Mormons and witchcraft

Wiccan pentacleAs the most sacred holiday for witches is upon us, I thought I would write a little of what I know about the intersection between Mormonism and witchcraft. First, let me state the obvious, that Mormons are not witches, and most Mormons probably don’t think much about witchcraft. In fact, most Mormons would probably be horrified to see me comparing Mormonism with witchcraft. Like Mormonism, witchcraft is a much maligned religion, but one that I greatly respect and admire for their nature-based and environmental theology. Comparing Mormonism to witchcraft is not as preposterous as it might at first seem, given that I understand that in predominantly-Mormon Utah, the majority of witches are former or sometimes even current Mormons. Evidently, there is something within witchcraft that appeals to a certain rare segment of Mormons or former Mormons.

The diverse pagan traditions we call witchcraft have been around for a very long time. It mostly had died-out by the 19th century, but in the early 20th century it experienced a rebirth in the form of Wicca and various related denominations, who tried to reconstruct the pagan faiths based on old traditions and records. At the time Joseph Smith founded Mormonism in 1830, the witchcraft theology had basically disappeared. But some of the magical elements of these traditions were carried forward in the form of folk religion practiced by believing Christians. Joseph Smith was part of that magical culture, though he was by no means a witch. He was, really, no different than countless of other rural Christians who practiced folk magic.

Though he did not think of it as witchcraft, Joseph Smith was not unfamiliar with things like spells, talismans, curses, and magic divining stones. For example, Smith used a “seer stone” to translate the Book of Mormon. Smith referred to this stone, and similar stones, by the biblical phrase “Urim and Thummim.” Smith taught that in the far future, residents of the glorified crystal earth would each receive such a stone whereby they will be able to know “things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms” (D&C 130:10). Smith, like countless others of his era who lived close to the earth and relied in part upon the cycles of nature for their survival, also evidently believed in astrology. One of Smith’s early revelations indicates that he also believed in dowsing. Smith’s connection to the magical practices of his era are fully explored in the groundbreaking but controversial work Early Mormonism and the Magic Worldview, by D. Michael Quinn (1998, Signature Books, ISBN 1560850892). These magical practices were still part of Christianity, not withcraft, but they represent a common folk tradition between the two faiths.

In addition to the magical elements of early Mormonism, there are superficial similarities between Mormonism and witchcraft on a theological level. Most practitioners of witchcraft recognize at least two gods, the Moon Goddess and the Horned God. Mormons, in addition to recognizing the male Christian Father, also recognize a Heavenly Mother. Thus, both traditions recognize male and female deities. But the theological similarities between Mormonism and witchcraft are rather superficial. Though heterodox in relation to traditional Christianity, Mormons came from that tradition, are still part of it, and have been working hard to find common ground with it. Though not trinitarian, Mormons still believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of Christianity. Some Mormons believe that the Heavenly Mother is the Holy Spirit, but beliefs are varied. (See this 1980 Sunstone Magazine article for an overview of the Mormon Heavenly Mother doctrine.)

None of this is to say that Mormonism, especially modern Mormonism, is anything at all like witchcraft. But there are enough superficial similarities that Mormons ought to be sympathetic to witches. As much as I favor Mormon dialogue with traditional Christianity, I would also be on board for some sort of Mormon-witch dialogue.

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5 thoughts on “Mormons and witchcraft

  1. I agree that Mormonisim is built on wichcraft and is quite fascinating for many people. For instance there are witchraft symbols on their temples. Maybe their prayers are given force because they sacrifice by paying a large tithing of 10% plus other donations. This makes a person burn and have faith. They also fast and pray which witches also do. Making sacrifices at an alter, fasting etc are all things that witches do. However, some claim that JS was also practicing dark magic and sacrifcing animals and spilling blood.

  2. I am an excommunicated member of the Mormon church. But not a disgruntled ex member. I have a lot of family still on the church. I will tell you that u had been married in the salt lake City temple. Have been to the temple many times. The reason you have Mormons or exmormons that r interested in Wicca or witchcraft is because of a few things.
    1. You were right on target about the heavenly mother and heavenly father vs. the female and male forces in Wicca and witchcraft.
    2. Just the ritual of the sacrament (being one of the traditional ceremonies in a church) is just that, ritual. There is an invocation, blessings asked for, a symbol of Christs body and blood passed around for all to take of to renew their covenant of yet another symbolic ritual of cleansing ones sins …. Baptism.
    3. The ritual of baptism. Complete immersion in water.
    4. The temple. The temple is a sanctified, sacred place. Much like Wicca or witches recognize the importance of performing rituals in a sacred protected space this is what a temple is. Many look pretty but they r typically not as ornate as the older ones but they r aligned astrologically, they have markings on them of the sun the moon and the stars, the all seeing eye, the sacred square, cirlces, etc. There r special rooms inside where very specific knowledge is passed to each person inside as to the knowledge they will need to pass the angels In heaven and be permitted into the highest degree of heaven where they too can become God’s and goddesses and rule one day over their own world’s.
    In this temple they perform baptisms for the dead. What does that mean. A member stands in a baptismal don’t that is very ornate and sits on the back of twelve oxen. to represent the twelve tribes of isreal. You are called by the name of the deceased person and baptised for that person who is believed to be present on the other side witnessing this baptism. That deceased person now on the other side of the veil has the right to accept or reject their baptism. And this same type thing is done sealing parents in marriage beyond the grave and then sealing children to parents as eternal family beyond the grave. Rituals r done for each of these items binding people together.
    There r live marriages done here as well. The marriages r done over alters the husband and wife kneeling on either side of a beautifully padded alter and they hold hands across the alter while the marriage that is performed binds them on Earth as civilly married and also serves as their binding beyond the grave as husband and wife. If they r married in the temple their children r considered born in the covenant, meaning they are automatically sealed to their parents and don’t have to have the ritual done later in life or for them by a surviving family member after death.
    When in the temple, you must wear special clothing. If you don’t own it you may rent it from the little room in the temple and you just return It after you have completed your time there. People form sacred circles together and pray, they recite things a specific number of times during prayers.
    So you can see, an alter in ones home, honoring God the Father and heavenly mother, burning some sage to creat a sacred salpace in ones home and symbols or verbiage spoken intent to set forth intentions or prayers is not a stretch for a Mormon. I personally don’t feel I have to not be Christian to use these rituals.

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