“What do you think about the use of hypnotism?” New Era, Apr. 1974, 10–11
Answer/Brother Homer Ellsworth
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.