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“Therefore with angels and archangels …”

2012 September 28
by Gordon Reid

In every Mass, at the preface, we join our prayers with those of non-human beings to glorify the Holy Holy Holy God, whose glory fills heaven and earth.

Isn’t that odd? But we are so used to it, we don’t notice the oddness.

Angels, these Extraterrestrials, are firmly embedded in the Gospel story as messengers from God. They are there at the beginning; one of them, Gabriel, talks alone with Mary, and a host of them shock and awe the shepherds in the Bethlehem meadows. And they are there at the end, announcing the Resurrection of Jesus.

It’s hard to be a Christian without believing in angels, unless you are the kind of Christian who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural at all. And since that includes the Incarnation and the Resurrection, you would be a pale imitation of a Christian

But, wait a minute. By this time next year, there should be a vast Temple behind the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia, and on the top of its spire will be a golden statue of the Angel Moroni. If we Christians believe in the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc, why should we not believe in the Angel Moroni?

The answer to that has filled many books, and it would be salutary for Christians to read some of them, such as “Under the Banner of Heaven” which I have just read. The difference between the angels of the Christian tradition and the angel of the Mormon religion (and, believe me it is a completely non-Christian religion) is that the former angels brought messages of goodness, joy, the love of Jesus. Moroni brought the Book of Mormon, which preached hatred and deceit.

Of course there have been Christians who did terrible things in the name of their religion, such as the crusaders, the Inquisition, the Protestant and Catholic torturers  and executioners of the Reformation period. But our Church is now ashamed of them. The difference with the Mormons is that they revere Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to this day, and try to explain or minimize their wicked deeds, done in the name of the religion revealed to them by the Angel Moroni.

I hope the new Angel high over our parish next year will drive all Christians back to the angels who proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest and peace upon earth”and ushering the shepherds (and us) to the ¬†harmless Babe of Bethlehem and then the harmless Man on the Cross. No angel can be of God unless he proclaims the same peaceful, loving message. Moroni did not!

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Shelly permalink
    September 28, 2012

    Amen!

  2. Russell Fuhrman permalink
    September 28, 2012

    I’m sure, Father Reid, you will shortly be receiving a thank you note from the Obama campaign people for this in kind contribution.

  3. Jeff Ezell permalink
    September 28, 2012

    I think Mormonism is best described as a derivative religion, in its case one derived from, but distinctly different to, orthodox historic Christianity. I’m doubtful, however, of the wisdom of attributing their peculiar scripture to an “angel” Moroni, unless you are simply going to conflate that putative being with the man Joseph Smith who invented the Mormon cult.

    I’m mortified that Philadelphia is to be the new home of yet another grandiose Mormon architectural monstrosity; yet, we’d do better to seriously study the attractions of this cult than to merely content ourselves with calling it evil.

    I suspect there are two essentially very different kinds of Mormons: the hereditary, cradle variety; and the converts. In the case of the former, for many of them, their Mormon lineage dates back to the earliest years of the cult and its forced move westward, ultimately to the Salt Lake basin. This type are, I’m afraid, largely beyond the positive influence of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They experience themselves as a type of American pioneer aristocracy, with blood lines to the founders of their “church”. They are strongly tied into their founding mythologies and peculiar 19th Century American cultural zeitgeist. A lot of that can be viewed from an anthropological perspective as rather neutral and indeed as including some values that have proved highly adaptive for their core adherents. Mitt Romney is an exemplar of that tradition, encapsulating perhaps the good, bad and ugly of that particular cultural universe.

    On the other hand, we also have the converts to Mormonism, and these in my view are folk the historic Church Catholic is far more likely to reach (and whom it has arguably failed). Some studies have found that a sizable percentage of converts to the LDS “church” do not remain active in it, drift away or actively abandon their identification with the cult. I have had relatively limited professional experience with such converts as clients referred from social service agencies. Although the nature of the sample has been far from random and arguably a biased one, my experience of these folks has been that they tended to be emotionally and interpersonally over-dependent, excessively enmeshed in their relationships, and in the midst of – or getting over – a life crisis or upheaval that seriously disrupted their previous adaptation. The LDS cult provided them practical and emotional support, gratification of their dependency strivings, and a new focus of personal identity (something that tended to be quite weakly developed in these folks anyway, certainly in respect to a sense of personal autonomy and instrumentality).

    Hence, I think we must have a serious look at whether we as the Church are failing these folks who end up in the Mormon net. Having said this, however, we must probably also resign ourselves to the reality that some individuals experience such an overwhelming need to have their lives controlled by others that they will inevitably fall into the nets of the Mormons and other structurally similar cults..

    • Stephen permalink
      September 29, 2012

      Dr Ezell, I know it is typical for the Mormons to hold an “open house” for a new Temple before the dedication. Of course, non-Mormons are encouraged to tour the temple at that time. I realize they probably do that both as good public relations and as a tool of evangelization, but as a Traditionalist Catholic, I’d like to go. Now that we are going to have a Mormon temple in our region, I don’t think it would hurt us to know as muchas possible about what they believe. I do know that once a Temple is dedicated, non-Mormons are forbidden from entering! In fact , only a minority of Mormons with “temple reccomend” cards may enter. I’m curious if you think it is a good idea for Catholics to visit during the “open house ” period.

      • Jeff Ezell permalink
        September 29, 2012

        I don’t see why not. It should certainly be informative at some level, though I’m not sure how much it would really communicate with regard to doctrine or perhaps even to worship praxis, but surely the purposes of the various chambers in the temple would give some insights in those respects. Actually, I think your interest/curiosity is admirable. I’m afraid personally – and I speak only for myself – I find something distasteful and smarmy about the Mormon show-and-tell, and so would be disinclined to attend such an event; maybe together with my clergy in their clericals.

  4. Jeff Ezell permalink
    September 28, 2012

    Apologies for double-posting, especially after my foregoing rather lengthy post. However, in the interest of balance, I wanted to cite two or three other prominent figures on the current American political scene who are converts to Mormonism, and to have a look at what they may tell us about motivation and in one case the failure of the historic Church to adequately reach them.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a convert to Mormonism. Sen. Reid is, to my mind, a very admirable figure who had a very disadvantaged and hardscrabble early life. He literally did indeed pull himself up by the bootstraps, having none of the myriad advantages in life of a Mitt Romney. If I am not mistaken he converted to the Mormon religion in conjunction with pending marriage to a young woman who was Mormon. He was also from a part of the country in which the LDS religion is prominent; perhaps a way of getting ahead in the world, a little like joining the Masons would be in other places and times. The Mormons may at the same time have represented for Harry Reid an aspect of stability and “clean living” that stood in contrast to his difficult and struggle-filled upbringing and young adulthood. We need to take these factors into account in understanding the attraction of this cult.

    Ann Romney is another instructive example. I had assumed she was a cradle Mormon, but to my surprise I have recently read that she was brought up in a family who were “loosely affiliated” Episcopalians. Marriage to the promising son and heir apparent of a father who was a member of the capitalist and political elite of mid-20th Century America was an obvious motive, and Mrs. Romney’s life would suggest that she was and is wedded to a pre-feminist mind-set and cultural role that resembles the bourgeois stereotype of women in 1950s-60s America. Certainly, in any event, she would seem to represent a dismal failure of orthodox Christian catechesis to the extent that she and her parents had any connexion to the Episcopal Church.

    A third figure about whom I am less informed is that loudmouth oral baby, Glenn Beck — another Mormon convert. Here, too, a shambles of personal life, motives of achieving stability, a possible neediness for external structure, and marriage would seem to have been contributory factors.

    • Russell Fuhrman permalink
      September 28, 2012

      Ann Romney is from a wealthy family herself. Her mother also left the Episcopal Church for the LDS Church. Here where I live we are seeing steady migration to Mormonism from the Roman Catholic Church with that former church now having over six hundred members here from nothing not that long ago. Personally I have two friends who have lost their sons and their families to the LDS Church, after educating them through the Roman Catholic parochial school system!

  5. Jeff Ezell permalink
    September 28, 2012

    When catechised Christians leave the Church for a cult like the Mormons, I think we have to seriously ask ourselves “why”. One wouldn’t think they could all be in personal crisis or simply be opportunists. We also have to look at the elements in American society that keep the Mormon religion going, and indeed cause it to thrive, whilst some other 19th Century American religious cults have withered, notably Christian Science.

    One aspect of the Mormon phenomenon would seem to me to be the low educational standards in this country in respect to the history of Western civilisaiton, which necessarily includes an appreciation of the prominent role of the historic Church, both in its pre- and post-Reformation iterations, across the entire patrimony of Western civilisation. I find it hard to believe that someone adequately educated in Western culture could easily be attracted to the pure silliness, ahistoricity and rootlessness of the Mormon mythology. Conversely, a shallow education that emphasises jingoistic notions of American Exceptionalism and a sentimental patriotism may represent fertile ground for the production of coverts to the cults of Mormonism, Moonism, Neo-paganism, and a shallow atheistic scientism — not to mention the currently popular cult of “Objectivism”.

  6. Gary (NJ) permalink
    October 2, 2012

    I have no psychological training, but I’ve seen programs on television about cults, and the experts said that those who are attracted to cults often come from what they call ‘cultic’ type family structures. This combined with certain personality types may explain the allure. I don’t think the churches they grew up in (if any) necessarily did a poor job of teaching/forming them. I left the Roman Catholic Church in the early 70s and didn’t come back until I joined TEC (St. Mark’s, your sister Church) in 2009. In our reception/confirmation class most of us were ex-RC, with a few baptists and to my surprise there were 3 ex-Mormons there. They all seemed nice enough, but I did notice that I never see any of them in church anymore (but that also goes for some of the others who were received when I was).
    The other point I would like to make is that we have to be careful about automatically labeling the ‘Other’ as a cult. Of course some of them truly are, but as we all here probably know, many fundamentalist Christians have labeled Catholicism as a cult and ‘Mary worshipers’.
    Back in the 80s, my cousin was married for about a year or so to an obnoxious reprobate who was a follower of Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell. One day, due to his influence no doubt, she referred to the Catholic Church as a cult. Although I had no use for the RCC at that time, I could feel myself getting angry and tried to politely explain to her why that was just nonsense propaganda put out by these hate mongering televangelists who had/have a *cult* following if there ever was one.
    Regards
    Gary Calderone

  7. Bromartin permalink
    October 3, 2012

    Jeff,
    First I must thank Father Reid for bringing up the mysterious subject of our blessing and debt with God’s messengers, the angels.

    In your first lengthy remarks, which seemed generally objective, you found those recent converts to the LDS to be overly dependent (isolated?), somehow unable to reconcile life-changing events, and striving to “belong” somewhere.

    Somewhere “new” is the answer, and the approach of the LDS is attractive to souls who are unable, for whatever reason, to call on the “faith of our fathers” for answers. Unlike Christianity, Mormanism restricts entry in the “temple” to those who “get it.” We may take a look, offered written messages and welcoming advice, and be looked after constantly as we seek understanding of the history and message. The ultimate is to be welcomed into the “temple.” This is real institutionalized final “belonging,” which differs from the approach of (modern) evangelicals and fundamentalists, whereby the “lost soul” may drop in anytime, almost anonomously or otherwise, searching for a person or group who tells him what he wants to hear.

    With the surfacing of several politicians of note, who happen to be Mormans, the LDS is bound to get a “bounce.” I have a Book of Morman in the house, and, as a result of this conversation, I should make an effort to learn more about these people.

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