A frequent question that is asked by non-LDS (especially Catholics) is why the
Having a catechism does not mean that doctrine cannot change. It is more likely to change! It is scripture that does not change. Catechisms can and do change. Has the catechism of the Catholic Church always been the same? Has the Catholic Church always had a catechism? When was it written? Has it never been revised or changed? Has it evolved? What is the history of it? According to an article in the Wikipedia on the Catechism, “The current Catechism of the Catholic Church [is] the first complete rewrite since the Council of Trent in 1566.” So it looks like the Catechism of the Catholic Church has not always been the same. Maybe Catholic doctrine is not so “unchanging” after all! But scripture dose not change. The word of God is unchanging and eternally true. That is the ultimate, authoritative source of LDS theology and doctrine.
I am sure that if a “Mormon Catechism” was published by the Church, it would prove very popular among a segment of the LDS community. The reason why the Church does not want to publish one is that, firstly, no such book written by man will ever be perfect. One would always be able to find flaws in it; whereas the word of God is perfect. The doctrine of the
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
That is the sentiment about the word of God that the
Secondly, a catechism, no matter how well prepared, can never provide an answer to every conceivable or unexpected doctrinal, theological, procedural or moral question that can arise in the Church. The word of God, however, always seems to have an ability to give us answers to every unexpected theological or moral question, or an unexpected situation we may find ourselves in life.
Thirdly, the Church wants its members to become authoritative interpreters of scripture so that they can find for themselves the answer to any such question that may arise in their lives, as directed by the Spirit of the Lord, rather than some imperfect man-made catechism. A catechism if published would tend to replace the scriptures in the minds of many LDS as the primary source of LDS theology and doctrine, which would not be a desirable situation from an LDS perspective. It is the will of the Lord that LDS should familiarise themselves with the revelations of God, and develop the love for and the ability to extract correct doctrine directly from them, rather than relying on secondary, imperfect, man-made sources. The scriptures too seem to be of this opinion. In the Old Testament we read:
10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day [i.e. scripture], it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Moses seems to be very emphatic. He is not commanding the Jews to create a “catechism,” and then hearken to the catechism. He is commanding them to hearken directly to the word of God itself, as preserved in its purity, in its original form as penned by the prophet; and in order that they may not misunderstand, he emphasizes it by saying: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” That is what the Lord wants all mankind to do with the word of God, not to replace it with some catechism. He wants us to read the scriptures themselves, and learn to understand them, extract our doctrine directly from them, and then follow them. In the New Testament Paul gives a similar counsel to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
I don’t see any room here for creating a catechism, and relying on the catechism instead of the word of God. The reliance is solely on the word of God, without an intermediate “catechism” coming in between. The Book of Mormon too gives us good counsel in that regard:
2 Nephi 32:
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
To sum it up, the catechism of the
One sources of confusion when discussion this subject with Catholics is that the Catechism has two different meanings in the minds of a Catholic. The role of the Catechism of the Catholic Church initially was simply to provide basic instructional material for use by new members, or those being instructed to become members of the church—hence the meaning of the words “catechize,” “catechist,” and “catechumen”. In that sense of the term, there is no objection to a catechism. The
9 And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.
45 The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.
2 But notwithstanding those things which are written, it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit.