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Catholic roots, Mormon Harvest
by Eric Shuster
Reviewed by Jeff Needle
7/6/2009 10:10:06 PM
Yeah, we get it. You were Catholic, now you're Mormon. You once were lost, and now you're found. Yawn. Please, LDS presses, no more conversion stories! Well, maybe one or two more, so long as they're as good as this one is!

If you've ever read the typical conversion stories, you know that they are characterized by some bitterness toward one's former church, a glaringly enhanced account of how one came to the light, and, in the end, some confusion about doctrine and polity that makes the reader wonder whether the author has much of a clue about the church they've joined. And you wonder what will happen, down the road, when the reality of the fullness of Mormonism sets in, and suddenly everything is muddled again.

Shuster has penned a remarkable meditation on what it meant to be Catholic, and what it now means to be Mormon. He's actually done his homework. His approach is really instructive and thorough. Stepping through the central doctrines of faith, he gives a cogent and mostly accurate accounting of Catholic belief. There is no question that the author has spent a great deal of time pondering these things. He and his wife, both converts to the Mormon Church, offer in this volume some of their thoughts as they've transitioned into Mormonism.

The move from Catholicism to Mormonism can be traumatic. Everything changes — from polity to doctrine to one's view of the world. Despite this, I have made the case in the past that Roman Catholicism has more in common with Mormonism than many might admit. Consider: the Catholics have the Pope, the Mormons have the Prophet. Catholics have the Magesterium of the Church, Mormons have the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and Correlation. Both churches advise confession to clergy (in the case of Mormons, to the bishop). Both churches are top-down bureaucracies. And both churches have lots of money to spend.

But walking out of an ornate cathedral into a Mormon chapel can create something of a culture shock. And the relatively non-structured form of Mormon worship, the lack of a liturgy, and the ever-shifting face of leadership, can be a big pill to swallow. The Shusters seem to have adapted quite nicely.

I appreciated Shuster's thorough explanations of Catholic doctrine and polity. For example, he helpfully points to a correct understanding of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, citing the Catechism as his authority. And he acknowledges that Catholics do not worship Mary. There's so much in this book that offers a corrective to the many misunderstandings that Mormons, and others, have about the Catholic church.

From time to time, he seems to muddle some of the doctrines that are, well, muddled to begin with. As he tries to explain the unexplainable doctrine of the trinity, he does his best to show the distinctions between the Catholic and LDS views of the godhead. It's difficult to flesh out what is meant by "one in substance” as opposed to what it means to be "one in person,” and he really tries to juxtapose the ideas in a way that is comprehensible. In this one area, he succeeds in making clear that Catholicism doesn't believe that the members of the godhead are one in person. But, in my opinion, he ends up a bit shy of really drawing the fine lines that some may want.

As a whole, this is a really good book. It is apparent that a lot of work went into producing the volume. His sourcing is excellent, his prose smooth and clear. He avoids offense; he is not willing to disparage his Catholic upbringing, as some converts are sometimes inclined to do. Instead, he celebrates his journey and urges all of us to seek out the best and the brightest in our spiritual journeys.

Shuster is not an angry man. He is one who has become convinced of the truthfulness of the Restoration message. He and his wife spent much time in study and prayer, and finally understood that it was God's will that they unite with the LDS church.

"Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest” is an excellent resource for those wishing information on the doctrines of both Catholicism and Mormonism. It's a worthwhile purchase, one you'll keep in your permanent collection.