Monday, September 6, 2010

The Mormons are Renaissance Humanist

I had a naissance of understanding of the origins of humanism in the renassance.

I was reading Pico della Mirandola's writings in the "Manifesto of the Renaisance," when I came to find the true origins of humanism.  The early humanist view was that man is what he makes himself to be; but we all know that.  However the original thought was not that man is independent of God, but that God willing he has a heavenly potential.  Mirandola states: "Their concern was to define the human place in God's plan and the relation of the human to the divine; therefore, they centered all their thought on the "human" relation to the divine, and hence called themselves "humanists."

With this view on things, I dare say the LDS church is full of humanists.  For is that not what we too seek -- to understand and improve our relations with God?  Its an interesting way to look at things.  Within the original humanist thought comes foreshadowing statements echoed in Sunday School today.  "Let a holy ambition enter into our souls; let us not be content with mediocrity, but rather strive after the highest and expend all our strength in achieving it." (Mirandola)  Although the words are stated according to the eloquence of the instructor, the message remains the same.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I absolutely agree, several fundamental tenets of Renaissance Humanism and Mormonism are quite similar. It is sad, however, what Humanism has come to mean/stand for today. Consider this statement from the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II:

    "We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so...We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural..."

  3. I think what you are getting at is the sense of potential that comes from the early humanists and which is inherent within LDS doctrine about infinite progression and perfectibility. These sorts of comparisons are instructive, and more abound. If you look at the early Mormon church, you see a preoccupation with Renaissance literature (Shakespeare, Milton) and a conscious effort to instill a literary education among the faithful. See, for example, the many literary lessons in the Relief Society Magazine (

    I've written about LDS aspirations to great art in a piece called "Our Mormon Renaissance" which you might be interested in (