Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (D. Michael Quinn)


Magic is real; it works. Readers of Michael Quinn’s new book must be prepared to accept this or never understand the argument. In the absence of direct experience, or of a scientific appreciation of magic, a kind of imaginative leap is probably advisable. We would need to walk into hilly, heavily wooded country interspersed with fields and roads, with head and heart wide open, trying in a most receptive way to realize that everything seen is materially connected to things invisible, and by these latter intermediaries to each other. It would be necessary to befriend and be befriended by witches, soothsayers, and magi and to take them seriously as friends and as divines. In so doing we might get glimpses of Joseph Smith, the young treasure-seer, his face buried in a hat which he holds upside down in his hands, a stone in the bottom of it. We accept his seership, which eventually yields a treasure. We see the Smiths take up the hearthstones in their living room, enabling Joseph to conceal his find there. We watch as one disgruntled treasure-hunting colleague, Alva Beaman, demands to see or share the trove: taking up his divining rod, the resolute rustic promptly “witches” the whereabouts of the “golden plates.” Everyone present shares something that Michael Quinn calls “the magic world view.” All know that magic is real.

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