Since its inception in 1830, an important feature of Mormonism has been its belief in a literal Devil and in the ability of the Devil to possess human beings. Despite the pervasiveness of these beliefs and practices, Mormon possession and exorcism is a largely unstudied phenomenon. What follows is a careful study of four historical accounts of Mormon exorcism rituals dating from 1830, 1839, 1888, and 1977, and their narrative presentations. This article traces the development of Mormon possession/exorcism beliefs and practices and situates them within their larger historical contexts. The article also describes the relationship between Mormon dispossession rituals and the dispossession rituals of Protestant and Catholic groups in American history and presents through a consideration of the impact of broader American cultural trends on the theory and practice of Mormon exorcism from 1830 to 1977.
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