Mormons and Catholics

Donald Westbrook on Catholic-Mormon Dialogue

Posted by davekeller on June 19th, 2011

[Cross posted from Millennial Star blog]


“Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between Christians. Dialogue with Mormons who represent official LDS teaching is interreligious dialogue.”  Fr. Richard John Newhaus


Today I went to Richard Bushman’s 80th birthday symposium in Springville. The topic that convinced me (for reasons I will sketch below) the most to make the drive from Salt Lake was Donald Westbrook’s “Catholic-Mormon Dialogue, Ecumenical, Inter-religious, or What?” Westbrook, a Ph. D. student who has interacted with Dr. Bushman at Claremont, did not disappoint. He argued that Mormons don’t fit neatly in either of the traditional Catholic modes of dialogue which distinguish between Christian [pre-dominantly of the creedal variety] and non-Christian. He respectfully disagreed with Fr. Newhaus that Mormons belong in the second category, but explained why it would be very difficult to place Mormons in a category wherein a fundamental goal is the reunification of Christianity. Perhaps Mormons will eventually be afforded a special chapter like that afforded the Jews. Meanwhile nothing prevents lay Catholics from entering into discussions with Mormons.For Catholics, as Newhaus’s essay linked above and comments that followed Francis Beckwith‘s rebuttal of Warren Cole Smith’s recent remarks illustrate, Bruce R. McConkie’s 1958 Mormon Doctrine equation of the Book of Mormon “abominable church” is a sore spot. In some quarters there is little interest in engaging Mormonism outside of fending off attacks. So outside of settling a baptismal dubiem within the last decade  and an occasional political alliance, the Mormon Church hasn’t attracted much attention from the Catholic hierarchy. The Salt Lake Catholic Bishop during the first edition Mormon Doctrine flap, Rev. Duane Hunt,  responded with a lengthy defense against Mormon accusations of the apostasy.


Of course, Donald Westbrook has the benefit of knowing David O. McKay’s unfavorable reaction to the 1958 edition from Greg Prince’s biography. He has a nuanced understanding that Joseph Smith’s First Vision accounts advising him to avoid abominations were directed more at creeds and corrupt ministers than at a particular church. So I get the impression that while these things might still sting, he welcomes discussions between Mormons and Catholics becoming more substantial in the future. He sees Joseph Smith’s religious tolerance proclamation in Nauvoo that included Catholics as a more positive starting point.


Before I became an M* blogger, I started a blog aimed at discussion with Catholics. It was a spin off from my participation on the Catholic Answers message board. What began as an attempt to bail out an overwhelmed BYU student, ended in me staying months defending Mormonism there. The Catholics were very attentive to what I wrote, which is quite unlike what I experience in Mormon dominated forums. I could sense I was making an impact, softening up some of the bitterness felt by some of the ex-Mormons turned Catholic towards their former faith and answering questions from other Catholics who were trying to understand their spouse’s or girlfriend’s faith. I learned much from the contributions of a pair of better informed writers (David Waltz and Tom Rosson) from both sides there, who now both have articles in the FARMS Review.


The Mormon and Catholic blog I started was an attempt to get away from the message board dynamic that thrives on controversy. While I enjoy tackling controversial subjects, I like the format of blogs that helps a poster set the tone for the ensuing conversation. However, it was hard for my obscure and narrowly focused blog to attract much attention. A good post there would get like 15 views and several comments. In contrast, my first guest post here at Millennial Star had hundreds of views and even drew in Will Bagley to make a rare bloggernacle appearance. Needless to say, I am not a prolific blogger, as my relatively infrequent posts here might suggest. I get (what I think) are great ideas for a post all the time, but it often takes me at least an hour to write a paragraph.


When I hear presentations like Donald Westbrook’s it stirs up feelings of inadequacy. I tend to start a lot of projects I can’t sustain for long. Even M* almost floundered on my watch;  if it wasn’t for energetic new bloggers resuscitating it would have gone under. Perhaps it is too much to hope for that others interested in Mormon and Catholic dialogue would take over the main posting responsibilities there.

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National Catholic Reporter on Apostolic Succession

Posted by keller on February 7th, 2009

I have been researching priesthood organization in the early Christian Church as of late.  On the FAIR blog I have written a post to counter an evangelical critique of Mormon (and indirectly Catholic) insistence on ordaining to priesthood offices. I have also attempted to address fundamentalist concerns that some priesthood offices have changed and developed over time. Catholics often have to face similar criticisms from Protestants, so sometimes I find commonalities in the way both of our faiths apologeticly respond to such attacks, even though there are significant differences that put us at odds with one another.  So if you check out either link be warned you will see a little of both along with a lot of Mormon esoterica.

I encountered an article in the National Catholic Reporter of 9-19-’08
by Fr. Richard McBrien, a Notre Dame professor, which totally changed my understanding of  how informed Catholics look at the history behind apostolic succession claims. I have since gotten the book McBrien refers to by Francis Sullivan and have even cited it in the FAIR blog. I think From Apostles to Bishops is a must read for those who like to participate in Catholic and Mormon discussions and I will probably review in an upcoming blog when I have time to digest all the wealth of information. As a teaser, I will post this lengthy excerpt from the NCR article: Read the rest of this entry »

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While I was gone

Posted by davekeller on April 22nd, 2007

I realize that I haven’t posted any new content for several months. Even though I have been busy, I haven’t forgotten my desire to learn more about the Catholic faith and share my own convictions without being overbearing.

The Friday before last, I responded to posters I saw around campus to see a film about Pope John Paul II with the Newman club. The film was good and starred the main character from A Princess Bride as the pope in his younger days. I was saddened by the decision he had to make between the priesthood and a potential marriage, when in comparison, worthy Mormon males are encouraged to magnify both privileges. But as I attempt to understand Karol Wojtyla in the context of his own faith, I can see the good fruit that the decision produced and I am glad he put his talents to optimal use. The film portrayed the pope as having a very keen sense of humor and willing to stand up to his principles, which were sometimes at odds with Communist-controlled Poland. My short response here can’t do justice to such a great man. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ted Jones on Pelagianism

Posted by heather on April 22nd, 2007

[ed. notes: A friend of mine, Ted Jones, has prodigiously compiled some notes in regards to Pelagianism heresy. I have heard that Mormons are semi-pelagianists, but I haven’t carefully compared the two beliefs. A review of history might be relevant in some way to the recent coverage given to Catholic clarification about the fate of unbaptized infants.]

8-10 years or so back I did some reading on Pelagianism and took notes on cards. I finally decided to transcribe those notes to the computer. As the notes were taken long ago; I have trouble reading my own handwriting at times (grin); the note and the source references are sometimes too cryptic for me to even decipher anymore. But anyway, here it is. It is 15 pages long, but mostly in short sentences, so the contact is actually rather small (130K). It will be noticed that the controversy waged long after Augustine died (430), and continued to do so for centuries.

Pelagianism: a Chronology Read the rest of this entry »

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M&C Question: Catholic Doctrine on the Conception of Christ

Posted by heather on December 21st, 2006

[ed. note. Rich Horrell of has posted the following after a request was made for an analogous Catholic response to the question posed in an earlier entry. Thanks Rich!]


I. CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. . .484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”,119 the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily”.120 The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?”, was given by the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”121 Read the rest of this entry »

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M&C Question: Official Doctrine about Christ’s Conception

Posted by davekeller on December 11th, 2006

Steve asks:

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception I thought it might be a good time to ask if the Mormon Church has any official doctrine on the events surrounding Mary’s conception of Christ? That, and I just wanted to see if people still visit this site.

I am glad to see at least some people still visit this site, although I think it only gets about half the traffic that it got when it first started up. I am excited to field a new question in addition to some other posts I have planned. Read the rest of this entry »

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A&BiEC: The Editors’ Preface and overview

Posted by davekeller on November 20th, 2006

As promised, I’m going to piecewise review Hugh Nibley’s book. The Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity and where appropriate make connections with Mormon priesthood development. This will act as a fairness control and will probably have the effect of softening some of Nibley’s criticisms. I’ll start with the Editors’ preface, and if any book needed such this one does, because it remains an unpolished literary work. Something that is bound to be frustrating is that the editors were unable to track down some of Nibley’s sources, especially some that buttress his arguments at crucial junctures. This is on top of of some of Nibley’s typical freelancing with footnotes, something he has come under fire for even among Mormon scholars. In fairness to Hugh, he never intended this manuscript to be for publication, rather it contains lecture notes for a 1954 class originally containing 155 pages, but expanded to 239 in the FARMS compilation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity

Posted by davekeller on November 5th, 2006

I have putting off a review of the 15th volume in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley since reading it before starting the Mormons and Catholics blog for a number of reasons. The first is that I wanted to set the tone for this site by not diving directly into a books or criticisms that would put Catholics on the defensive. After reading some discussions on ZLMB, Catholic Answers, and FAIR I have come to realize there are good Catholic responses to challenges made in regards to apostolic succession. When I read some Catholic debates with Protestants over issues of authority, I generally find more affinity with the Catholic arguments. I would hope that Catholics could come to likewise appreciate the Mormon arguments presented in Mormon/Protestant debates. Protestant ones rely on, as I see it, promoting a “priesthood of all believers” at the expense of having a lineage traceable to the apostles and essentially refusing to recognize Mormon or Catholic priesthoods as legitimate primarily based on criticisms derived from scriptural interpretations. So perhaps in exploring ideas that Nibley introduces might reveal more common ground between Mormons and Catholics and hence not be so divisive.

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Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life

Posted by davekeller on November 5th, 2006

To day I would like to report on this biography of a man who has my vote to qualify as a “Doctor of the Church” if a Mormon equivalent of the Catholic designation were to exist. A Consecrated Life was written by son-in-law Boyd Peterson (see a FARMS review of ACL here) and is a delightful saga covering 95 years of Mormon history through the eyes of an absent-minded professor. In my opinion, Peterson has written the best biography of a 20th century Mormon figure, although Sherie Dew’s and Gregory Prince’s coverage of Presidents Hinckley and McKay, respectively, deserve honorable mention. Dr. Hugh Nibley was the foremost Mormon intellectual, yet paradoxically always stressed the superiority of revelation over reasoning. I was saddened by his departure from this life last year as was Dr. Louis Midgley in his glowing tribute A Mighty Kauri Has Fallen.

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Waltz: Mormons are heretical Christians

Posted by davekeller on November 5th, 2006

A few weeks ago there were a couple of discussions [1,2] on FAIR’s message  boards. I wish to capture a few quotations by Catholic David Waltz that present his opinion that  Mormons can be considered Christians, albeit heretical, from a Catholic perspective. As a hat tip to previous discussion, Brad Haas has argued from another Catholic perspective (perhaps the majority opinion), that Mormonism fails to meet traditional expectations of Christianity while witholding judgment on individual Mormons and other self-professed Christians. M&C has looked into the relevancy of the recent decision to not accept Mormon baptisms in a couple of entries [3,4].

Read the rest of this entry »

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