Try the Spirits





As Joseph pointed out elsewhere…

Every one of these [religionists] professes to be competent to try his neighbor’s spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it. Could any one tell the length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? Test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly not.

That provides context in which to understand this.

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.

There is dispute over the provenance of this saying, as we do not know where Willard Richards got it, since he was on a mission in Europe, I believe, when Joseph supposedly gave it, and there is no other known contemporary record, but the principle is sound. By this rule, or criterion, we may identify lightbringers; and we need not read “Church” too narrowly (ie, it could be taken as the LDS Church, or as “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto [Christ],” or even congregations generally; you as the reader get to decide how to take it).

And it applies to whom it applies.

As does this.

3 Nephi 11:28-30
And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Also, and anyone may take this for whatever they think it’s worth, Joseph’s key is a specific application of the principle spoken by the Savior, which is not ambiguous.

3 Nephi 11:28-30
And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

Therefore whosoever disputes, argues, contests, etc., is not serving the Lord, who has commanded his servants that they shall not dispute among themselves, neither shall there be disputations among them concerning the points of his doctrine.

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Whoever has the spirit of contention – disputation, argument, contests, ME RIGHT & YOU WRONG etc. – is not of God but is of the devil. This is discerned by, well, disputation, arguments, contests, “you’re wrong, and I’m right,” etc. By their fruits are they known.

30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Hence, this.

JST Luke 6:41-45
41 And why beholdest thou the mote which is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam which is in thine own eye?

42 Again, how canst thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam which is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote which is in thy brother’s eye.

43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit;

44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.

45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good. And an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

And this.

3 Nephi 14:1-5
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

If anyone has a sincere question as to whether any of the holy prophets, or the Holy Messiah, fall afoul of this principle, I invite you to do your own homework and establish that these men fulfilled each condition of this principle so that the conclusion, if the principle is true, must be that any one of these, or all of these, were apostate. If you can do so, then you will have established the principle is false.

It has been suggested that Joseph, or whoever authored the statement, is guilty of hypocrisy for condemning those who condemn others. Yet the principle only says “That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” It surely is not hypocrisy to point out that there is a man who has excised himself from the faith community so as to be able to condemn the faith community – after all, the man who has done so has told you so by condemning it while proclaiming his righteousness as pertaining to whatever he is accusing the community of.

And I call these dissenters “lightbringers,” since they are but following the example of the Adversary.

George Laub Journal

April the 6th, 1843 124 By Joseph Smith our Prophet

Now concerning Spirits First of all, or in the beginning, the great Eloheam in the Hebrew meaning the god of all Gods called a grand council &[c] and the[y] counseled to form this planet on which we are now or do dwell at present. The[y] spoke and earth from cayos [chaos] sprang by their workmanship Cayos [Chaos] being there matered mater element The[y] saw till time should be no more and the[y] spoke concerning the redemption of this world and formed limited sircumstances concerning the redemption Jesus Christ being the greater light or of more intelligence for he loved rituousness and hated iniquity he being the Elder Brother Presented himself for to come and redeem this world as it was his right by inheritance he stated he could save all those who did not sin against the holy ghost & the[y] would obey the code of laws that was given But their sircumstances ware that all who would sin against the Holy ghost should have no forgiveness neither in this world nor in the world to come, for they had strove aganst light and knowledg after the[y] had tasted of the good things of the world to come the[y] should not have any pardon in the world to come because the[y] had a knowledg of the world to come and ware not willing to abide the law therefore the[y] can have no forgiveness there but must be most miserable of all and never can be renewed again referred to 6 chapter of Hebrews

But Satan or Lucifer being the next heir and had alloted to him great power and authority even prince of power of the eir He spake emediatey and boasted of himself saying send me I can save all [he] even those who sined against the holy ghost and he accused his brethren and was herld [hurled] from the council for striving to breake the law emediatly and there was a warfare with Satan and the gods and the[y] hurld Satan out of his place and all them that would not keep the law of the councill But he himself being one of the council would not keep his or their first estate for he was one of the Sons of perdition and concequently all the Sons of perdition become devils &[c].

That is the model or archetype of the apostates, the dissenters, the lightbringers.

Incidentally, I see none of the spirit of the lightbringer from some of the righteous who have been cast out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some excommunications are unjust, and this has been acknowledged from the beginning of the Church.




See The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, volume 24, page 100 (link above)

Take who you will to be your teacher and your minister; if my counsel were sought, it would be this.

Mosiah 23:14
14 And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.

And among those commandments is to not contend. By their fruits shall ye know them.

2 Nephi 26:32
32 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.

A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. – Joseph Smith

The Power of the Sacrament

I wrote an essay several years ago on my old blog that still gets a lot of hits even though I retired that blog and transferred everything over here. I’m glad I kept the old blog up because occasionally I get a comment there that inspires me to write something profound. Well, I think it’s at least inspired and uplifting. I felt impressed to share it here. It starts with the comment from Samantha:


I recently started meeting with my Bishop to repent for other sins that I had committed. I was almost ready to get my Temple Recommend when Satan came at me with full-force. I began to engage in watching pornography and masturbation.

My Bishop is a wonderful man, but I am far too scared to tell him of the addiction that I am faced with. It is not a daily habit, but it is still a problem. I have prayed, and I have come to realize I cannot overcome this on my own.

I feel so awful and depressed after engaging in these behaviors. I want to be clean; I want to go to the temple.

Is there anything else that I can do that would be sufficient for the repentance process? I don’t want to tell my bishop, at all. I do want to overcome this addiction immediately though. Or at least be able to refrain from such atrocities.

Please help.

And my response:

Hi Samantha,

Much love your way. Thanks for reading and adding your comment. I commend you for your desire to increase your self-mastery. That’s a big deal. Some people are not bothered by viewing porn or masturbating. “It’s normal,” they say. In fact, we’re looked upon as being weird because we want to adhere to a higher moral standard commanded by the Lord and his servants.

I recommend visiting the sites I linked to at the end of the original essay. There is a lot of good advice to be found in those pages. Most of the comments I have added here over the years are intended to give hope and encouragement. I want to continue that in responding to your plea for help. I think I wrote this previously but I’ll share it again. This trial can bring you to the Lord.

I feel impressed to share something that may or may not be applicable to you. Perhaps it will be helpful to future readers. It has to do with responsibility and accountability. Going to the temple is a big deal. The temple is a place of revelation. When I go there I always come away knowing more about myself, what I really want out of life and what I want to do with my free time.

I’ll bet like most people who have written me about this problem, you’re fine as long as you keep yourself busy. If you’ve got a regular schedule of work or school or both, you do well in that structure. The difficulty usually comes when there are no pressing demands on your time and nobody waiting for you to do something for them – a teacher, a co-worker or a family member.

That’s usually when your thoughts turn to yourself and what you want. Those are the defining moments of life. Satan knows that, which is why temptation seems to strike hardest when you are pondering something like going to the temple. We grow and advance in our lives when we go to the temple. We come closer to fulfilling our purpose in life as we attend the temple regularly.

The best advice I can offer is to partake of the sacrament and ponder the promises found in the sacramental prayers. The key phrases are “always remember him” and “have his spirit to be with them.” I know you’ve probably heard this in every public prayer and perhaps you offer it your own private prayers – to have his spirit. But do we focus as much on “always remember him?”

There’s something special and wonderful in the Sacrament that even after more than fifty years I still don’t fully understand. No, it’s not magic. We don’t believe in that. But it is powerful and it is real. I feel hopeful after partaking of the sacrament with real intent. I want it to work in my life and because I want that, believe that it can, it does. My power is strengthened by the Sacrament.

At the end of every Sabbath day I feel empowered, partly through offering service but mostly because I have partaken of the sacrament and have pondered how I can better remember the Savior during the week. I think ahead to the moments when I know I will have down time and think what I can do to show the Lord that I do remember him and want his spirit to be with me.

For me, there is something of a miracle that takes place in those quiet moments. Because I have asked, the Lord reveals to me what I will be doing during those quiet moments during the week. I can see myself working on some writing project or some other activity that will be helpful to me and to others. No, it’s not guaranteed that I will do exactly that, but it’s clear that it can be so.

My desire to do good things and be good is strengthened. I am in a partnership with the Lord to make something special out of my life. It is in the quiet moments that my life really develops. But it doesn’t work unless I make the effort to remember the Lord. Every time I do, he gives me special sacred feelings that encourage me and help me feel like I can do all I’m asked to do.

I hope this helps. There is no easy answer. It’s not like you can turn off a switch. Sorry. You’ve got hormones and that’s a good thing. Without them you’ve have no drive or ambition in life. Well, I’m speaking from a man’s point of view. For a woman I suppose that without hormones you would have no desire to nurture and strengthen relationships. I thank God for the sex drive.

Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I have a theory about why we feel depressed or hopeless when participating in pornography or masturbation. I’ve shared it elsewhere. It has to do with the influence of unclean spirits – those who have no hope or light of Christ in their lives. It’s just a natural result of allowing them to use you, even for just a moment. You feel what they feel.

Of course if you don’t believe in the existence of evil or unclean spirits you’re going to think this is crazy. That’s OK. As I wrote at the beginning of my essay, I’m not writing this to those who are unbelievers. My experience in life has settled the question for me. They are real and I know of their existence through experiences too sacred to share. But let’s not dwell on that aspect.

Focus on the Savior. Focus on building hope. Believe that you can eventually master yourself. Be happy that you even want to. God bless you in your efforts. Nobody can do this for you. In the temple we learn all ordinances are personal, performed one at a time for each individual. No answer fits everyone, but I have found this plan has met with success time after time in others.

Good luck and God bless. You can do it.

Miracles and Angels

A car lurched from the Oklahoma country road into the highway. The driver didn’t stop at the stop sign. Instead, he stalled on the road a hundred yards in front of us.

“Why doesn’t he get out of the way?” I asked from the middle of the front seat.

Dad didn’t respond. He locked up the brakes and laid on the horn. Our late 1960’s American Rambler slid down the hill on screeching tires.

Mother stopped talking mid-sentence in the back seat. She had just changed places with my sister and me a few miles back to talk with grandmother.

I was in the middle of the front seat. My sister was to my right. Seatbelts? I can’t remember. Shoulder belts became law in 1968. I can tell you I wasn’t wearing one.

Our California car probably crested the hill before the intersection doing 65 mph. Best guess from the photos looks like we hit the other car going 35 or 40. The impact pushed him into the ditch twenty to thirty feet past the crossing. Our car ended up on top of the stop sign.

I remember dad throwing his right arm out in an effort to protect me. I don’t remember the impact. Gingerly, I pulled my broken left arm out of the circular air conditioning vent. My sister was already out the right door. She held her left wrist. I followed quick as I could.

Dad came over to see if we were alright. The look in his and my sister’s face told me I wasn’t. I glanced down to see what they were looking at. The blood dripped profusely from the cut over my eye. It was hard to see.

“I’m OK, I’m OK,” I tried to assure them. I hopped about in an effort to deny the pain. The hopping didn’t help. The abnormal angle of my left arm frightened me.

“Son, didn’t you see that stop sign?” my dad asked the driver of the other car. Dad’s calmness amazed me. He then knelt next to the car in an effort to comfort my mother.

A low moan came from the back seat. Mother didn’t get out. She couldn’t. X-rays later revealed a broken pelvis and ruptured spleen. She had been sitting sideways when we hit.

Two ambulances took us to the hospital. Grandmother went with mother in the first. My sister and I went in the second. In spite of broken ribs, dad stayed behind to talk to the trooper.

I wasn’t prepared for surgery. I broke my finger in a skateboarding accident years earlier. The doctor reset the bone then and put a splint on it. My arm was in much worse shape.

“You sure swore a blue streak when you came out of the anesthesia,” the orderly said as he wheeled me to my room. Embarrassed, I made a mental note to clean up my language.

“Are you sure?” the nurse asked again on the third day. She asked the same thing every day. I had no idea what a bowel movement was. Why did she keep asking me that? My sister finally explained what she meant. I was glad we didn’t stay more than a week in the hospital.

The trip home to California was my first airline flight. I don’t remember if mother came with us then or travelled later. I know she had a difficult recovery. She lay on the couch at home for several weeks. As far as I know she started teaching school on time again in September.

It’s funny how everyone’s injuries were on the left side. Dad’s broken left ribs; my sister’s broken left wrist and my broken left arm. To this day I have the scars from the pins in my elbow. Occasionally my arm locks up, a reminder of that painful day.

In a quiet reflective moment with my dad years later, I asked him about the accident. He expressed the concern he felt for us at the time and then shared something sacred.

“You know your mother was hurt pretty bad,” he said.

“We were all messed up. She had surgery like me, didn’t she?”

“She did. I sat by her side all that night and every night for a week.” He struggled to go on. I could tell it was difficult for him to talk about this.

“I didn’t think she was going to make it. I can tell you I never prayed so hard in my life.” He was crying. Dad never cried. “It was a miracle we weren’t hurt worse.”

“I know. I still can’t remember the impact. It’s like I blanked out,” I said.

“We were protected by an angel, especially you.” Dad never talked about angels. I didn’t even know he believed in them. “It was a miracle.”

“What do you mean?”

“That night your mother lay close to death, I pled with the Lord to preserve her life. I didn’t think I could go on without her.” This was my invincible, invulnerable dad.

“I must have dozed off. When I woke, someone was sitting on the other side of the bed, looking at your mother.” Dad was serious in a way I had never seen before.

“Was it a doctor?”

“No. He had on a white robe that sort of glowed. His face shone. He looked up, smiled at me and then disappeared. I knew everything was going to be alright.”

“Who do you think it was?”

He looked at me long and hard before responding.

“I think it was the same person that kept you from going through the windshield of that car. Maybe it was your brother who died just after he was born.”

Another visit to the spirit world

I am fascinated with the spirit world. I never tire of learning more about it. Although I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life, I have barely scratched the surface of understanding what the Lord has revealed on this subject already. In reading the Pearl of Great Price this morning, the subject of the spirit world came up again.

I have pondered on the idea of where the dead go many, many times over the years. It might be helpful to review what it is that Mormons believe about life after death. First, we believe that the spirit world is all around us, right here on the earth. Although God, our Heavenly Father is not limited to this earth, the spirits of those who have died remain here and are around us.

For some who may have never pondered this before, it can be a little disconcerting and causes them to feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is true and has been taught by almost every prophet of the restoration since Joseph Smith first revealed it. Summarizing Alma 40:11-14 in the Book of Mormon, we learn that the land of the dead is divided up into paradise and hell.

The spirit world defined

Paradise is the abode of the righteous and hell is the dwelling place of the wicked. I know, this is basic stuff but it is fundamental to understand. In the days before the death of Christ these two worlds were separated by a great gulf. Those in paradise did not mingle with those suffering in hell. By the way, these two parts of the spirit world are only temporary until the resurrection.

When the Savior visited the spirit world in between his death and resurrection he bridged the gap between the two worlds. Those who were righteous were given assignments to visit those who were wicked with the express purpose of teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, they were given the opportunity to learn to exercise faith and to prove themselves obedient.

Joseph Smith taught, “Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits. The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.” He also said that the spirits of the just are not far from us. When we leave this world, we go out with the same spirit that we have here. We will have the same desires and beliefs when we get there.

The righteous dead can help us

As we know everyone will die some day, it seems to me that understanding this would be a topic of intense interest for all who desire to know what lies ahead and where we are going. We do not have to wait until we get there to discover what it is really like. There is so much revealed on the subject that we can be prepared for our entry there with anticipation and without surprise.

The great work of the spirit world is the preaching of the gospel to those who are imprisoned by sin and false traditions. The faithful elders who depart this life continue their labors of salvation for those who are in the spirit world. They share the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance of sins and false beliefs and the ordinance of vicarious baptism for the remission of those sins.

Loved ones who reside on the other side of the veil are very interested in helping us accomplish righteous purposes in this life. On occasion, they are allowed to influence us and inspire us in ways that we do not fully understand. We speak of the whisperings of the spirit. I wonder if sometimes those whisperings aren’t feelings that we receive from those who want to help us.

The influence of wicked spirits

In like manner, those who left this world with evil intent and desires of wickedness may also have more influence on those of like mind and heart still in this world than we sometimes think. I do not believe that the wicked who die just curl up in a corner and are out of the picture until the time comes that they are called forth by the Lord to the resurrection and final judgment.

I am convinced that some of the ideas for wicked creations and evil things that come forth from the mind and heart of man are really placed there by those who yearn to have a body again. I also have seen, as you probably have, how men and women can be influenced by evil spirits right in the middle of a conversation. It all depends on what spirit to which they are inclined to listen.

Now, not all of these kinds of thoughts come from evil spirits. Many come right from the mind of man. But don’t discount the idea that evil spirits can affect man. It’s not just an old sectarian notion. Perhaps an example from church history will illustrate that there are those on the other side of the veil who do not like what the Lord’s servants are doing here upon the earth.

Heber C. Kimball – vision of the devils

“…a vision was opened to our minds, and we could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half. . . . We were not looking towards the window, but towards the wall. Space appeared before us, and we saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us.

“They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form of feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain.

“I perspired exceedingly, my clothes becoming as wet as if I had been taken out of the river. I felt excessive pain, and was in the greatest distress for some time. I cannot even look back on the scene without feelings of horror; yet by it I learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God, and got some understanding of the invisible world.

“We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them and blessed us exceedingly that day.” [Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), p. 143–145] Quoted by S. Olani Durrant in Cliff Walking, BYU Speeches 1984.

Avoid things that invite the evil spirits

It never ceases to amaze me how many are naïve when it comes to understanding these things. They either do not believe it, deny it or ridicule it. “Devils? Hah! Evil Spirits? No such thing!” A full forty percent of the members of the church do not believe in the devil or evil spirits. Apparently they do not really believe the doctrine that we teach.

There are some activities we should avoid because they invite the devils into our lives. It has been my experience that the adversary is being especially effective in reaching the young men through video games that are focused on murder, evil and the occult. I hope that mothers of our boys will be careful about what games they buy for our young men.

I have also seen firsthand evidence of how the pursuit of “recreational” drug use can and does bring the influence of devils into the lives of those we love. A sweet and innocent young man can turn into a vicious, mean and selfish animal by participating in the drug culture and partaking of substances that open their souls to let the devils get inside.

Summary and conclusion

There are individuals who are spiritually sensitive and can perceive the presence and influence of spirits from the world around us. Most of us do not see or hear anything. It is just something we feel. We can tell you when someone is under the influence of a wicked spirit or two, sometimes just by their behavior or attitude. It can be painful.

And then there are times that we know we are receiving impressions from the spirit of the Lord or from messengers he has sent to help us. The Lord can answer our prayers any way he wants to. Sometimes, flashes of inspiration and ideas flow into our mind after we have asked for help in solving a problem or understanding something that is difficult.

I am not the only member of the church who is familiar with the things of the spirit world. It is a large part of my life. There are many things we know but just don’t share because they are too sacred. However, I know that the spirit world is real. I know that we can and are influenced by those living beyond the veil – either for good or for evil.

The reality of Satan and evil spirits

In our Institute class this evening, we continued with chapter four of the Book of Moses. We were supposed to get into chapter five but the discussion got heavy on just the first six verses of chapter four. In fact, the questions were flying even before we got into the scriptures. Our instructor introduced the subject by showing the Boyd K. Packer video on Spiritual Crocodiles.

The subject of Moses chapter four is, of course, Satan. Now that’s not a pleasant subject to discuss for most people, in or out of the church. It engenders some strong emotion because people have so much wrapped up in their understanding of the adversary. As I have noted in a previous post, amazingly, forty percent of the members of the church do NOT believe in Satan.

Inhabitants of the spirit world

What got things going was when our instructor asked the class to help him list on the board who are the inhabitants of the spirit world. The kids got all the standard answers correctly including one third of the hosts of heaven who were cast out, the spirits of the righteous and the spirits of the wicked. He then asked if they are able to influence us. Yes, most students agreed they can.

As the instructor reiterated what we had discovered and emphasized that the spirits of the wicked who die can also influence us, my wife gave me a quizzical look. Although a member of the church all her life, she had never heard this doctrine before. She leaned over and whispered to me, “I thought all the wicked people who die go to spirit prison.” I thought she was kidding.

The wicked who die can influence us

One bright young man rose his hand and in a very agitated way said, “Wait a minute. I don’t believe that old sectarian nonsense that you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other whispering in your ear, enticing you to do good or evil. Where did you get such doctrine?” Not very respectful, was he? But it was a fair question, so the instructor read from the manual:

“Every person who desires and strives to be a Saint is closely watched by fallen spirits that came here when Lucifur [sic] fell, and by the spirits of wicked persons who have been here in tabernacles and departed from them. . . . Those spirits are never idle; they are watching every person who wishes to do right, and are continually prompting them to do wrong.”

Source: Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 7:239

Reality of possession by evil spirits

The instructor then told a story that demonstrated first hand knowledge of the reality that evil spirits do more than influence us; they can possess us if we let them. I won’t relate the details without his permission, but it demonstrated the truth of the doctrine. He is a former bishop and the story had to do with the exercise of the power of the priesthood in casting out evil spirits.

He had the full classroom of forty-five college age students paying rapt attention for over an hour. Like my wife and most members of the church, or at least forty percent of them, most of the students in the class had never heard these things before. It never ceases to amaze me when the subject comes up how many are ignorant on this subject. I wonder why that is.

The methods of the adversary

The class continued with a wonderful discussion of the methods the adversary employs in deceiving the people of the earth. We concluded that he lies a lot just like he did to Eve in verse ten, “And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die,” suggesting that God lied when he told Adam and Eve why they should not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In fact, Satan is the father of all lies. If there is any lie told, you can be sure that Satan or his minions have caused it to come to pass. His desire is to capture and enslave us; to cause is to do his will. He does this by getting us to use our agency to choose darkness over light. It amazes me to think that anyone would want such a thing, but like me, I’m sure you’ve seen it firsthand.

We have power over Satan

The class concluded with a discussion of verse twenty where Satan is cursed. The curse is enmity – all mankind will hate Satan. He will have power to bruise our heel, or to bother us mercilessly as long as we are mortal, but we will have power to bruise or crush his head. In other words, we have power to overcome Satan in this life through obedience to God’s law.

The cursing of the woman was discussed in verse twenty-two. In sorrow or pain shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule or preside over thee. Adam was cursed that he would have to work all the days of his life to eke a living out of the earth. The ground was cursed for his sake, meaning that the hard work would do him good.

Summary and conclusion

I know that this is a subject that is not very enjoyable to consider. Apparently it is also one that is not very often discussed or understood, even among members of the church. According to the survey, the majority of Americans consider as hogwash the idea of Satan as a real being. In fact, only 27% believe in his existence. The majority believe he is only a symbol of evil.

Most Latter-day Saints know differently and we do not hesitate to teach it to the world. It’s a sad commentary that it is still a struggle to educate even our own members on the subject. I suspect that problem will decrease as wickedness in the world continues to increase. Satan and evil spirits are real even though we cannot see them. Or can we? Some say that they have.

Pondering about the spirit world

How often do we think about the spirit world? If you are a typical adult, you lead a very busy life. Our families, our jobs or our educational pursuits take up the majority of our time. In fact, most of us are hard pressed to find time to read the scriptures, pray, visit others or fulfill church assignments. This is especially true when our families are young and demand so much of us.

Such things can seem like a burden in today’s busy, even hectic world. Who has time to ponder about the spirit world? Because we are so busy, when we do sit down to think, we are bombarded by mental lists of things to do. Yet, Joseph Smith said that the study of the spirit world is a subject that should occupy our minds more than any other. He taught:

The most important subject to study

“All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more?

It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation [to God]. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.”

Sources: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p 211 or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 324, or History of the Church, 6:50; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Oct. 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The spirit world is greatly misunderstood

The spirit world is indeed a subject that fascinates many members of the LDS Church. There have been numerous books written about it over the years. It is a topic of study in many of our adult, youth and even children’s Sunday classes. It is commonly addressed by our leaders in general Conference. And yet, what do we really know or believe about the spirit world?

For example, I have written previously about the amazing survey a few years back (2001) in which 41% of the members of the LDS Church do not believe that the devil is a real person. Why is that? I believe it is because they have not pondered the spirit world and the inhabitants there. It is a basic doctrine of our church that the adversary and his followers dwell in the spirit world.

The spirit world is here among us

Brigham Young taught, “Where is the spirit world? It is right here…Do [spirits of the departed] go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies.”

The prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The spirits of the just…are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.” Most LDS do not have a problem with understanding the doctrine of the post-mortal spirit world with paradise designated for the righteous and spirit prison as the destination for the ungodly.

The inhabitants of the spirit world

So just what kind of spirits can we find in the spirit world? I think we are all clear that the spirits of the departed who have not yet been resurrected dwell there. Although they are separated, we can find both the righteous and the wicked there. It is my understanding that those in Paradise are not troubled by the influences of the adversary or evil spirits; it is a place of rest.

However, we have been taught that we who remain here in mortality are subject to the influence of both spirits who have never been mortal as well as those who have passed through this life. Unless you have never really studied LDS doctrine, you know that one third of the spirits that were supposed to come to this earth as mortals, arrived here instead without a physical body.

The influence of evil spirits

Now, back to that survey – I doubt that anybody who reads this has ever seen the devil. And although I might be surprised, I also doubt that very many of you have seen an evil spirit. But I have no doubt that if you are a faithful Later-day Saint or just a good Christian person, you have seen the influence of the adversary either in your own life or in the life of someone you love.

In fact, there may be someone reading this who is not a member of our faith that has a story to tell about how they came under the influence of an evil spirit or two at sometime in their life. Why do we shy away from this topic? The sophisticated among us like to mock and point out how foolish it is to believe such stuff. But then, they mock our faith in God and Jesus as well.

The influence of righteous spirits

Not wanting to leave this essay on a negative note, let’s focus for a moment on the doctrine that we can have and should seek the influence of our departed loved ones upon us in this life. Why? To assist with family history research, of course. Like many of you, I can share experiences of impressions I have felt from beyond the veil when I am engaged in researching my ancestors.

I know that those who are living on the other side of the veil in the spirit world are anxious to help us find their records. There are too many stories that have been shared over the years to believe that our departed family members are not allowed to visit us and help us in our quest. It is a sweet spirit that comes upon us as we seek to know our ancestors and be sealed to them.

Summary and conclusion

I am convinced that there is so much more to understanding the influence of the spirit world than we normally think about in our day-to-day lives. Isn’t the whole purpose of scripture study and prayer to bring us into a frame of mind to feel the influence of the spirit? Isn’t that why the Brethren invite us over and over again to pause and listen to the impressions of the spirit?

It is my personal belief that our Heavenly Father can answer our prayers any way He wants to. Sometimes that means he may send departed ancestors to deliver messages and help us in our journey. The whisperings of the spirit are very quiet and require careful pondering to feel. If we are too busy to stop, ponder, read and pray, we can miss out on much needed direction.

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