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FARMS Review 12-2 That Old Black Magic[1]

FARMS Review 12-2 That Old Black Magic[1]

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That Old Black Magic
William J. HamblinReview of D. Michael Quinn.
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View,
revised and enlarged edition.Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998. xxxix + 646 pp., with notes and index. $19.95.I find it interesting that an [
] outside—and fair—observer[s] of the Mormon scene[Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling] would cite Quinn’s books. His critics slander Quinn atwill and try to tar him with a broad brush—without being able to show a single specific instancein his work that would justify these loose comments—but such petty lies and disparaging remarkswill do nothing to diminish the national reputation of this distinguished scholar.I’m not twisting words. I’m asking for fairness and accuracy. Next time someone who callshimself or herself a Christian launches an assault of Quinn, let’s see them link it to evidence ratherthan unjustifiable prejudice.I don’t think the old legal saw—if you’ve got the facts on your side, argue the facts; if you gotthe law on your side, argue the law; if you have neither on your side, yell a lot—works very wellbefore an intelligent audience.
Will Bagley D. Michael Quinn is one of the best-known historians of Mormonism. His books and articles havewon a number of awards.
His name and face appear frequently in journalistic accounts of thingsMormon. Among some cultural Mormons, Quinn has achieved a reputation approaching that of an 
Will Bagley, e-mail posted on Sunday, 14 November 1999, 12:27:20 -0700 (MST). This message is archivedat http://www.xmission.com/~dkenison/cgi/lwgate.cgi/LDS-BOOKSHELF/archives/v01.n327/date/article-11.html. Iwould like to thank Sharon Nielsen and Jacob Olmstead for research assistance on this paper. I would also like tothank Daniel Peterson, George Mitton, Matthew Roper, and John Gee for helpful suggestions.
See the rather inflated self-promotion in the two-page “About the Author” section (pp. 645–46). Allparenthetical references are to this edition of Quinn’s book unless otherwise noted.
2 •
FARMS Review of Books
12/2 (2000)
infallible demigod. For many, when Quinn speaks, the thinking has been done. Unfortunately, Quinn’snational reputation is not well merited. Reviewers of his books have increasingly recognized thefundamentally tendentious nature of his work
and the fact that Quinn simply cannot be trusted torepresent his sources accurately. In his new edition of 
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View,
Quinn’s work again manifests these fundamental flaws. To anticipate my conclusions,
Early Mormonism
should not be taken seriously as history.Quinn’s overall thesis is that Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saint leaders werefundamentally influenced by occult and magical thought, books, and practices in the founding of theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is unmitigated nonsense. Yet the fact that
Quinn couldnot discover a single primary source written by Latter-day Saints
that makes any positive statement aboutmagic is hardly dissuasive to a historian of Quinn’s inventive capacity.
As we shall see, Quinn is quitecapable of surmounting this dearth of evidence by sheer invention. 
See Duane Boyce, “A Betrayal of Trust,” review of 
The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power,
by D.Michael Quinn,
FARMS Review of Books
9/2 (1997): 147–63, and George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James, “A Responseto D. Michael Quinn’s Homosexual Distortion of Latter-day Saint History,” review of 
Same-Sex Dynamics among  Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example,
by D. Michael Quinn,
FARMS Review of Books
10/1 (1998):141–263, both providing an absolutely astonishing litany of Quinn’s ubiquitous misreadings, misrepresentations,and distortions.
The hidden but fundamental role of the Hofmann forgeries in Quinn’s thesis is striking. Quinn wrote hisfirst edition under the illusion that the Hofmann forgeries—which present forged primary sources in which JosephSmith and other early Mormons describe themselves as practicing magic—were authentic (see p. 330 n. 14). Note thebizarre gaffe where Quinn berates Rhett James for claiming that Quinn accepted the Salamander letter (see pp.xi–xii), while Quinn himself admits he accepted the authenticity of the letter and wrote the book under theassumption that Hofmann’s forgery was authentic (see p. 330 n. 14).
 Mormonism and the Magic World View 
(Hamblin) •
I will not attempt an analysis of each of Quinn’s claims. Such an effort will require careful study by many historians over a long period of time. At
pages, this review is already far too long.
Instead, Iwill examine a limited number of claims in comprehensive detail, hoping to elucidate the many flaws inQuinn’s methodology, analysis, and use of evidence. The representative topics I have chosen fordiscussion are methodological problems, accessibility of occult books, magic artifacts, and Kabbalah.
1. Methodological Problems
Quinn’s Idiosyncratic Definition of Magic
Quinn’s tendency toward neologisms has been called “Quinnspeak,”
a term which could even moreappropriately be applied to his remarkable insistence on redefining key terms and misrepresenting hisprimary sources. Many reviewers of Quinn’s first edition recognized that his fundamental problem was afailure to accurately define magic and to distinguish between magic and religion.
Rather than paying 
I feel I should apologize to readers for the length of this “review.” Due to Quinn’s remarkable tendency tomisrepresent even the most straightforward sources, I felt it necessary to quote extensively from the sources Quinnuses and provide a detailed point-by-point analysis of Quinn’s faulty methods and misrepresentations. For me tohave simply stated that Quinn was in error would not be convincing to many who—like Quinn himself—arepredisposed to think the worst of scholars who believe that traditional versions of LDS history are more accuratethan revisionist versions. Even so, I could easily have doubled the size of this review with additional examples of theproblems, errors, and misrepresentations I have discovered.
Klaus J. Hansen, “Quinnspeak,” review of 
Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example,
by D. Michael Quinn,
FARMS Review of Books
10/1 (1998): 132–40.
See John Gee, “Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob,”
Review of Books on the Book of Mormon
7/1 (1995): 46–71;Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson, “Joseph Smith and ‘Magic’: Methodological Reflections on the Use of aTerm,” in “
To Be Learned Is Good If 
. . .,” ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 129–47; and StephenD. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson, “The Mormon as Magus,”
January 1988, 38. See also William J. Hamblin,

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