“Sorceries, and Witchcrafts, and Magics”

By about 325 A.D. the Nephites had reached this point: “And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land” (Mormon 1:19). On the scale of depravity, this condition seems to be worse than having the land overrun by robbers and secret combinations, though not as bad as the human sacrifice and cannibalism that later arose among the people.

So, what does this mean? Something along the lines of our modern-day astrology, Ouija boards, and Wiccanism, or something deeper and darker? Were there Nephite wizards and witches walking around actually casting spells on people?

Even more compelling to me is the question of whether we can expect to reach a similar state in our own civilization, or post-civilization if and when today’s order breaks down. Do we already have “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics” infiltrating our society in some form, and how much worse will they get?

I sometimes wonder if movie special effects, fantasy stories featuring magic, psychedelic drugs, and other cultural trends are preparing our civilization for a time of “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics,” a time when amazing supernatural signs and wonders from the evil one will become openly apparent. And when that time comes, I expect that priesthood power will be similarly beefed up to match and counter the wizardry and that God’s people will enjoy righteous supernatural reinforcement and support.

What do you think? Are we getting closer to latter-latter-day times when both evil and good supernaturalism will become more open and prominent aspects of the battle? And what forms will these aspects take?

Comments

comments

37 comments for ““Sorceries, and Witchcrafts, and Magics”

  1. January 16, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Well….in terms of sorcery and withcraft I dont see direct comparisons in our secular and materialist society. Perhaps it could found in the fact that more people believe in spirits and ghosts then they do in God. But I dont think this is the case. I think there is just a general malaise with supernaturalism in general.

    We must also ask,”What do these things embody?” They embody a preoccupation and worship of evil powers amongst the core population and thus had become rotten. In this case I think an indirect comparison could be drawn with the current worship of “mammon” (MONEY, celebrity, and all those other fun things) but apart from that I am not too sure.

  2. dpc
    January 16, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    “And what forms will these aspects take?”

    Two words: Harry Potter

  3. January 16, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    What if certain of the Nephites began to discover scientific principles? Even in our day, certain scientific or technological advances are seen essentially as “sorceries, witchcrafts and magics.” We don’t use those words, of course. Today’s conservative tyes call it “playing god.” The principle is the same, though. Someone discovers a New Thing. Others don’t understand this New Thing, and quite naturally fear it. What they fear, they hate and demonize. Before you know it, New Thing is against the will of deity. Eventually more people understand New Thing, New Thing becomes Same Old Thing, and the conservative/religious panic ends.

    Those who are old enough to remember the beginnings of in vitro fertilization in the 1980s will know exactly what I’m talking about.

  4. January 16, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Nick,
    Excellent point. I have long felt that a lot of the fantastical imagery in the bible, like the dragons and beasts in Revelation, could very well be a first century visionary’s crude description of things like tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, and other technologies.

  5. January 16, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    “I think there is just a general malaise with supernaturalism in general.”

    I think its more like there is a base-level knowledge of science in general.

  6. Matt Thurston
    January 16, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    This verse couldn’t be more vague. Read whatever you want into it. I see no practical value in trying to translate or interpret what “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics” might have meant 2,000 years ago, let alone today, or tomorrow. Maybe there is some value to be found in the verse as a general, non-specific warning of falling into the traps of con artists and other practitioners of ersatz voodoo, but mention of the “evil one” in the second phrase implies that such evils are masterminded by a bogey man beyond the veil. I guess I’m stepping beyond the boundaries of the post, but the personification of evil in the form of a Devil and his fallen angels (and by extension, passing some of the blame to these unseen evil forces) has some troubling consequenses in the way we both think about and address or solve such problems. Do we need an “evil one” to have evil?

    In any case, such stuff is better left for speculative fiction, as entertainment, in my opinion. Or maybe for blog posts.

    So I guess I see “man” as being pretty much the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The constant is that we are born; we live, love, laugh, cry; and we die. What changes over the various millenia is the way we tell stories about our lives, especially the mystical part of living. This can be readily documented by every civilization since the beginning of recorded history. So when I read of scriptural accounts involving “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics” or parting seas that deliver God’s chosen and swallow up the wicked, or hear of a future when “priesthood power will be similarly beefed up to match and counter the wizardry and that God’s people will enjoy righteous supernatural reinforcement and support”… such supernatural phenomenon causes alarm bells to go off in my head. If it defies the laws of the world I live in I can find no practical application. Only by approaching such stories as metaphorical can I find value.

    The alternative is to accept these stories from the past, or revelations for the future, as literal… but if I do that, don’t I also have to accept the supernatural stories of other civilizations or faith traditions?

  7. John Hamer
    January 16, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Mormon’s story parallels Joseph Smith’s. Mormon was the son of a man named Mormon (1:5) who moved with his family as a child (1:6). Mormon is told by a messenger (Ammaron) that plates are buried in a certain hill and that one day it will be Mormon’s role to unearth them (1:2-5). When Mormon is in his 20s, he recovers the plates and begins his work. Mormon then becomes the abridger of the Book of Mormon and the voice of the narrator for Joseph’s translation.

    Because Mormon’s life mirrors Joseph’s literarily, we should read the above verse (1:19) about sorcery, witchcraft and magic, as Joseph’s own assessment of the contemporary world around him in 1820s backwoods New York and Pennsylvania. The fact that Mormon condemns magic illustrates that Joseph’s thinking is well along its transformation from seer to prophet. He is condemning his earlier association with magic and looking to the work of bringing forth the Book of Mormon.

  8. Chris
    January 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Very cool, John H. I’d noticed parallels between Joseph and Nephi, but never the Mormon connection. It’s exciting – I’ll have to reread Mormon and pay closer attention.

    I agree with Nick above that, typically, “magic” is the name we give to things that we don’t understand. I also agree with Matt – people are the same as they have been. I think that every generation wants to think that it is significant in an eternal perspective. That’s part of the appeal of apocalyptic Christianity – the end is always near. Every generation believes that it will be the one to see Jesus return in glory.

  9. FooboyX
    January 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Perhaps they were into D&D. Nephi played “Zelf” the Elf.

    No but more likely it was forms of shamanism, occultism, etc. that took time, money, faith, etc. away from faith and family. Also it likely opened the door to sexual sins like Baal worship did for the Jews.

  10. January 16, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I suspect the Nephite wizards lived in their parents basement pretending to battle Lamanites and Winged Serpents with dice with varying sides. 🙂

  11. TJM
    January 17, 2008 at 1:04 am

    How ‘bout Beelzebul and Willard’s run in Michigan. Dark magic baby!

  12. January 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Whoa, total skeptic city here. So is there anyone out there who reads the Book of Mormon a little more literally rather than as Jospeh Smith’s creative autobiography and who thinks that supernatural interference from Satan and his demons is possible?

    Personally, I fully expect that some figure will eventually arise in this world who is able to perform apparent miracles, but by the sorcerous power of the devil rather than God. Maybe that’s even one of the definitions of the Antichrist.

    But in the meantime I read Harry Potter and play D&D too, and I’m writing a speculative novel along these lines called “Master Mahan Avenged,” which I take deadly seriously. For me, imagination and faith are often closely intertwined, yet today’s corporate Mormonism leaves my imagination gasping for air…

  13. NM Tony
    January 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Sorry, Christopher, but I have to say I am extremely skeptical of any sort of magical claims as well. As I read the article, like dpc, I instantly thought of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. I served a mission in the Dominican Republic, so I got to see first hand some voo-doo practices and didn’t buy it for a second. I saw a lot of power of suggestion, ideomotor responses, expected performance behavior, and a number of other real world rational explanations. I agree with John Hamer that these mentions of magic and supernatural abilities have to do with the expectation that they are evil and signs of evil times, and they may even reflect Joseph Smith’s own experiences with folk magic. His Master Mahon story certianly -appears- to be directed toward the Masonic Order, in which he was intimately involved. Anyway, I see nothing wrong with imagination, but that is exactly what I see when it comes to ‘otherworldly’ powers. But, it was a fun article all the same, Christopher.

  14. John Hamer
    January 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    CB: Although my interpretation of this passage of scripture is not literalistic, I don’t believe it is inherently skeptical.

  15. TJM
    January 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Are “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics” any less plausible than white glowing immortals appearing to 14 year old Joseph?

    And what about the stone in the hat, doesn’t that require a certain amount of magic?

  16. Peter Brown
    January 17, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I think we are living in a world where science has unfortunately turned off part of the “God gene.” that interprets and creates phenomena through the rubric of the miraculous but that’s for another post. We don’t comprehend because we look for MD’s, CPA’s, Lawers, and PhD’s to explain phenomenon, fix problems, and make us better. In a pre-descartian world, we had to look to “supernatural” phenomena to give us hope, fix out problems, etc. because we had no other choice sociologically.

    I think our modern witches and wizards are our lawyers, wonder drugs, and governmental programs that we think will fix all of our problems–especially when our problems have been caused by us. We don’t want to take respnosibility for our choices, and repent, so we rely upon the wisdom of man and whatever he peddles to make it right. Just as in old times, these wonders can be used for good or ill. It’s the intent that makes the difference.

  17. TJM
    January 17, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Are we blinded by science, or is it the natural step in intelligent evolution that it will someday render religion obsolete?

  18. Stephen Marsh
    January 18, 2008 at 8:12 am

    “psychedelic drugs” … the Greek term for sorcery in the Bible happens to be one that implies the use of drugs.

    I remember being introduced to that explanation about forty years ago or so.

  19. January 22, 2008 at 9:20 am

    all i also want to say is that if witch craft could be controlled by people with good thoughts it would have been a good thing 4 the development of people

  20. Derek P. Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    The Mormon Church is one of the most heavily infiltrated organizations by the occult, after the United States government and the Catholic Church. Dissatisfied Pagans and Satanists are actively encouraged to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they are told to advance through the temple and priesthood leadership to increase their occult knowledge. We can not be sure just how many of our Church leaders are Pagans or at least were Pagans since repentant and now genuine. I know appointment to Priesthood offices are by inspiration from the Holy Ghost — but the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, and God the Father aren’t the only beings capable of inspiring man.

  21. Ray
    April 15, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Wow, Derek. The Government, the Catholics and the Mormons – regular trinity of the occult. I’m guessing, base on age and size, that the Catholics are the Father (great master puppeteer), the US Government is the Son (the tool of the Father who demands allegiance in the name of freedom), and the Mormons are the Holy Ghost (the still small voice that tries to make everyone worship the Catholics and the US Government by rejecting the righteous Protestants who worship the correct Father and Son.

    Did I get it right?

  22. Derek P. Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Ray :–

    Yes, something like that. Haha!

    This stuff about sorcerers, witchcraft, and magic is certainly applicable to our day. Paganism, wicca, and druidism are most certainly on the rise, especially within fringe elements of Judaism and Unitarian-Universalism. This stuff is not just Buffy the Vampire Slayer fiction that goth Mormon girls just love and eat up. This stuff is for real.

    Sure, I agree with all scientific-minded folk in these posts that magic is self-deception, that it is fake, that its artifacts relate more to the power of psychology than to the power of the devil… But this isn’t about what WE believe, it is about what THEY believe — and the people involved in witchcraft, Satanism, and other dualistic occult modalities actually believe this stuff is for real — and I actually believe that they are indeed being deceived by the “evil one”. These people really do believe they possess magical powers or that they can command and control demons and spirits, etc.

    Anyone who has studied Irish genealogy might know what I’m talking about, where Paganism is a perversion of the genealogical history… But let’s not get into Joseph Smith’s descent from the bards and historiographers of Clan King and the O’Connors, or the bloodline of Mahan “the wild beast of the field” whose family keeps a great secret, etc., etc.

    But, hey, I’ve just had a lot of friends involved in all this silliness. One of my roommates used to be O.T.O. (she tells a very interesting story about summoning the demon Dantelion), and a friend’s father is a local Jewish-Pagan-Satanic cult leader, and so on.

    Maybe we just have more of this crap in Kansas City because Satan hopes to delay the establishment of Zion?? *wink*

  23. UFO Skeptic
    April 15, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Derek,

    Do you have any links or any documentation for that claim that the LDS is one of the most infiltrated by occultists? Not that I’m challenging your assertion, but I am seriously curious to know the source of your info in order to read up more on that.

  24. UFO Skeptic
    April 15, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Derek, what is this about the bloodline of Mahan whose family keeps the great secret? I don’t understand. Please elaborate on what you mean by this. Are you saying there is some Mahan family in Ireland?

  25. Derek P. Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    UFO Skeptic :–

    Mahan comes from Mathghabhuin — “magh”: Irish, a plain; “gabhuin”: a calf — “‘the bear of the plain’ or ‘a wild calf’; for a bear is strictly a kind of wild calf”. There are two different Mahan families from Ireland: one of Munster, and one of Ulster — but these days the family is spread throughout Europe, having been involved in the governments of England and France. See the MacMahon family pedigrees in John O’Hart’s “Irish pedigrees; or, The origin and stem of the Irish nation,” 1st and 2nd series. The stem of the Royal Family is documented in the 1st series, later branches of the families are documented in the 2nd series.

    Joseph Smith, Jr., was raised in the bardic family of Clan King (Joseph Smith is really Joseph M’Gowan). Incidentally, as an O’Moore, I am descended from the princely family of Clan King.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=h5MNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&ots=_vebwWa0al&sig=ikTP2CCIP_EYa7QrqH_aG_R7E7w

    Joseph would have received a better education at home than he could have received at Harvard (har-bard) at the time. He would have been taught many things of which you and I have never heard, including the stories of the Mahon families (which I have yet to uncover much about, aside from their pedigrees and the condensed histories contained therein).

    Many of Joseph Smith’s associates were descended from allied and even rival Irish dynastic families, and Joseph likely knew more about these people and their families than they knew themselves. For example, James J. Strang descends from Sreng of Connaught, a great Fir Bolg leader. The Masonic Orders have always been for the Royal Families and no one else, just read about the Royal Order of H.R.D.M., where a Master Mason is elevated from the Blue Lodges and initiated as a Brother of the Royal Orders. Interestingly, Strang became America’s only Monarch when he was crowned King by the Illuminati at Voree, Wisconsin, in a Lodge of such distinction.

    As for the LDS being a target of infiltration, there are many sources online, but I think I remember Bill Schnoebelen talking about it this Google Video (not that Prophecy Club is cool or anything, but this is the only easily found reference I can think of on short notice):

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2134284036772812990

  26. Derek Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    UFO Skeptic :–

    Mahan comes from Mathghabhuin — “magh”: Irish, a plain; “gabhuin”: a calf — “‘the bear of the plain’ or ‘a wild calf’; for a bear is strictly a kind of wild calf”. There are two different Mahan families from Ireland: one of Munster, and one of Ulster — but these days the family is spread throughout Europe, having been involved in the governments of England and France. See the MacMahon family pedigrees in John O’Hart’s “Irish pedigrees; or, The origin and stem of the Irish nation,” 1st and 2nd series. The stem of the Royal Family is documented in the 1st series, later branches of the families are documented in the 2nd series.

    Joseph Smith, Jr., was raised in the bardic family of Clan King (Joseph Smith is really Joseph M’Gowan). Incidentally, as an O’Moore, I am descended from the princely family of Clan King.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=h5MNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&ots=_vebwWa0al&sig=ikTP2CCIP_EYa7QrqH_aG_R7E7w

  27. Derek Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    UFO Skeptic :—

    Joseph Smith would have received a better education at home than he could have received at Harvard (har-bard) at the time. He would have been taught many things of which you and I have never heard, including the stories of the Mahon families (which I have yet to uncover much about, aside from their pedigrees and the condensed histories contained therein).

    Many of Joseph Smith’s associates were descended from allied and even rival Irish dynastic families, and Joseph likely knew more about these people and their families than they knew themselves. For example, James J. Strang descends from Sreng of Connaught, a great Fir Bolg leader. The Masonic Orders have always been for the Royal Families and no one else, just read about the Royal Order of H.R.D.M., where a Master Mason is elevated from the Blue Lodges and initiated as a Brother of the Royal Orders. Interestingly, Strang became America’s only Monarch when he was crowned King by the Illuminati at Voree, Wisconsin, in a Lodge of such distinction.

  28. Derek Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    UFO Skeptic :—

    As for the LDS being a target of infiltration, there are at least a few sources online, but Bill Schnoebelen talks about it in this Google Video at about 20 minutes in (and not that Prophecy Club or Mr. Schnoebelen are cool or anything [in fact, they’re staunchly anti-Mormon], but this is the only easily found reference I can think of on short notice):

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2134284036772812990

    (I apologize for spamming the thread, I tried to post this as one, but my comment got caught up in moderation.)

  29. Derek P. Moore
    April 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Mahan is more of a title than it is a name or surname (as is obvious from our Scriptures), but it is used as all three in the histories of the Irish kings — for example, it appears in the history of conspiracies within my family (this example is set in late-period Catholic Ireland, while I am of the Presbyterian Scots branch of the O’Mores of Clan Cionga):

    http://books.google.com/books?id=h5MNAAAAYAAJ&dq=mahon&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&ots=_vebwWa0al&sig=ikTP2CCIP_EYa7QrqH_aG_R7E7w

    As for a Scriptural connection between Mahan and its Irish translation to “the wild beast of the field”, we need go no further than Genesis in Joseph Smith’s Translation (chapter V):

    16 And Cain said, Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan; and he gloried in his wickedness.

    17 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

  30. hawkgrrrl
    April 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    There’s also a bunch of “Mahan” stuff in the apocryphal Book of Jasher. Somewhat interesting if fictionalized.

  31. UbuntuFan
    May 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    The speaker, Bill Schnoebelen, in the video you liked is clearly a lier. I don’t trust a thing he says.

  32. UbuntuFan
    May 12, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I have to disagree with Matt Thurston when he said, “I guess I’m stepping beyond the boundaries of the post, but the personification of evil in the form of a Devil and his fallen angels (and by extension, passing some of the blame to these unseen evil forces) has some troubling consequences in the way we both think about and address or solve such problems. Do we need an “evil one” to have evil?”

    I think Lehi answered Matt when he said,
    ” 16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
    17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
    18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” (2 Nephi 2)

    Man must be enticed to do evil (or good), and a fallen angel did in fact become the buggy man. Not that we are somehow less responsible because we are tempted, instead I mean to illustrate that their is an intelligent person (the opposite of God) with a plan (opposite to the Plan of Salvation) to destroy the souls of men. His actions are deliberate, designed, and all to often effective.

  33. UbuntuFan
    May 12, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Matt, I have alarm bells when I read something like, “So when I read of scriptural accounts involving … parting seas that deliver God’s chosen and swallow up the wicked … such supernatural phenomenon causes alarm bells to go off in my head. If it defies the laws of the world I live in I can find no practical application. Only by approaching such stories as metaphorical can I find value.”

    This phrase makes me think you doubt Jesus raising the dead, or His own resurrection. Did a legion of unclean spirits enter into a heard of pigs that then drowned themselves in the sea? Do men, through the priesthood and in the name of Jesus, heal the sick? Did the flood actually happen?

    I think it is safer to take the scriptures literally. The moon may never actually turn to blood and the earth may not actually roll up like a scroll, but if my doubts about those things causes me doubt things like a literal resurrection, then I will opt to believe it all and wait and see.

  34. John Nilsson
    May 12, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    UbuntuFan,

    When you say take the scriptures literally, I hope you don’t mean to include the Levitical injunctions to stone to death disobedient children? Isn’t that as nonsensical as thinking that Eve’s body was refashioned from Adam’s rib?

    Do you take the Song of Solomon and the Psalms literally too? I think you may have fallen into the trap, at least as far as the Old Testament goes, of reading what was originally Hebrew poetry as literal because the King James translators rendered it as English prose.

    I concede your point that the New Testament may be a different story in terms of pushing the symbolism envelope too far, but I think a critical reader will not be straight-jacketed by ancient pre-scientific texts’ accounts of the world.

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