Mesmerism is an inverted truth; it originated in holy, good and righteous principles, which have been inverted by the power of the Devil. 1
The principle of animal magnetism is true, but wicked men use it to an evil purpose. Speaking is a true gift, but I can speak to the glory of God, or to the injury of his cause and to my condemnation, as I please; and still the gift is of God. The gift of animal magnetism is a gift of God, but wicked men use it to promote the cause of the Devil, and that is precisely the difference. 2
I know of many whom mesmerism has led out of this Church; they would see the sick healed, and attribute it to the power of God; would fall under its influence, embrace and practice it, and thus give the Devil power over them to lead them out of the Kingdom of God. They could not tell whether it was the power of God or the power of the Devil. What is the reason? They had not the light of revelation within them; they had not the knowledge of God. Are you not aware how easily we may be deceived? 3
I have seen the effects of animal magnetism, or some anomalous sleep, or whatever it may be called, many a time in my youth. I have seen persons lie on the benches, on the floor of the meeting house, or on the ground at their camp meetings, for ten, twenty, and thirty minutes, and I do not know but an hour, and not a particle of pulse about them. That was the effect of what I call animal magnetism; they called it the power of God, but no matter what it was, I used to think that I should like to ask such persons what they had seen in their trance or vision; and when I got old enough and dared ask them, I did so. I have said to such persons: “Brother, what have you experienced?” “Nothing.” “What do you know more than before you had this; what do you call it—trance, sleep or dream? Do you know any more now than before you fell to the earth?” “Nothing more.” “Have you seen any person?” “No.” “Then what is the use or utility of your falling down here in the dirt?” I could not see it, and consequently I was an infidel to this. But I said then as I say now—”Show me a church that God has organized, and you will find apostles to rule, govern, control, dictate, and give counsel. You will find prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, governments, helps, and diversities of tongues. When the Church and Kingdom of God is upon the earth you will find all these things and you will also hear prophesying therein. 4
Bruce R. McConkie
In answer to the question, “Shall we practice hypnotism,” President Francis M. Lyman of the Council of the Twelve wrote: “Hypnotism is a reality, and though some who claim to have this mysterious power are only tricksters, yet others do really hypnotize those who submit to them. From what I understand and have seen, I should advise you not to practice hypnotism. For my own part I could never consent to being hypnotized or allowing one of my children to be. The free agency that the Lord has given us is the choicest gift we have. As soon, however, as we permit another mind to control us, as that mind controls its own body and functions, we have completely surrendered our free agency to another; and so long as we are in the hypnotic spell – and that is as long as the hypnotist desires us to be – we give no consent in any sense whatever to anything we do. The hypnotist might influence us to do good things, but we could receive no benefit from that, even if we remembered it after coming out of the spell, for it was not done voluntarily. The hypnotist might also influence us to do absurd and even shocking, wicked things, for his will compels us.” (Era, vol. 6, p. 420.). 5
Church Handbook 21.3.9
Many private groups and commercial organizations have programs that purport to increase self-awareness, self-esteem, and spirituality. Some groups promise to enhance individual agency or improve family relationships. Some offer “experiential” or “empowerment” training.
Some of these groups falsely claim or imply that the Church or individual General Authorities have endorsed their programs. However, the Church has not endorsed any such enterprise, and members are warned against believing such claims. The fact that the Church has not formally challenged such an enterprise should not be perceived as a tacit endorsement or approval.
Church members are also warned that some of these groups advocate concepts and use methods that can be harmful. In addition, many such groups charge exorbitant fees and encourage long-term commitments. Some intermingle worldly concepts with gospel principles in ways that can undermine spirituality and faith.
These groups tend to promise quick solutions to problems that normally require time and personal effort to resolve. Although participants may experience temporary emotional relief or exhilaration, old problems often return, leading to added disappointment and despair.
Church leaders are not to pay for, encourage participation in, or promote such groups or practices. Also, Church facilities may not be used for these activities.
Leaders should counsel members that true self-improvement comes through living gospel principles. Members who have social or emotional problems may consult with priesthood leaders for guidance in identifying sources of help that are in harmony with gospel principles.
New Era Q&A Compilation, April 1974:
“What do you think about the use of hypnotism?”
Historically, the leaders of the Church have spoken against the Saints using or experimenting with hypnotism, as well as participating in mind control courses. In 1902 John W. Taylor of the Council of the Twelve said, “I want to lift up my voice and say, that it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord our God.” (Conference Report, April 1902, p. 76.)
Francis M. Lyman of the Council of the Twelve said, “From what I understand and have seen, I should advise you not to practice hypnotism. For my own part I could never consent to being hypnotized or allowing one of my children to be. The free agency that the Lord has given us is the choicest gift we have. As soon, however, as we permit another mind to control us, as that mind controls its own body and functions, we have completely surrendered our free agency to another; and so long as we are in the hypnotic spell—and that is as long as the hypnotist desires us to be—we give no consent in any sense whatever to anything we do. The hypnotist might influence us to do good things, but we could receive no benefit from that, even if we remembered it after coming out of the spell, for it was not done voluntarily. The hypnotist might also influence us to do absurd and even shocking, wicked things, for his will compels us.
“Hypnotism is very much like the plan that Satan desired the Father to accept before this earth was peopled. He would make them do good and save them in spite of themselves. The Savior, on the other hand, proposed to give free agency to all, and save those who would accept salvation. Our Father rejected Satan’s plan, and sacrificed a third part of his children for the sake of upholding this true principle, that men shall have the right to act for themselves, and shall be responsible for their own actions.” (“Shall We Practice Hypnotism?” Improvement Era, vol. 6, [April 1903], p. 420.)
An item in the Priesthood Bulletin of August 1972 says: “Reports have been received of unfortunate results to persons engaging in group hypnosis demonstrations or in popular mind control courses of study. There are reports that some Church leaders have arranged hypnosis demonstrations as a means of entertainment. Leaders should advise members of the Church against participating in such activities. Certainly, they should not be sponsored or encouraged by leaders of the Church as has been reported.”
I have seen hypnotism used with varied results, and having seen it used I am convinced that when a person submits to hypnotism, he surrenders part or all of his will to another person. In a real sense he loses his free agency for the period of time he is hypnotized and perhaps for periods of time in the future should he be given posthypnotic suggestion at the time of his hypnosis. No one really realizes how powerful an influence or how unusual a phenomena a hypnotic trance is, and contrary to many current expressions by hypnotists, people can be made to do things under hypnosis that normally, morally, they would not do. Furthermore, it is difficult to realize how great the temptations are to a therapist when he has total control of another human being.
It is even difficult to decide who to have care for your body. Some people with apparently good credentials may not be the best surgeons or physicians when judged by their peers, and yet, each of us must choose someone to care for his physical person on the basis of the best criteria he has and as carefully as he can. If his choice is poor, perhaps the worst that can happen is that his body may not be as healthy or heal as fast as it might have if he had made a better choice.
But to whom do you trust your immortal soul? How can you adequately choose someone to whom you can freely give your free agency? Your moral will? To what person do you surrender your moral will for the use of his entertainment, or for the entertainment of others, or for the purpose of supposedly helping you with your problems—for example, losing weight, rejecting bad habits, or recalling childhood problems? Who is that trustworthy? This is the basis and the real crux of the problem. Who is so trustworthy as to be allowed to tamper with the eternal soul? At the present time, as a direct answer to the question, “What do you think about the use of hypnotism?” it is my belief that hypnosis is not to be actively engaged in by members of the Church.
Melchizedek Priesthood MIA General Board