Today’s piece of Bullshit comes from Apostle Orson F. Whitney written in the 1972 Ensign.
The quote in question is as follows:
“Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquanted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: ‘You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, your are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.”
Now for a minute we should go along with this story. Never mind that the Catholic “learned man” (A derogatory term in Mormon scripture) ignores atheism, buddhism, Islam, making up by far the majority of beliefs of individuals living at the time on the planet. It ignores the possibility of thor, zues, and any number of other gods recorded in history.
It’s a statement of hubris. It evaluates the protestant faiths not by their claims (That God directly calls man, and no hand-off of priesthood is required), but by the catholic point of view. Imagine if a protestant learned man spoke to Orson F. and said “You mormons are ignoramuses it is either your or the protestants” and then gave a discussion about how faith and works and that we are incapable of coming before god based on works. It would totally dis on Catholics without considering their view point.
In fact, humor me, imagine that a member of the islam faith spoke to Orson F. and said something like “You mormons are ignoramuses it is either your or islam” because no one else has the truth of plural wives or restored prophets. Someone actually said this to me on my mission, not an exact quote, but pretty close.
What you end up with is that mormons simply must be ignoramuses, because they sure look like an amalgamation of all the faiths present at the time Joseph was a live. Any individual religion can claim “We and the mormons” have something in common, but that should set off alarm bells in the person hearing it’s head. Orson should have thought something like “This man is trying to flatter me” instead of “What a true statement, I’m going to share that with my entire church.
Now some further issues with the statement:
Orson F. doesn’t cite a source. In fact, we have no idea if he really had the conversation at all. This is the same as someone else saying “Hey a pastafarian said it was either Atheism, or them that have it right, so I totally believe in wearing pirate clothing now, and so should you”. No credibility to the source or the story.
It ignores the other Restoration faiths that came out of the burned over district. It is carefully crafted to make the audience “mormons” feel special while giving no specifics beyong the shocking term “ignoramuses”, which is clearly dropped for effect to make the listener sit up and listen, start to get upset, and then… oh right, I’m special.
This is a sort of bullying tactic, where the LDS are making themselves feel better by “putting down” other faiths. And even though it paints catholics as the “other possibility” even catholics are not flattered by the story.
But even worse, the arguement is a poor one
Let alone the offshoots of mormonism, from the FLDS, to the Bickertonites, to the Strangites. Comparing mormonism to catholicism for “unbroken lines of succession” seems pretty weak. At best Orson’s friend was unfamiliar of how poor Brigham’s claim to succession really was as well as that his own church doesn’t claim apostolic succession (A pope need not be an apostle).
No catholic learned man ever backed up the story
In all the years this story has been told and retold (I heard it in seminary) not a single catholic has stood up to state “I knew Orson F. I said that statement, let me clarify a few things…”. Which puts this story pretty much in the Paul H. Dunn category of credibility.
Not really likely anyone ever said such a thing. Not likely that any Catholic would be convinced of such a statement. Probably crafted as a faith-promoting sales pitch to help the already converted. And anyone who will buy a line like that without doing research… is probably an ignoramus.