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BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY


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World Religions (Non-Christian) and Mormonism

[This entry consists of seven articles:

Overview
Buddhism
Confucianism
Hinduism
Islam
Judaism
Shinto

The articles gathered under this title generally explain the relationships between Latter-day Saints and persons of other faiths, and illustrate differences and similarities in belief between non-Christian religions and the LDS religion. On the former subject, see also Interfaith Relationships: Jewish and Interfaith Relationships: Other.]

Overview

Latter-day Saints believe that God has inspired not only people of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but other people as well, to carry out his purposes. Today God inspires not only Latter-day Saints but also founders, teachers, philosophers, and reformers of other Christian and non-Christian religions. Since LDS belief is grounded in a theistic biblical faith, it has been relatively easy for scholars and believers to perceive parallels between it and traditional Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Now that the Church has become a global movement extending into Asia, comparisons between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principal religions of India, China, Korea, and Japan are increasingly significant.

The gospel does not hold an adversarial relationship with other religions. Leaders of the Church have said that intolerance is a sign of weakness (R. Lindsay, "A Mormon View of Religious Tolerance," Address to the Anti-defamation League of B´nai B´rith, San Francisco, February 6, 1984). The LDS perspective is that "we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may" (A of F 11). The Church teaches that members must not only be kind and loving toward others but also respect their right to believe and worship as they choose.

George Albert Smith, eighth President of the Church, publicly advocated the official Church policy of friendship and tolerance: "We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor to criticize you…. We have come here as your brethren…. Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father" (pp. 12–13).

On February 15, 1978 the First Presidency of the Church issued the following declaration: "The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God´s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals…. Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal Welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father" (Palmer, 1978).

In the words of Orson F. Whitney, an apostle, the gospel "embraces all truth, whether known or unknown. It incorporates all intelligence, both past and prospective. No righteous principle will ever be revealed, no truth can possibly be discovered, either in time or in eternity, that does not in some manner, directly or indirectly, pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Elders´ Journal 4, no. 2 [Oct. 15, 1906]:26). "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (A of F 13).

 

SPENCER J. PALMER

Bibliography

Palmer, Spencer J. The Expanding Church. Statement of the First Presidency, Feb. 15, 1978, frontispiece. Salt Lake City, 1978.

Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.

Smith, George Albert. Sharing the Gospel with Others, ed. Preston Nibley. Salt Lake City, 1948.

 

Buddhism

"Buddhism has been the most important religious force in Asia for nearly two thousand years. No other religion has affected the thought, culture, and politics of so many people. In aesthetics, architecture, dance, drama, handicrafts, literary arts, and music Buddhism has also been the single most important civilizing influence in the Eastern world" (Palmer and Keller, p. 49).

Siddhartha Gautama (563–483 B.C.), the founder of Buddhism, acknowledged no God, no soul, and no future life; he taught of the bliss of nirvana, which involves the extinction of ego and lust. Caught in the legacy of karma, one´s life is bequeathed to another who falls heir to it—a continuation that is sometimes called "stream of consciousness," the "aggregates of character," or the "skandas." Consequently, the historical Buddha did not advocate worship or prayer, but practiced introspective meditation as a form of spiritual discipline.

The philosophy of Gautama (Gotama, in Pali), sometimes called Theravada Buddhism, with its emphasis upon the worthlessness of the physical body, of individuality, of this phenomenal mortal life, of faith in God, and of judgment, disagrees with LDS doctrine. In the restored gospel, mankind is the literal, personal offspring of God. It is a privilege to be born into mortality to gain a physical body, so that one can become more like the Heavenly Father, who is a personal, tangible being (cf. D&C 130:22). Self-fulfillment, not self-negation, is the purpose of earth life. Latter-day Saints seek to emulate Christ and, through the power of his divine Atonement, to be personally exalted into the presence of God after death, and to become like him (see Godhood).

This is not to say that the gospel and Buddhism contradict one another in every way. The LDS religion, like Buddhism, advocates meditation, reverence, inspiration, and moderation. Latter-day Saints embrace elements similar to those of the Eightfold Middle Path, which advocate freedom from ill will and cruelty, and abstinence from lying, talebearing, harsh and vain thought, violence, killing, stealing, and sexual immorality (see Commandments).

Other dimensions of Buddhist doctrine and practice, in the schools of Mahayana Buddhism in northern Asia, are similar to LDS doctrine and practice. Both LDS belief and Mahayana Buddhism are theistic. The Bodhisattva ideal of benevolence and compassionate service, of helping others who cannot by themselves reach the highest realms of spirituality, is not only largely consistent with the vicarious sacrifice and redeeming love of Jesus Christ, but also is expressed in wide-ranging, loving service on behalf of the living and the dead carried out within Latter-day Saint temples (see Temple Ordinances).

 

SPENCER J. PALMER

Bibliography

Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.

 

Confucianism

The Confucian focus upon moral example as the basis of harmony in society, government, and the universe is consistent with LDS views. However, Confucius was not interested in metaphysics or theology; he did not advocate belief in God, nor did he talk about life after death. He was concerned with humans in their social setting.

Arguments that Confucianism is not a religion have often been answered by references to its sacred text. One could also point to the lives of millions who have sought to practice its teachings by honoring parents and deceased ancestors through acts of affection and piety in the home or through performances at tombs, shrines, and temples that convey spiritual belief as well as moral affirmations (Palmer, p. 16). For Latter-day Saints, morality is based upon the individual´s relationship with God as an expression of one´s faith in God and upon obedience to his will.

Confucian morality is generally expressed in social and cultural ways. Values of loyalty, virtue, respect, courtesy, learning, and love are preserved primarily through outward courtesies and formalities, including traditional family ceremonies. Filial piety is the ultimate virtue. It includes honoring the spirits of one´s ancestors not only by observances at graves and family tombs but also by striving to achieve acclaim in learning, in the mastery of sacred texts, and in aesthetic arts such as music, poetry, and painting.

The Confucian quest for sagehood, for refinement and cultivation of the ideal human, has its counterpart in the Latter-day Saint quest for eternal life. Both the sage and the true Latter-day Saint personify the transforming power of righteous behavior (see Righteousness). In LDS scripture it is sometimes referred to as putting off "the natural man" and becoming a saint, one characterized as being "submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict" (Mosiah 3:19).

Latter-day Saints and Confucians share a mutual concern for the salvation of the extended family. Though the focus differs, both carry out devotional ceremonies in sacred places on behalf of departed ancestors. In this respect, both the LDS Church and Confucianism may be called family-centered religions. Both place importance upon genealogical research, the preservation of family records, and the performance of vicarious holy ordinances on behalf of their dead. In both instances, there exists a commitment to the idea that the living can serve the needs of departed loved ones (see Temple Ordinances).

Church members believe that Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, personally appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 and conferred priesthood keys, or authority, by means of which the hearts of children could turn to their ancestors and to the promises of salvation made to the fathers and the hearts of forebears could turn to their children (D&C 110:13–16), with the result that families and generations can be joined together "for time and for all eternity." Joseph Smith´s remark concerning the dead "that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect" (D&C 128:15; cf. Heb. 11:40) also resonates in the Confucian world.

 

SPENCER J. PALMER

Bibliography

Palmer, Spencer J. Confucian Rituals in Korea. Berkeley, Calif., 1984.

Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.

 

Hinduism

Unlike the LDS Church, Hinduism has no founder, no central authority, no hierarchy, no uniformly explicated or applied moral standards. However, Hindus and Latter-day Saints share at least two fundamental beliefs—the continuing operation of irreversible cosmic law and the importance of pursuing ultimate union with the divine—though these principles may be understood differently (see Unity).

Hinduism and the gospel of Jesus Christ differ in their perceptions of deity. In Hinduism there exist many gods, of thunder, drink, fire, sky, mountains, and the like, who are variously playful, capricious, vindictive, loving, and law-abiding. During the period of classical Hinduism, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva emerged to represent, respectively, the three primary functions of creation, preservation, and destruction. However, among the gods there is no generally recognized order.

For Latter-day Saints, God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost form a tritheistic group of individuals of unified purpose and power, always systematic and ethical. The Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (D&C 130:22). The physical world was organized by the Father, through the instrumentality of the Son, who is the only Savior of the world, having willingly submitted to the suffering in Gethsemane and to crucifixion as an atoning sacrifice so that humankind could be delivered from death and sin. Several ordinances of the Church are similitudes of the life, death, and redemption of Christ.

LDS belief and Hinduism both subscribe to a belief in an antemortal existence (see Premortal Life). Hindus believe that premortal experiences determine inequalities of earthly life, including the caste system. In LDS cosmology, eternal laws of cause and effect were applicable in the premortal existence, as they are for inhabitants of the current temporal world: "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:20–21). Valiant souls from the pre-earth life may be ordained to be leaders here (Abr. 3:23; cf. Jer. 1:4; see Foreordination).

In Hindu terminology, the cosmic law of justice is called "karma." Hindus believe that individual spirits are reincarnated repeatedly on earth in accordance with the effects of karma. Those who have not yet merited release from this wheel of rebirth are in a state of negative karma. If they improve their deeds during the next incarnation, they can improve their karmic condition and may even gain freedom to reach Nirvana (see Reincarnation).

To Latter-day Saints, mortality is considered an extension and continuation of premortal performance in proving and preparing persons for exaltation in life after death. Humans are born only once on earth, and all mortal beings at birth are candidates for exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. Hindus believe that the accumulated prebirth experiences have more consequence in determining one´s future state than the actions of mortality. For Church members, birth is not an indication of failure to achieve release from the wheel of birth but rather a positive step forward along the path from premortal life to mortal life to immortality and eternal progression. In this connection, the Fall of Adam was no accident. It was an essential event in the plan of reunion with God (cf. 2 Ne. 2:25).

At the philosophical level, Hinduism sees the phenomenal world as an illusion, but within the manifold appearances there is Brahman, the World Soul. Individual life is an invisible aspect of Universal Life. The ultimate object of all works, devotion, and knowledge is to gain release from egotistical lustful attachments to this physical world so as to achieve a state of peace that comes from identity with the impersonal Universal Soul, or Nirvana.

Gaining a conscious union with God is also a prime objective of LDS belief, although it is perceived differently. Jesus not only declared that he and his Father were one but also prayed that his disciples would likewise become one with them (John 10:30; 17:11), both in mind and will, as well as in heightened states of celestial consciousness, that is, to develop thoroughly Christlike and godlike qualities (D&C 35:2; 76:58; 1 Cor. 6:17; Heb. 2:11; Rom. 12:2). In purpose, power, and personality, and even in the glorification of the body, humankind can become perfect (Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48; see also Perfection). Unlike Hinduism, the LDS faith does not seek the relinquishment of individuality. Free agency and personal responsibility are not impaired but ultimately honored and enhanced.

 

SPENCER J. PALMER

Bibliography

Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.

 

Islam

Interest in the Church´s associations with Islam has appeared in literary comparisons, within LDS teachings, and through historical contacts. The initial comparison was perhaps made in 1834, when the anti-Mormon Pastor E. D. Howe suggested that Joseph Smith matched Muhammad´s "ignorance and stupidity," thereby coining an analogy that experienced polemical and "scientific" phases. The polemical phase entailed American Protestants vilifying the Church and its prophet by likening them to Islam and Muhammad, long presumed fraudulent by Christians. This disputative tactic had been used against Protestants during the Counter-Reformation, and emphasized such allegations as sensuality, violence, and deception. These polemics yielded a literary corpus—for example, "The Yankee Mahomet" and books by Joseph Willing and Bruce Kinney. The scientific phase began when the explorer and Arabist Richard Francis Burton visited Utah in 1860 and rephrased in academic discourse the analogy, subsequently elaborated by David Margoliouth, Eduard Meyer, Hans Thimme, and Georges Bousquet. These Orientalists and sociologists of religion apparently felt they could study fully documented Mormonism as a proxy for underdocumented Islam.

The Church´s doctrinal posture toward Islam has also gone through phases. Islam is not mentioned in either the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants. Yet articles in Times and Seasons suggest that some LDS spokesmen initially echoed medieval Christian views of Islam as fanatical heresy (Editorial, 3 [15 Apr. 1842]; "Last Hour of the False Prophet," 5 [Apr. 1, 1844]; "Mahometanism," 6 [Jan. 15, 1845]). But speeches by apostles George A. Smith and Parley P. Pratt in 1855 evoked more positive traditional interpretations: that Islam, fulfilling biblical promises made to Ishmael ("gen. 21:1Gen. 21), was divinely instigated to "scourge" apostate Christianity and to curb idolatry. Perhaps unknowingly paraphrasing Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792), George A. Smith applied historical judgment to Islam´s experience: "As they abode in the teachings which Mahomet gave them,…they were united and prospered; but when they ceased to do this, they lost their power and influence" (pp. 34–35). More recently, perhaps in the context of the Church´s growth to global dimensions, Muslim cultures have figured prominently in dicta—such as those by President Spencer W. Kimball and Elders Howard W. Hunter, Bruce R. McConkie, and Carlos E. Asay—stressing that God is no respecter of persons on grounds of race or color. In the "Easter Message" of February 15, 1978, the LDS First Presidency wrote that Muhammad and other nonbiblical religious leaders and philosophers "received a portion of God´s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations." On balance, Mormon teachings thus seem to have cast Islam in a positive historical role.

Latter-day Saints´ historical contacts with Islam include missions in countries with Muslim populations. Some LDS proselytizers have expressed sentiments articulated earlier by such Catholic and Protestant missionaries as Cardinal Lavigerie and Samuel Zwemer: that Islam´s own doctrinal claims (e.g., God is one not three; Jesus was a prophet, not God´s son; apostates from Islam merit death), Islamic society´s holistic character, and the sad legacy of Muslim–Christian relations make difficult the converting of Muslims to Christianity. Since World War II many LDS professionals have lived in Muslim communities. Some have chronicled their experience in terms that are human (Marion Miller) or historical—theological (Arthur Wallace). At least one has engaged in radical syncretism (Ibn Yusuf/Lloyd Miller; see Green, 1983). Governments of Islamic countries, most of which ban proselytizing, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have allowed discreet worship by LDS families. In 1989 Jordan permitted the establishment of an LDS cultural center in Amman.

 

ARNOLD H. GREEN

Bibliography

For general reviews of the literature, see A. H. Green, "Joseph Smith as an American Muhammad," Dialogue 6 (Spring 1971):46–58; and "The Muhammad-Joseph Smith Comparison: Subjective Metaphor or a Sociology of Prophethood," in Mormons and Muslims, ed. Spencer J. Palmer, Provo, Utah, 1983. This latter volume constitutes a collection of essays on the subject. For recent authoritative LDS statements, see Spencer W. Kimball, "The Uttermost Parts of the Earth," Ensign 9 (July 1979):2–9; and Howard W. Hunter, "All Are Alike Unto God," BYU Devotional Speeches, Provo, Utah, 1979, pp. 32–36.

 

Judaism

The views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members toward Jews and Judaism have been shaped chiefly by LDS teachings and by historical contacts with Jewish communities. These teachings include regarding the Jews as an ancient covenant people with a prophesied role in the contemporary gathering of Israel and in events of the last days, and the contacts include educational activities in Israel and LDS proselytizing efforts outside of Israel.

Latter-day Saints share some traditional Christian positions toward Judaism, such as acknowledging debts for ethical foundations and religious terminology. Moreover, they have adopted stances expressed in Paul´s mildly universalistic writings: Bible-era Judaism, based on the Law of Moses and embodying the Old Testament or covenant, was essentially "fulfilled" in Jesus Christ (cf. 3 Ne. 15:4–8), so Christianity became the New Covenant and therefore spiritual "Israel." However, they have tended not to share the anti-Semitic postures of some Christian eras or groupings. Reflecting a more positive view, the Book of Mormon contains such passages as "Ye shall no longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews,…for behold, the Lord remembereth his covenant unto them" (3 Ne. 29:8), and President Heber J. Grant stated, "There should be no ill-will…in the heart of any true Latter-day Saint, toward the Jewish people" (GS, p. 147).

Mormons consider themselves a latter-day covenant people, the divinely restored New Testament Church. In this light, they have interpreted literally the Lord´s mandate to them to regather Israel. While seeing historical judgment in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman treatment of biblical peoples, they have viewed the "scattering" as having beneficially diffused the "blood of Israel" worldwide. As a result, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that the Church believes in the "literal gathering of Israel" (A of F 10). This is done principally by missionary work searching for both biological and spiritual "Israelites" among the Gentile nations.

In LDS eschatology, the first Israelite tribe thus being gathered is Ephraim, with which most Latter-day Saints are identified through patriarchal blessings. To this "Semitic identification" has been attributed the substitution of Judeophilia for anti-Semitism among Mormons (Mauss). Indeed, LDS doctrine has envisaged a partnership both in promulgating scripture—in Ezekiel 37:16, Latter-day Saints find allusions to the Bible and Book of Mormon—and in erecting millennial capitals: Ephraim will build the New Jerusalem in an American Zion, Jews ("Judah") will gather in "the land of their fathers" (3 Ne. 20:29) to rebuild (old) Jerusalem, a prominent theme in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Ne. 6, 9–10, 29; Ether 13) and the Doctrine and Covenants (sections 39, 42, 45, 110, 133). Like several post-Reformation evangelical groups, Latter-day Saints have anticipated a return of Jews to Palestine as part of Israel´s gathering. Indeed, the Prophet Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde, an apostle, to Jerusalem, where in October 1841 he dedicated the land and prayed "for the gathering together of Judah´s scattered remnants" (HC 4:456). On grounds that "the first shall be last," Brigham Young said that the conversion of the Jews would not occur before Christ´s second coming (Green; cf. Ether 13:12). Yet Palestine was subsequently rededicated for the Jews´ return by several apostles in the Church: George A. Smith (1873), Francis M. Lyman (1902), James E. Talmage (1921), David O. McKay (1930), and John A. Widtsoe (1933).

The creation by modern Zionism (secular Jewish nationalism) of a Jewish community and then a state in Palestine tested LDS doctrine´s equating the Jews´ "return" with Israel´s "gathering" (i.e., conversion, but in different locations). While Rabbi Abraham Kook´s disciples viewed Zionism´s success from Jewish eschatalogical perspectives, some Latter-day Saints began regarding it from LDS perspectives: a secular preparatory stage for the messianic era. A latter-day apostle, LeGrand Richards, and some others in effect identified Zionism and the State of Israel as the expected "return," the physical prelude to the spiritual "gathering." Others, such as Elder Bruce R. McConkie, wrote that the Zionist ingathering was not that "of which the scriptures speak…. It does not fulfill the ancient promises." He saw it as a "gathering of the unconverted" but "nonetheless part of the divine plan" (Millennial Messiah, Salt Lake City, 1982, p. 229).

Pre–World War I contacts with Jewish communities were apparently influenced by Brigham Young´s dictum. Jews immigrated into Utah after 1864, aligning politically with non-LDS "Gentiles." Yet they related well to the LDS majority, which did not proselytize them. Indeed, to the earliest Jewish settlers in Utah, the LDS Church provided meeting places for services and donated land for a cemetery. Utahans have also elected several Jews to public office, including a judge, state legislators, and a governor (see Brooks, 1973).

An LDS Near East mission (from 1884) was based temporarily at Haifa, where a cemetery contains graves of missionaries and German converts. Teaching mostly Armenians and German colonists, this mission ignored the longtime resident Jews of the Old Yishuv and had few contacts with new Zionist immigrants. After World War I some LDS leaders felt impressed to begin "gathering" Jews. New York Mission President (1922–1927) B. H. Roberts wrote pamphlets later consolidated into Rasha—The Jew, Mormonism´s first exposition directed at Jews. In this same vein, Elder LeGrand Richards composed Israel! Do You Know? and then received permission to launch experimental "Jewish missions," the largest being in Los Angeles. This and smaller Jewish missions (Salt Lake City; Ogden; San Francisco; Portland, Oreg.; New York; Washington D.C.) were disbanded in 1959, when the First Presidency directed that Jewish communities not be singled out for proselytizing.

Noteworthy interaction has accompanied Brigham Young University´s foreign study program in Jerusalem (begun 1968), based first at a hotel and then at a kibbutz. Seeking a permanent facility, BYU leaders were granted a location on Mount Scopus by Jerusalem´s municipal authorities. Construction began in 1984 on the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies and, because it was such a prominent facility on such a choice site, drew opposition; ultra-Orthodox Jews, suspecting a "missionary center" under academic cover, warned of "spiritual holocaust." However, anti-Mormon campaigns failed to halt construction of the center, partly because U.S. congressmen and Jewish leaders, as well as Israeli liberals, defended it. The controversy reached Israel´s Knesset, which obliged BYU to strengthen its nonproselytizing pledge. This contest was linked to the larger debate between Israel´s secularists, who valued pluralism, and its militant Orthodox, who feared a new alien presence.

LDS contacts with Judaism have led to an exchange of converts. Salt Lake´s synagogue Kol Ami has been attended by some ex-Mormons. Perhaps a few hundred Jews have become Latter-day Saints. Like Evangelical Jews, most have continued to emphasize their Jewishness, and fellow Mormons have welcomed them and considered them "of Judah." Convert memoirs have appeared; for honesty and literary quality probably none surpasses Herbert Rona´s Peace to a Jew. Jewish Mormons formed B´nai Shalom in 1967 to function as a support group and to facilitate genealogical research.

 

ARNOLD H. GREEN

Bibliography

For Mormon activities in Palestine/Israel, see Steven W. Baldridge and Marilyn Rona, Grafting In: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Holy Land, Salt Lake City, 1989. On LDS attitudes and behavior toward Jews, see Herbert Rona, Peace to a Jew, New York, 1952; Armand L. Mauss, "Mormon Semitism and Anti-Semitism," Sociological Analysis, 29 (Spring 1968):11–27; Arnold H. Green, "A Survey of LDS Proselyting Efforts to the Jewish People," BYU Studies 8 (1968):427–43; and Juanita Brooks, History of the Jews in Utah and Idaho, Salt Lake City, 1973. For theological dimensions, see Truman G. Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judeo-Christian Parallels, Provo, Utah, 1978.

 

Shinto

Shinto, the earliest and largest native religion of Japan, has no known founder, no sacred scriptures, no systematized philosophy, no set of moral laws, no struggle between good and evil, no eschatology or life after death, no ecclesiastical organization. Shinto is "the way of the gods." It is folkways and spiritual feeling toward the awesomeness, the purity, the beauty of unspoiled nature.

In the Japanese view, the ever-present powers and spirits within nature are the kami, or gods, but they are neither transcendent nor omnipotent. Shinto has a rich mythology. Its luxuriant polytheism is dominated by Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and by her brother Susano, who is most often frivolous and rude.

The LDS Church, on the other hand, has a founder, a set of sacred scriptures, a philosophical basis, a declared body of ethics and doctrine, and a structured church organization, and accepts a tritheistic Godhead through obedience to whom mankind can overcome the evils of this world. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the supreme Godhead, perfect, tangible beings whose light and love emanate from their presence "to fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:12; cf. 130:22).

Latter-day Saints believe that God´s work and glory are to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). But Shinto is concerned with the here and now. It expresses a "joyful acceptance of life and a feeling of closeness to nature" (Reischaur, in D.B. Picken, Shinto: Japan´s Spiritual Roots, Tokyo, 1980, pp. 6–7).

No counterpart to the central tenet of LDS faith—the crucifixion and Atonement of Christ—exists in Shinto. While the LDS Church and many other world religions concentrate on the theology of death and sin, the importance of holy writ, and the responsibilities of parenting and church service, Shinto values and attitudes are transmitted through festive celebrations of the powers within mountains, waterfalls, trees, and other aspects of nature.


SPENCER J. PALMER

Bibliography

Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.