I got married earlier this month to a recent convert of about 5 years from Catholicism. I have found she has been reading anti Mormon stuff that has challenged her testimony of the church. She has a small testimony but I feel that I need to help her to strengthen it. Could you please help me?
- She struggles with understanding the character of God and favors the idea of the trinity.
- She struggles with the idea of one true church and authority.
- She doesn’t believe that man can become like God.
What your dear wife needs is not necessarily doctrinal clarification. What your wife needs is a witness of the Spirit that her path in the Restored Church is what God would have her do. If she has that, all other questions become secondary, even unimportant. My advice is that you don’t concentrate on the symptoms, but on the underlying condition—in this case, a young and tender testimony, a seedling threatened in the storm. Provide her safe harbor and encouragement.
The three issues you bring up are easily answered. The answers will do absolutely no good to someone who does not have that spark of testimony, though.
1. Of course your wife favors the idea of the Trinity. That’s what she grew up with. Catholic theology is very picky and precise about what the Trinity does and does not mean. To Joseph Smith, this Trinitarian doctrine was a “mass of confusion” (no pun intended). You might, for example, take her through the scriptures, especially the New Testament, and point out Christ praying to his Father and commanding his disciples to do the same, teaching that his Father sent him. You might observe that the Holy Ghost descended on Christ as a dove. Such things certainly argue against Trinitarian theology.
But I think this misses the point. You cannot argue your wife into belief. That desire to know and learn has to come from her. Pointing out perceived flaws in the theology propounded by other churches is not effective in converting people to the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. True spiritual conversion is based on internal inspiration and revelation, not on a dispassionate intellectual analysis of a set of teachings.
While Catholic Trinitarianism lies miles away from the Restored Church’s understanding of the nature of the Godhead, I observe that in day-to-day worship and activity, Catholics of my acquaintance tend to approach God in a manner pretty similar to my own. Catholicism may have a wrong concept of God in their Trinitarian doctrines, but I am convinced that many individual Catholics worship the same God as you and I. So I think that this particular question need not be a stumbling block to your wife’s spiritual progress.
2. If your wife was brought up as a Catholic, she was surely taught at some point that the Catholic Church claims to be the actual church established by the Lord himself, with Saint Peter acting as the first Pope. In effect, Catholicism claims to be the one true Church of Jesus Christ and to have his Priesthood authority, just as the Restored Church claims. So this is less a change in underlying belief as it is transferring the flag to a new ship.
The truth claims of the Restored Church are based in the idea that what was had in Christ’s time was utterly lost and had to be restored. Our claims of unique authority stem from the founding of the Church, and cannot be any other way. And as before, these questions, while important, seem to miss the central issue: Has your wife received the voice of God in her mind and heart?
3. Man becoming like God is what the Bible teaches, from the very first page. Unlike the gods of antiquity, the Hebrew God Jehovah demanded that his people worship him by developing within themselves the same traits that he himself possessed—traits such as honesty, justice, compassion, forbearance, integrity, and mercy. Jehovah was not appeased by mere sacrifice; rather, Jehovah was interested in his followers actually following him. Jehovah created man in his own image. This is an amazing and profound teaching.
In the New Testament, we are taught that Jesus Christ was the Son (note the word) of God. We are taught that Jesus has inherited “all that the Father hath”. And amazingly, we are taught that we can become joint heirs with Jesus. In teaching that man can become like God and share in his glory and perfection, Latter-day Saints are teaching nothing more than the pure Biblical doctrines preached by Peter, Paul, and Christ himself.
But for the third time, let me emphasize: This is beside the point. What exactly does it mean to “inherit all that the Father hath”? What does it mean to “become as God is”? We really don’t know the specifics, except that, as Paul told the Corinthians, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Your wife, along with the rest of us, needs to gain and nurture a testimony of the truths of Christ’s gospel. When that testimony has truly taken root and had a chance to grow strong, it will anchor her and provide her shelter and solace in an often-miserable world.
God bless your wife in her efforts to come unto him, and God bless you in your efforts to walk with her on that path.