By Eric Johnson
The Hare Krishna religion sponsors a popular colorful party near Easter-time called the Holi Festival, or the “Festival of Colors.” It is touted as an innocent rite of spring and a celebration of new life. The highlight for participants is throwing colored chalk into the air as well as each other.
The Spanish Fork Hare Krishna temple in Utah is located about 40 minutes south from Salt Lake City and annually hosts more than 70,000 revelers who partake in two full days of partying, with the vast majority of the celebrants not belonging to the Hare Krishna religion. (In 2014, the dates are Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30.) This is apparently the largest Holi Festival in the year outside of India!
If you look carefully, those in attendance will include a number of people wearing crosses around their necks. (We know because we did open-air preaching and handed out literature in 2013 and saw them!) For some reason, atheists are also attracted to this event. However, probably nobody is more likely to attend than those belonging to the state’s majority religion, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you look carefully, you will see a number of BYU baseball caps and sweatshirts, as the church university is just a few minutes away down the I-15.
An article in the Saturday, March 22, 2014 Salt Lake Tribune (“Hindu fest passes the Mormon test with flying colors,” C1-2) explains why many Mormons are attracted to this pagan celebration. According to Caru Das, the Hare Krishna temple priest, this event is “an opportunity for young LDS kids to come and celebrate their spirituality without alcohol or drugs.”
Talking about her experience from last year, BYU student Haylee Buchanan explained, “I went with some friends; it was a lot of fun. To me, it was just some big party.” Interestingly enough, this student went on to tell the reporter that she enjoyed “being immersed in something so completely different” than her own LDS faith.
She added this interesting observation: “I wish that I could have read information on why and what they are celebrating because it was fascinating.”
Really? If this is the case, then Haylee, your wish has come true! By examining the background of the sponsoring religion and the history of this holiday, let’s determine whether or not the Holi Festival is nothing more than innocent fun or possibly pagan revelry.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Let’s start by explaining a little more about this eastern religion, which we will refer to as ISKCON (the abbreviated name for the trademarked “The Hare Krishna Movement”). As the group’s official website explains about the faith:
It is based on the Bhagavad-gita, the spiritual teachings spoken by Lord Krishna. According to many writings, this sacred text is over 5,000 years old, and it documents the conversation between Lord Krishna and his close friend and disciple, Arjuna. ISKCON traces its spiritual lineage directly to the speaker of this sacred book, Lord Krishna, who is revered as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The text teaches that the goal of life is to develop love of God, or Krishna. Love of God is realized through the practice of bhakti-yoga, the science of devotional service. In the latter part of the 15th century, a saint named Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revitalized the bhakti-yoga tradition by introducing an expansive spiritual movement that swept India. Central to this renaissance was Chaitanya’s emphasis on the chanting of Krishna’s name. Underlying this simple practice was a profound, rational, and intellectually comprehensive theology. Hare Krishna devotees worship Lord Chaitanya as an incarnation of Krishna for this age, and ISKCON is a continuation of the movement Chaitanya revitalized.
The founder of the religion was Abhay Charan De, though he was regularly referred to as “A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,” though he later took the name “Srila Prabhupada” (1896-1977). Prabhupada was 26 and living in India when he was challenged by his guru to tell the world about Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534), the last incarnation of Krishna. He started a pharmaceutical company that turned out to be successful. In 1954, he retired at the age of 58. In 1959 he renounced worldly pleasures and eventually came to the U.S. in 1965 at the age of 70, begging passage on a cargo ship and enduring 35 days of an excruciating journey in which he suffered two different heart attacks. While there were no crowds awaiting his arrival on September 17, 1965, Prabhupada came to the United States at a time when the American culture was at the beginning of a cultural revolution, as many people were questioning everything, leaving them open to new religious ideas.
Before he died in 1977, Prabhupada traveled throughout the United States as well as the world to deliver his message. It is claimed that he only slept three hours a day while initiating 5,000 disciples, called devotees; those who join this movement typically take Sanskrit names. Prabhupada also wrote more than 50 books that have been translated into 76 languages. In 1970 George Harrison of the Beatles recorded “My Sweet Lord,” which is based on the Hare Krishna chant called the maha-mantra. Harrison donated a mansion near London and remained a closet disciple for many years. He once said, “Imagine all the workers on the Ford assembly line in Detroit, all of them chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna while bolting on the wheels.” The endorsement from a Beatles icon helped the popularity of the religion, especially with young people.
After Prabhupada died in 1977, infighting with the top leaders of the religion ended up stifling any growth. In 1988 a book was written by two journalists titled Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas. It detailed the corruption of different Hare Krishna gurus who vied for organizational control after Prabhupada’s death in 1977.
During the early years, the unique dress (shaved heads, mud on their forehead called tilaks, and one-piece orange robes) marked Hare Krishnas who were well known for begging in airports and parks, selling flowers or books. Their panhandling activities took a blow in 1992 when the Supreme Court decided that individuals who were soliciting money could be banned from airports and other public places, causing problems in the Krishna fund-raising business. Adherents to this religion were also known for chanting their group’s maha-mantra in public places in an effort to recruit young people.
As far as written scripture is concerned, “the Absolute Truth is contained in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world. The essence of the Vedas is found in the Bhagavad-gita, a literal record of Krishna’s words.” The commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, as written by Prabhupada, is considered authoritative and is studied in ISKCON temples around the world.
The story in this Hindu poem contains conversations between a soldier (Arjuna) and Krishna (which in Sanskrit means “all attractive”) who is the supreme personality for God. ISKCON claims that Krishna first appeared on earth about 5,000 years ago and proved his deity via super-human feats. Throughout the past five millennia, it is claimed that he has been transformed into different humans known as avatars. The last incarnation came in the body of Caitanya Mahaprabhu five centuries ago.
Devotees believe they are monotheistic (believing in the existence of one God), teaching that Krishna and Vishnu are the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. They tend to think that since Krishna is Vishnu, we can simply speak of the Avatars of Krishna rather than the Avatar’s of Vishnu. Indeed, devotees regard Krishna to be the supreme Lord over all deities. Like most religions, Jesus is recognized, but He is just a directly empowered representative of Krishna.
This pantheistic (God is all) religion has solid roots in Eastern thought. Hence, reincarnation, karma, yoga, and vegetarian diets all borrowed from India’s main religion. According to the organization’s main website, “we are all brothers, and Krishna is ultimately our common father.” In addition, “we are not our bodies but eternal, spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (Krishna).” Krishna “is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.” It is also claimed that Krishna “is the same God as The Father Allah, Buddha and Jehovah” and that “Krishna is all and all is Krishna.”
ISKCON teaches monism, which means that individuals have to go through a series of reincarnated lives in order to break away from samsara (which is the endless cycle of birth, life, and death) in order to attain “Krishna Consciousness,” a special realization that one is eternally related to God. A person who is able to completely control his physical senses can return to a “natural, pure state of consciousness” and awaken his soul from the “dreamlike condition of material life.” The understanding of one’s God-like potentiality is vital for the hope of being delivered from the cycle of births and deaths involved with the reincarnation process. Again, these ideas come straight from the pantheistic philosophy of Hinduism. A common phrase is “we are not this body,” which means that all people are spirit souls who are temporarily trapped in material bodies with all its cares and woes.
To escape from this predicament, the devotee is encouraged to practice “sankirtana.” The maha-mantra needs to be recited a total of 1,728 times a day to help cleanse one’s mind, freeing it from anxiety and material illusion. Many devotees wake up very early in the morning to being their chanting, often counting each repetition on a strand of 108 beads (16 rounds = 1 day). This process can take several hours a day.
One round of the maha-mantra consists of the following:
The three names come from Vedic texts. According to ISHKON literature, “hare” addresses the energy of God while Krishna means “the all attractive one” and Rama means “the greatest pleasure.” According to Prabhupada, “Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind…by chanting….one can at once feel a transcendental ecstasy coming through the spiritual stratum.”
For many years, I took many dozens of high school and seminary (post-graduate) students to the Hare Krishna temple in Pacific Beach (San Diego). I allowed the devotees to have two hours with my students during our annual meeting so they could speak on whatever topics they desired. They also had a chance to interact with the students and answer their questions. Without exception, the devotees made it a point to open each meeting by bringing out their instruments (usually a drum, cymbals, and an accordion-like instrument) and singing this maha-mantra. Typically they invited the students to sing along, but I had given my students prior instructions to just observe and not participate. There was no doubt of the sincere devoutness these devotees had when singing to the melodic and almost hypnotic beat. More than once I watched the eyes of the singers roll back until only the whites of their eyes could be seen, an eerie scene for sure! When they finished, there was a look of peace as if they had just awoken from a restful nap.
According to the Tribune article quoted in the introduction, one Hindu who attends BYU is bothered that so many Mormons chant this maha-mantra without fully realizing what it means. Yadav, who grew up in India, said that “some of the religious elements of the holiday seem to get lost in translation.” She said she would “be surprised if these youngsters really knew what the festival was all about.” I believe Yadav is exactly right.
Devotees also practice bhakti yoga, which is meant to rid a person’s soul of bad karma accruing from previous lifetimes. Other ISKCON beliefs include:
- Abstaining from drugs, alcohol, caffeine drinks, and gambling
- Strict vegetarianism, as the killing of animals is equated with killing one’s brother or sister
- All food is first offered to Krishna, and “then Krishna becomes the offering and purifies the offered.”
- Having sex only for procreation within marriage, and then, only once per month
Are ISKCON and Biblical Christianity compatible?
Based on this information, let’s contrast the major belief systems as taught in ISKCON and biblical Christianity:
- God: According to monotheistic Christianity, God is transcendent and above all creation. While devotees only worship Krishna as he has been revealed in 5,000 years of incarnations, I do not believe this makes the religion monotheistic. In ISKCON, the term pantheism is a better description, as all people are considered brothers and sisters who have the ability to someday become one with Krishna. There is a divine nature/potential in every person. Regardless of the definition, the idea of God in ISKCON has no relationship to the God of the Bible or Christianity.
- Reality: Bhakti yoga is practiced in ISKCON, as this is believed to help people move out of this reality and into enlightenment, the goal of all Eastern religions. Attaining Krishna Consciousness is the goal, which is becoming one with God. Even though this concept is similar to Mormonism, LDS leaders have not taught that they will be “one” with God. Instead, the goal in Mormonism is exaltation, which is becoming unique gods separate from Heavenly Father and then existing with their families into eternity.
- Reincarnation: Moving from one life to the next, the goal is to increase good karma to move closer to Krishna Consciousness. This idea is based on the idea that one’s good or evil ways will determine the rebirth in the next life. Most devotees I have met believe that they’re only about halfway through their journey, with perhaps thousands of lives to go. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve ever met one who believed he or she was just a lifetime or two short of this goal. The Bible is very clear that reincarnation is not true, as Hebrews 9:27 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” while 2 Corinthians 6:2b adds, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
- No assurance of salvation: I have asked many devotees where they would go if they died in the next minute. The answer is never surprising, as they all understand that they could chant just a little bit more, think fewer lustful thoughts, and live more pure devotion to Krishna. They understand that any bad karma can stifle one’s progress in the next reincarnation. According to the Bible, however, it is possible to understand whether or not a person is a saved individual: through faith (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10), which alone provides forgiveness from sins. Good works is a result of this new life and is not a requirement for justification. As Ephesians 2:10 says, Christians were created by God to do good works which He prepared for us before we were ever born. James 2:20 and 26 explain that faith without works is dead. And we are commanded in Philippians 2:13 to work out (notice, not work for) our salvation with fear and trembling. Works come as a result of our salvation and are not something to be performed in order to earn our salvation. In other words, fruit comes from a tree that has a solid root system and is already grounded; the type of fruit that results is based on the type of tree it is. The requirement to become a tree is not bearing fruit; rather, a tree (if it is healthy and well nourished) bears fruit because of what the tree already is. There is a huge difference. In ISKCON, one’s performance is required to attain salvation (i.e. Krishna consciousness). In Christianity, one’s good works is the “fruit” of salvation. As Titus 3:4-7 says,
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Finally, 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” No devotee (nor Mormon, for that matter) has ever told me that they “know” that they possess eternal life right now.
What is the Holi Festival of the Colors?
With all of this information as a background, let’s describe the Holi Festival of Colors, which has origins in an ancient Hindu festival. The timing of the event is based on the Hindu calendar to commemorate the myth about a witch, Holika, who burned children in a fire. Because one child supposedly repeated the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as he was carried into the fire, he was saved and the witch was burned instead.
In Spanish Fork, two full days (not 16, as in India) are dedicated to the Holi Festival. Non-Hindus who participate in the revelry may be tempted to think of this as an innocent party symbolizing nothing more than the entrance of spring. However, there is spiritual significance beyond simply tossing chalk into the air, as the colors are symbolic of the coloring of Krishna. According to Wikipedia:
There is a symbolic legend to explain why holi is celebrated. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, felt he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him. Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.
In Braj region of India, where mythical Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi) in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna, a Hindu deity. The festivities officially usher in spring, with Holi celebrated as festival of love. There is a symbolic myth behind commemorating Krishna as well. Baby Krishna transitioned into his characteristic dark blue skin colour because a she demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. According to the myth, in his youth, Krishna despairs whether fair skinned Radha and other Gopikas (girls) will like him because of his skin colour. His mother tired of the desperation, asks him to approach Radha and colour her face in any colour he wanted. This he does, and Radha and Krishna became a couple. The playful colouring of the face of Radha has henceforth been commemorated as Holi. Beyond India, these mythological stories of significance for Holi (Phagwah) are common in some Caribbean and South American communities of Indian origin such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Should Christians participate in the Holi Festival?
According to the Tribune article, Caru Das (the temple priest in Utah) thinks that the Holi festival is innocent fun and helps unite people from different backgrounds. The article states, “If you want to get biblical about it, the festival promotes the two most important Christian concepts: loving God and your fellow men. What could be more religious than that?”
Despite this simplistic explanation, let me provide some questions to illustrate why there are problems for any Chrsitian who wants to participate in this festival:
- Do you believe those who practice this religion are going to heaven or hell? According to the Bible, there are two resurrections: one to eternal life, the other to damnation (John 5:29). The Bible seems to be pretty clear that broad is the road to destruction and narrow the path to life. Suppose a devotee is faithful in his practice and has sincere devotion to his/her god. Even so, according to God’s Word, where does this person end up in the next life: heaven or hell?
According to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Revelation 21:8 says,
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 22:15 adds,
“Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Consider the fact that ISKCON denies the historic Christian faith through its teaching in:
- Another God (Krishna) who is different from the God of the Bible. Thus, a person who listens to the teachers of ISKCON will never have a personal relationship with the true God.
- Another Jesus by saying He is the son of Krishna or possibly an incarnation of Krishna. Second Corinthians 11:4 says that it is possible to worship another Jesus different than the historical Jesus.
- Another gospel: Paul said that if anyone preached a gospel that was different from the original would be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9). A religion of works is a different gospel. In ISKCON, the requirements include reciting the maha-mantra daily. practicing yoga, and eating a vegetarian diet.
- If people who don’t have a relationship with God are headed to hell, will your participation in this festival encourage their unbelief or cause them to want to seek after truth? To me, the answer here is obvious. By participating in this Hindu ceremony, you only encourage those who are already captured by this cult. I doubt any Christian will be sharing the Christian faith with others around while throwing chalk at them! Why would you want to financially support those who not only believe false teaching but participate in the active recruiting of others to join their organization?
While we have no idea how much money is made, we know it must be substantial, as this is a major fund-raiser for this organization. Just the $3 entrance fee alone (multiplied by the estimated 70,000 visitors) is equal to more than $200,000. Then there are the 3.5-ounce bags of chalk, which are sold to the visitors starting at $2 a bag (prices go down from here depending on how many that are purchased). Suppose a person buys 50 bags at $1.50 per bag; this is $75. Multiply that by 100,000 and the numbers are staggering. And this doesn’t include the many vegetarian meals that are sold at this event. As a Christian, do you want to help finance this cultic organization?
- Should Christians be actively involved in pagan rites?Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” In the Old Testament, did God encourage the Israelites to join in the pagan rites of their neighbors? No, He instead commanded them to refrain from the pagan practices of their neighbors. When Paul went to Mars Hill in Athens as described in Acts 17, did he attempt to join them in their pagan rites? Rather, he shared the Christian faith by quoting their poets and philosophers. Paul was adamant in telling the Corinthians to not partake of the pagan temples, including those dedicated to Aphrodite (goddess of love) where temple prostitution took place. With that as our background, what biblical precedent is there in celebrating Holi? None whatsoever.
- Is idolatry something that Christians ought to encourage?Remember, the Hare Krishna devotees dedicate their food to the “deities” before eating. Thus, any food bought during the Holi festival has been ceremoniously dedicated to these very deities before the consumer purchases the food. Although Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 that it is possible for a Christian to eat food that was offered first to idols, the context was for the food to be served in a private home; the food was not meant to be consumed in a pagan temple (or its surrounding area)! To hear more on what Paul wrote to Christians who lived in Corinth, one of the most pagan cities around, consider what he wrote contrasting the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist, or communion) with participation in pagan rites, as explained in 1 Corinthians 10:
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” . . . 14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. 18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Notice how purposely participating in the “sacrifices of pagans” is akin to joining hands with demons. Shouldn’t the Christian want to “abstain from any appearance of evil” as directed by 1 Thessalonians 5:22? Then, speaking specifically about eating meat that has been offered to idols and giving guidance to a Christian who visited someone’s home for a meal, Paul continued in verses 27-28:
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience.
Verse 31 concludes,“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” With this being said, how can eating food initially dedicated to pagan idols (and for their glory) be done for God’s glory? While demons do not actually possess the food that has been offered to these deities, Paul is very clear that we should avoid such situations. Before reading this article, perhaps the reader was unaware of the background to the Holi Festival. Now that you know, I ask, should you as a Christian partake? The answer clearly is “no.”
There will be several objections to my conclusion. First, some will continue to insist that this festival is innocent fun. Is it? Let me provide links to a couple of YouTube videos to explain my point. First, click here on this 2013 video. Notice how the leader on the stage is able to get the people to dance and do hand motions before successfully having them excitedly recite the maha-mantra. The majority of these people are not just reciting it but singing with gusto. When it’s time to throw the chalk (done every hour at the festival), notice how they scream “Hare Krishna” at the end of the count. See here. As the chalk is dissipating, see how the leaders strike up the maha-mantra chant once more. Folks, this is paganism, pure and simple. Perhaps many of these folks—Christians and Mormons included—originally came to “have fun.” However, I think it’s clear that the majority have become so caught up in the celebration that they have ended up worshipping Krishna.
Someone might suggest that celebrating Christmas or Easter—originally pagan holidays—should be considered parallel to the Holi Festival. There is no argument that there are pagan connections with Christmas (Winter Solstice) and Easter (fertility rites). There is no doubt that Christmas trees, holly, mistletoe, and Easter eggs have their origination in pagan rites. Still, do you consider setting up a Christmas tree, kissing under mistletoe, or hiding Easter eggs the same as worshipping nature or participating in fertility rites? While I think care should be given as to how our holidays are celebrated, these associations with the pagan equivalents are apples and oranges. At the Holi Festival, people specifically go to the Hare Krishna temple to participate in a specific festival where we know a) there is a different gospel being taught and b) specific deities are being worshipped through the festivities. By participating in the rites of pagans on their home turf, you are, in effect, celebrating the deities associated with this festival. Why would a Christian want to traverse on such a polluted road?
Should Mormons participate in the Holi Festival?
It’s fascinating how the Holi festival in Spanish Fork is the largest in the world except India. Spanish Fork is in the heart of LDS territory, not far from Provo—home to church-owned Brigham Young University. It is obvious that many Latter-day Saints–especially young people–are infatuated with this celebration.
I am not a Mormon, so I cannot speak for the LDS position. Perhaps my rationale listed above is not satisfactory for some Latter-day Saints who think attending Holi is nothing more than just a fun affair. To the Mormon reader, I ask, doesn’t the Hare Krishna religion contradict your faith in many ways? After all, the idea of Krishna is nowhere close to the concept Mormons have of Heavenly Father. Yoga or chanting God’s name thousands of times each week is not encouraged in the LDS faith. While Mormons do hope to become divine and be with their families, this LDS idea is much different than the Hare Krishna teaching of becoming one with Krishna. Why would a Mormon want to have any association with a pagan religion that does not recognize Mormon Church leaders as having any authority from God?
Consider if a devotee came to your church and asked to get baptized because it sounded like fun to be put under the water. Perhaps she assumes that this could be helpful in obtaining good karma. If the local LDS leaders knew that such a person wanted to participate in a baptism with no intent to become active in the religion, I doubt the baptism would ever take place. Why, then, should a Mormon want to celebrate Krishna at a pagan festival but then have no desire to become a devotee?
As mentioned in the section above, there are pagan roots to this religion and festival. While there were several thousand Mormons who helped build this temple that was completed in 2002, I just can’t imagine the LDS leadership encouraging its members to participate in a pagan festival (especially on the second day of the festival, which is Sunday–the Sabbath to Mormons). Although there’s not a lot written on the topic by LDS leaders, it seems practicing in the worship of false gods is not commended. For instance, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains,
“From the beginning of history the great masses of men have worshiped false gods. Those who believe the creeds of Christendom profess to worship an incomprehensible, unknowable, immaterial essence that fills the immensity of space and is everywhere and nowhere in particular present. Heathen and pagan peoples in all ages have worshiped idols; the liberal Athenian philosophers paid homage to what they called, ‘The Unknown God.’ (Acts 17:22-31.) There are those who set their whole hearts on learning, money, power, and the like, until these things become in effect their god. There is no salvation in the worship of false gods. For such false worship the Lord imposed the death penalty in ancient Israel. (Deut. 13:6-11.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 270).
If a religion such as ISKCON is opposed to the fundamental teachings of the LDS Church, why would the faithful Latter-day Saint want to participate? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps the Mormon is looking for something more experiential than what Mormonism has to offer. In LDS services, hands aren’t raised and people don’t hoot and holler or throw objects (chalk) while singing to Heavenly Father. It’s a much more reverent atmosphere in an LDS chapel. Could singing the maha-mantra while dancing and throwing chalk really be that tempting? Maybe there’s something missing in the Latter-day Saint’s spiritual walk. Perhaps the young BYU student is open to looking at another way of thinking that doesn’t involve a list of do’s and don’ts. I’m not sure, but I just can’t come up with good reasons why Latter-day Saints should desire participating with pagans.
Let me conclude by saying that there is an answer to life’s questions, and it’s found not in a relationship with Krishna but rather with the God of the Bible. John 4:24 says that this God is spirit and He must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. If you are a Latter-day Saint who may be struggling in his/her Mormonism, I invite you to look at this article. Please, write us if you have questions or comments ([email protected]). We really do care.