Skip to comments.Carmelite nun traces path from LDS faith
Posted on 10/05/2009 6:39:28 AM PDT by Colofornian
Holladay » Barbara Whipperman was a pious teenager, a defender of the faith.
When her parents bought a can of coffee, before they even could brew a pot, she saved them from themselves.
"I tossed the whole can," the 76-year-old recalls, laughing raucously. "I was a good little Mormon girl. Oh, they were mad!"
How that good little Mormon girl from Sugar House came to be Sister Mary Joseph, a Catholic -- and a nun, no less -- is a story she tells with relish.
A member of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a cloistered monastery that has been in Holladay for nearly 57 years, Mary Joseph is the "extern" sister, which means she is the link between the seven other nuns and the world.
While she joins the others daily for Mass and meals, she skips the rigorous daily schedule of prayer that is the vocation of cloistered nuns.
Instead, the gregarious Mary Joseph lives in her own apartment, does the grocery shopping, tends the flowers, meets with the plumber and the neighbors and, until her eyesight got too bad, drove the other nuns to doctor appointments.
"That kind of thing goes against my grain," says Mary Joseph, who spent three years cloistered when she joined the Carmelites in 1963. "I catch as catch can. I'm not a very scheduled person."
Her conversion, Mary Joseph says, probably began at age 14, when she had the distinct feeling she should give her life to God.
Before Whipperman took her new name in the monastery, she was the daughter of a pharmacist-turned-salesman and a stay-at-home-mom-turned-secretary. She had two older brothers.
Her father had been a convert to the LDS faith, and both parents were practicing Mormons.
Whipperman didn't study much in high school and took easy classes, but after working as a billing clerk for six months after graduation, she knew she wanted an education. A counselor assessed her talents and came up with a few potential careers:
"I could be either a good car mechanic, a good plumber, a good doctor or a nurse."
Doctrinal defiance » Daunted by the fact she would need years of schooling to become a doctor, she worked as a nurse's aide at LDS Hospital and then enrolled in Brigham Young University's new nursing program. She graduated with honors in 1956.
She remembers that in her early 20s, she began questioning a core belief of her faith: that righteous men can become gods.
When an LDS professor, perhaps trying to shock his dozing students awake, mentioned that there was no scriptural basis for that doctrine, Whipperman soaked it up.
The same doctrine came up during Sunday School the next weekend, and Whipperman parroted the professor "just to be a controversial brat."
One thing led to another. Her colleagues dressed her down. She got defensive.
"I made the big, fat statement: 'I will have nothing to do with organized religion. I'll worship as I wish' ... which meant I did nothing."
While she laughs at her youthful arrogance, Mary Joseph says the period was transformative.
"I could no longer accept the doctrine, their conception of God. My God was bigger than that," she says. "Once that doctrine falls apart, everything else falls apart."
After graduating from BYU, she worked as a public-health nurse in Salt Lake City.
In a night class, she met an Austrian woman who had a St. Christopher's medal in her car. That could mean only one thing: "I thought, 'She's Catholic! That's terrible! I have a friend who is Catholic?' "
Anti-Catholic bigotry was at a peak, Mary Joseph remembers. "I'd been in on it."
But she was curious about what Catholics believed and eventually asked a Catholic co-worker to buy her the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible. She began attending various parishes for Mass each Sunday, wary of revisiting for fear the Catholics would twist her arm to stay.
"I had a big chip on my shoulder. I thought, 'I've already been hoodwinked once.' It wasn't going to happen again."
Stepping forth in faith » She began studying the catechism and taking instruction from a Catholic priest. She found she was unable to poke holes in the arguments for the faith.
When her dad discovered her Catholic materials, her parents were angry and sad. She ended up moving out of their home and into a nearby basement apartment.
By then, she had begun to worry about the implications of leaving the LDS Church and becoming Catholic. Would her parents and friends disown her? Would she lose her job? Would she be "kicked out" of the community?
One Sunday afternoon, her friends and she decided to drop by what then was the fairly new monastery in Holladay. She had no idea what the word "cloistered" meant, but she and her friends piled into her 1957 Volkswagen Beetle and "toodled," as she says, out to Holladay.
There, she met someone who gave her courage: Sister Catherine Romney Cheney, another convert from the LDS faith who was at the time the extern sister for the cloistered nuns. Catherine was the sister of LDS apostle Marion G. Romney.
"Her brother was down on Temple Square and she was here -- a nun. And that's all I needed to know," Mary Joseph recalls. "I stepped forth in faith. Blind faith."
And once Mary Joseph decided to become a Roman Catholic -- she was baptized into the church on Nov. 25, 1957, at age 24 -- she knew she would become a nun.
She assumed she would become a Holy Cross sister, since she was a nurse and that order had Holy Cross Hospital. But she didn't get along with the Holy Cross sisters.
When a priest told her she belonged at Carmel, she laughed. "I can't keep my mouth shut," she remembers telling him.
After caring for her father as he was dying from cancer, she joined the Carmelites in Sacramento, Calif., to get around a Utah Catholic leader's pronouncement that recent converts could not become nuns.
She was cloistered there, but was sick from stress and ended up returning to Salt Lake City. She joined the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1963. Her family and friends may have been puzzled, but they did not shun her.
No regrets » Except for the first three years, she always has been an "extern" nun. That allows her, among other things, this liberty: She has a Labrador, her fourth one, that sleeps on her bed and joins her in the gardens. The first two Labs she named Inky. Her current Lab, Ebony, is the second by that name.
"I like the name, except that I keep calling him 'her.' It's a little gender problem," says Mary Joseph, who regularly accepts smooches from her pal.
Though she now uses a mechanized wheelchair because her knees are bad, Mary Joseph still orchestrates an army of 300 volunteers to stage the annual Carmelite Fair, an afternoon of food, entertainment, auctions and games that provides about 80 percent of the nuns' livelihood.
Various groups help set up the fair, including several from LDS wards.
Spread over the grass on Carmelites' 8-acre property, the fair brings the world to the monastery while the cloistered nuns remain inside, praying.
Mary Joseph says she has no regrets about her journey from Mormonism to Catholicism.
"I always say, 'The best decision I ever made was becoming a Catholic. The second best was to become a Carmelite nun.' "
From the article: She remembers that in her early 20s, she began questioning a core belief of her faith: that righteous men can become gods... When an LDS professor, perhaps trying to shock his dozing students awake, mentioned that there was no scriptural basis for that doctrine, Whipperman soaked it up. The same doctrine came up during Sunday School the next weekend, and Whipperman parroted the professor "just to be a controversial brat." ..."I could no longer accept the doctrine, their conception of God. My God was bigger than that," she says. "Once that doctrine falls apart, everything else falls apart."
From the article: "I had a big chip on my shoulder. I thought, 'I've already been hoodwinked once.' It wasn't going to happen again."
From the article: There, she met someone who gave her courage: Sister Catherine Romney Cheney, another convert from the LDS faith who was at the time the extern sister for the cloistered nuns. Catherine was the sister of LDS apostle Marion G. Romney
Folks, it's never too late to convert from Mormonism -- despite your family, social & cultural ties. Others have done it. As this nun says, God is bigger than the man-Mormon-god and we're smaller than the Mormon idea of men-becoming-gods.
Been there - done that. Thankfully God found me and these two wonderful women. It's in His hands folks. Pray.
The Air Force just brought my family and me to Layton, Utah. And this subject is one that my wife and I have spent much time discussing. We are trying to figure out how best to share our Christian faith with our wonderful Mormon neighbors. I am sometimes disheartened by the fact that my neighbors (and coworkers for that matter) seem to have given so little critical thought or diligent study to their faith. I recently read a small pamphlet on Mormonism and just the info provided in those 20 pages would be enough to make any logical/learned person question the faith. But I have accepted the fact that people will believe what they have been told since birth to be true.
I find it odd that people would spend so much time trying to convert someone else’s beliefs instead of building on the IMPORTANT beliefs that they share.
I have had many Mormon friends, Southern Baptist friends and agnostic friends. One of my best buddies from the Navy (3 decades ago) is a Catholic Priest. The one thing I notice is that we share a lot more principles and beliefs than we differ on. Us folks, who support Judeo-Christian principles, Constitutionally protected freedoms, and Western Culture should stand together and fight those who do not. Divisive posts like yours do nothing to further freedom and a strong America.
The identity of God and the eternal destiny of humans is far more important than the issues you mention here.
“The one thing I notice is that we share a lot more principles and beliefs than we differ on. Us folks, who support Judeo-Christian principles, Constitutionally protected freedoms, and Western Culture should stand together and fight those who do not. Divisive posts like yours do nothing to further freedom and a strong America.”
On top of that, all those items you mention are based on the belief in the truthfulness of the Jewish Bible and the Christian New Testament, something that the LDS church rejects in a very sly manner.
Define first IMPORTANT
Then carefully define those beliefs that are shared.
God will handle his affairs, including the eternal destiny of humans. I’m fairly certain those who think they have all the answers pertaining to religion will get their comeuppance.
I have known many in the LDS church, including some from the old families, and not one rejected Judeo-Christian principles, Constitutionally protected freedoms, or Western Culture. Not one. In fact, I find them to be every bit as Christian as any Methodist, Baptist, Catholic or any other flavor branched off from the tree of Christians. Do I buy their version? Nope. No more than I buy your claim to exclusive knowledge.
Do the Mormons believe that Jesus Christ created all things and that he has been eternally existent? That He has ALWAYS been God?
No, they don’t, which makes them not Christians.
Bookmark for later read
Wow, I’m blessed to have met the man with all the answers. Thanks for your final word on all things Christian. Almost godlike in your confidence.
I believe those are clearly defined in the post you responded to.
So it is important to sit around the campfire and sing kumbya?
Then, you should be alarmed at the fact that the mormon church sends out 60,000 young men and many elderly couples EVERY YEAR to "divide" others from their Christian faith.
Have you registered your "alarm" with the leaders in Salt Lake City?
I think a simple copy of your post sent to The Corporation Of The President Of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, UT would reach them. Please return and report.
Fair and balance!:)
Former Catholic Church Members
Not what I said. That is an insult to me, and my service to our country. I am by NO means a pacifist, progressive or RINO. I do, however, believe that the movement to save our country, of which this website is a part of, is better served by leaving the “angel on a pinhead” religious divisionist BS out of it.
You should be secure in the knowledge that other churches do not send their young out on Mission.
Oh, wait, they do.
Do you find that as objectionable as the Mormons doing it? Apparently not.
Riddle me this, Batman, did you know the Greek word for pearls is "margarita"? That's about all I have to say.
My post didn't insult your service to the country - I served this country too. That is WHY is asked for a more specific definition of IMPORTANT - remember.
I am by NO means a pacifist, progressive or RINO.
Again, that was not addressed either, so your rant is inconsequential to this discussion or topic.
I do, however, believe that the movement to save our country, of which this website is a part of, is better served by leaving the angel on a pinhead religious divisionist BS out of it.
Religious beliefs have consequences in the long term. However, this is the RELIGION forum and if you do not want to discuss religion here, there are other forums more suited to your desires.
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