What seems to be an eternal debate is the question of whether a Christian is for or against hypnosis, as if there was an either/or choice. Catholic doctrine is different from LDS doctrine, Protestant doctrines are different according to which Protestant church you're speaking of. And every person is influenced by custom -- probably more than we're willing to admit.
So I've been asked about the LDS mindset on this. And I begin immediately with the doctrine of agency -- that is, the right and the moral imperitive to choose good over evil. And hypnosis is one of those things which can impair one's agency. Therefore, it's evil -- yes?
Well maybe - and maybe not. Used willy-nilly (and far too many entertainers use it without considering consequences) it can relax inhibitions. And inhibitions are not usually bad things. They're our fuses, our circuit breakers, that help keep us in control when we'd really like to crash (repeatedly) into the car which stole a parking space from us.
Now when someone who knows what they're doing is the hypnotist, when it's someone we trust, it's another (and a particularly powerful) method of relaxation, therapy, or anaesthesia. The only question is really whether the hypnotist is
someone we trust.
Certainly, 19th century amusements were not particularly trustworthy. In the August 1981 issue of Tambuli
, Brother William Berrett said "This led Brigham Young to say of the
hypnotism he saw practiced in his day:
'Hypnotism is an inverted truth; it originated in holy, good, and righteous principles, which have been inverted by the power of the devil.' "
Lee Darrow, instructor for the first ever safety course for hypnotists, consistently campaigns for better training of hypnotists, whether for medical or entertainment purposes. A difficulty is that legislators (much less your average person) don't usually know what hypnotism is.
Richard Osterlind points out that people's feelings about hypnosis has more to do with their local or family customs than with their church's doctrine. In this, I definitely agree. (Besides, you'd be surprised how many people don't know the doctrines of their church.) There's a lot of misinformation which is given out about hypnosis, and local urban myths abound.
We're told that hypnotism can't make you do what you'd normally not do. We're told that hypnosis can cause you to lose your inhibitions and do things you'd normally not want to do. We're told that hypnosis, under a clever hypnotist, can make us do things we'd normally not dream of doing.
Get the facts. Lee's site is a good place to start (There's an extraordinary amount of false information on the internet, but Lee's an unusually straight player.) and he can lead you to further facts. You can probably contact him through his website at http://home.earthlink.net/~mstrhypno/hypno.html
As for us Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) we're very fond of our agency. We submit to surgeons, therapists, and doctors all the time -- so we're, as a people, not particularly superstitious about hypnosis. But we might be a little suspicious of an entertainer making us dance like a chicken.