Christian Weirdness: Mormon vs. Catholic

Tonight, I took the opportunity to expand my Christian horizons by going to a Catholic mass.

Now, there are those among the Mormon church who believe Catholicism is the whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelations. That’s incorrect. The whore of Babylon is not necessarily a denomination, just a state of mind. Opposition to righteousness.

That in mind, I decided that I needed to stop just thinking Catholics were weird (besides wrong, of course), and that I was so much better than them, and actually try to understand. Besides, I’ve always found Catholicism somewhat interesting. Maybe because the majority of demonic possession movies have a Catholic background. Plus, the stained glass windows and cathedrals are beautiful.

So, tonight, I attended mass, dressed as I would for an LDS service—in a skirt. I was advised by the Internet that it was the only way to dress for Catholics as well. Imagine my surprise when people started showing up in jeans!

In the LDS chapel, we have hymn books out for the congregation. In this chapel, they had three song books and a missal and a book for you to follow along. I was having a hard time switching back and forth between them all.

LDS church is composed of three different meetings: Sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and the age- and gender-specific classes (Primary for children up to twelve, Priesthood for males over twelve, Young Women for girls twelve to eighteen, and Relief Society for women eighteen plus). A total of three hours, sitting down except when traveling from one to the other. Our Sacrament meeting is most like a standard church meeting, gathering in the chapel, taking the sacrament. It’s really a very simple organization. Opening hymn, opening prayer, ward business, sacrament hymn, sacrament, first speaker, second speaker, hymn or musical number, third speaker, closing hymn, closing prayer. Mass isn’t anywhere near that simple. I couldn’t keep track of all the prayers and hymns and things sung! Most of it was routine. And plus, there was so much sitting, standing, kneeling. Good way to stay awake, I guess. Bravo to Catholics for figuring that out! Maybe us Mormons could use a little more of that, and a little less of the classic elbow in the ribs.

To say I didn’t feel comfortable? An understatement. All in all, I found it too formulated, leaving too little room for revelation. See, Mormon’s don’t really use formulated prayers very often. Just for things like baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, and so on. I guess you could say our prayers are free verse. Reciting something like a prayer will never feel right to me. Also, I found a bit of it was really showy—more of the body than the mind and heart. Beyond that, I was depressed by the limited amount of scripture: just the Bible. I’m so used to the classic Mormon quad: The Bible, the Book of Mormon (testament of Christ in the Americas), the Pearl of Great Price (miscellaneous things, including the books of Moses and Abraham, and the Joseph Smith translations of the Bible), and the Doctrine and Covenants (establishment of the LDS church, and related revelations). To be cut down to one. . . is weird.

Now, I can’t tell you I felt the Spirit there. And I can’t say I didn’t. I’m not very spiritually sensitive. But the pastor did say some good things, and I had good notes to take.

After mass, I talked to the pastor long enough to give him my name and tell him I was Mormon. He made sure I felt welcome, and introduced me to another girl, who introduced me to basically everyone else. To be perfectly honest, I was overwhelmed by how included they made me—how nice everyone was. I’m a Utah Mormon. Here, Mormons can be nice, but they can also be very judgmental and cliquish, for lack of a better term. But I saw so little of that in the Catholics I met tonight. They invited me to an activity later in the week, and I think I might have to go. Because, honestly, in my own ward I haven’t ever felt so included.

My conclusions: Catholics are still weird. Their religion seems to be as steeped in tradition as Judaism. And, of course, I won’t ever believe the Catholics have it right. But they’re wonderful people—far better than I’ve been led to believe by Utah Mormons.

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4 thoughts on “Christian Weirdness: Mormon vs. Catholic

  1. As a Catholic reading this, I wanted to say thank you for your honest view of a Catholic Mass! I’m so glad you felt welcomed, as, where I come from, welcoming people seems to be what we do *not* do very well. It’s also really good just to see your perspective as a newcomer and a Mormon. (Yeah, jeans at Mass…we’re not that awesome at dress sometimes, ugh).

    I just wanted to pass on my own perspective on the number of recited prayers. I completely understand the feeling that they leave little room for revelation. However, having done this over and over for 20-some odd years, I feel like I’m constantly finding new depths or new applications for these prayers or that they simply continue to apply to my life week in and week out. For example, I love the part where we say, right before Communion, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” The words seem to so perfectly describe what I feel every Sunday–that need for healing–that I can’t imagine coming up with better words myself. I do like spontaneous prayer in certain circumstances, but I also really appreciate the repetition of certain prayers at Mass. It’s as though they center me, bring me back to a foundation. That’s just my perspective and feelings on it, though.

    Also, if you want to see REALLY weird, check out a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy. There are actually 22 different “churches” within Catholicism; it’s just that a huge majority of them are Roman Catholic (which celebrates Mass). I’m actually Byzantine now, although I was raised Roman, and I think you’ll find it fun if you’re up for more “weirdness”, haha, but hopefully beautiful in some ways as well.

    God bless your journey, and thanks again for the perspective.

    • Thanks for the input!

      I often feel that Mormons are not as good as welcoming people as they should be, too. It could just be the areas, though. In Utah, Mormons are the majority, and therefore don’t really feel the need to invite more people. Even if they do, they feel that someone else in the ward will already be taking care of visitors. Catholics in Utah are at a much lower percentage–less people, more easy to see the visitor. They also have the great Mormon Monster to compete with. And let me tell you, they’re doing a great job at showing us up!

      Yeah, I see how the repetition of certain prayers can be good. In our church, the sacrament prayers are repeated every Sunday, and we’re often told to ponder on them. It does bear a deeper meaning the more you think about it. But I find if there’s something to reflect on that often–find deeper meaning and application in–it should more be the scriptures, the actual word of God. Also, just my perspective.

      It seems like I’ll definitely have too check out the Byzantine side of things. But there are a limited amount of churches in the area that aren’t LDS.

      Thanks again for the insight!

  2. Thanks for your perspective. Being LDS and living in Vermont you get a different view of the world. I grew up going to a lot of churches and loved the uniqueness of the varied churches. I did feel that lack of welcome when I attended a ward in another state. It is not a very good feeling. I think our ward has done well with trying not to overwhelm the visitor. However I don’t think they go long with The Byzantine side is definitely interesting. I really like your blog. Thank you for stopping by at mine so I could find yours.

    • Thanks, in turn, for your perspective. I’ve noticed that basic lack of welcome in a lot of LDS wards I’ve gone to, here in Utah. And thanks for finding my blog, and I’m glad you like it.

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