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Improper Channels:  Astrology, Fortune-Telling, and the Occult

Janet Thomas
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
President Joseph Fielding Smith
President Ezra Taft Benson


by Janet Thomas

"Magic" anciently implied something akin to sorcery, and modern definitions retain this sense as well as a host of other meanings that have accrued around the term over many years and from many cultures. On one point there is general agreement: "Magic" suggests the supernatural. Pretending to use the occult when so-called magic tricks are displayed is simply part of the entertainment. When it implies governing the forces of nature through supernatural means, however, magic takes on a markedly different character.

Latter-day Saints reject magic as a serious manipulation of nature and are advised to avoid any practice that claims supernatural power apart from the priesthood and spiritual gifts of the Church (see Devils; Satanism). They are also counseled against using any fortune-telling devices. Both so-called white and black magic can be Satanic.

True miracles are done by the power of Jesus Christ. Devils may be cast out, but only in humility and by fasting, faith, and prayer, and the power of the true priesthood, with no fanfare or public acclaim (cf. Matt. 17:21; D&C 84:66-73). Regarding the discernment of true spirits from evil ones, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that without the priesthood and "a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed," it is impossible to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and the magicians of the pharaoh or between those of the apostles and Simon the sorcerer (TPJS, pp. 202-206). A test of a godly spirit is to discern whether there is "any intelligence communicated" or "the purposes of God developed" (TPJS, p. 204).

Ultimately, it is irrelevant to the determination of its sources to note that a so-called miracle is for the good of mankind. The Savior recognized that miracles may come from an evil source: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23).

The Lord gave instruction to Israel that the righteous were to call upon him for revelation and to avoid magical devices and incantations that were prevalent among the other ancient nations (Isa. 8:19-20; Ex. 22:18). One danger of preoccupation with forms of magic based on the power of Satan is that it draws people away from the true source of inspiration and makes the worker of magic a servant of the adversary.

The Church holds that no person need unduly fear magic or those who claim magical powers, for magic can have no power over anyone unless the person believes that it can.

Bibliography

Hinckley, Gordon B. "Lord, Increase Our Faith." Ensign 17 (Nov. 1987):52.

McConkie, Bruce R. "Magic." MD, pp. 462-63.

Smith, Joseph F. GD, pp 375-77.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company


by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Astrology

A form of divination and fortune telling akin to sorcery, astrology is a pseudo science that pretends to divulge the influence of the stars upon human affairs; it is a false science that claims to foretell earthly events by means of the positions and aspects of these heavenly luminaries. It is, of course, one of Satan's substitutes for the true science of astronomy and for the true principle of receiving revelation of future events from divine sources.

Ancient uninspired peoples were frequently deluded by the snares of the astrologers among them (Isa. 47; Dan. 1:20; 2:27; 4:7; 5:7), but it is difficult to understand why people in modern and supposedly enlightened and civilized nations should submit to these same stargazing absurdities. Enlightened people in and out of the Church shun them for the abominations they are.

Mormon Doctrine, p.56

Divination

True religion provides for a revelation of future events by prophets sent of God. False religions -- whose ministers have no communion with Deity -- frequently imitate the true practice by engaging in divination. This practice is an attempt to foretell the future by auguries, omens, presages, or forebodings. Among primitive peoples it frequently meant interpreting dreams or other signs or seeking peculiarities in the entrails of sacrificial victims. A diviner is one who attempts to foretell the future by divination. Soothsayers act by the "spirit of divination." (Acts 16:16-18.) The Lord's people are commanded not to engage in divination of any sort. (Deut. 18:9-14.)

Mormon Doctrine, p.202

Fortune-Telling

As practiced in modern times, fortune telling falls into two categories: 1. Frivolous attempts to amuse by pretending to foretell the future under circumstances which are recognized by all concerned as mere entertainment; and 2. Serious attempts to foretell and prognosticate future occurrences by using occult or hidden powers, or at least, through devious and concealed means, to make recipients of the messages believe such have come from sources or through arrangements by which the future can be made known.

These serious attempts at fortune telling are of the devil and are in effect often accepted as a substitute for the true principle and practice of receiving revelation and guidance from a divine source. Frivolous fortune telling games played at parties are relatively innocent past-times, but real attempts to foretell the future and to delineate the destiny and fate of persons or groups by palmistry, phrenology, cards, tea leaves, horoscopes, or any other astrological device -- all these are contrary to revealed truth.

To Babylon the Lord sent this message: For thy crime of self-exaltation, and "for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments," thou shalt be destroyed. Then, in mocking vein, he challenged: "Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee." Then the Lord decreed that these fortune tellers "shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." (Isa. 47) True it is that serious fortune telling has no part in God's kingdom.

Mormon Doctrine, p.299

Occultism

Occultism has reference to the hidden and mysterious powers subject to the control of those who engage in divination, alchemy, astrology, sorcery, and magic. Practice of occultism in any form is contrary to revealed truth and should be avoided.

Mormon Doctrine, p.542

Ouija boards

Ouija boards are trademarked devices used by spiritualist mediums in receiving messages from evil spirits. Marked with the alphabet and various signs, and having a planchette with a pointer instead of a pencil, the boards are used by mediums at sťances to spell out words and otherwise receive answers to questions.

Not all professing mediums have communion with evil spirits and ouija boards might be used by them or others under circumstances in which nothing but false and futile attempts at such communion are involved. But their use, even under circumstances classified wholly as amusement is extremely unwise. Those who use the devil's tools for any purpose may soon find themselves influenced and controlled by him. In the hands of mediums who have actual contact with evil and unseen forces, the use of ouija boards is a wicked and devilish thing. Wise persons never seek revelation or guidance through communion with Satan.

Mormon Doctrine, p.551


by President Joseph Fielding Smith

Question: "It has come to our attention that some young people are amusing themselves with ouija and planchet boards. Our question is, Is the practice approved by the Authorities of the Church? It has always been our opinion that this was something of an evil nature in which the Spirit of the Lord had no part."

Answer: The dictionary describes these boards as being for the purpose of "receiving answers to mediumistic communications or questions." This being the case, the answer is clear to your question. There can be no good or wholesome purpose accomplished in this kind of entertainment, therefore it should not be indulged in by members of the Church. The Lord has pointed out very clearly the course that we should take in obtaining inspiration for our guidance. When a person is baptized and receives the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, he is promised that he will receive the necessary guidance for his spiritual and temporal good, provided he is true to his covenants. The Lord will not dwell in unclean tabernacles. Therefore in order that we may keep ourselves in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord, we must be mentally, spiritually, and bodily clean from every contaminating influence.

In a revelation given to the Church in October 1830, the Lord said:

THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST PROMISED

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved; And upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. And ye shall remember the church articles and covenants to keep them. And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them.1

Shortly before Jesus departed from his apostles he gave them these instructions:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.2

GIFT PROMISED TO EACH CHURCH MEMBER

This great gift is promised to each member of the Church who will be faithful and true, so there is no need for any member seeking inspiration or knowledge through any unsavory or evil source which is coming from Satan or one of his emissaries. Those who have the light of the Spirit, or Holy Ghost, will avoid any contacts from any evil source. No doubt it is true that the use of these instruments is in the spirit of fun and for amusement. Let it be remembered that the Spirit of the Lord does not and will not dwell in unclean or disobedient tabernacles. When a person is enlightened by the teachings of the Spirit of the Lord, his whole soul is filled with peace, and an unmistakable joy beyond the power of description by mortal man. Moreover this great gift is offered to all members of the Church who consistently place their lives in harmony with the Holy Spirit.

There are some members of the Church who unfortunately refuse to comply with the commandments of the Lord, and this attitude deprives them of the guidance coming from the Holy Ghost Therefore they are deprived of the great joy and peace of mind which a faithful life will bring. These souls are liable to deception. They fail to have the true discernment and are thereby deceived when some cunning person or spirit filled with the influence of the adversary of righteousness beguiles them into a false security. They become confused and many fall away from the Church into the depths of spiritual darkness. The disobedient and wayward become the prey of deception; and as darkness enters their souls, the true light is driven out.

OUR FATHER DEMANDS OBEDIENCE

Our Father in heaven has from the beginning demanded of his children that they love and obey him. They are to worship him, and unto him they are to pray and give their devotion. "He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken," said the Lord.3 To seek for information through ouija boards or any way contrary to the instruction the Lord has given is a sin. The Lord gave positive instruction to Israel when they were in the land of their inheritance that they were to go to him for revelation and to avoid the devices prevalent among the heathen nations who occupied their lands. The law of the Lord to Israel is drastic because the Lord considered it vital to their salvation. In the Book of Exodus, this is written:

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.4

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?5

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.6

All through the Bible, the New Testament as well as the Old, the Lord and his prophets have expressed their displeasure when the people turned from the Lord to "familiar spirits." Even in our own day we have been given definite counsel in the following words:

But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that you should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrine of devils, or the commandments of men: for some are of men, and others of devils. Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived: and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.7

COUNSEL FROM PRESIDENT JOSEPH F. SMITH

At the April conference, 1901, President Joseph F. Smith gave the following counsel to the members of the Church:

Men and women may be deceived by the craftiness of the adversary and by the spirit of darkness that is in the world; they may be deceived . . . with hypnotism, with animal magnetism, with mesmerism, with spiritualism and with all the other man-made and demon-stimulated isms which exist in the world; but the elect of God shall see and know the truth. They will not be blind, because they will see; they will not be deaf, because they will hear; and they will walk in the light, as God is in the light, that they may have fellowship with Jesus Christ, and that his blood may cleanse them from all their sins. May God help us to do this. May he deliver us from secret combinations, and from the snares that are set to entrap our feet and to win our affections from the kingdom of God. I repeat what I have said scores of times, the kingdom of God is good enough for me. This organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets all my wants, and I have no need to fly to organizations that are gotten up by men for the purpose of making money. I pray God that his kingdom may be sufficient for you, that you may abide in the truth, and not be led away by these deceptive spirits that have gone forth in the world to lead men astray. Spiritualism started in the United States about the time that Joseph Smith received his visions from the heavens. What is more natural than that Lucifer should begin revealing himself to men in his cunning way, in order to deceive them and to distract their minds from the truth that God was revealing? and he has kept up pretty well ever since. May God bless Israel, and preserve us in the truth…. "

Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.30-34


by President Ezra Taft Benson

From time to time we receive reports that some of our members have become enamored and attracted to certain so-called faith healers. Some have been enticed away to a belief and acceptance of the works which they see performed. Some few have been enticed away from the Church and have apostatized.


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