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Joseph Smith And The Occult


TrashcanMan79

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In another thread, a non-Mormon poster wrote,

I find many if not all Mormons unwilling to really look at what they believe.

When I took exception to this statement, the poster offered as a case in point the following:

[T]here is strong evidence that JS practiced occult activities before and after the writing of the BoM. I have met Mormons who donâ??t know this, who deny this, and who explain it by saying that everyone did it (which somehow makes it O-K I guess). I think I would rather a Mormon say, â??Yeah, JS was involved in occult practices . . . but I donâ??t care. He is still Godâ??s prophet to me.â? That seems more honest to me.

A few more posts on this subject in a very general way followed, but none that actually addressed:

1) What are the facts in re Joseph Smith's occult practices?

2) What is the evidence of Joseph Smith's occult practices?

3) What is the most plausible interpretation of the evidence?

A topic search of this board indicated that this has been discussed before, but alas, many of these threads have been closed. I have started this new thread to find out for myself if the non-Mormon poster is correct in the assertion that 'there is strong evidence that JS practiced occult activities before and after the writing of the BoM,' and, if true, to see what is or should be the appropriate apologetic response. Any links to articles by Mormon authors addressing this issue, as well as any comments or insights by board members, is welcome and much appreciated. Thanks!

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Well, "Occult" could mean alot of different things. I think any religious experience is ultimately deeply personal, and therefore "Occult".

Well thats actually a interesting spin. But I would add to it the fact that many, if not all, set Religions are Occult like in their activity and roots. However, this is not addressing the question asked to start with. The thought that I come up with when reading this question is not so much about JS occult like ties and movements before the BoM was created, but how in fact the BoM came about.

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The law and it's rules which prevented divination are no longer current laws for Christians.(Deut. 18:10) How did Joseph Smith violate an old law that has been abolished? The law and it's outdated rules have passed away.

Who is higher in authority Jesus or the law? If Jesus decided to overlook Joseph Smith's involvement with magical practices why can't I? The Bible isn't my final authority in faith or practice modern revelation is. I don't happen to share Evangelical prejudices towards Joseph Smith's past.

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A few more posts on this subject in a very general way followed, but none that actually addressed:

1) What are the facts in re Joseph Smith's occult practices?

2) What is the evidence of Joseph Smith's occult practices?

3) What is the most plausible interpretation of the evidence?

Try reading Mike Quinn's "Mormonism and the Magic World View", BUT check every reference, don't believe any conclusion or opinion without checking it out and evaluating it yourself, first.

There is indeed strong evidence that JSJr. was involved in the occult. It caused me to re-evaluate what 'occult' is, and whether it's good or bad.

What a surprise to find that when I give a priesthood blessing by virtue of the Melchizedek priesthood, it qualifies as 'magic'. Hah. Truly.

It's a can of worms, yes, but the the Holy Spirit guide, and you will profit thereby. IMO.

HiJolly

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Try reading Mike Quinn's "Mormonism and the Magic World View", BUT check every reference, don't believe any conclusion or opinion without checking it out and evaluating it yourself, first.

There is indeed strong evidence that JSJr. was involved in the occult. It caused me to re-evaluate what 'occult' is, and whether it's good or bad.

What a surprise to find that when I give a priesthood blessing by virtue of the Melchizedek priesthood, it qualifies as 'magic'. Hah. Truly.

It's a can of worms, yes, but the the Holy Spirit guide, and you will profit thereby. IMO.

HiJolly

There is strong evidence that many Religions were founded within the Occult line. But one does have to admit, that JS, along with many others, did hold some occult ties prior to their onset. If we were to pull scriptures from the Bible we would find that these types of ties, no matter how we re-evalute what we could consider to be occult like activity would not have been permitted. Putting that behind us what one does have to ask is how much of ones past conditioning follows us into new thoughts and movements. Again I bring up the "fact" on how JS accepted the revelation of the BoM and how its creation came to be.

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There is indeed strong evidence that JSJr. was involved in the occult. It caused me to re-evaluate what 'occult' is, and whether it's good or bad.

And more importantly, I think, it opens up a religious dialog with other self-professed occultists that wasn't there a decade ago due to socioreligious prejudices.

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1) What are the facts in re Joseph Smith's occult practices?

Joseph Smith used scrying stones to locate lost objects and buried treasure. Richard Bushman notes that "in addition to rod and stone divining, the Smith's probably believed in the rudimentary astrology found in the ubiquitous almanacs. Magical parchments handed down in the Hyrum Smith family may have originally belonged to Joseph Sr. . . . [Lucy Smith] showed her knowledge of [magical] formulas and rituals and associated them with 'the welfare of our souls.' Magic and religion melded in Smith family culture" (Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling [New York: Knopf, 2005], 50-51).

2) What is the evidence of Joseph Smith's occult practices?

Testimony of family, friends, and neighbours--both friendly and unfriendly.

3) What is the most plausible interpretation of the evidence?

Take your pick:

  • "Smith's use of the seerstone was an important indication of his early and continued interest in extra-rational phenomena, and . . . it played an important role in his spiritual development" (Jan Shipps, "The Prophet Puzzle: Suggestions Leading Toward a More Comprehensive Interpretation of Joseph Smith," Journal of Mormon History 1 [1974]: 14).
  • "Joseph Smith eagerly pursued treasure-seeking as a peculiarly tangible way to practice 'experimental religion,' as an opportunity to develop his spiritual gifts through regular exercise in repeated contests with guardian spirits. Because it was the contest itself that interested him, the repeated failure to recover gold did not discourage his efforts. . . .
    Joseph was after something more than mere material wealth: by accumulating spiritual understanding he hoped to attain divine power. He began small by grappling with the guardian spirits of treasure troves in nocturnal, ritualistic digging expeditions but, through such experiences, matured his concerns toward his ultimate role as the Mormon prophet. By the time he recovered the treasure he sought, it was no longer the mammon of a few years earlier but instead a book of divine knowledge. Translating and publishing that book accelerated his pursuit of divine knowledge's power as he became a prophet guiding a growing number of devoted seekers.
    If we see Smith's spiritual engagement as a continuum beginning at age fourteen in 1820 and continuing through treasure-seeking and the transitional recovery of the gold plates to his role as the Mormon prophet, then we should not be surprised that he and his followers described what he saw in 1827 differently in 1840 than they did in 1830, that their understanding evolved from talking of guardian spirits to describing angels representing Christ. If we see Smith engaged in a lifelong struggle to master spiritual knowledge, then it is natural that he and his followers continuously reinterpreted earlier episodes" (Alan Taylor, "Rediscovering the Context of Joseph Smith's Treasure Seeking," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 [Winter 1986]: 24).
  • "Although treasure seeking was left behind, the magical culture of the stones played an important part in the development of Joseph's identity as seer and translator. The Christianity of Methodism or Presbyterianism could not have readied him for translation. . . . The scryer of stones looked for the unseen, whether lost objects or buried treasure. . . . Although he obtained his own stone from a hole dug for a well and not by a gift from heaven, practice with the stone, looking for lost objects and probably for treasure, was an initiation into 'seeing' that could be transferred to translation of the gold plates in the stones of the Urim and Thummim" (Richard Lyman Bushman, "Joseph Smith as Translator," in The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith, ed. Bryan Waterman [salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 78-79).
  • "Despite the apparent evidence of conscious fraud, I would caution against viewing Smith's activity as a treasure seer in either/or terms, for it is possible that Smith was both deluded and deceptive in his operations. In other words, Smith may have been sincere in his claims about seeing treasures and guardian spirits in his stone but was sometimes tempted to provide proof through fraudulent means, either to satisfy his followers or silence his enemies. Although the evidence for fraud is more easily demonstrated, nevertheless Smith's complaint about being persecuted for his gift, if not pure rhetoric, may have been sincere after all" (Dan Vogel, "'The Prophet Puzzle' Revisited," in The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith, ed. Bryan Waterman [salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 53-54).

See also Ronald W. Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," and "Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer," in BYU Studies (Fall 1984) 429-472, and Marvin S. Hill, "Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion," in the same issue, pp. 473-488.

For a weak apologetic response to this issue, see the FAIR Wiki entry on Joseph Smith and the Occult.

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The only waekness I saw in the FAIR Wiki article was failure to deal with Old Testament pro-hibitions against divination. (Deut. 18:10) I am not sure Joseph Smith was a bad character even if he had struggled with occult issues.

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Is there anyone besides me who sees Joseph Smith's involvement in occultism as a positive thing?

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Is there anyone besides me who sees Joseph Smith's involvement in occultism as a positive thing?

I probably should not admit this, but although I do not see JS involvement in occultism as a positive thing in his case, I will admit that it was his so called involvement that pushed me towards the study of the faith. It's that wrong little dark side of mine I guess that makes me brush next to things like this. <_<:unsure: I'm working on it. :P

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nope..........only in america can you call black white, and get away with it.......lol........

Or white black, in this case.

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Is there anyone besides me who sees Joseph Smith's involvement in occultism as a positive thing?

I'm with you, I think it was a good thing. I don't quite get why people are fine with him studying and worshipping with other Christian sects of the day, but consider his interest in "the occult" to be some sort of fatal character flaw.

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What is the definition of occult? And how does the definition apply to Joseph Smith?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occult

"Occultism is the study of occult or hidden wisdom. To the occultist it is the study of "Truth", a deeper truth that exists beneath the surface: 'The truth is always hidden in plain sight'. It can involve such subjects as magic (alternatively spelled and defined as magick), extra-sensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, numerology and lucid dreaming. There is often a strong religious element to these studies and beliefs, and many occultists profess adherence to religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam."

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occult

"Occultism is the study of occult or hidden wisdom. To the occultist it is the study of "Truth", a deeper truth that exists beneath the surface: 'The truth is always hidden in plain sight'. It can involve such subjects as magic (alternatively spelled and defined as magick), extra-sensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, numerology and lucid dreaming. There is often a strong religious element to these studies and beliefs, and many occultists profess adherence to religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam."

Okay so what's the problem?

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Okay so what's the problem?

No clue. Ask the people who are demonizing it.

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In another thread, a non-Mormon poster wrote,

I find many if not all Mormons unwilling to really look at what they believe.

When I took exception to this statement, the poster offered as a case in point the following:

[T]here is strong evidence that JS practiced occult activities before and after the writing of the BoM. I have met Mormons who donâ??t know this, who deny this, and who explain it by saying that everyone did it (which somehow makes it O-K I guess). I think I would rather a Mormon say, â??Yeah, JS was involved in occult practices . . . but I donâ??t care. He is still Godâ??s prophet to me.â? That seems more honest to me.

A few more posts on this subject in a very general way followed, but none that actually addressed:

1) What are the facts in re Joseph Smith's occult practices?

2) What is the evidence of Joseph Smith's occult practices?

3) What is the most plausible interpretation of the evidence?

A topic search of this board indicated that this has been discussed before, but alas, many of these threads have been closed. I have started this new thread to find out for myself if the non-Mormon poster is correct in the assertion that 'there is strong evidence that JS practiced occult activities before and after the writing of the BoM,' and, if true, to see what is or should be the appropriate apologetic response. Any links to articles by Mormon authors addressing this issue, as well as any comments or insights by board members, is welcome and much appreciated. Thanks!

Have you read "ONE NATION UNDER GODS" by Richard Abanes? He has a lot of references you can look up for yourself to see if they are worthy of consideration.

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"Occultism is the study of occult or hidden wisdom. To the occultist it is the study of "Truth", a deeper truth that exists beneath the surface: 'The truth is always hidden in plain sight'. It can involve such subjects as magic (alternatively spelled and defined as magick), extra-sensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, numerology and lucid dreaming. There is often a strong religious element to these studies and beliefs, and many occultists profess adherence to religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam."

A somewhat sanitized definition.

I think for most, especially Christians, "the occult" implies mixing with Satan and his ilk for purposes of worship, knowledge, money, power, or the sorts.

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Have you read "ONE NATION UNDER GODS" by Richard Abanes? He has a lot of references you can look up for yourself to see if they are worthy of consideration.

Have you see our discussion with Abanes on this forum? Before coming to conclusions based on his book, you might look at his response to our questions.

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Here is my take on it.

Look at the Book of Mormon. If you are impressed, and see scripture, then it doesn't matter what he was doing. If you see it as a fraud, then his activities prior to the BOM will explain alot.

It all comes down to the BOM.

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Here is my take on it.

Look at the Book of Mormon. If you are impressed, and see scripture, then it doesn't matter what he was doing. If you see it as a fraud, then his activities prior to the BOM will explain alot.

It all comes down to the BOM.

Exactly my point. I am in full agreement with you. many Religions hold ties to the occult in one form or another. However, if they prove themselves to be accurate, and I use that term with some guarded care, then it's roots matter much less. It's the actions that derive from the notion, not the notion by itself that counts when it comes to Religion.

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