April 5

The Catechism and the Book of Mormon



Curry wrote on our Facebook page:

I am not Catholic, I love your show and listen as often as possible and have even won a couple of your contests. I am very interested on a Catholics opinion. Do you think the Catholic church pushes the Catacism the way Mormons push the Book of Mormon? Is there a difference? Both groups seem to hold the books higher than the Bible. IF God’s word was the most important thing, would both organizations push it first?

My response was:

Actually, I completely disagree with that idea entirely because the two books couldn’t be more different. The Book of Mormon includes additional books they’ve added to their cannon of Scripture. The Catechism, however, is an explanation of Scripture itself as understood and taught by the Catholic Church. If you were to look up any subject in the Catechism, you will most likely find links to other encyclicals and teaching, which in turn are teachings based upon Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church.

For example, today we quoted the Catechism in regards to openness to life. The Catechism referenced a document called Humana Vitae. If you drill down (http://www.kofc.org/un/catechism/getreftext.action?part=3&sec=2&chap=2&par=2557&fnote=159) you’ll see Humana Vitae references, among other sources, Romans 3:8 in explaining the teaching.

For Catholics, we trust the Catholic Church to help us interpret Scripture. Otherwise, we’d have 10’s of 1000’s of various interpretations of a given passage. The Catechism gives us a central resource to use in conjunction with Scripture to have the confidence that our own individual interpretations match that of centuries of Bible Study and teaching from the Church itself.

So again, when you hear us or someone else reference the Catechism, we’re merely referring to the Catholic Church’s explanation of Scripture itself.


Curry responded again:

thanks for your response Greg. However, so the Catholic church sees no use in the Holy Spirit in interpretation? From what I am hearing, when you as a Catholic read your Bible, you have to have the Catechism there to understand what you’ve just read. Those 10’s of thousands of interpretations belong to the millions of individuals trying to gain knowledge from God. IF there were to be one interpretation, wouldn’t the Bible just be that plain? I am not trying to create confusion, but rather gain insight to how the modern day Catholics utilize the tools that God provided. It as if the Catholic church has removed the need of the Holy Spirt, the Bible, and study all in one fail swoop “the Catechism”.

This is why I try not to engage in debates online.  If you don’t pick the perfect words to create the perfect soundbite, it’s so easily to be misinterpreted.  So I responded again:

Hi Curry. If you’re looking for an understanding of 2,000 years of teaching on Facebook, I think you’re going to be disappointed, especially if you’re looking to me to provide a suitable bite-sized nugget of information to explain Catholicism. But briefly, one fallacy in your approach regarding “tools that God provided” is [neglecting to realize] that the first tool He provided was the Catholic Church. It was the Catholic Church to whom He entrusted Scripture, and it was the Catholic Church at the Council of Hippo that decided which books belonged in the cannon of Scripture. That decision was Holy Spirit. So I am in no way inferring that the Catholic Church sees no use in the Holy Spirit in interpretation. I’m saying that the Holy Spirit interprets through the Catholic Church. You mention “confusion,” but what’s more confusing – an authoritative teaching from the Church (who was given such authority by Christ when He said “What you bind on earth, is bound in heaven, etc.”), or the mis-interpretations of millions of well-intentioned, but self-directed believers? Let me ask you this: If the Holy Spirit inspires you to interpret Scripture, and the Holy Spirit inspires me, and yet we come up with two completely different interpretations, are you suggesting that the Holy Spirit sows confusion? Certainly, the Holy Spirit guides us, but we rely on the Church (the first tool) establish by Jesus Christ to have a complete understanding of the Word of God. I would recommend you Google the Compendium of the Catholic Church or the Catechism itself and read what the Church says in particular about Scripture interpretation. I would also encourage you to check out books like “Catholicism for Dummies” or “What Catholics Really Believe” for better and more thorough explanations that what I’d ever be able to provide on Facebook.

Anything you’d add to the conversation?

About the author 


Greg is married to Jennifer. They've got five kids.

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  • That’s a good response. I would also emphasize that the Catechism is a synthesis of Catholic teaching as drawn from the Scriptures and sacred Tradition. But it is not God-breathed the way that the Scriptures are. Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to be on par with/part of Scripture, so that’s a big difference.

  • To All:

    I have no intention of disruption, rather than gaining knowledge. I also want to point out, that I am not trying to compare the two books, rather how they are pushed. Both “Churches”, talk much more about their books rather than the Bible. Both churches want you to read their books more than the Bible. And both churches want you to accept their books completely.

    It is only my interest to find out how the Catholic Church has use for the Holy Spirit.

    • Curry, I would disagree with that statement, as well. In fact, the last encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI was called “Verbum Domini,” the Word of God. The entirety is an encouragement of all Christians to more fully understand and study Scripture.

      You might hear ME, Greg Willits, talk about (“push”) the Catechism more than Scripture, but we’re not really pushing Scripture over the Catechism. It may seem like we refer to it more often on our program, but that’s simply to be abundantly clear that the position we present is not our own, but that of the Catholic Church.

      But I would challenge you to prove that the Catholic Church (and not just talk show hosts) talks more about the Catechism than Scripture. I worry you’re basing that statement upon talk radio and blogs rather than the Church itself.

      By the way, you can read “Verbum Domini” here – http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html

    • Hi Curry,

      I’ve been following this conversation both here and on FB and its been very interesting, thanks for starting it. Before we go too far down the road of why the Catholic Church promotes the Catechism over the Bible I think it’s already been said that the basis for this assertion would be helpful. I think I would have a hard time finding many Catholics that saw it that way.

      Here’s what I found interesting though…
      “It is only my interest to find out how the Catholic Church has use for the Holy Spirit.”

      You’ve provided a PERFECT example of how a Catholic might use the Catechism. You have a question about Catholic belief as it relates to the Holy Spirit, this is EXACTLY what the Catechism is there for.

      There is a great key word searchable Catechism site over at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website. I find it more user friendly than the Vatican site, K of C also has a good one.

      Go there and keyword search Holy Spirit, you’ll get insight into both the answer to your question and also how one might typically use this tool.



    • I disagree with the statement as well from the Mormon side
      of the aisle. We have a canon of scripture that includes
      both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. If Curry’s claims
      were true, you’d find the Book of Mormon quoted more often
      than the Bible. The LDS Church just concluded its annual
      conference where Church leaders speak in 5 two-hour meetings.
      The text of those messages will appear on the web tomorrow.
      The discourses are footnoted each time a scripture is cited.
      I think a comparison will demonstrate that Church leaders cite
      the Bible more often than the Book of Mormon in those speeches.
      Since the data won’t be available until tomorrow, it would be
      a good indicator of whether or not Curry’s claims hold water.


      • Alma,

        I do not think your agrument holds water. The fact that the Mormon church sends individuals to promote the Book of Mormon rather than the Bible is one example. The other is in the introduction to the Book of Mormon where Joseph Smith says “There is no higher book on Earth than the book of Mormon”.

        You can’t have a book that is supposed to an “addition too” or “compared too”, be higher than the foundation.

        Thanks for your input though.

        Curry Russell

        • Cory,

          You need to check your quotes. You won’t find the one
          you provide above anywhere in Mormonism–especially in
          the introduction of the Book of Mormon.

          The LDS Church doesn’t send people out to promote
          the Book of Mormon “rather than” the Bible. It’s
          considered a second witness of Christ–the Bible being
          the first. Your perception might make sense if you
          believe Christians promote the New Testament “rather
          than” the Old Testament. While they certainly believe
          and love the New Testament, it enhances its value rather
          than replaces it.

          • Hello again,

            So let me be even more correct! In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon:

            6th Paragraph:

            “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethern that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

            This one phrase is outright sacrilegious! To claim a Christian religious book to be the keystone other than the Bible, to claim you would get nearer to God using it over the Bible, need I go on!


            I have asked some Mormons to try to get this removed and I would turn to the 1st page, But until this statement is removed, I will never go forward!

  • Hi, Greg. You can also add a few details about the Mass itself to point out how biblical passages are used all the time throughout it – as Scott Hahn points out in his wonderful book “The Lamb’s Supper” -, and not the Catechism.

    Curry, it seems you are not deeply familiar with details about the Catholic Church itself, so I’m going to try to show you my intuition and experience about how things work (Greg can certainly correct me if I say something wrong).

    Let me start from a practical example: our Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen…”) is the first thing the Catechism addresses/explain. One can thing “oh, all those statements are so obvious, they are all in/come from the Bible/apostolic tradition!” Well, when you get to the parts not quite obvious, like “…eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made…”, you can try to figure out all by yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, or, if you are having a hard time doing it, you can ask someone to help you. Even if you understand, you might want to double check if you are not being confused by the wording used in it. You know, quite often the meaning one attributes to some words is not exactly what those who first wrote it meant it to be – I’m sure it happens a lot when you read the Bible, at least when you started reading it.

    Since people with enough philosophical/theological knowledge are not always at hand, to get to read their lovely didactic explanation is, above all, such a marvelous help, I’d say that it is a blessing in itself. And you can find it in the Catechism. Trust me, it saves a lot of time and is a wonderful travel to the mind of those who dedicated their lives to understand every bit of our venerated Bible and the Tradition developed together with or from – and always in concordance! – the Bible itself.

    But it seems you are more concerned about we Catholics pushing the Catechism. Not at all. Catechism is only useful if you have any doubt about the Profession of Faith, the Sacraments, if you want to get a few details about what does it mean to live in Christ, if you want to understand the meaning of prayer – and all this based on this huge book we call Bible. If you are all set with that, no doubts at all, you will never need the Catechism. Anyway, the Catechism is one of the possible starting points to figure things out.

    Just a few questions: does your church provide such a help like the Catechism or everybody over there grasps the right meaning of everything in the Bible right away? Or, even if it is not right away, does everybody, after reading a lot and studying deeply, get it right at all? Or are prepared to compare the translated Bible with an almost original text, in its original language? Rhetorical questions, I know. After all, it is obvious that the amount of knowledge required to get it right is enormous. It would require lots of people dedicating their full lives for this only purpose, writing it down and letting it to the next generations to keep building on top of it, always a work in progress. It is, as I see it, one of the reasons why God instituted the Catholic Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit – at least it is what I, as a Catholic, think. I’m sure you disagree with that, but we can agree to disagree about it.

    I hope it was somewhat helpful.

  • yes, it is important to note that the Bible is read during Mass, and. not the catechism. Also,note that Luther wrote a catechism to guide people to interpret the bible the same way he did. Calvin did this as well in his Institutes. The Holy Spirit leads us through the Church and in our hearts to the one truth.

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