011) are VERY much sympatico with the kind of eternal but material God that Joseph Smith claimed he had seen.

    I understand you have philosophical reasons as well as emotional ones for your affinity to Catholicism. But poorly understood, and outmoded, cosmology should not be one of them.

    My personal thinking about Joseph Smith's statements about the universe focuses on the several places in which he affirms that God is constantly creating new worlds like the earth and inhabiting them with his children, including Doctrine & Covenants 76, a vision he received and dictated in concert with Sidney Rigdon, and the Book of Moses. Those passages describe for me a Creator God who is fully in charge, who knows the end from the beginning, who can be relied upon to maximize the opportunities for eternal life for all humanity, including those who lived their entire mortal lives without ever hearing the Gospel, whose infinite compassion and omniscient and empathetic experience of all our passions and sorrows promises to make up to us in the eternities all the transitory pains of mortal life (no matter how gruesomely intense). When Joseph Smith wrote those things, scientists still had a constricted concept of the size of the universe that had no room for such infinite worlds, so I cannot help but see his assertions as scientifically prophetic.

    You may also have heard once of his simple statement, attested by several men who heard it, that the earth was made up of other "worlds" or "globes". While Joseph Fielding Smith tried to turn this into support for a hybrid kind of quick creation narrative, the latest planetary science (in just the last decade) tells us that the Solar System first formed as perhaps a hundred separate small planets that over time collided and formed the 8 major planets we know today. The last such collision has even been pinned to a date some 4.3 billion years ago, when a Mars-size globe collided with the early Earth at just the right speed and angle to melt the two worlds and spin off the moon, with its great relative size and prodigious momentum. And in modern times, we have the curious coincidence that it regularly precisely matches the apparent size and shape of the sun, a sign that the world is not an accident. And oddly enough, 21st Century science was again anticipated in a simple remark by Joseph Smith.

    So if you want to point to cosmology and its implications for theology, I will stick with Mormonism.

  • Comment Link GADEL Tuesday, 30 August 2011 21:25 posted by GADEL

    Welcome home! God bless you.

    "It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey" St. Ignatius of Loyola

  • Comment Link Phillip Tuesday, 20 September 2011 18:42 posted by Phillip

    Raymond,

    As a former Mormon hoping to become Catholic, I have found the traditional Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing to be more consistent with modern physics than the LDS doctrine of the 'elements' being co-eternal with God. I have also found it to be much more compelling philosophically (the whole uncaused cause thing). Colliding membranes, eternal inflation, etc. are interesting speculations but do not currently have empirical support (especially anything dealing with string theory). The standard Big Bang model does have empirical support, Augustine who predates Joseph Smith by 1400 years, argued that time came into being with the physical universe, which is exactly what the modern understanding of a Big Bang singularity would imply. You may want to read 'Modern Physics and Ancient Faith' by Stephen Barr, 'New Proofs for the Existence of God' by Robert Spitzer (who also addresses philosophical arguments for God), or 'God and Stephen Hawking' by John Lennox. We'll have to see where cosmology is at in 50 or 100 years from now. I suspect that the traditional Christian/Jewish/Muslim concept of creation will find even more scientific support.

    You have the opportunity to come home to Christ's original church, the one that could not be overcome, don't let the chance pass you by. I'll pray for you.

    Phillip

  • Comment Link DENISE Saturday, 03 March 2012 03:51 posted by DENISE

    I ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE. I AM A CRADLE CATHOLIC AND LOVE MY FAITH. I READ THE CATHOLIC MYSTICS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED GOD, HEARD HIS VOICE. EX: ST. TERESA OF AVILA, ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA, ST. PADRE PIO, ETC. I WAS A BORN A CATHOLIC AND WILL DIE A CATHOLIC!

  • Comment Link Elizabeth M Wednesday, 18 April 2012 18:43 posted by Elizabeth M

    In reponse to this specific segment of your article: "Character development requires human freedom so you get a combination of character building and free will as a comprehensive answer to the problem of evil.

    Unfortunately, however, this sort of solution is biblically inaccurate, philosophically flawed, and spiritually deadening. The problem has been most deeply articulated by Marylyn Adams in her crucial book, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God from 1999. The problem is not some hard times that we all have and from which we typically grow better. Rather, it is "horrendous evils" that cannot, without special pleading, be interpreted as building character: e.g. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the genocides in Rwanda and Armenia. Consider just the current plague of child pornography and pedophilia. Pedophilia does not build character. It destroys souls and lives."

    ---- ---------------------------------------------

    You have contradicted yourself. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Plot, the genocides in Rwanda and Armenia tie in with Hick's 'FREE-WILL DEFENSE.' John Hick combined the 'FREE-WILL DEFENSE' with the 'SOUL-MAKING DEFENSE.' You are implying that Hick only created the 'SOUL-MAKING DEFENSE' when he crucially implies that the 'FREE-WILL DEFENSE' explains the "horrendous evils" perfomed FREELY by persons such as Hitler, etc.

    Also, Mormons DO NOT reject The Big Bang Theory, God being the creator of the universe, or that God is a material being. The Big Bang Theory isn't contained within a Mormon doctrine, that is simply a personal belief free to any Mormon's interpretation. (Just like how some mormons drink caffeinated drinks like pop, while others choose not to, or having the choice between republican or democrat) It is, however, Mormon church doctrine that God has a mortal body like ours, defending so using the creation of our bodies being under his image(implying he has a body as well). A mormon might also supply this argument: How can God be all knowing if he doesn't have a body? He wouldn't know how it feels for us to experience physical pain, sickness or other senses. This could be a logical impossibility.

    Mormon's would say that God created the universe that we know. Our universe. The epistemic distance for the rest of this belief is extremely far, according to a mormon. One would probably say that it's irrelavant to our current existence.

  • Comment Link richard Sherlock Tuesday, 05 June 2012 05:29 posted by richard Sherlock

    Raymond,

    I suppose that you believe that Hollis Johnson is wrong. I have it in writing and I heard him say it in spring 2010

  • Comment Link richard Sherlock Wednesday, 13 June 2012 03:05 posted by richard Sherlock

    Elizabeth,

    2 comments. Tell me how pedophilia builds character ? Pedophilia destroys both character and freedom. Hick never argues that free will alone explains evil. Catholics believe that human beings have free will. We just believe in a true God described at the end of Job.

    Second, The Big Bang is not just an opinion like caffeinated drinks. We know that the universe started with the big bang as surely as we know the age of the earth. But at the time of the big bang there was no matter. So a material God cannot cannot have been present at creation. Hollis Johnson got the problem right he just got the conclusion wrong

  • Comment Link Jeanne Nickels Thursday, 26 July 2012 01:40 posted by Jeanne Nickels

    Congratulations! Welcome to the Catholic religion! I am exceedingly delighted for you! I wish you all the best!

  • Comment Link Ren Gonzalez Wednesday, 05 September 2012 04:28 posted by Ren Gonzalez

    Thank you for your evangelizing spirit! God knows that so many of us cradle catholics need to work on the evangelizing aspect of being a Christian. May he always bless you with the fire of the Holy Spirit :)

  • Comment Link Marjory M Saturday, 29 December 2012 01:52 posted by Marjory M

    Dear Mr. Sherlock,

    I am a cradle Catholic and I appreciate all that you shared here. Most especially I love that you recognize the unique place that Jesus holds in all of history. Nothing matters more than seeing our Savior and Lord as the prescious gift He is for us. We love our Church so much because Jesus can only be truly known in the sacramental life that he shares with us. We do not flaunt the greatness of the Church because WE are right, but because Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples. Your charity and clarity will disciple many.

    Reason will support the Church teachings, but reason cannot convince the unconvincable. May the Holy Spirit prepare the way for your beautiful words to reach many.

  • Comment Link Jeanne Nickels Tuesday, 08 January 2013 04:39 posted by Jeanne Nickels

    Welcome to the Catholic religion! We Catholics are so glad you are joining us! I am positive you will not regret it!

  • Comment Link Paul J Elliott Tuesday, 27 May 2014 02:15 posted by Paul J Elliott

    I was Mormon for most of my adult life until I could no longer reconcile so many LDS teachings which depart from their own scriptures. The Lord led me back to the Catholic Church of my childhood, and was confirmed this past Easter. The problem with Mormonism is the number of different doctrines they can make dance on the head of a pin. I appreciate a faith where Jesus Christ is the focus of everything we do.

  • Comment Link Susan Ralston Saturday, 05 July 2014 06:25 posted by Susan Ralston

    I am a Mormon and have been all of my life. I am educated (BA in History and JD), practice law and am active in the Mormon faith. I have studied Joseph Smith's teachings in detail as well as the current teachings of the prophets and apostles. Everything I have ever seen in the Church leads me to Jesus Christ. He is my Redeemer.

  • Comment Link Julie Friday, 11 July 2014 19:02 posted by Julie

    Richard: You never was able to get to know the truths of the Restored Gospel. Your parents was people with not knowledge of the restored gospel, and of course, you never was able to learn the wonderful blessings that come from Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Praying with intention of heart, the Spirit will testify to you that the restored gospel is true. I will pray for you that maybe one day you will find out that the Mormon church is the Church of Jesus Christ and you can find out about all the blessings of eternity here in earth. The Plan of Salvation is a glorious plan for every son/daughter of God. Read Malachi 4. Good luck!

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