Modern Stoics Are Missing Out

The tenets of stoicism and Mormonism nearly completely overlap. However, stoicism lacks one (essential/extremely important) thing – an eternal perspective focused on Christ and the Atonement.

Stoicism was founded in the early 3rd century BC, and was famously practiced (and subsequently popularized) by the likes of Epictetus (50-135 AD), Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD), and Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD).

Ryan Holiday and the team at Daily Stoic,

Stoicism has just a few central teachings. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.

Mormons believe that this time was the beginning of the apostasy, a time when prophets were no longer receiving revelation from God on behalf of the people of earth, in part because most of the apostles had died or been killed. This lead to an absence of the fullness of the gospel, or put another way, truth.

You can find verses of scripture inside the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants that teach these exact same “stoic” principles, just with a different focus. Case in point, the world is unpredictable because there must be opposition in all things. The reason we must endure to the end and keep the commandments. And finally, we can choose wickedness or happiness.

I’ve read nearly everything written and produced by Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday. They are easily two of the, if I may, most prominent (if not, then certainly the most vocal) stoic practitioners living today. Their writings have greatly influenced my life in countless ways, and I greatly look forward to the chance I hope I have to meet them and thank them in person.

I am also simultaneously sad for them. (Though I know that my feelings on their behalf won’t affect them at all, that’s a big part of stoicism…)

The thing that saddens me is that their knowledge is limited by their atheism. These two constantly seek answers about life, but never allow the possibilities an eternal perspective allows. What if the answer to lasting health is found in a revelation known as the word of wisdom? I know Tim could forgo drinking wine & tea, because he’s abstained from other things in the past, but would he ever allow this answer? Would he ever take the opportunity to rigorously test it as he has so many other things?

Ryan has written two books in the last few years and co-wrote a third that is a companion to the daily stoic site mentioned earlier. The titles alone resonate deeply – The Obstacle is The Way, and Ego Is The Enemy.

“Okay, so they resonate. But why?” 

The point of it all is this: what happens when we pursue solutions to difficult problems but completely exclude an entire group of possibilities just because they are classified as “religious” in nature?

If ego is the enemy, are we not guilty of ego (i.e. pride) if we ignore the existence of God and the Atonement of Christ? Does that not make us the greatest offenders, claiming that we alone are responsible for everything, good or bad, that happens in our lives?

What are the consequences of relying solely on our own strength and understanding rather than humbling ourselves enough to look at all the possible answers, no matter where they come from?

If the Obstacle is the Way, and Christ is the waydoes that make us the obstacle?


4 thoughts on “Modern Stoics Are Missing Out”

  1. I love this so much! I don’t suppose you’ve written a book combining the teachings of the gospel and stoicism, have you? Now that’s something I’d shell out good money for.

  2. Fascinating… I don’t entirely agree with your take on it – we have at least one Stoic, arguably the most famous one, who brings up God constantly!

    “How powerful is man! He is able to do all that God wishes him to do. He is able to accept all that God sends upon him.”

    “Go from one good act to another, with your mind on God.”

    Both quotes by Marcus Aurelius in his personal journal, Meditations. And those are just from memory!

    Incidentally, I had a strange, rushed initiation into Mormonism at age 12, and was pulled away from it just as oddly and suddenly at age 13, all of this due to my estranged family situation. But I believe I’m starting to rediscover Mormon faith, and all because of the way this ancient Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher talks about God.

    I definitely agree with the core of your message – there is amazing similarity in the Stoic attitude and the Mormon attitude! I believe that it’s all about self-discipline and maintaining a view of the bigger picture – the unspeakable beauty and intelligence which pervades all things, called God.

    • Love your thoughts here. If I’m remembering correctly, I was referring to the modern stoics who often seem to be agnostic. Thanks for sharing that some from the past had a religious thread in their writings!

      There are so many similarities that it’s been fun to explore.


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