LDS Teachings and Stoicism
Stoicism is a 2000-plus-year-old philosophy that has recently developed quite a modern following. Stoicism offers a useful way of engaging with the world, and its rich history of interactions with the Apostle Paul and the peoples of the New Testament is fascinating. Moreover, I have found many of the stoic maxims –condensed phrases of wisdom– compare directly with the modern teaching of my religion, The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Theologically speaking, the Stoics and the LDS Church are not always in harmony. The Stoics were pantheists, believing everything comes from God and will eventually be absorbed into him again. They were also fatalists, believing that a fixed set of laws governs the universe and that the needs of individuals have no bearing on Providence. The LDS church teaches that God is very concerned with our lives and created everything for a purpose:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
— Moses 1:39
Stoicism is not perfectly in tune with LDS theology, yet many Stoic teachings will improve our lives. Stoic philosophy is not only useful for LDS members alone but also for everyone else.
One of my favorite stoic philosophers is a man named Epictetus. Epictetus was born into slavery nearly two thousand years ago. However, his owner, Epaphroditus, permitted him to pursue liberal studies, and this led Epictetus to study with Musonius Rufus — a Stoic philosopher who became his mentor. Eventually, Epictetus gained his freedom and opened a school in Rome, where he taught for nearly 25 years until emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from Rome. Then, fearing persecution, Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece and opened another school there until his death.
Over the next while, I plan to share some of Epictetus and other Stoic Philosophers teaching and show how LDS teachings sync with this ancient philosophy.