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Hinduism

by Spenser J. Palmer

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. (See Teachings About the Godhead home page) 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.

(See Daily Living home page; Interfaith Relationships home page; World Religions (Non-Christian) and Mormonism home page)

Bibliography

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

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 4, World Religions

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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