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Reality Checking the Entheogens Theory

Six years ago, four authors (Robert Beckstead, Bryce Blankenagel, Cody Noconi, and Michael Winkelman) hypothesized that the visionary experiences of Joseph Smith and early Latter-day Saints resulted from ingesting (secretly or surreptitiously) toad secretions, magic mushrooms, peyote cacti, or other so-called entheogenic chemicals. They published their theory in 2019 in the online Journal of Psychedelic Studies as “The Entheogenic Origins of Mormonism: A Working Hypothesis.”

After I noted weaknesses in the article, Interpreter, A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, kindly allowed me to respond with “Visions, Mushrooms, Fungi, Cacti, and Toads: Joseph Smith’s Reported Use of Entheogens” (August 2020). I felt then and continue to believe the hypothesis of entheogen use has fatal flaws.

Regardless, advocates of the theory continue to promote it and in support of the idea, a “documentary” movie premieres this weekend.

Rather than update my 2020 article to accommodate the ongoing dialogue, I have created a 39-minute video, “The Entheogens Theory: REALITY CHECK,” that investigates three primary problems:

  1. No chemical substance (entheogen) consistently produces only positive hallucinations that are similar to early Latter-day Saint visionary reports. All produce some bad trips, but most psychotropic effects are considered non-religious by drug users.
  2. Joseph Smith would have encountered essentially insurmountable obstacles trying to acquire and surreptitiously administer hallucinogens to skeptical Church members without detection. Early Latter-day Saints were not that gullible.
  3. No direct historical evidence exists describing Joseph Smith, at any time during his life, learning about, seeking, preparing, storing, supplying, ingesting, or possessing expertise with specific herbs or any substances that might be called entheogens.

Those interested in this new video may view it at

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