Friday, August 7, 2009

Mormon and Catholic relations in Utah

An interesting article on the history of the relationship between Mormonism and Catholicism was recently published in the SL Tribune and can be viewed here.

A few interesting tidbits from the article are as follows;

"..Topping recently found a 1923 letter in the archives of the Utah State Historical Society from a Salt Lake City doctor to a friend who was away from the city for a time.

The physician blamed a typographical error on weariness, but he had a good excuse: He had been playing poker until 3 a.m. with an attorney and the leaders of three churches -- LDS President Heber J. Grant, Catholic Bishop Joseph Glass and the Rev. Elmer Goshen of the First Congregational Church...

Cold war deepens » The low point for relations came in the 1940s and '50s, according to Topping and Gregory Prince, who wrote an article on that era for the spring 2005 Journal of Mormon History.

The first crisis came when a priest who was editor of the Catholic newspaper, The Intermountain Catholic, wrote about Fawn Brodie's unflattering biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, and the official LDS reaction to the book, Topping and Prince write.

The priest's column was filled with barbs. LDS leaders protested. Catholic Bishop Duane Hunt then quietly removed the priest from the editorship.

Not long afterward, the LDS-owned radio station KSL offered Hunt free airtime to discuss the Catholic faith on a weekly Sunday evening show. Back in 1930, he had paid for time for such a show, but this segment aired the same evening as one hosted by J. Reuben Clark, first counselor to the LDS president. Soon, Clark was accusing Hunt of declaring theological war on the Mormons.

An editorial about Utah's high divorce rate in The Salt Lake Tribune and a pamphlet Hunt published to raise money for Catholic missions in Utah further stoked the standoff.

Prince, who lives in Maryland and is LDS, says his initial research pointed to Hunt spoiling for a fight with Mormons. Prince is the co-author of the 2005 book David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.

"The more I looked into it, I thought Hunt was a real saint. This man bent over backward," Prince says. "For the most part, the Mormons were dissing him."

McKay, who became LDS president in 1951, was conflicted about Catholics, Prince says. Although he had warm, friendly relations with many individuals, including Hunt, McKay privately distrusted the Catholic Church and even referred to it once in his journal as a "godless farce."

Prince writes that McKay told another LDS apostle the Catholic Church ranked with communism as one of the world's two great anti-Christs.

A hard McConkie, a softer McKay » The lowest point came in 1958 when LDS general authority Bruce R. McConkie wrote an encyclopedic book, Mormon Doctrine, which identified the Catholic Church as the "church of the devil" and the "most abominable above all other churches."

Hunt apparently went to a new LDS congressman with tears in his eyes, saying Catholics didn't deserve such treatment and took the matter to McKay himself, according to the Topping and Prince article.

McConkie's book was revised in the next edition, Prince says, and McKay seemed changed.

"He never said it directly, but I think McKay was so upset by the negative impact of McConkie's book that it jolted him into believing he had been part of the problem," Prince says. "He quietly reversed field. After that, he never again was negative to Catholics, privately or publicly."

When Hunt died unexpectedly in 1960, McKay attended his funeral in the cathedral. And when McKay died a decade later, Hunt's successor as Catholic bishop, Joseph Lennox Federal, had the cathedral bells toll as the hearse carrying the Mormon leader's body passed by.


NEPT said...

I would have expected a very low point in the relationship in the mid-teens and early 20's after Talmage's "Jesus the Christ" was published; the accusations against the Catholic Church and the Pope are fierce, with Talmage indicating the Pope was the "man of sin, even the son of perdition" mentioned by Paul who was to "sit in the temple of God, as if he were God" (I'm paraphrasing here). Talmage goes through a pretty extensive and scathing review from transubstantiation and infant baptism to indulgences, the Trinity, etc. I would have thought the interpretation of the Catholic Church as the church of the devil (literal or shadow?) was common at that time....perhaps most saints didn't have the intestinal fortitude to bust through the 1000+ pages! LOL

cds said...


I'm having a crisis,you have to remember I'm years behind you in my awakening process to the feelings that I always knew something was wrong especially in temp-el worship. I'm reading Free at Last by True Ott.

It really enforces a lot of the things you have taught on your blog. But he takes away the one saving grace and that is JS was a true prophet of God and the BOM was his fruit. He was another seeking truth and comes across a lot of convincing stuff. How everything from the beginning was a farce. I was a blind follower of the brethern like 99% of the church today, I was one of those who believed if you had a testimony bourne by the spirit or probably what I now know as the baptism by fire of the holy ghost that you just accepted that Jesus Christ is our savior (no problem there), JS was a prophet, and the BOM is true. I want to hold on to those truths, I know just because that's true doesn't mean everything that's happened after the foundational events is also true like we are taught to believe. Now I'm in confusion, it would be great to have someone like yourself negate these things he brings up with the same logic as he puts them out. I figure you might have read it already since you are far ahead of me in these things or you might have other insights regarding the author like you did with Christopher. I also know BH Roberts and others had doubts on the authorship of the BOM. I'm praying and trying to be sincere in those prayers but I'm such a neophyte after all those years of doing basically nothing for my own salvation. I don't know if I'm still in a repentance process for a long time or what but I can't seem to get answers either way or maybe I'm looking for too much as in direct answers at the time of prayer for that strong confirmation feeling. I wish I had someone locally I can turn to but I don't and if you ask these kind of questions they don't take kindly to them.

Someone who is watching said...
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