THE ANGEL AND THE SORCERER
The Remarkable Story of the Occult Origins of Mormonism and the Rise of Mormons in American Politics
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Copyright © 2012 by Peter Levenda
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PART I: ORIGINS
Chapter 1. The Sorcerer
Chapter 2. The Angel
Chapter 3. The New Religion
PART II: IDEOLOGIES
Chapter 4. The Book of Mormon
Chapter 5. Piety’s Rainbow
Chapter 6. Chemical Weddings
PART III: AGENDAS
Chapter 7. The Promised Land
Chapter 8. Treasure-Digging in Salt Lake City
Chapter 9. Howard Hughes, Bob Bennett, and the Mormon Spooks
PART IV: IMPLICATIONS
Chapter 10. A Mormon Presidency
Appendix: Famous Mormons
AS THESE LINES ARE BEING WRITTEN, there is a Mormon running for the Republican Party’s nominee for president in the 2012 election. What many people may not realize is that Willard Mitt Romney is not the first Mormon to run for President of the United States.
That honor goes to the founder of Mormonism himself, Joseph Smith Jr.
What many people also may not realize is that Mitt Romney is not the first Mormon to be focused on the acquisition of wealth.
That honor also goes to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith Jr.
In fact, and according to at least one critic, Joseph Smith Jr. was the first real leveraged buyout king, anticipating Mitt Romney’s career by at least 150 years.
The story of the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly referred to as the LDS Church or simply as the Mormons, is a story of treasure-hunters and sorcerers. This book is not an attempt to denigrate Mormonism or Mormon politicians or presidential candidates, even though the facts presented here may seem at times outrageous or bizarre. This is the real story of a religious denomination that some consider a cult, even a dangerous cult. Since I have written several books that touch on the subject of “religious deviance”, I am sensitive to the label “cult” and do not use it lightly. After all, Christianity began as a cult, as a renegade Jewish sect: a spiritual practice observed in secret, in hidden catacombs and Roman cemeteries before it became a state religion in the fourth century CE. One uses the term “cult” at one’s peril.
Yet in the case of Mormonism we have a number of factors that drive Evangelical Christians crazy and which arouse suspicion in members of other denominations as well.
For instance, Mormonism’s roots in ritual magic. Or its involvement with Freemasonry. The outlawed practice of plural marriage. And the strange practice of the baptism of the dead by which the LDS Church “converts” departed souls of other faiths to Mormonism (presumably without their consent!).
If we deconstruct the history and practices of the LDS Church we gradually come to the realization that what we are seeing is something truly different from contemporary mainstream Christianity. It should be noted that Mormons consider themselves Christians, even though many Christian denominations refuse to extend that designation to the LDS Church. My intention is not to come down on one side or another in that particular debate. What I want to do, however, is make the data available in order to enable a reader who may not be aware of Mormonism’s strange history to make an informed decision…either as a seeker after spiritual knowledge, perhaps considering conversion, or as a voter in an election.
The controversy over John F. Kennedy’s candidacy for president is still fresh in my mind, of course. I was only ten years old when he was elected, but the fact that he was a Roman Catholic—as I was born and raised—was a staple of discussions at home and at school. Kennedy was accused of having allegiance to the Vatican rather than to the United States, forcing him to make an impassioned speech in which he made his loyalties clear.
It may be time for Mitt Romney—or for whatever Mormon political contenders may come after him—to consider making the same sort of speech, in order to allay the fears of Evangelicals and others who believe that there is something very unusual about Mormonism.
In the United States, we believe that Church and State are separate. Of course, they are, according to the US Constitution and more specifically the Bill of Rights. But religious feeling and political agendas are often brought together in a single political candidate. We are, after all, human beings and subject to human emotion and psychological conditions. However much we try to compartmentalize our political beliefs and our religious beliefs, in terms of everyday activity the one may wash over into the other. We know this because the political influence of various religious groups is well- known, and reported endlessly in the media.
Ronald Reagan, who is idolized by many on the political Right, was a member of the same religious denomination (the Disciples of Christ) as Jim Jones, the preacher responsible for the Jonestown massacre of 1979. Reagan believed in an impending apocalypse, the End of Days. Jim Jones did his best to bring it on, at least for his followers in the Guyanese jungle where they met their hideous fate. The phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” as a
reference to mindlessly following an agenda or a leader comes from the mass murder and suicide at Jonestown where many of the victims were told to drink a cyanide-laced soft drink.
George W. Bush famously told Evangelical Christians that God had told him to run for president.
But Richard Nixon, as the nation’s first and so-far only, Quaker president, ignored his religion’s pacifist teachings entirely when he ordered the Christmas bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
What is worse, then, we may ask: a religious zealot as president, or a religious hypocrite?
As the above examples suggest, the answer to this question may depend on the religion. And that is where this conversation about Mormonism must begin. Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics—and Americans in general
—should ask their political candidates (and especially their presidential candidates) whether or not they are true believers in their respective religions. Had Richard Nixon been a true Quaker, it is entirely possible that Cambodia would never have been bombed and that the Vietnam War would have ended years earlier. Had Ronald Reagan truly believed in the apocalypse and the Second Coming of Jesus, he might have hurried it along with a few well-placed missiles.
If a person running for President of the United States is a true Mormon… what does that mean for the rest of us?
The author’s intention is that this book goes somewhat towards answering that question.
Samuel Smith v. Mary Easty.
The deposition of Samuell Smith of Boxford aged about 25 years who testifieth and saith that about five years since I was one night at the house of Isaac Estick [Easty] of Topsfield and I was as far as I know not Rude in discorse and the above said Esticks wife said to me I would not have you be so rude in discorse for I might Rue it here after and as I was agoeing home that night about a quarter of a mile from the said Esticks house by a stone wall I Received a little blow on my shoulder with I know not what and the stone wall rattled very much which affrighted me my horse also was affrighted very much but I cannot give the reason of it.
—From the Historical Collection of the Topsfield Historical Society concerning the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692
JOSEPH SMITH, JR.—THE FOUNDER OF MORMONISM—came from a long line of occultists and religious zealots. For instance his ancestor, Samuel Smith, was one of the accusers of Mary Towne Easty who was eventually hanged as a witch at Salem on September 22, 1692. Even his father was well- known as an occultist and exorcist. It should be remembered, however, that Joseph Smith lived in a time and place that was replete with various cults and ceaseless sectarian strife. New prophets were commonplace; new revelations were the subject of endless discussion. There was no single form of Christianity that made it to the shores of the New World in the seventeenth century, but dozens of different denominations some of which spun off even more schismatic groups in the century that followed. Many believers had come to America to escape various forms of religious persecution in England, France and Germany, from both Protestants and Catholics.
In short, North America was colonized largely by heretics.
This was a different set of circumstances when compared to the southern part of what would become the United States as well as Mexico and Latin America. Colonized by Spain, these were areas subject to Roman Catholic influence and—in some cases, particularly those of the Native American populations—forced conversion. The Holy Inquisition arrived in the Americas under the Spanish sword. Christopher Columbus himself had
planned his expedition to what would become the “New World” in order to raise money for a new Crusade against the Islamic forces in Jerusalem, an expedition financed by the King of Spain who in the same year had expelled the last remaining Caliphate from the city of Grenada and who was preparing for an assault on the Holy Land…an assault that never actually materialized.
Thus religion was a determining factor in the European “discovery” and subsequent colonization of the American continents. The European settlers who have come to represent for many Americans the romantic notion of pious Puritans and quaint Quakers fleeing persecution in their home countries in order to carve out a life of freedom in the New World were, in some instances, religious bigots themselves. While they may have been escaping religious intolerance in Europe, they lost no time in establishing their own intolerant communities of like-minded faithful in the American colonies.
Others, however, were considerably more enlightened. Alchemy and magic were serious topics of discussion and research in seventeenth century America, at least among the intelligentsia. It should be remembered that several members of the Royal Society in England were alchemists, and these would include Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) and Isaac Newton (1642- 1727). Ashmole died the year the Salem witchcraft trials began in the colonies; Newton was fifty years old when the trials and subsequent hangings took place. Educated Englishmen who settled in the New England area brought with them the same intellectual pursuits they enjoyed back home, represented by well-stocked libraries of books on alchemy, magic, theology, astrology, and various forms of spiritualism. Indeed, the seventeenth century Governor of Connecticut, John Winthrop Jr, had a personal library that included more than 250 volumes on occult subjects and was a regular correspondent with some of the most famous occult scholars of the day.
Those who were believers in the basic tenets of Christianity found themselves living in a world populated by spirits both good and evil. The Bible is full of accounts of direct contact with the Divine, of prophets and angels, witches and pagan idolators. The Biblical accounts do not deny the possibility of magic and demonolatry; on the contrary, such practices are recognized in order to be condemned. They are not condemned or prohibited because they are superstition or fantasy, but precisely because
they work: a person can evoke spirits to visible appearance, as in the case of the Witch of Endor. A person can use divination to determine the will of God and future events, as in the case of the Urim and Thummim. A person can perform magical feats that are astonishing and spectacular, as in the case of Moses versus the Egyptian priests.
And ritual is efficacious and often necessary, as in the many instances of sacrifice and ritual performed at Solomon’s Temple, among other examples from both the Old and the New Testaments.
The Protestant Reformation, however, was among other things a critique of the way in which Roman Catholicism interpreted these examples. The ritual of the Mass and of the practices associated with exorcism, healing, etc. were considered degenerate forms of the original Faith. Luther— himself originally a Catholic priest—railed against the inaccessibility of the Bible and the rituals which were available only in the Latin language which meant that only the well-educated could read the Scriptures; this implied that there was a built-in possibility of corruption in the Church, since the priests could represent the Scriptures in any way they chose, secure in the knowledge that the average Catholic could not hope to read the originals anyway. Luther wanted to strip away the institutionalized obfuscation of Christ’s teachings and that required publishing the Bible in the vernacular and removing the mystification of the Church’s elaborate rituals.
One of the results of this reform was an arbitrary division between concepts like “religion” and “magic” in the Protestant worldview which became the norm in the West for the next several centuries (up to the late twentieth and early twenty-first century when this dichotomy came to be challenged by a new breed of historians of religion). Roman Catholicism, or “Popery” as it was referred to by Protestants, was tantamount to superstition and magic, a distortion of Christ’s original teachings. Religion was pure belief; it was faith in the word of God and in nothing else. Ritual was suspected as being the work of the Devil. By extricating magic from religion, the Reformation had unwittingly pitted all magic against religion. Comfortable—yet purely arbitrary—valuations of “white” or “good” magic versus “black” or “evil” magic became irrelevant. The grace of God descended from On High to the human population below; there was no going in the other direction. There was no possibility of manipulating spiritual forces. Calvinism—the logical conclusion of this sort of fatalism— was the eventual outcome. A human being’s destiny was fixed; there was no
changing it. The spiritual fate of anyone had been decided long before birth, for God knew everything and therefore had already determined one’s destiny.
The reaction against this idea was inevitable. In those pre-Enlightenment days before revolutionary concepts about the rights of human beings became codified, there was a suspicion that human existence was perfectible. There was a belief that life can be improved; that hard work combined with a modicum of luck or divine favor—which can be earned along the way and not predetermined before birth—can result in better circumstances both materially and spiritually. Yet, the prevailing social structures of church and community made it dangerous to express such sentiments openly. The possibility of human perfectibility therefore was something to be pursued in secret, in the study of forbidden books and the practice of forbidden rituals, of magic.