Dr. Sherlock’s Conversion Explanation

I clicked on a link at FPR that allowed access to the audio of the explanation Dr. Richard Sherlock gave of his conversion from Mormonism to Catholicism.  I listened to the explanation and the Q&A a couple of times, and I have to say that I am particularly unimpressed by it all.  Of course, there may be deeper issues that I do not get, but to summarize his 4-point explanation:

1 – Catholics have a better approach to theodicy or the problem of evil.  I have a hard time with this explanation.  It seems his approach is to ignore the problem and say there is not such thing as evil.  Said another way, trust God.  This is very ironic to me given that Sherlock makes such a point of the intellect instead of emotion.  I feel that Mormonism provides the most fertile intellectual ground available for theodicy.  Am I missing something here?

2 – Catholics have a better approach to the big bang.  Sherlock does not seem to like eternal matter, or a material God, or a God who did not create the entire universe ex nihilo.  I feel that Sherlock overstated a scientific consensus regarding big bang theory, particularly ignoring multiverse theory.  I know very little about this, but it seems his explanation was lacking.  The important part to Sherlock seemed to be that if God did not literally create everything, then there is no fundamental purpose to anything.  I disagree with this.  I think you can still have purpose to organizing chaotic matter, even if the matter is eternal.  I also think there is plenty of wiggle room in big bang theories.

3 – Catholics maintain a large, fundamental ontological gap between God and man.  Sherlock seems to prefer an absolute God who is entirely ‘other’ from man.  This is fine, if this is how you feel.  But it also seems to me to make things more mysterious and emotional, rather than intellectual.  Which is counter to much of his explanation.

4 – Anti-intellectual sentiment within Mormonism.  Well, okay, there is something to this.  But there is room for thought within Mormonism.  Sherlock himself was proof of that.  Look at Blake Ostler and others.

I know I am a novice at this stuff, but I am quite disappointed in the explanation.  It seems shallow and inconsistent for someone of his background.  It also seems ironic with the whole head and heart theme he cast his explanation with.


10 Responses to “Dr. Sherlock’s Conversion Explanation”

  1. 1 Brother Smyth April 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Numbers 2 and 3 are highly related, if you work on understanding them in the opposite order. Knowing that God began as a man like us and improved to his current state helps to understand the Creation better. If God went through a similar probationary state, it would have been on an earth like ours.

    Believe it or not, bringing in the dinosaurs at this point helps with the intellectual part of the debate. Why the disparity of scientific measurement that shows fossils that are millions of years old versus the written history showing the earth is only a few thousand years old? There are chunks of old earths that did exist millions of years ago, which were repurposed in the creation of our earth. That’s probably too simple of an explanation for many, which is precisely why it’s such a great explanation.

    The question I’d have for Dr. Sherlock is how long ago he stopped praying and reading the scriptures. He likely stopped doing the things that bring the spirit into our lives, and was left on his own to take a limited intellectual view of the world rather than being able to look on the world with spiritual eyes. It’s unfortunate.

    • 2 John Roberts July 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      As a Mormon, myself, I have serious doubts about chunks of old earths with dinosaur bones being imbued in our young earth. Why? Because bones never stay bones. Bones stay bones until they’re resurrected, and life exists to attain resurrection. To say there are previous earths that don’t come under a resurrection denies the process of salvation.

      I believe the dinosaurs on this earth will one day be resurrected with the rest of the animal kingdom. But whether they existed alongside man (and there is some evidence of this in the fossil record), or lived millions of years ago, this is something that all biblical religions wrestle with. It’s one issue I don’t worry about much. I put it with antimatter, the big bang and dark energy.

      Dr. Sherlock is the last person someone should listen to regarding an understanding of Mormonism, just as Elder McConkie should have been the last person one should go to in understanding Catholicism. Sherlock has no basic understanding of the religion or how we worship. He should stop speaking on our beliefs until he better understands them.

  2. 3 Eric Nielson April 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment Brother.

    I think it is probably unwise to take to strong of a stand on scientific explanations for the origins of the earth or the universe. Or religious ones. Better to acknowledge them as opinions in process.

    Sherlock admitted that he had significant problems with many of the claims of Mormonism all along. It seems to me he was always something of a cultural Mormon, and leaned Catholic on some of his personal beliefs.

    He also gave a couple of spritual experiences he claimed to have during his conversion, although they seemed to me to be general rather than specific. He gave an example of feeling the spirit while reading the passion in Luke while in some Catholic building or meeting. I am not sure that the location is what I would attribute that experience to.

  3. 4 Stan Beale April 19, 2011 at 2:31 am

    I have believed for years that scholars, especially scientists, social scientists and philosophers tend to have serious problems with other Mormons and, to a lesser degree, the insitutional Church.

    Too many Mormon are anti-rational (not necessarily anti-intellectual). The wide acceptance of faith promoting rumors, tortured explanations for apparent conflicts between reason and biblical literalism, the refusal to evaluate or consider ideas that may or may not fit comfortably into their world views and an unstated desire to make decisions only on what some Church Authority did say or supposedly did say, all contribute to this idea.

    Church leaders and thru them church instutions have made mistakes from somethung as simple as saying man would not get to the moon as serious as blacks being denied the Priesthood.

    Why do some scholars fall victim to these problems and others do not? I think they key is Testimony. I know all the steps that one is supposed to take to build and keep her or his testimony, but I am still amazed when one does not keep it.

    As a caveat, I have always felt very blessed that the key bases for my testimony are five separate incidences of personal revalation. Twenty seven words and one pointing finger hitting me like a 2X4 striking the head of a stubborn mule. You just do not forget. I often wonder, how many were as fortunate as I was in this regards.

  4. 5 Eric Nielson April 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Thanks Stan.

    From Sherlock’s explanation, I would guess that he never really had a testimony.

  5. 6 Chris H. April 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I do not want to touch on Richard’s testimony. I hope he is happy.

    Sherlock has always been a natural law person. I think he is comfortable there.

    I interacted with him a bit while I was at BYU last year. The funny thing for me about all of this is that he did not see how I could be a liberal and a Mormon. I guess you cannot be a natural law theorist and a Mormon.

    I am saddened by the tone he used in the recordings. I am fine with him converting, but I am surprised by his need to kick Mormons on the way out. Of course, given his abrasive personality, maybe I should not be surprised.

  6. 7 Eric Nielson April 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I only met him once, and he certainly seemed like a colorful character. I hope he is happy to. I am just disappointed in his explanation.

  7. 8 Eric Nielson April 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm


    Some comments were deleted or edited due to what is likely a false rumor. You are not being banned or anything like that.

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