Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bring all of the Good, just not Mary, Buddha, the Rebbe, the Koran…

President Hinckley’s message that potential converts from different religions should “bring all of the good” they have learned to Mormonism so that “we may add to it” is an interesting paradox in religious pluralism. It assumes that there is good to be found in other religions (an idea which may have been absurd to some General Authorities in the past), but it also implies that Mormonism contains a fuller collection of truth. Moreover, the challenge to “bring” makes it sound as though the potential converts will continue their religious practices; but is that be possible in a Mormon framework?

Perhaps President Hinckley did not intend for anyone to continue their old religious traditions. In that case, “good” is just a euphemism for “morals” or “ethics” – behavior that we can all agree on. But let’s assume the Prophet actually meant religious practice alongside ethics.

Could we ever envision a Mormon Buddhist? Since there are all kinds of Mormons, I should rephrase the question: could there ever be a Mormon Buddhist Bishop? If converts were to follow President Hinckley’s statement to its logical conclusion, what would motivate them to come to church after adding to their truth? Finally, what would church be like if converts kept all of their good traditions? Unitarian Universalism on crack? A religion salad bar?


Handle said...

Jedis are pushing for recognition of their religion. Perhaps this means that the Force will actually be found among LDS congregations in the future.

lief said...

Buddhism claims not to have deities that compete with any other religion's deities, but this gives to much credence to semantics. In practice, the buddhas and bodhisatvas are venerated on a level somewhere between Catholic saints and minor pagan gods. I don't see how an LDS bishop could participate in this veneration.

Although it doesn't come with a full-fledged god, buddhism does have a fully worked out cosmology that is hard to square with LDS doctrine.

That leaves moral codes and low-level practices. Specific moral codes fluctuate among the various flavors of buddhism, with "killing = bad" being a common, but useless, point.

I think that an LDS bishop could adopt certain low-level buddhist practices and ideas. Examples include meditation, the concept of "mindfulness," or trying to be aware of every thing around you, and the notion that you should not do things half-heartedly. Also, Mormons could learn a lot about being in the the world but not of it from buddhists.

diahman said...

In practice, the buddhas and bodhisatvas are venerated on a level somewhere between Catholic saints and minor pagan gods. I don't see how an LDS bishop could participate in this veneration.

I think two questions need to be asked here:

First is it possible to venerate something other than God and still be a good Mormon? This of course depends on how we use the word 'venerate'. If 'venerate' is roughly synonomous with 'worship' then there is obvious conflict. If however venerate means something akin to 'respect' then there would be no reason why a good-standing Mormon (let's say a bishop) could worship God, yet respect the Buddha (or Bodhisattvas) through Buddhist veneration (this of course neglects the possibility of trying to interpret the Buddha as God--which is perhaps an easier form of justification, yet of course is historically problematic).

For the sake of the second question let's assume that veneration is in fact worship (or a form of worship) which conflicts with the commandments of God in Mormonism. Here the question to ask is, must we venerate the Buddha or Bodhisattvas in order to be Buddhist? While I'm not an expert on Buddhism, I believe it possible that this may be compatible with certain strains of Buddhism (perhaps certain schools of Theravada). To be certain I'd have to look more into this, but I think it is at least an imaginable possiblity.

I think the issue of cosmology could also be worked out, although it may take a greater deal of imagination--perhaps Kolob is located near the top of Mount Sumeru...

Anyways, I think the main question of dual identity/membership could also be asked this way: Is it conceivable that an individual could be fully accepted by a Buddhist community one day, and a Mormon community the next? What would be required to do this? And how would this be justified to each community?

Anonymous said...

I practiced Buddhism, well, Buddhist meditation, for years. I took it pretty seriously - experienced my first flash of satori.
I moved on from there, and joined with the LDS.
The LDS church is not so rigid as some people say it is, although it's easy to find narrow-minded individuals. There were numerous challenges in adjusting, but now I feel fully accepted. It's hard to explain the benefits in spiritual development (satori cannot be described - can there be anything more enlightening or better than that? Yes.)
So check it out.
But be warned - like zen, this is industrial strength religion - it takes a lot of work and a lot of humility - but the benefits are beyond description.

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