Through the lens: Joseph Smith Sr. and psychedelic suggestion

A couple of weeks ago, I met with a friend of mine who is a Mormon Scholar. We ate dinner and chatted about what we’ve recently read, learned, etc.. I told him about reading the book How to Change Your Mind and all the fascinating implications and uses that can come from psychedelic medicines.

My friend told me that he is involved in writing a paper regarding Joseph Smith and his potential use of entheogens. Color me fascinated!

He said that there are some plausible connections the Smith household and entheogens. He told me about a few, one of them being Joseph Smith Sr.’s dream about a barren field.

The dream takes place in 1811.

Joseph Sr. was traveling in an open, barren, field which had nothing but dead and fallen timber. As he wanders through the death-like-realm, a spirit joined him and explained that the field was the world; lying dumb and dying regarding true religion and the plan of salvation. 

Joseph Sr. continues on, as he is told to do, until he finds a box. He is told by a spirit that if he eats the contents they “would make [him] wise, and give [him] wisdom and understanding.” He attempts to eat, but at that point, all manner of beasts and animals appear. Fearing for his life, he is compelled to drop the box and flee.

To Smith, the dream suggested a lesson: wisdom could be consumed. This may not have been a crazy suggestion to Smith. Why? Because the Smith family were into the occult practices (“Lucy’s point was that the Smiths were not lazy-they had not stopped their labor to practice magic-but she showed her knowledge of formulas and rituals and associated them with ‘the welfare of our souls.’  Magic and religion melded in Smith family culture.” Rough Stone Rolling, 50-51) He could find something edible that would bring him wisdom and understanding. This edible-philosopher’s-stone would be found in an area with fallen timber. Psychedelic Mushrooms?

It is interesting to note that this dream may have had a strong impression on Joseph Smith Jr.; after all, it is James 1:5 – if any of you lack wisdom – that sent Joseph Jr. to the recently cleared grove in the spring of 1821.

2 thoughts on “Through the lens: Joseph Smith Sr. and psychedelic suggestion

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  1. An interesting take on that dream. I do hope he has more if he plans to publish though. My friendship with several traditionally practicing Navajos has worn down my natural Mormon resistance to seeing psychoactive herbs as being spiritually beneficial.

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