On Orthodox & Mormons

Questions Answered About Latter-day Saints—A Fruitful Exchange With Idealist At Large (Part IV)

This is the fourth and final part of an ecumenical exchange with Idealist At Large.

To see part one, click here.

To see part two, click here.

To see part three, click here.

To see Idealist’s own website, click here. Once again, by posting this, I am not saying I agree with everything here but simply find this a good way to understand our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters lest we start repeating myths or lies about their beliefs which, unfortunately, is far too common, just as we as Catholics would prefer if others did not believe we thought we could merit salvation by our own power. For this reason, I will not try to argue against all these points here, but I imagine apologetical arguments can be found elsewhere. Without further ado, I would like to thank Idealist At Large again (and apologize for asking so many questions—I did not think this through) and let us begin.


Could you shed some light on what your church’s historic stance was on African-Americans?

This page is from Jeff Lindsay’s blog. As he states, his positions on the topics he writes about aren’t officially endorsed by the Church; they are a Church member’s attempt to answer questions he has often heard. He’s quite good with his answers to many questions, is both intelligent and faithful, and has a lot of experience, so I find him a reliable source. His explanations here are clear and detailed, including important context, and give a good answer to your question.

What is your stance on Hell?

Hell can mean a few things: the experience of unrepented sin while on earth, the spirit prison in the spirit world, and what is called ‘outer darkness’. I’ll explain what is meant by the last two. 

Spirit Prison

This is a part of the spirit world and refers to the condition of those who were wicked or disobedient in mortality. These spirits include those who rejected Noah’s preaching before the Flood. The spirit world is a temporary place where all spirits of those who’ve lived on Earth go until the Resurrection and Final Judgement. For the ‘righteous’, it’s a place of rest and beauty – although ‘rest’ is more in the spiritual sense. It seems that these righteous spirits are very busy, especially with the work described below.

Spirit prison is also where people who haven’t yet had the opportunity to accept the Gospel go. Spirits dwelling there are unable to make further progress, and experience less of a situation of spiritual rest than those who have accepted the Gospel, because there’s unresolved business and they still need to accept Christ and go through the processes of repentance and so on. Those who do this then experience a state of rest, like those who accepted the Gospel in mortality and were righteous. 

The Gospel is preached to those in the spirit prison, so that everyone has the same opportunity – every person who lives on this earth, whether on earth or in the spirit world – to hear of it and accept it. Those who accept then receive the same blessings we do when we make sacred covenants with God and receive the saving ordinances. However, those ordinances can only be performed on earth, not as spirits, so those who do accept the Gospel in the spirit world rely on us here to perform those ordinances for them, vicariously. This is a large part of what occurs in temples. 

This preaching and offering of the light of the Gospel is referred to in Isaiah 24:22, 49:9 and 61:1, Luke 4:18, John 5:25, and 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6. (Of course, some of these verses, like the Isaiah prophecies, also refer to the spiritual prison of sin and ignorance, and the light that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to those who recognise Him). 

Everyone except Satan and those who followed him in the peremortal existence, plus anyone who commits the ‘unpardonable sin’ of denying the Holy Ghost, will experience a place of eternal rest and beauty after the Final Judgement. There will be many differences in experience, glory and beauty – including how much progress a soul can make, eternally – but all who have decent desires will be blessed, even if they don’t accept the Gospel. There’s just a limit to how much wholeness and goodness they can then experience, due to their choices.

Outer Darkness

This is the state or dwelling of those who have known the reality of God and the truthfulness of the Gospel, and then completely reject it – crucifying Christ anew, in a sense, because they have experienced His saving power, and then denied Him and chosen Satan and darkness instead. 

Two groups experience this hell:

  1. Those who will later inherit a telestial glory (the lowest level of eternal glory) – murderers and basically the worst of humanity. They are consigned to this hell for some period of time, to suffer for their sins, since they don’t fully accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But they don’t commit ‘the unpardonable sin’ of denying the Holy Ghost (what I described above), so they will eventually be saved or removed from this condition and given an inheritance in a place of telestial glory. (This is how I understand it, but the Gospel Topics entry and Bible Dictionary indicate something different – that this group only experience the ‘hell’ of spirit prison, but right up until the end of the Millenium and the final resurrection – the righteous taking part in the first resurrection, before the Milleniun. So I’m not sure exactly which it is. Perhaps I’ve been wrong in what I’ve thought this ‘hell’ meant in D&C 76.)
  1. The Sons of Perdition, who commit ‘the unpardonable sin’ – denying the Holy Ghost and completely rejecting Christ and truth and everything they have known. This is going to probably be a very small group, comparatively, since it seems like it’s quite hard to do this. (They will be joined, though, by the second segment described below, who would be a much larger group). They are called ‘sons of perdition’ because (a) ‘Perdition’ is a name for Satan, and (b) they are lost – the meaning of ‘perdition’ (specifically, it’s a noun, so it means the state of being lost. In French, ‘perdre’ means ‘to lose’). Lost from the light of Christ, from salvation, and from God and us all. Lost eternally. 

The ‘sons of perdition’ are also those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal ‘War in Heaven’, where he drew away a third of the ‘hosts of heaven’. These spirits never came to earth to receive bodies; they rejected God’s plan of salvation from the beginning, and never have a chance to participate in it. This is really sad. 

This is the origin of the ‘evil spirits’ existing in this world. They work with Satan to stop as many other children of God as possible from experiencing salvation and exaltation. Their final ‘resting’ place will be Outer Darkness. 

See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, for more. 

The Gospel Topics entry on the Church website is also, as usual, a good overview, and adds other helpful sources:

On Orthodox & Mormons

Questions Answered About Latter-day Saints—A Fruitful Exchange With Idealist At Large (Part III)

This is the third part of an ecumenical exchange with Idealist At Large.

To see part one, click here.

To see part two, click here.

To see Idealist’s own website, click here. Once again, by posting this, I am not saying I agree with everything but simply find this a good way to understand our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters lest we start repeating myths or lies about their beliefs which, unfortunately, is far too common, just as we as Catholics would prefer if others did not believe we thought we could merit salvation by our own power. For this reason, I will not try to argue against all these points here, but I imagine apologetical arguments can be found elsewhere. Without further ado, I would like to thank Idealist At Large and let us begin.


So, Joseph Smith was revealed [had revealed to him] several holy books as a prophet. May I ask what sign he gave (or what you think the strongest one is), leading to the conclusion that he was a true prophet? In other words, how do you know the Book of Mormon is inspired when, say, the Quran or the Book of Urantia is not?

There’s quite an easy way – easy in a sense; it requires personal effort and a sometimes difficult-to-reach humility and openness/genuineness – to know that the Book of Mormon is true; an actual record of ancient peoples, inspired by God and restored by Him in these days. It is to read it, genuinely, and pray to know that. Anyone who does this, sincerely, will receive their answer. 

Again, the basic and most foundational way to know this, as with anything about the Gospel and the Church, is to pray and to study and learn it through the inspiration and confirmation of the Holy Spirit. This is how we, as church members, know anything. Each person will come to know it through a variety of ways, and some elements will be more convincing to one person than another. 

One thing which helps point to the fact that Joseph Smith really did translate the The Book of Mormon from this ancient record, through heavenly power, is the speed at which he did it, added to the circumstances in which it was done, both immediate and in the lives of Joseph and his family. 

Things which you might call signs that he was a prophet of God:

The translation of the Book of Mormon, as mentioned. When read with sincerity and intent to act upon the truths revealed there, it’s clearly inspired, and not the work of Joseph Smith (this is also attested to/supported by a variety of research, with more coming to light all the time).

This is probably the single greatest ‘sign’ of his prophetic calling. Here are some reasons why:

(This is a link to an address given at a previous General Conference of the Church – it can be read or watched. The speaker explains some of the miraculous factors surrounding the translation).

Another excellent talk, about the evidence of Joseph’s own life and choices, and what he and his brother did – sacrificing their lives, in the end – for the cause of the Restoration – is this one:

(I recommend watching this, because talks from this speaker – Elder Holland, of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles – are a joy to watch: profound, heartfelt, and very engaging. He’s one of my favourite speakers, and is a favourite of many Church members. But reading it works, too). 

Other revealed and translated scripture. Joseph Smith brought forth more scripture, both direct and through translation or inspiration, than any other prophet. Reading it gives a clear sense of his calling. For example, I love reading the book of Moses, which is a kind of re-translation or additional scripture for the first few chapters of Genesis. Ongoing research reveals that it’s very consistent with other ancient records about these things. 

The clarity and extent of the doctrine that Joseph Smith conveyed. This includes the complete idea of the Plan of Salvation and the kingdoms of glory, who God is, baptism, priesthood organisation and authority, the principle of ongoing revelation, understanding dispensations of the Gospel in the world, the restoration of saving ordinances administered through covenants, including eternal marriage, and what the sealing power is for.

Reading the sorts of things he said gives a clear sense that Joseph Smith knew things, and had seen things, that were far beyond what he could easily convey, and was always trying to lead the members of the Church, and people in general, to something so different, something better and broader and more elevated than they yet understood. A large part of my own belief in the Gospel as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the combined elevation and practicality of its principles. The wonder and beauty it shows and gives glimpses of, the usefulness and correctness of what it teaches, as applied to real life, and the sense that I have of truth and deep connectedness with what I know, in my spirit, is real. This, to me, is the greatest evidence that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and that the prophets who have come since in this Gospel dispensation are also true prophets. If what was revealed through him is this, then he cannot have been other than a true prophet, and the principles revealed through him other than from God. 

As to the inspired nature of The Book of Mormon (the last part of your question), when I read it, it reveals things which make sense and are enlightening and uplifting, and which, when I apply the principles in its pages, work. I discover this as I go through life even more, and see the application of those principles. And, of course, the Holy Spirit tells me it is correct.

John Taylor, the third President of the Church, said this about Joseph Smith:

Who was Joseph Smith? The Book of Mormon tells us he was of the seed of Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and hence he was selected as Abraham was to fulfill a work upon the earth. God chose this young man. He was ignorant of letters as the world has it, but the most profoundly learned and intelligent man that I ever met in my life, and I have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, been on different continents and mingled among all classes and creeds of people, yet I never met a man so intelligent as he was. And where did he get his intelligence from? Not from books, not from the logic or science or philosophy of the day, but he obtained it through the revelation of God made known to him through the medium of the everlasting gospel.

Here’s something you/readers might find interesting, which someone produced about Biblical signs of a prophet, and how they relate to Joseph Smith:

Biblical Keys for Discerning True and False Prophets/Tests – FAIR

Biblical Keys for Discerning True and False Prophets/Considering Joseph Smith/Preliminary test – FAIR

A useful place for learning about evidences for The Book of Mormon as an ancient text is this:

On Orthodox & Mormons

Questions Answered About Latter-day Saints—A Fruitful Exchange With Idealist At Large (Part II)

This is the second part of an ecumenical exchange with Idealist At Large. To see the first one, click here. To see her own website, click here. Once again, by posting this, I am not saying I agree with everything but simply find this a good way to understand our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters lest we start repeating myths or lies about their beliefs which, unfortunately, is far too common, just as we as Catholics would prefer if others did not believe we thought we could merit salvation by our own power. For this reason, I will not try to argue against all these points here, but I imagine apologetical arguments can be found elsewhere. Without further ado, I would like to thank Idealist At Large and let us begin.


Is Eternal Marriage necessary for salvation? If so, what becomes of those who are unable, for whatever reason, to find a spouse?

Foundational answer to first part:

First, salvation means a few things. One, freedom from death, through the resurrection, due to the resurrection and power of Christ over life/death. Two, the gradual process of freedom from sin, through the saving power, or grace, of Jesus Christ, as a person’s heart is changed.

We can also talk about salvation as a combination of justification (cleansing from sin) and sanctification (becoming holy – a person who will sin no more). Then, there is exaltation, or eternal life – the kind of life God lives – the fulness of a person’s potential. 

So I would say, no, eternal marriage is not necessary for salvation in the sense of being saved from death and cleansed from sin. It is necessary for eternal life, in the sense of enjoying the kind of existence that God does. 

Thus, eternal marriage is necessary for exaltation – the kind of life God lives, which is the fulfillment of a soul’s complete potential. 

Specific answer to first part:

There are three degrees of glory – the celestial (like the Sun, and enjoying the Father’s presence and glory), the terrestrial (like the comparative glory/light of the Moon, and enjoying a lesser degree of glory), and the telestial (like the comparative light of the stars – from Earth – and corresponding difference in glory). In the highest, or celestial, there are apparently further degrees of glory – in fact, as it makes sense to me, there are infinite separations of glory, depending on the individual soul, within each sphere defined above. So in the celestial kingdom, or glory, there are also divisions, and the highest division is that of godhood, and one of the pre-requisites for this degree is marriage. 

Answer to second part:

This question needs to be qualified with “in this life”. Those who are unable to marry in this life have the opportunity to do so in the next (probably during the Millenium). We discussed the idea of there ‘not being marriage’ in the resurrection, etc., in one of your previous bog entries, so that  shouldn’t present a problem here. 

Anyone who truly desires a thing, including having done all they can towards that end, and who has not been able to enjoy that blessing for all the various reasons that mortality brings – such as cultural and family circumstances, physical or mental abilities, war, illness, and the agency of others – will have all the opportunity necessary to enjoy that blessing after this life. 

The only blessings we will not enjoy then are those which we have deliberately rejected here, and reject again if given another opportunity there, either through deliberate and un-repented sin, a lack of true desire, and so on. 

It’s important to remember that this life is mainly for these things: gaining a physical body and experiencing those things we only can in such a state, and living by faith and learning to choose right, or good from evil, as it is presented to us throughout our lives – to gain wisdom. Its purpose isn’t to have all the blessings we want, or to experience everything. This is the second act of a three-act play. The third act is where all is resolved and the ‘happy ending’ comes. The middle is where all the difficulty is experienced. A whole lot of blessings aren’t experienced here, for a whole lot of people – because the point is to exercise our agency and become true free agents – like God – and make our choices with wisdom and love. Many people don’t have the opportunity to enjoy many kinds of blessings due to their circumstances in this world, and God would be an un-merciful and partial God if that was an indication of all they would ever have. Who would want eternal life if it was just a repetition of this one? We have here all the circumstances we need to choose God and learn to live by faith, submitting our wills to His… and nothing more. That’s our test here. Our existence before and after gives opportunities for all the other things we need for eternal development. 

So things that aren’t gained here, such as marriage, aren’t an indication that this is our final situation. It’s just how things are for us here. 

I also like to think, in this context, about the millions of people – mainly men, of course – who have died young in war. What about them? It’s a similar principle to that of hearing the Gospel. Many, many people living in this world have not and will not hear the Gospel. Consider most of the people in China, for example. This is why the Gospel is preached to those in the spirit world (where the spirits of those who’ve lived on earth dwell until the Resurrection) who didn’t hear it while in mortality, or even who rejected it here. They have the opportunity to properly learn it there, and to accept or reject it. It makes sense that it will be similar for those not able to marry here. We will have opportunities there. 

If marriage is eternal, how can widows get married and with whom do they end up in the afterlife? (I have done some research on this one, but I just want to make sure I did not confuse anything).

I have no idea who re-married widows (I think this is what you mean) end up with later. That’s up to them and God. Since nothing’s been revealed about it, anything further is really speculation. You might come upon a grain of truth, but you as likely won’t, and it’s hard to know what that grain is from the context. 

I don’t know what’s specifically going to happen after this life, in that respect. I believe that all things will be completely fair, because God is completely just and merciful. We don’t have to understand now how that will happen. God will decide for each person what is just and merciful in their situation. I think that’s between them and Him. 

I would ask a corresponding question: If marriage isn’t eternal, what do people do in the next life who have deeply loved each other here, as spouses? Will wishing to be with them forever be enough? Or is marriage only a desire of the mortal heart, not a longing that indicates an eternal truth?

On Orthodox & Mormons

Questions Answered About Latter-day Saints—A Fruitful Exchange With Idealist At Large (Part I)

Hello. I admit this article is a bit late in the coming, as I was supposed to post this a while ago. Still, it is better late than never. A blogger who writes under Idealist At Large offered to answer some questions about the beliefs of Latter-day Saints as apparently she found some of my previous apologetical explanations somewhat misleading. I initially assumed this would be a blog piece, so to clear up the confusion, she kindly prepared it to be just that. Idealist is not a Catholic, I should note, but a Latter-day Saint herself—and feel free to check out her website, as a lot of it is actually very much acceptable to non-Latter-day Saints. Nevertheless, as that religion has perhaps even more myths and slanders about what it actually teaches than Catholicism does, I thought this was worthwhile.

I should clarify, if any of these questions sound naive, there were some to which I thought I already knew the answer but still thought it worthwhile to ask in case I was wrong since I knew there were many myths going around. This is not an apologetical piece but simply exists that we, Catholics, may better understand the beliefs of Latter-day Saints, just as we would rather they not believe that we worship statues or that we can merit salvation by our own power. For that reason, even though I do not agree with everything here, I will not respond now and I ask any commenters to at very least be respectful.

This exchange will be divided into parts since it is rather long. I fear I did not think it through and asked too many questions, for which I am sorry, although, in my defense, I did tell her she could skip some of them, but she kindly did not and answered every one. These parts will be released every few weeks. I would like to thank Idealist At Large for this fruitful ecumenical exchange

Now, without further ado, I would like to thank Idealist At Large for this fruitful ecumenical exchange and hand it off to her to begin.


 ‘On a hike in the mountains, a child is told to stay away from the edge of a cliff. She asks, “Why?” Consider the possible range of progressively complex answers to explain the effects of gravity. “Because you might get an owie.” “Because you might fall down and hurt yourself.” “Because all objects attract one another in proportion to their mass, and the earth is bigger than you are.” “Because you exist in warped space-time.” While all these answers are equally correct, our response to the child will vary according to her level of knowledge and sophistication. When considering concepts such as our pre-mortal existence, the Celestial Kingdom or priesthood power, such considerations should help us realize that in terms of a complete understanding of these spiritual matters, most of us are probably at the “you will get an owie” stage.’

“We Live in the Olden Days: Reflections on the Importance of Scientific and Theological Humility”, Steven L. Clark, in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship (54 (2022): 177-188)

Is it true that you believe that there is an infinite regression of gods into the past? If so, what put this infinite progression in motion?

  1. God is eternal, as are we, or the spirit element we were created from. But it also makes sense that if He created us, and brings all who will to godhood, then this has happened forever – which raises obvious questions. I’ve included a quote and some thoughts under (C). As I share elsewhere here, ‘time’ is a concept we only really understand finitely, here on earth. We’re bound by the time of this world, and our lives, and so on, in how we conceive of it. So to speak about the ‘past’ and infinite regression and so on is to try to talk about things that are infinite with words created to speak about the finite. We’re never going to do it justice. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t try, but just that we should remember the inadequacy of our comprehension and language when thinking of it. How it’s described is not necessarily how it really is. It’s just the closest we can get. (This is my perspective). Of course, this is probably applicable to most religious concepts.
  2. The short answer is ‘nothing’, I suppose. It’s an eternal principle, and all beings are self-existing. God speaks of His works and so on as ‘one eternal round’. When you really think about it, the concept of eternity is mind-boggling and ultimately quite scary. Again, it’s something our finite minds can’t comprehend, and so they construct things to protect themselves from going mad, such as beginnings and endings – but these are, really, mortal concepts. 
  3. Longer answer:

Here is some of what Joseph Smith said on the topic:

“If Abraham reasoned thus – If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that he had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that he had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death of such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it. 

…. Jesus said that the Father wrought precisely in the same way as his Father had done before him. As the Father had done before. He (the Saviour) laid down his life, and took it up the same as his Father had done before. He did as he was sent, to lay down his life and take it up again; and then was committed unto him the keys, etc….”

We believe that we, also, are self-existing, or eternally-existing. God formed our spirits from matter, as He formed the Earth and other planets and heavenly bodies from matter. We don’t accept creation ‘ex nihilo’.  The term Joseph Smith used for the element or matter from which God formed our spirit bodies was ‘intelligences’, which I think was common in his day as a word describing this sort of spirit element. 

The progression of things goes like this: 

God saw potential in us, as spirits or some kind of spirit element. He formed that matter into spirit bodies, and we developed in wisdom and light. This mortal life is another step in our progression, and the life after this, another. God, as I see it, always brings more order to the universe. He helps all things become more ordered – more real and developed and complete. It’s up to each soul whether we accept that forming. If we completely accept it, all the way through, we’ll end up as the ultimate expression of our existence – beings of light, glory and truth, as our God is. This continues, on and on, through eternity.

For more on the topic of the Godhead and the nature of God, these are good (from the Church website): – the entry from the LDS Bible Dictionary about God. – the Gospel Topics entry for ‘God the Father’. If you scroll down after reading, there are more resources listed. (The Topical Guide lists scriptures – it’s an index for topics covered in the scriptures; the Guide to the Scriptures is a bit like the Bible Dictionary, but includes a little more sometimes, or explains things more). There are also talks – addresses – from Church leaders listed here, along with other things. 

* The Gospel Topics section on the Church website is useful for a lot of doctrinal explanation about what we believe and practise. As seen above, they have a good overview of each topic, and links to a variety of further applicable resources. They’re a really good place to start for most questions. 

Who is the Holy Spirit? I mean, I get the impression that he is one of the few beings in your theology that does not seem (if I understand the doctrine correctly) to have a body.

Yes, the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead, and in contrast to the Father and the Son, is a personnage of spirit (only). This is so that He can perform His extremely important role, which is to ‘dwell with’ us (those who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost – which allows for His constant companionship and sanctifying/cleansing power, among other things – through priesthood authority/power) and to influence any person on earth, as far as they will allow Him to. For various reasons, only some of which we have an idea of, that requires Him to be a personnage of spirit. 

This is the Gospel Topics entry (a good overview about His role(s) and what the Gift of the Holy Ghost is):

This related entry is also relevant:

What is Kolob, exactly?

The answer is in Abraham 3. Reading it in context gives the best idea. (

Comments: As explained to Abraham, it’s the star closest to the habitation of God, and governs other important stars (this might mean that they orbit it, or just that it is the slowest and therefore in the highest order, with other stars and their systems descending in order of time).

“… the successive orders above the earth are described with the outermost, highest level where we find Kolob. Kolob, near the throne or residence of God, is at the highest, slowest level, governing the other bodies in lower levels, which rotate more quickly. The fixed reference point in this model is “the earth upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:3, 5–7). Abraham’s cosmology appears to be adapted to a geocentric model that the Egyptians can comprehend, suitable for the science of his era.”


As a Catholic, I have actually always been interested in the Heavenly Mother (Catholics believe in a (albeit rather different) Mother in Heaven, and it is rare that I find anyone else who shares that). I know your doctrine on her is limited, but do you have any idea on who she is? Was she God’s wife on a previous world? How does this relate to the doctrine on deification?

We don’t know, because it hasn’t been revealed. Some people are very interested in it, and discuss it. It’s perhaps most interesting to those who see themselves as feminists. The way I, and probably most Church members, see it is that God has not told us specifically about this, for reasons of respect and reverence, as well as the fact that it’s something that would very likely become a point of contention and another distraction from what matters: coming to Christ. 

I also would say – this is my perspective – that there’s much more to it than a simple ‘who is she?’, etc. I think it will be a beautiful truth that we will find out at some point in eternity, and not something that needs to be known about here. I don’t want to speculate on it, and I believe that God does not want us to, either, because He has not revealed it. I, and I think most, want to follow His example of respect and reverence on this topic. 

Here’s the entry in the Gospel Topics section:

Anything else you might hear on the topic by members of the Church or others is conjecture. There are some articles which have been written, but I believe it’s been kept un-revealed to us here for ‘wisdom in God’ – good and sacred reason. 

On Orthodox & Mormons

In Defense of Filioque

By Filioque, I mean the Catholic doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father alone but from the Son as well. Although this may seem trivial to some of our less theologically bent Protestant relatives (and, I am sure, will be a source of mockery for many less than polite non-Christians), it was actually a large factor in what led the the Church of the East and West. I propose to show that it is, in fact, the case that the Catholic position is correct.

Did the Creed of 381 contradict this?

Now, an Orthodox Christian will be very quick to point out that the Creed produced in the First Council of Constantinople made no mention of this and simply referred to the Holy Spirit as, “the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified”—with no mention of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son as well. It was not until 1014 when in the West “Filioque” or “and the Son” was added to liturgical practice. I agree with this. The Catholic Church accepts the Creed of 381. However, I would argue that Filioque is a development which in no way contradicts the earlier creed. To explain what I mean, I would give the example of the original Apostles’ Creed which says nothing of the Holy Spirit as “the Lord and Giver of life…etc.”, as is true with the Creed produced in the First Council of Nicaea. The further explanation of the Holy Spirit was added to combat the Macedonian heresy which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. So if the Creed of 1014 is a corruption of the Creed of 381, the Creed of 381 is a corruption of previous creeds.

To quote the Council of Florence, “The Holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration.” (Session 6, Paragraph 7) 

A Catholic could say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, just as he could say we are saved “by faith alone” provided it is not put in opposition to hope and charity as the Protestants do. However, it cannot be taken in a rigid sense so as to deny the Son’s role.

When the Greeks spoke of “procession”, they had the word ekporeusis in mind. This term refers to the essential and “first” origin of the Holy Spirit, which is from the Father alone. It is the meaning of all Christians that the Father is the first “source” of the Godhead. Another term, proienai, which is used among the Greek fathers for the Son’s role involving the procession of the Holy Spirit without denying the Father’s role as the first Principle of the Godhead.

Now in the Vulgate procedit was used (John 15:26) to mean both. Thus, the Latins never intended to deny the sole monarchy of the Father, while some in the East seemed not to be able to understand the Western concept of procedit.

Following St. Augustine, the Latin fathers would speak of the Father as Principium Impricipatum (an “unbegun beginning”) and the Son as Principium Principiatum (a “begun beginning”), allowing them to harmonize the truth that both the Father and the Son are the single principle (principio) of the procession of the Person of the Holy Spirit, while never denying that the Father is the First Principle of the Godhead.

In other words, the Greeks are correct that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone because the Father is the true source of the entire life of the Trinity. It is only “after” the initiation of the divine life that alone belongs to the Father that we can speak of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son as well.


Now, an Orthodox Christian would point out the following verses:

 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me” John 15:26

First of all, the fact that the Father sends the Holy Spirit does not rule out the Son also taking part in it. At another point, our Lord says, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) So the fact that the Father “sends” the Holy Spirit does not rule out the Son taking part in it as well. Now I imagine an Orthodox Christian would argue this is different from being spirated by the Son. However, as can be seen above, this can still show “the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father” does not necessarily rule out that the Son also proceeds from the Father.

Revelation 22:1 states, “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” John 4:10-14 makes it clear that the “Water of Life” is the Holy Spirit as follows:

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

And again in John 7:38-39

He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Now this, of course, as one would expect, leads to a number of Orthodox objections. One is that the term “proceeds” as used in Revelation 22:1 is in reference to the Holy Spirit being sent at Pentecost, not referring to the inner-life of the Trinity. I think the problem with this argument is that this goes against the principle which has led the Orthodox to argue from John 15:26, since the same Greek word for “proceeds” is used in both.

A second objection is that the “river of water of life” is not a symbolic reference to the Holy Spirit but something more like “Divine energy”. I think this might open the door to saying the Holy Spirit is not a Person precisely because He proceeds just as the non-personal energy does. This may not be proof, but since neither side believes in Sola Scriptura, I would not say this should necessarily be a problem.

The third objection is that the “river of water of life” originates from two sources, namely two thrones. If this were true, I think it would mean that either each river is contributing 50% of the Holy Spirit, which neither Catholics nor Orthodox believe or that they are flowing from one throne through the other throne, which is the Catholic doctrine. However, the verse only directly references one throne (i.e. one source).

Finally, many Orthodox Christians would argue that no Church Fathers taught us—which brings us into another topic.

The Fathers

Now, if Filioque was condemned in the First Council of Constantinople, we should expect no Church Fathers afterward to teach it. That is not the case, which I will show as follows.

St. Ambrose of Milan, when defending the Holy Spirit’s place in the Godhead stated, “The Holy Spirit also, when He proceeds from the Father and the Son, is not separated from the Father nor separated from the Son. For how could He be separated from the Father Who is the Spirit of His mouth? Which is certainly both a proof of His eternity, and expresses the Unity of this Godhead.” (The Holy Spirit 1:2:120 [381 A.D.]) So he states, in reference to the inner life of the Godhead, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both.

St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “For there, with the Father, unoriginate, ungenerate, always Father, the idea of the Son as coming from Him yet side by side with Him is inseparably joined; and through the Son and yet with Him, before any vague and unsubstantial conception comes in between, the Holy Spirit is found at once in closest union; not subsequent in existence to the Son, as if the Son could be thought of as ever having been without the Spirit; but Himself also owning the same cause of His being, i.e. the God over all, as the Only-begotten Light, and having shone forth in that very Light, being divisible neither by duration nor by an alien nature from the Father or from the Only-begotten.” (Against Eunomius 1:26 [A.D. 382]) In other words, the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son.

The Athanasian Creed, composed around A.D. 400 says also, “The Father was not made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.” Put right beside the Father being begotten by none and the Son being begotten of the Father, in what clearer terms could this be put?

And again, St. Augustine himself, stated “it must be admitted that the Father and the Son are a Beginning of the Holy Spirit, not two Beginnings; but as the Father and Son are one God, and one Creator, and one Lord relatively to the creature, so are they one Beginning relatively to the Holy Spirit. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one Beginning in respect to the creature, as also one Creator and one God.” (The Trinity 5:14:15 [A.D. 408]) This is evidently referring to the Holy Spirit’s beginning and not simply His being sent at Pentecost.

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe states: “Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only God the Son, who is one person of the Trinity, is the Son of the only God the Father; but the Holy Spirit himself also one person of the Trinity, is Spirit not of the Father only, but of Father and of Son together.” (The Rule of Faith 53 [A.D. 524]). Again, I could hardly think of how this could be more specific.

So also St. John Damascene says: “And the Holy Spirit is the power of the Father revealing the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, proceeding from the Father through the Son in a manner known to Himself, but different from that of generation” (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I:12 [A.D. 712]) Evidently, he is referring to God’s internal life.

Now remember that the Orthodox have the larger burden of proof. If in 381, Constantinople condemned Filioque as heretical (at least indirectly) we ought to expect no Fathers whatsoever to testify to it afterward while Catholics only need to argue at least one has. Now I am sure an Orthodox Christian would argue that all of these testimonials mean something else. However, I would ask the reader one simple question: if you did not already think that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, would not your assumption be that they are saying the exact opposite? Certainly, I would hope they are not using intentionally vague language. Or if these words are not heretical, why is the Creed of 1014 heretical at all?

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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Three Common Anti-Mormon Myths

I know it seems odd for a Catholic to be writing this, but I think this is very important for us, as Catholics and especially as apologists, to keep in mind, first of all because I know what it is like to have my beliefs straw-manned as a Catholic and so, according the the Golden Rule, it would be wrong to do the same to others and second, if we really want converts from Mormonism, we should make sure we understand their doctrines correctly. Without further ado, therefore, let us discuss three common anti-Mormon myths. I am only discussing the current official Mormon doctrine. Whether the Presidents and Elders previously taught something different is none of my concern.

Mormons believe God lives on a planet called Kolob

First of all, Kolob is not a planet, but a star mentioned in the Book of Abraham. According to Abraham 3:9, God said to Abraham: “And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.” So it does not say God lives on Kolob or in its system, but simply that he lives near it. This is actually not too incredible since Anthropomorphites—in other words, in their view God the Father has a body and has always had one. I suppose it is not too incredible that such a God’s physical throne could be located somewhere in the universe (although we, as Catholics, can fairly say that heaven is not in the universe, of course). God apparently reckons His time by that star. I do not know what that means, but it is difficult to understand, for example, the passage in Genesis about the Nephilim as well. It is certainly not incredible, all the same, that God can name a star if He so wills.

Mormons believe women cannot be deified

Catholics, of course, believe no one can be deified in an absolute sense. However, Latter-day Saints would argue that “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”, extends to women. After all, before very recently, the term “man” was actually much more common than “human” to refer to our species. As a matter of fact, in LDS doctrine, God is married to one goddess. An argument could be made that the truth is more heretical than the anti-Mormon myth. However, there is a Heavenly Mother according to LDS doctrine. According to their viewpoint, “No matter to what heights God has attained or may attain, he does not stand alone; for side by side with him, in all her glory, a glory like unto his, stands a companion, the Mother of his children. For as we have a Father in heaven, so also we have a Mother there, a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother.” (Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Mission Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 205)

If that is not evidence enough for the LDS belief, see the following quote from President Rudger Clawson, “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections. In fact, the love of one is a compliment of our love for the other.” (“Our Mother in Heaven,” Millennial Star 72, September 29, 1910).

I am not saying this is a good thing. As a Catholic, I do not approve the existence of goddesses. However, I want to make sure people understand what Latter-day Saints actually believe rather than a contrived version of their doctrine. A Latter-day Saint would generally say he does not “worship” the Heavenly Mother, but they do see her as ultimately equal to the Father. One would generally say she does not take any part in their worship because basically nothing is revealed about her. However, in LDS theology, there is no distinction between men and women so far as deification goes.

Mormons believe that God had conjugal relations with the Blessed Mother

Thank goodness this is not true. It is certainly not the official LDS doctrine at any rate. It seems it is thought that Jesus did have the DNA of both the Heavenly Father and the Blessed Mother (because, as I said, Mormons are Anthropomorphites). However, it is thought not to have occurred by the literal conjugal act, but through some miraculous intervention. 

Remember when we are trying to evangelize Mormons, we must follow the Golden Rule. If we continually claim that they believe things they do not, then what makes us better than fundamentalists who say they random things the Pope says to reporters make for official Catholic teaching or that Catholics believe they can “earn” salvation, denying the sole sufficiency of Christ’s salvific work? We must focus on debunking what Mormons actually believe rather than what others say about their doctrine.

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Matthew 16:18 and the LDS Great Apostasy

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”—Matthew 16:18

“I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.”—Joseph Smith—History 1:18-19

The teaching of the Church of Latter-day Saints is that shortly after the death of the last apostle, the Church went through a Universal Apostasy leading the authentic LDS Church to be destroyed and eventually replaced with the Catholic Church. The LDS Church was not restored until the time of Joseph Smith. But now, they say, “Daniel, who foresaw and foretold the establishment of the kingdom of God in the latter days, never again to be destroyed nor given to other people.” (D&C 138:44)

Now obviously Latter-day Saints feel the need to reconcile their doctrine with the Bible, including Matthew 16:18, as quoted above. Following, we will discuss what is meant by “rock” and what is meant by “gates of hell”.

Now first of all, an LDS apologist would contend that the “rock” refers to Revelation from God. The Gates of Hell seem to be unable to prevail against Revelation as in they cannot keep out Revelation. So Christ’s Church would not preach out among the living alone, but also among the dead.

The first problem with this is that Jesus says specifically: you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. So He seems to clearly equate Peter with Rock. Now the usual objection to this, frequently brought up by Protestants for which reason I would not be at all surprised if I were to learn that Mormons make the same claim, is that there is a distinction between “Peter” and “rock”. The former is Πέτρος (pétros) and the latter πέτρᾳ (pétra). Now allegedly, pétros means “pebble” and pétra means “large, immovable boulder”. Although this is technically true and sometimes petra stresses immovability, both words basically mean “rock” or “stone”.1 We need to remember, first of all, that there is no such distinction in Aramaic. The word our Lord actually used is Cephas or kepha (see John 1:42). This simply means “rock”, so there should have been no such distinction in the Aramaic. So Jesus actually said: “You are kepha and on this kepha I shall build my church.” Petra was a feminine noun, for which reason it was thought that petros would fit better for a man’s name in a Greek translation. Besides, if Jesus had really intended to make a distinction, He would have said: “You are Peter, but on this rock I shall build my church.” Nor indeed can Jesus be talking about Peter’s acclamation as can be found in John 1.

“He [Andrew] first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’” John 1:41

“Philip found Nathana-el, and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.’” John 1:45

“Nathana-el answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” John 1:49

Peter is practically the only person in John 1 who does not affirm Jesus are Christ. Even Protestant scholar Dr. Oscar Cullman affirms: 

 “It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. He appoints Peter, the impulsive, enthusiastic, but not persevering man in the circle, to be the foundation of his ecclesia. To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected.”

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 108

To this some Mormons would point out 1 Corinthians 3:11, which states: “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” They say the Rock is revelation by the Father through Christ and therefore Christ is also the Rock, excluding the possibility of Peter. However, all the apostles could be called foundations of the church. (see Revelation 21:14) Catholics accept Christ as the chief foundation. However, Peter, as the chief of the apostles, could be considered after Christ, the foundation of the Church. Mormons accept the Primacy of Peter, considering him roughly the equivalent of the First President, so  perhaps they would not find this too difficult to believe.

Next, we should probably treat with the “gates of hell”. Now a Mormon would claim this means that the Church would go down and preach to those in Sheol and the “gates” would not keep them out. However, I think this is a misunderstanding of what “gates of” generally means in Scripture. In Genesis 24:60, people say to Rebecca: “Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them!” And in Genesis 22:17, God says to Abraham, “I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Surely this did not mean that the Israelites were going to simply steal the gates of the Philistines’ and the Moabites’ cities, but rather that the Israelites would take authority over them. On the contrary, this is a use of synecdoche, meaning the powers of hell will not prevail against the Church.

The word κατισχύσουσιν (katischusousin) “will prevail against”, generally means as in “overpower” or “have power over”, not necessarily as in “keep out”.1 At least, to my mind, it seems to suggest that hell is the aggressor.

When our Lord’s is understood that way, a Latter-day Saint might see how it makes logical sense how the rock on which the Church is built can be a person, namely Peter. It also makes sense to me that he would have a perpetual line of successors until the end of time (sans a seventeen-century-long interregnum).

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1Liddell & Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon,Oxford University Press, 1843

All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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A Patristic Defense of the Primacy of Rome

I now propose to write on the Primacy of Rome in regards to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Now the Orthodox would generally accept Peter to be chief of the apostles, but such authority was not handed on to his successors. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus gave Peter both the keys to the kingdom and the authority of binding and loosing. The first was given to Peter alone (Mt 16:19) and the second also to the other apostles as well. (Mt 18:18) Now Orthodox theologians would say these gifts are the same. The Pope, the Orthodox contend, became prime due to historical circumstances and so forth. The Pope is supposedly the “first among equals” holding a “primacy of honor”, but the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome was not instituted by Christ but came into being centuries later. I propose to defend the Catholic view, that Christ Himself instituted the Papacy as follows.

In the early church, the world was full of heretical bishops, but the bishops of Rome always seemed to keep faith. Now some Orthodox and Protestant theologians would claim that  it was because of this that the Roman Pontiffs became prime. However, the way to have the highest honor about which Christ spoke is to serve others. So the way to serve in a uniquely honorable place is to exercise jurisdiction. Now for the Papacy to be true, its essential features must be present in the Early Church.

Now, of course, from the middle of the first century to the early fourth, the Church was under an intense persecution so it was more difficult for a Pope to get involved in everything. Remember, Paul even had to contend for his authority as an apostle and ordered Timothy to do the same as a bishop. This does not mean their authority was illegitimate. Now, in a time like the Roman persecution, an exhibition of a centralizing power was basically a matter of certain death, so there was only so much Popes could do. Most of the Popes in the Third Century, for instance, were martyrs.

Now some of the Orthodox would contend that if the infallible Church had possessed an automatic, visible organ of infallibility, then doctrinal struggles of the Early Church would be unthinkable. Firstly, papal infallibility is not automatic, but only happens under very specific conditions. This seems to be saying, however, that if the Pope had the charism of infallibility, he would have used it in a certain way. Since he did not, the Pope is not infallible. When it is put that way, it does not make much sense. Also, even if the Pope had dogmatically condemned these things, I doubt heretics would not have for the most part paid attention, just as many Arians existed long after the Council of Nicaea.

So is there any evidence for Popes acting as prime in the Early Church? Yes, there is. For instance, in the late first century, the Corinthians unlawfully deposed some bishops and priests. Now Pope St. Clement I begins with apologizing for the delay. “On account of the sudden and repeated calamities and mischances, brethren, that have come upon us, we suppose that we have the more slowly given heed to the things that are disputed among you, beloved.” Clement then at once addresses the perpetrators of the sedition, “the foul and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few headstrong and self-willed persons have kindled to such a degree of madness, that your venerable and famous name, worthy to be loved of all men, is greatly blasphemed.” (1 Clement 1:1) He then goes on to reprove them for their errors.

Notice that Clement does not need to defend his right to make such a judgment. He simply passes judgment onto those in schism. He then says: “For joy and rejoicing will ye afford us if, becoming obedient to the things that have been written by us, ye put an end, by the suggestion of the Holy Spirit, to the unlawful wrath of your discord, according to the supplication which we have made concerning peace and unity in this epistle.” (1 Clement 63:2) Hence Clement does not fear to say that the Holy Spirit is speaking through him. Clement continues: ”But if some should be disobedient to the things spoken by him through us, let them know that they will entangle themselves in no small transgression and danger.” (1 Clement 59:1) He concludes by saying he sent three envoys, Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Bito, and Fortunatus “that they may the more quickly bring us news of your peace and order.” (1 Clement 65:1) From other sources, we know that schism was healed by Clement’s actions.

Now it is possible that, since Clement apologized for his late reply, the Church of Corinth had asked him to intervene. However, they could not have just wanted any authoritative person to intervene, because John the apostle was still living. St. John would make much more sense to ask because first, he was an apostle who had known Jesus and second because he lived in Ephesus at that time, much closer to Corinth than Rome was. So it seems that they specifically wanted a successor of Peter.

Generally speaking, no local church would ever have authority over another. The Corinthians, however, held this letter and read it at least seventy years afterward according to Eusebius (Church Histories 4:23:11). In other words, they held it in almost as high esteem as they did Scripture.

St. Irenaeus could not be clearer when he said: “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.” (Against Heresies 3:3:2)

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They Neither Marry Nor Are Given in Marriage

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:19

Basically the doctrine which I would like to discuss would be Eternal Marriage, as espoused by the Church of Latter-day Saints. Basically, in LDS doctrine, when a Mormon is married in a temple, marriage does not end in death, but lasts into eternity in the Resurrection. This, of course, differs from the Catholic doctrine, in which marriage basically lasts “until death do us part”. In the Resurrection, the preordained number of individuals will exist, for which reason there will be no purpose of marriage, which exists for procreation. More importantly, the all souls will be wedded to the Divine Bridegroom, which is Jesus Christ, (2 Corinthians 11:2) hence marriage will be fulfilled. A Latter-day Saint would often quote “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 18:6) But God who joined it does have the authority to put it asunder by death. This is why Catholics believe widowed individuals are free to remarry. The usual verse brought up in this debate is Luke 20:27-36,

There came to him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

The following objections are taken directly from the Church of Latter-day Saints’ website, which can be found here.

Objection 1: “First, we see that it was made in response to an attempt by the Sadducees to trap the Lord. Consequently, it would not have been the Lord’s final word on the subject. Why should the Lord scatter pearls before them that they would only trample underfoot? (See Matt. 7:6.) They were no more prepared to listen to a discourse on eternal marriage than they were prepared to accept the reality of the resurrection.”

To this I respond that first of all, Jesus was willing to defend the Resurrection. Following Jesus words on marriage, He says in verses 37-38, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” Would not the Resurrection be a little more relatable to this world if he introduced to them the idea that marriage still exists in the next life? Besides, concerning marriage Jesus was willing to introduce an even harder saying in Matthew 18:8-9: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” This must have been shocking to the Jews who were used to an escape route if their relationship did not work out. In verse 10 the disciples say, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” Now, compared to our Lord’s teaching on divorce, would Eternal Marriage really be so difficult to accept? Now, the LDS viewpoint in answer to the question is simple: the first one. Is it really so incredible for Jesus to say this? When one thinks about it, such an idea of marriage in heaven would be much more relatable than the idea that there will be no reason to marry at all.

Objection 2: “Second, the Lord did not say there would be no people in the married state in the resurrection, but that there would be no marriages made in the resurrection.”

To this I respond that this is correct, but irrelevant. The question which the Sadducees asked Him was concerning those whom she had married in this life. So if this is what our Lord meant, His answer was irrelevant to the question.

Objection 3: “Third, we must be clear about the “they” who are neither marrying nor being given in marriage. The context of the scriptures just cited suggests a generic rather than a specific meaning. Simply put, that means no marriages are made in the resurrection. The Lord was warning the Sadducees. They were Jews of the day who had rejected him and therefore had no access to the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. How could these men, whom Jesus had called a “generation of vipers” (Matt. 3:7), qualify for the highest blessings of the celestial kingdom?”

To this I respond that the original question was about a hypothetical woman. Doctrine and Covenants 132:37 states specifically: “Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.” So Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became gods. As eternal marriage is essential for exaltation to the Celestial Kingdom and deification, I would assume they had access to it before Christ. Jesus said “they” not “you”. As far as I can tell (and LDS are free to inform me if I am wrong) Eternal Marriage is still considered to have existed in the Old Testament.

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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Answering Orthodox Objections to the Immaculate Conception

Now the Immaculate Conception is, of course, the Catholic doctrine that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”1 Now, Orthodox and Catholics agree that she was without personal sin. However, although Catholics believe specifically she was without Original Sin from the moment of conception, the majority of Orthodox theologians teach that although an “abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin”, as Augustine said,2 she was still born under the law of Original Sin, sharing with all other human beings the common responsibility for the fall, a doctrine which Catholics reject. This does not, of course, mean (as some have claimed) that she could not sin, but simply that she would not sin and was given special graces, in advance, from the merits of her divine Son’s passion to make such a choice (Catholics still believe that this was only possible by Christ’s merits). This is fitting, as since the Second Century, Fathers have considered her the Second Eve, examples including St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian.

“Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her.” Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100

“In this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience has been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way, the sin of the first created man received amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten.” St. Irenaeus Against Heresies 5:19:1

“Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight.” Tertullian The Flesh of Christ 17:4

See that not one but three Fathers made the comparison between Mary and Eve. Evidently some pattern is being made. Thus they are emphasizing the cooperation of Mary with the work of Christ in a similar way that Eve cooperated with Adam’s sin (although, of course, in a wholly subordinate sense). This idea of her important cooperation with Christ is expanded upon by Augustine who wrote: “But [Mary is] clearly the mother of His members, which are we: in that she wrought together by charity, that faithful ones should be born in the Church, who are members of That Head: but in the flesh, the mother of the Head Himself.” (On Holy Virginity 6) Hence as Eve was the mother of all men, Mary, by her singular cooperation with Christ’s salvific work in bringing life back to souls, can be called the Mother of the new men, the Redeemed, the Christians. So if the she is personally sinless, does it not at least make sense, if no more information is known, that Mary, who fulfilled the role of Eve, might be free from the guilt of Original Sin?

It might be right to mention that the Orthodox accept the Assumption of Mary into heaven, a doctrine which makes more sense in light of the Immaculate Conception, since it is not fitting for one who was conceived without sin to not be subject to corruption of the body. The Orthodox would object considering the fact that traditionally she suffered a corporeal death prior to the Assumption. The problem with this is that Jesus also died, willingly taking on the effects of the Fall. It is logical, therefore, that He would allow her who was so closely connected to His salvific work, to die as well.

Turning back to the parallel with Eve and the Immaculate Conception, this goes back to the prophecy in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (RSV) Now Mary is the “woman” (John 2:4, 19:26) The term “woman” in Jesus’ day meant “my lady” or “madam”, not an impolite title, but one that would not typically be used by a son to his mother, especially not in a serious moment such as the Crucifixion. Evidently something deeper is going on. Jesus is the “seed” who was at enmity with Satan’s. Note that the woman is not included in Satan’s seed, in spite of the fact that “we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph. 2:3) So as Mary is the second Eve, it makes sense that she is at enmity with Satan as Jesus is (in other words, not sharing in the responsibility of Man for the Fall).

I personally think it rather unfair for the Orthodox to so vehemently oppose this doctrine. Some Orthodox apologists have even called it a “unanimous” patristic consensus that she was not sanctified until later (generally at the Annunciation, when the angel declared her “Full of Grace”). I say this because although many Fathers did in fact seem to contradict the Immaculate Conception, other aspects of Mariology which were disputed in the Early Church, such as her sinlessness, and her bodily Assumption via Dormition into heaven both seem to be required Orthodox beliefs given their liturgical pedigree. 

For instance, St. John Chrysostom states, in apparent contradiction of Mary’s sinlessness:

“But when she heard that John had come on His account, and that he had borne such witness to Him as he did, and that He had disciples, after that she took confidence, and called Him, and said, when they wanted wine, ‘They have no wine.’ For she desired both to do them a favor, and through her Son to render herself more conspicuous; perhaps too she had some human feelings, like His brethren, when they said, “Show yourself to the world”, desiring to gain credit from His miracles. Therefore He answered somewhat vehemently, saying, ‘Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour is not yet come.’”

Homilies on the Gospel of John 21

This is wrong. If this were what she meant, our Lord would not have done the miracle.

Similarly, St. Theodoret of Cyrus (393 – 458) says this:

“For one proclaims the divinity of the one only-begotten one, that is, Christ the Lord, while the other proclaims the humanity. And Christ the Lord himself teaches us this way of understanding. For sometimes he calls himself Son of God, and at other times Son of Man. At one time he honors his mother as the one who bore him, while at another time, as master, he rebukes [her] (greek: και ποτέ μέν ώς γεγεννηκυΐαν την μητέρα τιμά, ποτέ δέ ώς Δεσπότης επιτιμά). On one occasion he approves those who call him son of David, while on another he teaches those who lack knowledge that he is not only David’s son, but also David’s Lord.”

Eranistes 2, Migne PG83: 144-145

So the idea that she was sinless was not unanimous in the Early Church. Similarly, St. Epiphanius of Salamis states: “I cannot decide for certain, and am not saying that she remained immortal But neither am I affirming that she died. For scripture went beyond man’s understanding and Left it in suspense with regard to the precious and choice vessel, so that no one would suspect carnal behavior of her. Whether she died, I don’t know; and [even] if she was buried, she never had carnal relations, perish the thought!” (Panarion 78:11:4-5) Thus he indicates the Assumption as something that no one knows for sure. Now do Catholics accept the Fathers? Yes, but they only accept their testimony as doctrine if it is a unanimous consensus. It must be remembered that we have more Councils than the Orthodox do, and therefore our Church has declared more dogmas. So did any Fathers testify to the Immaculate Conception? Yes, they did.

St. John Damascene is an example of this. Now Damascene is an Eastern, not a Western, Father, and therefore more close to home with the Orthodox Church. He was an important enemy against the heresy of Iconoclasm, so I think his viewpoint, whether one is Catholic or Orthodox, should be taken with some consideration. This is what he had to say:

“O blessed couple, Joachim and Anna, all nature is indebted to you! For through you it has offered a gift to the Creator which is more excellent than all [other] gifts: a holy mother who alone is worthy of the Creator. O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens.”

St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Nativity 2: Patrologia Graeca 96, 664 A

Now if our Lady was really conceived as anyone else, why does Damascene praise “blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out”? It seems he is calling her all-pure from her conception.

St. Andrew of Crete (650-712) writes:

“Death, natural to men, also reached her; not, however, to imprison her, as happens to us, or to vanquish her. God forbid! It was only to secure for her the experience of that sleep which comes from on high, leading us up to the object of our hope…No man lives, says Scripture, who will not see death. But even though the human create we celebrate today [Mary] must obey the law of nature, as we do, she is superior to the other humans. Therefore, death does not come to her in the same way that it comes to us. Instead, it comes in a superior way, and for a reason higher than the reason that obliges us to surrender totally to death.”

Homily 1 on the Dormition, PG 97, 1052 C-1053 A

So Mary’s death was unique among all deaths, including those of sinless infants. This is because she had not inherited death from Adam, being without the stain of Original Sin.

This is fairly late, of course, but the Orthodox hold other doctrines about which theologians did not write much directly until later in history, such as icon veneration, real essence/energies distinction, and others. There is archaeological evidence for icons in the Early Church, but we cannot expect such for the Immaculate Conception obviously. Does this prove the Immaculate Conception? No, but nor does it disprove the doctrine either. To show whether it is true, whether Mary was, in fact, saved by her Son from the responsibility for the Fall at the moment of her conception, one must show first whether there is a biblical and patristic blueprint for papal infallibility, a discussion for another time.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

1Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus 

2Augustine, On Nature and Grace 42