Jul 8, 2008

Hearing Voices: Of Fruits and Rosaries

Perhaps you have wondered, like myself, how and why God apparently reveals different things to different people of all different faiths. As Mormons, we stress the doctrine of personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. We feel that we are entitled to and that God really does give us personal answers and guidance. However, this sometimes leads to problems explaining how God communicates with non-Latter-day Saints -- if He does at all.

I don't think that too many Mormons would say that God only speaks to us. To say so would go against some very fundamental Mormon beliefs. At the same time, I have to admit that I have often been skeptical of stories and accounts from people not of my faith, who claim various miracles, visions, revelations, etc. Although we believe in all of the above, I think we are very quick to question such occurrences when they don't come from "one of our own."

Those of you who have read my blog previously know that I've been reading a book about Mother Teresa. (For more info, see posting entitled "Becoming The First Mormon Nun.") Reading about her background and the story of how she came to be the "Saint of Calcutta" has left me with a lot of questions.

I will first say that her utter and complete devotion to Christ is mind-blowing and it is something that perhaps no other human being has accomplished. Now, before you say that all the Christian martyrs have outdone her by sacrificing their lives for Christ, may I remind you that she did indeed sacrifice her life for Christ -- virtually her entire life. She was blessed with a long mortal life, but the poverty, hard work and hardships that she willingly sought and endured would have made her life unbearable for most. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most people would have preferred death to living her life in the squalour of Calcutta's miserable slums.

While reading Mother Teresa's personal letters and accounts of the visions and conversations she claimed to have with Christ, which were the catalyst for her humanitarian work in Calcutta, I have to shamefully admit that I questioned her state of mind. Not only was she willing to endure extreme hardship, she seemingly took pleasure in it and constantly sought more in order to come closer to Christ, to an extent that I've maybe never seen before. In all honesty, it's possible to see why her faithless critics would accuse her of being deluded or fanatical. Even her superiors questioned for a time whether her "inspiration" truly came from God.

We have been taught how to distinguish between good and evil by the scripture that says:

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matthew 7: 15-18)

I'm sure that most of us would agree that Mother Teresa fell into the "good" category, which is evident by the good "fruits" that she produced during her lifetime. I personally believe that she was truly inspired by God to do His work, but if this is so, then it poses a problem for me. If good, God-fearing people seeking His inspiration really receive it, then why doesn't He always give them inspiration that is in accordance with LDS teachings? Why are they sometimes even contrary to what we proclaim to be correct? Why doesn't He inspire them to join the LDS Church if it's the only true Church?

During her visions and conversations with Christ, Mother Teresa was given visions of the Crucifixion. The Blessed Virgin has a central role in these visions and is of significant importance in an unmistakably traditional Catholic manner, even speaking to Mother Teresa herself. Jesus also speaks to her personally, often referring to her as "My little Spouse," an recognition of her "marriage" to Christ in the Catholic nun sense. He says to her:

"Little one, give Me souls -- Give Me the souls of the poor little street children. -- How it hurts, if you only knew, to see these poor children soiled with sin. -- I long for the purity of their love. -- If you would only answer and bring Me these souls -- draw them away from the hands of the evil one. If you only knew how many little ones fall into sin every day."

Mother Teresa goes on to tell of a vision where she encounters Mary:

"Again that great crowd -- I could see great sorrow and suffering in their faces -- I was kneeling near Our Lady, who was facing them. -- I did not see her face but I heard her say "Take care of them -- they are mine. -- Bring them to Jesus -- carry Jesus to them. -- Fear not. Teach them to say the Rosary -- the family Rosary and all will be well. -- Fear not -- Jesus and I will be with you and your children."

So while I personally reject the idea that Mother Teresa was simply deluded or made all this stuff up, I feel conflicted as to why Jesus would speak to her and seemingly confirm children being "soiled with sin," a doctrine that we are taught is wrong and even an "abomination," in regards to infant baptism. As well, why would The Virgin Mary tell her to teach them the Catholic Rosary if it's incorrect doctrine?

I am left with two possibilities:

a) Mother Teresa was divinely inspired.
b) She was simply deluded or the inspiration was not from God.

If a) is true, then there is the doctrinal conflict that I mentioned above. If b) is true, then it is in conflict with the scripture from Matthew 7 that I quoted earlier. And on top of that, if b) is true, I cannot help but feel discouraged that God didn't or couldn't lead someone, who was completely willing and able to give her all, to The Truth. Makes it seem all the more hopeless for the rest of us.

What do you think? Are we uncomfortable with miracles and spiritual encounters that don't occur in the "Mormon way?" Are they really from God?


Maren said...

Wow, good questions. I have to say it is A. It does bring in doctrinal questions, but I cannot believe it is B.

Anonymous said...

When the Lord said " children he meant everyone, young, middle age and old" our Lord has often called us " His Children" I believe the reason she was where she was, it's because she supposed to be there, to take care of his children. God knows the beginning and the end, He knew that only she could have done that job.Could I have done it, could you? So you see... God knows each one of us, He knew her, and the love she had for others and most of all of her believe in God and His Son, she was a especial spirit, a valiant and courageous one. Her dying wasn't the end, perhaps the Lord will see fit that she will enjoy (in the life where she is now) the full blessings of the gospel. Have you ever thought that maybe she was so far ahead of us and that's why she was chosen to do the the things that she did and endured all of it with humbleness and love for others?
God has a marvelous plan, to bring ALL of us to him and every single one of us plays a part on that plan, we are part of a Heavenly Map, we must be linked together, so everyone has a job to do, some play an even bigger role because or their righteousness, here on Earth we tend to see life with our physical eyes,but if we were to have a complete knowledge of everything we would see just how blessed Mother Theresa was, because of her love for Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ, she experienced things that none of us can understand, instead of being " checked out " I believe she was completely " plugged in" in a relationship with Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ, and yet she was still human, we musn't forget that.
Thats why to us it looks like her mind had " checked out" but in reality she was in a much higher level than we are.
We will never completely understand what she was all about unless we do as she did, in other words " to walk in her shoes"
So the question here is:
Mother Theresa found hers.

Schlange A. Taube said...

I have the same burning questions. I wonder, and this could very well be total hogwash - you tell me, maybe A and B are possible simultaniously. Perhaps Mother Teresa was inspired in some ways and dilluded in others. I do not doubt that she answered the call of the spirit in caring for the children of God. I wonder about her visions, though I don't think I'd outright challenge them.

I think that's the way things work with me... I have in many situations recieved and responded to devine inspiration and been blessed for it. There have also been many occasions when I thought I was having some inspiration, but later realized that I was deluding myself. As far as gaining the truth of the gospel, it's fortunate that there is a time and place reserved for everyone to gain fair opportunity to embrace it in this life or the next. I could very well see that the Lord might have wanted for this lady to continue in her current faith and wear out her life succoring those people rather than spending many years learning different doctrines teaching her to do many of the same things. Her time of oppertunity for recieving the gospel did not end with death, and she was all the more prepared by having made charity the standard of her living.

pb said...

Another option may be that God (not a term that I would prefer) cares nothing for doctrine. If God was felt keenly by Mother Theresa -- which I believe it/he/she probably was -- because of her human limitations, she interpreted that presence through the lens of her religion. Other persons have also felt God keenly in their lives and have not had "Catholic" or "Mormon" responses, but have spoken of it in other terms. I am at a level where I can only think about "God", not knowing "God" experientially as others have, but I believe that many of the experiences that others relate are valid and true, as evidenced by "the fruit of the tree," as you point out. Which leads me to conclude that "God" is far, far greater than can ever be encapsulated in any religion, and that religions are simply crude efforts to point the way for those who do not experience God directly. If there are many religions on this earth, it is because there are many people, all with different languages, predispositions, and needs. While God can never be known definitively through any religion, but only through direct experience, still one religion may "point the way" better for some people than for others. I myself have had a much easier time talking with religious people since I learned to "translate" the language that religious people use to a language that makes more sense to me. Ultimately, I believe the most spiritually evolved beings are "post" religious, in that they may validate whatever religion that got them where they are to some extent, but then they do not tend to get stuck there. Jesus Christ was himself such a person, going far beyond the religion of his youth, yet not rejecting it entirely. Gandhi also, though a Hindu, to my understanding attempted to assimilate those of Muslim faith into his larger vision, not being attached to the "smaller" Hindu faith per se.

The Faithful Dissident said...


That was a great comment. It has given me inspiration for a new post. Stay tuned. :)

Jacob and Kalli Hiller said...

Calcutta is my favorite place in the world. I would live there, if I could.