Mormons love to glean truth from all sources, even other religions. Their leaders frequently quote those of other faiths and teach that aspects of truth can be found in many faiths. Mormonism is a nickname sometimes applied to the faith system of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons know, because of the way their religion is misrepresented, that it is very difficult to write about another person’s faith because we don’t know the foundational stories or understand what is often a very subtle context. Readers of this article should know I am a Mormon, and so, if you are looking for authentic information on Hinduism, you should speak to a believing, practicing member. The information listed here is just to provide a foundation for a discussion of something Mormons have somewhat in common with the practitioners of Hinduism—because we prefer to look for what we share.
According to BBC’s religion site, Hinduism is not exactly a religion. Many refer to it as more of a way of life or a system of multiple religions, since there are many variations of the faith.
Karma and Mormonism
One aspect of Hinduism that particularly interested me was the concept of Karma. Karma means action. Hindus believe that every action has an equal reaction in the future—this life or in a future life. This means that good actions, such as kindness to another, will result in some sort of goodness to the giver later on. They teach that our choices impact our future lives.
Mormons don’t believe in reincarnation, but they do believe we have more than one life. There is only one life on Earth, but two lives, or stages of life, in Heaven. Let’s set the stage for that to see how it compares to Hindu belief as far as I can understand it as an outsider.
Mormons believe our spirits were created by God and that we lived with Him for a while. While we were there, we had agency—the ability to make choices—and we understood that those choices would affect our eternal lives. One critical choice we had to make was who we wanted to follow in the next stage of life. God presented a plan for us that involved coming to earth to live. We would forget our previous lives in Heaven and have to rediscover God and truth with the help of the Holy Ghost. We would make many choices here and our choices would determine our next and final stage of life.
If we failed to make the right choices after learning what they were, there would be penalties. According to the laws of justice, we would have to remain out of God’s presence forever, and in fact, could not even be resurrected. However, eternal law permits a Savior to come to earth, be perfect, and atone for our sins. Jesus Christ offered to be the Savior. He took our sins on Himself and paid the price, even though He never sinned.
Mormonism and Choices
And that brings us to what I think is similar to Karma. When God presented His plan, Lucifer tried to talk us out of it. He wanted to be in charge and said that if we would let him be in charge—and worship him—he’d make sure we all got back no matter what. He’d force us to live properly, taking away our freedom.
About a third of God’s children chose to go with Lucifer. However, that wasn’t really an option so they did not get to come to earth. That was the immediate result of their choice, because choices have consequences. The rest of us came to Earth or will get here eventually.
Now that we are here—and if you’re here, you chose correctly in Heaven—we are still making choices. Those choices will determine what happens to us in this life and in the next. Mormons always teach their young people that their choices have consequences and that the consequences may not be instantaneous, but they will happen. Sometimes they happen in this life and sometimes in the next.
One difference, however, is that Mormons believe the next life is the last one. We won’t be coming back to earth to try again so we have to get it right this time. We will continue to learn and grow and improve in the next life, but we will do it in a Heavenly realm, not an earthly one.
However, despite the differences, Mormons and Hindus both agree that what we do in this life is going to have an impact on our futures and that has a powerful impact on our decision-making if we’re living intentionally.
A. Burt Horsley, Ph.D., Hinduism, Ensign, February, 1971
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.