Last week Mormon Times ran a guest blog by BYU professor Daniel Petersen titled “Mormon-Catholic tolerance goes back to Brigham Young years”. Dr. Petersen’s remarks were an informal response to Francis Cardinal George, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who spoke at BYU on February 23rd (2010). Cardinal George reportedly wondered at how far Mormon-Catholic cordiality had come since the days of Brigham Young. In his blog, Dr. Petersen related stories of the friendliness and helpfulness early Mormon leaders provided the first Catholics who settle in Utah.
The noted Mormon-Catholic tolerance notwithstanding, Dr. Petersen acknowledged (but downplayed) “some harsh rhetoric over the years” that Mormons employed when discussing Catholics. Indeed, in 2009 the Salt Lake Tribune said the LDS Church’s no-cross protocol was instituted because of LDS President David O. McKay’s 1957 reaction against Catholicism.
What follows are a few more examples of the “harsh rhetoric over the years” to which Dr. Petersen alluded. One has to wonder: Does the LDS Church have greater respect for Catholicism today than indicated by these statements? Or has it just toned-down the rhetoric?
“…we would inform the Catholics, that the Church of Christ has not ceased to exist, neither has Peter ceased his existence, but both the Church and Peter are in heaven, far out of the reach of the gates of hell, and far out of the reach of the abominable soul-destroying impositions of popery. The gates of hell have prevailed and will continue to prevail over the Catholic mother of harlots, and over all her Protestant daughters; but as for the apostolical Church of Christ, she rests secure in the mansion of eternal happiness, where she will remain until the apostate Catholic church, with all her popes and bishops, together with all her harlot daughters shall be hurled down to hell; then it shall be said,… he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication…” (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 3, 44).
“Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, April 1854, 255).
“Christianity, as it is known in the world today, has fallen far short of the accomplishment of what might have been expected of it. It has failed in establishing those principles which Christ taught among the children of men. The great Catholic division of the Christian world, the Catholic church, is a national liability to any country. It wields a great power over the minds and the hearts of the children of men, but it is a power for evil rather than for good. It brings countless thousands regularly to confession; it rarely brings a single man to repentance and the abandonment of his sins” (Hyrum M. Smith, Conference Reports, October 1916, 42).
“At one time it grieved me to know that this Church was not numbered among Protestant churches. But now I realize that the Church of Christ is more than a protest against the errors and evils of Catholicism. This Church was established in the only way in which the Church of Christ can be established, by direct authority from God” (David O. McKay, Conference Reports, April 1927, 105).
“Catholicism – See Church of the Devil” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1958, 108).
“It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this ‘church which is most abominable above all other churches’ in vision. He ‘saw the devil that he was the foundation of it’ and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization. (1 Ne. 13:1-10) He saw that this most abominable of all churches was founded after the day of Christ and his apostles; that it took away from the gospel of the lamb many covenants and many plain and precious parts; that it perverted the right ways of the Lord; that it deleted many teachings from the Bible; that this church was the ‘mother of harlots;’… (1 Ne. 13:24-42) Nephi beheld further that this church was the ‘mother of abominations,’ and ‘the whore of all the earth’…” (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, 130).