How Mormons Are Buddhists & Vice Versa

Andrewapologetics, christianity, faith, inter-faith, international, joseph, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, religion, scripture, theology 79 Comments

BuddhaFirst VisionA few months ago, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting in which I discussed how studying other religious faiths and their scriptures had enriched my life. When the meeting was over, a couple approached me and said they wanted a copy of the talk to give their daughter because she described herself as a “Buddhist Mormon.” The couple said their daughter couldn’t decide whether to be a Buddhist or a Mormon, so she was trying to be both.

I responded that in a certain sense I considered myself a “Buddhist Mormon” as well, and that the beauty of true Mormonism is that when we find truth in another religion, we have no obligation to reject it, but rather, are encouraged to embrace it. As Joseph Smith said: “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out as true ‘Mormons’.” “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Thus, one could say that to the extent the principles of Mormonism overlap with the principles of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or other religious faiths, one could say that a Mormon is a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Taoist, and vice versa.

As I’ve discussed in a previous post, the Book of Mormon declares that God speaks the “same words” to “all nations,” and that one day God’s words to all nations will be “gathered in one.” In a follow-up post, I discussed my belief that the existing great religious texts of the world are God’s word to all nations to the extent their principles and doctrines overlap with the Standard Works. In this post, I’d like to share just a few examples of the great overlapping truths found in the Standard Works, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Taoist Tao Te Ching, and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Please bear in mind that the following list is by no means an exhaustive compilation of all commonalities; due to space limitations, I could only list those overlapping truths that are succinctly expressed in just one or two sentences.

Matthew 10:39 [H]e that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
The Bhagavad Gita – “Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires”: this is the promise of the Creator.

Matt 5:44[B]less them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.
The Dhammapada – Let us live in joy, never hating those who hate us.

Mark 9:35 If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
Tao Te Ching
– If the sage wants to be above the people, in his words, he must put himself below them; If he wishes to be before the people, in his person, he must stand behind them.

Matthew 7:3 – And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
The Dhammapada – Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
Tao Te Ching – The sage does not hoard. The more he does for others, the more he has himself; The more he gives to others, the more his own bounty increases.

Proverbs 23:7 For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.
The Dhammapada – [W]e become what we think.

John 14:15, 15:4,10If ye love me, keep my commandments. Abide in me . . . . If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.
The Bhagavad Gita – [T]hose who worship me with love live in me, and I come to life in them.

Proverbs 15:1– A soft answer turneth away wrath.
The Dhammapada – Speak quietly to everyone, and they too will be gentle in their speech.

Luke 14:11 – For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Tao Te Ching – The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low; the soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.

Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
The Dhammapada – One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield.

D&C 38:16 . . . I am no respecter of persons.
The Bhagavad Gita – . . . none are less dear to me and none are more dear.

2 Nephi 26:22 – [Y]ea, and [the devil] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
The Dhammapada – Little by little a person becomes evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.

D&C 93:29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
The Bhagavad Gita – There never has been a time when you . . . have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. The body is mortal, but he who dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.

Mosiah 4:30 – [I]f ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, . . . ye must perish.
The Dhammapada – Guard your thoughts, words, and deeds. These three disciplines will speed you along the path to pure wisdom.

Closing Thoughts

Mormons believe Christ is the source of all truth. That being so, can any Mormon deny that Christ is the source of the Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu scriptures quoted above? Can any Mormon dispute that the authors of these scriptures were messengers of Christ? Perhaps Christ’s presence in non-Judeo-Christian scripture is much larger than we have been prepared to recognize in the past due to our cultural traditions. Perhaps millions of faithful adherents to the world’s various religions have already heard Christ’s voice and are already living in accordance with Christ’s true principles without even recognizing it.

Comments 79

  1. Andrew,

    I love this post. I feel like you are guiding us along a path very slowly and carefully, and I like the ride, so I don’t mind where we end up.

    That said, do you see the scripture quotes above from Eastern texts as expanding on Christian ones, adding a new insight we hadn’t considered, subtly refuting some of our preconceptions of how God operates in the world?

    The main concern I have is that with all of the parallels you’ve listed, I’m at a loss to explain to a skeptical reader of your post a unique truth Buddhism offers Latter-day Saints. Maybe a unique practice of meditation, say?

      1. Do we really need all this non-sequential rhetoric?
        To be or not to be … WE are there if we choose to be – Simple as that- Peace -Love- and Understanding and who can take that away from us?…could it be EGO (Lucifer /SATAN)???

    1. The teachings ,thoughts,of Buddha and Hindus,
      Preceded all similar teachings, including the many sects of Christianity,Islam,
      That took 600/1000 yrs or later to get a foot hold.
      And. Around this many other teachings developed,
      In the past 2600/3000 yrs and later.
      Basic txt
      Etching,has not changed much,
      Except in detail,and inclusion of gods?

  2. John, my purpose here was to complete what I set out to do originally which was to explore the Book of Mormon’s declaration that God speaks the “same words” to “all nations. Hence my focus on identifying common truths as opposed to something new or different. There is much that Buddhism adds to my understanding of the gospel. At times reading non Judeo Christian texts seems like taking a master’s course in the simple truths in the sermon on the mount.

    1. My wife was raised Buddhist and Hindu before joining the church in her late twenties.. It is an amazing background to come from and I feel makes you a better Mormon.. There is more belief in peace and the love of God, a surrendering to his will that rarely comes to those of us from the west and an overall pervasive sense of love.

      We embrace all truth’s as members of the church. We know very little yet think we know so much. Buddha never claimed to be a God nor any of his followers. Practiced as a religion it is a philosophy of life and peace and those countries who embraced it (Tibet, Bhutan) endured far longer than any Christian country has in peace.

      Why can’t we take the good and add it to what we have? The scriptures (bible) have no original texts extant.. They may have embraced more of these teachings than we know.

  3. What is the comparative age of these texts? (cough…)

    Your post illustrates beautifully why I place Jesus of Nazareth right alongside all the other great spiritual “wise ones” in history.

  4. I really have great appreciation for this post and your recognition of the beauty of God’s words to all nations. I have also been called a “Buddhist Mormon” by many of my friends. I find that in many cases Buddhism is more plain with regards to the mysteries of Godliness than Mormonism. It wasnt until after having much opened up to me regarding the LDS temple endowment that I began to see Mormonism and Christianity in plainness.

  5. Nick, you are correct that the quotes from non Judeo Christian sources above predate the Bible and BOM by hundreds and even thousands of years. Personally I am shocked the Indians or Chinese didn’t land on the moon first.

    Joe, I agree about the plain and simple way truths are succinctly expressed in non Judeo Christian texts quite often. Namaste 🙂

    1. The Judeo Christian texts were probably “hacked” by a lot of self serving people over the years ( absent the BOM). No wonder some other texts of eternal principles might be said more clearly. Especially if the agenda of Buddhism is peace and self enlightenment.. Both Mormon principles..

  6. One of the reasons that there is very little conflict between Mormonism and Buddhism is that Buddhism was not founded as a religion. In the 6th century B.C., the Buddha set out to find enlightenment concerning why there is so much suffering in the world. His conclusions are contained in the 4 noble truths and the 8-fold path. I think it was much later that many of the religious elements – mostly from Hinduism – were added.

  7. good post. I spent my mission with the good Chinese people of Vancouver, BC and it was an eye opening experience to see how different Eastern religions enlighten our religion.

    I had a suggestion/request. Can you publish your full post in your RSS? I only get the introduction in my reader. Your RSS subscription rate will probably go up if you do…

  8. What I want to know is, are there Buddhists that worship gods of some sort or not?
    Or is it just this “path of enlightenment” where our soul becomes one with the divine and we lose “Self”? Please be so kind to shed some enlightenment on this.

    1. Concert f a god,
      As in many later and earlier teachings,
      Are not factored in.
      Need to think,meditate,contemplate,
      To get the answeres,
      No quick access to a god,gods, for instantaneous answers.

  9. George, it depends on which stripe or flavor of Buddhist you’re talking to. Because it is thousands of years old, there are many different doctrines and practices, some of which involve what one might call worship or adoration of quasi-deities, much like Catholic saints. But I cannot recall any mention of any other gods in the Dhammapada.

  10. It’s hard to speak of Buddhist’s as a single group. For many – particularly western Zen practicioners – gods do not enter the equation. Other Buddhists have enlightened deities -boddisattva’s – that guide people along the path and are venerated. But except for the “pure land” Buddhists, all things are impermanent, including souls and gods, who’s end result is to reach Nirvana (presumably with or without Kirt Cobain).

    But Buddhist’s are seldom dogmatic. Many, including the Dalai Lama, have said that if you find something in their teachings that works for you, use it. I find elements such as non-attachment, meditation, and mindfulness actually helps my efforts to become a better disciple of Jesus and latter-day saint.

  11. I have an absolute surety that there is truth in any religion. Some more than others. I’ve always found the concept of Karma to be very much like what the LDS church teaches. Our works are what set us apart from each other. We acn have the same beliefs and the same teachings, but out works and deeds are not the same. I would include thoughts in this category as well as they are somewhat lesser deeds of the heart.

    Very insightful and interesting post, Andrew. I’ll be sure to read more of your posts here.

    Richard M

  12. George, I should add that the original concept of deity in Buddhism is very similar to our concept of the light of Christ which illuminates and is found in everything around us. Because that is abstract and difficult to approach, some Buddhist schools have incorporated something similar to Catholic saint adoration.

  13. “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out as true ‘Mormons’.” I’ve always found that, and Brigham Young’s insistence on similar things, interesting. They both felt that they had by no means all the truth and that it needed to be gathered, not just revealed or reasoned or reckoned.

    are there Buddhists that worship gods of some sort or no Sure are. There is more variety in Buddhists than there is in historical Christianity (by which I mean everything from Valentine’s gnostics to the guys who used bean bread for the sacrament).

  14. I had a Buddhist friend once who called his faith a veritical religion, focused on enlightenment, coming into contact with the greater consciousness (God). Because it is vertical, there is no set doxy by which to believe and really no set praxis either. What Buddhist dose lack is horizontal faith, a community system of interaction that dictates rules as to how we treat one another and rules of human relationships (golden rule, charity, etc.). You kind of sense Buddhism’s loneliness that way. Horizontal faith however, focuses little about approaching the divine. Mainline Protestant Christianity is the most typical example of horizaontal religioun, and Mormonism is also very horizontal in many aspects. Mormonism is vertical, however in its temple ceremonies and many of its doctrines are transcendental (spriti, light, second comforter, etc). The tendency nowadays is to for all faiths to converge on the vertical beause its less controversial and doesn’t involve ideology, which horizontal faith creates.

  15. Peter, interesting perspective, although I think several verses quoted from the Dhammapada above show that Buddhists very much have “horizontal” rules about how to treat your neighbor.

  16. What I continue to see is confirmation of a class I took in university several years ago. The professor stated that the only unique doctrine Christianity brought was “love your enemy.” Undoubtedly this doctrine would add enlightenment to those teachings from previous thinkers. Unfortunately, this only unique doctrine seems to be the most difficult for Christians to live by.

  17. Great post, Andrew. I always enjoy what you have to say… Is it proper to have a favorite poster at Mormon Matters? lol.

    I have studied Tibetan Buddhism for a few years now (mostly Pema Chodron) and have loved the new insights and teachings. Ultimately, I cannot agree with a main Buddhist ideal that the ultimate goal of oneself is the absence of a goal, or nothing–to become nothing. However, viewing Buddhism more as a psychology (some Buddhist teachers have suggested that it would come to the west as a psychology-I think Chogyam Trungpa said it) has been quite enlightening, no pun intended. Other than Chodron, Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach have some interesting writings as well.

    1. Don’t get me wrong Adam, what you told about the end goal of Tibetan Buddhism is not what Buddhism is. I’m an actual Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and a former Christian. What the actual goal of Buddhism is to be free from attaching oneself towards a certain goal (eg. God, nothingness, etc.) and be free to become whatever you want. Think of Buddhism as water and the goal is to be water. You put water into a glass, it become a glass. You put it into a container, it becomes the container. That is the goal, my friend. So, some of you will ask me what people think Buddhist think about Jesus and some of those holy beings. Buddha and Jesus are just regular human beings but have a Christ consciousness or achieved Buddhahood through their lifetime, which resides in all of us. So God, aka Christ or Buddha, is just basically a personification of our highest potential that you guys worship in mass.

  18. Nick,
    does it really matter about the relative ages of the various works if they develop reasonably independently? If Nephi (or Joseph Smith, depending on your viewpoint) was completely unaware* of the Buddhist writings, then it doesn’t really matter if the Buddhist stuff was written millenia prior. Now if someone were to argue that Christ were a mortal man and plagiarized/borrowed his teachings from Buddhist thought, then it suddenly becomes very important not only which is older, but whether or not Christ could have even had contact with Buddhist philosophers.

    Personally I suspect that Buddhist philosophy and thought was originally inspired by God (using the generic term here) as were most of the great religions. I’ve always thought that. I don’t know many members of the church who think otherwise, and I’m pretty certain that the idea is almost canonical within the church. I’d be flatly unsurprised to hear that a signed statement to that effect had been issued by the First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve at some point in the future. Of course, that’s just me. At the same time, we’ll never see any of those writings get any more than the most basic imprimature of authenticity than ‘yes they are useful’ than the apocrypha, due to the fact that we have no real idea how much they have been changed from the original. Too much time has passed.

  19. Benjamin, I’m well aware that the standard LDS idea is that everything was revealed to Adam, and any similarities between Mormonism and other faiths is the result of cultural drift from the original Adamic revelation.

    Just so you know, Jesus of Nazareth was a mortal man. That was basically the point, since absent being mortal, he couldn’t have died. To the extent that the (sometimes conflicting) New Testament accounts are accurate reflections of Jesus’ history, it should be no surprise that he would absorb the ideas of various world faiths, since he spent his youth in Egypt, a crossroads of world cultures. Of course, even if Jesus borrowed every word he ever preached from other sources, that has no impact on the truthfulness of his moral teachings.

    Your point with regard to historical changes to these other texts applies to the New Testament writings, none of which exist in their originals. Further, none of the synoptic gospels were recorded contemporaneous with the events depicted. There is considerable basis on which to question their historicity, let alone their faith claims. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  20. Ben (#18) With regard to your statement that: “Personally I suspect that Buddhist philosophy and thought was originally inspired by God (using the generic term here) as were most of the great religions. . . . I’d be flatly unsurprised to hear that a signed statement to that effect had been issued by the First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve at some point in the future.” There have been several statements stating essentially just that. I quoted them in my first post on this topic (this post provides a link above).

    I’d also be interested in hearing more of your thoughts about how Buddhism was “inspired by God (using the generic term here) . . . .” I’m not sure I understand what makes God’s inspiration to someone like Siddartha Gautama “generic,” and how that “generic” inspiration is different than, say, inspiration to the authors of the Bible and Book of Mormon. I’d like to hear your thoughts about that.

    I am very glad you feel that “I don’t know many members of the church who think otherwise, and I’m pretty certain that the idea is almost canonical within the church.” I’ve had some conversations with church members regarding this topic that have suggested the belief that God inspired all world religions is not as widely understood in the church as you’ve stated. For example, just before I gave the Sacrament meeting talk referenced above, a counselor in the bishopric of the ward in which I was speaking asked what my topic was. I told him it was “Developing an Affirmative Gratitude for Other Religious Faiths.” He told me he’d be interested to hear what I was going to say because he had “always been of the view that there are only two churches: our church and the church of the devil.”

    Unfortunately, it seems some misinterpret the Church’s claim to be the “only true and living church” as meaning we are the “only truly divinely-inspired church,” even though Elder Faust has plainly stated that “inspiration is not limited to the Latter-day Saints.” Members who are well-read like you have probably heard Elder Faust’s words; but it seems they haven’t sunk in for everyone just yet.

    In my opinion, this is so because for every one time church members hear about how much truth is in other churches (which I think they believe is due to the “Apostasy,” which is seen as a “Diaspora” or scattering of fragments of truth), there are 100 times they hear at their church meetings that we are the “one true church” without the necessary explanation of exactly what that claim does and does not mean. As a result, it seems some mistakenly conclude that LDS leaders are the only ones inspired by God, and that other churches are counterfeit operations that mislead their adherents with half-truths.

  21. To the extent that Buddhist teachings, as quoted here, are more proverbial in nature, I think the LDS church’s new marketing move should be to position itself as a mainstreamed, neo-Buddhist religion. I think the doctrine would be far less antagonistic to Eastern mystic-religio sensibilities than it would be to continue its affront to position itself as a Bible-loving Christian religion. Look at the data: according to the Feb 08 Pew Forum “Religious Landscape” study the only Christian faiths not posting net losses in membership are Evangelical charismatic churches (think “mega churches”) and non-denominational Christianity. There’s no way that the LDS church can ever mainstream itself enough to appeal to that growing demographic. But what else that is growing are “new-age” movements. I think Mormonism just might be doctrinally and ritualistically distinct enough that it could eventually mainstream itself into fitting that genre more. (Said with tongue just slightly in cheek.)

  22. On a more serious note: Andrew (#20): Very well articulated post.

    I served back in the 80s in Japan and the missionary culture was an extension of the church culture, which was very antagonistic to recognizing any truth-value in the buddhist- or shinto-inspired practices, even considering to so-called “build relationship of trust” emphasis of the lessons. (I was the exception: I came home less committed to the special truth of my family religion.) I commend the ecumenical-esque teachings of LDS leaders like late James Faust or Russell Ballard. Still I think it is more double-speak, though well-intentioned, because, as you said, what “only true church” means is not defined. Some of the more polarizing things the church/culture claims are never (well so rare as if to be never) directly outlined and condemned, clarified or retracted.

    Yet I am exposed to young people in my LDS-dominated local culture through my job. A large portion of these young people are returned missionaries, and while I think they, too, are well-intentioned and nice people, I think the missionary experience generally sends people back more close-minded and self-assured of their exclusivity of Truth than it doesn’t. (I’ve seen it happen in more fundamentalist Evangelical missionary experiences, too.) This is reflective of the general culture, though notched up a higher level thru the crucible of rejection. Things haven’t seemed to change much since my mission days. If there is any sincerity to what’s happening at the pulpit of General Conferences, it will still take another generation to trickle down to the local culture, I think.

  23. Somewhat of an eye opening post for me. Though in the past I’ve considered reading other faiths’ texts I haven’t quite gotten around to it. This adds a little bit of encouragement for me. I’d like to get up and give my own talk on the value of other faiths one day. That’d be cool.

  24. Finding truths in other religions and recognizing them as such, and adopting them into your beleif system doesn’t mean that you become one of them or identify yourself with them. I disagree with how far this idea has been taken.

  25. George, for the record, I do not go around identifying myself as a “Buddhist Mormon.” However, if one chooses to define the terms loosely to mean a “Buddhist” is anyone who embraces principles taught by Buddha, such as those principles quoted above that are also found in the Standard Works, then in that sense one could be considered a Buddhist.

    Of course, such decisions about self-labeling are personal ones and are up to each individual. For people who choose to focus on commonalities in the spirit of the quotes by Joseph Smith above, such loose definitions are not offensive. For those who choose to focus on the differences between Mormonism and other faiths, such a suggestion will be offensive.

  26. Very insightful post.

    “Buddhist-Mormon” is a title I like. I often have said that I would be Buddhist if I weren’t Mormon, and I believe strongly that the overall “eternal” perspective of Buddhism is so much closer to Mormonism’s than is any other Christian denomination that it’s not comparable.

    #17 – Adam F: “Ultimately, I cannot agree with a main Buddhist ideal that the ultimate goal of oneself is the absence of a goal, or nothing–to become nothing.” Would it put it into a more “Mormon” perspective if it was phrased as reaching the point where nothing outside one’s self was necessary anymore – to reach the point where “it is finished” because you are “complete”? Look at the footnote (b) in Matthew 5:48 in the LDS KJV and John 19:30 (Jesus’ final words in mortality) and see if “the absence of a goal” makes a little more sense.

    I will add that such a condition would be a good reason for needing *someone else on whom to focus* to gain a “new” goal – an interesting view of Godhood.

  27. Ray, beautiful comment. The Buddhist goal of becoming so selfless that you become one with the universe doesn’t resonate with Mormons on a metaphysical level, but I think certainly resonates with most Mormons on an ethical level as a beautiful and worthy goal. After all, Christ’s ultimate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was that we could all become “one.” For Buddhists, that “oneness” is achieved both figuratively and literally, but for Mormons it is just figurative. Still, the common overlap of those goals is beautiful to me, and is a comforting testimony that God did indeed remember and speak the “same words” to His beautiful children in the East.

  28. Thanks for the interesting post. You’ve inspired me to finally get around to reading some Buddhist texts I’ve been meaning to get read for a while.

    On a different note, your post reminded me a of a character in the LDS mocumentary “Sons of Provo” whose favorite book is a fictional (at least as far as I know) book called “You Can be Mormon and Buddhist Too.”

  29. MoJim, funny. I haven’t seen that mockumentary, so I’ll have to check it out. I haven’t been getting any royalties for their use of my likeness, so I guess I’m going to have to go after them for that. 🙂

  30. I like this post. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis did, quoting from a large variety of historical texts to show that what people think of as goodness is largely (not totally, but largely) the same across time and culture.

    I feel myself to be a little bit Hindu as well as very Mormon. There’s also an element of Catholicism there from my upbringing still. For instance, I think our sacrament is less powerful than Catholic communion, because it’s only symbolic. Of course, the Tao Te Ching applies to everyone. And studying Rumi and the Islamic mystics caused me to feel a real kinship there too. I sometimes describe myself as a Sufi Mormon.

    I too have had the feeling that looking at the same ideas through different lenses, or different windows on the same truths, gives me a deeper perspective, sort of the same way that having two eyes with different viewpoints can add depth to an image.

    In some sense, Mormonism is the grad school of religions. Like President Hinckley said, bring the good things you already have and we’ll teach you more. It’s as though undergraduates from many different disciplines are going through the same grad program of faith.

  31. Great post, Andrew. It is one of my life’s goals to write a book demonstrating this overlapping of ideas between religions around the world. I believe somewhere in this overlap exists the real voice of God. I’m loving Buddhist stuff right now, too.

  32. >>> I had a Buddhist friend once who called his faith a veritical religion, focused on enlightenment, coming into contact with the greater consciousness (God). Because it is vertical, there is no set doxy by which to believe and really no set praxis either. What Buddhist dose lack is horizontal faith, a community system of interaction that dictates rules as to how we treat one another and rules of human relationships (golden rule, charity, etc.).

    My reading of the Gita suggested this as well. I admit I felt disappointment over this. It’s not that the “horizontal” doesn’t exist… on the contrary, a life of good works is spoken highly of. It’s just that this is a lesser and thus less important way to know God. According to the verison of the Gita I’m reading, the best way to know God is not a life of virtue, but a life of meditation. I suppose I could try to equate this to “a life of prayer” but to be honest, it didn’t come across of equivalent to that concept at all to me. Also, there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on austere living for it’s own sake to rid oneself of the self rather than as a means to give unto others. (And as a Christian, I believe in a goal of a super-self, not a remove of self. This strikes me as a HUGE difference and irreconcilable.)

    In short, I felt like there was an awful lot of difference, perhaps more so than overlap, between Mormonism and Budism. But that’s just my first blush. I’ll have to revisit that idea as I get further.

  33. Bruce, as with most things there is not a direct parallel – but rather an interesting “twist”.

    For example, the Bible speaks of losing one’s life in order to find one’s life, and the Book of Mormon highlights the need to overcome and abolish the natural man, become a new creature and realize one’s nothingness before God. If we take this as the base (a bit of arrogance, I know, but indulge me) and look for logical permutations, Buddhist teachings of enlightenment through nothingness (losing of one’s self) can be seen in an interesting light. My point is that we might not use those words much anymore to describe the process of exaltation, but they are remarkably consistent with what we have from the same time periods in our own scriptures.

  34. >>> If we take this as the base (a bit of arrogance, I know, but indulge me) and look for logical permutations, Buddhist teachings of enlightenment through nothingness (losing of one’s self) can be seen in an interesting light. My point is that we might not use those words much anymore to describe the process of exaltation, but they are remarkably consistent with what we have from the same time periods in our own scriptures.

    The connection you draw was obvious to me too. But it’s the underlying thought I felt was different. That is, to me, they didn’t seem so much like different ways of saying the same thing, they seemed like two different things altogether that has similar ways of saying them.

    Other parallel’s I saw that weren’t as parallel as I first thought:
    * Becoming “one” with God vs. joining the divine (and no longer being born)
    * All religions having truth and a level of salvation available to all vs. God accepting whatever form of worship someone wants to give to him

    There is definitely some surface similarities that are striking. I’m not saying otherwise. But once you get under the skin those similarities become more and more dis-similiar, at least to me. (And at least “so far”)

  35. Ray,

    I’m also curious what you mean by “a bit of arrogance, I know, but indulge me” in reference to taking something as a base for the purpose of comparison.

  36. Bruce, it just means that it would be as easy to take the Buddhist phraseology as the base and assume Christianity is the “twist”. I served my mission in Japan, so I am a bit sensitive to “everything else is a mutation of our perfect understanding of the original”. Of course, deep down I believe I’m right and they are wrong, but . . . *grin*

    As to “similarity” vs. “difference”, I usually classify one or the other based on what the Protestant statement would be. For example, you mentioned two concepts: 1) “Becoming “one” with God vs. joining the divine (and no longer being born)” compared to “living separately and spending eternity telling God how great He is” – which sounds like “give me thy glory”; 2) “All religions having truth and a level of salvation available to all vs. God accepting whatever form of worship someone wants to give to him” compared to “accept exactly what we believe (with special qualifications if we don’t like you) or burn in never-ending anguish forever”. I’m not saying Buddhist teachings can be overlaid perfectly onto Mormon teachings, but many of them are much closer to each other than they are to mainstream Protestantism.

  37. >>> but many of them are much closer to each other than they are to mainstream Protestantism.

    I see your point.

    I suppose it depends on what you choose to emphasize and also on what form of Christity we are talking about. I’d argue that “C.S. Lewis” Christianity is more similar to Mormonism than to Buddism, but I’d also argue that modern-American-Fundamentalist-Christianity is less similar to Mormonism than Buddism. (As you so correctly pointed out.)

    And your comparisons are well taken. They are certainly more similar to Buddism than to the average vocal (i.e. fundamentalis) Christian you see on the news or meet at anti-Mormon meetings.

    That being said, I’m not sure I actually think Mormonism is all that similar to anything else. Or maybe what I mean to say is that it’s very similar to everything else. 🙂

  38. I wanted to comment on the two pictures, because nobody else did. They are strikingly similar, despite being so very different. Awesome illustration of your idea!

  39. Good point, Tatiana.

    Bruce, look at the description of “eternal existence” from this viewpoint:

    We begin as intelligences, become spirits, are born into mortality, move back into a spiritual state, eventually experience a judgment, change into an immortal state of perfect, physical body and immortal soul, continue to progress until we reach a status that can be described as “divine” – and then participate in unity with our own divine ideal by directing that repeated that process of others. I count multiple “lives” – each with a distinctly different “form” – as part of a life-cycle that repeats forever.

    If I explained that to a Buddhist, she at least would grasp the basic concept; if I explained that to almost any other Christian, he would ask which hallucinogenic I was smoking.

  40. I’m very happy to see this post has continued to generate discussion this weekend. Thank you all for your great insights and observations. And I’m particularly glad someone (Tatiana) noticed the similarity in the images I posted above. 🙂

  41. I highly recommend Phillip McLemore’s piece for Sunstone “The Yoga of Christ” July 2007.

    The Gita has become one of my favorite books of scripture as of late. I wasn’t sure what I was getting my self into when I picked up. I decided to read not for the purpose of identifying parallels with mormonism, but rather with the “eye of faith” in an attempt to try to understand what made Hindu’s tick spiritually. I chose the Hindu faith particularly because it’s culture seemed so far away from my own. At the time LDS culture and history was giving me heartburn (well still does but is less acute currently) in away that was making my spirituality wain.

    During my initial read there were notions about the nature of God and man/woman that ran contrary to my LDS understandings, but I pushed thru trying to understand the underlying power of those notions. I have read the Gita several times now and its main teachings have began to take hold in my life which has contributed to renewed and deepened faith in God, greater peace and love. Not to mention my reading of the New Testament and Book or Mormon has been reinvigorated. Bottom line is that I am also concurring with the premise of the post.

    I think one of the strength’s of the Buddha’s teaching of the eight fold path was that there is no requirement to believe someone else’s ideas, especially about God. Follow the path and you will see for yourself what is real.

    RE #32 Bruce – Meditation builds concentration and steadiness of mind which is necessary for prayer and communion with God which leads in tremendous love and peace which leads to greater ability (or less inhibition) to serve others.

  42. The 4 noble truths and the eightfold path are philosophies, not a religion. Religion seems to be more what gets mankind into trouble.

    You’re lucky you could give that talk in your ward. There are wards I’ve personally been in where you would have been pulled aside afterwards and told it would be preferable if you stuck with the church’s standard works and GA talks as references so as not to confuse anyone. Seriously. Additionally, there would have been fellow ward members who’d find a way to wedge in a comment in gospel doctrine and/or priesthood/RS about how they didn’t need to look any further than the Book of Mormon for anything inspirational.

    There was a shift in the 90s and while you can find many talks before that shift which cite other faiths and scriptures, even other versions of the Bible besides KJV, since that shift those sorts of references are very few and far between.

  43. Harvey Cox (Protestant theologian, author and Harvard Divinity School professor) describes the parables of Jesus as culminating in “the Zen slap” – that moment that snaps your head back and makes you exclaim, “Wow! I hadn’t thought of that before.” His undergraduate class, “Jesus and the Moral Life”, takes the central teachings of Jesus and compares them to the central teachings of other religious foundation texts. It was the best class I have ever taken at any level in any subject.

  44. This is a good post and I have enjoyed reading the comments. I have always enjoyed learning and reading about other religions and it has strengthened my testimony. When our children were young we encouraged them to visit the churches their friends attended. When they came home we would always have a wonderful discussion about the church and what it teaches.

    I don’t view the position of other churches having some true teachings in opposition to the statement, we belong to the only true church. My oldest son had a class about world religions at NHU and his instructor had an interesting comment when he found out my son was a Mormon. “You Mormons don’t understand how strong of a position you have by stating you have authority. You’re foolish because you don’t talk about it more.”

    Ray – I have recently been doing some more studying of the D&C and your concept of progression is something that I have come to understand. The phrase from everlasting to everlasting or eternity to eternity really is talking about developing stages that we go through: pre-existence, mortality, spirit world, resurrection. Each phase develops us in different ways and in different states of existence. I now view reincarnation differently.

    JFQ – I’ve sent three sons on missions: Brazil, Norway and Malaysia. The experience has truly expanded their understanding of cultures and people. They seem to come back with a whole different view of home. However, I have found in all of them an expanded understanding and appreciation of other religions. My second oldest son still displays on his bookshelf the Quran that an investigator gave him.

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  48. Andrew,

    I know I’m late to the party, but there have been some recent links to this article and hopefully it will renew some discussion.

    A very similar discussion (positively comparing the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Buddha) nearly 10 years ago is what led to me realize the truth of the Buddha’s teachings and become a Buddhist. Many of the concepts are similar, if not the same. But beyond quoting a single line from the Dhammapada and matching it to a single line of Biblical scripture (which, again, is exactly what got me started), I find the term “Buddhist Mormon” interesting and want to really dig into it. First, late me state that I know NOTHING of Mormon philosophy. I have some understanding of Christian philosophy, but I don’t know what makes a Mormon different.

    For those that support the term “Buddhist Mormon”, I want to know what the Bible (representing all of Christianity) and the Book of Mormon (representing Mormonism specifically) have to say about what is referred to as the Four Dharma Seals. Barbara O’Brien over at does a pretty nice job summarizing them at Another good resource is

    The summary of the Four Seals are:
    1. All compounded things are impermanent.
    2. All stained emotions are painful.
    3. All phenomena are empty.
    4. Nirvana is peace.

    As stated on Barbara’s blog: The Four Seals reveal what is unique about Buddhism among all the world’s religions. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said, “Whoever holds these four [seals], in their heart, or in their head, and contemplates them, is a Buddhist.”

    Are these Four Seals represented in Christianity or Mormonism? If so, where does one find them? If not, then do people really feel a connection to Buddhism just because the Buddha’s Sutras and the Bible share some similar sounding dialog?

  49. Below is a piece of my dads work (thee grand fundamental principles of Mormonism Joseph smiths unfinished reformation) that applies to truth being found inn other religions

    IN JULY 1843, Joseph Smith delivered a series of remarkable
    sermons. On Sunday, the 9th, he proclaimed himself
    a friend to all, having “no enmity against anyone.”
    Echoing his opponents’ perplexity at his success, he asked,
    “Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains
    them?” He explained his secret simply: “Because I possess the
    principle of love.” Offering the world “a good heart and a good
    hand,” he declared himself “as ready to die for a Presbyterian,
    a Baptist, or any other denomination” as “for a Mormon.”
    Narrowing the gap between Latter-day Saints and those of
    other denominations, the prophet asserted, “we do not differ
    so far in our religious views.” He declared the Saints’ faith
    ready to receive the truths of all others: “One of the grand fundamental
    principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it
    come from where it may.”3

  50. I’m a Latter-day Saint, and I wouldn’t consider myself a Buddhist-Latter-day Saint, but simply, a Latter-day Saint. I too recognize the commonality of mythology (doesn’t mean pagan in origin) of the world’s religions. Hugh Nibley is a phenomenal LDS scholar who has written about this extensively. In addition to locating and applying truths from other faiths I am a huge advocate for overcoming the ignorance of the world through studying other religions’ holy texts. Currently, I’m tackling the Quran and am really enjoying it. I think half of the world’s problems could be solved if we studied other religions and realized most of them are legitimate. I’m studying international relations at BYU to destroy cultural barriers and studying texts at home to destroy religious barriers. Good to know I’m not alone.

  51. After 40 years inactive as a LDS, embracing Vedanta and Buddhism intensely during all those years, I can testimony that to be s Mormon-Buddhist is a complete impossibility. Another thing altogether is to explain it as i”incorporate some techniques from Buddhism into our LDS daily living”. The kind of sincretism proposed in the article is simple beyond the plan of salvation established by the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. If truly advised by the Holy Spirith that comes from the Priesthood, nobody could propose something like this. I am now active as a LDS again, and although most certainly we can profit from some Buddhist approach at the psychological level, to pretend more than that is to go severely astray and away from the Prophet guidance. 

    1. Manuel Gerardo Monasterio.  I would like to know why you are active as a LDS again after long time of embracing the Vedanta and Buddhism. I’m 24 and trying to find trust inside my innerself which to live by for my life. They both seem very well. . Could you email me so we can exchange some emails on this?

  52. This is wonderful!  But why stop there?  Islamic and Bahai’ scriptures also show proof of the same divine messages from God!

  53. When you speak of your Morman belief, you have a “God”.  Buddhism does not have a god, Buddha was not a “god”, even though Christians like Buddhism.

  54. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). is the first commandmet . I’m just saying that if you broken these then your not a True Mormon then

  55. Do not insult Buddhism by trying to compare them to fucking filthy lying Mormons. I was raised in the Mormon church, abused by them in many sick ways. I became a Buddhist when I escaped the LDS tormentors. Buddhism helped me realize myself and become free from the bindings of the evil scoundrels who call themselves Mormons. Never associate a true Buddhist with a filthy Mormon pervert.

  56. I like the comparison of doctrine and belief; I come from a more Taoist background to now a Latter-day Saint. I propose that the comparison should be reversed however: that Buddhism comes from Christianity. We will see threads of truth through all teachings because all things originated from a “whole” truth at some point; and then with apostasy each has maintained some remnant of truth. I would not take it so far that Christ called or led Buddha or others necessarily. That is a conjecture that could be a bit slippery. We do know, though, that apostasy has to do with the spread of the gospel truths throughout other sects or groups.

  57. I am very impressed to find this comparison between Mormonism and other great world religions. I find that most Christians refuse to accept that their religion is like any other (the same goes for many other religions). I have been researching various world religions in an effort to find a religion that best suits my desired way of life and have found that Buddhism, as the practice of ahimsa is integral to leading a correct path to some sort of salvation. However, finding that Mormonism is closely linked with Buddhism (and other religions) as far as their belief system goes, leads me to have a MUCH greater respect for Mormons. I’ve previously thought of Mormons as a cult of Christianity, yet I realize now that they are not – they are only seeking a righteous path through nonviolence and denial of earthly attachments, in a similar Eight Fold Path.

    I would like to present the idea, though, that it is possible that Christ’s teachings actually came from Buddhism, as Buddhism existed long before Christianity, since about 5th century, BCE. Though sutras may have developed several hundred years later, they are documented to have existed prior to the birth of Christ. As trade occurred between India and Rome, it is entirely possible that Christ was exposed to the Buddhist way of life and incorporated such into his teachings.

  58. I loved this post! I came from a Baptist background and found myself with many questions about Christianity that no one I knew had answers to. I studied Buddhism and Hinduism in my search for understanding and found many truths there, but still found it lacking from what knowledge I had received by my testimony of Christ. I then met Mormon missionaries and everything clicked into place for me. In my attempts to reconcile my various influences I have come to these conclusions regarding some of the issues posted above:
    1.The belief among some schools of Buddhist thought regarding the eternal existence of intelligence and preknowledge, and the subsequent rejection of carnal nature to actualize this preexistence syncs perfectly with Lds beliefs.
    2.The difference arises, and this coincides with how the Lds church is the true authority, from the understanding of what the ultimate goal of this actualization is. Buddhism received this knowledge by inspiration, but it was in a form that they were capable of understanding. It was either not part of the divine plan for them to receive the fullness of revelation and/or they were not ready as a people to receive it. The authority of the church lies in the dispensation of the keys of the kingdom. We reject carnal nature not to escape this world, but to be worthy of receiving the blessing of the eternal Priesthood, and by it perform the ordinances that are the necessary works, not only to fulfill the divine plan, but also to prepare us for the duties expected of us in exaltation. We are meant to overcome the world, not reject it.
    This is my understanding of how we are the “true church”, as we holders of the fullest collection of knowledge and how to implement it according to Gods Will on the earth. This by no means marginalizes any other belief system, but has given me peace regarding the plethora of differing understandings prevalent today. My conclusion, and this is true within the church as well, is everyone works at their own understanding and pace, and that in the end God remembers us all.

  59. Why is it that people have this need to conform other religions into Christianity? Christianity is not based off of good works, a state of mind, being Christ like, or even a feeling.

    Here are the essential doctrines that make Christianity Christian:

    1. The Deity of Christ
    2. Salvation by Grace
    3. The Resurrection of Christ
    4. The Gospel
    5. Monotheism
    6. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    7. Jesus’ Virgin Birth
    8. Doctrine of the Trinity

    So, if we know what the essentials are, we can then look at a church or denomination (or even a person) and ascertain if that church is Christian or not by whether or not it denies the essential doctrines that make Christianity Christian.

    Finally, to answer the question of which church is the true church: The true church is the cross-section of believers in all churches that adhere to the essential doctrines of Christianity.

    To learn more:

    1. This post was about Mormon doctrine(which based on your comment I’m not sure you know) and how other religious thought fits within our understanding of Gods universe. We are well aware of the basics of the gospel and of some modern revelations that you seem unaware of and perhaps should check up on.

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