Its no secret that I believe in the Smith-Entheogen Theory. I have been doing research on key figures in connection to this, particularly “Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations” by Mark Lyman Staker which is a fantastic work.
During this research I realized that there isn’t an easy-to-read narrative history of entheogenic Mormonism, so I decided to write one. This history is intended to be easily read, and thus is by no means academic. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading it and learning a bit about my spiritual beliefs.
I believe Joseph Smith Jr. was given some preliminary plant medicine experiences through Joseph Smith Sr. and Lumen Walters, and even administered them to people at the organizing meeting of Mormonism, as exhibited by Newel Knight. Soon after missionaries were sent to Missouri to preach to Native Americans, and on their way they stopped in Kirtland, Ohio to preach about and from The Book of Mormon. It was here that the church swelled to several hundred members in just a matter of weeks. The missionaries did not stay to provide much in the way of religious education or resources, and Sidney Rigdon (the Campbellite pastor who himself had just converted with his congregation) went to New York to meet Joseph Smith Jr. From November to February these new converts were left to their own devices with their new faith.
The Mormons were now entranced by everything Native American due to the Book of Mormon. Peter Kerr was a Black former slave who had more experience with Native American beliefs than anyone in the community, and so when there was a power vacuum Kerr stepped into it. The process of calling and ordination had not been outlined in the Restoration yet, and so Kerr introduced a charismatic form of Divine ordination in which people encountered Heavenly messengers and/or messages. Additionally, he presided over remarkably ecstatic communion services in which only members of Mormonism were permitted to be present as they partook of a communion and afterwards they experienced visions and revelations in front of anyone who wished to attend the service. Well-educated contemporary critics of Mormonism who attended these services believed that the wine was infused with something, such as an entheogenic material.
When Smith was finally able to make it to Kirtland he realized that his power was being threatened. As a result, “The Law of the Church” was given in early 1831, essentially stripping Kerr of the spiritual clout he had gained over the winter by issuing revelations which taught that people are only ordained by those previously ordained (D&C 42), everyone be permitted to join in the entirety of the sacramental and confirmational meetings (D&C 46), and that only Joseph Smith Jr. could issue revelations (D&C 43). In just a few short days Peter Kerr’s claims to authority were squashed.
However, Joseph saw the powerful spiritual experiences that Kerr was able produce through entheogens among entire groups of people at the same time. If Smith were to retain his image as a spiritual authority figure, he would have to do something similar. He called for a Conference in June of 1831 and promised that there would be people there who meet Jesus and the Devil. Sure enough, they partook of communion and many people ecstatically felt as if they had encounters with Jesus or the Devil.
After this Conference Smith now had even more devoted followers who believed that they were “endowed with power from on high”, and were even willing to leave their families to go preach. Joseph wanted to again scale up the ceremonies where he gave people entheogens through the wine, and he would do so in the Solemn Assemblies during the Kirtland Temple dedication.