Your Sunday Brunch Special: Bishop B And the Devil.

“So what happened next?”

“He came through the doorway and stared at me.”

“Then what?”

“He started to beat me with his fists. Then he grabbed at me. But it wasn’t like being grabbed by a man, I could see him grabbing my spirit. He had one hand around my neck and was pulling on it. It stretched out, I could see him pulling it out. Then it snapped back. That hurt my head and my feet.”

“Where was Sister B?”

“She was beside me in the bed at first. She could not see him, but she could see me struggling and later she told me she knew what it was. She got out of bed and knelt down and started praying.”

“Wow. How long did this go on?”

“It was about 30 minutes.”


From age 8 to 19, I was the only kid my age in the local ward. There were 4 or 5 boys a year older and several a year or two younger. Consequently, I moved through those Mormon male milestones in a cohort of one. Like joining the deacons quorum. As an 11 year old, my 13 year old acquaintances took some pleasure in feeding me information that only a credulous kid like me would entertain. So when I heard about Bishop B’s stories, I didn’t know what to think.

Now Bishop B. was fundamentally a practical man. The son of German immigrants, and a skilled artisan, his home was roughly in back of ours, on the other side of the alley that ran down the middle of the block. His yard was neat, well kept and shady, but as you can imagine, at that age I wasn’t a connoisseur of landscapes. Pushing a lawnmower was about as far as that went. Up until age 12 or so, I really didn’t pay much attention to the bishop or his counselors.

Near my 12th birthday, I had a certain dread, and anticipation, of joining the trek to morning priesthood meeting. This was before the “block” schedule. It was then that I began to hear the stories.

Stories of the Devil.

We have all kinds of narratives in Mormonism that hinge on a personal devil. Someone who is the ultimate in rejecting God, black to God’s white. Sneakily worming his way into our lives, leading us carefully down to Hell. Or sometimes showing up in person. Yeah, a fair amount of scripture on that one.

Bishop B. had experience, so the story went, personal experience with Old Scratch himself. I had fear and fascination over the possibilities. Bishop B., and later I learned, his counselors, felt it was incumbent on him to spread the warning. That being who fell from heaven was still in action.

After I was ordained a deacon, I finally heard Bishop B. tell his own story. No one had exaggerated. I mean it was just down right scary. Bishop B. was a bad boy in his youth. He didn’t tell us just how bad, but dabbling in the occult, the evils of gambling and sex, and so on. His own Bishop, whose name I knew from my father’s talks about old times in the area, had cursed Bishop B. as a young man. Turned him “over to the buffetings of Satan.” Just those words apparently.

“We were going to a restaurant after I had begun to return to church and as we got to the door, I saw him standing just inside the glass. I told Sister B., ‘we can’t go in there, he will kill me if we do.'”

“What did she say?”

“She knew who I was talking about. We drove back home.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was a very handsome tall man. Well dressed for that time.”

Bishop B. was an older man and he was about 5’4″. He’d been bishop since the ward was organized, probably about 15 years or so (the ward was split from another, and was still huge by today’s standards). His first counselor replaced him about the time I moved into the teachers quorum (age 14). His stories marked me. I’ve never forgotten them, and the look on his face when he related them. I know he considered them as real as the red armchair in his living room. This was the Mormon devil. The one you could find in Mormon sacred space in the day.

I have to say though, that those stories didn’t affect my behavior much on balance. But perhaps they did add a little reluctance to the semi-rural teen ethic–anything goes—thing that my friends and I experienced. There were places and distances I wasn’t ready to go or traverse and maybe part of that was the memory of Bishop B. Hard to say from here. One thing I did come away with was a sincere belief in the Devil. He was real in some way I didn’t fully understand but real none the less. And he might engage in fisticuffs. Or hide behind doors.

Keep the lights on.

Comments

  1. Bishop B. would have fit in well here in the south, where many older members of the Church talk about Ol’ Scratch like he’s that punk kid from high school who did unspeakable things that are improper to be discussed in front of ladies and small children.

    I think in LDS culture it is interesting that we often cite scripture passages about “the enemy” and fighting the good fight, but when it comes down to talking specifics about the Devil/Scratch/Satan/Lucifer in our day conversation is discouraged. By virtue of our testimonies of God the Father and Jesus Christ we are likewise blessed with a certain knowledge of the Adversary. I get that we shouldn’t dwell on Satan and devote a block of Sunday meetings to teaching about him, his cohorts, and his convoluted plan to destroy our happiness, but I also don’t think that talking about him in hushed whispers is the best way to teach about him either.

    I appreciate you sharing Bishop B.’s stories with us. In our watered-down 21st Century LDS culture it’s good to hear a story from “back in the day” when the Devil was a well dressed man who went fisticuffs with regular guys. I am fairly certain we won’t find any stories like this in the Come Follow Me curriculum any time soon.

  2. I had a sunday school teacher who used to scare our class by telling us about how Satan whould hold him down in bed and he would have to do the whole “Satan get thee behind me” to get rid of him. Years later I had a very scary sleep paralysis episode where it really did seem like an intruder had entered my bedroom and was holding me down. After feaking out a little and then doing some googling I remembered his Satan stories and how sleep paralysis was the most likely explanation for his devil adventures.

  3. Christopher J. says:

    Wow.

  4. I think we talk about Satan all the time, but not in the way Bishop B. does, for the simple reason that we don’t have direct personal contact with him or his associates. We claim to be blessed by the power and spirit of God and Jesus Christ, but we don’t grapple with them physically or have direct personal manifestations except under the rarest of circumstances by special witnesses of deity — why would we expect (or want!) to have one-on-one experiences with either Lucifer or his fallen angels (or whatever we want to call them)? Where we have the general blessing of the Light of Christ, and the specific gift of the Holy Ghost, for directions from the Father with there being no analogous “Unholy Ghost,” it seems to be quite enough for those who deliberately open themselves to devilish influence, added to the veil of forgetfulness and our general inexperience with mortality and controlling the flesh, to create havoc in the world.

  5. I won’t get into the details here, but early in my mission, I witnessed what was in every detail just as the experiences enumerated in the Bible. All the missionaries, many of the elders in the branch and the mission president himself couldn’t completely relieve this individual, because some are the kind that come out only by prayer and fasting. And indeed, after much prayer and fasting, a branch president whose fear had been supplanted by faith was finally able to cast out all darkness, and this member finally had peace. She has had no affliction since then.

    There were a few takeaways I got from these intense few weeks of fear and spiritual discomfort before this member was finally delivered:
    1. There is someone (plural) from whom we are being saved, and there is nothing abstract it. For the opposing side, it is intensely personal.
    2. Jesus Christ’s power is absolute, but the faith required to be a conduit for his power is not casually obtained.
    3. If you’re exercising faith in Jesus Christ, there is no reason to fear the adversary.
    4. Fear and creepy, depressing feelings are not of the Lord, and if what you’re doing leaves your listeners or you with a feeling of spookiness and fear, you were better off not telling it.

    The bottom line for me is that while it is important to know that we are facing a real, intense and personal enemy, it is far more important to focus on the real, intense and personal Savior whose power of deliverance is absolute.

    If telling spiritual stories (even the negative ones) leaves your audience feeling creeped out, you’re doing it wrong.

  6. “… and there is nothing abstract ABOUT it.”

  7. Wheat Woman says:

    I’m a life-long member who has heard many, many stories liked this. The story-tellers’ all seem to fall into one of two catagories; attention-seekers or mentally ill.

  8. 7. That’s been my experience as well. (I say without irony, even having just referenced one.) The handful of times I’ve ever felt it was appropriate to reference the above story in the 25 years since it happened, it has only felt right to relate the most very basic details necessary to get to the point of why we can and should exercise our faith in Jesus Christ.

    The rule of thumb seems to be that authentic spiritual experiences (positive and negative) are only shared on rare occasions. Attention-seekers sometimes are relating authentic experiences, although they may be doing so for the wrong reasons. The mentally ill simply aren’t equipped to know what is real and what is simply happening in their heads. (In the case I bring up, the entire branch had no choice but to know the nature of the situation — there was nothing left to the imagination.)

  9. There’s a third category,Wheat Woman, and that’s religious belief. Believing in and interpreting experiences as interactions with evil spirits is no more mental illness than believing in and speaking to and sensing the presence of righteous angelic spirits. That’s only classed as mental illness from the outside, by someone who denies or is ignorant of the spiritual dimension of life. And not all religious people are attention-seekers.

  10. I’d say creepy feelings are a vitally important aspect of life.

  11. I have never had an experience like those described in the OP, but I have had at least one experience that I can classify only as an encounter with true and absolute darkness. It was on my mission, in the house of someone who let us in the door while tracting, and I will never forget the tangible feeling of dread and spiritual darkness in that house. I also will never forget the clear and certain knowledge I gained that miracles are not a sure sign of righteousness or good – that the miraculous can be manifested through and by evil.

    I won’t share any details, but, suffice it to say, I believe deeply in the existence of absolute good and evil outside ourselves.

    #7 – Wheat Woman, that has not been my experience, although their certainly are many instances that fit your characterization.

  12. *there* – Every time I fail to edit . . .

  13. I had an experience that was probably similar to Ray’s.

    I met plenty of people on my mission who were very weird; I even met a few who were dabbling (or more than dabbling) with dark things–even perhaps, to some extent, possessed. I certainly felt dark spirits in a handful of homes. But only once did I feel that the individual I was speaking with was truly evil.

    I used to think that all of the “spirits” Jesus cast out were actually incidents of him healing the mentally ill–I still think that many of them were. But perhaps not all.

    And yes, if the devil appeared he’d be a handsome man with a fashionable car (or, here in small-town Idaho, a nice new truck) and a charismatic smile. He’d preach the good word of sports and politics and other false religions. In other words, he’d fit right in.

  14. Thank you for this post. I had forgotten about some of my personal experiences with the dark and gloomy, which in hind site strengthen my testimony in God and Jesus Christ.

    Mine were also on my mission — lots of crazy stuff goes on with Daoism in Taiwan. And I also rarely feel it appropriate to mention specifics, so I agree with Lorin.

    It sure seems like a common thread that missionaries are often the ones having these experiences.

  15. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    I had a woman on my mission tell me Jesus came out of a calendar and twisted her arms to near the point of breaking. I’m not a doctor (well, not the kind that helps people ;), so I won’t say she *was* mentally ill, but it certainly seemed that way to me. Long story short – I carry a substantial amount of skepticism with me concerning stories of the occult. I’m not calling anyone here a liar; maybe you did experience something outside yourself and maybe you didn’t and either way it makes no difference if I believe you or not, but my guess is Satan would be reticent to reveal himself in such ways. Wouldn’t it prove he exists to people who may have doubted it (even doubted the existence of anything beyond this life)? And wouldn’t such proof ultimately work against him?

  16. Comments remind me that I have had two experiences, once as a missionary, once later, when I had the overwhelming impression to get out of the place where I was, and do it now. I didn’t interpret it, though, as the presence of or coming from an evil source, but rather the loving, protective care of the Holy Spirit. I don’t often spend much time wondering what would have happened had I not obeyed the impulse (one of which I was impelled to obey so quickly that I peeled out of a roadside rest stop with my pillow still between my head and my window). But both were from a good spirit, not an evil one.

  17. JennyP1969 says:

    I believe there are evil spirits all around us, as Joseph taught. I also believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost to help protect us. I believe in focusing on that gift, rather than the other. But the other is real.

    My parents always taught us not to invite trouble, so-to-speak. Don’t talk about evil — know it’s real, but don’t give them any power. Wasn’t sure exactly what all that entailed, but one night during a YW sleepover the girls brought up spook boards and creepy stories during camp, etc. Based on my folks teachings, I decided to steer clear of that conversation, and with a friend went to an alcove near the front door. We laid down and started talking about boys and college when in due time the other girls were screaming. Their hair was flying all about. They couldn’t see each other and were in a state of pure terror. There were others details much worse.

    My friend and I stood up and tried to go to them, but couldn’t get past an invisible barrier at the alcove. We yelled to them, but they couldn’t hear us. My friend began crying, the girls were crying/screaming, the Leader kept yelling, “oh my Lord!” and I remember thinking, “now I know what Mom and Dad were trying to say.”

    My friend and I knelt down and prayed for this “thing” going on to stop. We kept praying for — 2, 5, ? — minutes, during which time it wound down — it wasn’t a sudden cessation. The leader was crying and shaking, as well as the girls. I went out the front door, walked around back and came into the kitchen through the back door. No way was i walking through that family room! There was a rotary-dial wall phone I used to call home. Dad answered and I asked to be picked up, saying something “not good” had happened. He came right over. I was outside waiting. He asked ?’s, and then had me wait in the car. He’d been bishop and was on the HC at that time. When he came out he said he had done a priesthood blessing, and urged everyone to go home, and to stay away from such things in the future. They went home, and we never had another sleepover, nor did we ever tell such stories again, including this one. Till tonight, for me.

    I share because there IS evil out there. But “they that be with us are more — so very much more — than they that be with them.” God bless our Holy Ghost, and God bless the Holy Priesthood.

  18. My first wife and I messed around with a Ouija board. (Some of the things it said proved true, too.) For quite some time after we were both occasionally aware of an intensely malevolent presence. One night, we got home from somewhere and this feeling was so strong in the apartment that we curled up together on the couch, barely able to move. We were both completely terrified. I called my best friend, saying “you need to get over here.” He came over, and knowing the board was in the bedroom closet made for there. When we got into the bedroom, the closet door flew open and the board came flying across the room.

    Truly. It seems almost silly now. But at the time it was genuinely terrifying. That was not the most frightening thing from those days. The most frightening things involved images I don’t feel like repeating.

    I’ve never found belief in the devil silly. Why shouldn’t a universe that can produce a Stalin not produce a Satan? It seems almost inevitable, to me. The problem with believing in devils is that one tends to begin to see them everywhere. That isn’t helpful.

  19. Sorry for the length of the following. This is taken from Enzio Busche’s book Yearning for the Living God:

    The following experience is probably one of the most sacred in my whole life. It happened in the very beginning of my service as a General Authority…On one trip…I…stayed in the basement of the mission home…I was very tired when I finally went to bed at around 11:00. I fell asleep as soon as I was in bed. I woke with a start when, at about 1:00 A.M., the mission president came into my room. The light was on and he was speaking to me, but I was still half asleep and did not understand what he was saying…I focused on listening to him and was surprised by what he said. He said that in the evening, a missionary had been possessed by an evil spirit. His companion had called the assistant to help cast it out. The assistants had gone and done that, but as they got back to their own apartment, the evil spirit had entered one the assistants. The other was so shocked that he did not know what to do, so he went straight to the mission home.

    The mission president was appalled, of course, because this was not just an ordinary missionary. This was one of the stalwart, experienced missionaries who was speaking gibberish and not in control of his physical movements. The mission president had tried to cast out the evil spirit but had failed. He began to panic, but then he realized that he had a General Authority in the basement. That was when he came down to try and wake me up.

    …I… asked the mission president to give me a little time. I wanted to get dressed first. I immediately began to pray with a deep, fervent plea for help. I felt so helpless because I had never been in a situation like that. Crazy thoughts came to my mind. For instance, I wished I had stayed in a motel, but I knew there was no way to escape.

    I finally dressed and had no further excuse to tarry longer, so I went upstairs. As I went up, I heard noises and unintelligible sounds, and fear began to creep into my heart. I felt that fear come from the ground, from below, trying to sneak into my system. I could understand why, when people are afraid, their knees begin to shake. When I got to the living room, I saw the elder sitting in a chair, shaking all over, making uncontrolled movements, speaking with foam on his lips. His companion and the mission president and his family were all staring at the spectacle with shock and fear.

    As I entered the room, it was like a voice said to me, “Brother Busche, you must make a decision now.” I knew immediately what decision it was. I had to decide whether to join the fear and amazement and helplessness or to let faith act and let courage come in. I knew of course, that I wanted to have faith. I wanted to have the power, the priesthood power, and I wanted to know what to do to save the situation.

    In that moment, two scriptures came into my mind. One scripture was very simple: Moroni 8:16, “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” And the other was the same: 1 John 4:18, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” But I did not have love. I had fear. What do we do when we have fear but not love? My mind was drawn to Moroni 7:48, where the Lord points out how we can gain love: “Wherefore,…pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love”.

    I prayed with all the energy of my heart, “Father, fill my soul with love.” I cried from the depths of my being, without wasting any time. It all happened in a split second. After that it was as if my skull was opened and a warm feeling poured down into my soul-down my head, my neck, my chest. As it was pouring down, it drove out all of the fear. My shivering knees stopped shaking. I stood there, a big smile came to my face-a smile of deep, satisfying joy and confidence.

    Suddenly, those in the room looked not scary, but amusing. It was just funny to see them all there. I learned in that moment that when we are under the influence of the Spirit, we can find a sense of humor and the ability to smile and not take ourselves too seriously, and we can laugh at ourselves. Then it dawned on me that the adversary’s weapons are sarcasm, irony, and cynicism, but that the Lord’s power is a gentle sense of humor. I have learned more and more since then that the adversary cannot deal with a sense of humor. He does not have a sense of humor; he does not even know that that is. He is always dead serious, and when you have a sense of humor, you are in control of the adversary’s influence.

    I still did not know what to do. I had great confidence, but I did not know what to do with it. As I stood there, it was as though someone came and put his arm around me and said, “Let me do this for you. I can take it from here”. I was very happy with that idea. Then I watched myself do something very strange and surprising because I did not know what I was doing. I went to the young man who was sitting on a chair shaking uncontrollably. I knelt in front of him and put my arms around him, pulling him gently to my chest. I told him, with all the strength of my soul, “I love you, my brother.”

    In the very moment I did that, the evil spirit left. The missionary came to his senses, looked at me and said, “I love you, too”. He snapped right out of it and asked what had happened. For about an hour after that, we had a spontaneous sharing of testimonies, jubilantly praising God and singing and praying. It was an exuberant experience of the workings of the spirit of love, which is the Spirit of Christ and by it overcoming all evil.

    We later learned the cause of the missionary being in that situation. That evening, at an investigator’s home, the missionaries had seen an inappropriate movie against the established guidelines. Because of that, he lost the Spirit and fear entered his soul. The fear allowed the evil spirit to enter. That same fear must have come to the assistant, as he probably had never experienced anything like that before. In his insecurity, he may also have let fear come into his heart so that the evil spirit could enter him after he had helped cast it out of the other missionary…I had reason to marvel at the goodness of our Father in Heaven. I may have needed that experience of learning in the early days of my service as a General Authority…we are here to learn about the reality of the Living God and also to understand the powers of darkness are real.

    Yearning for the Living God, by F. Enzio Busche, pp. 270-72

  20. Wheat Woman says:

    I don’t know what to say to all of these stories. Dark feelings of dread might be from evil spirits. Then again, they might be impulses from the subconscious mind. I’m not saying I don’t believe in spirits – I just have no personal experience whatsoever with them. As a teen, I went to plenty of sleep-overs where the girls were telling stories or playing with an ouija board. I didn’t feel any dread and I didn’t sense an evil presence. I just saw girls who genuinely seemed to enjoy getting freaked out and embellishing the story later on. I’m sad if it makes me sound faithless or unbelieving (I’m neither), but even Enzio Busche’s story sounded nutty to me.

  21. Wheat Woman, I think a wide variety of views are acceptable. I’d hesitate to use the word “nutty” in reference to Busche though. On the other hand, like you, I saw plenty of kids scaring themselves, and adults being scandalized by it.

  22. I heard a lot of stories like this growing up, and one happened to a friend of my older brothers, but they would never share the details.

    I remember hearing a former stake president, I believe, say in a talk once that Joseph Smith, Moses, and others who had personal experiences with the Savior, also had equally terrifying and real encounters with Satan. I don’t know exactly how to categorize these stories, but I will say that I believe Satan is real, but only has power over us if we grant it to him, such as messing around with a Ouija board, for example. That seems to be what Elder Busche was saying.

    I believe that some accounts of possession from the past may well have been manifestations of other mental issues, like depression, bipolar disorder, or some schizoid episodes. But certainly not all of them. I also believe that a group of people (especially adolescents) can whip their collective fears into a hysteria that seems to invite bad feelings, and possibly evil spirits. My wife remembers an especially ugly experience with a group of Beehive girls at girls camp doing a group levitation session that freaked the girls and their leaders out.

    But personally, I have never experienced anything quite like this.

  23. Wheat Woman,

    I’m sorry those sound nutty to you. That says more about you than it does about the people reporting them. I’ve got dozens of witnesses for the events over the several weeks I spoke of. You will not convince a single one of them that that woman was mentally ill. She was a wonderful, elegant and incredible person, and after the several weeks and subsequent healing, remains so to this day. No mental illness before, after or DURING. For a few frightening weeks, she was vessel for a couple of dozen awful personalities who knew all sorts of things and had all sorts of abilities that were inhuman. And one by one they were all forced out over the course of weeks. The last and most powerful took a great deal of fasting and prayer by many.

    It traces back to occultish experimentation by her father when she was a child.

    I frankly don’t care who believes me, and I haven’t shared the full story since the time it happened, and with anyone who wasn’t there. But dozens witnessed the power and character of the opposition when it made the mistake of tipping its cards and dropping all pretense. And what dozens took away was the power of Jesus Christ on behalf of those who had faith.

    That’s about all I care to share further on this topic. If it makes you feel better to presume these things are only imagined, you have that perogative. I do not wish upon you the experiences that would prove otherwise.

  24. Dave Frandin says:

    I have been a lifelong member of the Church, but due to getting drafted into the US Army at age 19 (1969), I lost contact with the Church for quite a while.. Of course, back then, in the military, you were exposed to all the usual vices, smoking, drinking, drugs, illicit sex.. During my tour in Germany, I was afflicted with all of those vices/sins.. I had smoked pot during my tour in Viet nam and didn’t think much of it, other than it making me quite mellow.. When I was assigned to Germany, the normal marijuana available in the US was not available, instead the big thing was turkish hashish. The first time I tried it, it began just like a mellow pot high.. Then.. the really bad effects happened.. Hallucinations, and severe paranoia.. I clearly recall feeling like I was hanging by my fingertips on a cliff, and slowly slipping down.. I also clearly recall hearing this very clear, deep voice, telling me “Dave.. Just let go.. its only a little way down..” I feel to this day that was satan speaking to me.. Yes, I know it was probably the pyschedlic drugs the hashish was cut with, but that experience put a permanent halt to my using ANY illicit drugs.. I came back into the fellowship of the Church after about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, as it were, thanks to my lovely wife of 27 years calling the missionaries when I was really down about 2 1/2 years ago. Through that, she’s now a member of the Church and I’m still working on a few of the bad habits I picked up during my absence from the Church..

  25. JennyP1969 says:

    Lorin, I echo your comments. To those who’ve been there, no explanation necessary. To those who haven’t, none will suffice. And by the grace of God, we were saved in and from our experiences. That’s all that matters.

  26. Wheat Woman says:

    Lorin, I can’t help that Elder Busche’s story sounded nutty to me. What does it say about me that it does? Whenever I hear one of these stories, it usually has the same plot…”no details, but it was definitely the Devil.” Most have a whiff of urban legend on them. NOTICE: I did not say all, I said most – including yours.

  27. I don’t want to share a bunch of experiences, but I do want to say that when I went through my occult stage as a young teen I had several experiences that led me to believe that Satan was a real being. What started out as interesting, turned quite frightening. Most people who dabble don’t have experiences with real beings, but some do. Some people have those type of experiences without dabbling in anything even slightly occult. Either way faith in Christ is the key to getting out of those situations. Jesus saves is not only a nice bumper sticker phrase, it is also completely true.

  28. 26. It means you’ve never personally witnessed something like this, and you’ve been exposed to stories that didn’t ring true (and possibly weren’t entirely true). It means that your experience, at minimum, colors your perception. As stated before, I’ve seen and heard the urban legend stuff as well and I’m pretty sure some of them were nothing but true.

    And now, as you have stated that experiences like mine, Elder Busche’s, etc. have the whiff of urban legend, you understand why the authentic experiences are rarely retold. What kind of details do does one need? Name(s) of the victim? Dates? List of other witnesses and their sworn statements? Not that I’d provide them, but I could.

    That’s what I meant about your response saying more about you than about the teller. I’m generally skeptical about all sorts of things. But when folks who are considered reliable and truthful in all aspects of their lives offer first-hand historical accounts, sometimes it’s okay to take them at face value, even if you’re not sure how to interpret them according to your own experiences.

    Anyway, I’d already said I was done with this thread. So this time I am.

  29. I shared this experience a couple years ago, but I’ll paste it in again:

    As a missionary in the MTC, I read once again how Nephi, believing the words of his father, asked to see the vision his father had seen. Thinking that was pretty cool that it was no sin for a faithful believer to ask for such spiritual manifestations, I decided to ask the Lord for something like that. So the next time we went to the temple, I asked. I told the Lord that I already believed, that I was demonstrating my faith by serving a mission, and that if it was His will, I wanted something cool like Nephi got.

    I felt like I got my answer immediately, and that it was “Sure. What is it you want?” Well, I had no idea. I hadn’t really thought it through. I decided I’d better not presume too much and told the Lord that I’d appreciate whatever He deigned appropriate for me, and left the temple in high spirits and great anticipation.

    That night I had the most vivid and powerful dream I’d ever had, and it involved an elder in another district. I woke in great distress and sat there trying to make sense of it. A feeling of anxiety and dread enveloped me, and I resolved I needed to check on this elder and make sure he was okay. Once resolved, I didn’t even bother to dress, but headed directly for this elder’s room. I apparently entered with enough energy to awaken them all immediately, but they all assured me nothing was wrong and asked if I was okay. No, I decided, I wasn’t okay, something was very wrong. And then I started to shake, and violently.

    It was really weird. I remember thinking that it couldn’t really be happening, and remember trying to make it stop, but I couldn’t. I just kept shaking. The other elders freaked out and ran to get the RM who served as our floor chaperone. He too was freaked out, and they all decided to give me a blessing to cast Satan out. I remember looking around at the eight or nine missionaries surrounding me thinking the whole situation was ridiculous, but the moment they cast Satan out, the shaking stopped.

    My feeling of dread and wrongness relaxed as well, but it wasn’t replaced with light and goodness. A Joseph Smith First Vision moment it wasn’t. It was more a What-the-hell-just-happened? sort of experience, and it scared the crap out of me. It made the sleep paralysis experiences I had later in life a lot scarier, too.

    I’m open to the idea that this was some sort of anxiety attack, but I don’t have any propensity for that sort of thing. I’m pretty convinced it was the real deal.

  30. Wheat Woman says:

    1. All peoples experiences, at minimum, color their perception – including yours.
    2. Things like names, dates, and witnesses are what separate urban legend from history.
    3. I think it’s unlikely that skepticism is the reason people don’t share their supernatural experiences. Of the 28 responses to this post, the majority seem to be receptive to the idea that Satan or evil spirits can possess both dabblers in the occult and unsuspecting individuals.

  31. We often associate the word “cunning” with Satan. However, it seems like a pretty stupid idea to go about giving people supernatural experiences that leave them both feeling horrible and convinced that you (Satan) are real. It seems like a wonderful way to defeat yourself if your goal is to drag souls down to Hell.

    Why would Satan do this?

    I’m not sure C.S. Lewis knows, either, seeing as how I don’t recall this type of strategy mentioned in The Screwtape Letters.

  32. #30 – With all due respect, and I mean that, the implications you are throwing at people you don’t know personally are dismissive and not appreciated. You disagree with us and think we’re pre-disposed to nuttiness, largely (if not entirely) because our experiences are different than yours.

    Fine. We get it. You can stop now. Please.

  33. Sharee Hughes says:

    The men’s dorms a what is now BYU-Hawaii were built on an ancient Hawaiian burial ground. Most such sites had been cursed and many young men who stayed there, including missionaries there for their MTC experience, had bad things happen, including evil visitations Finally the powers that be decided a priesthood exorcism should be performed. No more problems after that.

  34. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Sam @ #31 – Didn’t I say that in # 15? And didn’t it not receive a response then, too?

  35. 15, 34:
    (Never say never (like I did in 28))

    That’s an honest question that deserves an honest answer, although I’m only guessing at this point. I alluded to this question in 23. (“But dozens witnessed the power and character of the opposition when it made the mistake of tipping its cards and dropping all pretense.”)

    Yes, the opposition would rather work in the background, and almost always does. I think that evil people in general excel at covering their tracks and putting on an innocent facade, doing everything possible to disguise their true intentions and true nature. Everything I’ve seen in the nearly 25 years since the incident I’ve described has shown me that evil is usually well-disguised. (Incidentally, this is the ONLY experience I’ve witnessed of this type, but I have talked with one person who witnessed similar first hand. I presume such events are quite unusual.)

    So your point is valid, and one that I generally agree with. Why would the adversary do something like that? Well, I think they (notice the plural) would not. Not if they could help it.

    Now, as to the series of incidents I witnessed. I REALLY don’t want to get into all the details, and I don’t know some of the key history. But I believe that this member’s (non-member) father dabbled in the occult since she was a child, and was still doing so at the time these events happened. And I suspect she may have done some unwise things before joining the church and held onto some practices and items she should not have. I do know she had been bothered by evil and foreboding experiences since she was four.

    At the point this series of events started, she was very worthy and had great faith in the Lord. And on a day that the mission president (who was at the time the presiding ecclesiastical authority for the entire mission) and the APs visited our meeting, she asked them for a blessing. (She was not a fan of the branch president, so I believe she had waited.) She wanted to be finally rid of the dark and foreboding influences, and I believe she had enough faith at that point that she fully expected they could do it. And I believe her great faith was ironically the reason all was so blatantly revealed.

    Just minutes after church ended, she and the mission president, the APs and my companion started giving her that blessing in another room. And the source of those evil and foreboding feelings did not want to be cast out, and wasn’t giving up without a fight. A VERY loud fight. The chapel cleared out very quickly, and another missionary and I were called in to assist. I won’t go into the details of what happened in that room. But it took several weeks, a similar outburst witnessed by many in the branch, and a couple of incidents far worse than what I’ve only alluded to, before the collective faith of all helped both her and her branch president (and a few others) literally seal the deal.

    So yes, your point about the adversary not wanting to fully reveal itself is valid. But there are exceptions, such as when evil is revealed despite efforts at concealment, or times in which there appears to be some advantage of going on the attack.

    Again, just guessing, but the incident I witnessed appeared to be essentially smoking a well-entrenched enemy out of its hiding place.

  36. Sam, Crazy, good question, but I think the answer is simple: because it’s fun!

    Simply being cunning in no way implies that Satan is governed 100% by reason, and even if he were, there’s no reason to believe the spirits following him are, or that he has complete control over them. Seems like scaring people, or manifesting power, or possessing bodies, or many other things could all be very satisfying in some way. I think he simply enjoys causing suffering however he can pull it off, and I think it unlikely that a few indulgences like the ones described materially affect his corporate performance much.

  37. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Lorin and Martin, I find your responses unsatisfactory, and here’s why:
    First, Martin, you assume Satan is like us in that sometimes we let our emotion overrule our reason. I find it unlikely that he has this problem because he does not have a body to be weak in. To argue that he’d deviate from his end goal just for kicks is unconvincing.
    Lorin, what Wheat Woman says has merit. You don’t get to call it anything more than urban legend in public discourse unless you’re going to treat it as something other than urban legend. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Either provide the evidence, or accept that we are reasonable in thinking of all these stories as “nutty.”

  38. 37. Crazy_like_everyone_else

    That would be a fancy way of calling me (and perhaps others on this thread, including Enzio Busche) “liars.”

    Yeah, on second thought, I really was done at 23.

  39. I understand Wheat Woman’s position. I can only recall (offhand) one experience similar to some told here–I was there, and it was weird. And real. Having said that, 99% of the time when I hear a story I find it very difficult to believe. I’ve heard a few from people very close to me who I trust and believe (and they’re just as fantastic as the ones I don’t believe). Coincidentally, it can also be difficult for me to believe the fantastic stories of the other kind, the incredible spiritual manifestations. And I have had a few myself, one of which I’ve never told anyone, including my wife (I think I will likely tell her one day when conditions are right). The reason I don’t tell people is because I wouldn’t be believed, so why bother.

  40. To clarify, I’m trying to say that I can see both sides. I consider it an engima of sorts–having had experiences (good and bad), but not always giving others the benefit of the doubt when they tell their stories.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Says the person commenting on a discussion board that is devoted, in the end, to belief in claims fantastic beyond any evidence – like, say, the resurrection of a thirtysomething Jew nearly two thousand years ago. Strain at the gnat and swallow the camel, indeed.

    you assume Satan is like us in that sometimes we let our emotion overrule our reason.

    Yes, it makes much more sense to assume that Satan reasoned himself into an eternally losing position. “Hmmm – the outcome of this choice is eternal misery. OK… I rationally select – FAILURE! Now please, give me the glory, because I am asking rationally!”

  42. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Lorin, you are not lying if you believe it happened that way, but there are many alternative hypotheses that could also explain what you’ve shared here and so it’s very reasonable to not believe in your interpretation of events.
    Tubes, there is much more evidence for JS’s claims than for those given in the comments: The Book of Mormon, the testimonies of the 3 and 8, Moroni 10:3-5, the large amount of historical data giving names, places, and dates, the thriving of the Church he founded, etc. What we have in the comments are so devoid of detail or evidence as to be practically horoscope ready. And doesn’t it seem reasonable that Satan believes he is going to, at the end, win? Why else make such a permanent choice in the first place? Injured pride alone seems insufficient explanation for that monumental course of action to me unless paired with false certainty (which can be as rational as true certainty).

  43. Not sure what evidence there would be for concluding that noncorporeal beings cannot be influenced by their emotions.

  44. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Mike, for one thing, there would be no opportunity to use the phrase “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

  45. Crazy_like_everyone_else — sorry I didn’t see the end of your comment in 15. Was reading these at work and had an attention span short enough to not catch the end.

    The idea that it’s fun/satisfying is interesting. I vaguely remember something from teachings of JS that said all spirits without a body are desperate for one… if anyone can back me up then I guess that explains it.

    And I would agree with Tubes that Satan isn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed, as defined by our theology of him trying to usurp God’s glory.

  46. A point to consider, but I’m not sure it proves that a spirit/intelligence _cannot_ feel emotions. Did I not love God as a spirit? Was I only ruled by logic, or the lack thereof?

  47. Interesting selection of comments here. My first thought is something about casting “pearls before swine”. Not my words… though speaking of swine, isn’t there a scriptural account of a story very much like Lorin’s that involves swine? (Matt 8:28-34) And another that doesn’t involve swine? (Luke 4:33-37, Mark 1:23-28) Those nutty gospels! ;)

    I don’t talk about my experiences with the dark side for a reason and I think I’ll keep it that way, but suffice it to say that I believe that the powers of darkness mentioned in the scriptural accounts above, as well as those that assailed Joseph Smith according to his first vision account, are alive and well in the modern world as well.

    While such experiences can be terrifying to those who live them, I want to point out that such experiences, while being terrifying to me personally, have strengthened my faith in the Saviour and the power of faith and the priesthood. So I completely understand the difficulty of reasoning out why the powers of darkness would engage in such an obvious fail by revealing themselves. I think they just want to connect to the physical body.

    The powerful drive for a spirit to have a body is observable in the swine account referred to above, where the devils would rather inhabit the bodies of swine than be left without any body at all. Additionally, one of the most basic purposes of the plan of salvation is to receive a physical body. I think it takes very little strain of the mind to imagine why an evil spirit might risk revealing itself in favor of inhabiting a physical body. It could be as simple as they just can’t help themselves.

  48. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Mike, I suppose that would depend on whether you define love as an emotion or not. It surely is associated with many emotions in most lived experience, but I wouldn’t say that’s what love *is.* In any case, I think there is very little scriptural support for thinking Satan is dumb and considerable support for the contrary. We know he wanted God’s glory, and the glory of God is intelligence, and it’s my experience (which I believe is common, though there is room to disagree here) that those most seeking for intelligence are quite intelligent already and so understand its power. I’m a teacher and the students I work with who most want to learn are usually among the brightest.

    And Rob, perhaps they’ve lost their agency and simply *can’t* help themselves; that’s worth considering. However, I’d be slow to take all the Biblical references to possession at face value. Many of them (not including the swine incident you reference) may have just as easily been cases of disease the people had no understanding of and so blamed on evil spirits. Someone having a seizure could easily be mistaken by one without any such experience as being possessed and Tourette syndrome could sure sound like demonic influence.

  49. Doug Hudson says:

    #41 (a series of tubes) nails it: if someone believes that Jesus was resurrected and is God, then all this stuff about demons and so forth is merely angels dancing on a pin, and its pointless to argue about it. The believer can simply say “I have a personal testimony of demons, or the occult, or whatever”, and that pretty much ends the argument.

    I have never personally experienced a “supernatural” event, but I have had two episodes of sleep paralysis (wiki it for details), and both times I was absolutely convinced that there was a nonhuman and incredibly evil presence in the room with me. If I hadn’t known beforehand what sleep paralysis was, I almost certainly would have ascribed the event to aliens or something.

    Which leads me, personally, to believe that reports of demons and suchlike are the result of the way the conscious and unconscious mind sometimes interact in odd ways. But that’s my personal belief; if someone believes in demons, well, that’s none of my business. (Unless they start trying to exorcise ME, of course!)

  50. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Sorry, Doug, but you seem to miss the point as well. Jesus didn’t just say He was the Christ, He performed miracles, He taught wisdom, and most importantly people could pray about His claim (as Peter did). My point is not that these specific experiences shared in the comments did or did not happen, but simply that if all you’re going to say is “I can’t tell you anything, but I interacted with an evil being” then you *should not* expect to be believed. I believe in good and I believe in evil. Do I believe the stories told here? No, and more importantly I (and others) should not believe them unless more is provided than what has been.

    Moral: If you want to be believed, then you have to be credible. If you *can’t* tell us, then simply don’t, because otherwise the only reasonable conclusions are that you don’t want to be believed or you don’t understand the concept of burden of proof.

  51. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    And, I should add, not wanting to suppose that you don’t want to believe I have assumed the latter and attempted here, however poorly, to educate. It may be a poor education, but it is the internet, after all.

  52. it's a series of tubes says:

    And doesn’t it seem reasonable that Satan believes he is going to, at the end, win?

    No, it doesn’t – not if any conception of justice being consistent is involved. For justice to be at least approximately consistent, the third part’s choice that earned them the penalty of never receiving a body / being a SOP needs to be similar to the choice resulting in one becoming a SOP while on earth. “has to deny that the sun shines while he sees it” and all that. If you have to know and deny in order to become a SOP now, it seems reasonable that a similar level of knowledge and denial was required then – because the penalty is similar.

  53. it's a series of tubes says:

    Last sentence of my prior comment was omitted:

    Rather, it seems much more reasonable that Satan knows that he is going to, at the end, lose – and as such, he’s trying to ensure as many others as possible lose as well.

  54. (where exactly do we cross the line into a new dark ages of superstition and ignorance with our fundamentalist Evangelical culture war allies?)

  55. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    Well, Tubes, you and I see the preexistence and issues of reason and choice very differently. And SsOP get to keep their bodies, so the “punishment” (better phrase: unhappy natural state) is not exactly the same. There may be other differences, as well. In any case, I’m only concerned with Satan’s psychology (making others lose if you _know_ winning, for you, isn’t possible doesn’t make any sense and would lead to a possibly very entirely different set of actions than attempting to win would) in how it relates to contemporary stories of evil manifestations. Even if he had all the motivation in the world to reveal himself (and as I’ve already stated, I don’t think that claim makes sense) there are still other reasons a person should doubt the veracity of apocryphal stories like those shared here (as I’ve also attempted to articulate).

  56. Crazy_like_everyone_else says:

    I should say I do not intend to insult anyone here and I’m sorry if I have. I’m trying to make a point about logic in an emotional conversation and I’m sure it’s been ham-handed. Please forgive me for that.

  57. I personally think we talk about Stan far too much in the Church. We should talk about Christ and have a Christ-centered experience. Staying Christ-centric in this way will help us overcome the adversary as a natural outcome. No need to have constant references to Stan in conference talks and sacrament meeting talks. Why we bear our testimony about Stan I’ll never understand. I think 2 Nephi 25:26 is the way to go personally.

  58. Wheat Woman says:
  59. Doug Hudson says:

    #57, the logical arguments that Jesus even existed are tenuous at best, and there is no rational evidence to support any of the stories of miracles or resurrection. Ultimately, belief in Jesus as divine can only rest on faith, a personal testimony.

    So, be advised, when you try to argue against the people in this thread who have personal testimonies against demons and witchcraft, you are using similar arguments to those that non-Christians use to argue against the divinity of Jesus!

    Once you are willing to accept someone’s personal belief in the “myth” of Jesus (and I use that word in the Tolkien sense, not a derogatory sense), you risk hypocrisy when you start denying people’s personal testimony of other “myths”. After all, if one isn’t lying about one’s personal testimony of Jesus, then how can one say someone else is lying about personal testimony of demons?

  60. #59 – We get it. All experiences are purely emotional and psychosomatic, and all claims are ridiculous.

    #58 – I agree, John. We talk about Stan too much.

  61. Doug Hudson says:

    58–but Stan is the man!
    59–I was thinking of that story while reading the thread. Robertson’s response is amusing. “Now, don’t think that every goodwill sweater has a demon in it, but if you think a particular sweater is possessed, it can’t hurt to bless it.”

    Reminds me of the bizarre sect of Christian fundies who think that “paisley” is a demon. That’s right, every paisley print is an incarnation of this demon. I mean, I don’t like paisley prints myself, but I hardly think they are demonic!

  62. Doug Hudson says:

    61, Ray, I’m not sure if you are addressing me, but if you are, I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. I was supporting the people in the thread who were telling stories of demons, and rejecting those who were calling them liars. I don’t think they are liars, and I certainly wouldn’t try to tell them that their personal testimony is wrong.

    I once had a series of friendly debates with a Baptist, exploring the reasons for this faith. Eventually he said, “I just have a deep personal feeling that Jesus is God.” I said, “okay, can’t argue with that.”

    Didn’t Joseph Smith say something about every man being able to worship according to his conscience? Anyway, that’s basically what I am saying.

  63. Rob, 47, you nailed it on two points. I plead guilty as charged on the pearls before swine thing. And the part about forces powerfully driven to wanting bodies–agreed 100%. “Desperation” is too weak of a word.

    58. You’re 100% correct. And again, guilty as charged on this thread. I hope that if anything I said on this thread is to be read or remembered, it is my first comment (#5), particularly this sentence: “The bottom line for me is that while it is important to know that we are facing a real, intense and personal enemy, it is far more important to focus on the real, intense and personal Savior whose power of deliverance is absolute.”

  64. Doug, no, I wasn’t addressing you. #59 is not your comment, at least not on my screen.

  65. Doug Hudson says:

    Ray (65)–the numbering seems a little off, so I just wanted to make sure. You’re a good guy, so if you think someone is outta line, that is a cause for self-reflection…

    And lets not forgot, Satan tried to tempt Jesus Himself! Although that’s a weird conversation, really, because if Jesus is/was Jehovah, he’s quoting himself to Satan in that account. “Like I said earlier, if you had been paying attention, man shall not live by bread alone.” Unless Satan didn’t realize who Jesus was at that point?

  66. it's a series of tubes says:

    making others lose if you _know_ winning, for you, isn’t possible doesn’t make any sense

    Agreed, we see this very differently. It makes perfect psychological sense, though – so much so that we have the aphorism “misery loves company”; c.f. 2. Nephi 2:27.

    Perhaps we are talking past one another. In one sense, Satan cannot “win” as regards himself. However, in another sense, he can repeatedly “win” as regards someone else; damnation of a soul is a partial victory for him. As such, the game is on.

  67. #56 “(making others lose if you _know_ winning, for you, isn’t possible doesn’t make any sense . . . ”

    It may not make sense to you because you’re “normal.” To a sociopath it doesn’t need to make sense. Or maybe it does make sense to the sociopath, because he gets off on hurting others. Could it be that Satan is angry at God, and that anger is as eternal as God’s love is (opposition in all things), and stokes his desire for some type of vengeance?

    I guess if you have to have an answer for everything, then you accept whatever is palpable for you. I’m not convinced that it’s possible to truly understand Satan.

  68. We talk about Satan too much in the church? Man, where have I not been hanging out? In my ward we hardly ever talk about Satan. And this is the first blog I’ve read about Old Scratch in . . . I can’t remember.

  69. Multiple talks every General Conference focus on “the adversary” complete with testimony bearing about how he is real. Let’s talk of and testify of Christ, not Stan.

  70. Are you suggesting I can’t find any talks about Christ? I browsed through the topics covered last fall. Stan wasn’t there. At least not in the titles, which is where I think you would find the “focus” of the talk.

  71. I have no problems with references to Stan. I do believer, however, that we frame too many things in terms of Stan’s efforts to get us to sin, when we should frame many of them in terms of us improving us (individually and collectively) and leave Stan out of the discussions. I think we frame too many things in battle terms and not enough in terms of internal and communal becoming.

    In other words, I think we blame God and Stan for too many things that are our own fault.

  72. You’ll have to look at more than the titles of General Conference talks. I don’t think that they put Stan or “the adversary” right in the titles.

    Stan’s influence is upon us because of the “natural man”, i.e. the physical bodies into which we have been born and which are subject to the consequences of the fall. Not sure how much we need to ascribe to Stan outside of that framework. Instead let’s look within ourselves and work on overcoming the natural man through reliance on the Atonement and the grace of Christ. The banality of evil, etc.

  73. I feel like I’m starting to get a bum wrap in this thread. I just wanted to make a joke at the beginning of the comments about Satan going fisticuffs with folks. Now I’m being ascribed efforts to help others sin. I agree with Ray: “leave Stan out of the discussions”.

    Either that, or some people need to fix their autocorrect.

  74. #73 – “You’ll have to look at more than the titles . . .”

    If I had the time I would. I did, however, look through the talk on redeeming the dead. The adversary was mentioned in one paragraph, but was hardly the focus of the talk. I guess if a brief mention is what defines “focus” then that was the focus. My bet is that most of the talks that mention the adversary last conference (and I doubt there were that many) probably treated it much the same–a brushing glance. On the other hand, I’m betting the ones that mention the Savior number higher and focus more.

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