Mark Twain And The Book Of Mormon

by Jimmy Akin

in Mormonism

Marktwain

During a trip out West, Mark Twain took along The Book of Mormon to while away the travel hours. He didn’t think much of its literary style, but he did find it useful as a cure for insomnia:

"All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.

"The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as ‘exceeding sore,’ ‘and it came to pass,’ etc., and made things satisfactory again. ‘And it came to pass’ was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet."

GET THE STORY.

(Note: This link does not constitute an endorsement of the host site. Refer to JA.org’s Rules 6 and 7. Nod to Once Upon a Time… for the link.)

If you’re interested in reading the book in which the excerpted essay is found, CLICK HERE.

For more about Mark Twain, CLICK HERE. I especially liked the following quote attributed by Wikipedia to Twain:

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

{ 109 comments }

Steven D. Greydanus April 25, 2006 at 6:26 am

Mark Twain was quite the wit. You definitely have to give him that. If Joseph Smith wrote as entertainingly as Twain, we’d all be living in Utah.
(No. Not really. Still, reading the above grafs, I’m glad that God made Smith boring and Twain witty.)

Tim J. April 25, 2006 at 6:38 am

I read the Book of Mormon once, and though I have never said this openly to a Mormon, I laughed until I nearly cried.
It sounded to me like someone had swallowed a King James bible, got sick, and the BOM was the best they could make out of the pieces.
For all the reasons Twain mentioned in his last paragraph, I found it roaringly funny.

Ed Peters April 25, 2006 at 7:40 am

When I first heard the story, esp. about the tablets being written in “Reformed Egyptian” and seen on translated with rock in a man’s hat, I thought–i’m not kidding–I thought, “That sounds like a yarn Mark Twain would make up.”

Peggy April 25, 2006 at 8:06 am

I once read a very funny Mark Twain essay on “The Last of the Mohicans.” He was particularly skilled at pointing out the miracles that must have happened for the story to have actually occurred.

J. R. Stoodley April 25, 2006 at 8:35 am

Not to sound like I have no sense of humor, but is this post a good idea? Making fun of a religion and all? How are we to object to people making fun of Catholicicm when in the same breath we are cracking jokes about the Book of Mormon?

Patricia April 25, 2006 at 9:00 am

People make fun of Catholicism all the time. And the funniest are those who are Catholic!

Arieh O. April 25, 2006 at 9:16 am

If you really want a good laugh, read The Book of Zelph: Another Testament to the Book of Mormon. http://www.bookofzelph.com/

J. R. Stoodley April 25, 2006 at 9:26 am

People make fun of Catholicism all the time. And the funniest are those who are Catholic!
I don’t mean good spirited jokes about Catholicism. I mean insulting jokes or comments that make your religion look ridiculous, told by those who realy think your religion is ridiculous. Do you think any Mormons would laugh at what is being said about the book they believe to be sacred?

Tim J. April 25, 2006 at 9:27 am

J.R., you are right that making fun of someone’s religion is not to be done lightly, which is why I have kept my thoughts about the Book of Mormon to myself for such a long time.
But, people do slam Catholicism (not to mention Christianity as a whole) all the time, and if anyone is going to defend his/her faith then they have to laern to take their lumps along with everyone else.
It may be useful to some Mormons to know how the Book of Mormon is perceived by those outside their faith. Based on style alone, I personally can’t believe this is an inspired book.
To be fair, I found it more entertaining than the Q’uran, which to me lacked any interior, organizing principle. It’s just… there. If you believe it is God’s word you will obey, I suppose, but there is really nothing presented in a systematic way that one could sink one’s teeth into. Very arbitrary. Almost as if it were put together out of bits of other religions, along with the idiosyncratic whims of the author.
Oh, wait…

Tim J. April 25, 2006 at 9:47 am

Let me add, now that I have ventured to irritate Mormons everywhere, that I think it is sensitivity to Mormon feelings that has kept many other Christians from voicing their opinions regarding Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
The Mormons I have known are good folks, and I wouldn’t poke them just to watch them squirm for anything.
But the foundations of their religion are of tremendous importance in any real discussion, which means addressing the BOM as well as it’s author, Joseph Smith.
The Book of Mormon sounds funny because Joseph Smith was a right old fraud (and not an especially bright one) who made it up on the fly. It sounds like a fake Bible because it is. Those are the most salient facts of Mormonism. If they are off limits, then a real debate on the Mormon faith can not be had.
The Book of Mormon (and every other rabbit that Smith pulled out of his hat) was a poor joke on those who believed it.
I don’t think Joesph Smith is now in a place where he can laugh, though.

Steve April 25, 2006 at 9:47 am

Tim – have you painted any portraits of Mohammed lately?

Tim J. April 25, 2006 at 10:07 am

Steve-
“Tim – have you painted any portraits of Mohammed lately?”
Nothing of any importance… only a few cartoons.

Ed Peters April 25, 2006 at 10:19 am

TJ: exactly right. the book is funny cuz it’s a smattering of odd phrases linked into something approximating sentences. i was WAITING for somebody to draw the shallow conclusion that we/i were making fun of mormonism. it’s not my/our fault that millions believe it. it’s still a silly story.

Jules April 25, 2006 at 10:47 am

Joseph was just a bad writer. In the hands of someone like Quentin Tarantino, it could’ve been a classic. Check out “Book of Mormon Stories by Quentin Tarantino”
http://adversary.awardspace.com/bookofmormonstories/

J. R. Stoodley April 25, 2006 at 11:05 am

Ed Peters,
Personally, I would not call objecting to a disrespectful attitude shallow. I do not see how this can help either interreligious dialogue or evangelization.

Breier April 25, 2006 at 11:43 am

Mr Stoodley,
Error does not deserve respect. It is a duty to truth to look at reality as it is, and not hide the truth for fear of offense. Clearly, would I give Mark Twain’s account of Mormons to a Mormon? Probably not. But that’s a prudential call. To say that our view of reality has to be limited by prudence, that is a serious error.
Now if you view this blog as equivalent as a letter to Mormons, you might have a point. Pointing out the absurd truth might not be the most effective means of reaching everyone. But this is not primarily a forum for being irenical. It’s about apologetics, and part of that is knowing the truth about others. Is your objection that Mark Twain is inaccurate, or just that the truth is inconvenient for you?

Breier April 25, 2006 at 11:49 am

Showing error as error, unveiling the mask of a false religion, demonstrating its falsity so that others will not be led astray, all those serve the cause of evangelization, and the preservation of faith. And clearly humor is a much gentler means of that than a furious polemic.
As for remarks about Catholics, we take offense because Catholicism is the true faith, and we object to error. The objection is not based on our feelings being hurt; because if we’re in error perhaps our feelings should be hurt and our consciences pricked. We object because the joker, objectively, is commiting a sin against truth. Unless you be a relativist, you must allow inviduals to lead their lives by the objective truth as it exists. That means a real distinction between error and truth, and the respect due to each.

Matthew L. Martin April 25, 2006 at 12:53 pm

Dialogue I came across on a Catholic board on AOL a few years back, paraphrased slightly:
Poster A: “[Re: The Koran] At least it’s not as hard to read as the Book of Mormon. I read that in penance for my sins.”
Poster B: “What are you, a mass murderer?”
.
.
.
Well, I found it amusing. :-)

Wendy April 25, 2006 at 1:09 pm

I’m LDS and I started reading this blog after I discovered it last year because I was friends with Jimmy way back in high school (back when he was Jimmy the first time). For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the blog, and learning some of the points of Catholicism that I never knew, but I’ve noticed for the past several months a distinct antagonistic spirit against Mormons in particular. I don’t mind light jokes about religion nor about my religion in particular, but the mean-spiritedness which has been directed towards my faith here has just about hit the point where I will not longer continue reading the blog.
The Book of Mormon is not about literary style, it’s not trying to dazzle the reader with its prose. Its purpose is to testify of the existence and divinity of Jesus Christ, the same one who atoned for our sins and died on the cross and rose again. If the book isn’t artsy enough or literary enough for the intelligentsia out there–well, it’s not supposed to be.
Of course I’m aware of Twain’s opinion of the BoM; he is a literary figure and would read it as a literary exercise. I’m not particularly offended by his opinion.
Tim, are you saying that because other people slam Catholicism, it’s ok for y’all to slam Mormonism? Interesting viewpoint… I wouldn’t have expected it of you.

MissJean April 25, 2006 at 1:25 pm

Good grief. If you don’t want to be offensive, then don’t discuss anything by Twain. Period. There’s something in his writings to offend or to disturb people of every faith. I love him, but I have to admit that “The Mysterious Stranger” creeped me out with its nihilism when I was a kid and I don’t know if I’ll ever re-read it.
That said, Twain loved to point out the oddity of different culture. And he was spot-on. (I giggle to think about what he must have thought of the Mormon’s special underwear – although even he was polite enough not to mention such things in his writing).

mr April 25, 2006 at 1:31 pm

Its purpose is to testify of the existence and divinity of Jesus Christ, the same one who atoned for our sins and died on the cross and rose again.
Ummm….no. The imaginary “Jesus” of the BOM is no more the Jesus of the New Testament than Allah is the Triune God. Entirely different concept using the same name. Until we understand that, there is no real dialogue possible.

WRY April 25, 2006 at 1:36 pm

It should be pointed out that Twain pretty thoroughly excoriated the Catholic Church in “Innocents Abroad,” where, among other things, he accused the church of putting the Virgin Mary ahead of the Trinity, and of perpetuating a massive fraud in terms of the relics on display in churches.

Brad Haas April 25, 2006 at 1:39 pm

Linked!
My comment: “Twain’s antipathy toward the Book of Mormon is famous, but if you haven’t read what he said about it, go have a look. It’ll probably offend you if you’re LDS, humor you if you’re not, or make you wince if you’re trying to reach out to LDS and have Mark Twain ‘on your side.’”

Ed Peters April 25, 2006 at 1:44 pm

JRS: my atttitude (toward the book of mormon) is not disrepectful. you have learn to tell the difference.

Ed Peters April 25, 2006 at 2:04 pm

The Holy Spirit inspired a very few people to write NT Scriptures in the First Century. Other folks have been appointing themselves to write pseudo-scriptures since the Second Century. We call the oldest ones Gnostics. So Jos. Smith is just one more in a long line of self-appointed Scripture writers. Yes, a lot of people beleived in Gnostic gospels, and a lot of people believe in Jos. Smith’s testament. I am sorry for them. But the fact that people beleiee in a document does NOT make the document worthy of belief, or “respect”.
A lot of people once beleived in Thor’s sacred oak tree. About 725, St. Boniface cut it down and made a church out of it. Doubtless today he’d be accused of disrespecting other people.

Arieh O. April 25, 2006 at 2:33 pm

“A lot of people once beleived in Thor’s sacred oak tree. About 725, St. Boniface cut it down and made a church out of it.”
I think St Boniface needed to go through sensitivity training :)

Anonymous April 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm

When does a judgement become a slam? If I make a judgement that the BOM is silly or a fraud, I’m entitled to it. In defending that judgement I would try to present evidence in a logical manner that would convince someone of the reasonableness of my opinion. I think I might be able to do that in a respectful manner. Ideally, a devout LDS believer would not take offense at my line of reasoning even though he or she might strongly object to the thrust of my argument: that their sacred scripture is silly or fraudulent. It all depends on the tone.
What about truth? Error does not deserve respect. Ok. Perhaps people deserve respect. So we speak the truth in love and we try to speak it lovingly. I’ll give you an example from my life. Some one at the office made a tasteless joke about the Virgin Mary. I objected because it’s an offense against the truth. I objected because its an offense against Mary, a real person with real feelings. That part is easy. I can object in a gentle and humble manner because my concern here is for the other person who only hurts himself in offending the truth and perhaps grieves Mary and all those who love her. The difficult part for me was the hurt I felt which has nothing to do with truth per se. It’s hard for me not to take it personally when someone makes fun of my Mother. Maybe it’s growing up in the Bronx where ranking on a guy’s mom is the ultimate insult. Maybe I need to grow up a little and re-evaluate my relationship with our Mother. After all, it’s not about me. My point, though, is that I really hurt when someone slams her. Responding to my co-worker with charity was quite an effort. Now if one of my other friends wants to dispute the biblical basis for the perpetual virginity, we can argue all day without a problem. It’s friendly, respectful and not personal. It all depends on the tone.
So, if an LDS believer is attached to the BOM shouldn’t I show consideration? Shouldn’t I be careful in my use of humor? Does rejecting relativism require abandoning sensitivity? If I were a guest in the home of an LDS believer, would I say all the things that have been said here today? Whether we are directly addressing LDS believers or not, they are some out there listening in. One has already found what we say to be mean spirited. What’s our tone?

Ed Peters April 25, 2006 at 3:24 pm

anon: St. Ignatius of Loyola debated slaying a Moor for insulting Our Lady, and let God decide by inspiring the guy to take the left fork in the road, and live, rather than the right, and be stabbed by Ignacio.
Note to file: we’re not in a Mormon’s living room here. My tone is one of levity toward a book that is a joke, and impatience toward those who can’t distinguish between a an attitude toward a book and that toward people who belevie in that book.

Seamus April 25, 2006 at 4:42 pm

Not to sound like I have no sense of humor, but is this post a good idea? Making fun of a religion and all?
I seem to recall the prophet Elijah making fun of Baal worship (1 Kings 18:27).

Ken Crawford April 25, 2006 at 5:44 pm

Wendy, you’re absolutely right that the prose of the BoM is not in and of itself important. God chose many different styles of prose for the Old and New Testament. However, one’s prose can be indicative of motive. Since the BoM is claimed to be translated from symbols and markings that would not have a “prose” to them, the choice of prose would be a combination of Joseph Smith’s and God’s, assuming he had a hand in its translation. There is nothing contrary to the Mormon faith in that statement.
I’ve read the first couple books of the BoM and had the exact same impression as Twaim, Tim J. and Ed P.. It sounds like someone is trying to sound impressive but doesn’t pull it off very well.
I had to ask myself when reading it: why, if it was true, would Joseph Smith feel the need to try and make it sound impressive with Old Testament sounding prose? Why not just write in his native style? What was the motivation for that? If it was God who gave that motivation to Joseph Smith, why did He do it?
My conclusion was that the odd combination of lofty and obscure prose was indicative of a fraudulent attempt to make it sound more impressive than it was.

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 12:05 am

Ed Peters,
I have nothing against Ken Crawford’s approach to the issue. Your attitude, however, is extremely disrespecful, not just to the book but to the people who believe in it, and if you chose to debate that it does not change the fact. I do not know what you are thinking when you write what you do, but what you write is disrespectful.
Destroying pagan idols or sacred trees is a different matter, proving the impotency of the pagan gods. This is a matter of childish making fun of the Book of Mormon.
I am no supporter of always being P.C. or sensitivity training telling people not to preach the truth. The truth needs to be preached, and the literary style of the Book of Mormon is a legitimate topic for discussion and criticism.
Charity, however, can never be disregarded. You must never separate truth, beauty, and goodness. It seems to me that many people here think that because someone is wrong, we no longer need to be charitable to them, except maybe as a practical thing to do if there is a chance of converting them or something. This attitude I think is one of the most common but heinous distortions of religion. “It is charitable to admonish the sinner” you may say. Indeed, it can be charitable to do that, but you must examine your own heart as you do so, and the impression your words will give. Most of the statments here show a distinctive lack of charity.
Would you say these things if you were fully aware of the loving presence and mercy of Christ surrounding you and hopefully within your soul?
So LDSs do not need to be present for there to be a moral obligation to be respectful and charitable to them. But even if that were not the case, the fact remains that we are not in someone’s living room. We are posting this in a public forum where LDSs will and indeed have read them.

Jared April 26, 2006 at 3:05 am

J.R.: Two words … “magic … glasses.”
Funny as this is (and, I mean, come on, what’s NOT hilarious about magic glasses?) it points out the difference between poking fun at the BoM and ridiculing the Bible and other Church documents and beliefs. For one, the “seeing stones,” along with the golden tablets that Smith says were provided for him, are nowhere to be found. The Church can at least provide manuscripts (written by MEN under inspiration from God) for historians, etc. to study.
But Smith’s magic glasses? Gone. Come on. God gave you magic glasses … and you lost them?
What I’m saying is, if we can’t laugh at that, what can we laugh at?

Ed Peters April 26, 2006 at 5:44 am

Jared–and my correctness in saying that some people insist on seeing what they want to see– spares JRS most of my response. I will only observe that the last refuge of some in disagreements is to the plumb the depths of their opponent’s soul and opine that, how did he put it here? oh yes: “Would you say these things if you were fully aware of the loving presence and mercy of Christ surrounding you and hopefully within your soul?” yadda yadda yadda. Debate the issue, not the man. I am reminded of the alternatvie ending to the story where the little boy said ‘This emperor has no cloths’. His mom spanked him and said, “How dare you say disrespectful things about the Emperor, in public even.”

JonathanR. April 26, 2006 at 7:46 am

Personally, I find the Mormon doctrine of God living in his little retirement planet with his wife somewhere out there in the universe as the most hilarious aspect of the religion. Mormon missionaries are awfully nice though. :)
And they don’t issue fatwas.

Tim J. April 26, 2006 at 7:52 am

Wendy-
I wouldn’t want to see my or Michelle’s actions imputed to Jimmy, so I hope you will continue to read the blog.
I knew when I made my comments about the BoM that feelings would be hurt, and for this reason I almost chose not to. I’m a middle kid, an appeaser. I am almost allergic to confrontation.
But when I was given the BoM the first time, those who gave it to me were keenly interested in my reaction to it. They wanted me to read it in hopes I would convert, and challenged me to see if my heart didn’t “burn in my bosom”.
At the time I was too timid to give them my real opinion of the BoM, saying only that I really wasn’t interested in converting, thanks anyway…
I kept my reaction to myself for twenty years. When I read Twain’s assessment of the BoM, it seemd a ripe opportunity to finally say what I had been thinking all those years.
It was not my purpose to hurt feelings, but I can’t really conceive of any NICE way to say that I think the founder of a person’s religion was a fraud, or that I find their holy book silly.
I know that many people find elements of the Catholic faith ridiculous, and it does sting when they say so, but I just try to respond to the merits of each objection as it comes. There have been a number of people on this blog (even some so-called Catholics) who have openly mocked just about every aspect of the Catholic faith. In a public forum like this, one just learns to deal with it and try not to take it personally.

April April 26, 2006 at 9:50 am

The fact of the matter is that this is a blog dedicated to Catholicism, with all of the prejudices and viewpoints involved with it. A reader of a different faith shouldn’t come here and expect that every faith outside of Catholicism is going to be treated with the same respect and reverence that the authors here give to Catholicism.
I have seen other faiths on here slammed before, including my own Seventh-Day Adventist faith. Do I get upset about it? No… not really. I understand that the authors of JimmyAkin.org come from a different point of view. I expect that. I can disagree and point out my own views if I wish, but I don’t expect JO.org to change or censor itself because I feel differently. I am not the target audience of this blog.
I am sure that the authors of JO.org would find humor in the background of my church too, esp. Miller and his 1843/1844 apocalyptic predictions. Heck… even *I* find humor in it.
I would question just how deep someone’s faith is if they can’t take a little bit of humor directed at what they believe.
April
April

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 10:09 am

Ed,
My initial comments were not directed at you specifically, I merely wanted to bring attention to the issue of whether it was a good idea to make fun of a religion. No matter how ridiculous the BoM is or how much you want to say you respect the people and not the book, the fact remains that by making fun of the book you are making fun of the people who believe in it. I personally do not see this as a valid or wise exercize, even if you have noble goals.
I do not intend to “plumb the depths” of your soul, or Breier’s, or anyone else. I can only judge by the words I read, but I think it valid to bring up the point that some things seem hard to believe would be said by someone in a deep union with God. That is not to say I am neccessarily further advanced in the spiritual life than you, but I think the point is valid. And that IS the issue I want to bring up, I don’t bring it up in some sort of effort to win an argument about making fun of religious books.
But to respond to the issue of Christ’s love and mercy with “yada yada yada”? What more can I say?

Ed Peters April 26, 2006 at 10:54 am

JR, well, you could say “I misread most of your points and I withdraw my comments.”

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 10:58 am

What did I misread???

Breier April 26, 2006 at 11:14 am

A friend of Mr. Stoodley, but more a friend of truth.
Mr. Stoodley I ask again, is there some inaccuracy that was stated, or is the truth simply inconvenient for you?
According to Mr. Stoodley, error must never be critized, nor falsehood approached with humor. For to do so is to be uncharitable to the errant and the false.
If someone position can’t be approached with humor, a fortiori, it can’t be vigorously critized, which is certainly harsher.
Therefore all you pro-lifers who say abortion is murder; how uncharitable you’re being to the feelings of those who are pro-choice! How much better to speak more sedately, more irenically…
But look at the statements of the saints. If anything, there remarks are *more* politically uncorrect and scatching, because they’re aware of spiritual realities in a much keener way than we are.
Mr. Stoodley, if we’re looking at things through the perspective of deep spiritual union, then saving faith and infidelity are seen in much sharper relief. Accordingly, Mormonism is a demonic, false, and man-made religion that leads its practioners away from Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and eternal salvation. It is, strictly speaking, evil. It denies the savings mysteries of faith, and its holy books are humorous, but also blasphemous. I testify that the teachings of the faith teachings of the Mormon Church are a broad way that leads to damnation, and not the narrow way that leads to salvation.
We have lost a healthy hatred of heresy. For indeed, heresy is not be respected, but despised. It is also a sin, and unbelief keeps people away from the salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ.
Do that mean you say that to people who don’t share your beliefs? Obviously not, discussions have to be based on shared premises. You can’t argue from faith to someone who doesn’t share your faith. But the truth remains. You seem to object to the truth coming out, and would prefer that it remain hidden.
If Mark Twain was lying or inaccurate, and we were using falsehood to make fun of someone, that would be objectionable. But his remarks are humorous precisely because they’re true and accurate.
Similarly, Mormons believe that all Christians are in error, the Great Apostasty, etc. Does that hurt my feelings? No. If I accepted their principles as true I’d have to claim Catholicism was false as well. But they’re principles are false, and we are perfectly entitled to examine their faith from the perspective of reason.
This I do testify.

Anonymous April 26, 2006 at 11:21 am

So in other words, we are apparently forbidden by charity from laughing at evils in the world, we are only allowed to cry at them.
Strange, I always thought humor was gentler.

BWS April 26, 2006 at 11:39 am

JR,
The fact remains that by calling abortion murder you are calling the people who have had abortions murderers. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
The fact remains that by saying belief in Jesus is necessary for eternal life, you calling people who don’t believe in Jesus hell-bound. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
The fact remains that by calling a viewpoint uncharitable you are calling the people who voiced it uncharitable, and plumbing their souls. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
Are we seeing a trend? The theme seems to be that saying the truth is tough, because it offends people who don’t have it.
Well if that’s the case, how about talking about *any* moral issue? No quicker way to offend than to implicate someone as behaving immorally.
But isn’t it true that there is a clear distinction between objective content of a faith, and someone’s subjective reason for believing in it?
While it may be a corollary that an absurd belief system makes the person who holds it a believer in absurdity, that is true in one sense, but not in another.
Just because the Book of Mormon is risible doesn’t mean that a particular Mormon’s reason for his belief is risible. His reason for belief isn’t necessarily based on what’s being made fun of. It may be, but isn’t necessarily.
For example, I’d wager that many Mormons have their beliefs because of what they’re parents taught them, reinforced by continual testimonials at their worship services, being told that any doubt against their faith is demonic, etc. Other may not be that interested in religion, and are more or less conservatives, simply taking what was given to them. Others may be convinced by apologetical arguments from FARMS or some other source.
There are many complicated reasons why someone believes what they do. The reason may have nothing to do with an objective literary analysis of the BOM, in fact I rather doubt it does. Consequently, while people may be offended at having their Holy Book criticized, I don’t see how criticism of it can be characterized as an insult.
There seems to be this premise that “making fun” of something is wrong. Where did that come from? There are many legitimate purposes for laughing at error. For one, it shows the absuridity of error and makes us more likely to adhere to truth. Also, we often laugh so that we don’t grow angry, or despondent. I laugh at many abuses in the Church, because if I pondered them without that humour I might grow enraged. Is that uncharitable? Hardly, it’s an instrument of charity.
There seems to be a pseduo-scrupulous vein here, that sees laughter as a sin. But hard-hitting apologetical criticism, being academic, is OK? What’s going on?

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 11:44 am

Breier,
Now it is my turn to say someone has misread my comments. If you read what I have written, you will see that I have no problem with uncovering falsehood, fighting heresy, defending the truth.
Abortion is indeed murder.
Inasmuch as it is false, Mormonism is evil and of the devil. So is Protestantism, cafeteria Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheistic Materialism, and so on.
All these religions also contain more or less truth and goodness. Inasmuch as they are true and good, they are of God.
But we can not only focus on the issue of truth and reason. We need to focus on love and the will. There seems to be, judging simply from the words written, the attitude here that all this sentimental love stuff can be set aside to get at the heart of the matter: doctrinal truth. No one thinks that consciously, but it is a common attitude nonetheless.
Or more specifically it may be the attitude that because someone or something is false I can ignor the virtue of charity. It’s error right? Well, yes, it is error and evil, and it can be good to point that out. But never outside the context of love for the people involved.
So indeed weep over Mormonism, and argue against it. Point out how the style discredits the book. Even quote Mark Twain if you judge it prudent. But do not make uncharitable comments. Do not make light of the matter, as if humor was “gentler” than serious discussion or grief. I don’t mind when Protestants say “those poor Catholics aren’t saved. Lets go save them!” They are misguided but acting out of love. What I do not like is if they say “did you hear what that Pope Benedict said yesterday…isn’t that HIL-AR-I-OUS!. Hey, I’m not being disrespectful, it’s not my fault some people beleive this nonsense.”
Granted we are right and they are wrong. That last example is just to show that, in my opinion at least, it is far preferable to respecfully argue against false beliefs of others (or cry about them) than to make fun of those heart-felt beliefs, and making fun of someone’s “holy book” counts as making fun of their beliefs.

Breier April 26, 2006 at 11:46 am

It is of course true that we must be charitable. Where JR’s argument falls flat is that nothing uncharitable seems to have been said.
Saying that Mormonism is a joke is equivolent to saying that it is a false relgion.
Big deal! Mormons, who also believe in a True Church, believe that Catholicism is a false relgion.
Following a corollary of the truth is hardly uncharitable. If your objection is to tone, then you really have to consider the forum. A an orthodox Catholic blog is not going to have the ecumenical restraint you see in First Things.
The best argument I see for you is claiming that a blog is just as much a public forum as anywhere else, because of the high readership. An interesting question.
But that still begs the question of why casting discredit upon a religion is intrinsically wrong. If a relgion is false, it should be exposed as false. Irony is a legitimate tool of rhetoric.

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 11:49 am

I meant to write, if you read what I have written in other posts (or whatever, I’m not sure of this vocabulary) on this site you will see I have no problem uncovering falsehood, etc.
I attempted, with what success others will have to decide, to defend priestly celibacy, papal teaching, Magisterial authority, and other such topics.

Breier April 26, 2006 at 11:55 am

JR,
Thanks for the last post, which cleared the air considerably. I have misread you, and apologize for doing so. As for charity, I quite agree with you. Making stupid slapstick mocking remarks is unworthy of any cause, in my view. It is a very low base form of rhetoric.
But “making fun” of a holy book is another matter. I don’t see how this is per se uncharitable. Exposing something to ridicule in argument has a long tradition; it’s the reductio ad absurdum.
Clearly, showing the absurdity of something and provoking laughter is primarily for the benefit of others, and not for the people who hold the absurd beliefs. They might get more angry. But rhetorical considerations are always a balancing test.
From my point of view, exposing something to laughter, like Twain, is a more sophisticated version of a plain didactic criticism, which is boring. It also has more emotional punch.
Now if the things pointed on were petty, fair enough. But I don’t see where that took place. Perhaps the situation would be helped if you could provide an example of what exactly you found objectionable.
More basically, I don’t see how laughing at error among friends is wrong, but rigorously refuting error is OK.

Wendy April 26, 2006 at 1:33 pm

Perhaps I simply erred in expecting too much from people. I don’t expect most of y’all to believe in the Book of Mormon; I mean, if you did, you’d be Mormon, duh! ;) Of course you believe it to be false doctrine. No hurt feelings there.
As a Mormon, I look upon Catholics and Catholicism with a great deal of respect. While I don’t believe that JPII was infallible, I think he was a great and wonderful man who was responsible for the spiritual well-being of a huge number of good people. I believe that most of the popes, while not carrying the keys, were sincere and humble men who did their best to keep Christianity alive through some very dark and trying times. And I believe that most of today’s priests, despite carrying a burden I believe is unnecessary, are blessed with wisdom and a goodly measure of God’s spirit to help them lead their flocks on a righteous path.
I guess I just expected a little bit of that in return. I mean, I really don’t expect y’all to believe that I’m right. I just didn’t really understand that so many Catholics found my religion to be… well, just plain evil. I expected “misguided.” I’m okay with “silly.” “Evil” was simply more than I expected. I guess if John Paul II and Gordon B. Hinkley can meet and exchange pleasant words and ideas, and if large portions of the Catholic and LDS churches can work together in charitable and political issues, then there shouldn’t be any reason to imply (correct me if I’ve infered incorrectly) that certain people were burning in hell.
Doctrinal differences aside, aren’t we are counseled to live our lives in pretty much similar fashion? Aren’t we all extremely pro-family? Don’t we all believe in two-parent, male/female households that should stick together through thick and thin and shouldn’t have sex out of wedlock? Aren’t there enough hedonistic, self-centered people out there who are (probably unintentionally) trying to undermine God’s plan for us and our society that we need to resort to sniping at one another? Aren’t our liberties in real enough actual danger from Satan that there has to be finger-pointing among Christians (and yes, I know a number of you will say that I’m not actually a Christian; let’s just agree to disagree on that one, k?)?
I do thank those among you who, while not believing in my religion, are willing to respect my beliefs the same as I respect yours.
Slightly off-topic side question: I’m pretty sure I understand why so many Protestants (and Catholics, apparently) believe Mormons aren’t Christian, but I’ve never understood why they don’t believe Catholics aren’t. Can anyone clear this up for me, or is there a specific post you can refer me to?
Thanks, and what a really interesting discussion! I may have to comment more often. ;)

jd April 26, 2006 at 1:56 pm

“Doctrinal differences aside…”
Wendy- you hit the nail on the head. We don’t put doctrinal differences aside, when assessing the veracity of a religious claim. You say that doctrine aside, we live our lives the same way. Well, we don’t contracept, or condone abortion under ANY circumstances. That’s a big deal to us, and it is an example of our doctrine informing our lives…
That said…Mormomism isn’t evil, in the spooky movie sense of evil. But, if you think of evil as a privation, a lack, rather than a presence of something sinister, well, we do see a lack of completeness, of fullness, in the LDS claims about Christ, muddled together with a lot of just plain innacurate things about the truth of the universe.
But- as to who is or is not burning in hell- I don’t think anyone on this forum, or in this world, is capable of drawing up that list.
Catholics believe, truly, in a triune God. We believe in an incarnational Jesus Christ, the hypostatic union. We believe in salvation as union eternally with God. That said…a lot of Christians suspect that we aren’t Christians.
I guess the best all of us can do is pray for wisdom.
JD

Breier April 26, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Hey Wendy,
Your point is well taken. There are many points in common and agreement between Catholics and LDS-believers. And considering the secular state of society, what we have in common is all the more valued.
However, this could also be said of Catholics and Muslims, Catholics and pro-life atheists, etc. That doesn’t really address the ultimate merits of Islam or of being an atheist.
The question comes down to how we view the differences, and how essential, and important, those differences are.
At the start we can acknowledge that is a lot of good in Mormonism, much of which you listed above. So if we’re using harsh terms, it’s not to imply that a religion is worthless, but that it has such a lack that the good elements it has can’t make up for that lack. That’s philosophically what evil is, a privation.
It not clear to me what respecting beliefs means. I have a dear friend who is a militant atheist, and who rails against the fanaticism of theism, and the evil of Catholicism in particular. Yet he respects me, even while I’m being implicitly indicted by his abstract arguments. He doesn’t respect Catholicism, but he doesn’t want to unnecessary offend me either. There’s a certain live and let live going on.
That attitude is probably easier for an atheist, because there are no eternal consequences one way or another.
A system based on revealed truth and eternal destiny can not be so indifferent.
Denying the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith, in the Catholic system, is to destroy the faith entirely. And for Catholics, there are many things essential to salvation, faith, the sacraments, right teachings of morality, which other religions deprive their members of. Graver still is when those other religions are actively seek to place themselves in opposition to Catholicism by seeking the conversion of its members.
One could put it this way. If Mormonism is true it’s doing a great good, if it’s false it’s doing a great evil.
You could apply this to other belief systems of course, including Catholicism.
In that sense, I think, people in ecumenical dialogues can cordially condemn each other’s belief systems, though perhaps in more politic prose.
Perhaps the urgency is less present for LDS’ers, because there’s a means of salvation after death, through baptism of the dead. But for Catholics the great battle and acceptance of the truth faith is reserved for this life, and thus the present hour, perhaps, is of greater moment.
As for Christianity, acceptance of the Nicene Faith might start as a basic definition. LDS theology clearly repudiates the Nicene faith. That’s why there’s the issues with Baptism, the notion of the “Trinity” is radically different from historical orthodox Christianity.
In some sense I’m surprised Mormons take issue with that. Isn’t a foundation of belief the vast apostasy of Christianity since the apostolic age? So why are people eager to be called “Christian,” if being Christian means being identified with apostasatic heritage?
Why Protestants would think Catholics weren’t Christians, depends on how those Protestants define Christianity. If it’s by the pillars of protestantism, sola fide, sola scriptura, and private judgment, Catholicism doesn’t fit the bill. Similarly, in a sense Catholicism sees itself as the only true Chrstianity, so that calling separated brethren Christians is a term of politeness, just as we’re referred to as Catholics and refer to the east as Orthodox.

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 2:22 pm

BWS,
I did not see your comment, so here is a response to it.
The fact remains that by calling abortion murder you are calling the people who have had abortions murderers. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
Not true, or at least misleading. In a purely objective sense, those who perform abortions are murderers, but we can not judge whether or not they are culpable.
The fact remains that by saying belief in Jesus is necessary for eternal life, you calling people who don’t believe in Jesus hell-bound. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
Same objection. If a person is not culpable for their lack of belief in Jesus Christ they may not be hell-bound. This point should be brought up in discussions about the matter.
The fact remains that by calling a viewpoint uncharitable you are calling the people who voiced it uncharitable, and plumbing their souls. I personally do not see this as a wise and valid exercise, even if you have noble goals.
I am not sure what exact comment you are thinking of, but it is not plumbing the depth of a person’s soul to comment on what they are saying, that it is objectively uncharitable, or to describe a certain uncharitable attitude and call it that. There is no way to know for sure that the person really has this attitude, so I will generally put the comment in the form of a question or something. If the person responds with glibness about the very idea, I may point out what those words suggest too.
There seems to be this premise that “making fun” of something is wrong. Where did that come from? There are many legitimate purposes for laughing at error. For one, it shows the absuridity of error and makes us more likely to adhere to truth. Also, we often laugh so that we don’t grow angry, or despondent. I laugh at many abuses in the Church, because if I pondered them without that humour I might grow enraged. Is that uncharitable? Hardly, it’s an instrument of charity.
There seems to be a pseduo-scrupulous vein here, that sees laughter as a sin. But hard-hitting apologetical criticism, being academic, is OK? What’s going on?

Perhaps we are getting at something here that depends on the person. Personally, I find humor much more bighting than serious but respectful discussion. It also to some degree discredits the person making the cracks, in my opinion. I think “are you so shallow that you must mock what you disagree with to strenghthen your own faith? Or do you take pleasure in the discomfort of others? Or are you just out for a laugh and don’t care who it may hurt?” I’m not talking about comedy here, which I enjoy, but the kind of humor that humiliates someone else. Maybe that is just my sensitivity, and other people find serious criticism insulting.
Also, most of the stuff on this thread and the Twain quote are not that bad, which is why I tried to be ambiguous at first, until defending the sentiment and more clearly uncharitable words caused me to take a stronger stand, and address the more fundamental issue of never separating love from truth. Has everyone forgotton why we have doctrine at all, or why faith in Jesus Christ brings salvation?

Jared April 26, 2006 at 2:48 pm

Ok, see, Wendy points out something that’s important to the debate when she says that she doesn’t “believe that JPII was infallible.” Thing is, neither do Catholics. We believe that the pope’s teaching on matters of faith and morals are because that is what Christ leads us to believe when He says that He gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom, among other things. And this is an incredibly important distinction.
However, the trend is that Catholicism TENDS to get ridiculed when people misinterpret it, either accidentally, as I’m sure Wendy has done, or deliberately, through the “straw man,” as Mohammed would have us believe that God did in the Koran. And yeah, IF we believed some of those things, that’d pretty frikkin’ hilarious. But we don’t. So … it’s not.
However, not to repeat myself but …
Magic. Glasses.
It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

Breier April 26, 2006 at 3:03 pm

This is raising a broader philosophical question. I know many people who hate jokes about another person, or even laughing about something that another person does, because they think every joke depends on putting down someone else, and that’s uncharitable. Thus to laugh is simply a way to mock. It’s seen as mean.
That view seems pretty Euyoreish to me, but I suppose here we see broadening of that; any joke about a subject matter someone finds important or sacred is also uncharitable, because it involves putting down what someone holds dear.
But with Twain, all we have is showing something in a humorous light. I don’t see anything uncharitable or unloving about it. I don’t find his remarks shallow, I think they are perceptive, and based on empirical observation.
There is a difference between irony and satire, and dumb name-calling and petty insults.
To you, perhaps, Bousset’s “Histories of the Variations of Protestantism,” is extremely uncharitable, inasmuch as he ironically points out the ever-changing nature of early Reformation confessions. But I don’t see it that way, I think it a masterpiece.
Your refutations of my strawmen prove my point. One can strongly condemn abortion, yet still be loving to abortionists and those who have undergone them. Similarly, I can make fun of the wretched nature of contemporary worship music, without being uncharitable to all the parish guitar bands.
If I can make fun of the “Glory and Praise” hymnal, and believe me I charitably do, then I can certainly laugh at something, in my mind, even more silly.
Thus to read the Book of Mormon and find it funny, and start laughing, is not a sin. Or do you think that such laughter needs to be suppressed?
Your fundamental premise is that to laugh at an absurd system is to insult a believer in that system. But this does not follow!
According to your view, good literary criticism, or writing a subtle book review, would be impossible without numerous mortal sins. For any really witty criticism, or ironic tone, would be a severe breach of charity. But if we’re boring and simply syllogize, then no worries.
I do not see how looking at reality, finding an incongruity, and laughing about it, is wrong. That the incongruity may be held as sacred by some people, to my mind, seems immaterial. All the Mormons in the world could vanish, Mark Twain’s remarks would still be delightful. The delight afforded by them is not at the expense of others.
For something to be uncharitable, there has to be a lack of love somewhere. An intellectual judgment that recognizes something funny and laughs at it is no breach of love. Sure, I’m not going to be open about certain subjects if people are around who disagree with me. That’s called politeness and tact. But to claim that even by ourselves, in our own rooms, if we were the last person in the world, it would be a sin to laugh at a man-made text? That seems to me too extreme.

Ryan Herr April 26, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Ed Peters wrote, Note to file: we’re not in a Mormon’s living room here.
I think that’s debatable. At least, it brings up some interesting questions about how communication across the internet is perceived and intended.

Wendy April 26, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Hi JD. When I said “doctrinal differences aside,” I was not dismissing the doctrinal differences entirely, I was simply pointing out the similarities that I believe exist with so many of the day-to-day mortal issues both our peoples deal with. True, ya’ll don’t contracept (except naturally) and you don’t abort under ANY circumstance, but Mormons are really closer to y’all’s beliefs than most of the people out there. The end result with both of us is pretty similar: nice big fat happy families! :) And for Mormons, the family unit is THE most important mortal issue, so that’s one of the reasons that I see us as more similar than different.
I’ve got pretty much the exact same view of Catholicism as you seem to have of Mormonism: I think it’s got a lot of good truths to it and it’s simply missing some pieces and got some extra unnecessary bits mixed in. Breir makes an interesting point about y’all’s religion that I think helps shed some light on the discussion for me, however; the idea that this life is the only time to prepare for the next life “the great battle and acceptance of the truth faith is reserved for this life, and thus the present hour, perhaps, is of greater moment.” I can certainly understand the urgency that would put on things, instead of the “Believe in Christ, follow his commandments, and do the best you can do, and everything will be worked out eventually” theory I work under. Such a believe as yours could certainly inspire me to have less patience with “untruths.”
Earlier in the comments section, Tim had said “I don’t think Joesph Smith is now in a place where he can laugh, though.” I inferred this to mean that Tim was implying JS was in hell or someplace similar. If I misunderstood, my mistake.
Breir, yeah Mormons could be said to have a lot in common with Muslims as well (insert polygamy joke here ^_*), but I wouldn’t call us particularly similar, nor would I call Muslims similar to Catholics. That whole believing in Jesus Christ thing is a biggie. ;) Also, I assume your athiest friend wouldn’t rail against the evils of the Catholic church with you present, would he? If he would, I would call that a lack of his respecting you. My definition only, take of it what you will. And, as mentioned before, I can really appreciate your comment about the urgency of the Great Battle: I will remember this the next time I hear a Catholic make a comment that I find less politic than I would prefer.
Mormons’ non-belief in the Trent and Nicene councils was one of the main understandings I had in why others call us non-Christian. I suppose Mormons don’t like being called non-Christians because we do in fact believe in Christ. We believe in the Virgin birth, we believe He performed great miracles and healed the sick and raised the dead and cast out spirits. We believe He atoned for our sins and died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day. We believe (if I understand the word correctly, and I openly admit that I may not) in the hypostatic union–that He was both mortal and deity. And yet, we’re “not Christian.” Does “Christian” not mean someone who believes in Christ? Or does “Christian” only mean “someone who believes in Christ the same way I believe in Christ”?
Wasn’t it a year or two back that the Pope declared the Catholic church was the only true church and a lot of Protestants got really upset by this? I never understood that one, either. OF COURSE the Pope believes the Catholic church to be the only true church, isn’t that why he’s pope?
So, if it’s ok to laugh at things that others hold holy, does that mean that y’all have no problem with “The Da Vinci Code”? Or that painting of the Virgin Mary surrounded by genitalia and elephant dung? Or that lovely work of art known as “P*** Ch****” (you know which one I mean)?

J. R. Stoodley April 26, 2006 at 4:26 pm

The thing to keep in mind, that goes beyond the issue of when it is appropriate or kind to use irony or humor, is that the purpose of religion is to bring the person into ever deeper union with God.
That is the purpose of Scripture, of the doctrine of the Trinity, of all doctrines, of the Magisterium, of the Councils, of the Sacraments, of humor, of nature, of speach, of writing, of reading, of the internet, of apologetics, of your life and mine.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God.
God has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.
And what is more, God first loved us, not us Him. How is it that he, my heart’s desire and peace, would become man and suffer so much and empty Himself out for me personally who once so hated Him and His Church and no chance whatsoever for salvation, whose justice could only make me melt to nothing? But still He loved me and did more for me than anyone else could have, and now how do I respond?
Need I go on? Is this scrupulosity? Even if these jests are not morally wrong, is it the best thing to do? I do not pretend that I fully grasp what I have said or live accordingly, though I can say with confidence that I want to, indeed to offer my life totally in every particular to Him. I would like to encourage others to seek this attitude as well, but if you are not ready for it or honestly are at a point in your life where you think these kinds of comments glorify God, then well I guess you can ignore me.
Wendy, don’t let the uncharitable comments of others fill you with bitterness. I feel simlarly when others criticize my faith, or even when like on this thread people disagree with my statements. This is a temptation. We are called to love, without reserve and without regard for how others have hurt us. The feelings will come and there is no point in beating ourselves up about that, but don’t let bitterness fester in your heart.
And be careful about how you use the war metaphore. It is fine to acknowledge the struggle between good and evil, light and shaddow, truth and falsehood. Just be sure you do not abandon love. You don’t fight fire with fire. You don’t fight hatred with hatred or bitterness. Again, we are called to love, to be children of the light, bearers of the light, lovers of God and our neighbor whom God also loves. Learn from the example and teachings of Jesus. Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, offer yourself to God as sacrifice of love for them, for Him.

Tim J. April 26, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Wendy -
I will say this… In the long run I don’t think converts are made as much by arguing people out of their religion as by showing them a faith that is better and truer.
In my own case it was a mixture of both.
I’m glad to see you back in the combox.

Breier April 26, 2006 at 5:48 pm

JR,
You would have a better context for God’s love if you looked at the patristic and scriptural sources for it. St. John the Apostle, the source of so much of that teaching, showed no delicacy to those he termed “antichrists.” One also recalls his flee the baths when Cerinthus “the enemy of truth,” was within.
Similarly, Christ shows no gentle reserve in exorciating the Pharisees, nor the Apostles in dealing with paganism.
The inspired authors mock the idols of the pagans. But to merely jest about a modern idol, a purported inspired work which is not, is uncharitable?
Your argument needs to be moored in tradition to be effective. What you say is basically correct, but it’s the application which is off.

Breier April 26, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Let’s try a different tact. Can one laugh at the devil, or is that uncharitable? Are we supposed to feel pity, charity, for the demons?
Can we laugh at the devil’s works, or must be view them sympathetically?
But better still. Let’s stop this ecumenical wrangling. I want to test our consistency.
Forget Mormonism, and the book of Mormon.
Let us replace these with some bad thing we presumably agree on, the Supreme Court Decision of Roe v. Wade.
Is it wrong to mock Roe v. Wade? Is it wrong to hold it up to ridicule? Many people hold Roe to be a kind of holy thing; a sacred presevation of an invaluable right. And it’s not all bad, there are legal truths in it, and some interesting historical sections.
Many people will be extremely offended, outraged and hurt, if you attack Roe v. Wade. If you mock it’s legal reasoning, you’re really attacking those people.
So we shouldn’t ridicule Roe v. Wade, or the abortion cause, that’s uncharitable.
After all, God is love, he doesn’t want us agitating others, we might be martyred.
Far more people treasure Roe v. Wade, or a right to an abortion. Sure, we think it’s monstrous, but a lot of people don’t. Who are you to judgmentally trample on the feelings of others?
I know many pro-choice people, and they’re very nice and generous. How dare you attack what’s precious to them?
Isn’t this line of argument absurd?
We can all think of appropriate and inappropriate arguments to make re: abortion, but is holding an evil decision up for ridicule objectionable? After all, it’s caused the deaths of millions of people; on what absurd grounds does it deserve respect? That millions of people hold it dear is irrelevant. They are in error.
People deserve respect. People deserve love. Books do not deserve that. Heretical errors do not deserve that. Falsehood does not deserve that. Being polite and civil is part of charity, but love often demands harsh sayings too. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Love the errant, hate the error.
That is clearly the attitude of anti-Catholics as well. It has the virtue of being is logically consistent without falling into ecumenically sensitive contradiction.
Humor is a gift of God. We can use it for good and ill. But if we can rationally make an argument about something, a afortiori we can make a funny remark establishing the same thing.
Being a comedian is also a calling of God.

Wendy April 26, 2006 at 9:09 pm

Re: Infallability of popes:
Oh, my bad! I think I knew that and I forgot. I am sorry, but I wasn’t ridiculing anyone for it anyway. And I still stand by my statement that he was a great man.
Anyway, believe it or not, I really appreciate a lot of the comments here. There are some pretty neat people hanging about.
Wendy

mr April 27, 2006 at 2:57 am

The New Testament says quite clearly that it is finished, that no one can add other testaments to it. That includes the Koran and the Book of Mormon.
Also, to imagine that Catholicism is “incomplete” because it does not include the crackpot fantasies of a 19th century American charlatan is to be in a denial so deep that no argument, no appeal to reason or faith, no dialogue is possible. It reveals a stunning ignorance of the “faith once given.” This kind of thing can only be overcome by prayer and fasting. I have as close a relationship with Mormonism as I could possibly have without being one, and I know this is true.
God is Love – but “love” divorced from Truth is not Love at all but sentimentality. The Love of the Great Physician can in fact be very painful – His love is sharper than a surgeon’s knife as he cuts away all falsehood.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 3:04 am

Wendy’s last comment goes for me, too, and that includes some of the statements that she would not be crazy about.
By the way, I missed Wendy’s middle post and the responses by jd and Breier, which were posted while I was writing a comment, so those put the discussion of a battle in context. I’ll still point to my comment on that as something to keep in mind when using that metaphor.
A point about useing the actions of saints and biblical figures to justify your actions: First off, the saints were not perfect. For instance, while I am no big basher of St. Olaf Haraldson (I’m part Norwegian after all and pray to him for the conversion of Norway) I do not agree with his killing and maiming of pagans who would not convert. When you consider his personal Viking background and the social and historical context of his actions, they become understandable, but still wrong.
That is an extreme example, but the same basic principle can be applied to the sharp toungues of some saints or the attitudes and actions of OT people. Just because they did it and were generally holy people doesn’t mean you should do it.
When it comes to Jesus, I don’t recall him ever using this kind of mockery (though again nothing here has been that bad and the majority of what has been written in the combox I’m fine with) and when it comes to his harsh words to the Pharisees, etc. don’t forget he was (and is) God and knew them in every way possible, and knew exactly how his comments would be received and what good would come of them. You and I are in a very different situation.
And it seems clear to me that saying “irony is a legitimate tool of rhetoric and God and saints used it and I am in the right so I can use it without worrying about love” is just wrong.
Here is some Pauline teaching to consider:
“knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him.”
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
You will all agree with this, sure, but do you live it? If you automatically and confidently say “yes” I would take that as an indication that you do not. I know I do not. Not as I should. Don’t let familiar scripture passages stop burning in your heart and challenging you to live and think in a radically different way.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 3:10 am

mr, love without truth could be called sentimentality, but who is separating love from truth here? Truth without love is fundamentalism, hypocracy, phariseeism, legalism, fanaticism.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 3:34 am

Wendey,
I think an underlying reason why we tend to not call Mormons Christians is that you seem to reduce God to something less great and personal than he is. I don’t know much about Mormonism, I’m just saying what the perception is.
We mainstream Christians veiw God as the Eternal One, the One whose very nature is to exist. He is immaterial, all powerful, all-present. He is one, but three, a unifed communion of Love. He creates the universe out of sheer generosity, and loves each thing in it as if it were the only thing He created. Each creature, each tree, chipmunk, rock, river, raindrop, star, reflects His Divine Beauty in its own way, and he holds each in existance by His infinite power and love. Each human being he also holds in existance, and calls to Him even when we stray and reject Him.
Far from condemning us for our apostasy, He goes so far as to take on our very nature, ennobling it beyond our comprehension, and dieing in a most terrible way to redeem us and prove His love for us. By that death He gives us His very Life, the Life of God, and makes us veritable Children of God, partakers in the inheritance of the Son. “In him we live and breath and have our being”. In Him is the fulfillment of all our desires and the purification of our unworthy souls. He is all in all. Our lives are, or at least could be if we would accept the grace and will be if we persevere to the end, no longer our own but His. “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”
When you say the Father is one God and lives on some planet and the Son is another God and the Holy Spirit yet another, it makes each god finite and it becomes hard to see how you could have the same basic view.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 5:01 am

Sorry about misspelling your name above, Wendy.

Wendy April 27, 2006 at 9:54 am

JR, no worries about the mis-spelling. :)
I’m not really sure if my feelings about God and yours are really that different. I worship God the Father as the all-knowing, all-encompassing God. He is our Father and He is responsible for all that is. I’ve honestly never really thought about where he actually “lives,” but He is here and He loves us all and takes a personal interest in all our lives and all His creation.
Christ, as I’ve mentioned before, is my Savior and my elder spirit brother. He is not a god as the Father is God, but everything He does reflects on the Father and glorifies the Father and is basically what the Father would do if He were right there. We believe them to be separate individuals, but they might as well be the same since their intents and goals are basically identical. We pray to the Father in Christ’s name.
The Holy Spirit is a separate entity (and I don’t think we really know a lot about him), but again, everything he does reflects the will of the Father. It is His touch to our souls that brings us closer to God and bears witness to His existence and love for us.
I don’t think that I have the words to express how great is my love for God, or for my gratitude at the sacrifice of His only Son. The fact that the Father delegates His work to others does in no way take glory from Him, and…
Oh gosh, I just don’t even know what I could say to say how much I feel for the Godhead. Nothing finite or limiting about it.
Thank you for answering the question. Do pretty much all protestant religions believe in the Triune God the same way Catholics do?

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 12:17 pm

Wendy,
Yes, just about all Protestants believe in the Trinity. Some (not most in my experience) may not like using the traditional language and creeds concerning it because they is Catholic in origin (from long before there were protestants) but I doubt any would deny that the Father is God and Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God and there is only one God. If any one out there knows of an exception besides the Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses and the Way International, feel free to correct me. The Eastern Orthodox have the same doctrine as us except they believe the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and we believe He proceeds from the Father AND the Son. A seemingly minor detail it seems to me, and the Catholic Church generally does not make much of it, but the Eastern Orthodox do.
The Nestorians (those who rejected the council of Ephasus in 431 ad, today in small numbers in Iraq and Iran) classically believe Jesus to have been two persons, the devine Son of God and the human son of Mary. Those who reject this herecy call Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos) to proclaim the fact that the Son of God is same exact person as the Son of Mary, one Divine person. Most protestants in my experience will accept this, even though they do not want to call Mary the Mother of God because they think it will lead people (wrongly of course) to think Mary was somehow the origin of God not a creature created by Him
The Monophysites (those who rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the modern “Oriental Orthodox Church” found in small numbers in Egypt, Syria, and India) classically believe Jesus had only one nature, the Divine nature. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most any Protestant that has hearn of the issue, believe that Jesus had two natures, Divine and human. Thus he is one Divine Person, the Son of God, who is God Himself, who has taken on, besides his Divine nature, also a human nature, becoming for us fully God and fully man. Beautiful!
The Arians also diserve mention. They are the ones that rejected the Council of Nicea in 325 and became the prominant religion (besides paganism) of the Germanic peoples before their conversion tribe by tribe or kingdom by kindom to Catholicism. They died out, but their basic premise has been resurrected by such groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I think the cult called the Way International, as well as having apparently influenced Islam. Their basic premise is that God is One, quite simply and Jesus was created by God, a preexisting spirit of some sort that was less than God which became man. In the Jehovah’s Witness version that preexisting spirit is the angel Michael.
I’m glad to hear your idea of God is not as limited as the basic premiss of having three gods would have suggested by itself. My biggest concern here would be that the One God, the creator of the universe and of each soul, is not the one who became man and died to reconsile us to Himself, Who will be our joy and fulfillment for eternity. In fact, the way you describe it, it sounds more like Arianism to me than anything else, that, vocabulary aside, there is one great God the Father and then Jesus and the Holy Spirit as great but lesser spiritual beings serving God. This perhaps maintains the identity of God Himself, but makes the Incarnation and Redemption something less. Would you disagree with this assessment?

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 12:20 pm

btw, I never misuse the words “is” and “are.” That typo at the top came about as the result of changing what I had written in front of it.

Jared April 27, 2006 at 12:20 pm

JRS: Not trying to bag on you, man, but Jesus, though God incarnate and therefore Love Himself did not always act “lovingly” as many moderns would understand the term. Though I can’t recall any examples of Him using rough humor, I do recall that He (A) called the Pharisees “whited sepulchres” and a “brood of vipers” and ; (B) beat the living snot out of the money changers with an improvised whip.
Wendy: Yes, all major Protestant groups believe in the Trinity (though the word itself doesn’t appear in the Bible) and tend to have the exact same understanding of “One God, Three Persons” that Catholics do. (In fact, depending on the definition used, I’d actually say that ALL Protestant groups, not just the major ones, have this understanding of God in His Triune Nature.) In fact, to my knowledge, the only major related groups who don’t have this understanding are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS. That is one reason why we tend to not refer to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians.
Question for you, Wendy: being that you believe in the same Bible as we, how do you, as a member of LDS, explain the opening of John’s Gospel wherein John refers to Jesus as the Word and states that “the Word was God?” How does a member of LDS explain all of Christ’s various claims of Godhood going even so far as to say “I AM,” to the great consternation of the Jewish clergy of the time? Not trying to put you on the spot; just trying to understand.

Jared April 27, 2006 at 12:23 pm

JRS: Your comment appeared while I was typing and is, obviously, a much better and more thorough explanation to Wendy than mine. Good job.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 12:36 pm

Jared, your comment to me about Jesus’ words I answered in my post. If I were you I would look into my heart and ask why I seem to have a problem with love, associate it with Liberalism (I am no liberal) and so on. Not to judge, just a suggestion. Some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament might help.
Wendy, just to clarify, all those heresies I mentioned did not originate with the Council and their rejection. Rather, some guy would show up preaching something new, the Church would gather together and condemn the new heretical teaching, and the holders of that belief would reject the council and from then on be a distinct group.

Tim J. April 27, 2006 at 1:48 pm

J.R.-
“Some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament might help.”
I understand that you don’t like people being mean.
Being condescending isn’t nice, either.
God made us each a little different, and none of us will handle a situation in exactly the same way. We are not supposed to. God created us as individuals, and I figure he likes it that way.
Besides which, you have no idea how much time any of us might spend praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
I’m not knocking you… especially on the internet, we can all use a reminder once in a while to mind our manners.
But, trust me, I’ve seen some real meanness and vitriole in comboxes, and this is NOTHING.

Tim J. April 27, 2006 at 1:48 pm

There is a small Unity movement (rejecting the Trinity) among non-denominational charismatic Christians.
They see the Trinity as a Catholic invention.
I think what happens is that, as people find out a little about Church history, they discover that some of their own long-held beliefs have deep roots in Catholicism. This causes a crisis, because they KNOW that the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon”, so they begin to wonder just how much Catholicism has polluted their creed.
Any doctrine that they discover is solidly, historicall Catholic gets called into question.
So doctrinally, they end up with “whatever Catholicism ISN’T”.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 2:38 pm

Rereading what I wrote in haste to Jared I can see how it comes off as condescending. I honestly was only trying to suggest something that would be helpful in his spiritual life, not trying to say he was a bad Christian or something. His words seemed to reflect an attitude in a lot of people I know, good Christian people in some ways, about the issue of love vs. truth. If I am just making the situation worse I will drop the whole issue.

J. R. Stoodley April 27, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Maybe it would be a good idea for everyone, myself specifically included, not to draw too much of a conclusion out of single statements on the internet. Ultimately you have to deal with the words as they are written, but still you can’t know what state of mind the person was in or if the sense of the words is at all what the writer intended. This just happened to me (and I don’t blaim Tim J. for his reaction, it was appropriate) and it made me think I may have made similar incorrect judgements myself.
Again, you have to deal with what is written, but it may be a good idea (for me but I’m throwing this out there as a help not condescention!) to try to keep in your mind some openness to the possibility that the statement is not reflective of the person.

Tim J. April 27, 2006 at 4:23 pm

JR-
Please don’t take me too seriously, either.
I always look forward to reading your comments.

Jared April 27, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Tim: Thanks for the backup.
JRS: I appreciate the suggestion. Truthfully, it did come off (in my mind) as condescending but, no big deal. I accept your apology.
Thing is, it’s part true and part not true. I haven’t, in the past two weeks or so been doing as much Eucharistic Adoration as I had been doing. So, that’s actually good advice, and well taken. At the same time, even when I was spending a lot of time before Him, I still felt the same way about the “Truth vs. Love vs. Luv vs. Harsh TroOoth” debate. I understand your point. I understand that you’re no liberal (if you were, I’d ask you what you were doing on Mr. Akin’s blog, when you’d be happier spending your time over at the Commonweal site).
Bottom line: No offense taken; I just disagree.

Breier April 27, 2006 at 5:50 pm

I am still quite confused.
I think we all agree that people should always be treated with love and respect, even if they’re totally in the wrong and it’s totally their fault. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
The question here isn’t our love for people. It’s about whether we have an obligation to love heresy or error in itself. Do we have to extend our love of people to automatically love the things they love?
I see no obligation to “respect” a heretical document. I definitely see a prudential obligation to treat that document in such a way that I’m still being loving to people who believe in it. That may practically mean holding my tongue, or being more politic in my language, etc.
But I have a duty to the faith, and to reason, to judge that document as it is. Whether than judgment is externally communicated is a prudential question, naturally.
But to say that “love” demands never calling a spade a spade, or to take my previous answer, calling abortion “murder,” is absurd!
JR, I don’t even know what remarks at the start of this post incensed you, but I still have to stand up and say that someone personally finding the Book of Mormon to be “literary morphine”, or boring, is entitled to that judgment. Would I tell a Mormon that? No. We know how to be polite to each other. But to hold to the faith means we also recognize what’s opposed to the faith.
Can we all agree that we have an unconditional duty of charity towards all men? And that there is no obligation for someone to “respect” what they hold to be wrong, but there is an obligation to respect people who are wrong?

Breier April 27, 2006 at 6:01 pm

I add, of course, that respecting other people will often mean not disrespecting what they respect. But that is a prudential obligation.
I will not walk up to a Muslim and say “Mohommed was a false prophet,” but certainly I think that, and in doing so am perfectly consistent with charity. And one is not prohibited from voicing that statement in appropriate forums, even though it may be highly offensive to Muslims. Agreed?
My emphasis is that the obligation to respect the *views* of others is entirely prudential. When we say respect the views what we really mean is respecting the individual. That often means not getting into arguments or being incendiary about what they believe. But our obligation of love, of charity, is to them, not their mistakes, not to their errors. But if we are going to critcize those things, or be ironic, etc., we always have to be sure we’re acting charitably towards others. Agreed?

Wendy April 27, 2006 at 10:08 pm

JR, true, I don’t believe it was the Father Himself who came down and sacrificed Himself for our sins, but it was His kid! His firstborn! His Only Begotten! How painful would that have been for Him? Can you imagine sacrificing your firstborn to suffer as Christ suffered? Just because it wasn’t the Father in the flesh doesn’t mean it was any less painful for Him, anymore than it is for any parent to watch His son suffer. I don’t see Christ and the Holy Ghost as lesser so much as a little bit later. ;) I can’t honestly say that this makes the Redemption any less; we consider the Atonement to the most pivotal moment in all history.
And man! Do you know your religions or what? I’m impressed! :)
Jared, you know they taught us about back in “Mormon” school when I was 16, and darned if I can remember. But I was checking some cross-references and in turn found a number of references (New Testament, KJV) to the idea of Christ having a personal relationship (e.g., being someone else) with the Father (John 5:20, John 14:11, Acts 7:55, others). The following doesn’t necessary answer your actual question, but does a much better job of explaining Mormon beliefs about God than I can do. In light of Da Rulez, I’ll try to not make this too long. (OK, I just pasted and it seems too long for a single post: I’ll put it into the following post.)
cont…

Wendy April 27, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Oh Man!!! I had this great comment that I was working on and had been for awhile and I accidentally deleted it! ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!
*sigh* I guess I wasn’t meant to post it *smacks stupid computer*
Summary: I guess I just didn’t expect to come and get my daily dose of Jimmy and Catholics and comics and Cthulu and suddenly get smacked upside the head with a bunch of unnecessarily rude comments out of nowhere about a Book that 12 million people (and really, we’re not all stupid and ignorant or crooked) hold sacred. I mean, a couple of weeks ago they posted that bit about Romney, and, well, that was relevant because it’s current. But the Twain post? Sheesh, that was 100+ years ago. And, as was pointed out, this was the same guy who slammed the Catholic church as well, so it’s not like he’s any great and reliable source. Didn’t he slam everybody and everything?
Oh my gosh, I just deleted a bunch AGAIN!!!!!! Time to go to bed because obviously I’m brain dead. :)

J. R. Stoodley April 28, 2006 at 2:53 am

Jared, I have a good friend who takes your basic approach to love. Everyone accepts love as good. The thing is that liberals use the idea of love to argue for tollerance for everything and anything. It seems to me that many people, reacting to this, begin to get an understandable but unfortunate attitude of suspicion towards any talk of love or focus on growing in love. It seems to me that the answer to this is more time in prayer, whatever the time you are spending in prayer right now.
It is true that people are different. Some people are more attracted to the intellectual side of things. These people are sometimes labled as Thomists (the word has many related meanings). Others are more attracted to issues of the will and spirituality. These some call Augustinians (some make it Franciscans or Scotists but this limits it to one order or one not so popular philosopher). To some degree this difference is natural and fine. It is said that JPG was more of a Thomist and B16 is more of an Augustinian. However, I think that a Thomist can not let himself just see himself as a Thomist and think that can make him more or less neglect the issue of love, just like an Augustinian can not ignore doctrine. JPG and B16 are models of people not doing this.

J. R. Stoodley April 28, 2006 at 3:20 am

But to say that “love” demands never calling a spade a spade, or to take my previous answer, calling abortion “murder,” is absurd!
Agreed.
Can we all agree that we have an unconditional duty of charity towards all men? And that there is no obligation for someone to “respect” what they hold to be wrong, but there is an obligation to respect people who are wrong?
Agreed, though not evidently with how you apply the idea
I will not walk up to a Muslim and say “Mohommed was a false prophet,” but certainly I think that, and in doing so am perfectly consistent with charity. And one is not prohibited from voicing that statement in appropriate forums, even though it may be highly offensive to Muslims. Agreed?
Agreed
But our obligation of love, of charity, is to them, not their mistakes, not to their errors. But if we are going to critcize those things, or be ironic, etc., we always have to be sure we’re acting charitably towards others. Agreed?
Agreed
My emphasis is that the obligation to respect the *views* of others is entirely prudential.
Here is where we touch on the issue. You and I don’t believe in the BoM, or the Koran. We both believe Mohammed and Joseph Smith were false prophets. A reasonable Muslim or LDS would not take offence at this, seeing as we are Catholics, just as I would not take offence at a Jew saying Jesus and the Apostles were false prophets. However, you can not entirely separate the “views” of a person from the person him/herself. Wendy’s comments show that, as was predictable, a LDS reading this thread would be personally offended. By calling the BoM ridiculous and laughable you are implicitly, whether you intend it or not, saying that those who deeply believe in it are ridiculous and laughable. Those kinds of comments I would argue are inappropriate even among a few Catholic friends, as well as imprudent on the internet where a LDS or two are likely to read it. Ultimately you must say the BoM is false, and that it reads like a modern attempted imitation of the Bible, but to go beyond that seems, at least to me and clearly to Wendy, to be an attack on the intelligence of those who believe in it.

J. R. Stoodley April 28, 2006 at 4:09 am

Wendy,
We also have the idea of God the Father offering his only begotten Son for us (Jn 3:16). BTW, think of the pain of Mary for the same reason, and that will explain to you much of the Catholic devotion to her.
Jesus was not “the Father in the flesh.” He was (and is) the Son, eternally begotton of the Father, made man. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, nor the Holy Spirit the Father or the Son. Yet each is the One God. Not thirds of God, but fully God in His own right. Yet they are not really seperable, since they are all the same God, nothing more perfectly singular, so where one is the others are, and what one person does the others do, except as regards the inner life of the Trinity (the Father begets the Son and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son). So while we generally speak of the Father as creating the world and each human soul, it is in fact equally the Son and the Holy Spirit who creates them. We only the Son was made man, but that means it was the Creator of the Universe who emptied Himself and took the form of a slave.
There is a personal relationship between the Father and the Son, alluded to by Jesus several times. Here is another classic Catholic explanation of the Trinity: the Father, the One God, eternally knows Himself perfectly, and this perfect and complete “idea” of Himself is eternally made real, equal to the Father in all things and equally the One God, inseparable from the Father but distinct. The Father loves the Son with a perfect and Eternal Love and the Son, having inhereted all things from the Father except being the Father, loves the Father with the same Love. This perfect eternal Love becomes, eternally, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, equally God and identical to the Father and the Son except He is not the Father and the Son. Again though, these are not three Gods, but one single God, perfectly one yet really three. Also this did not happen at some point in the past. God is unchangable, and this “process” happens eternally, with no time when there was just the Father or anything like that.
It was only the Son who became incarnate, though were he is the fullness of the Godhead is, thus in the Divinity of Jesus (the man walking the earth in the past or in the Eucharist today) is also the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks of the Father as greater than him in Jn 15:28 because the Father is the origin of the Son, and is the one who “sent” the Son, whereas the Son is the one who came from the Father and was sent and obays/imitates the Father in all things. This does not mean that the Son is really less than the Father in the quantitative sense, since they are both equally the One Eternal God.
Does this clear up why we do not find the passages about a relationship between the Father and the Son not inconsistent with but rather supportive of our view of the Trinity? Honestly, you will not find anything in the Bible that is inconsistent with the Doctrine of the Trinity, or else it would not be the case that virtually all Christians throughout history who have believed in the Bible, even though not accepting other groups’ authority and often not accepting any Tradition, have accepted this basic belief.

Breier April 28, 2006 at 8:56 am

JR,
Is it uncharitable to ridicule ancient Gnostic beliefs as absurd? This surely will reflect upon the ancient authors of those heresies.
You can separate an idea from the person who holds that idea.
That’s why we can condemn a book as a bad book, but we can never condemn a person as a bad person. We can judge a text. We can not judge a soul.
Charity extends to people, we are not bound to love their false ideas.
By attacking anything as false, you are implicitly saying that those who believe that false teaching suffer from some defect. For they are at least in error. But you are not implying what the reason for that error is.
You are not necessarily implying what defect that person has, if any, beyond being wrong. You are not identifying the reason for that error.
For example, many people think the Trinity is contradictory and consequently an absurd teaching. Does that mean they’re calling Catholics stupid? No, they can conclude that Catholics hold that mysterious teaching from faith in the Church, not on its own logical merits.
Similarly, one can hold that Mormons are taught that all doubts against their faith are from the devil, and to resist them at all costs, and that’s why many don’t give brief to criticism of their beliefs. They’re not stupid, they’re following the first principles of their belief system to an absurd conclusion.
To say someone holds an irrational belief is not the same as saying that person is irrational. Similarly, saying I hold a belief above reason is not the same as saying I am above reason.
I think we need to distinguish between public forums and private forums. It may well be the case that a blog is a public forum, and therefore one has to be more measured in one’s language. But a private forum among people who share the truth allows for the full statement of truth without veiling it for fear of causing offense.
St. Irenaeus mercilessly exposes the contradictions and absurdies of the early Gnostic sects. And for good reason, he was writing to keep people from becoming Gnostics, and to refute their errors. If that demands ridicule, and the ridicule is fair, I don’t see who is being harmed by it. And a sin against charity requires some harm.
For your argument to be valid, the following syllogism has to be true:
That idea is unreasonable.
Joe holds that idea.
Therefore Joe is unreasonable.
This is clearly fallacious. Joe could be a very reasonable fellow, which is why he will abandon his idea when he realizes it is unreasonable.
Ideas are utterly distinct from those who hold them. Truth and falsehood are separate from individuals who hold that falsehood. Falsehood is opposed to God. Error has no rights! It is simply wrong to say that judging an idea is the same thing as judging a person who holds that idea.

Breier April 28, 2006 at 9:02 am

Short form:
Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Under your view, it appears that we can never fully separate the sin and the sinner.
Therefore hating the sin, even among a few Catholic friends, is inappropriate.
I find that to be absurd. But I don’t think you’re absurd at all, I find you quite intelligent, just wrong here.

J. R. Stoodley April 28, 2006 at 11:10 am

Under your view, it appears that we can never fully separate the sin and the sinner.
Therefore hating the sin, even among a few Catholic friends, is inappropriate.

I too find this absurd, which is why it is not my position. This is not a matter so much of sin as intelligence and perhaps dignity. You can say all you want that someone can hold an irrational beleif and still be rational. The fact remains in real life that is rarely the impression people will get when you mock a religion. What I care about in this regard is the actual way people will take the comment, and the attitude you may (I can’t tell, myself) have when making such comments even in private.

Jared April 28, 2006 at 11:46 am

Breier: You pretty much said what I’ve been trying to say. Clearly, I need more practice.
JRS: We agree in concept; we disagree in practice. Taking this out of it Mormon context, I just don’t see it as unloving to ridicule any bad idea. Even in a Catholic context. If a protestant comes up to me and ridicules the idea of “worshipping” Mary (which would be ridiculous), it actually gives me a chance to clear out that straw man. If a Muslim–quoting the Koran itself when it says that our Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Virgin Mary–laughs at me for this, I can laugh along with him. That belief would be ridiculous. BUT it’s as silly to SAY that we believe that as it would be to believe it. (Which brings up a totally OTHER interesting topic as to why “Allah” has to set up straw men to win an argument.) In fact, it gives me an opportunity to explain the concept of the Trinity of God and how that differs utterly from the concept of Marian Devotion.
Sorry if I’m repeating myself here.
Ok, one thing’s been bugging me this whole time and I’ve been forgetting to bring it up …. Wendy (or anyone else who may know): We’ve been referring to yourself and others of your faith as “Mormons.” However, an ex-Mormon classmate of mine in college told me that members of LDS are offended at that term being applied to individuals preferring to be called a Latter-Day Saint, a member of LDS or something else. But never a Mormon. Can someone clear this up?

StubbleSpark April 29, 2006 at 12:11 am

Grr. Guys I think it is safe to say there is a bit of wiggle room on the whole laughing at other people’s faiths thing.
I am reminded of the prophet Elijah and his battle on Mount Carmel — he lopped heads off false prophets with a sword.
New religions get made all the time. Witness the resurgence of gnosticism along with newbies like Scientology and Falun Gong.
I also feel compelled to point out that Mormonism is one of a number of religions that used to great effect or grew directly out of hatred for the Catholic Church at a time when anti-Catholicism was growing –Seventh Day Adventism and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In these faiths you will find codified IN THEIR HOLY WRIT epithets against Catholicism as “the great abominable church of Satan” that “tore many plain and precious pieces out of ….” To some, we are the true “whore of Babylon” led not by a pope but by the antichrist himself.
These are not optional beliefs, nor are they mere opinions. They are God-breathed truth to these people. You may think I would be misbehaving to poke at it. Well, “I aim to misbehave.”
You can see the same thing happening at the beginning of this century as well. Read Dan Brown’s book or the writings by the Feminine-supremacists at Harvard Divinity School. A major component of their argument is vilification of Holy Mother Church.
Only nowadays, this segues nicely into a absolute refutation of the divinity of our Lord. In ancient times, all you needed to do was to light incense at the altar of Caesar and you could escape excruciating torture and certain death. Now, the man who hung on the cross for us is mocked to scorn with barely a sigh of complaint out of the supposedly united Body.
This is deplorable.
When I talk to someone about the faith, I want to know where they stand. I ask them to put their argument in the strongest terms possible and feel free to laugh if it is so ridiculous. I guarantee you they are not laughing when I am done responding.
Polite banter is not a way to protect your opponent. It is a smokescreen you create for yourself to hide behind out of fear of the naked blade of Truth cutting too close to you.
If you can’t stand it, get out of apologetics. For too long society has carried on like the soul is the last thing that mattered. If I were physically on fire, I hope you would be nice enough to put it out. If I were spiritually on fire, I would expect the same.
It is an emergency after all.
Putting on two faces in name of politeness is not a kindness. It is a crying shame.

Michael April 29, 2006 at 5:50 am

This is not a defense of the Book of Mormon or the Mormon religion, but simply a reminder that Samuel Clemens opinion of religion in general and God in particular is probably not one that Michelle would ascribe to, so it is troublesome that he is so opportunistically quoted here. It is also troubling that Ms. Arnold is continuing in the spirit of self rightiousness that she showed against radtrads with this attack on Mormons. One cannot help question her strategy of apologetics – insult and condemn.

Wendy April 30, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Jared, the actual name of our church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” While it is technically incorrect to refer to a member of the church “a Mormon” (“Mormon” was the name of the guy who we believe compiled a big chunk of the BoM, which is why it’s named after him), it’s hardly what I’d call offensive; I’ve used the term myself in these comments simply for clarity, so people will more easily understand who and what I’m referring to. “LDS” or “members of the LDS Church” are technically more correct terms (The Church itself would like us to not abbreviate it at all, but I find that somewhat bulky in normal conversation). Back in the early 1800s, non-members started calling us “Mormons” to be offensive, but I don’t know of anyone who is offended at the term.
SS, when Elijah himself or someone else of his spiritual stature comes down to chastize me for my religious beliefs, then I’m really likely to sit up and take notice. Until that happens, don’t y’all think that you’ll catch more bees with honey rather than with vinegar? Isn’t it better to simply talk about how wonderful Catholicism and its beliefs are, rather than how stupid and fraudulent the LDS church and its beliefs are? And no, we don’t believe that the Catholic church is the Church of Satan: I’m pretty sure the Church of Satan isn’t any organized church on the face of the earth, it’s just Satan and all his little minions messing with us all, including members of both yours and my churches. Certainly plenty of non-Catholics (including myself when I was a teenager; what can I say? Teenagers aren’t always very bright…) presumed the Catholic church to be “the Whore of Babylon,” but I’ve never seen it as part of our official doctrine. Exactly what part of my holy writ can I find this reference?
(continued for length…)

Wendy May 1, 2006 at 12:02 am

(…continued)
I’ve just discovered something that I would ask for clarification on: I read that the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1968?) declared a recognition of the holiness in other Christian bodies and the good in non-Christian religions. If this is true, is that not a good enough reason to not bash the LDS faith? Let me give you an example I read about recently. The musical artist known as Prince has become a Jehovah’s Witness. He has sworn off foul language, preaches the importance of virtue, and refuses to sing his earlier, popular X-rated songs. Now, it’s not likely there are a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses reading this, but can’t we all look at what this religion has done to bring him (and others like him) closer to God, and as a result, simply refrain from saying bad things about it? I wouldn’t expect you to talk about how wonderful it is, but simply respect the good that it does do and not worry about the differences or perceived untruths.
One more item, an answer for one of Jared’s earlier questions, regarding LDS thoughts regarding John 1:1. Here is a quote from the LDS Bible dictionary (KJV of the bible, LDS-specific dictionary). “Many of the things that the scripture says were done were actually done by the LORD (Jesus). Thus the scripture says that “God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1: 1), but we know that it was actually the LORD (Jesus) who was the creator (John 1: 3, 10), or as Paul said, God created all things by Christ Jesus (Eph. 3: 9).”
Man, you guys are really making me do my homework! :)

Jared May 1, 2006 at 12:43 am

Wendy,
The Church has always recognized that truth and light can infiltrate other faiths. Hence St. Augustine’s love of Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas’s love of Aristotle. (By the way, historically, many protestant sects have bashed this love of classical philosophy, and stated that it is one more sign of the Church’s apostasy.) However, simply because we recognize SOME truth or glimmer of truth in other faiths does NOT mean that we will stop trying to correct “the differences or perceived untruths” because our faith calls us to correct those falsehoods. Christ Himself commands us to teach all nations. We are called to bring others to the Fullness of the Truth, meaning that we allow them to see all which God has revealed through His One, True Church.
By the way, the statement about Elijah coming to inform people of their mistakes is … well, in order to save your feelings, I would simply direct you to Luke 16: 19-31.
I’ll let someone else handle the rest of this. You guys are better at this than I am.

J.R. Stoodley May 1, 2006 at 6:10 am

SS, when Elijah himself or someone else of his spiritual stature comes down to chastize me for my religious beliefs, then I’m really likely to sit up and take notice. Until that happens, don’t y’all think that you’ll catch more bees with honey rather than with vinegar?
Jared, I think what Wendy means is that chastisement is rarely going to be an effective means of evangelization unless in some spectacular show of divine power (which is not God’s way anyway, Mt 12:39). I doubt anyone has ever been converted, at least in our religiously sensitive modern western culture, by condemnations of their current beliefs. I was not coverted from Protestantism to Catholicism by condemnations of Protestantism but by the truth and beauty and kindess shown by Catholics, as well as private study and some other personal things.
StubbleSpark’s statement Polite banter is not a way to protect your opponent. It is a smokescreen you create for yourself to hide behind out of fear of the naked blade of Truth cutting too close to you. is manifestly false and blind. The kind of argument he seems to propose as the only valid form of apologetics accoplishes nothing except to make people angry and convince them futher that Catholicism is false and evil. Politeness is not “putting on two faces” if you yourself are not full of hate.
Wendy is right, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and especially its document Nostra Ætate recognized the goodness and truth in different religions, including non-Christian ones. Granted it was a pastoral council the impementation of which lead to some unfortunate changes and crises in the Church, but it is still a council of the Church and not to be brushed aside because it does not fit your hardend heart (if this is the case for any of you, as it seems but I can’t know). Don’t deny that everything outside of Catholicism in deficient in truth, or that being a faithful Catholic is not opional for those without invincible ignorance. At the same time don’t go spouting furry and judgement (spiritually on fire?!?) at all non-Catholics thinking that will in any way draw them closer to the Church. And again, this is not just a prudential call, it is a moral obligation to be charitable to all people.

J.R. Stoodley May 1, 2006 at 7:04 am

By the way, I agree entirely with Jared’s last post. I’m not arguing with that at all.

Wendy May 1, 2006 at 9:55 am

JR, I should really shut up and let you do the talking; you make my point so much better than I do. ;)

JohnH May 1, 2006 at 3:40 pm

God living in his little retirement planet with his wife
Wives, come on now. It’s a point of Mormon Doctrine that their god has many wives. If you wish to be saved, you must have them too.

JohnH May 1, 2006 at 3:58 pm

Mormons could be said to have a lot in common with Muslims as well (insert polygamy joke here ^_*), but I wouldn’t call us particularly similar, nor would I call Muslims similar to Catholics. That whole believing in Jesus Christ thing is a biggie.
Except that the Muslim believes in Christ, just not the same Christ that Christians do. Same with the LDS church. They believe in Christ, but not the same Christ that Christians do.
I see a Christian religion needing the following 3 things (very open definition):
1. Monotheistic
2. Trinitarian
3. Christ as Son of God, 3rd person of the Trinity, truly human and truly divine; died for our sins on the cross.
The LDS religion is a Monolatric Polytheistic non-Trinitarian religion. IIRC, they also teach that Jesus became a god sometime after his death (note: the LDS church would repudiate the Hypostatic Union).

StubbleSpark May 1, 2006 at 10:47 pm

It is possible to cut off the head of your opponent in love. Battlefield combat does not require you hate your enemy (only someone who hates warriors would think this). To judge such acts as unloving simply because of the appearance of violence is judging a book by its cover. It is also to pass judgment against all who have ever fought for something worthwhile. As GK Chesterton has said “A soldier fights not because he hates those who stand before him but because he loves those who stand behind him.”
You should not attribute false intentions when you yourself have not taken the time to ask me if I intend inflict out of hate or dreadful malice. No one thinks to criticize being pushed suddenly onto the floor if the pushing in fact put that person out of the path of an oncoming bullet.
Fact: different people react differently to different types of approaches. For some, soft and lovey-dovey works. Others need to be shocked out of over-inflated self-assurance. Some may have reactions completely the opposite to what you intend.
Fact: this is an open forum with people from all walks of life able to come and go as they please. Therefore, there is no one perfect mode of communication that will work on everyone.
Fact: this is “home” territory — a place where we are free to be as Catholic as we want. This means talking about other religions in the light of Truth and, yes, sometimes remarking among ourselves that certain aspects of other faiths are ridiculous.
Not of out hate or out of superiority but out of honesty. The conversation should usually progress to nuts and bolts about dealing with other faiths but sometimes does not.
Virgina Woolf used ridicule to great effect when she criticized the male-centric society that dominated her life. I can attest to this because I am a man who has read Virginia Woolf and been moved by her words.
In fact, in American society, it is perfectly fine for ANY minority to mock other races, religions, orientations, ethnicities, etc. This mocking gets high ratings regardless of whether or not the observations themselves are accurate, truthful, or made without malice.
The only group that is NOT allowed to behave in a similar manner is the majority group. By going so far out of your way to “protect” the LDS church on this blog site, you are in fact denigrating their followers as being inferior to us.
Inferior in numbers and also in intellect. If they can answer the claims made, as Wendy initially tried to minimal effect, then great. But when they are unable to respond because they cannot answer important and hard questions about the validity of their faith, you cannot cry foul.
Because we carry the fullness of the Truth and eventually in dialogue with ALL the faiths in the world ALL practitioners of those faiths will enter the place of not knowing. This is not unfair, it is the way God made religion.
Christ Himself tried all sorts methods. From gentle patience, to calling his disciples “dim”, to making a whip out of chords. Some methods worked better on some people than on others. But in the end, if they turned from truth, the responsibility for that act of unfaithfulness rests on the conscience of those individuals and no one else.

StubbleSpark May 1, 2006 at 11:36 pm

Wendy, I think a reading of I Nephi 13 in the Book of Mormon will show you where I get my understanding of the LDS teaching that the Catholic Church is the “abominable church” “false church” and the church of the devil:
1 Nephi 13:6 … I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.
In verse 9, this same Church is said “destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.
In verse 23, we get to the plates of brass which are the full “gospel of the Lord of whom the twelve apostles bear record.” (v24)
Continuing in verse 26:
And after the got forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that GREAT AND ABOMINABLE CHURCH, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, THEY HAVE TAKEN AWAY FROM THE GOSPEL OF THE LAMB MANY PARTS WHICH ARE PLAIN AND MOST PRECIOUS; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. 27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.”
The chapter continues to report this alteration of the Bible has lead to “a great many [believers stumbling], yea, insomuch that Satan has great power over them” (v29).
Wendy there is not a historian on this Earth who does not identify the compilation of the Bible with the Catholic Church. Even Dan Brown, who believes in nothing at all, concurs with this point as it is the centerpiece of the political and anti-feminist accusations throughout the DaVinci Code. That distinction falls on the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church alone.
Dan Brown believes it. Christians know and believe it. The “inspired” voice of the Book of Mormon believes it. (An important point to make would be both Dan Brown and many modern LDS believers make a distinction between the ancient and present day Catholic Church. Catholics do not.)
The “plain and precious” meaning of the passage is clear. As a devout follower of the faith, you are called to witness without distortion or deletion for to do so would mean you are imitating the Church of Satan.
I can understand why you take such a lax attitude towards the salvation of others. It seems LDS salvation is determined more by what you do NOT do than by what you do:
“And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do NOT unite themselves to that great and abominable church, THEY SHALL BE SAVED.” (II Nephi 6:12)

StubbleSpark May 1, 2006 at 11:57 pm

“StubbleSpark’s statement … is manifestly false and blind.”
JR, don’t take this in a bad way, but I hope one day you burst into flames. And I hope at that very moment I walk by with a bucket of water. Because I will keep on walking by until you say something to the effect of “help!”
At which point, I will take the time to ask “Gee, if I use this bucket to dowse your flames, your clothes will get all wet. Is it alright if I do that? Because nothing really is more important than showing ‘love’ through ‘politeness’.”
By which point it may dawn on you that what I am showing is not really love at all but a sort of cruel indifference to the threat to your very life (not to mention the pain resultant to the continued exposure to that threat.)
Our Lord and almost all of the apostles were killed for preaching what they did and this is just the internet. What exactly are we afraid of here? Until the internet comes with options like “gouge out eyes” or “set metal hooks in flesh and rip it off the bones”, then the worst that can happen is a flurry of capital letters.
Get a grip.
There is a great line from Man For All Seasons when St. Thomas Moore calls his daughter’s suitor a heretic. He complains loudly: “Now, sir that is a word I do not like!”
To which, Thomas Moore calmly replies: “It’s not a likable word, it’s not a likable thing.”
The fact is you want the satisfaction of being able to consider yourself “tolerant” and “kind” more than you want to do what is right. Love of self leads to a selfish love of labels.
But if your love of self was placed beneath love of Christ, you would go to where you were not welcome and speak though you may be spit upon or punched in the mouth (just like the apostles). Such places are common throughout this country of ours and I would think if Jesus and his Saints were not above being labeled all sorts of horrible things by the world, then neither are you.

Steve May 2, 2006 at 4:51 am

Stubble, Firefly fan?

Wendy May 2, 2006 at 8:27 am

Stubble, thanks for letting me know what I believe. I’m really glad you cleared that up for me.
And as for your loving, charitable comments towards JR, well, I think that tells us pretty much everything we need to know as well.

J.R. Stoodley May 2, 2006 at 10:53 am

StubbleSpark,
Many of your comments hardly deserve a response, and Da Rulz don’t allow repetitious arguements. Therefore I will just say that I have never defended Mormonism nor do I have any desire to do so or to back up Wendy’s defenses. My concern is what kind of an attitude a Christian should have towards other, incomplete and partially false religions. I will not apologize for believing all people need to be treated with charity and respect.

Chris Nau May 4, 2006 at 11:36 am

It is a funny book except for the fact that it has led so many astray.

Roland May 8, 2006 at 10:08 am

I read in the news a couple of months back that the Salt Lake City Roman Catholic diocese had one of the higher rates of weekly mass attendance and charitable donations of any Roman Catholic diocese. It indicated that a lot of this was due to the immense example and influence from their Mormon neighbors.
Also keep in mind that in poor African countries the two biggest aid donars are Catholic Charities and LDS charities – and they usually work as a team.

Anonymous July 3, 2006 at 1:17 pm

You guys give Mormonism much too hard of a time. I am NOT Mormon. I think much of the theology is Tolkienesque, no logical Aristotleanism and the myths of Jesus coming to the pre-Columbian Americas or Polynesian Islands are fascinating but seem to not be based in historical reality.
BUT, they are FAMILY ORIENTED
The Boy Scouts stood up to the militant GAYS because of the MORMONS not the gay infiltrated Catholics
The people are nice
There is a good sense of Capitalism as well as Catholic social values of solidarity and subsidary (Read Rerum Novarum and Solicitudo Rei Socialis) there is industriousness, and helping others
an appropriate sexual and family ethic
and they were persecuted
and many people unjustifiably lambast them (like basketball star Dennis Rodman) that if someone said that about Blacks, Jews or Gays that they would be run out of sports
but one can badmouth Mormons
They have contributed to our society in a positive way (Marriot hotels, Wordperfect)
and they serve in the military and have deaths in higher amounts than the average
lots of good Special Forces Mormons and reservists in Afghanistan and Iraq
Mormons are good people, your daughter or son would do well off to marry one than to a so called hellion Catholic or some modernist trained Catholic from a Jesuit High School

Anonymous July 30, 2006 at 1:58 pm

Obviously objective truth would object to being the property of one religious institution. And I know plenty of people who would object to the truth of Cathilocism’s virtue.
But faith is a good thing.
Exploitation of people’s faith is not though.
Sometimes Catholicism’s claim to universality seems dubious.
But it is huge, ancient, and Roman.
Mormonism’s roots are more obscure. Joseph Smith’s original audience included many practitiners of various folk magical arts and rituals.

mia April 13, 2007 at 4:16 pm

If Mark Twain says it’s a load of crap… then IT’S A LOAD OF CRAP.
Twain should be God.
Mormons are a bunch of Masons.
Look it up.

Anna December 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm

The guy can’t even read the table of contents!
“the books of Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Mosiah, Zeniff, Alma, Helaman, Ether, Moroni, two “books” of Mormon, and three of Nephi.”
#1: there is no book of Zeniff. It talks about him, but he does not have an entire book named after him. He can be found in the book of Mosiah.
#2: there are four books of Nephi.
And this is just part of the things he got wrong. I love the man to death, but he really needs to get his facts straight.

Previous post:

Next post: