Hindus and Mormons: What does it mean to reject creeds?
Today, Mormon Soprano wrote about a mother (herself?) who had a daughter who was considering Hinduism. And as I read, I wondered…what this mother would be doing if her daughter were atheist instead?
The article was rather fair, and MoSop was rather calm and collected…She raised Proverbs 22:6 (a perennial favorite) and commented about the agony of what happens if a child does depart from what parents have taught her, but then she seemed to be contented by finding similarities between Mormonism and Hinduism. One such particularly caught my eye.
“What counts is not creed but conduct. By their fruits ye shall know them and not by their beliefs. Religion is righteous living. The Hindu view that every method of spiritual growth, every path to the Truth is worthy of reverence has much to commend itself.” – The Hindu View of Life. Radhakrishnan – philosopher President of India (1962-67)
And MoSop weighs this with some words from Joseph Smith:
“While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard…He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India.” (History of the Church, 4:595–96.)
(By the way, MoSop later concludes with, “…We have the reponsibility to respect His judgement, which allows each soul the process of taking an individual spiritual journey. Through personal prayer and meditation we can discover our own faith in God…” so I guess that gives us our answer on what might happen if a daughter came out as atheist.)
But that got me thinking about the Hindu quote and Joseph Smith’s as well…We all know what certain Christians, ex-Mormons and anti-Mormons think of “by their fruits ye shall know them” — they point to all the mistakes Mormons or their leaders have made and smugly say, “So there, obviously, it is a wrong church.” But here, we see a different interpretation — a call to focus on the fruits and not the beliefs. So what counts is not creeds but conduct.
And hey, Mormons reject creeds too! Or so we say.
This made me realize that the same ideas are interpreted in drastically different ways. Even when I’d like to say Mormon “orthodoxy” views the words in the same ways, I can’t say it with a straight face. In fact, when I really dig deeply inside, I ask…how is it that Mormons do not have creeds? As John writes, we have rather creed-like Articles of Faith. We can note what beliefs the religion hinges on regarding Jesus, his death, resurrection, and Atonement. And we can muse about what is official doctrine.
And as MoSop alludes to earlier in her article, we have an odd sense of universalism. After all, even though we search for good in all things, there is a “superiority factor” — Mormons are the “true and living church.” The Mormon idea of heaven is substantially more expansive, but at the same time, is there not a perceived race for the Celestial Kingdom?
It seems to me there are some creeds in Mormonism…even if we may not be able to nail them and if they can change. But certainly, if given some proposition, we could evaluate whether it sounds “right” to our Mormon ears or if it sounds fuzzy, wrong, or downright foreign.