Mormons & Yoga

Yesterday Susi asked the following in response to my It’s not a Rosary post:

I have a question.  I’m a yoga therapist (& RN) at a psychiatric hospital.  I remember, maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I invited a new client to yoga and she said it was against her religion.  I said something like, “Oh, we don’t do anything that would interfere with anyone’s religion; nor do you have to have a religion at all.”  She was quite sure though and said she would sent me a pamphlet about it after she left the hospital.  She did—I thought it was from a Mormon group.  It said a lot of stuff…devil worship, secret organization meant to promote Hinduism, etc.  Could it have been Mormon??  I’m confused now.

LDSFirst, we need to do a little defining here:  What is a Mormon?  Mormons are generally accepted as being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; however, that is not strictly true.  There are other groups that are currently or have been previously called Mormons.  I will refer to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Latter-day Saints and to the church as the Church of Jesus Christ or the Church through the rest of this post to avoid any ambiguity.  Lastly, I am not an official representative of the Church.  What I am writing here is my personal understanding of Chruch doctrine and practices.

The biggest flag, to me as a Latter-day Saint, that something is amiss is that the Church strongly discourages attacking any other group1 and the pamphlet in question sounds very much like an attack on Yoga and Hinduism.  Latter-day Saints have long been maligned for what we believe; so, learning that another Latter-day Saint might have done the same to any group, even if truly deserved, is very disheartening.  That alone makes me confident in saying that at the very least this was not an official Church of Jesus Christ pamphlet.

Now the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ does take a very well defined stance on the different religions around the world.  This is often interpreted, both inside and outside the Church, as a We are right and everyone else is wrong stance.  Modern revelation does state that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth . . . ”2 and while that does seem to draw a line in the sand, it doesn’t tell the whole story as this sounds like Latter-day Saints believe we are the only ones with the truth and everyone else is heading to hell.  The doctrine of the Church does teach that the Church of Jesus Christ is the only church with all the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority to act upon that truth.  We do not claim that other groups are completely wrong, only that they do not have the entire truth.  To be honest, we don’t even hold or teach that we have all the truth just that we have all that is required for one to become a joint-heir with Christ.3

So, where does that leave the rest of Christianity?  Yoga?  Hinduism?  You-Name-It-Ites?  We believe that most religions, the vast majority of religions, have nuggets of truth and that those treasures are worth having and knowing.  With regard to the many religions of the world, it is my personal belief that over the ages pure truth has been given by God to His prophets and that over time individuals have taken a little here and a little there and called it the whole truth, when in reality it was only a few pieces.  God has restored the whole truth through Joseph Smith, a modern day prophet.  Beyond finding pieces of the truth in the world’s many religions, we believe that there are many other good things to be learned and it is our sacred duty to find them, to learn them and to share them.4  Yoga lies, in my view, somewhere between the pieces of truth about God and these other good things just as it lies somewhere between religion and science.

As a final proof that the Church is not against Yoga, there is no official proclamation against it and there are Yoga classes available at the Church’s private university in Provo, Brigham Young University, not to mention that KBYU—a PBS television station at Brigham Young University—broadcasts and even produces a Yoga show.

So, where does that leave the woman that gave you the pamphlet?  It is possible that she was a Latter-day Saint and that the pamphlet was created by some of her local leaders.  It is also possible that she was from a breakoff of the Church that does indeed teach that.  She might even have been someone with an axe to grind that was seizing a propaganda moment—yes, I know that sounds far fetched but it has, sadly, happened before.  Regardless, I can assure you that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never spoken officially against the practice of Yoga.  In fact, I have not even been able to find anything informal speaking for or against the practice of Yoga coming from the General Authorities5 of the Church.

Namasté

Endnotes


1.  Articles of Faith 1:11, We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

2.  Doctrine & Covenants 1:30, And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

3.  Romans 8:16, 17, The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

4.  Articles of Faith 1:13, We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul*—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. * see Phillipians 4:8

5.  Mormon.org, “A priesthood leader over the general Church.  This term can refer to prophets, apostles, and seventies.”

  • Hello,

    That was very nice to read. I don’t mean to generalize the Mormon church, but I see more and more why it is that Mormons I know and come across are so warm and nice to me and to those around them. They don’t come off as attacking anyone, and this explains why.

    I am a Christian myself, but I’ve never gotten attacked by any other group more than fellow Christians themselves. Sure, we are called to sharpen each other’s “irons,” so that we’d straighten each other out of love, but it really doesn’t feel like love when they offer me their correction—which feels more like condemnation.

    I still feel loved by Christ when I do the things some Christians don’t agree with vehemently such as yoga or listen to secular music, because I don’t get that same feeling the Holy Spirit may have been giving me when I do obviously sinful things like lying or lusting. However, I just feel like people (Christians), and not the Holy Spirit himself is attacking me.

    It is nice to see that you practice yoga and still serve God.

    Would love to hear from you!
    Rachel

    • Rachel,

      Thanks for reading and for your comments!

      Those who are sure in their faith are most often the kindest and most gentle, even when they feel the need to point out where the rest of us are missing the mark.

      Those who are unsure of their faith often attack others who seem to threaten their faith. They do so out of fear. Fear that their faith might be shaken or fear that the cloak of legitimacy or power that faith gives them will be ripped away.

      In both cases, love the ones before you. The first deserve your love because they are loving. The second need your love to see how wonderful they truly are.

      Much love and Jai Bhagwan!
      Ramdas