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Mormonism and the Occult?
by Michael T. Griffith
Joseph Smith, Seer Stones, and Divining Rods
Anti-Mormons claim that Joseph Smith and other early LDS leaders were involved in occultic practices. As evidence for this assertion, they point out, for example, that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate parts of the Book of Mormon. They also maintain that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery believed in and used divining rods.
Were early Mormon leaders involved in the occult? In large part, the answer to this question depends on how one defines the word "occult." For instance, if one sees Joseph Smith's seer stone as evidence of a connection with the "occult," how does that person explain the Old Testament Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two divining stones carried in a breastplate? (The stones were used to determine God's will.) If we are to reject Mormonism as "occultic" because some of its early leaders might have experimented with divining rods, what do we say about the supernatural rods of Aaron and Jacob?
Anti-Mormon writers don't seem to realize that the charge of occultism can be leveled against several Bible prophets with far more devastating results. In fact, atheistic critics have attacked the Bible precisely on this basis. Ancient pagan and Jewish critics accused the early Christians of using magic and sorcery. When fundamentalist anti-Mormons accuse Mormonism of occultism, they are repeating the same charge that was leveled against the early Christians, and for many of the same reasons.
Occultism in the Bible?
There are numerous biblical items and events which can and have been labeled as "occultic." Here are a few of them:
These examples illustrate the fact that sometimes the line between "magic" and "divine power," and between the "occult" and "religion," can be very hard to draw. What might appear to be "occultic" to one person could be viewed by someone else as a legitimate manifestation of divine power. God sometimes manifests his might in ways that seem strange to us. He can also choose to adopt contemporary practices as vehicles for performing miracles (such as when the Savior used spittle and clay to heal the blind man).
The charge of "Mormon occultism" evaporates when it is examined in the proper biblical perspective. Early Mormon leaders were no more involved in the occult than were Aaron, Joseph of Egypt, or the apostles.
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