In reviewing the new PBS documentary, “The Mormons,” the Boston Globe thinks most Mormons will choke on Yale archaeologist Michael Coe’s characterisation of Joseph Smith as a “shaman.”
Mayhap. It’s certainly better than “charlatan.” But I’m wondering, is “shaman” such a bad way to describe the Prophet? “Shaman” has many definitions, but here’s something quick and easy: “an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world, who travels between worlds in a state of trance.”
I imagine “intermediary” sits fairly well, but inter-world travel, “trance”? If that makes you uncomfortable, then consider these: could The Vision (D&C 76) be described as a trance? As for inter-world travel, do you think, had you been out walking the dog in the grove that day, you would have seen the Father and the Son too? In what way was Moroni actually in that shared bedroom all night long? In other words, it what way did Joseph’s visions occur in real time and space?
I agree, it’s a loose fit, but not utterly wacky. I wonder what Coe meant?