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by Spenser J. Palmer

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.

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


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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