Three Mormons and I

Part 11

I gathered from this man’s conversion experience and from their talk about experience and the book of Mormon that the “religious” basis of their being Mormon is this inner experience. Of course, there are other sociological causes of their being Mormon – their tight family and religious and societal connections. But a large part of the draw on the “individual” as a religious agent is this inner experience. I asked whether there were any external signs. They never really came round on this question. Except for two things. First, they pointed to the very translation of the golden tablets. This translation was, they said, a miracle. Second, they pointed to the number of Temples they had built and the number of Mormons worldwide. I did acknowledge that the second item was phenomenal. The first, however, I think begs the question. And the second presupposes the very success it points out. I wanted a miracle from Joseph Smith, and they only gave me his translation.

Now, there were some other remarkable beliefs they had, on which I will spend the last few posts.

 

Three Mormons and I

Part 10

This interest in the here and now is connected to another point, their grasp of the springs of religion. From whence springs religion?

For these Mormons, religion springs from experience. Rather, from an emotional moment. From a very moving emotional moment. They each spoke of the emotional moment of the rites of the Temple.

Also, they asked me to read, and I did, from their Book of Mormon. The passage said something like (to paraphrase), “If you are moved, you know this book to be true.” Then one of them related his own conversion. From being very worldly, he at one point hit rock bottom and asked God if this world was all there was. Since his parents were Mormon, he decided to read from the Book of Mormon. He was deeply moved and began to believe that this world – honor, pleasure, money – was not all that there was. In relating this experience, he began to well up with tears as though he was having that emotional experience, or trying to have it, again.

I do think that he did have some moving experience earlier in his life. I do consider that he did convert to a different way of living. From a brutal, bestial way of living to a somewhat higher, somewhat more rational way of living. From the flesh of the body to the flesh of the emotions.

So, I believe that this was a step in the right way for him. However, I believe he is still laboring under ignorance and has not found that happiness for which his heart longs. Of course, I am a wicked theologian and no saint. Therefore, I could not be of as much assistance as he needs. But I showed sincere respect for him and his experience as well as for the other two. And they for me. We were friendly and courteous the entire conversation. They were sincerely engaged in the conversation. So I shall continue to relate it.

The conversation went on long enough that my wife and then my daughter had to bring us some refreshments of water and peaches.

Modern Delirium in Christianity: Marx’s Definition of Religion Being Made Actual

Christians in the West today are totally delirious. Practically dead of mind. Sleepy. Woozy. Drunk. Even insane.

This delirium has reached epidemic proportions among Catholics. Totally out of touch with revelation, with Scripture and the genuine Tradition. So much so that the fear of hell, the notion of offense against God, the dogmatic fact of original sin, are totally eviscerated from the practical orientation of just about everyone.

What can one do in this situation? Not much. But one can go ahead and repeat the simple words of the Children of Fatima about their terrifying vision of hell.

From the FATIMA APPARITIONS. Over 70,000 persons witnessed the miracle that was to demonstrate the legitimacy of the claims of these children. Their description of a terrifying vision below. But who is not so stupefied any longer that he can hear it?

Then Our Lady opened Her hands, as during the previous apparitions, and the light that was God streamed forth. In this light they were given, on this occasion, a vision of Hell so horrible and gruesome that the children shrieked aloud with fear. After showing them Hell Our Lady said to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will beak out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” Our Lady of Fatima, 1917

Hell is real. Perhaps at night, when the lights dim and the shadows grow, perhaps then one begins to taste one’s powerlessness. “I am not Lord of Truth” begins to dawn on one. But if not the Lord of Truth then a mere witness to little truths that come and go: I have a house, I have some health, I have some friends, I have a date tomorrow. Plan away. Because it is in my iPhone, it shall not necessarily be.

None of us can make things to be or not to be. “Being Is; that’s all we have” – to quote a dearly loved priest in my area. One can rest with that statement. But “take your hands off my body” or “no we don’t need to be baptized” or “no one’s going to hell” or “marriage is what I want it to be”  - WHO CAN REST WITH THESE STATEMENTS? ONLY THE DELUDED.

For tonight, the sun shall set. Did you make it set? Your heart shall stop some day. When? You know not. Stand behind something you can stand behind. Not false statements that turn religion into an opiate. Indeed, today’s Christianity is run by Marxists who are making religion to be an opiate. They have succeeded.

But I am convinced that Jesus Christ died for sinners, of whom I am foremost. I can rest with that statement. God save us each from the fires of hell and from that slowly boiling pot of stupefied US citizenship, with its investment-think, pleasure-seeking life, don’t-raise-the-topic-of-meaning, that is nothing but mockery to God, wicked tyranny abroad, domestic perversion, the arming of wicked insurgents here and there, the setting of nations at odds with one another, all premised on many a lie.

Three Mormons and I

Part 9

Another interesting point emerges. The Mormons said that they had no interest in these higher things, these “deeper” things, which they were commanded to believe but which two of them seemed to agree were ridiculous.

No interest in these higher things! Yet, a belief in them! But should not our love of Truth and of God lead us to want to contemplate these things above all? Our love of Truth should lead us to want to know the “god” of “god the father”. But they kept coming back down to matters here and now. To the mundane. To their religious program.

I noted the contrast to the Catholic religion. When a Catholic boy says to his devout father, “I wish to abandon all worldly hopes and devote my heart and mind to the One True God. I wish to be alone with the alone,” this father rejoices with all the tears of his heart. For this death is the beginning of true life. The father knows that now he has done well, the grace of God working perhaps through his cooperation. Now his son will find the happiness for which all hearts were made. Quite unlike this is the view that keeps things to the “here and now”, merely to propagating the species or the family or the religious program, or all three. To keep the mind simply to the here and now; pragmatism; this is not evidence of genuine curiosity.

Further, this return to matters here and now evidences an ironic lack of interest in things religious, in things higher.

The genuine Jew or Christian are interested, very interested in, zealous for, the True God. The One True God who has no source! The Mormons have a chain of gods but are only interested in the next link in the chain. This is evidence of lack of true religious devotion.

This is no judgment on the future eternal welfare of these persons. This is judgment on the objective state of what they presented to me as their religion, of that religion which I can describe based on their comments. Perhaps their understanding of Mormonism was inadequate. Perhaps it was adequate.

Three Mormons and I

Part 8

We have established that only one thing can be “existence itself”. Everything else must not be existence itself. That is, everything else must receive and not be identical with its existence. It must not be existence itself but must receive some finite “cut” of existence proportionate to its kind of character.

(Implicit here is another proof for God’s existence. We know that of the many things that are only one of them could be existence itself. Since there are many, at lest all but one receive their existence. Not from themselves, since in order to supply, they would already exist. But on the supposition they don’t exist. Therefore, they receive it from another. If that receives its existence, then from another. Etc. Unless we come to one that does not receive but is its own existence, then none will have the wherewithal to give existence to another. If none has that, then nothing could be. But we clearly see that many things are. Therefore, we must conclude that Being Itself exists. Now, this argument entertains the notion of secondary creators. I shall go on to argue against the idea of secondary creators.)

Given that for each thing that is not existence, its existence cut to a certain kind, it is by no means infinite in power. It rather (at best) has a range over which it is competent. But nothing that (at best) has a range over which it is competent has competence over the very “being as such” of anything, not even itself. For everything that lacks competence over being as such must, in its causal activity on another thing, presuppose that other thing’s being. It can affect or arrange or rearrange that thing. But it cannot “create it out of nothing”.

Now, a creator has competence over the very “being as such” of what it creates. If nothing but the True God has this competence, then nothing but this True God can be a creator.

On these grounds, then, the belief of these Mormons that some will (or can) become Creator gods is proven false. No one but the One True God can be creator. Nothing else has any “potential” to become creator God.

Three Mormons and I

Part 7

Another argument that we cannot become True God.

As Thomas Aquinas brilliantly argued, there can be only one thing that is existence itself. The reason is that whatever is existence itself lacks nothing of the whole range of perfect being. If you were to posit two or more, however, you would posit (at least) another which (supposedly) lacks nothing of the whole range of perfect being.

But two things can be distinct only if one thing has what the other does not. This house has this wood; that house has that wood. They do not share the same stack of lumber. Similarly, no circle is a square because these shapes are diverse.

Distinction of two requires that one of the two lacks what the other has. If you say “two things” you imply distinction, obviously. But since “existence itself” can lack nothing, then there cannot be two things which are “existence itself”.

Therefore, there can be only one thing that is existence itself. And this, all (or at least “many”) call God.

This insight will give us yet another reason for contending that we cannot become creators. I will argue that only existence itself can be creator.

Three Mormons and I

Part 6

Now, if each of these Mormons must admit that we will not become True God, then none can confess that we will be Creators. But that is what these three do confess. For, only the True God can create. Why can only the True God create?

When a man “makes” something, he does not create it. Rather, he presupposes that it already exists in some way. He presupposes that the clay exists when he “shapes” it. He presupposes that the wood exists when he builds a house. He presupposes that the electron exists when he speeds it round the accelerator. Man does not create anything. To create is to produce “from nothing”. Rather, man arranges and rearranges things that already are.

A key question is, how can there be anything at all?

If man only shifts and arranges things, how came that which he shifts and arranges? None of these things needs to exist. Each of them has existence but none of them is existence. Thus, they receive existence but are not existence itself.

If anything was existence itself, it could not cease to exist. It would be impossible for it not to exist. But we are of the firm conviction that it is possible for any thing within our effecting power not to exist. We are of the conviction that it is not impossible that it not exist. And that means, we are convicted that it is possible that they not exist.

Someone might object. Someone might say that the energy that is there must exist; it just shifts from form to form. (This is a modern conception, which itself could be critiqued, but we will run with it.) Well, my response is that if some item of energy were existence itself, there would be nothing about it which was lacking in any respect.

Why?

Existence itself is not a limited mode of existence. Being cold, being square, being rough, being tasty, being unstable, are limited modes of existence. Each lacks something of perfection possible to existence.

Now, clearly, any item of energy – call it what you will, electron or quark, etc. – does lack something of the perfection of existence; none is an unlimited manner of existence.

Why is it lacking? Why is it limited? If it were existence itself, why should it only reach so far? Give itself only so much reality? Be able to deprive itself of reality? And only at this time? And why should another be able to move it, change it, arrange it?

These many limits on each thing coming before us tell us that none of these things can be existence itself. (Therefore, that they are, that they exist, is a gift they receive. None is identical with being. That anything is is a matter of another’s doing.)

Three Mormons and I

Part 5

But before getting to the infinite chain, I had to get concrete and practical.

I asked them again whether they thought they really could become gods. Two answered that it did sound ridiculous. The earnest one repeated the bit about “faith”. But the older one, the kindest of the three (and all three were kind), said “It’s not that we will be Creator God immediately. We will have the potential to become Creator Gods.” So, he posited that the saved will have the possibility, the potential, the wherewithal to become God.

This raises a number of questions. Again, Christians believe in True God.

Now, True God does not “become” god. True God does not “receive” blessings. Why? True God is not one thing and his divine excellence another thing. True God is not like clay that is “shaped” into something lovely. Clay is one thing. Its shape is added to it. It receives its shape. Thus, clay is not identical with its shape. True God is not like this. He is not a substance that acquires the characteristic “deity”. Otherwise, he would be like clay that waits for the sculptor. True God, if he were not identical with his being-God (deity), then he would need to await for the work of a higher God to craft him into deity. But then he would not be True God!

So, as Christians rightly conceive him, True God Just is his own Deity! But if we say that, then we immediately see that no one can “become” True God. That alone can “become” something which is not identical that which it shall become. In all things that become, there must be a distinction between the receiving principle that becomes and the perfection that it receives. The receiving principle and the perfection it receives are in a way “one thing” in the end: For the clay is truly shaped, and the man is truly musical. Yet, the man is not identical with his musicality. He can forget it and still be man. The clay can be shattered or melted in great heat. Thus, even when the receiving principle has received its perfection, there remains two principles of that one thing: The clay and the shape, e.g.

So, one thing we need to get straight on right away is that when a Mormon says that we will “become God” they cannot mean that we will “Become True God”.

Three Mormons and I

Part 4

In examining their beliefs, I first took up the infinite chain of gods. I argued that an infinite chain of gods is not possible. This is the reason.

The True God is not dependent upon anything. In proclaiming that the chain of gods is infinite they essentially proclaim that there is no True God. They in fact have to concede this. Because, in their belief, for any god you posit, you must posit another god anterior to (before) him. Therefore, there is for them no True God. For, when a Christian says “God” he means True God, and True God is God who depends on nothing – who never depends on anything: not now, not yesterday, not tomorrow.

Thus, the casual Christian critique of Mormonism — if what these three say is what Mormons are held to hold — hardly goes deep enough. The real problem is that they have no True God at all. There is for them no True God. The casual Christian critique is that Mormons do not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Clearly, this hardly goes deep enough. The problem is that they have totally destroyed all deity.

But again, why is an infinite chain of gods absurd? Next post.

Three Mormons and I

Part 3

I asked my three friends whether this infinite chain of gods appears in the New Testament. They said “No.” I asked whether it appeared in the Book of Mormon. They said, “No.” Then where? “Only in the revelations after the translation of the book.” That is, some Mormon prophet since Joseph Smith had pronounced that there is an infinitely long chain of gods. And, as my friends said, all Mormons are supposed to believe this in faith. Because, as they said, in Mormonism prophecy is alive and continuing. Unlike the Pope, the Mormon Prophet – the chief one among the counsel – can speak under inspiration from God. Thus, they said, all Mormons are bound to believe that “God the Father” was himself once as you or I, lived a pilgrim life, was righteous and saved, then grew into his divinity, and then started creating. And that while he was a pilgrim, he had another “God” above him. And that one also lived as we do, and he became God, yet had another God above him while he was as we are. And so on, infinitely, in the backward direction.

I submitted that reason could prove that it was impossible that there be an infinite chain of gods. The earnest one said, “That’s why it requires faith.” He implied that what reason could demonstrate to be impossible faith could declare to be possible.

At this point, I presented them with the Catholic teaching on faith and reason, pronounced at Vatican I but embedded in the Tradition. Vatican I teaches solemnly that faith and reason cannot be in conflict, because the maker of all things is the author of the human mind, to which he reveals himself. This same God is the author of the revelation which is received by this human mind as it is lifted up by the further gift of faith. Thus, the true faith cannot be in conflict with  real truths of reason. Of course, there can be the appearance of conflict. But appearance is not the same as reality. This harmony of faith and reason is bedrock for Catholic faith. Absolute bedrock. It is what Catholics to engage in all the pursuits of right reason without contradicting or abandoning the faith. Also, it is a signal to them that their faith is not that of a secret cult that must shelter itself from anything that is really human. (Pornography is not really human; filth and entrenched, deceptive error are not really human.) Thus, while a Catholic must wisely judge of the purported truths of reason, ever clinging to faith and thereby sometimes ferreting out deception among the purported truths of reason, yet she can rest confident that there is no real conflict between any truth of Catholic faith and any really demonstrable claim of reason.

The three Mormons agreed that reason was important but insisted on faith, regardless of the absurdity. The earnest one especially insisted on faith at the expense of reason. The other two, however, remained uneasy about the possibility of a conflict between faith and reason.

That the Catholic is convinced that reason and faith cannot be in real conflict is, I submit, one mark of the non-falsity of the Catholic religion. That, so it seemed, these Mormons insisted that faith must be held even at the expense of reason was, for me, a mark of the falsity of what they presented to me as their religion.

But why is it absurd to hold onto an infinite chain of deities? Next post.