Seer Stones, Salamanders, and Early Mormon “Folk Magic” in the Light of Folklore Studies and Bible Scholarship


TitleSeer Stones, Salamanders, and Early Mormon “Folk Magic” in the Light of Folklore Studies and Bible Scholarship
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsEliason, Eric A.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
Volume55
Issue1
Pagination73-93
KeywordsBible; Early Church History; Folklore; Magic; Seer Stones
Abstract

The 2015 publication of an Ensign article on, and especially photos of, one of Joseph Smith’s seer stones still owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints caused quite a sensation in the blogosphere. Mormon studies as a discipline has struggled to make sense of seer stones too. These responses are understandable, considering how often communities tend to presume little change in ritual practice over time and how identity groups tend to see others’ actually quite similar practices—separated by time or culture—as superstitious and our own as pious and commonsensical. This essay, by folklorist Eric Eliason, seeks to bring to bear the insights of both folklore scholarship and folklore-informed ancient Near Eastern scholarship on the issue of early Mormon seer stones in particular and American frontier folk magic in general.

URLhttp://byustudies.byu.edu/content/seer-stones-salamanders-and-early-mormon-folk-magic-light-folklore-studies-and-bible