By Colleen Tinker
Mormons, Catholics, and Seventh-day Adventists collaborated on Thursday, July 20, unloading beds and mattresses into the rooms of the new Pope Francis Haven House, the fourth Catholic Charities apartment house for homeless people built in Spokane, Washington, in the last few years.
Construction of Pope Francis Haven was completed earlier this summer, and Catholic Charities was getting it ready for occupancy. The Mormons became involved early in June when Chloe Penwell, the community service director for the Spokane Valley Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called Catholic Charities and asked if they could help with their latest effort to build houses for the homeless.
Monique Kolonko, executive vice president of stabilization and housing for Catholic Charities, responded, “We don’t have mattresses, and we don’t have bed frames.” Penwell immediately owned the need and, through the local stake, applied for $50,200 through the Mormon church’s humanitarian fund in Salt Lake City. The grant was approved, and the supplies were delivered on July 20.
Penwell had six days to organize a work crew when she learned the LDS organization was shipping the furniture. She assembled a team of Mormon missionaries who unloaded and carried the mattresses and beds into the new building. Families are beginning to move into the units this week, and Kolonko expects it to be full by the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, the Spokane Valley’s Seventh-day Adventist church operates a new 2-acre garden near the Pope Francis Haven, and Mormon missionaries volunteer there regularly. This year, the first year the garden yielded a harvest, saw Adventist church members taking the produce to downtown Spokane to Catholic Charities for distributing. Rufus Salmon runs both the garden and the men’s ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist church, and he said their hope “is to offer gardening classes for families in Pope Francis Haven and let them take the produce home in exchange for helping out.”
“It’d be an opportunity for them to learn and give back,” Salmon says.
The president of the Spokane Valley Stake for the LDS church, Geoff Julian, explained that “helping homeless families through humanitarian efforts is part of the [Mormon] church’s mission.”
Then, in a sentence remarkably reminiscent of Adventist healthcare mission statements, Julian said, “[The Mormon church] is set up to follow the message of our savior, Jesus Christ.”
Penwell added this comment, “The most exciting part for me has been an opportunity to work across faith boundaries. That was what I really wanted to do.”
A closer look
On the surface, this story is a heartwarming account of religious people inspired by the example of Jesus joining forces to help the needy. Under the surface, however, there are dynamics that reveal the similarities of these three organizations.
While Adventists and Catholics have made several business decisions to meld their hospitals under the same banner, the union between the two remains ironic. Ellen White wrote in no uncertain terms that Rome was the spiritual enemy of Adventists and Bible truth. The Roman Catholic church, in fact, will be responsible for trampling the consciences of true believers:
Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience (The Great Controversy, p. 588.2).
Adventists can rationalize partnering with Catholics in medical and humanitarian works because they can say it’s not about their religions, but it’s about helping people regardless of religion. Yet Adventism’s doctrines still include the idea that Roman Catholicism “changed the Sabbath to Sunday” and “changed times and laws” to give the world a false Sabbath that will deceive Christians at the end of time. Adventists still believe that Sabbath-keeping will be the mark of those who will be saved when Jesus returns, and they still believe that “keeping” Sunday will be the mark of the beast. Most importantly, they still believe that the pope and the Catholic Church are responsible for deceiving Christendom and for persecuting true believers in the coming Time of Trouble.
For Adventists to partner with Pope Francis Haven is to obscure the fact that, when they proselytize prospective members, those hapless converts will eventually learn that the pope is the antichrist and the Catholic Church is Babylon. Their hand-holding across the gap of their religions is deceptive and is designed to obscure the cultic nature of both.
Meanwhile, the Mormons sharing humanitarian work with the Adventists is equally ironic. Adventists teach their members that Ellen White bears the marks of a true biblical prophet, but Joseph Smith does not. In fact, Adventism teaches its young that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are cults, and only the Adventist prophet is a true prophet of God.
Now, sharing humanitarian work, they both hide behind a social service facade and ignore the propaganda dividing them.
There is a good reason that Christians have historically refused to partner with Mormons and other heretical groups: it confuses the gospel for Bible-believing, born again sons of God to appear to share the same goals as people who teach a different gospel and and do not regard the Bible as God’s inerrant word to us.
Now we see Adventists partnering not only with Catholics but also with Mormons whose core beliefs differ from each other. Ironically, however, Mormonisms’ mission to “follow the example of our savior, Jesus Christ,” is quite similar to Adventist Health Care’s goal, expressed clearly by Loma Linda University Medical Center’s mission statement, “To continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus.”
The uncomfortable truth that emerges from examining this and other similar partnerships between Adventism and Mormonism and/or Catholicism is that at the core, they are not wildly different from each other. None teaches a completed atonement accomplished on the cross. None teaches that we must repent of our sin and be born again of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:16-18).
Adventism poses as a Christian humanitarian force in the world, but in reality it has far more in common with its nemesis the Roman Catholic Church and with an admitted cult that has, by Adventists’ own testimony, a false prophet.
Adventism is a chameleon that is willing to adopt whatever color is next to it in order to avoid detection and in order to protect itself. While God does bless the world even through the humanitarian work of false religions, this fact does not validate these organizations’ evangelism.
As Christians, we must be firmly rooted in the Bible and the gospel, partaking of the solid food that “is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Just imagine what a witness it would be if Adventists, Catholics, and Mormons responded to the true gospel of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and found true unity in the Spirit as members of the body of Christ and as adopted sons and daughters of the Father!