A frequently sung hymn in Mormon meetings, “More Holiness Give Me,” consists of 24 phrases, each beginning with the word “more.” Besides holiness, the hymn requests such righteous attributes as gratitude, patience, faith, and purity. All virtues worth cultivating. Still, that’s a lot of asking packed into a three-verse song.
Joseph Smith once defined the word Mormon as literally meaning “more good”— coming from adding “mor[e]” to the Egyptian word for good, “mon.” Whether or not Joseph’s etymology is accurate, Mormonism is definitely about more: More happiness in this life and the next, more life— forever, more posterity—even eternal procreation, more blessings—as God’s chosen people, more power—becoming as God, more wealth since the righteous prosper. Essentially more of everything good. Mormonism builds on the American Dream—maybe Mormonism is the American Dream.
In truth, “more” always comes at a cost. The cost of “more” for many Mormons is anxiety—or in the words of the hymn, “more strivings within.” Mormonism is a pretty stressful religion as Mormons labor to qualify for more blessings. Mormons probably attend more meetings, perform more church service, offer more prayers, and read more scriptures than do members of most religions. And just as working longer and harder to earn a larger paycheck causes stress for workers, ceaseless striving for more blessings creates stress and tension for Mormons—and their families. The high use of anti-depressant drugs by Mormons, especially women, has been widely publicized.
Mormons who can’t take any “more” often leave the fold. Some gravitate to denominations which emphasize grace over works. Others progress into unbelief. Some eventually return to the Mormon fold. A very few wandering Mormons are drawn to the faith’s polar opposite—Buddhism. Buddhism is a philosophy of less. A Sensei said he was first attracted to Buddhism because it offered “no hope.” No hope for a better future. No hope for anything beyond the present.
To those accustomed to striving for more, Buddhism may sound bleak. For those worn out and demoralized by striving for perfection and never being good enough, the practice of experiencing this moment as complete and perfect is wonderfully liberating.