by Thomas S. Rue

Published in Harvest, June 1989
Vol. 9, No. 6, p. 23

At a recent pagan gathering in New York State, someone said in a workshop that he was highly intrigued by certain aspects of Mormonism, as described in literature he lately received in the mail from a Baptist group. The man"s comments got me thinking.

I am a former Mormon elder, and served a two-year mission in Colorado. After being "disfellowshipped" in 1981, I was excommunicated for apostasy (heresy) in 1988. When I converted to Mormonism at the age of 14. I abandoned my prior interests in mythology and witchcraft, to which I have since returned. (In words attributed to Adam in Paradise Lost, prior to his partaking of the divine knowledge: "So forcibly within my heart I feel/ the bond of Nature draw me to my own: / My own in thee; for what'r thou art is mine.")

At first glance, mormonism might appear to some witches as having traits resembling some aspects of paganism. To an outside observer, Mormon temple rituals could appear as mysterious as those of the Masons (upon which they are based); or its doctrines esoteric or deeply metaphysical.

However, in reality, the church is a megalithic business enterprise which is as pervasive in conservative American politics as Unitarians seem to be on the left. Several U.S. wars have been endorsed by Mormon prophets as "holy causes", while theoretically immutable principles have been abandoned by the Mormon church to suit political expedience.

For example, when I attended Brigham Young University's extension program in Jerusalem in 1977, we were instructed by Mormon apostle Boyd Christan". This seemed a transparent propaganda ploy in dealing with the descendants of those who have routinely been massacred and persecuted over the centuries at the hands of purported followers of that Galilean rabbi.

Heavenly Mother

The mormon concept of a "Heavenly Mother" is outlined in a hymn by church leader Eliza R. Snow, and remains an officially sanctioned doctrine. One verse of the hymn entitled "Oh, My Father!"reads; "In the heavens are parents single?/ No, the thought makes reason stare./ Truth is reason: truth eternal/ tells me I've a mother there." This is among the very few places where the existence of a Mother Goddess is acknowledged by the Mormon church. She is rarely discussed publicly, which church leaders explain by claiming Her name is so sacred to the supreme Father that He nobly protects His beloved from being defamed (taken in vain) by humans. Her identity and nature are not known to Mormons, so She is never revered in their worship services. Such "mysteries" are dismissed by the patriarchy as unknowable and not essential to our salvation"' and dubbed dangerous to inquire after spiritually.

Mormons are polytheistic. stress heavily the importance of "free agency" (similar to the wiccan concept of Will). and offer explanations of ancient Mysteries in standard ritual drams acted out in closed temple ceremonies around the world.

Like most wiccan traditions, Mormons place great reverence on their rituals, which are often accompanied by ecstatic perceptions and "revelations".

Temples did not take on their present garishness until Brigham Young's reign as prophet in the late 1840's. Joseph Smith's "first vision" -- where two separate male deities (Elohim and Jehovah) appeared to him and -- took place in a wooded spot called by Mormons today "the sacred grove", in upstate New York near Lake Ontario.

Records of their early practices suggest that Joseph Smith may have come from a family of witches and produced some of his major scriptural and other works through genuine divine inspiration, but forsook his basic Craft roots in favor of a militaristic patriarchy, with himself, his brother Hyrum, and their dad at the head.

Smith reported he translated the gold plates of the Book of Mormon by scrying into a pair of ancient crystals given him by a divine messenger named Moroni, who also gave him the plates themselves (and subsequently took them back). Smith compared his "magic spectacles" to the Urim and Thummim described in the Bible as having adorned the breastplate of the high priest in the Mosaic tabernacle.

Having studied Latter-Day Saint (LDS) theology fairly extensively, it seems possible to this writer that contemporaries of Joseph Smith in the early 19th century may have intentionally incorporated ancient pagan beliefs and rituals in order to win over the Indians (called "Lamanites" in the Book of Mormon) or other converts

Modern LDS missionaries continue to convert thousands of native Americans each year, with tales from the Book of Mormon. The ancient name of Quetzalcoatl ("feathered snake") is invoked by Mormons to substantiate accounts of a visit of the resurrected Jesus to America following his crucifixion in Palestine. They claim this ancient god was actually Jesus, whose myths became corrupted over the ages.

However, unlike shamanistic of other pagan traditions -- aside from a token acknowledgement of the existence of a Great Goddess -- modern mormonism is absolutely as locked into the patriarchal military- industrial way of thinking as Sonia Johnson described it in her book Housewife to the Heretic. published by Doubleday in 1981.

Johnson was excommunicated for "apostasy" shortly before, when she publicly spoke in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Similarly, Mormons regard African peoples as descendants of Cain, whose descendants -- like those of the "Lamanites" - were cursed with "dark and loathsome" skins as a result of their wickedness. Brigham Young preached that slavery was ordained of God.

Only as recently as 1978 have Blacks been allowed into Mormon temples or to hold the priesthood (although women are still excluded from the latter).

Just as the Federal government pressured the church to abandon patriarchal polygamy in 1890, before Utah would be given statehood, it does not seem unlikely that the admission of Blacks 10 years ago was a yielding by the church to threats of suspension of its tax-exempt status for racial discrimination.

This may also be the reason why LDS authorities so viciously fought passage of the ERA during its last consideration by Congress; because it might have given women the same protection as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave to other groups.

However, some would reply that Mormonism is in reality no more dangerous or intolerant than any other Christian religious organization. Like evangelical protestantism, its tenets are patriarchal, creating a highly constricted and adversarial world view.

Mormons talk much of the "last days" before the start of the Millennium, and lump all occult practice or parapsychology into a category called "Satanism"; accepting church teachings as "eternal truth", or prophetic utterances invested with divine authority -- rarely honestly evaluating for themselves.

Latter Day Saints believe, after a great war, they as an organization (the church of the Firstborn) will apocalyptically triumph over evil. and that the flag of the United States will fly over a world theocracy led by the Mormon prophet for the next thousand years. The projected Empire is planned to be based in "Zion", known to Mormons as Independence, Missouri (near Kansas City).

Whether Mormons are pagan is a question they themselves would undoubtedly answer no (although they themselves also sometimes deny being Christian too). Most witches would probably concur, and it may be in the best interests of all who love freedom -- pagan or otherwise -- to watch carefully the monied powers emanating from he self-declared "Kingdom of God" headquartered at 50 East North Temple St, Salt Lake City.

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