1. lief

    I keep a copy of the Tao Te Ching on my shelf and once pulled it out during scripture study time to surprise my wife. As much as I admire taoism, though, I think its teachings are difficult to reconcile with the modern gospel. As something of a world religion hobbyist, I have frequently thought that taoism is the most polar opposite of the LDS gospel, if there is such a thing. I guess I should read the linked article.

    The only place I could guess that the the LDS gospel and taoism come close is the sense that there needs to be evil in the world alongside good, and light can only exist when there is darkness. Things differ when you scratch the surface of this, though (taoism teaches that any two opposing forces have equal merit and should push and pull against each other for eternity, Mormons feel the need to assign a good or evil label to opposing forces and the good must eventually overcome the evil, etc.) Taoism teaches that the “good” is finding harmony in the ambiguous push and shove of countervailing forces in life; the gospel teaches that the “good” is consistently identifying and choosing the righteous forces over the evil ones. This is the core of why I think they are opposites.

    I think that a cultural place where modern LDS run into problems with taoism is the notion that, depending on the circumstance, inaction and passivity are just as meritorious as taking direct action. This seems to run counter to the whole rugged individualist – Stephen Covey cultural layer, or the idea that we have to aggressively take charge of our own destinies, in the modern church.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate different views. Although I think even you make a good argument that there are interesting parallels between the two. While we can’t equate everything as truth from Taoism, we can take those thing which are in harmony with the gospel and learn from them.

    You said that Taoism teaches that two opposing forces should push and pull against each other for eternity, and that Mormons teach differently, that good will overcome the evil. But I would say that there will always exist good and evil, even in Mormon theology. There must be opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11). That never ceases. Outer darkness will always exist, with Satan and his devils. Good and evil, righteous and wickedness, light and dark – those things will never cease to exist. That is the basis of agency – the ability to choose between the two.

  3. Raven

    After reading this post, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out my course textbook from a religion class at BYU. The book is Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View (Palmer, Keller, Choi, and Toronto). As lief mentioned there are some important differences between Taoist beliefs and practices and the restored Gospel. However, the authors of this text also note some similarities.

    As far as the notion of yin and yang, this is what they have to say:
    “The ancient theory of yin and yang asserts that the universe is in a constant state of flux. This does not refer simply to the Book of Mormon doctrine of categorical opposition, as expressed by Lehi in 2 Nephi 2:11. Rather, yin and yang are correlative opposites, and neither can exist independent of the other. It is their ambivalence, their simultaneous repulsion and attraction, that precludes stagnation or even settled balance. Rather, it produces continuing viability, infusing the universe with life and moving within the flow of nature–the Way, or the Tao” (90).

    As lief noted, yin and yang are not labeled as good and evil, they are simply the polarities that define existence.

    However, (and I apologize that this comment is getting lengthy) the authors of the text also note some similarities between Taoism and LDS theology. These fall mainly under the heading of “philosophical Taoism” as opposed to “religious Taoism”. (1) If the “impersonal Tao” was humanized, it might resemble the LDS notion of a Supreme Being with whom we are to align ourselves and our wills. There is a notion of harmony with the Tao, just as there is a notion of “spiritual oneness” with Jesus Christ and God the Father in LDS theology. (2) The notion of Wu-wei, that requires people to live unselfishly is also similar to the Christian idea of humbling ourselves and living charitably. However, we do this in the belief that we are coming closer to Jesus Christ, whereas this kind of personal human figure does not exist in Taoism. They strive to be in harmony with the forces of the universe. Wu-wei is also compatible to the LDS notion that no force is to be used when in a position of power (D&C 121:41-44). The authors go on to discuss a couple other ideas, but I think you get the point. I am certainly not an expert on Taoism, but I thought I would share what these authors thought.

    Although there are certainly differences between these two philosophies, I still find it interesting to look at possible similarities. It would appear that both sides strive to live a life of service and charity and to be in harmony with something higher than ourselves.

  4. Bret

    Eastern religions and Taosism in particular have been passions of mine since college. I have often thought that mormon ideas about God and the universe have more in common with eastern religions than with the modern western judeo-christian traditions, like the idea of a cosmagonic cycle.
    Yin and yang are ideas that attempt to express the nature of this world. This is the Tai-ji. Before the the Tai-ji there is the Tai-wu. Tai-wu is the source of all things and also a state of perfect unity of all things. Tai-ji, yin yang, came into existence out of Tai-wu in order to create this world. Existence as we know it is a product of the interplay of the forces of yin and yang as expresed in the idea of the Tai-ji.
    The idea is that if you can learn to live in harmony with the forces of yin and yang in your life you will be able to return to the original state of Tai-wu. A person who accomplishes this will become immortal in someway. This higer way is often called the law of heaven.
    As an intersting aside, Taoist believe that our bodies originally derived the energy they need to sustain themselves direcly from the universe somehow, but at sometime in the distant past they lost this ability and we now have to sustain ourselves with food. Toaist believe this is why we age and die. If we can figure out how to get plugged directly into the universe, as before, we would become immortal and enternal just as the univers is. Toaist belive this may have been our original state before the present, you could call it the Taoist equivalent of the fall. Taoist have spent a lot of time an energy trying to figuer out how to do this.
    I have found that the big picture may be very different but there are many details and ideas that are strikingly similar to LDS beliefs. But you have to get in deep enough to grasp what they are getting at, much of Toaism, and Buddhism for that matter, are esoteric and their writings are in a code of sorts and you need the help of teacher to grasp and understand this code. Studing Zen and Taoist philosophies has given me many new insights into LDS believes and doctrines. Much more so than studing Western Christian ideas.

  5. Not only are there similarities to the Taoist traditions and philosophy, one can see Egyptian, Greek and other parallels in LDS temples. There are abundant similarities in our scriptures as well.

    But, similarities in Mormonism and other world religions largely stem from a source that most of us have never considered: our common cosmological experience from hoary antiquity. That’s why most of the exterior symbolism on our temples consists of planets, stars, moons and suns. The outside tells us what the temple is all about: the cosmos, past and present.

    All mankind saw the same awe-inspiring displays of light and sound in the heavens, anciently. At the same time, they all experienced profound changes on the Earth. This changed everything, giving us “a new heaven and a new earth.” This is also seen in the records of all ancient cultures and religions. Thus, all cultures and religions share a common origin and heritage in those heavenly events, which were accompanied by mind-boggling manifestations of light and sound.

    Latter-day revelation has only served to return us to those cosmological roots, though most Mormons fail to perceive that truth. Nowhere is this more evident than in our temples, where the symbols, imagery and ritual are displayed for all who enter therein to see. The tragedy is that we fail to see them for what they are: recollections of the heavens and the earth as they once were. Naturally, we will see similarities to cultural traditions and religions other than our own in our temples. All humanity shares that common origin.

    Nibley wrote extensively on these subjects, but he failed to connect those traditions with the astral events, as explained by the prophet Joseph Smith. Only when we let the words of the prophets and the traditions of ancient peoples speak for themselves, without placing our own modern interpretation upon them, do we come to see what they saw and know what they knew.

    The LDS temple experience is fully as educational in this regard as any ancient text–perhaps even more so because those ancient truths are more clearly and accurately displayed as symbols than any metaphor or imagery in written texts. Moreover, the symbols in the temple reflect the metaphors of the scriptures and vice versa. The imagry illuminates the meaning of the symbols, and the symbols illuminate the meaning of the imagery. But, most of us don’t make that vital connection. Our scriptures explain the temple symbolism, and the temple symbolism explains the scriptural metaphors.

    The tragic thing is that Latter-day Saints seem to overlook this wonderful part of the temple, taking it to be strictly revealed, solely spiritual information, symbol and ritural. Not so. While this information was given in revelation to Joseph, it is knowledge common to all ancient cultures and religious traditions. It is a revelation of the past that our science and culture denies. We don’t see it because our culture has been cut off from our sacred traditions that our ancestors sought to conserve for us in texts, rituals, temples, tombs and monuments. We’ve been cut off by our rejection of those traditions as “myth and legend.” Yet, it is that very body of cultural tradition that answers questions about our modern temple symbolism, rite and ritual.

    In fine, it’s simple. Joseph restored our ancient tradition along with the true religion. We’ve just failed to recognize and appreciate the profound value of those traditions in our lives, our beliefs and our religion. As Nibley so aptly put it, the temple is a model or replica of the cosmos–both ancient and current. It also reveals the cultural traditons of our ancestors.

    Ask me to explain how Christmas is related to temple symbolism and ritual some time. It’s a practical application of the case in point.

  6. Thanks for your comments. Nibley often spoke about how the temple connects us to the universe, that the temple is the center of the universe, and that the temple helps us get our bearings on the universe. The temple is the education center where we learn about our place in the universe. Nibley also taught that religion cannot do without cosmology and vice versa. They are interconnected and related, and you cannot have one without the other.

    The truths about the heavens and our place in them, I believe, were revealed to our first parents, Adam and Eve, after they left the Garden of Eden. In the ensuing apostasy of the posterity of Adam, these truths were scattered and corrupted. That is why I believe that they are found in different forms among all cultures and places, although all “badly damaged and out of proper context” as Nibley put it. I don’t necessarily believe that it was the heavens themselves that revealed their truths to all the ancients, but that it was God that taught man His truths, and then only to His prophets (Amos 3:7). A perfect example is Abraham, who God taught extensively in vision about the cosmos as we have record of in the Book of Abraham. I believe our ancient traditions about the cosmos and the true religion are one in the same. We have a restoration of those same truths in the temple today, all revealed through a prophet.

  7. Patricia

    I highly recommend Wayne Dyer’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. I’ve listened to it several times and continue to be inspired. If you listen considering that Lao Tse did not seem to have an understanding of a Heavenly Father, but did have an understanding of a state of perfection, you can see that he combined the attributes of a guiding, loving Heavenly Father with those of the impersonal eternal laws (that simply “are”). Dr Dyer also doesn’t seem to understand that Heavenly Father and the eternal laws are two separate entities even tho harmonious. He does a wonderful job making a broad application across religious lines.

    It is my understanding after studying eastern thought, bodywork and the Tao Te Ching along with the scriptures with the intent of seeing the bigger picture that what the Tao calls the great nothingness is a combination of the eternal laws and Heavenly Father. Lao Tse didn’t seem to have an understanding of a Heavenly Father, who is in harmony with these eternal laws, guiding us individually through that “web that has no weaver” (ie the eternal laws) .

    Heavenly Father did not create nor can he change these laws. They are the parameters within which he developed and exists still. However, he could provide a way to overcome the consequences of the application of these laws that are “no respecter of persons” as they apply equally. Because we are incapable of fully rectifying the chaos we create when we “sin”, a saviour was necessary. The pain we feel as we recognize and feel remorse for our sins is part of the balancing out. So you can see why Christ’s pain was so intense as he experienced the balancing out for all of our sins that we don’t personnally experience. (all this ties to Love)

    Our Heavenly Father began as we did – he had to bring a physical and spiritual body into harmony with these laws. When he did reach that point of exaltation (ie being in harmony with the eternal laws) he became a part of the great eternal round which has no beginning, no end, and changes not. That is why speaking of the eternal laws, Heavenly Father, or Jesus Christ all will bring you to the same place. Not understanding this concept has caused great confusion among many religions who think Christ and Heavenly Father are the same because Christ said that if you saw him it was the same as seeing the Father. Individual credit (ie ego) has no place in exaltation. They are all at one with the Tao.

    These are simply my thoughts. I’m still studying and learning. So if you see an error in my thoughts or have an insight to add please comment.

  8. Fantastic insight Patricia! Thank you very much. This perspective is similar to Cleon Skousen’s on the duality of Heavenly Father and the eternal laws that he has obeyed and become one with.

  9. Lehi’s comment in 1 Nephi 2:11 is actually much deeper than we sometimes think, and closer to Taoism than we might think, if we take the time to read it *very closely*:

    ” It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”

    At first glance, these opposing states make no sense; how, for example, can something have neither corruption nor incorruption, neither sense nor insensibility? If not one or the other, how else could it be described? But Lehi’s words bring to mind the Taoist teaching:

    When the people of the Earth all know beauty as beauty,
    There arises (the recognition of) ugliness.
    When the people of the Earth all know the good as good,
    There arises (the recognition of) evil.
    Being and non-being interdepend in growth;
    Difficult and easy interdepend in completion;
    Long and short interdepend in contrast;
    High and low interdepend in position;
    Tones and voice interdepend in harmony;
    Front and behind interdepend in company.
    (The Wisdom of Laotse, trans. Lin Yutang [New York: Modern Library, 1948], 47.)

    In Oriental philosophy, the Tao is that from which all things arise; it is Lehi’s “compound in one” without contrasting qualities. Note that these concepts were unknown (and would have been incomprehensible) in the West in Joseph Smith’s day (an English translation by John Chalmers appeared in 1868), but they were evidently familiar to an eastern sage like Lehi.

  10. Patricia

    Thank you EditorJack. I agree, I think Lehi may have had a greater understanding of such things. Certainly some groups did as at least one corner of the world retained this knowlege.
    I like the Taoist drawing of the The One begets The Two. The Two begets The Three. And The Three begets the 10,000 Things.
    The One is essentially the Tao – existence. Here can be found unorganized material – the raw essense of intelligence (that which has the potential to act) and the raw elements (that which has the potential to be acted upon). Imagine a circle.
    Upon organization of these things we have gathered The Two. Not intellingences and elements, but the very organization of these creates a push/pull (Yin/Yang if you will). Imagine the circle with a squiggly line through it.
    The interplay of these two dynamic opposing forces creates a polarity, an energy also called Chi or Ki. Ki is that vital force of life, movement, even molecular bonding. So you can see that “if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead” (1 Ne 2:11) – no Ki. Imagine the circle with the squiggly line through it surrounded by rays.
    Now it is possible for all creation to come about – The 10,000 things. I can’t help but wonder if Eve is involved with the previous step since she is the Mother-Of-All-Living. What are your thoughts?

  11. Patricia

    In my last post I failed to credit Cleon Skousen for his pointing out in 2 Ne 2:14 the idea of intelligences as things to act and the elements as things to be acted upon. I only read a short post on another website about him, so haven’t really studied his ideas, but did like this one.

  12. John Lee

    Has anyone consider the theory that chi or life energy maybe the Holy Spirit or the Light of Christ. I was practicing kung fu and tai-chi. We were speculating if the chi of our bodies could be the energy of the Spirit or the lIght of Christ. I have been doing tai-chi for eight years.
    I see that opposites come out of unity and returns to unity. Our ways of acting out our free agency comes when we do not have to choose good or evil. This is our unity or free agency. Then we freely choose good or evil which is yin and yang. There is also a parable of a bird who attempts to reach out and obtain its potential in the parables of Chuang tzu.

  13. EditorJack

    One more thought on 1 Nephi 2:11:

    “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”

    I think when most Latter-day Saints read this, they immediately jump to the conclusion that Lehi is talking about good versus evil, or even just the difficulties of mortal life. I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about at all (at least not in the ways we usually mean). Why? Well, consider the examples Lehi gives of what he *means* by a “compound in one”–something having:

    * no life neither death
    * nor corruption nor incorruption
    * [neither] happiness nor misery
    * neither sense nor insensibility

    Think about that: What is it that can be neither dead nor alive? What can be neither corrupt nor incorrupt? What can be neither happy nor miserable? What can be neither sensible [that is, subject to sensation, to feeling] nor insensible? What is this very strange thing?

    Whatever it is, it seems not far removed from Lao-Tse’s characterization of the Tao.

  14. Lynn

    I’ve found tons of insights in making lists of opposites!
    My first lists had things like:
    temporal ….spiritual
    body ….. spirit
    flesh ….. blood
    bread ….. wine
    physical … mental
    deeds ….thoughts
    Golgotha …..Gethsemane
    external …. internal
    works ……..faith, that seemed to fit definitely and interestingly in their respective columns. It seemed that everything came in twos and the pairs had wholeness.
    Other lists had things like: love hate, clean dirty, light dark, and good evil.
    Later on, it occurred to me that lists like the first example were complementary while the second example had contrasting pairs. As mentioned in the earlier posts, we understand that we must know evil to comprehend good, etc. Later still, when I learned a little Taoism from a brief foray into feng shui, I found that I needn’t have gender issues with yang-sun day light and yin-moon night dark because we need both equally and I found interestingly compatible pronouns in 2 Nephi 23: 10. If you add: “Head of home” and justice to a yang list and “Heart of home” mercy to a yin list they seem to fit this verse in Alma 42:24. Discovering that the Father and Son have Perfect Justice and Perfect Mercy within themselves was also thrilling and I search the scriptures, watching for abundant examples of these traits. I came to see from the (very relevant) Nibley article on patriarchy and matriarchy, that negative things had male and female versions of evilness as with the masculine-war, destruction, rape and the feminine- softness, decay, seduction.
    Simple things like food and water, while necessary to sustain life, can just as easily kill us, as with obesity and water intoxication. Taking it a little further, negative water opposites include : (for the large scale), drought / flood … (on a personal level), dying of thirst /drowning. The lists go on and on but I ‘m loving discovering counterparts to things I’ve always thought of one-dimensionally. Flashes of light seem to inundate my mind almost faster than I can process them. I am delighted to discover this forum as it’s been difficult to interest my friends and family in this subject. I learned new things while other ideas were reinforced beautifully. One more bit…in pondering the Creation story , one version tells, that in the first 3 days… combined things were separated into opposites: unorganized organized, land water, and light dark. The next 3 days… things were made in increasing degrees of complexity . Cool eh?

  15. Janette

    Since the last comment was posted 10/15/10 I hope this will continue more discussions on Taoism and LDS doctrine. I graduated from the International Institute of Medical Qigong 2006 as a Doctor of Medical Qigong.
    During my training I was noticing the similarities of Taoism and what the Church taught. Before getting more involved in qigong I asked my instructor Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson was he thought of Jesus the Christ. His reply was, “He’s THE Qigong Master”. This helped confirm my promptings of the Holy Ghost that I was to learn these methods. During my 10 years of training I continued to counsel with the Bishops in my ward ( a total of three bishops). Neither one ever had any feelings this was contrary to the teachings of the Savior. But I did get a lot of resistant opinions of other members who didn’t understand what I was learning. That is why I am so grateful to have found this site! I thought no one else was finding these similarities. The Tao means “The Way” and as the Savior has said “I am the Way , the Truth , and the Light” I can understand how the same Source taught in ancient times. There are many other similarities amongst the teachings and some I cannot reveal as they pertain to Temples etc. I do know that we are blessed to have the Church and the ancient knowledge that was taught by Christ restored today. And I know what I know through the Holy Spirit and not looking to challenge anyone on this topic. Just sharing some of what I have experienced and grateful to find others who understand.

  16. John

    I have notice similarities with QiGong too. Your body is a temple correct. In it, the temple has three energy centers-outer court, inner court, and holy of holies. On the external side, there are symbols such as the symbols of the energy centers. The temple is to raise us into consciousness of God and as we ascend the mountain, we have certain keywords, keys, and passwords given to us. Could be mantras associated with it. Each level increases our consciousness of traits of obedience, service, chastity, and consecration. The veil is all that which separates us from full consciousness of God. The markings are symbols of the earth and heaven. Read temple symbols. I asked myself what are these symbols for-to meditate on and to use when tempted-just like yantra symbols of meditation.

    The Chinese, Indians, and Japanese interiorized their temple covenants, philosophy, and symbols into the meditation and breathing of Qigong-they used the spiritual energies of breath-ruah, prana, chi to elevate the human mind to higher consciousness. I am writing a book on the Plan of Salvation and Oriental religions-more depth than Palmer’s World religions.
    On Mantak Chia’s book on Inner Smiling meditation, there is a picture of chi going down to a picture that looks like the Provo Temple!! Feng Shui would be an interesting discussion too-did the Jews have geomancy??
    The temple is a school of the Plan of Salvation and the Plan of Salvation is school of the temple.

    I also heard someone was doing research on bodhissatvas as savior figures in Buddhist religions.

    Hindus have claimed Jesus was a Yogi-that’s how he performed the death and resurrection??
    There is also a claim that he visited India when he was a child.

  17. Amanda Psuik

    I am so glad to have found this blog – I agree w/ the previous comment that it is tough when family and friends just aren’t interested in talking about these things that send thrills through me.
    I have been studying the yin yang as a means of explaining to women how there is perfect equality and balance between the role of men and women in the church even though women do not hold the priesthood. It is clear to me that women “have” the priesthood – that is, they have every blessing and power of the priesthood available to them even though they do not confer those blessings and power; just as men have all the blessings of life and nurturance available to them even though they do not confer that life. Eastern medicine teaches that yin/women are the blood while yang/men are the energy to move and direct the blood throughout the body. That fits so nicely into the cosmological sense that, in a family, man/yang is like the sun, providing resources (energy) and order (priesthood authority) to the earth (woman/yin), who uses the energy to bring forth life. She is “the fruitful vine” that one of the Pratt brothers spoke of (Orson, I think)

    However, because woman/yin is in the shadow of the mountain, as the taoists say, she is not as visible and recognized as the man/yan, who is the illuminated, sunny side of the mountain. There is a perceived inequality. But who is the author of the desire for recogniztion?

    These thoughts are half-formed. I have loved reading everyones insights.

  18. Scott Southwick

    I have grown up as a member of the LDS church and I am still very active. I have also grown up studying martial arts and consider myself a Mormon-Taoist. I enjoyed reading reading everyone’s discovery of Taoism. I would encourage anyone interested in the truth to explore Taoism on a deeper level. Those of us that have gotten past the surface and have seen the simple and profoundness that is the Tao find that the restored gospel does not always mean complete. Fullness is not full. We were given just enough information to work out our own salvation; Tao can contribute to our growth and understanding. Like everything, rely on the spirit to guide you.

    God-speed on your spiritual journey.

  19. I love the comparison of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to yin yang philosophy. I also love that quote by Terryl Givens & Brigham Young. I try to live by it. 3 years ago, I didn’t know the difference between yin yang and feng shui. For the last 2 years, I’ve been compiling truth and creating visuals to teach the Plan of Happiness using the yin yang symbol. I’ve created a couple of videos now posted on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAeuq-GYDk2-JxwbIldkfAQ. Each picture contains numerous layers of depth and meaning, and while my comprehensive explanation for them is not currently posted, I’d be happy to share their meaning with anyone interested. A distilled write-up of some of them can be found on onegreatstory.us

  20. EditorJack

    Andy wrote:

    ” The opposite of love is actually ambiguity.”

    By “ambiguity” I think you mean “indifference.”

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