Your Friday Firestorm #5


Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Ex. 22:18



  1. Thank goodness Emma Watson is a fake witch.

  2. Joshua A. says:

    …and that Harry and Ron aren’t witches at all. Of course, it remains to be seen if either will live…

  3. fascinating isn’t it, the good ol’ Old Testament. Gives preferential treatment to wizards (by not mentioning that they should be killed) but gives a free pass at the murder of women who happen to be witches. So typical.

  4. Looking at a lexicon it appears the Hebrew term in question is gender neutral. The Gal. 5:20 prohibition on witchcraft uses a Greek term that suggests hallucinogenics-induced mystical fun. Not sure if beer would qualify for that. Both the Exodus and Galatians references combine it with idolatry and lasciviousness, so that hearkens back to a kind of puritanical Salem-esque portrayal.

    Aside from that, rumor has it that Harry wont be surviving the last book, so it looks like JK Rowling reads Exod 22:18 literally.

  5. Who is Emma Watson?

    “It should be noted that the trying, convicting, and executing of so-called witches during the middle ages and in early American history was a wholly apostate and unwarranted practice. It is probable that none, or almost none, of those unhappily dealt with as supposed witches were persons in actual communion with evil spirits. Their deaths illustrate the deadly extremes to which the principles of true religion can be put when administered by uninspired persons” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 840).

  6. Only, of course, if you have a duck.

  7. Julie M. Smith says:

    This one made me laugh out loud. Good work, Steve.

  8. This has got to be the dumbest Friday Firestorm yet. On the other hand – I like the first two comments.

  9. It’s a funny post idea but there are some Mormons who seem to covet the views of extreme evangelicals. I once overheard a counselor in a SLC stake presidency say that he disapproved of the Harry Potter books because of their focus on the occult and magic. I groaned internally but didn’t say anything.

  10. Who is Emma Watson?

    That would be the young lady pictured above, Justin.

  11. danithew, if one takes the “no gray area” approach of Moroni 7:16-19 seriously, then it seems his disapproval would be well-grounded.

  12. Ranbato says:

    Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling are much closer to C.S. Lewis than O.T. witchcraft.

    For example, all of the Gryffindor Quidditch team members’ names are Christian symbols except for Fred and George.

  13. This one made me laugh out loud. Good work, Steve

    Me too!!

  14. Nick Literski says:

    Sad to say, I expect we’ll one day learn that Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint were forced to deal with death threats from evangelical types, throughout their “Potter” careers.

    I don’t mean to be cynical, really, but I can’t help but believe these christian groups would be much more favorable toward the Harry Potter series, if J. K. Rowling was a big contributor to their treasure chests.

  15. “It should be noted that the trying, convicting, and executing of so-called witches during the middle ages and in early American history was a wholly apostate and unwarranted practice….

    Well, that’s a relief! Thank goodness McConkie cleared that one up.

  16. Steve, this topic delves into the deep, dark mysteries where few have dared to tread.

    Thankfully, though, there are ways to determine if someone is a witch.

    I have a testimony of Monty Python, and without a shadow of a doubt, know their method of detecting a witch to be true. Wherefore, we know that wood burns and that witches also burn when exposed to fire. Accordingly, we may know that any person who floats when put upon the water is also made of wood, and therefore is also a witch.

    Moreover, if said person made of wood (a.k.a- the witch) turns someone into a newt, we may know with certainty thereby that such person is a witch. Yea, and even if the person gets better, that person is still a witch.

    Again, I bear my testimony of Monty Python. In the name of John Cleese. Amen.

  17. Is HP really that controversial in LDS settings?

    I only know one LDS family that is anti HP.

  18. Nick Literski says:

    bbell, there are nutcases in every religion. In one LDS ward I belonged to, a terrible situation erupted after it was discovered that the older brothers were sexually abusing their younger sister. As you might imagine, it was a severe trial for the parents. The situation brought out some of the best behavior I’ve seen in LDS, as well as some of the worst. Among the worst, was one ward member (who was already a loud, judgmental, obnoxious woman anyway) boldly declared to several ward members that this whole situation stemmed from the parents allowing their children to read Harry Potter books. She further made her opinion known that the entire family belonged to a coven of witches.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Steve, you’re very good at these Friday Firestorms. This is a fun one.

    ED #4, actually the Hebrew term used is feminine. It derives from the unused root kashaph, “to pray, to offer prayers in worship.” In the piel verb stem, the word has the connotation of “to use enchantment,” as in using magical songs or muttering spells. The participial form of the verb is used as a noun; the masculine form is mehasheph “enchanter, magician, sorcerer,” but in the Exodus passage it is mehashephah, and that –ah at the end is a feminine ending. So this is specifically referring to a sorceress.

  20. Nick Literski:Unbiased Herald of the Evil Report

  21. Extreme Dorito:Herald of Ignorant Lexiconophany

  22. I think only a few scattered LDS oppose Harry Potter due to concerns that it is somehow a negative influence. From what I’ve seen, there are far more LDS who are fans of the HP books and movies.

  23. There is the reason I dropped the moniker. There is one LDS family out there who was anti-me.

  24. Nick Literski says:

    Hmmm…okay, judging from the sarcasm of Extreme Dorito, and the statement of danithew, it sounds like somebody thought I was criticizing LDS-ism. If anyone does think that, I suggest they go back and read the beginning of my post, where I said “there are nutcases in every religion.” I would have thought that this made it clear I was talking about aberrant individuals, rather than trying to pass judgment on any religion, let alone LDS-ism. danithew is right—far more LDS I’ve come in contact are big fans of Harry Potter.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    The Exodus passage is related to Deuteronomy 18:10-11:

    There shall not be found among you [any one] that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire,(1) [or] that useth divination,(2) [or] an observer of times,(3) or an enchanter,(4) or a witch,(5) or a charmer,(6) or a consulter with familiar spirits,(7) or a wizard,(8) or a necromancer.(9)

    (1) An allusion to human sacrifice.
    (2) Lit. “a diviner of divination,” one who reads signs and omens to predict the future.
    (3) Lit. “one who causes to appear,” meaning one who can conjure up spirits or apparitions.
    (4) Lit. “a seeker of omens,” a subset of divination, as in the divining cup in the story of Joseph (Gen. 44:5).
    (5) This is the same word as in our Exodus passage, but it is the masculine form, so “witch” is incorrect. It should be something like “sorcerer.” This practice has to do with magic or the casting of spells in order to manipulate the gods or the powers of nature. Very Harry Potterish, to be sure.
    (6) Lit. “a binder of binding,” one who “binds” or immobilizes someone by the use of magical words.
    (7) Lit. “asker of a [dead] spirit,” a form of necromancy. (Mormons regularly misapprehend the meaning of the archaic expression “familiar spirit.”)
    (8) Lit. “a knowing [or, to use the English archaism, “familiar”] (spirit),” one expert in the mantic arts.
    (9) Lit. “a seeker of the dead,” one who conjures dead spirits.

  26. Nick,

    I didn’t see you come off as anti-LDS in that post (or in most of your posts actually).

  27. Sarcastic? Moi?

    Nick, you constantly start out your comments with negative anecdotes about Mormons tailored to whatever the particular discussion is. That is what “Herald of the Evil Report” means.

  28. My own view is that Nick has a terrible sounding anecdote about “somebody in a former ward” about almost any situation possible.

    I always scratch my head with wonder everytime he offers up one of his anecdotes

  29. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the JST on this verse.

  30. Did I mention the JST/IV on this verse? So does that mean witches are being equated with murderers or that Smith was altogether changing the meaning of the text away from witches to say that capital punishment was to be imposed on murderers? There are plenty of external texts which still argue against witching and sorcery that Smith didnt change, but, if my memory serves me, I think this is the only one that imposes capital punishment.

  31. Yeah, that’s a whole new firestorm, Steve.

  32. Some say it was a translation which would then spare the life of many of the women in Joseph’s entourage, including his mother. That’s just hearsay, but this IS a firestorm post, of course.

  33. Oh, and, Steve, I also wanted to echo #7, #13 and #19 and dub you:

    Steve Evans:Prometheus of the Bloggernacle

  34. Nick Literski says:

    Grow up, folks. It sounds to me as if both Extreme Dorito and bbell have selective memories, as it’s not at all common for me to “start out comments with negative anecdotes about Mormons.” When I do so, it’s on-topic, and serves to illustrate the point at hand. Of course, since I actually make a topical comment (rather than an ad hominem attack), you both make dark insinuations about how I’ve supposedly “tailored” anecdotes, “about almost any situation possible.” Reading your comments, I can’t help but think you’re accusing me of making up stories. If so, you need to either show a single example of me doing so, or apologize.

    Do you think it would be more appropriate for me to list names and wards? I could certainly do so, but it would be truly nasty to do such a thing in a public forum.

    It’s time you folks get over your defensiveness. You’ll notice that I also said that some ward members showed amazing kindness and compassion—those people included one man whom I never would have expected to be so caring and serving in such a situation. Guess what? HE was a member of the ward, too! HE was LDS, too! You know what’s funny though? Neither his good works, nor the spiteful words of the woman I described, prove anything about whether Mormonism is true–and that wasn’t my intent in telling the story, anyway. All I did was answer bbell’s question, about whether Harry Potter was controversial in LDS settings.

  35. I get that a lot. Hat tips, as usual, go to everyone’s favorite banned commenter.

  36. Yes, Nick, indeed, it is time for me to get over my juvenile defensiveness.

    It would be more appropriate for you to drop the negative personal anecdotes.

  37. From now on only shiny happy Ensign-like portrayals of mormons!

  38. Steve Evans says:

    This isn’t quite the Firestorm I had in mind, but go with it, gang. Nick, your mother is a hamster. Dorito, what flavor are you anyway — fumunda cheese?

  39. Evans,

    Your father smelled of elderberries.

  40. John Williams says:

    I’m bitter when it comes to Harry Potter. At BYU I agreed to see Harry Potter part II at the theatre in 2002 because it was my understanding that two attractive girls would be part of the group going. Only one of the attractive girls went. And Harry Potter part II was dreadful.

    So I take great pleasure in announcing what happens at the end of the book coming out tonight: Harry [edited] his [edited] and they [edited].

  41. Steve Evans says:

    JW, true, but little does Harry know that he has been cuckolded by Grawp!

    Kaimi, you get a knowing nod.

  42. John Williams says:

    I have no idea who “Grawp” is… or “Ginny”… I’ve just seen a photograph of the last two pages of Harry Potter 7.

    I don’t read these books.

  43. John Williams,
    How dare you ruin the ending?!!! You punk.

    BTW, I’ve always hated your music you Holst theif!!

  44. Dorito, what flavor are you anyway — fumunda cheese?

    Ah, Steve, some NYC did soak into you after all, but not quite enough. Its “frumunda”. While I may not speak or read Hebrew, I am a bona fide expert in NY deli cheeses. To answer your question, it depends totally on the thread. For this one, I have chosen a special one.

    Back to the topic, on #32, what is your source impugning Mother Smith’s character by insinuating divination?

  45. Steve Evans says:

    #44, er, RSR ?

  46. Quote pls, slacker.

    I havent read RSR and dont plan on it. I prefer to drink my water upstream.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    dangit, called my bluff already! I don’t have a quote for you, alas. But it’s something I’ve both heard and remember reading. Certainly the mystical realms were an important topic to Lucy Smith for years and years. As to particular accounts of divination, I don’t have a cite.

  48. Nick Literski says:

    I’d like to know Steve’s source too, but tell us, Extreme Dorito—how on earth did Steve “impugn Mother Smith’s character?” It is well established (by faithful LDS historians, btw) that the Smith family was involved in folk magic, as was quite common in the time. It was not seen as conflicting with christianity. Eldred G. Smith (Emeritus Patriarch to the Church) still owns the inscribed “magical” dagger and parchments which were handed down from Joseph Smith Sr., via Hyrum Smith.

    Or am I just “tailoring” a “negative anecdote” by stating the known facts on the matter?

  49. John Williams says:

    Ronito, I’m not that John Williams, but you need to pay him some respect:

    Jaws (1975) Golden Globe, BAFTA & Oscar winner

    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) Oscar, Golden Globe & BAFTA winner

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Oscar nomination

    Superman: The Movie (1978) double Grammy & double Oscar nominations

    Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Oscar & double Grammy nominations, BAFTA winner

    Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Oscar & double Grammy nominations

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Golden Globe, Oscar & BAFTA winner

    Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) Oscar nomination

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Oscar nomination

    Empire of the Sun (1987) Oscar nomination, BAFTA winner

    The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Oscar nomination

    The Accidental Tourist (1988) Oscar nomination

    Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Oscar nomination

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Oscar nomination

    Home Alone (1990) double Oscar nominations

    Hook (1991) Grammy & Oscar nominations

    JFK (1991) Oscar nomination

    Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

    Far and Away (1992)

    Jurassic Park (1993)

    Schindler’s List (1993) Oscar, Grammy and BAFTA winner

    Nixon (1995) Oscar nomination

    Sabrina (1995) double Oscar nominations

    Sleepers (1996) Oscar nomination

    Rosewood (1997)

    Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

    Amistad (1997) Grammy & Oscar nominations

    The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

    Saving Private Ryan (1998) Golden Globe, Grammy & Oscar nominations

    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) Grammy nomination

    Angela’s Ashes (1999) Grammy & Oscar nomination

    The Patriot (2000) Oscar nomination

    A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) Grammy & Oscar nominations

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) Oscar & double Grammy nominations

    Catch Me If You Can (2002) Oscar nomination

    Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

    Minority Report (2002)

    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Grammy nomination

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Grammy & Oscar nominations

    The Terminal (2004)

    Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) double Grammy nominations

    War of the Worlds (2005) Grammy nomination

    Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Golden Globe, BAFTA and
    Grammy winner, Oscar nomination

    Munich (2005) Oscar nomination, Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition

    Indiana Jones 4 (2008)

    Lincoln (film) (2008)

  50. What can I say JW? Rewriting Holst’s and Dvorak’s music makes you popular. Doesn’t make you good though.

  51. g.wesley says:

    from utah:

    apparently three (#1, 5 and 6) of the top six selling theaters in north america showing the movie were largely patronized by mormons

    are, then, fans especially concentrated among the (utah) saints? an expression of suppressed magical/occult tendencies/heritage?

    on another side note, byu bookstore is offering wand making (with oliver cowdery?) as part of the festivities for tonight’s book release.

  52. What we really should be discussing is a pool on how many testimonies and/or lessons are going to reference Harry Potter in the next 4 weeks in our respective wards.

  53. John Williams says:


    If John Williams the composer isn’t “good,” then why has his music been nominated for so many awards? I guess you know more than the people at the Oscars, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, and the Grammys. You must have a killer playlist on your i-Pod.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    JW, you’re a good film composer. Soundtracks? Great job. But your style is simply not that original, and you rip off classical composers A LOT.

  55. Again, popular !=good.

    You think he’s so good. Go out an listen to his Concerto for Violin a piece he wrote not out of his “own soul”. I defy you to try and enjoy it.

  56. Eric Russell says:

    It’s also my experience that there are a rather significantly greater number of Harry Potter fans among Mormons per capita than among non-Mormons. I’m not really sure why this is, but I certainly wouldn’t attribute it to “suppressed magical/occult tendencies/heritage.” Perhaps it’s just because it’s a part of mass pop culture that isn’t “inappropriate.”

  57. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Oscar nomination

    Ah, Ha! Coincidence?

    There is one lady in Sunday School last week that complained about Harry Potter coming out this weekend. Saying acceptance of wizards and witches was just the beginning (of what she didn’t say). It was one of those rare moments when other people were actually joining me in a wtf? stare in her direction. This seems to be pretty far from the norm for LDS though.

    Hopefully this anecdote doesn’t make me as apostate as Nick. ;)

  58. Nick Literski says:

    jjohnsen, you don’t live in Florida (where the woman in my anecdote later moved), do you? ;-)

  59. I predict Elder Uchtdorf will be the first GA to quote from Harry Potter in a General Conference talk.

    HarryPotter and prospective missionaries

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Leave it to the German Air Force to infiltrate our church with the Occult.

  61. cj douglass says:

    Joseph’s entourage

    It kills me to admit this Steve but that’s funny. It is.

  62. Dorito, regarding sources for Lucy’s divination, see Ashurst-McGee’s thesis, pages 94-98.

  63. Nick Literski says:

    I was actually wondering about sources Steve referred to as arguing that Joseph’s change regarding “suffering a witch to live” was for his mother’s benefit. I’m familiar with Lucy’s history regarding divination and folk magic. I just haven’t seen this particular argument before.

  64. Nick (48), unless you attended their ward, no. And, congrats on stating the known facts on the matter rather than your personal anecdotes. Pls do keep it up from now on.

    As far as impugning Mother Smith, please note that in comment #32 Steve explicitly references her. I am familiar with the various accounts detailing Josephs involvement with folk magic of the locale, but do not ever recall hearing anything of Lucy Mack Smith being involved in such things.

    Steve (47), I suggest you make something up, insinuating absinthe tea or something like that, tie it to D&C 89 and then apologize for the faulty memory in comment 237. But, do remember that any references to methadone would be anachronistic.

    Stapley (62), ah, and it comes to light who the original source of 32 actually was. I’ll rush right on over to the stacks.

  65. John Williams says:

    I’m no professor of musicology. But I like gratifying melodies, whether the genre is baroque, classical, 1970s rock, 1980s synth-pop, LDS hymns, or bubble-gum pop. I really don’t care about the “technical merits” of music or the talent-level of the people performing it (which explains why I disagree with the whole “American Idol” idea). I just want to be gratified when I listen to music. And John Williams the composer writes gratifying sound tracks. I mean, think about it: would the old Star Wars movies be the same without his music? What about Indiana Jones? Half of the magic of those movies came from his music. The man’s a genius. He also wrote the music for NBC News (arguably the best news broadcast on televsion, at least during the Tom Brokaw era) and the Olympics theme song. What oxygen-breathing person doesn’t get at least a little choked up during the Olympics? Society (including Mormons, many of whom are fanatics of the movies that have his music) is indebted to John Williams the composer. It’s a shame that people try to besmirch his good name by pointing out how he “ripped off” some composers from long ago. This isn’t Julliard, this is the school of life. If a tune gratifies you, don’t be afraid to embrace it. Live life to its fullest.

  66. g.wesley says:

    eric (56), not ‘inappropriate’ because it’s fiction, right?

    i doubt we’ll ever hear ashurst-mcgee’s thesis cited in any firesides for perspective missionaries. (in fact, from the horse’s mouth he’s hesitant to work it up for publication for fear of possible repercussions; at least that was the case two years ago.)

  67. It’s ok JW that you’re a bit upset that I burst your bubble about how anything of JW that’s enjoyable he just lifted from some other better composer and if you listen to violin concerto and other pieces he’s written on his own for outside of movies it’s quite horrible.

    It’s totally fine. I understand how it feels to get things spoiled like that like say….HARRY POTTER.

  68. Nick Literski says:

    Extreme Dorito,
    Lucy Mack Smith’s own history also makes reference to her folk magic practices, including seeking to “win the faculty of Abrac.” I’m sorry I don’t have a page number handy, since I’m not at home where my copy of the book is. Note, however, that this statement gets skipped in edited versions of Lucy’s story. I recommend *Lucy’s Book*, a scholarly edition prepared by Lavina Fielding Anderson and published by Signature Books, in order to get Lucy’s actual text.

    Of course, “winning the faculty of Abrac” was also a masonic reference, as I discuss in my forthcoming book.

  69. I think we should take advice from the rock band, Queens of the Stone Age: Burn the witch!

  70. Nick (68), are you referring to this:

    “…let not the reader suppose that…we stopt [sic] our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles, or soothsaying, to the neglect of all kinds of business. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation.”

  71. John Williams says:

    ronito, I gave away the ending to Harry Potter because I’m not caught up in the Harry Potter hype like you (and a lot of Mormons) are, and I take pleasure in ruining it. From what I’ve seen of the Harry Potter story in the first two movies, it seems pretty brainless and silly. Admittedly, though, it’s just a kid’s story so maybe I should cut it some slack. I do think J. K. Rowling is benefiting from a massive snowball effect of hype building on hype, and a lot of people are probably apping up these books just because a lot of other people are. I think Mormons are especially prone to the hype; I remember when a Krispy Kreme donuts opened up in Orem around 2000 and the drive-through line just to buy a donut snaked around the buidling (even though Albertson’s donuts are actually superior). But the hype is half the fun. If Mormons want to read these Harry Potter books, I think it’s fine. I don’t think there’s anything sinful about being absorbed in a mediocre children’s fantasy tale about wizards.

  72. see? And I think JW’s music is just as brainless and silly.

  73. Nick Literski says:

    Extreme Dorito,
    Yes, that’s the passage I referred to. Some have attempted to characterize this as a denial of involvement in folk magic, but the key words are “to the neglect of all kinds of business” and “one important interest.” In other words, Lucy is acknowledging the family’s involvement, but emphasizing that they took care of temporal needs as well. This makes sense, since neighbors had already been contacted for affidavits to suggest that the Smith family *did* neglect work responsibilities in order to engage in these activities. I don’t personally buy the affiants’ claims that the Smith family were “lazy,” but at the same time, I think it’s clear that they took an active interest in folk magic and masonic legend.

  74. The hype you describe around Harry Potter and Krispy Kreme isn’t a Utah or Mormons thing. I’ve seen lines around building to get both in other parts of the country.

  75. John Williams says:


    John Williams the composer’s sound tracks, and the movies they accompany (with the exception of Harry Potter), are pure popcorn fun. They are gratifying hokum. They provide pleasure. They are engaging escapes.

    The Harry Potter saga is dreadful. It’s like golf. No one really likes it; everyone pretends to like it because everyone else does. The fun is in waiting in line in a wizard outfit at Barnes & Noble and getting so excited that you’re besides yourself. The actually story is pretty boring.

  76. As far as John Williams’ music goes, even if it is borrowed from classical music, who doesn’t love the Imperial march from Empire Strikes Back?

    However, his comments about the Harry Potter saga are what’s dreadful. He’s read two pages, and he knows that the entire saga is dreadful??? And, by the way, the second movie was hardly the most representative of the movies.

  77. Nick (73), I have a tough time with that reading, although I can easily see how an anti-mormon, or someone looking to sell a book (forgive me for being cynical, Nick), would come up with such. Do you have more of the quote available, for better context? Isnt the prevailing wisdom that Smith’s introduction to Masonry came pretty late, during Nauvoo, and was a rush job? The reading you are suggesting is Smith had a very early introduction to it at the hands of his mother. Where is the smoking gun indicating Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack had prior connections?

  78. Ugly Mahana says:

    I like Harry Potter. I read it on my own, when no one’s watching (proof that I’m not pretending). I don’t like golf, opera, and only tolerate most music. I do like classical music, and enjoy listening to John Williams’ soundtracks. I don’t know enough to say whether JW is a hack or not. He probably is – like many composers of yore.

    I think spoiling something others enjoy just because you don’t like it is mean and rude. I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.

  79. John Williams says:

    Jacob (76), thank you for making a sensible comment about music by John Williams the composer. To clarify, I am not the John Williams who has written a lot of movie sound tracks. And I am not using “John Williams” as some sort of Internet pseudonym; it’s my real name. It just happens to be a common name.

    OK, I have to confess that I have not drunk deeply at the well of Harry Potter. I have seen (i. e. suffered through) the first two movies, I think I once started to read the first book, and then recently I skimmed a photograph of the last two pages of the book that is coming out tonight. But just as the U.S. Census bureau does not need to interview every citizen to make a good estimation of the United States population and just as the Nielsen company does not need to record the televesion viewing habits of every single American to make a good estimation of how many people watch certain programs, I do not need to read every word of Harry Potter to know what the story is all about. It’s about an orphan boy who discovers that he’s a wizard, blah, blah, blah, and then it goes downhill from there. Magic talking plants, a giant spider, mind-numbingly boring “Quidditch” matches, and then “Voldemort” the bad guy. The problem with fantasy is that no conflict is legitimate because the solution is to simply pull some previously-unknown magic out of thin air. But by the time the millions of readers realize that Harry Potter is really tedious and repetitive, they’ve invested so much into the storyline that they fool themselves into think that it’s worthwhile, and they might as well hang on for the ride to see what happens to the paper-thin characters that they have spent so much time reading about.

  80. Nick Literski says:

    Extreme Dorito,
    Please don’t take this as critical, but I honestly think your own background ideas are coloring your view of this statement. It can only be seen as “anti-Mormon” if you completely disregard the culture in which the Smith family lived. Folk magic was *not* seen as wicked at the time. In fact, the ability to engage in such was considered by many at that time as a gift from deity. Likewise, Freemasonry was seen by many as a “handmaid” to religion–at least until anti-masonic fervor erupted over the Morgan kidnapping. As for selling books, this is a rather minor point in my own work. Lucy doesn’t actually provide much in the way of context for the statement–it’s almost an aside. I’d be happy to provide you with the surrounding statements, however, when I’m home and have access to my copy of it.

    As for Joseph Smith’s exposure to Freemasonry, there has been a tendency on the part of authors to imagine he had none until his own initiation in 1842. The same writers claim, for instance, that Joseph *only* ever attended three masonic meetings in his lifetime, despite the fact that I can document over 30 between the published History of the Church and the manuscript Nauvoo Lodge Minutes (not the excerpt which has been published, but the full record, spanning 1841-46).

    The extended Smith family was very invovled in the Fraternity, both in Vermont and New York. At least three of Joseph Jr.’s uncles were masons in Vermont, with some later joining New York lodges. Hyrum became a mason in Palmyra. This is not conjecture. It comes from the official records of Vermont and New York masonic lodges. I not only have copies, but in most cases I have inspected the originals, as I’ve travelled all over the country during the course of about four years, doing research for my book.

    There is also good evidence to believe that Joseph Sr. also became a mason in Canandaigua, New York. I fully examine that evidence in my book, pointing out both the reasons to question it, and the things that support it.

    Even if none of the Smith family were involved in Freemasonry, the fact remains that Joseph lived only a short distance from where the Morgan kidnapping occured, and thus was at the center of the anti-masonic movement. On a frequent basis, anti-masonic conventions and public burlesques of masonic ritual were performed in and around Palmyra during Joseph’s teen years.

    I could go on, but of course we’re already threadjacking badly. It’s important to note, however, that the phrase “smoking gun” usually has reference to proving someone’s guilt for evil deeds. There was nothing evil at all in the Smith family’s involvement with folk magic or Freemasonry.

  81. Wow. I really do need to quit my job and stay here all the time.

    John, get a clue. All of children who can read – from age 19-5 – LOVE the Harry Potter books and movies. They are amazingly well written for children and address the classic issue of weak, conflicted good fighting strong, arrogant bad. My children know exactly what order applies to their reading of Deathly Hallows, and their mom and I are reconciled to being last on the list this time. It will take about 3 (maybe 4) full days for us to get our turn – and that is a real statement, considering that 6 kids have to read it before us. Really, there are occasions when the old axiom about not speaking and removing all doubt apply. This is one of them.

    Nick, you have done quite well recently with a toned down approach, but introducing sexual abuse into a thread about witches? If you look at it objectively, you HAVE to understand the reaction.

    As to the firestorm itself, do we still kill adulterers?

    Most importantly, if we killed Emma Watson, my sons would have to find someone else on whom to focus their attention – and I don’t want that, given the alternatives.

  82. Nick, Nick, Nick, why is you get to question the color of my views based upon my background and yet you remain this incredible pillar of objectivity not colored by your own background ideas? Being well-traveled and doing lots of research on obscure topics doesnt imbue you with objectivity on those topics.

    It is seen as anti-mormon by lots of anti-mormons. Google the phrase and behold the anti-mormons quoting it.

    As far as the LMS quote goes, whether anti-mormons or people trying to sell books read it that way or not, I would very much appreciate you fleshing it out as much as you are willing to with surrounding text so I can make up my own mind on the matter. As it stands now, I am not favorably disposed towards your reading.

    It isnt really a threadjack, as it goes back to Steves comment in 32 as to discerning the meaning of the JST/IV on Exod. 22:18.

  83. Steve, if you pictured this one creating so many comments and so many threadjacks . . . I might have to bow down and use titles of adoration.

  84. Nick Literski says:

    You’re more than welcome to your own reading, Extreme Dorito. I would simply hope that your reading is informed by a knowledge of the culture and circumstances in which the statement was written, rather than the fact that a number of poorly-informed critics quote it. Many of the anti-mormons you cite are evangelical christian types, who automatically shout “evil!” at anything that goes outside their narrow definition of spirituality. Not only that, but since they are trying to “prove” Mormonism to be false, they have an added reason to spin things in a way that meets *their* pre-conceived notions of evil. Anti-mormons quote a whole lot of things, but they do so in order to convince their readers/hearers that Mormonism is of the devil.

    I, on the other hand, am trying to write an objective history of the relationship between Freemasonry and early Mormonism. I have no need (or desire) to supposedly prove Mormonism true or false. You may be unaware that “winning the faculty of Abrac” was one of the secrets attributed to Freemasons in the 18th and 19th centuries. While “Abrac” is considered by many to be the source of the word “abracadabra,” an automatic link would be misleading. The “faculty of Abrac” has more to do with learning the sacred name of deity—a quest which shows up in a variety of religious traditions, including early christianity. While I’m oversimplifying for purposes of a blog entry, this was very much a *positive* spiritual quest, based on righteous desires. It shows that the Smith family was actively involved in seeking a very personal, intimate knowledge of deity.

    If knowing and writing about that makes me an “anti-Mormon” in your eyes, then I suppose that’s your own issue to work through.

  85. Kevin Barney says:

    The JST thing is interesting. Of course, Joseph had ancestors who were in Salem at the time of the witch trials…

  86. ED and Nick, please continue this privately.

  87. As to the JST:

    I really like JS’ view of scripture that was irrelevant to his time – basically, as a prophet, “translating” it to address issues that were relevant. I see this basic understanding of “likening” in many of the JST alterations – as well as in many quotes of later prophets citing earlier prophets. Most of them quote the earlier prophet then add commentary that changes the focus; JS did it in one fell swoop by simply changing the words. No big deal, since they weren’t, in his view, God’s pure words recorded with infallible accuracy in the first place.

    I just love the chutzpah – and how it really torqued the theologians then and still torques them now.

  88. ED – I just checked out the link in comment #4: Hilarious! If Emma Watson keeps up like that, we won’t have to suffer the witch to live!

  89. Joshua A. says:

    Eight hours twenty-eight minutes… Wow, this firestorm went a lot further than I though it would!

    Dan (#3), I’ll thank you not to treat God’s Law with such smug contempt (i.e. “…the good ol’ Old Testament.”). Millions of people have suffered and died for their faith in the God who spoke to Moses. I don’t pretend to understand all of the Law, but it helps to start from the viewpoint that God is right. It also helps to keep in mind that a) the text isn’t always perfect or even necessarily complete, b) the text is sometimes cryptic or difficult to decipher (ezer knegdo, anyone?), and c) the actual meanings in this Law has been the subject of intense debate for thousands of years–dismissing the entirety of the Law out of hand because of a narrow reading that you happen to not like based on your moral or philosophical views is unwise.

    Thanks to Kevin for his explanation of the terms involved. And I’m done wagging my finger. Eight hours, two minutes…

  90. Steve Evans says:

    Joshua A., these firestorms always have more life in them than people tend to think. Ray, nothing so far surprises me on this thread, it’s more or less what I anticipated.

  91. My 17-year-old son wants to add his 2-cents worth, so here goes:

    “Don’t ever kill a hottie.”

  92. John Williams says:

    Mea culpa mea culpa…

    Okay, maybe I should have restrained myself from writing what happens at the end of Harry Potter 7 in comment #40.

    Sorry everyone for spoiling your fun.

  93. John Williams says:

    Ray, you can tell a lot about someone by how they feel about the Harry Potter story.

  94. Steve Evans says:

    JW, if it makes you feel better, I’ve heard that photograph page is fake, and in any event we edited your comment.

  95. John Williams says:

    Steve, I noticed the edit… I’m actually glad that my comment was edited.

    I was just trying to dump some gasoline on the Friday firestorm… this time I guess I got my fingers burnt.

    I’ve read that some of the Potter leaks are fake and that some are legitimate.

  96. Jacob,

    “As far as John Williams’ music goes, even if it is borrowed from classical music, who doesn’t love the Imperial march from Empire Strikes Back?”

    No one. Anyone who claims not to can be positively identified as an android.

    Although most androids also like it

  97. Disclaimer: I should start this comment with a smiley-face emoticon, given the slapping I’m about to administer, but I will end it that way, instead.

    Frankly, JW, I don’t know you at all, so I will reserve judgment, but most of the anti-Potter people I know personally are self-righteous, narrow-minded, judgmental, Biblical-infallibility-spouting joy killers who have no imagination – and who are hypocritical, since they almost all are effusive in their praise of CS Lewis and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. Most of them probably would wonder why the scripture that started this thread is controversial in the first place.

    Having said that, I’m sure you are the exception that proves the rule. :-)

  98. John Williams says:

    I don’t oppose Harry Potter because it offends Christian sensibilities. I’m actually very open-minded in that regard.

    I oppose Harry Potter because it’s vapid, cliched, tedious, repetitive, unclever, unfunny, and hackneyed.

  99. To an adult, perhaps, although reading them might change your mind. :-) BTW, thanks for proving the rule.

    I have students who hate to read but LOVE reading Potter. I think that says something.

  100. John Williams says:

    Ray, I’ll get someone a pass on Potter if they’re under 12 years of age. Otherwise, I’ll use Potter as a litmus test.

  101. Sir Baurak Ale says:

    Lds think Witches are Evil, read this and you may reconsider.

    A couple of quotes about the “witch” of Endor:

    “May 21, 1900, while at the President’s Office, waiting upon George Q. Cannon, President Angus M. Cannon was talking to the brethren (George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith). He was asking what they knew regarding the “Witch” of Endor. He stated that while in Connecticut he was preaching among some spiritualists, and the question of the “Woman of Endor” causing the appearing of the Prophet Samuel to King Saul, was presented to him in refutation of some statement he had made. He was unable to meet the thrust and later, while at New York, he met Apostle John Taylor, and asked who the “Woman of Endor” was. Brother Taylor replied that the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught him that she was a Prophetess of God, and that she was in hiding on account of a decree of death having gone out against such as she, whom the people claimed to be witches.
    Later, Brother Cannon, while in conversation with Apostle Parley P. Pratt, incidently referred to this statement made by President Taylor, and Brother Pratt said, “Yes, she was the wife of the Prophet Samuel and was a Prophetess of God.”
    –Journal of Joseph W. Musser, Pioneer Press, SLC, UT, no date, P. 72

    “The 28th Chapter of first Samuel, 13 vers. The woman was a woman of god, posessed of the Spirit of god, & as Samuel was Sealed to his wife & family in the Everlasting Covanant of the Sealing power, therefore they all had to come with him because he was the head of the family & the woman had power with god to goe to the world of Spirits and bring him forth. Therefore She cried with a loud voice and then Said, I Saw gods assend out of the Earth as being many.”
    –Hyrum Smith, from George Laub’s Journal, BYU Studies, Winter 1978, V. 18 #2, pg. 175

    Kudos to Kamenraider of MADB fame for supplying the above quote.

  102. Steve, I share the following to thank you for your influence on my children:

    Jonathon Green posted a thread over on T&S about Mormonism and the horror genre, and in it he posed the following question:

    “What would happen if you gave a baby the blessing of telekinesis?”

    I asked my second son (17) that question, and he responded: “We would have to burn it for appearing to be a witch.”

  103. JW,

    I read the first two Potter books, thought they were fine but nothing special. After seeing the fourth movie I read the rest of them. For me, The later books (4 5 6) were noticeably more interesting than the first 3.

    That said, this is not high literature. It’s more like, say, John Williams– Entertaining and popular.

  104. BTW, if I could figure out a way to become a billionaire author, my literary sensibilities wouldn’t get in the way at all. I heart JK Rowling for that alone.

  105. John Williams says:

    Ray, settle down… J. K. Rowling’s a married lady.

  106. JW, Steve and MCQ and kevinf and Ardis and Margaret are not available to a married man (OK, and MikeinWeHo, also) – and I’ve expressed my intellectual crush on each of them at one point or another. I’m an equal opportunity hearter; I heart those of other faiths, as well.

  107. John Williams says:

    OK Ray, this is the stop where I get off the bus.

  108. Yeah, should have included a :-) at the end of that one.

    Back to our regularly scheduled firestorm.

  109. I have it on good authority (from a vile little ferret-boy) that ticking off Hermione Granger is a bad idea.

  110. So out of curiosity, if someone really was a witch, what do you think of them?

  111. Aaron Brown says:

    Stone Hermione! STONE HER!!!

  112. John Williams says:

    From Wikipedia:

    Yale professor and literary scholar and critic Harold Bloom raised pungent criticisms of the books’ literary merits, saying “Rowling’s mind is so governed by clichés and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.” Moreover, Bloom disagreed with the common notion that Harry Potter has been good for literature by encouraging children to read, contending that “Harry Potter will not lead our children on to Kipling’s Just So Stories or his Jungle Book. It will not lead them to Thurber’s Thirteen Clocks or Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows or Lewis Carroll’s Alice.”[24]

    In a widely quoted article in the Wall Street Journal (7/11/2000) Bloom says Rowling’s work appeals “to millions of reader non-readers because they sense her wistful sincerity, and want to join her world, imaginary or not” in their desire to feed “a vast hunger for unreality.” Although this may not be bad in itself, Bloom concedes, he also asks, “Why read, if what you read will not enrich mind or spirit or personality?” He observes that “anything goes” when, as now, “public judgment is no better and no worse than what is proclaimed by the ideological cheerleaders who have so destroyed humanistic study.” So, whereas Rowling’s fans may always outnumber her detractors, Bloom asks, “Can more than 35 million book buyers, and their offspring, be wrong?” “Yes,” he answers, “they have been, and will continue to be for as long as they persevere with Potter.”[25]

  113. Ray (86), excuse me, but who died and made you Elvis? You are cordially invited to make lots of irrelevant requests which I, and everyone else, will ignore and think the less of you for, if that is at all possible after comments like 106.

    Jacob (88), glad you liked it.

  114. John Williams says:

    More Wikipedia (priceless):

    A. S. Byatt authored a New York Times op-ed article calling Rowling’s universe a “secondary world, made up of intelligently patchworked derivative motifs from all sorts of children’s literature […] written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip”. Byatt went on to analyse the series’ widespread appeal and concluded that the appeal of this “derivative manipulation of past motifs” is for adult readers driven by a desire to regress to their “own childish desires and hopes” and for younger readers, by “the powerful working of the fantasy of escape and empowerment, combined with the fact that the stories are comfortable, funny, just frightening enough”. The end result is the levelling “of cultural studies, which are as interested in hype and popularity as they are in literary merit”.[26] Likewise, author Fay Weldon took issue with the series, saying that it was “not what the poets hoped for, but this is not poetry, it is readable, saleable, everyday, useful prose”.[27]

  115. Clark (109): in general, my judgment would be based on whether they used their powers for good or ill.

    Not sure I wanted to join this firestorm, but my two cents go with 76 and 78. Isn’t it a little hypocritical to sweepingly condemn something of which one hasn’t read or seen in entirety? I’d cut you some slack, JW, if not for the “take pleasure in ruining it” comment in 71. To me, that is beyond mean and rude. I was glad to read your apology (91) for spoiling the ending. Thank you for that.

    I enjoy Harry Potter, but then I go into it expecting a children’s fictional magical adventure in classic good vs. evil style. I’m not expecting a high-toned “classic.” Considering how most series end up derailing, I think JKR has done a remarkable job of keeping a sweeping storyline consistent and well-done over 7 books. (I’m assuming 7 will continue the tradition of plot and character development.)

    I usually read for fun and as “me-time” breaks from my routine, not because of hype. Hey, being the mom of 6, I deserve a break and some fun! If that aligns me with the “vapid, tedious, unclever” crowd, so be it. Bring it on, HP, bring it on…

  116. John Williams says:

    Mi, I’ve seen the first two movies, and I’m more than convinced that that was enough to let me know what the Harry Potter story is all about.

  117. My last defense of the books:

    Bloom is insightful on many fronts, but he also is a stereotypical, pompous blow-hard when it comes to literary criticism. Rowling wanted to write a series that children would read – that would captivate their imaginations and help them relate to a kid who was overwhelmed by the dangers of his world but triumphed through determination, love and friendships. She succeeded better than anyone else in the history of literature. Sour grapes, me thinks.

    Also, having spent my life in education, I find it SO ironic that people who will do almost anything to inspire kids to read – including insisting that reading instruction be grounded in a child’s own passions – would criticize a series that does just that. Again, Rowling succeeded at what she tried to do better than anyone in the history of the world. There is no denying that. Envy and conceit can be couched in intellectually appealing wrapping, but it’s still crap inside the wrapping.

    JW, Bloom’s criticism should sound very familiar to Mormons – those of us who accept what has been called a “crude and obvious forgery”. Please, let’s give it a rest. I’m not going to change your mind, and you’re not going to change mine. Let’s get back to burning the witches – hotties or not. (#91)

  118. Steve Evans says:

    JW, although it sounds inconceivable that anything would be too much for a thread called a “firestorm,” please stop quoting wikipedia at length.

  119. John Williams says:

    Ray, if I can’t convince you to take off your wizard costume and step out of line at Barnes & Nobles… then I guess you might as well enjoy yourself. Go nuts. Have a mug of wizard juice and do the crazy Hogwarts dance in public.

  120. John Williams says:

    Steve, sorry for the Wikipedia… I couldn’t resist.

    By the way, the book is out in London now and from what I could see on Wikipedia, my spoiler above was correct.

  121. John Williams, lay aside the intellectual righteousness. “Derivative manipulation of past motifs” could be said of most any writer. And besides, sometimes escapism is just what the day needed, so isn’t that a little bit of enrichment. And just because Bloom the Almighty says that he finds it cliched, so what? Smart people aren’t always right. Besides, you didn’t read any of the books! You are like those anti-mormons who know what the Book of Mormon says without ever having read a single word!

  122. Wow, JW! I’ve been extremely careful to avoid HP spoilers this past week. I never would have thought they would show up on the bloggernacle. That was a mean, paltry, shabby, low thing to do. =(

  123. John Williams says:

    In this instance I’d compare myself to the Census bureau, which surveys a small fraction of people and then makes estimates of the entire population.

    I’ve seen (suffered through) the first two movies.

    But hey, don’t let me stop you from having fun tonight. Don’t forget your magic broomstick.

  124. I happen to agree with Bloom for the most part. Though he overstates his case, he’s generally right that Rowling is not a good writer. That is, however, in the case of these particular books, beside the point. She weaves a good yarn, and that’s what people are responding to.

    Although, at least with regard to the later books in the series, she’s desperately in need of a good editor. It’s incredible that books of over 700 pages are referred to as being for children.

  125. John Williams says:

    Tatiana, I regret the spoiler, and it has been deleted.

    Why do I feel like the only Mormon that has not fallen in love with Harry Potter?

  126. OK; I lied. Last comment:

    #116 reinforced your ignorance about the books; #119 was “vapid, cliched, tedious, repetitive, unclever, unfunny, and hackneyed.”

    Now I’m done.

  127. John Williams says:

    MCQ, it’s called a snowball effect. The hype builds on itself and people buy it just because it’s part of the Harry Potter series. By the 3rd book, millions of people had so much invested into the books and the paper-thin characters that they had no choice but to continue reading, just to see what happened, completely blinding by the fact that what they were reading was cliched.

  128. I will add my voice to the chorus: JW, you have zero credibility on this topic, and further, you are a confessed louse.

  129. Eric Russell says:

    I think Clark asks a good question. (110) What would you do if you really met a witch? Raise the right arm, maybe?

  130. Man, I’m ticked! I wasted a whole year of seminary reading the Old Testament when I could have just watched “The Ten Commandments” and understood the whole thing.

  131. Why would anyone read Harry Potter when there are perfectly good pictures in National Geographic and Playboy?

  132. Does no-one else find it humorous that John Williams is defending the composer John Williams by saying, roughly, “whether or not he is hackneyed and derivative, I enjoy him and he is worth listening to” while simultaneously arguing that Harry Potter isn’t worth it because he finds it hackneyed and derivative (based, of course, entirely on the first two movies which are indeed both hackneyed and derivative)? John Williams, know thyself!

  133. I’m not Mormon, but my best friend is. I found this site hoping to understand more of his beliefs and the people who share them. After reading the comments on this blog, I’m more confused than ever. It seems like a lot of back and forth put-downs about others. I didn’t read the “info about” the blog before I read the posts–maybe I’m not in the right place for what I am looking for.

  134. Kristine says:


    This site is mostly discussion (and some argument) between members of the church–sometimes you’ll catch a post on basic beliefs, but mostly we’re writing with the assumption that readers are familiar with them. This particular thread is just in-joke silliness, and definitely not very useful in understanding Mormons.

    The official Church-sponsored site for learning about basic beliefs is at

  135. Of course the fact that Mormons joke around in silliness is definitely important in understanding Mormons.

  136. John Williams says:

    John C.

    You get some brownie points for bringing a little intelligent analysis to the table. It’s okay to indulge in hokum, as long as the hokum gratifies. But don’t be a fan of something just because everyone else is.

  137. I am responding in this thread, since I don’t want to turn a different thread into a debate about Harry Potter. I said I would not comment again on the quality of the HP series. I will not do so. This is my last response about the overall discussion to a particular participant, and I apologize sincerely to everyone else for its length.

    I am not the “model blogger” when it comes to playing nice. I have made comments that disputed others’ assertions – sometimes too strongly, I’m sure; I have said some things in jest to Steve Evans that someone I admire greatly pointed out I probably shouldn’t have said, even in jest. I have crossed the lines of proper blogging etiquette and felt remorse for them when called on it. I have made requests of some that I had no real authority to make. In particular, for the comment that follows, I have exchanged comments with Nick that lacked the civility they should have possessed.

    Perhaps I am wrong to say what I am about to say, but I have never called anyone stupid and I have never judged their character based on their reading habits. The closest I have come to that was in jest, when the comments to Steve appeared to paint him as a little brother I tolerate. (For the public record, since they were public comments, I truly am sorry, Steve. That was not my intention. Please accept my apology.)

    John Williams, you really, really, really, really need to lighten up. (Yes, that intentionally is bad literary technique.) Nick didn’t compare the Simpsons to Harry Potter; he made fun of what you wrote, pure and simple.

    You have made multiple claims as to what those of us who reference Harry Potter betray about ourselves by doing so – and not one of those claims has ANY degree of positivity or ANY degree of truth. We understand your opinion of Harry Potter; it is crystal clear. Frankly, every comment you make from here through eternity about Harry Potter is going to dig you into a deeper hole in my eyes – NOT because I am besotted by the series or the author, but because I am disturbed deeply by the incredibly judgmental tone of your comments, the leaps you make and the character assassinations they constitute.

    We have different tastes when it comes to children’s literature. I think that is clear – crystal clear. (I hope I didn’t damage my credibility further by referencing a popular movie with that derivative response.) If you want a white flag of surrender, you have it. I don’t want to debate Harry Potter any more. You win. I bow to your superior intellect and admit my literary tastes are not the equal of yours. Frankly, I have the time to do so, because my children aren’t done reading Deathly Hallows yet, so I’m not locked in my room reading it until tomorrow. All I ask is that you stop calling me and my wife and my children imbeciles because we choose to do so.

    Sorry, everyone else. Admins, feel free to edit or delete this at your discretion.

  138. Latter-day Guy says:


    Verdi said something interesting that bears on this: (I paraphrase)

    “If you want to know about the value of a work, don’t read the critics; check the box office receipts.”

    Forgive me if I find your assumption disgusting: “Because I don’t like it everyone else must also secretly dislike it but they are just doing it do be part of the crowd.” Thats pretty scary hubris.

  139. John Williams says:

    Lattery-day Guy,

    I love free markets and I give J. K. Rowling all the credit in the world for drumming up a hype machine that has netted her around a billion dollars so far (and I’m sure her net worth will rocket even higher in the coming years).

    But let me tell you a little story about something called Krispy Kreme donuts. Do you remember the hype surrounding these donuts? You had to wait in line to buy these things. Then a funny thing happened. People realized they really weren’t all that good. Here in Arizona they shut down Krispy Kreme franchises after the hype died down.

    It’s not easy being the one who says the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

  140. Ugly Mahana says:


    You’re not saying the emperor has no clothes. You’re saying you don’t like the emperor’s style – and then you claim that everyone else doesn’t like the style either, just because you don’t. This is a manner of taste, man! No one has skewered you for disliking Potter. Why must you skewer everyone else because you (personally) detest it. We see something you don’t. That’s clear.

  141. John Williams says:

    Ugly Mahana,

    I suppose people are entitled to their guilty pleasures. I mean after all, people lapped up the Da Vinci Code. I actually read that one… and I thought it was utter drivel.

  142. You know JW I have to take most of your comments against vapid entertainment with a smile when I’m reminded you like John Williams’ movie scores. The irony. It’s delicious.

  143. John Williams,

    You remind me of the kidnapper in “Princess Bride”:

    “Have you heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? . . . Morons!”

  144. Jacob, your citation of “Princess Bride” says a lot about your character – which I find inconceivable.

  145. Ugly Mahana says:


    You’re coming along now. I agree with you on the merits of the Da Vinci Code. (I didn’t read it, but I listened to an abridged version of it while cleaning). But I never argued that those who did like the book only liked it because of hype. Of course, some people are like that. But some people are not. Difficult to judge who belongs in which camp; Particularly with only one book or series by which to judge.

  146. John Williams says:

    ronito: see comment # 136 above.

    Jacob: I find that Princess Bride lovers tend to be Harry Potter lovers.

    Ugly Mahana: I think a lot of people will like anything they’re told to like.

  147. KRispy Kreme donuts need to be very fresh to hold up. However I’m not a donut person so don’t ask me. I still, when I occasionally eat, prefer KK to other donuts. (If fresh)

  148. Nick Literski says:

    I hate “The Princess Bride!”
    Every time I see a snippet of it on television, I wish that the narrator would say something like “What Buttercup didn’t know is that every time he said ‘As you wish,’ what he really meant was ‘Go to ****, you arrogant, bossy little *****!'”

    Okay, I feel better now. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. ;-)

  149. Nick,
    I have to agree about the “As you wish” segment. It’s the most dreadfully boring segment of the movie. However, every girlfriend I’ve ever had loves that part, so I’ve had to keep my feelings to myself.

  150. We listen to Jesus the Sun of God who has returned and given us stregnth to purge the earth of evil (which is the same thing as white people).

    We practice the new science the Sun of God has revealed to Dr. Yacub 7 Ali teaching us how to use our eumelanin to aggressively absorb and direct ultraviolet light onto the skin of whites to burn them with skin cancers and melanoma.

    “Whites have called every other man upon the earth ugly, evil and inferior. Yet that which giveth life to everything upon the earth, the Sun, burneth him. That which gives life to everything upon the earth is God. God giveth life to everything on the earth but the white man and the thing which come after him and are as him. That which giveth life to everything upon the earth giveth the superior white man 10 minutes in the Sun before his ’superior’ skin starts to burn. God hates the white man’ – Prophet & scientist Yacub 7 Ali

    Learn How to Give White People Melanomas for Dummies

    Yacub 7 Ali

  151. Steve Evans says:

    …not to mention to protect and purify all of our precious bodily fluids!

  152. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE: 150,

    Ummmm… what the hell?…

  153. Sometimes I would like to revert to my rural upbringing and carry a shotgun to hunt varmints. Anybody have access to the “Smite Comment” button?

  154. Where’s a chupacabra when you need one?

  155. I’m confused. Is Harry Potter on the list of required reading to comment on this blog?

  156. I had to look it up, Justin, but good choice.

  157. Nick Literski,

    I am still waiting for you to add more context to that LMS “faculty of Abrax” quote, like you said you would.


    If I had access to the “Smite Comment” button, you would be smitten hard.

  158. Nick Literski says:

    Extreme Dorito,
    You can take care of that yourself. Simply find any good publication of Lucy’s *original* manuscript, such as *Lucy’s Book* published by Signature Books. Editions from Bookcraft and Deseret Book were notoriously sanitized, and even wipe out the quote portion you cited (which should tell you something about how the editors read the statement, btw).

  159. Thanks, Nick. A man is only as good as his word.

    I am going to assume your unwillingness to type in the quote only supports my position that your reading is subjective and dubious and additional text to flesh out the context would be hostile to your reading.

    The Deseret and Bookcraft editions “sanitized” all sorts of material from her original manuscript, a lot of it deemed personal and emotional, the vast majority of which had no doctrinal implications at all. How does that make it “notorious”, Nick?

    Oh, and I never said you were an anti-mormon, I said the reading you are forwarding is used by anti-mormons, and it is. Whether you are anti-mormon or not, that is up to readers to discern.

  160. Nick Literski says:

    Wow…now THAT’S what I call proper interpretation of historical sources! Whatever you do, make sure you refuse to actually read for yourself, Extreme Dorito. Let’s be honest here. I forgot about it, and I’m not at home (where my copy of the book is) to type it out right now. Furthermore, you’re making it pretty clear that no matter what the context, no matter how much surrounding material I happened to type, you would insinuate that I was still hiding something. I’ve already told you that Lucy offers virtually no context to the statement–it’s offered almost as an aside.

    The editing of Lucy Mack Smith’s manuscript is actually much more complicated than you suggest. Brigham Young actually ordered (unsuccessfully) that all copies of the first edition be destroyed. As for later editions, even if, as you suggest, the deletions (and insertions!) had “no doctrinal implications at all” or were “personal and emotional,” they were the personal account written by Lucy Mack Smith—an account of tremendous historical importance.

    If you think that my reading of the passage in question is “used by anti-mormons,” you misunderstand me. Anti-mormons consciously avoid giving you the cultural context in which the statement was made—something I’ve already provided you with above—in order to make the statement sound “shocking” or “evil.” In reality, Lucy Mack Smith’s statement is neither. She was a product of her times, engaged in folk practices which were considered by many to be a legitimate part of christian belief. Furthermore, given the family’s connections to Freemasonry, I’ve already explained that the statement is actually a very positive one, demonstrating the determined spiritual seeking of the Smith family in its Palmyra era. My explanation of the statement (admittedly much more detailed in my book manuscript than I’m willing to release early in a blog) is quite PRO-Mormon.

  161. Refuse to read for myself? I asked you to produce additional text for me to read, and you arent doing it. Where is the refusal to read for myself? There is none. What I am making clear, aside from your absurd accusations, is that I want more text, not less.

    You still havent explained how the editing of the personal material makes it “notorious”. I am well acquainted with the events surrounding the publication of her manuscript. Thanks. I just dont happen to see those events the way you do.

    I also dont find your version of the the Smith’s alleged early involvement in Masonry compelling. Names on registers doesnt tell me how seriously they took things and whether they practiced. If you send me a copy of your manuscript I would be more than happy to read the original historical material and draw my own conclusions. As for your conclusions, I have yet to see anything compelling to support them, despite requests for you to produce such.

    You know, Nick, nobody has accused you of being an anti-mormon, and yet you keep demanding you arent anti-mormon.

  162. Steve Evans says:

    Settle down, you two. You’re giving the Friday Firestorm a bad name.

  163. Nick Literski says:

    LOL—No, Extreme, I’m not going to send you a copy of my manuscript. First off, my publisher would be more than a little irate. Secondly, I’m frankly amazed that you would be bold enough to ask. Sorry, but you’ll just have to wait a little while longer, like everyone else.

    I can promise you, Extreme, that my manuscript provides far more than just a few names on registers. Contrary to your baiting, I’m not going to post chapter-long discussions on a public blog. When the book comes out, I most certainly DO hope you look at the evidence and come to your own conclusions. Hopefully, they’ll be based on the evidence, rather than on your apparent prejudice against folk magic and Freemasonry. So far, all I can see from you is a blind insistance that nothing which you subjectively (and inexplicably) think is “bad” could possibly have any relationship to Joseph Smith or Mormonism.

    Since you insist upon being lectured about the meaning of “notorious,” and (as with Lucy Mack Smith’s manuscript) you refuse to look it up yourself, I will inform you that the word simply means “widely known,” albeit usually with a negative connotation. If, as you claim, you are “well acquainted” with the treatment of Lucy Mack Smith’s manuscript over the last 150 years, you surely understand why legitimate historians take issue with the same. Lucy wasn’t perfect in her recollections, but modern scholarship shows she was generally quite accurate. Scholars generally understand today that much of Brigham Young’s upset with the first edition had to do with favorable references to William Smith, since Lucy initially favored the idea of her only remaining son becoming president of the church. (Of course, Brigham’s concern is understandable, since William Smith was both a nutcase and a scoundrel. Even Joseph had to physically throw William out of his house on occasion.) I suspect, given your defensive posture, that you approve of the practice of both silencing Lucy Mack Smith AND putting words into her mouth, on some sort of religious grounds. Most legitimate historians, however, would disagree.

  164. Steve,
    I love how a simple discussion of the death penalty vis-a-vis actresses who play fictional young adult witches as refracted through the lens of Monty Python (and, of course, scripture) has led to a clash of titans over Masonry and Lucy Mack Smith. Your Firestorms rock, but how will you top this one?

  165. Steve Evans says:

    Sam, one of the great things about arguments is that there’s always a worse one waiting ’round the corner.

  166. Nick, you have this habit of stuffing words in other people’s mouths and attributing positions to others which they never forwarded. Rather off-putting, to say the least.

    The only prejudice I hold is against people who lord themselves over others for no other reason than their heightened sense of self.

    I have asked you for evidence, you have said you would deliver, and you have not. All you do is state the well-known and mix it up with insults, which is rather telling. Given my defensive posture? Nonsense. I am open to new data, you are not producing it. All you produce is opinion and insults. If you book is no more substantive than that, well, nothing will come of it.

  167. Nick Literski says:

    Once more, Extreme, I am not going to publish chapter-length discussions of evidence and issues on a blog. Reasonable persons would not expect me to do so. In fact, I would almost certainly be chastised if I tried it. I’m really not interested in your squabble. For now, I suggest you wait for the book, at which time I will be interested in hearing your specific responses to the full presentation of evidence. FWIW, an honest reading of the material I have gathered will likely enhance your appreciation for Joseph Smith.

  168. I wish I had the ability to give white people skin cancer by staring intently at them! Then again, I would be giving a lot of women cancer in sensitive areas.

  169. Nick,

    Yes, you are right, it is so unreasonable of me to expect you to post the text from someone elses book you said you would post, which text has nothing whatsoever to do with your book. I am, without question, irrational, and should be censured by your publisher.

    I do eagerly anticipate the imminent publication of your book. I am confidant it will be an objective, unbiased presentation of agenda-free factual analysis that is preeminently PRO-Mormon and will no doubt be quoted at length by numerous GAs at the next GenConf. Will you autograph my copy, please?

  170. Nick Literski says:

    Perhaps you believe that LDS authors and historians are always objective, unbiased and agenda-free? ;-) While there is simply no such thing as truly “objective” history, I’m not out to write a pro-Mormon book or an anti-LDS book. It’s not my job to “prove” Mormonism true or false. I’m writing a history of the relationship between Freemasonry and early Mormonism. It’s my job to present the evidence and try to explain it honestly. Unlike previous authors on the subject, I am personally experienced and informed with regard to both Mormonism and Freemasonry, so I’m not making the kind of mistakes that some masons have made about Mormonism, or that some LDS have made about Freemasonry. Because of that, I’ve been able to find evidence that writers from one group or the other have missed, due to jargon, etc. As I explain the meaning of the evidence, some readers will agree with some of my conclusions. Some will not. There will be LDS and non-LDS individuals on both sides of that question, and that’s okay.

    I think you know I wasn’t referring to typing the text from Lucy Mack Smith’s manuscript. I may do that when I get home today—though you’ll still pretend (a) that I’m taking it out of context, or (b) that it really means the Smith family *never* had *anything* to do with folk magic or Freemasonry. To the contrary, I was indicating that I’m not going to lay out “all the evidence” of the Smith family’s involvement in Freemasonry in blog comments, as that would entail chapter-length (actually more than one chapter) posts. My publisher would object, as would the owners of this blog. Besides, I can’t imagine what kind of formatting mess would result from trying to paste very heavily-footnoted text into a blog—ugh!

    Extreme, I’m sorry we seem to have gotten off on such a poor footing. I understand your concern about religious bigots using Lucy Mack Smith’s quotation as a means of criticizing Mormonism. That’s not the way I’m using it at all. Rather, I see it as a very positive statement about the Smith family, so long as it is placed in its proper historical and cultural context.

  171. Nick,

    I am so relieved you are objective, when everyone else isnt. A breath of fresh air it is.

    I’ll evaluate the evidence as I see fit, and I guarantee I will be every bit as objective as you are.

    But, Nick, your version of the “proper historical and cultural context” that you see as “positive” is something that a lot of people probably wouldnt see as “positive.”

  172. Nick Literski says:

    LOL! Maybe I wasn’t clear, Extreme. There is no such thing as truly objective history. All any honest historian can do is try to make a fair, honest, *objective as possible* analysis of the evidence. That’s what I’m trying to do, but I’m not under any illusion that I can achieve complete objectivity. Besides, even if true objectivity was possible, would we agree on everything? Probably not. :-)

    I appreciate your point about what “a lot of people probably wouldn’t see as a positive.” You’re correct, of course, that no matter how well I explain the reality of the situation, there will be individuals who decide, due primarily to their own lack of education, that Smith family involvement in folk magic and/or Freemasonry is somehow “evil.” I can’t really control that. At the same time, it would be wrong of me–and by no means “objective” to leave out every bit of evidence that might happen to give some fool out there an excuse to condemn Mormonism. Those types will find their excuse, no matter what I have to say in my book.

  173. Nick Literski says:

    From Lucy Mack Smith’s original manuscript, dictated to Howard and Martha Coray (spelling and punctuation intact as original):

    “In the spring after we moved onto the farm we commenced making Mapel sugar of which we averaged 1000 lbs per year we then began to make preparations for building a house as the Land Agent of whom we purchased our farm was dead and we could not make the last payment we also planted a large orchard and made every possible preparation for ease when advanced age should deprive us of the ability to make those physical exertions which we were then capable of.
    “I shall change my theme for the present but let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor and went trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of buisness we never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation but whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remember the service of & the welfare of our souls.
    “And not only temporal blessings were bestowed upon us, but also spiritual were administered. The Scripture, which saith, ‘Your old men shall dream dreams,’ was fulfilled in the case of my husband, for, about this time, he had another vision, which I shall here relate; this, with one more, is all of his that I shall obtrude upon the attention of my readers. He received two more visions, which would probably be somewhat interesting, but I cannot remember them distinctly enough to rehears them in full.”

    From Lucy’s use of parallelism, you can see that she equates “trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying” with “the service of & the welfare of our souls,” just as she equates “all kinds of business” with “worked with our hands.” As I noted earlier, Lucy provides little in the way of additional context, other than the fact that she refers to the spring after the Smith family moved onto their farm at the border between Palmyra and Manchester.

  174. Nick, regarding comments in #172, is it necessarily the case that anyone who would disagree with your perception of “the reality of the situation” is ignorant and/or uneducated? No, I think not. I can read the same text as you, being well informed and well educated, and come to a different conclusion. For example, the additional text you have graciously typed in in comment #173:

    My read on it is that Lucy is not creating a parallelism at all, but she is dismissing the magical references as hokum and bunk, probably owing the numerous and persistent accusations leveled at Joseph Jr. and their entire family. I think one is very hard pressed indeed to impose the sort of formal rhetorical device of a parallelism onto this kind of a text. Where else in Lucy’s account can you find other obvious cases of parallelisms? I would be surprised if there were any. Sorry, Nick, but I see nothing in the additional surrounding text to support your reading, and a lot to argue against it. Lucy clearly is dismissing the faculty of Abrac, magic circles and sooth saying and forwarding what she considers to be the genuine revelations given to Joseph Sr., which follows in the next paragraph.

    Do you have any additional Smith family references suggesting they did actually make magic circles and engage in sooth saying? One would need that evidence to support your reading, that Lucy is forwarding them as legitimate and useful for promoting their family spiritual life, and something not to be neglected. If so, then your reading might have some merit. If not, then it is plain your reading is based upon poor exegetical technique and lacks external support. As such is very probably the case, I will, for the time being, reject your reading of the text, until you can provide corroborating evidence.

    I do very much appreciate you taking the time to type that up. Thank you, Nick.

  175. Nick Literski says:

    So tell me if I’m reading your position correctly. It appears that you are taking the position that the Smith family was not involved in folk magic and/or Freemasonry, and you will not believe they were involved in such, until you receive what you accept as incontrovertible evidence of such.

    If I understand your position correctly, perhaps you can explain why you would find this activity by the Smith family to be troublesome. A variety of LDS scholars have openly acknowledged the Smith family’s folk magic background, and don’t seem to find it troubling at all.

  176. Nick,

    No, that is not my position. My position is that your reading on the text in question is not robust.

    Whether the Smith family was involved in folk magic and/or Freemasonry is tangential to the discussion on the specific text in question. If you can bring some of this tangential evidence to bear to support your reading on the text, then it might be relevant. For example, you would have to show that Lucy in specific, or the family in general, did in fact use magic circles or sooth saying to support your reading of the text in question. If there is nothing external to the text to support this reading, then the reading that Lucy is discounting such practices, is more robust.

    I personally dont find folk magic or Freemasonry troubling in and of itself. However, I do see it being a hot button issue in the context of Early Mormon History, so one must be careful navigating the agendas and interests of people who line up along certain lines.

  177. Regarding the quote in comment #172, I’ve done some checking and it is absent from the original 1954 Bookcraft edition and the later 1996 Bookcraft edition, edited by the Proctors, which was specifically intended to include additional material.

    I reviewing other period material, it seems likely Lucy Mack Smith’s comment was intended to respond to the gossip started by Abner Cole under the pseudonym Obadiah Dogberry in _The Reflector_, wherein he explicitly mocks Joseph over the alleged use of magic circles and divination:

    Lucy is not advocating any such thing, as is the common anti-mormon reading of her comment, but is rejecting the various mystical practices.

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