Catholics make good Mormons, but do Mormons make good Catholics?
I heard constantly growing up that "Catholics make the best Mormons". So something I've been pondering is, do Mormons make good Catholics?
Being raised Mormon, virtually all of my religious experience has been through the Mormon church. I've attended UU ceremonies 3-4 times, Presbytarian services 4-5 times (my uncle is a minister), and a charismatic church once. That was a hoot. I'd been to quite a few Catholic services in college, when I was considering converting to Catholicism back in 1992.
The actual Mass service verses sacrament meeting has many differences. For example, Jesus is mentioned multiple times in a Catholic meeting, whereas you hear a lot about how to be a good Mormon in the Mormon church. I've learned more about the stories in the Gospels in the 3-4 months I've been studying Catholicism than I did in years and years of being Mormon. And when we studied the Bible in the Mormon church, it was compared to the "truths" in the Book of Mormon more often than not.
There aren't a lot of "Sunday School" actities for adults in the Catholic church like there is in the Mormon church. You only have to be there one hour a week instead of three hours a week. But they do have RCIA programs for new memebers, which I'm currently enrolled in, and I am encouraged to participate in daily masses. They also have many different things like choirs and "third order" lay organizations that can help you learn more about your faith. I never got much out of Relief Society except in a social way. They mostly taught about prophets and how to be a good Sister, wife and mother. Well, I was single at the time, so it was completely useless for me.
Then there's the Day to Day Catholic vs the Day to Day Mormon. Mormons are encouraged to pray, but Mormon prayers are very into Thanksgiving and Petition prayers. You can tell a Mormon a mile away from the way he prays, the words he uses, and his stance when he prays (Mormons pray with their arms folded). Catholics can be as simple as a Hail Mary or Our Father, or they can pray personal petitions, or they can be as involved as the Liturgy of the Hours. While Mormons are encouraged to pray constantly, Catholics teach exactly how to do it. I have discovered the beauty of Common Prayer (prayers already written that are recited by members of the Catholic church). When I cook, I follow a recipe. When I do crafts, I follow instructions. Sometimes, after I've cooked a dish a while, I can make a similar dish that has some of the same ingredients, but has a distinct flavor, but I always go back to the recipe at times. For me, that is what Common Prayer is. It's a guide, from people who have done it before me. And it helps me so much, becuase being Catholic, I'm having to learn to pray all over again.
Another difference is that Catholics respect and venerate Saints, but Mormons have church leaders and prophets that they discuss for the exact same reasons. Any Mormon who has wondered about why Catholics venerate saints has never celebrated Pioneer day or experienced a Sacrament meeting dedicated to the birthday of Joseph Smith. I would venture to say that Mormons talk about prophets and leaders much more that Catholics would ever talk about Saints.
Then there's the day-to-day stuff. In the Homily, the preacher talks about how to draw closer to Christ by prayer, by following Christ's examples in his life, and by following the examples of the saints who have walked this path before us. But the Mormon church CONSTANTLY talks about ways to be a "good Mormon" You have to pray, morning, night, and with your family. Tithing 10% of your gross salary is required, of course, and you will be asked about this before being given a Temple Recommend. Scripture study is always good as well, and it is recommended that you read the Book of Mormon at least once each year. You have to attend church each week (the full 3 hour block), and accept any callings given to you by the church and fulfill them to the best of your responsibility. Oh, and don't forget to have your 72-hour kit. And you should journal every day. Oh, and geneology is very important so that temple work can be done for your ancestors. And only listen to uplifting music and watch uplifting movies, and be a good housewife and a good priesthood holder and ... it goes on forever. It's so HARD to be a good Mormon.
With the Catholic church, you get out of it what you put into it. If all you do is go to Mass each week, you will get benefit out of it, but not as much benefit as if you pray every day. There are so many ways to worship Christ and adore him and draw closer to him in the Catholic church. I never ever saw these things in the Mormon church. Even in the Temple the most sacred place on earth for Mormons, the talk about Jesus was kept to a minimum, and there was only one prayer in the entire ceremony. There is more prayer in the first part of Mass (Liturgy of the Word) than there is in a typical Mormon endowment ceremony. And the Catholic church encourages a daily examination of conscience and has the wonderful blessing of the Sacrmaent of Reconciliation. I was forever afraid that I was going to go to the Terrestrial Kingdom because I forgot to repent for a glass of tea I drank. Learning how to do this daily examination of conscience has been a great blessing to me. And having a version of it right there in Mass is also very helpful.
So do Mormons make good Catholics? So far, yes and no. I find it very easy to do the Catholic things, and learn about being Catholic, and read about Catholicism, and learn about the saints and Mary. Going to Mass one hour a Sunday seems like a pittance compared to the work I used to have to do as a Mormon. But sometimes it's hard for me to get my mind around the most basic Catholic concepts, specifically the Trinitarian nature of God. I'm over the culture shock, but there was quite a culture shock.
But so far, I would be willing to say that Mormons make great Catholics, as long as they keep an open mind about the Catholic teachings and take the time to not only focus on "being Catholic" (which is very easy to do considering all the time spent learning how to be a "good Mormon"), but to stop and pray the simple prayers, and ask for the simplest of things like to be closer to God. It's so simple - praise God and beg for his divine mercy. If the basics are followed, all the extra stuff is just gravy.