The Book of Mormon, A Biography


Lives of Great Religious Books, Princeton University Press
March 2012, 280 pages, $24.95, small size – 4 ½ W by 7 ½ H
ISBN: 9780691144801, includes 23 halftone B/W photos
ISBN for the eBook (same price): 9781400841615
Paul C. Gutjahr, Professor of English, Indiana University

Introduction

This is a book about a book. That’s not unique but the subject of the book is very unique. The Book of Mormon launched a religious movement. It is an influential book, a controversial book, a best-selling book (150 million copies) and a well-read book. It has a lot of history (182 years), has been translated into over 100 languages and has survived intense scrutiny and criticism.

The book has inspired countless pieces of art, poetry and music and has been the subject of numerous movies and plays, most recently the successful Broadway musical of the same name. It is a part of the daily spiritual life of millions of people, considered a sacred text, holy writ comparable to the Bible or the Koran, presented to the world as evidence of modern revelation.

Every day, new readers discover it for the first time, usually after being introduced to it by a friend or by Mormon missionaries. You can check it out at the library, read it online or download it for free to your Kindle, iPhone, iPad or Android. If you want to discuss it you can find several hundred websites, blog posts, forums and online articles filled with commentary and explanation.

A Biography

Until now there has never been a definitive biography of the Book of Mormon. Paul Gutjahr’s latest offering fills that need. Although not a Latter-day Saint, Paul is well-qualified to write this biography (see About the Author below). Those not of the faith will find it scholarly and well written. Most Latter-day Saints will find it informative, interesting and surprisingly refreshing.

This book biography is part of a series from Princeton University Press entitled, Lives of Great Religious Books. Other works in the series include The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The I Ching, The Book of Revelation, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Bhagavad Gita and many others. Just as we enjoy reading biographies of famous artists, these book biographies should prove interesting.

My review is from the viewpoint of an orthodox member of the LDS faith. I am not a scholar. I’m just a regular blogger so I’m not sure why Princeton asked me to review the book but I’m honored to do so. Besides, I’m always grateful to add good books like this to my library. My experience with reading Paul’s latest offering was enjoyable, enlightening and entertaining.

Physical Appearance

The first thing that stuck me was the photo of the angel Moroni on the cover and the size of the book. It is only a half-inch taller than today’s common blue-backed editions of the Book of Mormon. I took it to a church social the day I got it. A number of people commented on the beautiful cover and similar appearance to the Book of Mormon. I think that was intentional.

Because of the small size, this book can be read in just a few hours. The acid-free paper is much thicker than the Book of Mormon but has less than half the pages. The actual number of reading pages is 195 if you count from prologue to epilogue. The rest are appendices, notes and an index. The dust jacket is a unique, rubberized type of cover, one I have never seen on a book before.

There are almost two dozen photographs, maps and illustrations sprinkled generously throughout the book. I especially liked the chart of the various printed editions. Some of the maps were supplied courtesy of the church archives, including one that has an error, faithfully reproduced. The location of Voree, Wisconsin, once home of the Strangite movement is shown in Michigan.

Content of the Book

You won’t find a lot of information on the content of the Book or Mormon in Paul’s biography. There is little to no discussion of doctrine or theology. However, there is much of history to be found, some of which I didn’t know even though I have been a life-long member of the church. The history provides a rich background for the publishing timeline of the Book of Mormon.

For example, I was not aware previously that there were differences in the American and the English editions which caused some problems when they were brought back together for the current 1981 edition. The problem arose because the English editions were based on the 1837 edition. The American editions were based on the last one revised by Joseph Smith in 1840.

The theme of Paul’s biography is the story of how the Book of Mormon has “grown up” into what it is today. When I served my mission in 1976, we used the Book of Mormon heavily and as a central focus of our message. I later learned that it was not always so and Paul illustrated this for me with his chapter on Missionary Work. The Book of Mormon has now come full circle.

Survey of Criticism

Some members of the church don’t like to read scholarly reviews of our sacred text because of necessity they contain equal time for those who have written against the work. I think that it is wrong to not make an effort to understand what unbelievers have said. Gutjahr presents all the usual early critics, but does so in a neutral way that lets the reader reach their own conclusions.

This is what scholarly works do best and why regular members of the church should read them. It helps us keep our heads from being stuck in the sand. I found Paul’s work in this area well presented. Members should not be offended by what he has written. Paul has kept his personal opinions out of his writing. It is neutral, unbiased and straightforward. In short, it is truthful.

If you have not heard of or read about Philastus Hurlbut’s affidavits, Eber Dudley Howe’s 1834 book Mormonism Unveiled, the second Spaulding manuscript theory, or Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, then you should take the time to become familiar with them. Gutjahr presents them for us in a non-threatening manner that should allow LDS members to converse intelligently.

Modern Scholarly Approach

Millions of church members who have read the Book of Mormon rely on a divine confirmation of the veracity of the record. For most of them, this is enough. Yet many still seek for a more intellectual approach to the book that millions today accept as the word of God. If you want a good survey of recent and current scholarly analysis of the Book of Mormon, Paul offers it.

In fifteen pages of chapter six, Paul whets our appetite for some of the academic research being done on the Book of Mormon. If you are not already familiar with FARMS, now part of the BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute, you should be. We are also introduced to Terryl Givens (By the Hand of Mormon) and Grant Hardy’s work (Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide).

This is a chapter that I think could have been expanded a great deal. In fact, I would venture to say that someone should take this basic survey and expand it into a doctoral thesis. We need Mormon scholars who understand intellectual and theological history well enough to offer the academic world a defining work of rigorous scholarship deserving of the Book of Mormon.

Artistic Interpretations

The most delightful parts of the book for me were the chapters on Illustrating the Book and The Book on Stage and Screen. I knew about Arnold Friberg and Minerva Teichert because their works are hanging in temples and church buildings throughout the world. Although I had heard about George Reynolds The Story of The Book of Mormon, I had never seen a printed copy.

Thanks to the modern miracle of Internet technology, you can read it online, and view all the wonderful illustrations that accompanied it. The copy I linked to is autographed by Wilford Woodruff. Reynolds book was the first attempt to create an illustrated version of the Book of Mormon told in story fashion for young readers. His work has a romantic look and feel to it.

Until I read Gutjahr’s book, I had no idea about some of the early history of the Book of Mormon in the theater. For some reason, I assumed the recent Broadway musical was the first time the book had been used for a production. If you have not already, you must read about Corianton, the Story of Unholy Love. If not from Paul, then read about it here and here from Ardis Parshall.

Summary and Conclusion

The Book of Mormon has become a part of American culture, indeed worldwide culture. It has a life of its own, beyond the control of the Church that publishes it and expends so much time, effort and energy to get it into the hands of as many people as possible throughout the world. The “Mormon Moment” we are experiencing is made possible by this now venerable old book.

Paul Gutjahr has given us a fresh look at a book that so many millions revere as proof of modern revelation and of God’s love for his children in our day and age. The book offers a few unique new insights, much information not well-known, and a balanced approach to the current state of scholarly research on the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed reading and believe it worth your time.

The Book is respectful, thoughtful, and enjoyable to read. It is entertaining yet intellectual. It traces the history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in 1830 into what it is today. You may see the Book of Mormon in a new light after reading Paul’s biography. If nothing else, you will better appreciate the fact that the Book of Mormon is here to stay and is worth studying.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Joseph’s Gold Bible
Chapter 2 – Holy Writ or Humbug?
Chapter 3 – Multiplying Prophets
Chapter 4 – Great Basin Saints and the Book
Chapter 5 – Missionary Work and the Book
Chapter 6 – Scholars and the Book
Chapter 7 – Illustrating the Book
Chapter 8 – The Book on Stage and Screen
Appendix 1 – Notable Book of Mormon Editions in English
Appendix 2 – Book of Mormon Translations

About the Author

Dr. Gutjahr received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1996. His specialized field of research is the history of publishing and literacy in the United States or as he calls it, “History of the Book Studies” in North America. He has written extensively on the production of the English Bible in North America. He lends that analytical expertise to The Book of Mormon, A Biography.

Paul’s research interests are American religious and intellectual thought, religious publishing and American literature and culture 1640-1860. I think I would have enjoyed taking some classes from Dr. Gutjahr. One graduate course is entitled, “The Most Turbulent Decade: America in the 1840s.” His biography of Charles Hodge was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Other Reviews

Princeton University Press      Indiana University
Amazon           Google Books             Goodreads
Pacific Standard, Wade Clark Roof   Booklist
Library Journal (Scroll down – third review)
Meridian Magazine, Grant Hardy       Dialogue, Blair Hodges
(Also found on By Common Consent)
Deseret News, Ryan Morgenegg        Standard Examiner, Doug Gibson
The Juvenile Instructor – a fascinating Q&A with Paul
Washington Post, Justin Moyer – short but highly quoted
(Breitbart and Ex-Mo Forums – Reviews of the WaPo review)
Mormon Letters Forum, Matthew R. Lee
Modern Mormon Men, Scott Hales
National Post, Canada – Excerpt, not a review (pages 61-70)

The Devil and His Angels


This is part two. You may want to read “Dealing With Evil and Unclean Spirits” first.

In order to be a son of perdition, you must have been born. In other words, you must have been mortal. Perdition, a name which means lost, is Satan, Lucifer or the Devil. However, those who followed him in the spirit world, and thus were cast out with him to this earth, are not sons of perdition, as we define it in the church.

Yes, Bruce R McConkie taught that to be a follower of Satan in the pre-earth life was to be a son of perdition. I admit that following Lucifer in rebellion can be a form of son-ship. Satan for them became their father. They would not have God to be their father. However, this definition of the phrase is not what Joseph taught.

Lucifer became the devil because he committed the unpardonable sin. That sin is to deny the Holy Ghost, meaning that you come out in open rebellion against God and seek to destroy him and his work, after he has revealed himself and His Son to you. Lucifer was in a position of great authority and knowledge before he rebelled.

Son of Perdition Defined

Joseph said, “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition.” In order to become a son of perdition, a man “must have the heavens opened onto him, and know God, and then sin against Him.” He said there are some souls who simply cannot be saved.

There are relatively few who will become sons of perdition. They must, in this life, have obtained a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by open revelation from God. Those who deny the Holy Ghost will not be saved because they will not repent. They make open war against God.

“He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it.” God will not force anyone to be saved if they do not desire it. Sons of Perdition inherit a kingdom without glory.

Two Questions to Ponder

Yes, I know what is written in section 76. Those spirits that were cast out with Lucifer will not be redeemed from death because they never lived or died. In other words, they will never be resurrected or have a physical body, mortal or immortal. They are in hell now but will they or can they eventually be saved from hell?

The question before us then is twofold: Can evil spirits repent and what is their ultimate destiny? I think we can safely answer the second part that if they do not repent then they are doomed to dwell with Satan in some kingdom without glory forever. In other words, they chose on their own to be damned and cursed forever.

But is being damned and cursed the same as being in hell? To be damned is to be stopped in one’s progression. To be cursed by God is to be declared to be a thing of no worth, not able to be saved. Joseph taught that we are our own tormentors. If we decide that we cannot or will not repent, then there is no way we can be saved.

Evil Spirits Tortured Christ

In other words, can an evil spirit exercise faith in Jesus Christ? I know that they became evil spirits precisely because they chose not to believe that Jesus Christ could successfully perform his mission. Perhaps they also did not believe that we mortal men could perform our mission – to believe, repent and obey in faith.

It must be obvious to them that Jesus did complete his mortal mission with perfect success – the performance of the atonement and the resurrection. They know because they were there that night he suffered in the garden. In fact, they caused a large part of it. God allowed them to torment him as if he were guilty.

Surely they must know by now that many mortal men have successfully completed their missions and have been resurrected. Just as there are various levels of faith and valiancy among men here there must be varying levels of power among the spirits that followed Satan. Their power comes from knowledge and experience.

Sons of Perdition Not Saved

But having the power of knowledge and experience is not the same as having power that comes from light and intelligence. They do not have intelligence because they do not have light. The glory of God is intelligence or in other words, light and truth. Their evil energy is negative, dark and lacking in light or truth.

We are beings of energy. Our objective here on earth is to increase our light. The evil spirits are also beings of energy but they are beings of darkness – dark energy. Is it possible for these dark entities to turn to the light, to believe and exercise faith in Jesus Christ and choose to leave Satan’s employ? Again, can evil spirits repent?

Section 76:42-43 teaches that through Christ, “all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.” But again, do evil spirits qualify as sons of perdition?

Bound by Chains of Hell

Jude 1:6 declares that the angels that kept not their first estate have been reserved in everlasting chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. What happens after that great day? We know that they will not inherit a kingdom of glory. Is it possible some can escape the power of Satan and repent before that dreadful day?

If they repent, what is their eternal destiny? If it is possible for them to exercise faith and repent or change, is there any mercy for them? Is it possible for them to escape or are they precluded from doing so because they are bound to Satan by the chains of hell? Can they break the chains of hell and if so, how can they do that?

In 2 Peter 2:4 we read, “For … God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” We know the purpose or function of these evil spirits. They are to tempt and to deceive mortal man. Do they thus fulfill one of the purposes of God?

Forfeited Their Agency

In D&C 29:36-37 we find, “… the devil … rebelled against me … and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels.” Do they still have their agency or has that been eternally lost? Can they turn from their rebellion?

Now I don’t believe for one moment that Satan will repent. He’s having too much fun right now. It is the great day of his power. Of course, he only has that power because the Lord allows it and because weak mortal man refuses to believe, repent and obey Jesus Christ. But I ask again, do the evil spirits still have their agency?

Was their only punishment the loss of the opportunity to receive a mortal body and the curse of being bound to the devil by the chains of hell? We are taught that we can cast off the chains of hell that bind us through our faith in Jesus Christ and by choosing to do good works instead of evil. Will evil spirits have that opportunity?

Priesthood and Sons of Perdition

One more thought that causes me to question the idea that evil spirits who followed Satan can be classified as sons of perdition. President Joseph Fielding Smith once taught in General Conference that there will be no sons of perdition who do not hold the priesthood. Do those who followed Satan hold the priesthood? I think not.

Joseph taught that once we have passed to the spirit world, there is no possibility to become a son of perdition. “No man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the mortal body … he must do it in this world.” To me, that excludes spirits who chose to follow Satan in the pre-earth life. How much did they know?

Doug Mendenhall shares on page 190 of his book, Conquering Spiritual Evil, the story of a woman who believed she could invite evil spirits to come to her so she could teach them to repent. They told her to kill herself. She is now in a mental hospital. Only a fool would invite evil spirits to come and teach them to repent.

Devils Have No Desire to Repent

However, is it possible that if they come uninvited, and we are aware of their presence that we could take advantage of the opportunity to declare deliverance through faith in Jesus Christ? Can we not teach them that they do not have to follow Satan anymore? Can they not go to the light and start to do some good?

Doug seems to think not. He agrees that disembodied or earthbound spirits can repent and move on but he does not support the idea of sending devils and demons to the light. I’m not sure I agree with his definition of demons but I yield to his more extensive experience with the subject. To me demons are female devils.

I like his argument. He writes on page 192, “Do we really believe that the devils are going to say, ‘Oh, yes, we were deceived by Lucifer. I think I’ll change now. You have convinced me after talking to me for five minutes. I know I have rejected the greatest beings in the universe, rejected their light, and fought against them for eons, but because of your argument, I’m going to change instantly.”

They Won’t Go To The Light

Doug then asked a friend and quoted his answer at length. I think I know his friend who I have written about extensively on my blog. You can read it on pages 193 to 195 of Doug’s book. If I were the author of the unclean spirits blog I would read those pages carefully and then weigh it against whatever personal evidence he has.

I am being careful on purpose. I don’t want to offend the author of that blog who has obviously spent many years researching the subject and hints at many years of personal experience in helping “millions” of evil spirits repent. I know there are many energy workers who teach we can send devils and demons to the light.

I simply ask you to be careful. This is an area where you want and need to be right. We can be deceived in this area and I can see why Satan would want us to believe that we can help evil spirits repent. Perhaps one might feel that the repentant spirit would then be available to help with future work in this area. Think carefully.

Summary and Conclusion

So who is right about the idea that evil spirits can repent? Does the author of the unclean spirits blog know what he is talking about? If you want a copy of the opposing argument from Doug’s book, email me and I will ask Doug if I can share it. If it comes from who I think it does, then I have made up my mind on the issue.

Do not confuse devils with unclean spirits. They are two different kinds of entities. Unclean spirits can repent. That’s the whole purpose of the spirit world – to give them time to reflect upon this life and what they have learned. As a church, we perform saving ordinances for them. They are not devils, just temporarily lost.

Devils and Demons cannot repent. They don’t want to. They tortured the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. They are liars from the beginning. Their sole desire is to deceive us and to cause us to suffer. They remain unconvinced that the Lord’s pronouncements of their fate will come to pass. They still believe they can win.

Dealing with Evil and Unclean Spirits


I have written about this subject numerous times. It might be helpful to browse through a few of those essays to get some background. In the earlier posts you’ll find what I’ve been taught on the subject, what I’ve experienced and what I now believe. With this essay I reach far back into my youth in an attempt to provide evidence of things not seen but which are true.

8 Dec 2007 – The Influence of the Adversary Today
7 May 2008 – Pondering About the Spirit World
22 May 2008 – The Reality of Satan and Evil Spirits
5 June 2008 – Another Visit to the Spirit World
21 June 2008 – The Near-Death Experience of an Apostle
21 June 2008 – Brigham Young Teaches About Evil Spirits
6 Oct 2008 – Born That Way – Not a Choice
18 Oct 2008 – Speak of the Devil
20 May 2012 – Addictions and Disembodied Spirits
7 July 2012 – Deceived by an Angel of Light

In general, I think we as a people are naïve and uninformed about the reality of evil spirits. We either tend to deny their existence altogether or refuse to deal with the possibility that they could be real. I have seen the full range of responses to the idea that evil spirits could be influencing us. For most Latter-day Saints, it is still an uncomfortable subject, and one they would rather ignore.

I continue to write about this subject because of an encounter with evil spirits early in my life that affected me profoundly. In that experience I discovered what Joseph Smith learned when he went to the sacred grove to pray. In our modern sanitized retelling of the story we tend to either skip over or minimize the importance of that part. Here are the pertinent quotes from his story:

Joseph Smith Encounters the Devil

“I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me … I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being…”

From the 1835 account we gain some additional detail, “I heard a noise behind me like someone walking towards me: I strove again to pray, but could not; the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer; I sprang upon my feet and looked round, but saw no person, or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking.” I believe Joseph had an encounter directly with the devil.

My Encounter with Evil Spirits

Joseph was fourteen when he first opened his soul to the spirit would. When I was sixteen I found myself in a similar situation. I was alone and attempting to part the veil. In my case, fear seized my heart. I began to feel an extreme case of paranoia. Sounds became distant and unreal to me. I felt as though my spirit was about to leave my body. I was fearful I was about to die.

I heard voices all around me. They laughed and in their laughter I sensed some anticipated evil pleasure. I knew if something didn’t happen I would soon be under their power. My body was no longer functioning as it should. Time stopped. I was in between heartbeats, no longer aware of my own body. I felt as if my spirit was leaving my body. This was wrong and I knew it.

Similar to Joseph’s story, just as I felt I was about to die, I sensed the presence of a being of light, standing over me and behind me. I did not see the angel, but could tell he had a drawn sword in his hand and was there to protect me. I felt an incredible sense of peace and relief. The fear left me. The chattering of the voices disappeared. I came to myself and arose to my feet.

A Transfer of Knowledge

I looked behind me but there was nobody there. I was shaken and could not understand why I had felt such hatred toward me from the voices. Why did they seek to destroy me? What had I done to deserve such animosity? I was nobody – only sixteen years old. There was nothing special about me. Yet the feelings of hatred toward me were real, palpable and powerful.

In my case, I am convinced these feelings did not come directly from the devil but from evil spirits sent to destroy me. I felt their fear. For a moment I knew what they knew about eternity. They had chosen to follow the devil and were filled with anger and jealousy that I had a body while they didn’t. Their weapon was fear. It was intensified by their numbers in the hundreds.

Why am I sharing this? It is not an uplifting story, but it is factual. It happened to me at a young age and convinced me that the spirit world is real. I knew then and still know today that there are unseen beings all around us. They do not want us to succeed in our mission of developing faith and proving ourselves worthy. They look for opportunities to prevent us from parting the veil.

Learning from Opposition

I decided right then and there, based on my personal knowledge and experience with the evil spirits that what I had been taught about God, Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation was real. I am apparently one of those people who learn from opposites. I knew that evil spirits existed. Therefore I knew that angels and beings of light also existed. They can be sent to protect us.

In my encounter with these unseen beings, I experienced a transfer of knowledge to my soul that I cannot explain. As I wrote above, “For a moment I knew what they knew about eternity.” I felt what they felt. Their feelings of fear, resentment, anger, jealousy and hatred all flooded into my heart and mind. I knew they were on a mission to destroy me and I knew how many there were.

From that day I have had an intense interest in learning all I could about the spirit world and how it operates. I have studied hundreds of near-death experiences, read all I could find from the early brethren about their encounters with evil spirits, including the particularly insightful account from Orson Hyde and what Jedediah Grant revealed to Brigham and Heber just before he died.

Discerning of Spirits

I was especially fascinated when I learned of individuals who, in the course of counseling others, have had encounters with those who were overcome with disembodied spirits. I have come to understand the difference between evil spirits and unclean or foul spirits, the first never having had a mortal body, the second being those who have refused to go to the light upon their death.

I have prayed for and believe I have received the gift of discerning of spirits. I am aware when they are nearby. I am sensitive to how they manifest themselves through mortals who are not otherwise aware of their presence. Finally, I have come to understand that unclean spirits can repent in the spirit world. They can decide to believe in Christ and go to the light of his love.

After many years of study, fasting and prayer my confidence in one of Joseph’s revelatory declarations about the spirit world has greatly increased. He taught that “all beings who have bodies have power over those who have not” (TPJS p 181 & 190). In spite of what the world teaches about devils and demons, there is no need to be fearful over what they can do to us.

Seeking Visions of Eternity

We can seek to part the veil with trust in the Lord that he will protect us while we enter into the spirit world to be taught the things of the eternities. It is fear that keeps us from parting the veil. We are taught that we must continue to grow beyond our initial spiritual witness of the truth. Yet at the same time we are dissuaded from doing so by well-meaning leaders within our own faith.

I know their concern is based on love. They do not want to see us deceived. How many times have you heard that someone has seen visions and now declares himself to be a prophet? I have read these accounts many times throughout my life. Yet Joseph encouraged us over and over to seek to obtain visions of heaven. We are to part the veil and seek to see the face of the Lord.

We believe in the gift of visions (Seventh Article of Faith), yet how many of us seek to develop this gift? If visions of heavenly scenes are manifest among us then we are the people of God. If we are not a visionary people then our faith is inadequate and we are condemned. Moroni taught that if the ministering of angels has ceased then it is because of unbelief and all is in vain.

Power Over The Spirits

I have written this essay in an attempt to encourage us to be more diligent in our efforts to part the veil and receive the visions of eternity. In my opinion, the biggest impediment to doing so is fear. That fear is placed there by the adversary and is something we need to overcome. The fear is subtle but is prevalent throughout the church, including among those who teach and lead us.

The Lord desires to give us further light and knowledge. That phrase has significance. He is reaching out to us and encouraging us to build our faith in Him, to trust Him and to ask in prayer to have the heavens opened. There are things we need to know that can be obtained in no other way than by having them revealed to us directly by the Lord. He will help us build that faith.

A man would be a fool to ask to have evil spirits sent to him. Yet we must part the veil to open the heavens. In the process of doing so we will encounter spirit beings that are not of God. We need not fear what they say or try to cause us to feel. We have power over them because of our bodies. We can discern between true messengers and those who the devil sends to deceive us.

Unclean Spirits Can Repent

If they are unclean spirits, we can invite them to repent and to turn onto Christ. We erroneously think they are condemned just because they are in hell. These were once our brothers and sisters here in mortality. Christ suffered and died for them. They can come out of hell. It is not meant to be a place that exists for all time, but a place to learn a lesson and then to be freed through faith.

Yes, I know the scriptures teach there is a place reserved for the devil and his angels. From what I can tell it will continue to exist after those destined for the telestial kingdom have come out of their hell through the resurrection and the final judgment. But at some time, those who were once mortal and desire to come out of hell will be allowed to do so after they repent and follow Christ.

I do not know the final destiny of the devil and his angels, those who choose not to repent. The Lord has not revealed it to me. I also do not know if it is possible for those who chose to follow Satan to ever repent. There are many in the church who teach their eternal fate was sealed when they were cast out to this earth. I don’t know how they support that in light of D&C 76:45-48.

Can Evil Spirits Repent?

There are some who teach that evil spirits who have never had a body can repent. You can read the beliefs of one such individual on his unclean spirits blog. At first I assumed this anonymous blog was written by someone I knew who was involved in energy healing stress management. I have since opened a dialog with him and was surprised to discover that I have never met him.

This is a controversial area, one bound to elicit much contention and efforts to dissuade him from his teachings. I can understand why he has kept his blog anonymous. I have also been reading the latest book from Doug Mendenhall, Conquering Spiritual Evil. If you’ll recall, Doug is the father of Denise Mendenhall, who lost her veil at age ten and can now see into the spirit world.

The book is fascinating and highly detailed about how Doug deals with the attacks of the devils that surround us all. I am surprised it is not available on Amazon or reviewed on Goodreads. As far as I can tell, it is only available from Confetti Books. In my opinion, it takes up where “Overcoming Satan in the Latter Days” (Timothy Wood, Gazelem Publication, 1987) left off.

Go to Part Two for Conclusion

This essay is getting long. I have worked on it for a week as I have studied the gospel. There is already a part two, which I will publish immediately. In the second essay, “The Devil and His Angels,” I deal more directly with the claims found on the Unclean Spirits blog that evil spirits can repent. I think you can tell I have tried hard to support that conclusion but no longer can.

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