LDS shamanism

Judith M S Pine (jmsp@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Mon, 13 May 1996 10:06:59 -0700

I forwarded the following message to a friend who has some considerable
knowledge of LDS practices, and got an interesting reply which I am, with
permission, passing on to the list.

Judy Pine :)

on Sat, 11 May 1996, Marie K Conrad wrote:

Dear Mike et al;
You're very correct in pointing out that the LDS (Mormon) Church does
practice the "laying on of hands," and that this has to do with the faith
of both the "healer" and the "healee." It is, however, referred to as a
"priesthood blessing," and is performed only by (male) priesthood holders
in the LDS church who have attained a certain level in the priesthood
hierarchy - not just "anyone" can give a blessing for healing. It is
considered both a right of the righteous priesthood holder and a great
responsibility. In this light, I would not typify the LDS priesthood
blessing as a shamanistic act.
Marie Conrad

to which Tom Murphy replies:


Marie is not entirely correct. Actually women in the LDS church practiced
charismatic faith healing openly and frequently through the early decades
of this century. It was only in more recent years that the male hierarchy
decided that women could no longer give "blessings" (as they are called)
without the presence of a male priesthood holder (Mormons practice lay
priesthood). Today, however, women are still permitted to give blessings
through their husband's priesthood if there is an emergency and no male
priesthood holder is present. Some LDS women (esp. in many parts of Utah,
Idaho, and Arizona) continue to practice faith healing without the
sanction of the church hierarchy. They justify their practice through
statements by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other early church leaders
who sanctioned the practice.

I would recommend that Marie pick up any of the following books which deal
with this practice: Maxine Hanks, _Women and Authority_ (SLC: Signature,
1992), Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson, _Sister's
in Spirit_ (Urbana: U. of Illinois Press), Lester E. Bush _Health and
Medicine among the Latter-day Saints_ (NY: Crossroad, 1993), Thomas G.
Alexander _Mormonism in Transition: A History of the LDS, 1890-1930_
(Urbana: U. of Illinois Press, 1986), or Linda King Newell and Valeen
Tippets Avery _Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith_ (NY: Doubleday, 1984).

IMHO, If a shaman is a part-time religious specialist who engages in
charismatic healings then clearly Mormon women and men have in the past
fit that label and many do so in the present.

You may forward this post to the list and/or Marie.

Thomas W. Murphy
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Washington