“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Oct. 1996, 33
Joyce Kinmont, a visiting teacher in the Perry Third Ward, Willard Utah Stake.
When my husband and I joined the Church early in our marriage, we felt a need to improve our behavior, including the way we celebrated holidays. We made Christmas and Easter more Christ-centered. New Year’s Eve became more goal oriented. And Halloween? Well, Halloween was a challenge.
We had enjoyed dressing up our first little daughter in a black witch’s costume, her heavily sprayed blonde hair sticking out all over her head and a piece of dry ice bubbling from her pot. But we began to wonder whether some Halloween practices were pleasing to the Lord, given that Latter-day Saints are to seek after that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (A of F 1:13).
As our children grew, we became increasingly wary of the role models we presented to them. We recognized that the portrayal of evil might be necessary in telling a story but that experimenting with evil and its appearance, even for “fun,” could be harmful. We did not want to personalize evil by encouraging our children to identify with witches, even cute ones. Nor did we want to encourage our children to pretend to be violent, grotesque, or ghoulish, or to engage in any behavior that would grieve the Spirit.
Doing away with masks and, rather, dressing our children as pumpkins, robots, and cowboys eased our concern. Often I made costumes that promoted dramatic play: southern belle dresses with hooped skirts or princess dresses with flowing trains. Some years we helped make Halloween fun for others. Our most memorable Halloweens were ones in which we gave a “treat”—a short program of music and poetry presented to the elderly, especially those who had no family close by.
Some wards, concerned about the safety of trick-or-treating after dark, have begun holding Halloween parties, dinners, or costume parades in their cultural halls. Other wards gather in the church parking lot, where members dispense treats from their car trunks and play games (see “‘Trunk-n-Treat’: a Halloween alternative,” Church News, 5 Nov. 1994, 5).
When our children became teenagers, we discouraged them from participating in spook alleys or other activities where participants, in disguise or under cover of darkness, would display threatening or grotesque behavior and pretend to engage in violent acts that were often patterned after scenes from violent movies. We also discouraged our children from committing malicious “tricks” and from attending activities popularized during Halloween such as fortune telling, séances, or theatrical satanism.
Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of such activities when he told young men and women, “A warning: there is a dark side to spiritual things. In a moment of curiosity or reckless bravado some teenagers have been tempted to toy with Satan worship. Don’t you ever do that! Don’t associate with those who do! You have no idea of the danger! Leave it alone! And there are other foolish games and activities that are on that dark side. Leave them alone!” (Ensign, May 1989, 54).
President James E. Faust, while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, counseled Latter-day Saints to avoid becoming intrigued by Satan and his mysteries: “No good can come from getting close to evil. Like playing with fire, it is too easy to get burned: ‘The knowledge of sin tempteth to its commission.’ … The only safe course is to keep well distanced from him and any of his wicked activities or nefarious practices. The mischief of devil worship, sorcery, casting spells, witchcraft, voodooism, black magic, and all other forms of demonism should be avoided like the plague” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 33).
Thirty years ago the cute little witch costume our daughter wore was so far removed from reality that she would never have identified with anything truly evil. But things are different today. Friends of ours recently were shocked and saddened when they arrived at a garden wedding to find that it was an occult ceremony. Their beloved grandson’s experimentations with “the dark side to spiritual things” were no longer mere Halloween curiosities.
We have found that it is not necessary to avoid Halloween festivities altogether. With a little planning, Halloween can be a fun family time. But as we gauge our behavior by the light of scriptures and modern revelation, we can set a proper example for our children and others as we heed the Lord’s admonition to “chase darkness from among [us]” (D&C 50:25).