From Joseph F. Smith —
The reason for these words of admonition and counsel to the Saints will appear from the following extract taken from a letter of one of the stake presidents, dated August 9th, 1902:
“In the —– Ward of this stake there was a sister who has been confined to her bed in sickness for nearly six years, and recently her father, who is a prominent and a very good man in that community, was persuaded to believe that his daughter was bewitched, and through the persuasions of friends in Logan and Salt Lake consulted a woman in Salt Lake City, who informed him that his daughter was bewitched, and assumed to describe the persons who had placed the spell upon her. The description seemed to agree exactly with that of a brother and sister residing in the ward, both of whom are considered among the best people of the Church in that community. This brother seemed to doubt the statements of the woman, and in order to satisfy him perfectly she proposed to show him their faces in her ‘glass’ or ‘peep stone,’ which she did with the desired result. He was convinced, and on returning home explained matters in detail to his family and friends, and the sensation spread steadily until now the ward is greatly agitated and the story is being told and to some extent believed in other wards in this stake as well as in —–.
“The persons accused of this dreadful thing object to the stigma and have entered a complaint in the Bishop’s court against the father of the sick lady. I made them a visit recently, heard the matter fully, and strongly advised all parties concerned against believing in such a false theory as that known as witchcraft, but the matter seemed to have gained such a stronghold upon many that it appears difficult to root it out; and yesterday another lady came from the same ward to see me about her husband, who has been sick for about a year, and she says the people tell her he is bewitched.”
After all the horrors, persecutions, and cruelties that have been brought about by the senseless belief in witchcraft, it seems strange in this age of enlightenment that men or women, especially those who have received the Gospel, can be found anywhere who believe in such a pernicious superstition. The Bible and history alike conclusively brand the superstition as a child of evil. In ancient times God required the Israelites to drive the Canaanites from their land, and witchcraft was one of the crimes which He laid at the door of the Canaanites, and for which they were adjudged unworthy of the land that they possessed. Reference to this effect will be found in the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy, verses 9-14 inclusive. They read as follows:
“When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone 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. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God. For these nations which thou shalt possess hearken unto observers of times, and unto diviners; but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.”
Witchcraft has not infrequently been the last resort of the evil doer. Men bereft of the Spirit of God, when the voice of the Lord has ceased to warn them have frequently resorted to witchcraft, in the endeavor to learn that which heaven withheld, and the people of God from very early days to the present have been troubled with superstitious and evil-minded persons who have resorted to divination and kindred devices for selfish purposes, and scheming designs. In the middle ages it rested like a nightmare upon all Christendom. Even such a man as John Wesley, the great reformer, in 1768, wrote: “The giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible.” There are many now who undertake to predicate their practice of this superstition upon the authority of the Bible, and use Saul and Baalam as examples.
The spirit of witchcraft is destructive of the spirit of enlightenment, and no men or women who indulge in it can enjoy the Spirit of God. It is not only the enemy of religion, but it is the enemy of civil liberty.
This country in the years 1691-2 had a taste of its destructive influence in the Salem witchcraft epidemic. According to the laws of the Church and the laws of the land, men and women are entitled to meet their accusers, and before aught can be proved against them, trustworthy witnesses must be produced. The Gospel and the laws of the land alike guard men and women against accusations of secret origin and from the superstitious practices of witchcraft or necromancy. Church discipline will not tolerate that men or women accuse their brethren upon no higher authority than the superstitious cunning of a man or woman who practices the occult art of witchcraft.
There are doubtless some in our larger cities who would gladly play upon the superstitions and ignorance of those of our brethren and sisters who are weak-minded enough to consult those who deal in magic. The sooner our people cease the practice of consulting these pretended magicians, either to have their fortunes told, or to get information from an unknown world, by which to accuse their brethren and sisters of bewitching people, the better it will be for the peace of those communities afflicted by such superstition and ignorance. A believer in witchcraft and a few credulous followers in a community can make no end of trouble.
If belief in witchcraft ever did one particle of good in the world, there might be a little plausible excuse for its existence. From the beginning it has been destructive of human happiness and human progress, and the Saints must not permit its baneful influence to sap the foundations of their belief in God and in the authority of His Priesthood.
Let it not be forgotten that the evil one has great power in the earth, and that by every possible means he seeks to darken the minds of men and then offers them falsehood and deception in the guise of truth. Satan is a skillful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine. Beware of his spurious currency, it will purchase for you nothing but disappointment, misery and spiritual death. The “father of lies” he has been called, and such an adept has he become through the ages of practice in his nefarious work, that were it possible he would deceive the very elect.
Men and women, so-called wizards and witches, fortune-tellers, clairvoyants and necromancers, who have become subject to the powers of the devil and are leagued with him in the work of deception among their fellows, do possess a power, which, gauged by the more common of natural laws, appears supernatural. The weak and doubting ones are dazzled by these manifestations of super-human agencies, and are readily made to believe that such are of divine origin.
One of our people, a man of scientific thought and training, recently made an examination of some of the “peep stones” employed by necromancers in this community, including the stones used by the woman referred to in the foregoing communication. He found some of these marvelous stones to be ordinary quartz crystals, while one was an irregular lump of common glass. He questioned the users of the “peep stones” and investigated their methods of procedure, and demonstrated to his own complete satisfaction, as well as that of others, who were present, as also to the discomfiture of the “mediums,” the deception that was being practiced and the evil power there manifest.
Those who turn to soothsayers and wizards for their information are invariably weakening in their faith. When men began to forget the God of their fathers who had declared Himself in Eden and subsequently to the later patriarchs, they accepted the devil’s substitute and made for themselves gods of wood and stone. It was thus that the abominations of idolatry had their origin.
The gifts of the Spirit and the powers of the holy Priesthood are of God, they are given for the blessing of the people, for their encouragement and for the strengthening of their faith. This Satan knows full well, therefore he seeks by imitation-miracles to blind and deceive the children of God. Remember what the magicians of Egypt accomplished in their efforts to deceive Pharaoh as to the divinity of the mission of Moses and Aaron. John the Revelator saw in vision the miracle-working power of the evil one. Note his words: “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; * * * and he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles,” etc. (Rev. 13:11-14). Further John saw three unclean spirits whom he describes as “the spirits of devils working miracles.” (Rev. 16:13-14).
That the power to work wonders may come from an evil source is declared by Christ in His prophecy regarding the great judgment: “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 danger and power for evil in witchcraft is not so much in the witchcraft itself as in the foolish credulence that superstitious people give to the claims made in its behalf. It is outrageous to believe that the devil can hurt or injure an innocent man or woman, especially if they are members of the Church of Christ – without that man or woman has faith that he or she can be harmed by such an influence and by such means. If they entertain such an idea, then, they are liable to succumb to their own superstitions.
There is no power in witchcraft itself only as it is believed in and accepted.