Friday, February 03, 2006

Mormonism and Magic

Let me just rattle here a bit and see if something sensible comes out of this.

Magicians and mentalists are just too darned cynical. We use deception to simulate marvelous implausibilities, and then assume that anything which isn’t in our immediate experience is similarly fake.


We get so caught up in selling our personas that we start believing in them, and think we’re controlling powers and abilities far beyond those of mortals.

And now from left field –

People have written me and asked what Mormons think about magic. They know that there are some fundamental Christians who think that it’s the devil’s work and that all we magicians are going to Hell. (Most of those same fundamentalists think Mormons are going to Hell too, so I don’t worry about ‘em.) They wonder if we have the same concerns. Other Christians wonder how we reconcile what we do with what we know.

That’s really several different questions.

“Do Mormons believe there is such a thing as real magic or demonic powers?” Yep. Probably not as you consider them. We believe that when Jesus said that, with faith, we could just tell a mountain to move and it would move – well, we believe him. And that pretty much sums up what we think is the similarity between “real magic” (as people think of it) and faith. As far as demon types, we know that 1/3 of Heavenly Father’s children rebelled against him. Those 1/3, led by Lucifer, will never know the joys of being born into mortality as the rest of us have, and will never have bodies. But they remember their lives (and ours) from before this mortal life, while we’ve had a veil pulled over our memories. (And that veil isn’t very thick sometimes.) As Brigham Young once pointed out, sure Satan could cause this water jug to jump up and dance about, but that wouldn’t serve him any purpose. Similarly, if we exercised faith, we could do such things – but what purpose would they serve?

We believe what Jesus said and says, and we believe that we don’t exercise that kind of faith for the most part, nor do we waste our energies with wanting to do silly little tricks that serve no purpose.

We also know that we prefer to be anxiously engaged in good pursuits, and that magic – for magic’s sake alone – is pretty frivolous. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with entertainment value provided to an audience – humans were meant to laugh if they were meant to do anything. And for those who perform magic as their jobs, it’s not frivolous: it’s putting food on the table for the family.

“Do we believe that witches and wizards should’ve been put to death?” That part of the Mosaic Code which says to suffer no witch to live, was mistranslated. Joseph Smith found that the actual command was to suffer no murderer to live. That’s an entirely different concept. Even people who decry capital punishment might recognize that it was an effective deterrent for a wandering bunch of people who lived in a desert for 40 years.

On the other hand, we tend to recognize that a lot of people who proclaimed themselves wizards were not pulling these stunts for entertainment. No, they were after power and riches. We can’t be surprised when such people met bad ends. People love to be entertained, but if they find you’ve been tricking them into being your lackeys….

So that brings us to today, when we feel that David Copperfield, Kreskin, and Richard Osterlind are marvelous entertainers; while folks who pretend to have power from God or gods are just power-hungry fools. And we feel pretty badly towards anyone who seeks power.

Because the greatest power has always been the power to serve. He who is the most powerful who walked among us, has been and is the servant of all.


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