Mormons and Mental Illness: Demonic Possession

Many people believe that the demonic possessions described in the Bible were, in fact, mental illnesses. Eric Russell wonders whether, on occasion, what we call mental illnesses are, in fact, demonic possessions.

When people ask me what my greatest fear is, I tell them it’s Satan. People often chuckle, thinking it’s a cute answer. I usually let them think it is, but it’s not. My greatest fear in this world is encountering — perhaps not Satan himself — but a spirit enslaved to him, possessing the body of human being. Though the very idea is an archaic one in today’s enlightened world, I believe it happens. And I think it’s one possible cause of behavior we usually attribute to a mental illness.

Before I continue, a quick disclaimer. I have some opinions on the causes of depression and I have made some comments to the effect on this blog and others. As such, I think it vital that I make it clear that this is an entirely different topic. I am not talking about normal people who experience depression or anxiety, nor am I talking about people we have generally been referring to as mentally ill, I’m talking about crazy people. I know that “crazy people” is not a PC term, but for the issue I am addressing, it really is the only adequate one I know. Well, “insane” perhaps, or “mad”, but I like “crazy people.”

In my two years in southern Brazil, I spent over a year in the slums. There I had various encounters with crazy people. These are people most of us have never encountered before because, in the United States, they most certainly would be living in an institution of some sort. And I’m not talking about the mental wellness facilities that commonly disturbed people occupy, I’m talking asylums. Unfortunately, in Brazil, if you have someone looking after you, and you are not a serious threat to anyone, and you are very poor, you spend your days lying in bed at home or walking the streets.

Fascinated by such people, I often tried to communicate. In almost all cases, any real communication was impossible, but I struggled to extract whatever I could get out of them. I eventually concluded that, for the most part, explanations for their mental state were natural. Excessive and extended drug use might explain some cases; severe mental illnesses might explain others. But there was one crazy man whose family told us he had been dealing heavily in dark arts. On other occasions, both my companion and I felt a clear absence of the spirit in the presence of a person. Is it possible they were actually possessed?

In an early experience my senior companion, a very sober and intelligent Elder, later told me a crazy person we had encountered previously was indeed possessed with an evil spirit, but that he had not felt the need to cast it out because the man wasn’t a threat to anyone. I guess I’ll never know if he was right. Of all the crazy people I met, I never felt that I knew with assurance that any of them were possessed. But I must say I strongly suspected in a number of cases.

Of all the frightening things surrounding a potentially possessed person, the thing that frightens me most is my own ignorance. Why is it that everything I know about the casting out of evil spirits I learned on the mission and haven’t heard since? Do our leaders speak of it? Do we have any doctrine on the matter? Though I was blessed in that I personally never had to perform the ordinance, I know of many who did. I heard a number of stories — first hand, from trusted companions — of its success and of its failure. I am wary of anything that isn’t taught from the pulpit in General Conference, but my experiences have convinced me that possession by evil spirits is indeed a real thing.

I think our lack of familiarity on the matter is a good thing. In an age where any little boy who acts up is diagnosed with ADD and stuffed with Ritalin, and any little girl who’s having a tough time making friends is put on Prozac, I think it’s a very good thing that possession with evil spirits is not taken seriously as a possibility when a teenager goes gothic. Teaching exorcism from the pulpit would only result in bad things. Imagine people trying to cast spirits out of others and the offense and hurt it would cause, or the anxiety that would result should someone believe their own problems were due to possession by spirits not their own. (By the way, if you’re clear-minded enough to consider the possibility that you are possessed with an evil spirit, you probably aren’t.) In any case, the casting out of evil spirits is something that is officially under the table church-wise, and there I think it should remain.

But that does not mean it does not exist. The fact that I believe in the plausible necessity of casting out evil spirits coupled with the fact that I know nothing about the matter beyond hearsay from missionary companions is a cause of some concern to me. What if I should encounter a circumstance where the spirit indicated to me that a person was indeed possessed with an evil spirit? Ought I to attempt casting them out? Is there a correct way to do it? Is there a correct time or circumstance to do it? Or is there really no such thing as possession by an evil spirit in this day and age altogether? The only answer to these questions that I can conceive of is simply to follow the dictates of the spirit should the occasion arrive. But even still, I would be comforted if we had some sort of church policy or instruction on the matter, one way or the other. Silence is always disconcerting.

Comments

  1. Ah yes, Jared, hag dreams and sleep paralysis. Good stuff!

    And can I say that Emily Rose was a terrible, terrible film.

  2. Anon for this topic says:

    FWIW, I believe it can be either. I believe there are illnesses that look like possession and possessions that look like illness. From my experience, the only key to casting out is to do it quickly. The ordinance (at least that is what I call it) isn’t complete until you say “Amen.” The evil spirit will argue with you until you say Amen.
    I also recommend caution–if there is no possession, then trying to cast an evil spirit out when there is none can do incredible psychic harm. I made that mistake once, and regret it.

  3. And Eric, if you used the MA you would have noticed Jared’s post and all your concerns would have melted into a sea of tropical bliss.

  4. It is interesting that the most intense interest in exorcism today is not found among Catholics (as it was for many centuries) but among charismatic evangelical Protestants and their “deliverance ministires.” For an interesting book, check out sociologist Michael Cuneo’s ethnographic study of deliverance ministries called “American Exorcism.” I read it as part of my Ph.D. course work in American religious history, and it is one of the few that I can still vividly remember!

  5. Is it that sea of tropical bliss that the islands of the archipelago are moored in? Hee. I’m picturing a balmy day, lying on the beach of my own private (Pie-bolar, although since I’m not always regarding Mormon issues, I can’t list myself) island, and dipping my toes in this sea of tropical bliss.

    I figure if it could happen in Jesus’ day, it can happen now. And that with the Restoration of the Gospel, and with opposition in all things, perhaps there is some . . . undercurrent of . . . evilness that went on the rise as the Church was established and grown. And, for all I know, probably was there from time immemorial until now.

    It scares me. Frightens me to my very bones, in ways that nothing else could. Because he and his minions would be the worst things to encounter, EVER.

    Eeep. I may have to beg off the rest of this thread, if my anxieties kick into high gear. Thank you for your exposition of your feelings on mental illness, as a preface to your discussion of this issue.

    This may sound wierd, but I pray that my dreams will be protected from devils and demons, as I have had VERY VERY vivid, real, oppressive nightmares where the EVIL was palpable; so thick you could taste it; you swam in it. Nightmares where I literally felt as though I was doomed to hell, and headed there. I NEVER EVER want to feel the like, again, ever. I wasn’t possessed, of course, but EVIL . . . is just beyond the worst.

    Whether I am silly or not to pray this, I know not. It can’t hurt, though. Lol!

  6. For an excerpt of the Cuneo book mentioned above, go here http://www.beliefnet.com/story/115/story_11524_1.html

  7. Troy Taysom says:

    Constanza:

    I’ve never read that particular book, but I did once rent the Exorcist while I was a stud at BYU. I didn’t return it for 3 months even though the video store was half a block from my house. Something just wouldn’t let me.

    Anyway, if you’re Coolio book is half as scary as that flick, I hope you have a month’s supply of Lunesta!

  8. This is a very pertenant topic for Mormons as discerning the Adversery was quite a substantial point of focus for Joseph Smith. For our restorationist founders, “casting out devils” was one of the signs of the true church. Joseph and the early saints struggled, often physically, with dark entities. It is similar to glossolalia – part of our charismatic past.

    Our history is replete with instances of the casting out of devils. Our present is not. To be frank, I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

  9. Troy Taysom says:

    All joking with Constanza aside-he and I know many of the same people–I’ve always been fascinated with the relationship between missionaries and evil. Evil spirits, exorcisms, witchcraft, and demonic posession were common topics and war-stories were exchanged every time more than a couple of us got together. Was it because we were in a tropical country where spiritualists were everywhere, where African religions had fused with Catholicism? Or was it because we thought of ourselves as soldiers on the front lines of a real war against real forces of evil?

    Regarding your encounters with crazy people, Eric, is it just me or does it seem that missionaries the world over are like magnets for crazy folks? I once taught an extended family that had 3 people who definitely qualified as severely disturbed–a brother and his twin sister lived in an old house, and an older uncle lived in a lean-to in the back yard. All 3 of them thought that their neighbors were communicating telepathically with them, but thankfully they never beamed them any violent thoughts, just lots of profanity and gibberish. Incidentally, we met them after a member of the church sent us over because he thought they were all posessed.

  10. Eric: “By the way, if you’re clear-minded enough to consider the possibility that you are possessed with an evil spirit, you probably aren’t.”

    Well said, Eric. And I hope all you folks out there who stuggle with anxiety/depression (as I do) will take Eric’s statement seriously and not let this topic get the best of you.

    For years I believed that the dark forces were out to get me. Now let me explain–they are out to get me (us) and have most of their success on the more obvious fronts of temptations that all of us deal with everyday. But as one that has endured much difficulty because of sleep paralysis (or hag syndrome), I believed that something dark was after me because of the intense night terrors that can be brought on by sleep paralysis. As I’ve gotten a little older, though, it’s become clear to me that most of what I’ve experienced in those moments is do to a mental illness of sorts. That said, knowing that such horrific experiences are a result of a mental disorder doesn’t necessarily lessen the fear factor. The mind is a scary place–harboring a life time of fears, sorrows, and regrets. And for reasons the I don’t really understand, my mind, usually in the early hours, will crack open the door to my worst fears–fears that usually have to do with myself–and leave me in such a whimpering state that my wife must lead me by the hand, fetch me a drink of water, and calm fears with gentle words a caresses fashioned for a three year old.

  11. I also met tons of crazy people in Brazil. But there was only one instance when I felt like there were demons afoot. I just re-read my journal entry about the experience to refresh my memory. I’m still pretty sure this guy was possessed. He was also drunk, but I was around drunkenness a lot as a missionary and I never experienced anything like this one. And I also knew him as a nice, normal-ish man before the possession episode. Messed up.

    Something I think about a bit is the question of what power the disembodied one third actually have. If their work is to tempt and to fight against good, how do they do so? Can they whisper in our minds? I doubt that they have power over our bodies unless we cede it to them in one way or another. Although, I wonder if Joseph’s pre-vision bout with the powers of darkness was some sort of possession.

  12. An interesting book by a qualified practitioner that takes a serious look at possession and exorcism is Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption, by M. Scott Peck. I read it last year while flying to Hawaii; probably disturbed the folks in adjoining seats but it’s not really that bad a book. Yes, it’s the same M. Scott Peck who wrote The Road Less Traveled.

  13. I’m not sure that demonic possessions have decreased. I think it’s due to the fact that we simply do not talk about them. With that said, let me share with you my demon possession anecdote. And yes, it’s from my mission. And yes, it was in a third-world hispanic country, Guatemala.

    Two Elders were attempting to confirm a young woman in sacrament meeting after her baptism the day before. As soon as the woman sat down, she began twisting and throwing her body around and screaming obscenities. After two hours (if I recall correctly) they finally had several men hold her down while one of the Elders confirmed her. As soon as the Elder conferred the Holy Ghost and said “amen,” her eyes opened and she asked what was going on, completely unaware of what had happened.

    Now, you might say she was faking it or something, but that night, the companion of the Elder who had done the confirmation awoke. He found his companion jumping up and down on his bed, throwing things, and screaming things in perfectly-grammared Spanish. Frightened and frantic he called the President who then ordered us to go and get the two Elders and bring them back to Guatemala City.

    President never told us what happened after that, whether he gave them a blessing, etc. This was unusual because President told us more than I realized he would about the goings on in the mission. But he never said a word about this.

    Rusty can also tell you about the possessed German Shepherd in Monte Maria. I swear that dog was possessed.

  14. With held says:

    I’ve only had one experience where I’m sure I encountered a person possessed. We were tracting and as soon as the door opened and we saw this women, we could see and feel the evil spirit present. The scarey part was she invited us in. She did it in such a way and such a tone that that was another confirmation of her possession. It was a distorted face/body that wasn’t a birth situation, a voice tone that spoke volumes and a darkness – thick darkness the likes of which I have never experienced before or since.

    We followed the spirit and left….quickly. (If we would have been prompted to cast the evil spirit out hopefully we would have stayed and done so)

  15. Jack,
    That sounds terrifying, man. All the best.

  16. Thanks, Ronan. Fortunately, not all such terrors are maxemum in their intensity. But one every so often is enough to cause one to hope for the reality of a loving God.

  17. harpingheather says:

    In an early experience my senior companion, a very sober and intelligent Elder, later told me a crazy person we had encountered previously was indeed possessed with an evil spirit, but that he had not felt the need to cast it out because the man wasn’t a threat to anyone.

    What about the poor soul being posessed? I suppose that if the missionary had been prompted to do so he would have but it makes me sad to think of that poor person left to struggle with such a terrible condition. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

    I’m with you, Sarebear. This touches too deeply upon a fear that I’ve always had and never understood why I had it. This is a great topic and very interesting but I think I’d best not keep following it because it gets too close to a door I need to keep firmly shut.

  18. When I was young and still living at home with my parents, I was rummaging around in one of our filing cabinets one day, and I found an envelope that had somehow come into my mother’s possession (if you’ll pardon the pun) containing an account of an “exorcism” of some kind that took place (if I remember correctly) in Pocatello, Idaho, by some members of the Church back when my mother was young (she was born in 1929). I don’t remember any of the details, but I do remember my surprise at coming across such an account; those who had taken part in it apparently felt a need to document what had happened. Why she had this account, I have no idea; I just assumed that maybe she or her parents had known some of the principals involved.

    Every once in a while, I wonder what happened to this envelope (my mother passed away a few years ago, and I have no idea what my dad may have done with it).

  19. 19 comments of hearsay and speculation, thanks everyone!

    No, just kidding. Good comments all, seriously. I find other people’s experiences with this fascinating.

    Harpingheather, good point. I don’t know. I think it was just a basic selfish sense of fear that motivated us to get the heck out of there and never come back.

    Tim J., LOL about the dog. There was many a dog that I had to wonder if it were possessed. Freaking dogs.

    Tom, those are questions I share. I too tend to think that one cannot become possessed without somehow allowing it, although stories such as Tim’s suggest possibilities to contrary.

    Troy, I’ve noticed the same. It’s strange. Everything I’ve heard is from my own mission or from other people’s missions. And usually in third world countries. I’m not exactly sure what to make of it.

    Anyone who knows, is there anytime in the church’s history when someone actually needed to use the information provided in Section 129? 129 is an odd, usually overlooked nook of the D&C. I wonder if it has ever actually provided a useful service to the saints.

  20. Johnathan (#9), why do you say the current era isn’t filled with these stories. I’ve certainly heard a large number of first hand accounts. I suspect many have. We may disagree on how to interpret things. But I don’t see any indication that the rate is much different.

  21. I could be mistaken there, Clark. The bulk of the 19th century accounts that I have read have often related to palpable beings. As I mentioned, Joseph was very focused on this (likely from personal experience).

    I have brushed up against things that I would consider in a comparable vein. My dad who served in rural polenesia also has some interesting stories. These have, however, been of a different character than the 19th century accounts.

    Perhaps because I anthologize accounts, I am over estimating frequency of 19th century accounts…but I still wager that they are much higher than their 21st century counterparts (even if they are different in nature). If you raised this in the average GD class, there would be a lot of weird stares, I think.

  22. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    I saw what I felt was an example of demonic possession on my mission. It wasn’t the crazy lady who lived under the bridge; it was the native missionary who was acting as branch president.

    We were in a little branch that had been opened only six months before. A native missionary was transferred in to serve as branch president. I thought that was wonderful. It gave him leadership experience and gave the local members a native leader. Win-win. Or so I thought until we had an especially spiritual sacrament service. The BP stood to close the meeting and began to wail and scream, pounding the pulpit and the wall behind him. After a couple of minutes of this, he stopped and closed the meeting. The spirit that had been at the meeting was suddenly replaced with an eerily uncomfortable feeling. We American Elders walked home together while the BP and his companion stayed to take care of some business.

    We discussed what had happened. Yes, it was very strange. No, it did not have the feel of something that should occur in an LDS meeting. But the district leader refused to call or write the mission president about it. Our MP was a native and it was clear to us that he felt that the natives could do no wrong.

    The next occurrence was about a month later. We had a fantastic testimony meeting. And we had lots of investigators there too. The BP closed the meeting and offered the prayer himself. He did the same thing as before; wailing and screaming, pounding the pulpit and the wall behind him. On the walk home the DL once again refused to notify the MP.

    I talked with the BP and asked about his display during the prayer. He said that no such thing had happened and that I must be mistaken.

    I told the DL that if he didn’t tell the MP, I would.. Big mistake. The MP felt that I must have misunderstood what had happened and why did I feel that I could question my leaders. The MP held that against me the rest of my mission.

    I think I’ve seen demonic possession. It thwarted the work in that branch. The locals thought we were a crazy cult. Or at least more than normal. I don’t know what happened to that Elder (the BP). But I feel that he experienced occasional demonic possession. Was it some sort of seizure? It didn’t occur any other time but in church meetings when the spirit was especially strong. One would expect a mental illness resulting in seizures to occur at other times too.

  23. you guys, I have to be at work in an hour, I now worship and kiss the feet of working women all over the world. Working sucks. Although it has been invigorating in a way.

    I believe in demons, ie bad spirits. I experienced this major when I was newly married to Bill and struggling with three kids, one unhappy about the marriage, two seriously ADD.

    I got hooked on tranquilizers and one day stopped cold turkey (guys, never do that). I went through a year of hell, but the first month was the worst.

    And there were evil spirits all over. They would go away when Bill came home. When he left in the morning, they were all over me. I didn’t dare tell anyone because I was crazy enough as it was and I thought they would commit me. God and my neighbors got me through a lot.

    But I asked my bishop to come and give me a blessing. I didn’t mention evil spirits. Bill assisted him and in his blessing, he specifically “banned all evil spirits from this house.” I just sat there in shock.

    After, I asked, “how did you know?” And he said, “I’d seen it once before on my mission and I knew it as soon as I walked in your door.”

    The evil spirits left completely.

    This is a true story.

    Off to the damn salt mines. Guys, I will be working at Wal-Mart. Going over to the dark side.

    Did you know they have a rule that if a customer gets within ten feet of them, they are supposed to greet the customer and ask if they can help? That’s a good rule, all stores should have such a rule.

  24. You guys are the only ones who know my real name. Don’t tell, okay?

    Plus, it’s not my favorite name. I am Anne in my heart. Although I am forgetting how to introduce myself. Which is funny when you say, “Hi, I’m Anne, uh, no, that’s not right. uh….just a minute, it’ll come to me.”

  25. I feel like I have to speak up for exorcisms being mostly bunk. There’s a reason why 99% of modern Mormon exorcism stories come from missionaries. They are young, inexperienced, impressionable, filled with stories about fighting the adversary and they mix with the lowest rungs of society, who are the least likely to have access to mental and physical health care. What does all that add up to? Every missionary with an exorcism story.

    I feel strongly that by perpetuating these exorcism myths we are seriously harming those with mental illnesses. Especially because it is commonplace in Mormonism to say, “you can’t be possessed without letting the evil spirit in.” Yes, let’s blame the victims of mental illness for their disease.

    According to the New Testament, all illnesses were caused by devils or demons. Thank God that we have (mostly) abandoned that primitive world view.

  26. I have to say that I’m with Flanders on this one. Is it not possible that exorcisms of times past were simply miraculous healings of people who were mentally ill? And it wouldn’t seem to matter: Jack’s night terrors — which have a good scientific explanation — sound terrible. One doesn’t need ghouls and devils to be terrified. I would hate for people who are struggling emotionally to think they have to battle Satan too, although I realise that was not Eric’s intention.

    (All that said, I have a great mission ghost story that happened in my district whilst I was there!)

  27. In my experience, most missionary exorcism stories are folklore (which isn’t the same as saying they are false). They serve several purposes for missionaries: educational, communal, anxiety transference, etc. Also, most demon-possession mission stories use the fried-of-a-friend (“FOAF,” in folklore terms) device. When pressed, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone who would admit that the experience was truly a first-hand account. Usually, it happened to a companion, or a companion’s companion, or DL or ZL, or whatever.

    When I got home from my mission, I noticed that different people from different missions told the same stories, so somehow these stories had jumped mission boundaries. The settings had been adapted, but the narratives stayed essentially the same. One involved the mission companion who didn’t have a testimony of God, so he decided he’d get one indirectly by getting a testimony of Satan first. Another involved a demonic healing of a missionary by a cultish religious group (in Japan, this was the Mahikari, a Buddhist sect that performs healings). In this story, the missionary broke his arm and was healed by a Mahikari onlooker, which caused the missionary spiritual distress and confusion. When he told the mission president, the president cast out the devil, and the arm immediately re-broke. The same story was told by a friend of mine in his Korean mission, with the details adjusted to that setting.

    My father, who was a mission president, did mention one time that he was called on to cast out a devil at a Waffle House at midnight. (But then, those of us who are familiar with Waffle House understand what a dark and evil place that can be.) So while I don’t believe demon possession never occurs, I think demon possession stories may be more interesting and illuminating in the telling itself than in any connection to factual events.

  28. Floyd, Annegb, those are good stories.

    Ned, thanks for speaking up. I understand where you’re coming from, because I’ve felt exactly the same way before. One thing that always brings me back is that Christ himself cast out demons. Did Christ also hold a primitive world view or is it that the Apostles didn’t really know what they were talking about? Either way, it’s a pretty major flaw in scripture. I feel my personal belief in the scriptures as a true account insists that I take the possibility of possession seriously. I guess it all comes down to how literally we interpret scripture.

  29. To be clear, BTD Greg meant to type “friend-of-a-friend,” not “fried.” Right?

    And yeah, correctly identifying some of these recurring stories as folklore doesn’t mean they never happened. It is interesting to look at missionaries as the ideal folk group to transmit these tales, though (for all the reasons NFlanders brought up, plus the fact that missionaries are a chatty bunch to begin with).

    The Waffle House occurrence was weird, but at the time I remember thinking it was the most obvious place ever for that sort of thing to happen.

  30. At the risk of seeming like a walking bibliography, let me give you another reference relevant to the discussion here–this time dealing with missionary folkore (including possession/exorcism narratives): William A. Wilson, “On Being Human: The Folkore of Mormon Missionaries,” SUNSTONE Jan/Feb 1982; reprinted in SUNSTONE 22:3-4,June 1999

  31. Constanza,

    Do you know if this article is available online? I think I may have read it years ago, but I’d be interested in seeing it again.

    And Allison, I really meant fried-of-a-friend. It’s a term that’s widely used in both folklore and the culinary arts.

  32. enochville says:

    I am in my last years of a Ph.D. program in Cinical Psychology. As such this topic has frequently been on my mind. In my practice, of course, devil possession never enters my mind as a plausible explanation for my client’s illnesses. No one need fear that I guilt trip or exorcize my clients. Yet, I cannot ignore that Christ himself cast out devils. In an attempt to reconcile these views, I came across this quote from Brigham Young:

    “You never felt a pain and ache, or felt disagreeable, or uncomfortable in your bodies and minds, but what an evil spirit was present causing it. Do you realize that the ague, the fever, the chills, the severe pain in the head, the plurisy, or any pain in the system, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, is put there by the devil? You do not realize this, do you?I say but little about this matter, because I do not want you to realize it. When you have the rheumatism, do you realize that the devil put that upon you? No, but you say, “I got wet, caught cold, and thereby got the rheumatism.” The spirits that afflict us and plant disease in our bodies, pain in the system, and finally death, have control over us so far as the flesh is concerned. But when the spirit is unlocked from the body it is free from the power of death and Satan; and when that body comes up again, it also, with the spirit, will gain the victory over death, hell, and the grave.” (Journal of Discourses 4:133)

    Perhaps in addition to the biological causes of illness that we understand, there are spiritual forces working behind the scenes. Maybe this is part of how priesthood blessings work. Obviously, this is speculation.

    But, I hope that each of us have the good sense not to burden those with mental disorders with our speculations. Just as we don’t replace medical treatment with priesthood blessings, we should encourage those that are mentally ill to get counselling or medication. We should offer blessings of counsel and comfort, but I think exorcisms would do more harm than good. I would conclude by saying always follow the spirit, but I sometimes think some elders do very foolish things thinking they are following the spirit. But, please do follow the true Spirit of the Lord.

  33. In 1994 I was in the South Africa Cape Town mission working in the Mitchells Plain branch. My companion was Elder Travis Cantrell who currently lives in Orem Utah. In November he and I confirmed to each other that this had actually happened cause it sounds so incredulous.

    We had some evangelical investigators named Phillip Pass and his wife and daughter. They were middle class mixed race people and lived in one of the nicer areas of this township. The wife acted strangely each time we went over and often muttered gibberish at us.

    One the last and final visit the wife started screaming gibberish at us walking towards us and acting crazy. Elder Cantrell raised his arm to the square and rebuked her in the name of Jesus and cast the devil out of her. She fell onto the couch twitching and foaming at the mouth. This was of course our cue to leave and never come back.

    As we walked towards our car their 4-5 year old girl was on the second floor balcony calling for us to come back. We turned to wave and as we did the Mom walked onto the balcony with a dark figure at her side.

    This is a first hand account.

  34. I have a couple thoughts on this.

    In the scriptures, I think possession is a catch-all phrase that covers lots of things, just like the term “leprosy” could mean anything from severe acne or excema to the real thing. For example, the incident in Matt 8:28-33 is probably a true demonic possession, whereas Matt 12:22 and Mark 9:14-29 I think are something other than an evil spirit.

    Having said that, I just want to say that during and after my mission (to Hungary, by the way, a 1st world country) I have felt evil spirits at work. Not as dramatically as many of you, but it was there. I think it makes sense that these things happen a lot on missions, because the missionaries are at a high point spiritually and are just more spiritually sensitive in general, and because Satan is working just as hard are harder than the missionaries doing his own conversion work. Most of the stories we hear out there are probably just mission mythology; however, almost everything you guys have shared here has been first person. So of course we do have to be careful about what we call demonic possession, but we shouldn’t be surprised when it does turn up.

  35. bbell,

    Wow.

    What did the “dark figure” look like? Was it an apparition? Could you see its features?

    Ghost hunters talk about “shadow people,” which are dark and not very well defined, but have the shape of persons. That’s what this made me think about.

  36. BTD Greg,

    It was smiling at us. It looked vaguely human male. I am of the opinion that Mrs Pass invited it back in as we left and that the daughter was scared of what was going on and she wanted us to stay and “deal” with the situation. I am not that interested in the occult or ghost hunting I just have this one experience.

    My mission had a couple of well documented stories like this involving evangelicals. I will not share them because they are second hand but this is a first hand account.

  37. For a believer, I’m pretty skeptical of stories of miracles and angels and demons and the like. If there’s an explanation for a given phenomenon that doesn’t invoke the supernatural, I’ll almost always lean that way. And it’s very easy to dismiss umpteenth person accounts as fiction. Furthermore, I believe that most of the feelings that we call temptations and attribute to Satan and/or his minions are not from Satan at all, but are the natural urges of our animal body. Point being, I think supernatural evil power may be overestimated and over-emphasized and I get where Flanders and Ronan are coming from.

    But when you’re personally confronted with an incident that begs an explanation, there are times when invoking the supernatural seems quite apt. I also believe that communication from the Spirit can help one to understand the nature of a given incident. And I believe that scriptural and prophetic teachings indicate that there is such a thing as supernatural evil power, even if I’m not sure exactly what that means or how it manifests itself.

    In the years since my mission I have remembered from time to time the one experience where I believed demonic possession or evil forces of some sort might have come into play. Skeptical of my missionary self’s conclusion, I have often figured that I must have come to that conclusion because I was a young missionary with romantic ideas about fighting evil and whatnot. But re-reading what I wrote about it brought the experience vividly back to my memory and I still consider it possible that it was a manifestation of the power of evil. This is partially based on logic and partially on feelings. So I don’t think I would be able to convince a skeptic that the guy wasn’t just drunk. If I heard it second hand I would probably lean towards a naturalistic explanation.

  38. Sorry for the thread hijack. I do find parapsychology and the occult interesting, from a purely bystanders’ perspective. (I.e., I haven’t had many of these types of experiences myself, but I enjoy reading about them.) I’m expecially interested not only in the experiences themselves, but also in the way that they are interpreted and shared among groups of people with similar beliefs and experiences. How these things may or may not relate to Mormonism would be a complete and total thread hijack, so I won’t go there.

  39. BTD Greg.

    Elder Cantrell and I kept this Exp on the QT and did not share it very much with others.

  40. BTG Greg,
    I don’t think it is online, but you should go to the SUNSTONE website and the DIALOGUE website (he has published similar things there) just to see what you can find.

  41. “Especially.” I’m a horrible speller.

  42. a random John says:

    This is going to be long. Short summary: I witnessed a posession and it was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen.

    Now for the long story, which you can feel free to file under Mormon folklore. That is what I would do if I hadn’t been there…

    I also served in Brazil. I encountered metally ill people every single day. One of them was a fellow missionary.

    One evening I was visiting some investigators in my area. I was with the LZ, because my comp had a broken foot. We were in someone’s courtyard talking to them and another investigator from down the street came by and asked why we weren’t at his house. This was a Saturday and we didn’t have an appointment with the guy until the next Tuesday. He insisted that we needed to come to his house and teach his family that very night.

    Sensing some urgency we excused ourselves from the household that we were visiting and walked with this guy down the hill to his house. This area is in the extreme corner of the city. This house was on the very last street of the city, across the street there is a soccer field and then nothing but cane fields for miles. If you are facing the soccer field the street extended for maybe two blocks to your left before ending with more cane fields in that direction. It could hardly have been more isolated.

    So the guy seems to be acting a little weird as we got to his house but he insists on a discussion claiming that he “needs” it and we’re always happy to teach. He explains that he is depressed because he hit his son. We start with a prayer and about two minutes into the discussion this guys entire contenance changes. It happened in an instant. One moment he seemed a little out of it and the next he wasn’t there, but something else was, and was in complete control. We went from loose to rigid and the room felt evil immediately. He spoke in a different voice. I don’t remember the details of the first few words, but it identified itself as an evil spirit.

    I looked at the LZ and when I looked back the guy had picked up one of his son’s toy trucks off the ground. He violently pried off the rear axle, popped one of the wheels off, put his thumb behind the other one, wrapped his fingers around the axle and came at me with it, trying to stab me.

    I grabbed his arm with both hands and was staring at this weapon just above my head. The LZ (Elder Jacome) tackled him. Good thing that Jacome was a stocky guy. We pinned him to the ground and proceeded to try to cast out the evil spirit. At first we had no luck. I tried, Jacome tried, I tried in English, I tried anointing with oil, and nothing seemed to be working. I don’t know why. All the while his wife is going crazy saying that nothing like this had ever happened before and wanting to go get a big statute of Mary from the other room.

    Meanwhile the guy/evil spirit won’t stop talking about how he’s sent from Satan and he’s going to kill us all and even if we escape him there is an entire legion of spirits waiting for us across the street who are there specifically to kill the two of us.

    Eventually the spirit leaves him, and again his entire body changes as does his voice. He doesn’t remember what has happened but then he can see the spirit in the room and is terrified. We tell him that it can’t enter him if he doesn’t let it and he says that the spirit says that it will kill him if he doesn’t let it enter. The same thing repeats for the next sevearl hours. We are able to cast it out, it stays in the room, he lets it back in and then it is back to holding him down on the floor.

    Eventually it is out long enough for us to haul him into the shower and calm him down. By now the neighbors are all there and each one wants to bring their own local religious leader over, but by this time it is really too late for them to do so.

    After the shower he is calm enough to reason with and the spirit left. After staying around for a bit to make sure that things had really calmed down we left, well past our curfew. We avoided going out onto the road with the soccer field on it and instead went through backyards until we got to a cross street and headed home.

    The next week the family thanked us for our help the previous Saturday and told us that they didn’t want any more discussions.

    I can count on one hand the number of times I have told this story. Each time the person hearing it has suggested that this could be a case of mental illness, possibly mulitple personality disorder. I am not an expert in the subject, so it is hard to say, but his wife insisted that this had never happened before and whatever was in control of him claimed to be sent by Satan and that there were others.

    I continue to believe that it was a posession. I know others that I trust that have witnessed similar things, one of these people was able to see the spirits as he cast them out. While I think that many things that were considered demonic posession in the past are now understood to be disease I don’t think that means that there is no such thing as posession.

  43. Julie M. Smith says:

    Why do most (all?) of these stories involve missionaries?

  44. a random John says:

    Julie,

    Note that most of these stories no longer involve the USA either.

    I would guess that one reason for the missionary thing is that you meet a lot of people on your mission. You are going out of your way to meet people and are usually not especially discriminating in who you talk to. I certainly do not meet new people with the frequency that I did on my mission nor do I meet nearly as wide of a spectrum of people.

    A sceptic would use your question to point out that missionaries are in places where there is less mental health care and that they are running into people that would be on medication in the USA, or homeless, or in an institution. Oddly, it seems that it is much easier to be mentally ill and have a house (though possibly in a shanty town) in poorer countries than in the USA.

  45. I, too, witnessed a possession first hand while on my mission, but I won’t talk about the details of it here. In fact, I strongly encourage everyone not to talk about these things unless you feel absolutlely certain that conveying such information will edify those who receive it. I apologize for being preachy, but those are my feelings on the subject.

    That said, I greatly appreciate enochville’s thoughts on this. I remember hearing a man sobbing out a story in testimony meeting which was ocassioned by the recent death of his grandson. Before the boy’s passing the grandfather mistakenly tried to cast an evil spirit out of his grandson. Apparently he had mistaken the symptoms of a chemical/mental disorder (which was the cause of the boy’s death) for those of possession. Sad!

  46. I, too, witnessed a possession first hand while on my mission, but I won’t talk about the details of it here. In fact, I strongly encourage everyone not to talk about these things unless you feel absolutlely certain that conveying such information will edify those who receive it. I apologize for being preachy, but those are my feelings on the subject.

    I certainly respect your feelings, and I’d never insist that anyone who doesn’t want to talk about it share their experiences. But could you maybe elaborate on why you feel so strongly that such things shouldn’t be discussed?

    I’m starting to wonder if my mission was atypical. I met plenty of crazy people, but no one I believed was possessed with an evil spirit. Maybe Japan just doesn’t have as many roaming minions as Brazil does. Or maybe I wasn’t spiritual enough as a missionary to recognize evil spirits.

  47. enochville says:

    BTD Greg: About the difference between Japan and Brazil…Culturally, we teach each other how to behave when things are not right with us emotionally. Some cultures strongly believe in demon possession and you will meet a lot of people there that act as if they are possessed by a demon. Other societies don’t believe much in demon possession and guess what, there aren’t many cases of demon possession there.

    Eastern cultures tend to exhibit emotional disorders as physical symptoms because physical symptoms are acceptable. The DSM, which psychologists use, has a section of culture specific disorders. We, as cultures, really do communicate to our community what symptoms are o.k. for people to have, and sick people conform. I believe that is why evangelical churches that focus on exorcism conviently have a lot of people possessed and repossessed.

  48. anothernonymous says:

    My experiences on my mission weren’t of witnessing possession per se but there were certainly instances where there was an evil spirit hanging over the place. One place I went I commented later that there was a bad spirit associated with the place and the WML was surprised to hear it because he confirmed based on his personal knowledge that there were indeed some bad things that had happened there.

    Towards the end of my mission the mission president revoked the missionaries’ authority to cast out evil spirits, telling them to refer to the local priesthood representatives. You can only guess what led to that decision from the mission president.

  49. Is the casting out ceremony/prayer described anywhere in current priesthood handbooks?

  50. Nope. But there are many ordinances that are not so discribed, the bulk of which are neither encouraged for nor accesible to the average member.

  51. a random John says:

    Where are particulars of how blessings and ordinances are to be done found now? Given that the current preisthood manuals are also the RS manuals they don’t have them.

  52. BTD Greg,

    Just to make sure that I’m being clear–

    I don’t have a problem so much with talking about possession versus mental illness and what not. In fact, I believe that some dialogue on that subject is healthy. I get uncomfortable when everyone starts comparing battle wounds with regard to encounters with the adversary. IMO, it can open the door to those very influences that are being discussed. It’s not that it should never be spoken of, it’s just that it should be done with great care.

  53. a random John says:

    Jack,

    I think that first hand accounts are very worthwhile in this sort of discussion of mental illness vs posession. While the situtation I described might not be clear cut to some I think that b bell’s story can not be easily classified as mental illness, unless one is claiming that he and his companion are the ones that are metally ill.

    While I can see how you might classify this as “comparing battle wounds” I don’t see a better way of engaging participants such as Ned and Ronan that have expressed doubt. Reading these stories does not make me want to mess with any of this stuff, quite the opposite. I don’t see the mechansim by which a serious discussion such as this would “open the door”.

  54. A random John….

    I gave my account to counter Ronan and Ned. I have not shared it to much with people and its scares the heck out of my wife when we talk about it.

    My intent was to add to the discussion. A couple of months ago I checked in with my old comp and he confirmed the story after 11 years and offered up a couple of details (involves light) that I did not mention here at BCC.

  55. Elisabeth says:

    Wow – ARJ, BBell, BTDGreg – these are disturbing stories. But I’m going to out on a limb and say that I agree with Ned and Ronan. Given that there is so much we don’t understand about human psychology, I’m very much a skeptic when it comes to people (and stories about people) being possessed by evil spirits.

    Not to make light of the matter, but as I’ve been reading this thread, I’ve been thinking of the scene in “Fletch Lives” where the televangelist smacks Chevy Chase (Fletch) on the forehead and yells, “Demons AYE-Out!!!”

    Now, of course, what always happens in the horror movies is that the unbeliever goes home, is terrorized by evil spirits, and then everyone thinks she’s crazy the next day when she tells her story. I’ll keep you posted.

  56. Elisabeth,

    Just to be clear, I’m not taking sides on the issue of whether or not these things happen. I tend to lean toward Ned and Ronan’s position intuitively, but I’m open-minded and curious about this stuff. (Not to mention the fact that Mormon metaphysics will sort of push you in the direction of at least some paranormal/occult experiences being legitimate.) As I mentioned before, I’m also as much interested in how and why people experience these things as I am about whether such things actually occur, in an objective sense.

  57. How would demon possession of the kinds described fit with our understanding of God and Plan of Salvation in general? A belief that demons actually take possession of the bodies of people raises all kinds of questions.

    Under what circumstances do they have this power over us? There are all kinds of wicked people, including self proclaimed Satanists, who show absolutely no sign of demonic possession. What distinguishes those who are possessed?

    Why would God ever permit demons to have this kind of power in the first place?

    Do people who don’t believe in demon possession ever get possessed? It seems to me that the only people who have these experiences are relatively uneducated, mystical types in the first place and the witnesses seem generally conditioned to believe in demon possession. Does that tell us anything?

    Why did Jesus encounter so many demon possessed people in the relatively small population of ancient Israel and we have so few possible cases in the modern church which has exposure to a population many times greater than he did? It sure seems to me that incidence of demon possession declines dramatically as the level of education increases.

    I don’t doubt the first hand accounts described above. However, I see no reason to believe that the best explanation is demon possession.

    Lastly, the quote from Brigham Young attributing all illness to evil spirits is surely utter nonsense. But it is statements like that that create a culture that is willing to attribute things such as mental illness to demon possession.

  58. Anon for this topic says:

    garf,

    Your questions raise some interesting points. But along the same lines, why don’t we see any of the charismatic gifts any more? And when we do hear stories of them, why are they all associated with missionaries? Do they just not occur any more? Or have they been correlated out? Or as the Church has matured, are we beyond all of that now?

    Was anybody else bothered by the article in the January Ensign discussing the LDS concept of the Godhead that started out by saying that many of our beliefs are the same as other Christian churches? Joseph’s story of the first vision is just as radical and challenging to the mainstream order of things now as it was in his day, but even it seems to have been correlated into plain vanilla now.

  59. Ned, I am totally not offended that you are skeptical. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t either.

    Whoever asked why does this happen to missionaries, that is a good question. I don’t have an answer, but I’m glad it happened to my bishop because it made a difference in my life.

    I’m not sure, though, about possession. We know there are evil spirits, but I think it says in Doctrines of Salvation or somewhere that only God can read our minds. I would think incidents of possession are rare because in some way, the person would have to be seeking it.

    I believe in psychic abilities (not these psychics who charge $500) because I have them. I don’t use them or charge, but I tell you, people who are close to me are believers. It’s not something I even seek, sometimes I just know things. I scare myself all the time. Although, I suppose this could also be called personal revelation :).

  60. This talk about “Satan” does considerable damage in terms of self-fulfilling prophesies. I have encountered three women who reported sleep disorders because their primary instructors scared them senseless.

    One of them I know since my childhood. She hardly slept as a teenager because in primary they told the kids that satan was going to sneak into their hearts. Eventually, she needed to spent two years in institutionalized therapy to overcome the fear she had been socialized into.

    Obviously, I cannot broadcast the individuals’ names. Those who doubt the information are free to contact me and I will be happy discuss the particulars.

    There are rational explanations for delusions, no need to invoke magic. There are also many opportunities to help people with psychiatric disorders.

    Idle speculation about possession isn’t one of them. It is not only irrational but irresponsible. Demonstrably, real people are getting hurt, especially when this stuff maskerades as theology.

  61. bbell, a Random John, those are awesome stories. Before I say what I’m going to say below, I just want to make it clear that it’s my position that I’m glad you shared them.

    But I do wonder if there are boundaries in what we say about negative spiritual experiences much as there are about positive spiritual experiences. I’ll share an experience to explain.

    One night a companion and I were talking about Satan, I don’t remember exactly what, I wish I did. I remember that, upon an instant, I felt a sudden emptiness. Normally, I would have ignored such a feeling, thinking that it was either simply an emotional reaction or that I was just getting tired. But immediately after my own feeling, my companion looked over at me with wide-eyes. He said, “Did you feel that? The spirit just dropped out of the room.”

    That seriously freaked me out. We stopped talking about it and never brought it up again. This experience was especially jarring to me because I’m someone who’s all for the free expression of ideas, whatever they are. But I must say it led me to believe there are some things that perhaps ought not be spoken of. It also led me to believe that the power of Satan is something that’s real, and not to be taken lightly.

    That said, I hope this isn’t a thread killer. I very much appreciate all the comments made so far.

  62. Idle speculation about possession isn’t one of them. It is not only irrational but irresponsible. Demonstrably, real people are getting hurt, especially when this stuff maskerades as theology.

    I don’t think anyone is guilty of “idle speculation.” Most of these stories, from what I gather, are first-hand accounts (like mine) and not passed down through the rumor-mill. I don’t think anyone here is confusing possession with mental illness without having wondered aloud about it.

  63. I’ve wondered about the relationship between mental illness and demonic possession for many years. I appreciate this post and thread very much. I understand skepticism and critical thinking, but I cannot understand how anyone can believe in God, angels, Satan and the one third of Heaven that’s been cast out and not accept the possibility of demonic possession. One of the things we’re taught from day one is that these spirits who were cast out (to earth) want more than anything to have a body. Well, why wouldn’t a few of them try and go for it? Why do missionaries experience it more often? Because they are the arch enemies of these spirits! Why don’t you hear about them in America as much as other places? It’s already been mentioned that America probably puts these people away more quickly. Or perhaps America is called the promised land for a reason. Maybe evil spirits aren’t as welcome in America. Maybe it is a “blessed” land in many ways. Maybe places like Brazil or wherever, have more possessions, because, yes, they do culturally accept it — those spirits know they’re welcome there. Who knows? What do you think this third of Heaven is doing all day anyway? Kicking back until the milennium?
    I’ve never been on a mission, but I have seen two instances where I (and a person I was with who wasn’t a member of the church) felt that something was truly possessed. One was a dog (a German Shepherd no less, just like in the comment above!), and we both looked at each other and knew. The other (and now you’ll think that I’m really nuts and this sounds like a superstition or a bad episode of the Twilight Zone) was a crudely made folk doll in a little shop in Egypt. I don’t know if it was actually possessed, or if that’s even possible, but I physically couldn’t bring myself to touch the doll and I felt an evil presence around it. I had to get out of the shop immediately. I was going to post this last night, but the memory of it was freaking me out too much! I have to say that mental illness is something to deal with medically, but these accounts seem like something very different than illness.
    Finally, just as when 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, etc, we invite the Spirit, maybe we should be careful about inadvertantly inviting any unholy spirits to our virtual gathering here. I’ll shut up now.

  64. http://www.winterrowd.com/maze.swf
    If you get through you’ll get what it means.

  65. I don’t think anyone is guilty of “idle speculation.” Most of these stories, from what I gather, are first-hand accounts (like mine) and not passed down through the rumor-mill. I don’t think anyone here is confusing possession with mental illness without having wondered aloud about it.

    I apologize for getting agitated. But when you encounter a child that has had to spent two years in institutionalized counseling after years of sleeplessness, then you will be agitated as well.

    Obviously, nobody intended to do anything bad. Neither did the teachers of the girls. Nonetheless stories and “doctrine” about Satan sneaking into the children’s hearts resulted in an unhealthy mindset that damaged the state of mind of the girls, in several cases seriously.

    There is no evidence of possession. Psychology and psychiatry have had a phenomenal track record during the last 140 years and can explain these phenomena in naturalistic terms. The only thing that is dangerous about “possession” is the suggestive power of the idea. One can demonstrate that a number of girls were damaged by teachings of Satan, damnation, and possession in primary. I would not be surprised if there are many people out there that refuse treatment because they consider themselves “possessed.” Well educated people have an obligation to talk about mental health issues in rational terms rather than stoking damaging superstitions. The “first hand” accounts say a lot more about the narrators than about the phenomenon.

    Ideas have consequences, especially when they are not rooted in reality but transform behavior. In light of the consequences of these kind of beliefs, which I have not only observed “first hand” but which have been medically documented, people should remember that irrational views of the world may result in unhealthy behavior.

    Obviously, there is a difference between happy, go lucky bloggers and primary teachers. On the other hand, By Common Consent takes pride in its reputation as the meeting place for Mormon intellectuals, which probably implies an aspiration to opinion leadership. Intellectuals owe society reasoned leadership.

  66. Meems, you made me laugh. I’m pretty sure you were serious, but I could picture you looking at a possessed dog. Now dolls, one wonders. Since Chucky, you know.

    Eric, what happened to you is what I was talking about in that inviting Satan in thing. I used to do that sort of stuff as a teenager, teenagers being fascinated with the morbid and forbidden, you know.

    It’s a fact that there are people out there who worship Satan. They might be very smart and organized, but from personal experience, I believe most of them to be low-lifes who have too much time on their hands. I don’t believe they’re possessed, Satan doesn’t have to work that hard with them. They are basically morons who do a lot of damage. God is so going to smack them.

  67. Psychology and psychiatry have had a phenomenal track record during the last 140 years …

    I hate to come off like Tom Cruise here, but I think that’s a bit overstated. I’d shorted it to about thirty years, for one thing. And I think most advances in these fields are still in the future.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the rest of your post though, except maybe for the blanket statement that “there’s no evidence of possession” seems a bit strong. Of course there’s evidence (including the first-hand accounts right here), the question is whether the evidence is reliable and how it should be interpreted. On your larger point though, I definitely agree. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions about demon possession, and we certainly shouldn’t be using it to scare children. It reminds me of those really creepy Jack Chick religious tracts that one of my neighbors passes out on Halloween and that I find extremely disturbing and offensive.

    I’m still mulling over the idea that we can “invite” evil spirits by objectively discussing experiences. Somehow, I’ve always thought this seems wrong, or overtly superstitious, but I can’t quite articulate why.

  68. Arlene, I knew people would think I was weird! But I swear, it wasn’t that kind of a doll!! It was more of this weird cloth voodoo thing.

    Old Charley, that was just plain mean!! Yikes!

  69. Last Lemming says:

    But when you encounter a child that has had to spent two years in institutionalized counseling after years of sleeplessness, then you will be agitated as well.

    Hellmut,

    I think your agitation may be misplaced. Have you considered that you might be confusing the proximate cause of a mental disorder’s symptoms with the underlying disorder itself. As an example, my daughter saw her PE teacher smoking and from then on, refused to touch any piece of equipment that he had touched, as it was “contaminated” by tobacco. Months of therapy and years of mental health problems ensued.

    I could blame all that on her primary teacher for teaching the Word of Wisdom. Or I could blame the PE teacher for smoking in view of his pupils. But the fact is, my daughter has OCD. She would have OCD if she had never been taught the Word of Wisdom and if the PE teacher had never smoked. If his action had not triggered the symptoms, something else would have. I suspect that is true of the girl you are describing also.

    Sorry for the threadjack. At least it is on the mental health topic.

  70. enochville says:

    I completely agree with Last Lemming! I consider myself well educated when it comes to mental health, but I also consider myself a firm believer in the restored gospel and have evidences of its truthfulness. I don’t think I do any member favors by denying half my knowledge to appease the scientists of the world that are blinded to any knowledge obtained outside the scientific method.

    Now, I also realize that I don’t know enough to use my limited knowledge of devils in any useful way. I also realize that sharing a little knowledge can do more harm than good. So, I keep all my religious beliefs to myself when I am working in my professional role. But, I feel at liberty to explore reconciliations between the two in this forum of intelligent believers.

    There is no belief more basic to a Christian than to believe in Christ. And like it or not, he claimed to cast out devils. We have to come to terms with that some how. I think some have jumped the gun by equating these possessions with mental illness. They could be entirely separate things. I will not give up my belief in Christ as some have to appear more in vogue with the current worldly zeitgeist.

  71. a random John says:

    Hellmut Lotz,

    I think you’ve set up a straw man here. Nobody is claiming that we should be telling primary children these stories. I also think that the prevailing opinion has been that these shouldn’t be passed on 2nd and 3rd hand to become folklore like the broken leg story above.

    If you mean to say that adults shouldn’t be allowed to discuss their own personal experiences with other adults I’d like to know why you think that. Most here have questioned their own experiences and come to their own conclusions. You are free to doubt the conclusions but it seems a bit over the line to say that I can’t share what happened to me. Has anyone tried to kill you in a religious setting before? What if I told you that I didn’t think you should tell me about it because it might harm the primary children that aren’t even here?

  72. I guess, when it comes to discussing demonic possession, I am an “iron-rodder” in the sense that I see nothing about it in our Church manuals or conference talks in terms of a contemporary phenomenom or casting them out as a contemporary ordinance/ceremony that is encouraged in any way (I am not sure that it is even permitted-I do not know of any formal authorization for preisthood holders to do this).

  73. Random John,

    Confronting college educated authors with demands for rational thought hardly amounts to suppression of speech. Of course, adults can discuss what they please. Ideas, however, do have consequences and some conclusions are more responsible than others. I am appealing for a more rational discussion of the phenomena that people are describing.

    Notice, that no primary manual says that the devil can take little children over. Nonetheless, the primary teacher’s words are a fair representation of Mormonism (see post 64). That teacher got her ideas from somewhere, probably from the plan of salvation and the temple movie. In light of everything we know about mental conditions, there is no need to link Satan to these behaviors. It is a tragedy that the educationally most privileged members of our community reinforce such harmful superstitions.

    Elements of this discussion are validating an unhealthy and irrational world view, which will surely affect children that have to grow up in an environment that continues to reflect premodern views of mental illness.

  74. Others have mentioned this, but why does it have to be a “contemporary phenomenon” or a “contemporary ordinance”? It’s right there in the New Testament, after all. Hard to think of anything more authoritative than that.

    This line of thinking strikes me as decidedly protestant. Protestants, for example, might say the same thing about angelic visitations.

    I’m not trying ot be purposefully obtuse here; I do see your point. Obviously a lot of non-esential-to-salvation speculation is involved. Still, I find this to be a pretty facsinating topic.

  75. BTD Greg, I think there’s a difference between what you describe as objectively discussing and what we did as kids. We speculated, we sat in the dark, and played with a ouija board. We wanted to be scared. I suppose it’s attitude.

    Like when I share my story, and I do, so that others will be brave to share, too, and not think they are crazy–that’s objective.

    I think that’s the difference.

  76. Hellmutt,

    I must say that yours is a secular view. One that I would expect from say a non church goer.

    Lets see. The active faithful LDS believe….

    Jesus was born of a virgin
    Jesus died and rose again after three days
    JS saw god and jesus
    JS translated gold plates into the BOM
    People are healed by PH blessings

    I find the idea of demonic possession after this list to be just another one to add the list that a secular person would laugh at.

    Also your primary fears seem unfounded. I find your case to be outside my exp in the church.

    LOL.

  77. Hellmut, I think your comments are understandable. But I think that almost everything you have said could also be said about belief in the church itself. I mean, we believe that God himself appeared to a 14 year old boy and then, following multiple visitations from angels, the boy was directed to ancient plates that were made out of gold. You don’t get any crazier than that. You really don’t. Our church is filled with things we have no evidence for, and which no rational person would believe. We are, in a sense, irrationally making people feel guilty for sin, when there is no evidence that there really is such a thing as sin at all.

    Teaching about demonic possession may have unintended negative consequences, but as history has shown us, so has the teaching of Christianity in general.

  78. a random John says:

    Hellmut,

    What exactly have I said that is a display of irrational thought? As others have said, I think you would classify most LDS beliefs as irrational though. Am I wrong?

    I am open to the possibility that my encounter could be due to mental illness. I have said why I do not believe this is the case. I have never brought it up with primary children. In fact this is the only time that it has been brought up in public in any way.

    I can understand why you want to discount my experience, and honestly in many ways I would prefer to believe that it was a case of mental illness, but I think we are going to have to agree to disagree here.

  79. But I think that almost everything you have said could also be said about belief in the church itself. I mean, we believe that God himself appeared to a 14 year old boy and then, following multiple visitations from angels, the boy was directed to ancient plates that were made out of gold.

    Thanks for your understanding, Eric. I don’t think that we can go that far about Mormonism.

    Nothing about the First Vision is threatening. Faith in the First Vision creates obligations but it does not keep you from seeking medical help or changing health care policy. While belief in the First Vision cannot be reasonably justified, reason also does not preclude faith.

    It seems to me that general religious commitments are unproblematic even though particular statements of faith might have implications that are destructive.

  80. Perhaps so. But I think “keep[ing people] from seeking medical help or changing health care policy” is a bit extreme. A good parallel might be priesthood blessings. I can understand how people might be weary of the teaching of priesthood blessings, because they might think that with such a teaching, people would refrain from seeking proper medical care. And I have no doubt that this has occurred on some occasions throughout church history. But by and large, members of the church don’t have a problem coinciding blessings and medical health care. I think the same could be said of possession.

  81. Eric,

    The idea of the possiblity of demonic pos has never in my view served any real type of stumbling block for the LDS people as a whole.

    We as a group seek both medical and mental health care regularly.

    There may be some misguided or deranged individuals who take things to far but the are so few in number to be irrelevant to the group as a whole.

    Hellmut is implying that somehow the minor LDS belief in the possiblity of demonic possession serves as some type of problem or issue that can result in not seeking healthcare. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  82. Goodness, I am getting overwhelmed by the responses. Thank you all for responding to my point. I appreciate it.

    Last Lemming, I am sorry to hear about your daughter and hope that she is better. Your point about proximate causes and underlying conditions is important. On the other hand, there is the classic Suicide by Durkheim, which found that Protestants are more likely to be affected because their theology is less forgiving. It would be interesting to see if Durkheim’s work could be replicated today and if peculiarly Mormon mental health phenomena could be uncovered.

    To me, it makes sense that people’s beliefs affect their health. It is through ideas that human beings relate to their envronment. Therefore ideas will be a factor in mental health. If you scare them enough then any child will have problems.

    bbell, as I mentioned I heard of three people who had this experience, one of whom I know intimately. The other two, I cannot vouch for though their accounts were similar to the one I have witnessed. Though I have only seen aggregate data at the state level, it is fair to say that areas were Mormons are concentrated do remarkably well with respect to general child welfare but there are troubling indications about the mental health of adults and minors (anti-depressant consumption rates, suicide rates in western states). Anyways, there is enough data to warrant the suspicion that its not just my personal experience.

    With respect to seeking health care, it is true that members are supposed to seek health care. Unfortunately, some members put greater weight on extra-rational doctrines than rational advice. In the Düsseldorf stake, for example, there was a case of a young mother who neglected to seek treatment of cancer because she didn’t see the need after repeated blessings. Clearly, that individual misunderstood the teachings of the LDS Church. Yet I am left to wonder if things might have been different if I or others would have been more outspoken.

    It’s not unreasonable to suspect that there are individuals that would have been better off if they had been directed to a Catholic mental health clinic rather than settling for a blessing by the missionaries.

    Gregg, personally, I think that the gospels are of great value regardless of what one might believe of Jesus Christ. I don’t think that it is appropriate to understand them as authoritative accounts. After all, the gospels contradict each other. If it were about precision then the editors of the canon would not have included contradictory accounts.

    Sometime during the first and second century AD, the authors who wrote about Christ believed that people could be obsessed by demons and that Christ had cast them out. That’s the best they knew at the time. I don’t see how that commits us to much of anything. We have much more useful explanations for bizarre behavior today. Surely, one can be a good Mormon and update one’s views on mental health.

  83. Sorry meems my college going daughter shared that maze with me the other day and it just came to mind as I read this thread. However, if you get beyond the demon you come to a nice place. I think that is one of the problems in life. We can’t or won’t face our demons so we never get to the nice place. Maybe we as Mormons can solve the age old question about how many “demons” dance on the head of a needle. Sorry if I speak lightly on such a serious subject, but an Apostle once told me the counsel he received by a Sr.Apostle at his first Temple meeting with the Brethren. “Don’t ever take yourself to damn serious!” Peace and happy mazing.

  84. Sometime during the first and second century AD, the authors who wrote about Christ believed that people could be obsessed by demons and that Christ had cast them out. That’s the best they knew at the time. I don’t see how that commits us to much of anything. We have much more useful explanations for bizarre behavior today. Surely, one can be a good Mormon and update one’s views on mental health.

    This view seems perfectly reasonable to me, but I don’t think this is quite how most LDS Church members view the New Testament. This sort of scholarly approach to the Bible could also lead one to believe that Jesus didn’t really resurrect from the grave, didn’t actually heal or raise Lazarath from the grave, didn’t change water to wine, didn’t really have power over life and death, wasn’t really tempted by Satan at the beginning of his ministry, etc. Most Mormons aren’t Biblical literalists (we use that whole “as far as it was translated correctly” as a fudge factor), but I think they do accept the general narrative of the gospels–which I think aren’t as hard to reconcile as you make it sound–as basically true, and not a historically revisionist document created by Christian followers a few centuries later (as some Biblical scholars would have it.)

    BTW- thanks for engaging us in this discussion.

  85. I would say that the statements above on the NT best fit a Mainline Protestant or Unitarian worldview and are far far out of the mainstream of LDS thought.

    In addition I would say that the idea that demonic possession can occur is IN the mainstream of LDS thought.

  86. BTD — but I don’t think Hellmut, or any of the other churchgoing Mormons here who, though devout, are skeptical of some of the things being discussed here, are playing “fast and loose” with cultural interpretations of the Bible. You’re putting us on a slippery slope when, frankly, our traction is quite firm. I personally don’t think it’s straying much from a fairly historicist reading of the gospels to see “demonic possession” and interpret it as “psychotic episode.” What’s a 1st century writer going to say–“And lo, there came a man with a severe biochemical imbalance that cause him sore hallucinations…”?

    Perhaps one can believe in both. I encountered some very strange stuff on my mission — santeria curses, pentacostal tongue-speaking, etc. etc., and perhaps there might have been minions of the devil present in some of those experiences. But if those minions use as their tools what we in modern times perceive as mental illness, seems to me that, in the absence of excorcism instructions in the missionary handbook, we should think of them in “natural” terms and not get too carried away in speculation about “supernatural” causes. Seems to me that swapping Satan stories easily slips into “consuming it upon their lusts” mode. It also probably plays right into his scheme: he knows that, as they say, “All publicity is good publicity.” What if spirit-possession folklore is the adversary’s form of viral marketing?

    It also occurs to me that if Satan does really deal in theatrics, we do no good by giving him an attentive audience, and we certainly don’t do any good, especially to the people living in cultures where wrestling with evil spirits is a more common contact sport, when we give credence to the idea that they, too, might be in danger of being possessed. I frankly can’t imagine a fully integrated, testimony-possessing member of the church being susceptible to that kind of thing, except where other elements are present (such as substance abuse or mental illness). Perhaps you would argue that those very things–substance abuse or mental illness–might be considered a form of possession. To which I would respond that I don’t know what good it would do to regard them as such–even if somehow and/or somewhat true.

  87. I assume most of you are faithful Latter-day Saints. I don’t know who Hellmut is – with your views I assume you are investigating the Church or are a respectful, non-interested visitor. Thanks for your comments, too.

    Since the Renaissance the West has gradually taken on a scientific view, which has been usually beneficial. But in these last days it is becoming more a time of open vision (see Joel 2:28-32). Scientific views must respect the idea of a spirit world. Ascribing naturalistic causes to every phenomena, which I have no problem with, should be balanced by Brigham Young’s view that the adversary also influences sickness and mishaps in life (see previous post).

    Visionary experiences, both in and out of the Church, seem to have become far more common nowadays. For example, especially since World War Two, with medical technology allowing for more unconscious people to come back to consciousness, we have probably seen a huge rise in the number of those claiming to have had near-death or out-of-body experiences. In my semi-informed opinion there’s probably currently hundreds of thousands or millions of people around the world who have had visionary experiences, of which NDEs and OBEs are only a part.

    We should be sparing in our comments on the adversary, but we need to know who the enemy is. Some comments on Satan and his tactics are beneficial I believe. The BoM reminds us often of him.

    At the end of the Nephite civilization, they became consumed with witchcraft and sorcery. Sadly, many in the West have now taken up New Age and other cult/magic notions, along with the usual secularism, instead of Christ. This is partly because many are now seeing the limits of science as it can’t solve everything (for example, Europe finds itself in a spiralling death trap because it won’t reproduce). We need to be aware of the adversary because I believe his power will increase along with God’s. Before Christ returns we may go through a New Dark Ages.

    Sorry for the thread-jack, but let me finish with one positive story. My brothers were the black sheep in my family for many years (drugs, dealing, alcohol, you know the rest). My parents exercised a lot of faith in their behalf over the years, and in 2001 (in Springville, Utah) the Lord saw fit to drag them out of the pit they found themselves. One night they were visited by angels and received divine instruction most of the night. They saw a divine cloud fill part of the house and even in the back yard. My brothers threw away their drug paraphernalia immediately, and stopped smoking and other bad habits in weeks. They’re not perfect of course, but now they’re faithful members of the Church, one now married in the temple.

    I hope this post might be useful.

  88. I had the strangest experience a little while ago.

    A woman that I know, and who is considered a stalwart of her ward, and whom I admire very much, she’s just good good people (I’m saying this to establish her crediencials as a normal healthy average Mormon lady, and she is all that) started telling me a story that just weirded me out.

    Me: How are you?
    Her: Not so good.
    Me: Oh, what’s wrong?
    Her: Well Kate (a mutual non-mormon friend) has demon possessing her house.
    Me (feeling weirded out) tentative: Oh?
    Her: Yes it turns her lights on and off, and changes the channel on her TV, opens and closes the garage door, and moves things.
    Me (starting to wonder if these to woman are really as normal I had thought) tentatvie: Oh?
    Her: Yes, My husband’s over there casting the evil spirits out. He has to go back there every week. I keep telling her they need to stop doing the things that invite Satan into her home. Drinking and smoking and all that.
    Me: Oh?
    Her: Yes, Kate knows that dh has the power to cast out the evil spirits, they’ve tried the Catholic’s and everything. But on some level she knows that dh is the only one with correct authority.

    Honestly, I was stunned by this conversation. This was a whole secret world of Mormon culture I’ve never lived.
    No one could be more steeped in Mormonism than me, it’s just not possible. And yet I’d never in my life heard a story like this one.

    It was all so weird and medieval and unlikely. Not to mention silly. But it was clear that she really believed it. So then I started to wonder if I was just too complacent in my comfortable untouched-by-the-fantastic modern world. Could evil spirits dwell in garage door openers? I supposed it’s possible.

    Mostly I decided that they were both a little nutty.

  89. cadams,

    Ascribing naturalistic causes to every phenomena, which I have no problem with, should be balanced by Brigham Young’s view that the adversary also influences sickness and mishaps in life

    I’m sorry, but if we took every metaphysical speculation in the Journal of Discourses as doctrine, our church would be vastly different from what it is now. I have never heard BY’s view presented as a definitive doctrine or explanation, and I have never heard a general authority advocate looking at the world in those terms. The materialist aspect of mormon cosmology problematizes the very idea of the “supernatural,” as the rest of the religious world thinks of that term, and puts us in a different camp from the troubling anti-science swerve of the american religious right. And certainly, NDE and OBE (phenomena to which I’m apprehensive to so blithely grant convenient acronyms to) don’t have a place in mainstream _public_ Mormon discourse. I’m not saying such things don’t happen, but I’m saying that if/when they do they are probably intended to be discussed within very limited spheres.

    When I was in the MTC Elder Packer spoke of visions and revelations. He recognized that on occasion some people may have extraordinary spiritual experiences, but he urged extreme caution in discussing or retelling them. He recalled a woman contacting him because she had received a vision of some sort, which she was telling many people about. As she described it to him, he said he was polite, but the whole time he was thinking to himself, “Maybe it did happen, maybe it didn’t; but if it did, why are you blabbing about it to everyone?!” I’m paraphrasing, but that captures the content and tone.

    I’m generally skeptical about spiritual folklore or ”
    Faith Promoting Rumors”–or, in this case, “Fear Promoting Rumors”–but open to the idea that, in this or that particular case, perhaps something extraordinary and inexplicable did happen to this particular individual. And I personally have had experiencing involving extraordinary phenomena ranging from bizarre coincidences to outright divine intervention. But as I reflect on those experiences, I feel that I should be very careful about the contexts and audiences in which I should share those experiences.

  90. I keep telling her they need to stop doing the things that invite Satan into her home. Drinking and smoking and all that.

    That’s what’s really nutty, Lisa. If this was a cause for poltergeists or what not, then most people would have one! Well, not me, of course.

  91. fMhLisa:

    If what they’re observing are channels being changed, lights going on and off, and the garage door opening and closing, those aren’t evil spirits, those are bored spirits. And correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think there’s scriptural injunction to go after them. Maybe that’s why the Mormon lady’s husband doesn’t seem to be having much luck either (I mean, authority, sure, but he’s going every week?).

    I see a screenplay in the works: “The Amityville Ennui”

    Seems to me that 1) the lady is kooky, and/or 2) the lady has a substance abuse problem (maybe the “evil spirits” she invites to her home take the form of her wiging out and not remembering that she left the garage door open), and/or 3) the neighbors across the street have a universal TV remote and a big living room window.

  92. I agree that the case Lisa is discussing is ODD and her LDS friends should know better…..

  93. This sort of scholarly approach to the Bible could also lead one to believe that Jesus didn’t really resurrect from the grave, didn’t actually heal or raise Lazarath from the grave, didn’t change water to wine, didn’t really have power over life and death, wasn’t really tempted by Satan at the beginning of his ministry, etc.

    It is true that some theologians such as Hans Küng have gone to great lengths interpreting the gospels’ texts. However, “translating” possession into mental pathology doesn’t imply anything else. One might think about possession in naturalistic terms and still believe that Jesus healed those people.

    If one wants to believe into divine intervention than anything might have happened. Divine intervention, however, is irrelevant to existence of possession. The victims are supposedly possessed by satanic not divine spirits, after all. Divinity comes into play for healing.

    Life is unfair and bad things happen to good people. Insofar as possession acknowleges that human beings are sometimes not accountable for their actions, it might be a useful metaphor. Beyond that I don’t see how the image of evil spirits taking possession of unsuspecting victims does any good. It would be even more troubling to judge every psychologically challenged person a sinner.

    On the other hand, possession can be used to terrorize people, judge our neighbors, forego medical treatment and other irrational behaviors. On balance, possession can do a lot of damage, more trouble than its worth.

    A Christlike approach to mental conditions might ask how we can heal patients better. Why is it that patients and parents don’t get support when they are burdened with mental health challenges? How come we have health insurance for broken legs but not for paranoid schizoid patients? Why is the lion share of homeless people mentally ill? Why has not a single democracy, the best form of governance humans have come up with, provided the resources to take care of childlike mentally ill homeless people? Those are questions where disciple intellectuals can make a contribution. Reaffirming outdated superstition only corrupts our culture.

    About me personally, my mother converted when I was six. I am a return missionary who regards Mormon leaders as self-interested actors since I found out about the September Six.

    When I grew up as a Mormon, my friends and I always considered it the hallmark of Mormonism that it was able to reconcile reason and faith. We never were troubled by evolution, for example. People who talked about outlandish stuff (like people living on the sun) were nuts and when manuals or the Stern were beyond the pale then we attributed that to American wackiness, pardon me, that did not apply to us.

  94. Re-reading pre-modern (or Brasilian!) accounts of abnormal physical experience in terms of modern scientific paradigms is a time-honored tenet of Whiggish historiography—and it can be a lot of fun, too: I love speculating about what “neurasthenia” and “greensickness” really were. But it poses a real danger of doing hermeneutical violence to those accounts and, indeed, to the experiences they record. (I know, I know, the pressing danger of hermeneutical violence to pre-modern texts doesn’t exactly keep you up at night, but still…)

    Of course, preserving the integrity of a text is a rather different matter from making an objective judgment about material phenomena. But I’ll take the stories any day.

  95. Emma's Son says:

    The other day I was riding the subway home from the Temple and a strange thing happened? I guess that is an oxymoron. Strange things always happen in the belly of the beast. This was astonishing to me because whenever I use the Priesthood and something happens beyond human understanding I still stand in wonder as a child. So what happen? A crazy guy got on the train and sat a few sits away from me on the opposite side of the car. He was all full of jerky motions and talking gibberish freighting everybody in the car. People were being stoic New Yorkers. Being silent, looking the other way or moving down the car. Meanwhile he was getting more wild and louder. I sat there reading a book when the spirit said,” Do something!”
    I thought what can I do? “Use your Priesthood!” So I said a silent prayer stating the authority of my Priesthood and commended the evil spirit to leave the man in the name of Jesus Christ. He instantly got quiet and than fell asleep to my own amazement. No one knew what I did, but it worked and my little faith has grown again in the wonders of the Lord. This is just another man’s experience for whatever its worth.

  96. I’m late to the party, as usual (fashionably late, perhaps? Nah, just late). But I do believe in evil spirits. Or in spirits of some sort. At least, I have since . . . (drumroll, please) . . my mission.

    I had one of the most frightening experiences of my life while on my mission. I’ve told very few people. (Basically, I’ve told Mardell).

    We were in an area that was boondocks, and very Indian. (I just can’t call the Native Americans in my head, because I translated “indigenos” as Indians.) We visited these families regularly. Even among the church members, there was a big undercurrent of Indian religion.

    One day we went to visit an inactive member . . . and his wife. She was a witch. She communicated with spirits, or with something, beyond this world. It was her job.

    He wanted to come back to church, he said. Then she said that she was scared. And she started talking, and then we all got scared.

    She communicated with a spirit that lived in the mountain. And she was scared of the spirit that she communicated with. Terrified. Absolutely terrified. She didn’t know why it came to her and not others. Many people in the village knew that she had a spirit, and so they came to her to ask for favors — a child healed; a lover back; and so on. She took payment, as a witch, to ask the spirit to do these things. And the spirit came to her. Sometimes it obeyed her. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it did terrible things to her, and sometimes it made her do terrible things. It was cruel and powerful. It could do things like heal a person if it chose.

    And what terrified her was that she knew that she had really no control over the spirit at all. Sometimes it would torment her, for fun. Sometimes it abided by her wishes, and other times no. She needed the spirit to keep her job, her income. She enjoyed the power that she drew from it. But it terrified her.

    As she spoke, the entire room changed. We knew that what she was saying was true. She was frankly terrified, looking into the face of death terrified. She wanted out of an abusive, very unequal relationship with the spirit.

    My skin crawled. My head tingled. I felt small and weak and ineffectual. I looked at my companion. He was terrified too. I don’t know that I’ve ever been quite that scared, before or since.

    We said a prayer. We waited and hoped that the room would change. It didn’t, really. We said a few pleasantries. I was hoping beyond hope that my priesthood would protect me. I was acutely conscious of several dozen sins, wondering if they were chinks in my armor. The seconds seemed to drag on forever.

    And then we got up, and got out. And never came back. I never set foot in that house again. I don’t think I ever will, and that leaves me quite relieved.

    That area was an old area, an area where cities and concrete and people and electricity hadn’t yet broken up the mountain spirits. I had another experience in that area, playing solitaire, and I dealt a triple six, and the whole room went still, and I knew that I was being watched. I didn’t play cards in that area anymore. And I was quite happy when I was transferred out of that area.

    I don’t know whether it was an evil spirit or just something else — an old thing, an Indian spirit — but it was real.

  97. I’m sure it will shock everyone to learn that I tend to be very skeptical about other people’s supposed run-ins with the supernatural. I don’t mean to disparage any particular story here, but cynicism about these things is kinda my default setting. For an old, blast-from-the-past BCC post that touches on the oddity that is many LDS members’ invocation of Satan’s presence (in my opinion), check this out: http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2004/03/pink-floyd-meets-dorothy-and-her-little-dog-too/

    My only run in with an excorcism (other than watching Linda Blair’s head spin around on the tube) was second hand: The day I arrived at my first area in the mission, I was told by an elder that my trainer had just performed an excorcism that morning. Wild stuff, I thought, but not much more so than the day-in-day-out with this particular companion (Elder Zacarias claimed to have out-of-body experiences to the Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms, so that excorcism was nothing). I blogged about Zacarias once at Sons of Mosiah, which I could link to if Bob and Logan would PUT BACK UP THEIR ARCHIVES!!!

    Here’s the odd thing, though. Skeptical a soul as I am, and skepitcal a soul that I have always been, I actually have a couple of “run-in-with-the-Adversary” stories of my own, and neither of them involves the mission field. One of them involves what I guess you would call “possession.” When I was about 15 or 16, I was fighting with my younger brother (about 12) on the couch after he had flown into a rage. We were wrestling very violently (not in a playful way) and he was getting madder and madder. Suddenly, at the moment of heightened intensity, the whole feeling of the situation changed. My brother got a weird look in his eyes, his voice changed into something other-worldly and raspy, he seemed to have a few moments of increased strength, and he announced he was going to kill me. This totally freaked me out like nothing I’d ever experienced before or sense. I immediately burst into tears (not typical for me), and felt sure that he was possessed.

    Looking back on this incident, the fact that my brother said he was going to kill me was not, per se, unusual. That he would have a rush of strength in that moment was probably not that odd either. I think it was the voice that got me more than anything. And I’d be lying to say that I’ve retained my certainty that this was a demonic possession. I haven’t. But there’s no denying that at the time I was absolutely certain of it, and I’m not one to ever feel certainty about anything.

    My only other related experience doesn’t involve possession. I can’t even turn it into a story because nothing really happened… I was lying in bed in my dorm room at BYU (Helaman Halls) one night when I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of dread unlike any I have ever felt. My roommate was either gone or asleep (I can’t remember), but I remember just lying there thinking I was going to die. It’s very hard to explain this incident, except to say that Joseph Smith’s description of the evil forces in the Grove seems to me a perfect description. I was sure that some Satanic presence was in the room (the feeling persisted for a few minutes, and then left). I had no idea what had brought it on, and I’ve never experienced anything like it sense.

    Anyway, I don’t really know what to make of these experiences all these years later. I am naturally more drawn to arguments that dismiss these sorts of things, but I am also fascinated by what the best non-supernatural counter-explanations might be. One could say that as a youngster, I was raised in a culture that accepted otherworldy encounters as real, so so did I. The problem in my case, however, was that even as a child, I didn’t really believe in this stuff that strongly. So I’m not sure what to make of all this.

    Aaron B

  98. possession can be used to terrorize people, judge our neighbors, forego medical treatment and other irrational behaviors. On balance, possession can do a lot of damage, more trouble than its worth.

    Hellmut, I still think this is extreme, but even if it is true, it doesn’t mean that that possession is false. I think most of us here are searching for truth, whatever that truth may be, and whatever unfortunate negative consequences the truth may hold. I don’t think we should make determinations on what and what does not constitute truth based on the consequences each may have. Sometimes the truth is indeed ugly.

  99. Hellmut, I still think this is extreme, but even if it is true, it doesn’t mean that that possession is false. I think most of us here are searching for truth, whatever that truth may be, and whatever unfortunate negative consequences the truth may hold. I don’t think we should make determinations on what and what does not constitute truth based on the consequences each may have. Sometimes the truth is indeed ugly.

    I agree with the part about the ugly truth. In this case, however, we do have naturalist explanations that are sufficient.

    In this case, the ugly truth is that Mormon intellectuals continue to subscribe to superstition.

  100. Elisabeth, will you e-mail me? There was something I wanted to ask you. I can’t remember what it was right now, but the second it comes to me, I’ll make a note and write you. But I don’t have your e-mail because I got a new computer.

  101. Elisabeth says:

    Hi, annegb! Check your email :)

  102. In this case, the ugly truth is that Mormon intellectuals continue to subscribe to superstition.

    “Superstition” is label that can be broadly applied to almost anything believed by a religious person, up to and including belief in God and the afterlife. The New Testament includes mulitiple explicit accounts of devils being cast out. Casting out devils is also referred to in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 7:22; Mormon 9:24) as well as the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 24:13; D&C 35:9; D&C 84:67). Moreover, the concept of Satan and his minions seeking to possess bodies of the living is soemthign that fits squarely within LDS theology concerning the pre-mortal existence. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Mormon intellectuals are simply being “superstitious” in persisting in thieir belief that demonoic possession is something that could happen, unless you are also saying that much of what Mormons believe is superstition.

    Understand that I’m approaching this subject as someone very wary of claims of demonic possession. Given the choice between mental illness and demonic possession, I’ll probably choose the former 99.7 % (or so) of the time. So you could say I’m playing devil’s advocate (so to speak). I’m sympathetic with your point of view, but I don’t think your logic is persuasive.

  103. a random John says:

    Hellmut,

    How do you explain b bell’s experience? Was he mentally ill? Was his companion?

  104. What is/are the distinguishing feature(s) between demonic possession and mental illness? When should a home teacher/bishop advise someone to have a devil cast out rather than seeing a mental health counselor? Why do the Church handbooks not address this (to my knowledge)?

  105. Random John–

    I don’t think it is particularly wise to start debating people’s personal experiences. None of us can really know what happened in these situations, though I certainly have my own theories.

    Let’s keep the conversation general and turn down the temperature a bit

  106. a random John says:

    Ned,

    My point isn’t to turn up the temperature. I’m sorry if I have done so. I thought that accusing certain participants in this discussion of being irrational without providing an alternative explanation of what they experienced is itself irrational.

  107. Haven’t we already established that religious faith is irrational? Or at least, extra-rational?

    Can’t I provide alternate explanations for religious events (like someone who “feels the spirit”) without you saying that I’m implying someone is irrational?

    (BTW: Am I the only one who is having problems with the BCC comments? It takes a couple seconds for each letter to appear in the comment box. Very annoying.)

  108. Also, people have visions in other religions all the time. By saying Mormonism is the one true faith, aren’t you implying that all those non-Mormon visionaries are irrational?

  109. “Superstition” is label that can be broadly applied to almost anything believed by a religious person, up to and including belief in God and the afterlife. The New Testament includes mulitiple explicit accounts of devils being cast out. Casting out devils is also referred to in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 7:22; Mormon 9:24) as well as the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 24:13; D&C 35:9; D&C 84:67). Moreover, the concept of Satan and his minions seeking to possess bodies of the living is soemthign that fits squarely within LDS theology concerning the pre-mortal existence. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Mormon intellectuals are simply being “superstitious” in persisting in thieir belief that demonoic possession is something that could happen, unless you are also saying that much of what Mormons believe is superstition.

    It’s a long thread. You might not have noticed that we discussed these issues in detail in post 94.

    The difference between general tenets of religiosity and demonic possession is that the latter can be explained entirely in rational terms. One can preserve faith entirely with a minor “translation” of possession to mental illness.

    I have not yet encountered a reasonable argument that would preclude god or an afterlife.

    It is irresponsible for intelligent and educated individuals to cling to a nineteen hundred year old notion of mental health as if it were literally true. Though our capacity to address mental health problems is flawed and limited those patients who avail themselves of rational help tend to fare better than those who don’t.

    With respect to personal experiences, they say much more about us than about the sick we encounter. It says that LDS missionaries tend to be unprepared, disoriented, culturally insensitive young men and women that have trouble making sense of their experiences.

    One can hardly blame the missionaries. They do the best they can. One has to wonder why their organization has not prepared them better in five years in the CES and two months in the MTC. Even more troubling is the fact that people who enjoyed the benefit of several years distance and a postgraduate education reject a reasoned and respectful approach and defend superstition and unreflective literalism.

    As intellectuals it is our duty to explore the human condition and to share our findings with our neighbors. I suppose this discussion can be useful for people to sort things out. Proclaiming superstition in spite of a solid rational alternative, however, amounts to what Karl Popper called intellectual treason. Our community deserves better.

  110. “that LDS missionaries tend to be unprepared, disoriented, culturally insensitive young men and women that have trouble making sense of their experiences.”

    I fundamentally disagree. I find LDS missionaries to be the best of the breed. Far more prepared for success in the world both spiritually and temporally than people of the world at the same age.

    I am sorry you feel this way Hellmutt. It says a lot.

  111. Proclaiming superstition in spite of a solid rational alternative, however, amounts to what Karl Popper called intellectual treason. Our community deserves better.

    Popper was a philosopher who was attempting to distinguish betweeen science nad pseudoscience. I don’t think his thoughts on the subject are particularly rational in this context.

    Sorry if I’m repeating myself, but there are so many things that simply cannot be explained in purely rational terms. Most LDS believers don’t simply select between the things found in scripture that they choose to believe adn the things they don’t. That seems to be the approach you are advocating here, adn it doesn’t seem particularly helpful. I simply don’t see any basis for disavowing the casting out of devils, but retainng other supernatural scriptural accounts. Analytically, “supernatural” is nothing more than a label.

  112. Substite “relevant” for “rational” in that second sentence.

    Thanks.

  113. I am sorry you feel this way Hellmutt. It says a lot.

    I am sorry that you feel offended. Most young people would be challenged if they found themselves in a foreign country without preparation. That’s merely common sense.

    I find it peculiar that demons need to be cast out of poor foreigners but not in Sandy or Orem. How come wealthy people don’t have demons? Didn’t Christ teach that the poor are more likely to inherit salvation than the rich?

    Something is off. If you have a better explanation than disoriented missionaries then I am open to it.

    I fundamentally disagree. I find LDS missionaries to be the best of the breed. Far more prepared for success in the world both spiritually and temporally than people of the world at the same age.

    That is a rather self-confident statement about ourselves. It makes the point about cultural insensitivity much better than I ever could.

    I have not experienced anything that would indicate that my Mormon peers were any better than my German classmates.

    Analytically, “supernatural” is nothing more than a label.

    I didn’t use the concept “supernatural.”

    Sorry if I’m repeating myself, but there are so many things that simply cannot be explained in purely rational terms.

    May be, you could explain to me why demonic possession is essential to Mormon faith. I have carefully explained twice why this is not the case.

    If demonic possession were so important then Mormon prophets would cast them out all the time. They don’t because it is a concept that has become irrelevant in light of a better understanding of the problem.

    Popper was a philosopher who was attempting to distinguish betweeen science nad pseudoscience. I don’t think his thoughts on the subject are particularly [relevant] in this context.

    Why not? Misapplying educational privilege to the preservation of superstition is a waste of rare resources. Popper’s discussion of the short comings of rationalist philosophy in the initial chapters of The Open Society and Its Enemies is a good analogy. Popper would be just as upset with us as he is upset about the silliness of rationalist questions about the existence of the external world.

  114. Hellmutt,

    My encounter with demonic possession occured in a middle class neighborhood in Cape Town SA. The family owned 2 cars, a home, 2 TVs, fashionable clothing etc. They were not poor and were frankly quite well read and educated.

    I actually am not offended by your comments about the missionaries. Just saddened that a fellow church member holds them in low regard to describe them the way you did. Most non LDS writers in major publications who have commented on the LDS missionaries do not describe them the way that you do.

    My father has a Doc degree in chemistry from a major university and serves as a bishop. He believes that demonic possession is possible but rare.

    Hellmutt I am having fun discussing this with you. You write and sound like a typical secularist from a liberal christian background. So its fun to see what you have to say cause you are a rare breed in the LDS community.

  115. Fratello Giovanni says:

    If demonic possession were so important then Mormon prophets would cast them out all the time. They don’t because it is a concept that has become irrelevant in light of a better understanding of the problem.

    I think it depends on how you define “demonic possession”. I don’t believe that Satan or his third of the hosts of heaven cause disease, suffering, or misery. Those are among the consequences of an imperfect world. I do believe that they try their darndest to spread it around, because they want us to be as miserable as they are.

    My patriarchal blessing talks a little about countering this: “His power will flow through you, and the demons of illness, discouragement, and transgression will flee from before the presence of the Lord’s priesthood.”

    I’m not entirely sure what that means. The best illustration I can come up with comes from childhood, specifically the book Babar the King. Anyone else remember this image? Babar had a dream in which Misfortune appeared in the shape of “a frightful old woman surrounded by flabby, ugly beasts” —Fear, Despair, Indolence, Sickness, Anger, Stupidity, Ignorance, Cowardice, Laziness, and Discouragement. Twelve winged elephant angels (with positive qualities for names) chased them away.

  116. I didn’t use the concept “supernatural.”

    I meant “superstitious,” which is actually a much more prejoriative term. Sorry. The lag on the comments box is killing me.

    May be, you could explain to me why demonic possession is essential to Mormon faith. I have carefully explained twice why this is not the case.

    And I’ve twice explained that casting out devils is part of the scriptural narrative and in keeping with Mormon theology. The second time, I even quoted scriptures, including modern relevelations. You’re approach seeems to be that Mormons could (and should) simply disregard those parts of revealed scripture–and the personal experience of others–that don’t conform to modern notions of rational thought. My stance is that LDS belief doesn’t generally work that way.

    Maybe this is a good point for us to reach and agreement about our disagreement, as I think we’ve both laid out our positions as well as can be expected.

  117. a random John says:

    I find it peculiar that demons need to be cast out of poor foreigners but not in Sandy or Orem.

    Hellmut,

    I am aware of cases on the Wasatch Front but I did not witness them and I don’t think it is my place to pass on second or third hand accounts. I have only one direct experience with this and it didn’t happen in Utah. Sorry. If it makes you feel any better one of the people doing the casting out in my experience was a “poor foreigner”, your classification not mine.

    I don’t think that anyone here is claiming that possession is an “important” part of LDS faith. In fact I would guess that most here would agree that many things that in the past were classified as possession no longer would be. I think the point of contention is not whether this is common or even central but over whether it happens at all.

    After careful consideration have decided to believe that my own experience was what it appeared to be rather than some sort of elaborate one-time incident of acute mental illness. I don’t think less of you for disagreeing with me, but unlike bbell I am a bit hurt that you would claim that I am any more irrational for my interpretation of this experience that I am for my interpretation of positive spiritual experiences. Perhaps sharing this was indeed a bad idea.

  118. Hellmutt I am having fun discussing this with you.

    Thanks for your openness, Bbell.

    I don’t hold the missionaries in low regard. Anyone would have to deal with these issues going abroad. Young Mormons have much more in common with other young people than separates them.

    Encountering people in fits and without the resources to address the situation, much less the needs is a shocking situation. Since I was not there I cannot speak to any one experience. As others have remarked, the accounts of possession are abroad in the presence of missionaries. That leads me to conclude that possession is about the missionaries.

    Culture shock happens to almost everyone, myself included. If you reread my post, you will find that the attributes of missionaries are not comparative. They claim to be descriptive. Though they are not flattering, I apply them to my missionary self and don’t think that they are doing injustice to the typcial twenty year old.

    I think it depends on how you define “demonic possession”. I don’t believe that Satan or his third of the hosts of heaven cause disease, suffering, or misery. Those are among the consequences of an imperfect world. I do believe that they try their darndest to spread it around, because they want us to be as miserable as they are.

    That is a reading that does not trouble me at all, Fratello Giovanni.

    You write and sound like a typical secularist from a liberal christian background. So its fun to see what you have to say cause you are a rare breed in the LDS community.

    You might find it interesting that in Germany, I was rather conservative. My background is not unlike Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, except that the Bonhoeffers were a step or two up the social ladder. Bonhoeffer was a conservative as well.

  119. enochville says:

    I have made a few statements on this thread, but have never really stated my beliefs. I think most if not all contemporary, odd behaviors that are interpreted as demon possession, whether by LDS missionaries, evangelicals, or Voodoo practioners, are probably not demon possessions. But, I do hold out the possibility that demon possessions may occur and I do not consider that being irrational; not scientific, yes; but not a violation of reason. ( I do believe Christ and Joseph Smith cast out devils.)

    Science cannot tell us that demons were not involved. Science can only tell us about proximal causes. Perhaps there are spiritual causes that precede the biological ones. Is that view parsimonious? Of course not. But, I am not limited to the scepticism of science in my world view. Does that impede the discovery of truth? Maybe, but maybe not. Perhaps the next region for growth in understanding human behavior is by looking to the spiritual realm. It would be a paradigm shift. Perhaps the world is becoming blind to things the ancients knew because we are adopting the scientific paradigm that makes us blind to certain things.

    I do not look upon the belief of demon possession with disgust or dismay. But, we must have wisdom in knowing when and how to use what we think we know might exist through the scriptures and the early Saints experiences. I think right now the wisest course is to keep these thoughts in the philosophical realm, and not apply them in the form of speculating whether a person with a mental disorder has a demon because that can do more harm than good as has been discussed.

  120. I don’t think less of you for disagreeing with me, but unlike bbell I am a bit hurt that you would claim that I am any more irrational for my interpretation of this experience that I am for my interpretation of positive spiritual experiences. Perhaps sharing this was indeed a bad idea.

    Thank you very much for your kind words, Random John. I apologize for jumping so vigorously into this thread. I do think that the stakes of this topic are high, which renders us responsible.

    To put things into perspective: I don’t think of myself as fully rational either. One would have to be superhuman. I certainly don’t think better of myself than of anyone here.

    I don’t think that anyone here is claiming that possession is an “important” part of LDS faith. In fact I would guess that most here would agree that many things that in the past were classified as possession no longer would be.

    Neither do I. That’s why I am surprised that people would defend that notion.

    BTD Greg, allow me to rephrase my position one more time.

    May be, its easier to imagine “translation” the reverse direction. How would a first or second century Christian describe a paranoid schizoid person, for example?

    With respect to the prophet’s promise that birds will return the Lord’s people to the promised land, some literalists acknowledge that the planes of the Israeli armed forces that picked up Jews in Yemen fulfill the prophesy.

    If we were to catalogue the diseases that Jesus healed, some would be identified in different terms today than nineteen hundred years ago.

    Holding the authors of scripture to their words as if they were infallible undermines the scriptures. The integrity of the scriptures will be better preserved when we embrace to their historicity. They will be full of life and a better guide to us.

    Mortal men recorded the gospels to the best of their ability. Our obligation is to understand them to the best of our ability.

    We would fall short if we did not apply contemporary knowledge.

  121. As I’ve followed this thread, I’ve aligned myself most closely with Hellmut’s skepticism, although I sense that in general my belief is somewhat more accommodating of the unexplainable than his: I believe, in principle, in angels and devils, etc., but I also believe that direct physical/visual encounters with them outside of the scriptures either a)can be explained in other ways, and/or b)except in very special and limited circumstances, should be discussed in other terms or not at all.

    Recall the original premise of post that started this thread: I would be comforted if we had some sort of church policy or instruction on the matter, one way or the other. Silence is always disconcerting.

    I don’t find silence from the brethren disconcerting — at least on this matter. “How to perform an exorcism” is way down the list of things I want some more information on. Doesn’t the silence on the part of the brethren suggest that perhaps this isn’t something we need to fret about? Even if I were to accept as factual the accounts in this thread as true (which, with all due respect, I can’t, simply because I don’t personally know the commentors well enough to accept anecdote on its face — but even if I did–), I don’t discern in any of them a situation in which the witness to the event should have had the priesthood chops to jump in and performed an exorcism.

    There are lots of ways that missionaries could be better prepared. I think the work would move forward much more quickly if more missionaries learned better social and communication skills, attained a greater sense of social sensitivity, developed a stronger and more focused work ethic, understood church history and organization, knew the scriptures better, learned how to articulate the principles of the restoration more lucidly…

    On the other hand, can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if every 19-year old yokel from Hurricane or Spanish Fork was trained in casting out spirits, then went out in the field jonesing for some Beelzebub-busting priesthood action?

  122. a random John says:

    Otto,

    On the subject of instruction, after my patriarchal blessing the patriarch took me aside and told me that he was impressed that it was important for me in particular that I know how to cast out evil spirits and told me how to do it. I certainly wasn’t excited by this and didn’t go out looking for trouble. Though I am glad he told me.

  123. Steve McIntyre says:

    Otto,

    I admittedly have not read every single post in this thread (although I’ve read most), and I would like to thank Otto for his comments in #124 (among other posters as well).

    I agree that, typically, when the Brethren maintain silence on an issue, then it’s generally not one that we need to fret too much about.

    And although missionaries love to hear and tell dramatic stories about exorcism and other supernatural events, I think they are most in need of more practical experience and instruction. As Otto touched upon, becoming well-versed in the gospel, mastering a foreign language, developing interpersonal skills, and understanding the local culture of their mission would probably go much further than spending a lot of time dabbling in exorcism.

  124. John,

    A patriarchal blessing seems like the appropriate forum for such, shall we say, “esoteric” instruction to take place, if the patriarch feels impressed. The thing in this case is that yours was an individual circumstance, not the execution of an institutional program.

  125. Interesting thread. I find it fun to watch shows about “Haunted Houses” and enjoy hearing these kinds of stories. I don’t have much to add, except this:

    First, I concede that there are paranormal phenomena. But the mere existence of paranormal phenomena does entail anything about spirits–evil or otherwise.

    Second, I’m inclined to think many experiences become imbued with spiritual significance simply because they are novel or out of the ordinary. For example, I remember reading how people felt that watching “The Wizard of Oz” while listening to “The Dark Side of the Moon” took away the spirit and made them feel bad. But what spiritual significance could this possibly have?

    Third, I think it’s worth noting that we are not placed on earth to overcome Satan. The purpose of mortal probation is to overcome our own weaknesses. Had Lucifer not rebelled, we would still be here in mortal probation suffering temptations and afflictions.

  126. Otto, what is the proper way to cast out evil spirits?
    I’m not being snarky, but I wonder whether the method changes from person to person.

  127. Ariel,

    Don’t know if you read the whole thread, but I aint the one casting out devils here. What I meant to say by my comment was: okay, if you think there’s a need for devil-out-casting training in the church (which I don’t, but if you do), blogs probably aren’t the best place to talk shop because they’re a breeding ground for folklore. If you feel such conversations are necessary, I feel such conversations should take place privately (at home, or, as I said in comment 127 in response to 125, in a partiarchal blessing).

  128. Elisabeth says:

    The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

  129. Elisabeth says:

    Um, oops, that last comment was from Keyser Soze, not me.

  130. In response to 131: we’re not talking about whether he exists, we’re talking about his methods. I personally see more danger in his subtler methods than in spirit possessions…

  131. But David, how do you explain the opposition in all things? I’ve never understood this issue.

  132. annegb, natural man is an enemy to God. We don’t need Satan for opposition.

    Sin is endemic to mortality. Learning not to sin is (in some ways) like learning to get up on time in the morning. Most little children must be woken up to be on time for school. But functioning adults must have learned to get themselves out of bed–and this doesn’t mean that they won’t still feel tempted to hit the snooze button now and then.

  133. Sin is endemic to mortality.

    Well said, DKL. I think that Paul realized this too, which is maybe why he stated that we’re all “born into” sin. It’s inevitable. I’ve replied on here before about Pelagius — one if his major flaws (among many) was the idea that the human person could consciously avoid sin if it exerted itself enough. I’m not so sure that jives with the NT, or even the BofM for that matter.

  134. The BYU Special Collection had a dissertion on file on “Demon Possession” that is the most compleat LDS version until the 1980s. I think the author was Lamar Girard? could be wrong. It beats all the movies for scary stuff, if I remember correctly… but also showed the importance of fasting and the Priesthood. I did a brief comment in one of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists (AMCAP) journal in the 1980s when ego-state therapy was popular and AMCAP published a paper by Wes Craig on casting out evil spirits in therapy. It scared most of the folks, and in most academic (including LDS) minds, following all the false memory, hypnosis-is-bad lawsuits that followed, is a bad memory of bad therapists. The gospel in Africa and especially among indigenous folks around the world, however, suggests as did Lamar’s disertation, and the Book of Mormon–there are two paths, two voices… part of the plan for agency and our development. Sometimes Satan seems respectable in his business suit or official position in corporate American or decoying our minds on idolatry (President Kimball’s June 1976 address, The False Gods We Worship)… and other times and places, he works other ways… And it still takes fasting and the Spirit/Priesthood power to discern and cast him out. The problem is, as Nibley spent his life teaching us, we like what he sells… more than we like to be about our mission…. which Christ is quite clear about in Matthew 25, and which demonstrates our denial… Both ways Satan uses to decoy us and get us to do his bidding are effective… He is a very successful (experienced) leader and manager… Fortunately, the way out is also clear.. if we choose it someday…

  135. Now that is a thesis to read.

  136. LDS missionaries tend to be unprepared, disoriented, culturally insensitive young men and women that have trouble making sense of their experiences.

    Personally, I have only heard accounts of elders encountering the possessed, not sisters. This does make me wonder if some of it is perception; since sisters are generally older and perhaps more mature, maybe their perception of such situations is different.

  137. K. Hanamaikai says:

    I appreciate the experiences that you have shared. I know this thread is long since spent, but I wondered if “bbell” knew how Elder Travis Cantrell is doing – he is an old friend. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he rebuked an evil spirit – when I knew him, he was a man with a strong testimony and a wonderful countenance.

  138. I would like to communicate with you about something that causes mental events that may be confused with Demonic Possession.

    The phenomenon was discovered when it caused mental breaks for knowledge workers using the first prototypes of close-spaced office workstations. The cubicle solved that problem, 1968.

    But what about other workers in small businesses who accidentally create the “special conditions” for exposure from Subliminal Distraction.

    The conditions for exposure are so simple they can be created almost anywhere even primitive societies or the slums of Brazil.

    Although believed to be harmless there is circumstantial evidence that this problem is a unknown, unevaluated stressor for many areas of mental illness.

    Incorrectly positioning computer workstations in homes, dorms, and small business offices where there is repeating, detectable, movement in peripheral vision is the most likely modern problem. But other activities that require mental investment in the same circumstances will cause exposure to SD.

    When ‘hearing voices’ begins it is possible that the victim’s belief system determines what the voices say.

    Some primitives believe they are speaking to ancestors. Modern man in a religious situation might well believe the voice is a demon.

    Give the Devil his due, but don’t give him undeserved credit.

Trackbacks

  1. Exorcism 101…

    I touched on this topic a few months ago and provided experiences of some more recent Church leaders….

  2. […] In Box 1, LDSLF is on a tear with a multi-part What Next series, posting the “faith versus doubt” struggles of several courageous bloggers. Even deeper struggles appear in Box 2, where BCC’s “Mormons and Mental Illness” series includes two eye-opening guest posts, The Pain of Depression and Demonic Possession. This is the real thing, folks: you won’t get material like this anywhere else in the Mormon publishing universe. […]