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.