Your Friday Firestorm #51

Fifty-two Firestorms. Fifty-one are known. One will be revealed.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

(Mark 16: 17-18)

Discuss. Or, discuss.


  1. Good choice, Steve. I’m not sure I can think of very many other scriptures that do more to reveal the reader’s interpretive framework.

  2. Mark IV says:

    The snake video creeped me out. Then the scene in church scared the hell out of me.

    It should be noted that the Pickering guy who was leading the cheers from the pulpit is the same judge that Pres. Bush repeatedly tried to appoint to the Court of Appeals for the 5th circuit.

  3. Randall says:

    OK, here’s my scorecard for the 21st century church:

    -Casting our devils –0 points– Only the Catholics take this seriously

    -Speaking with new tongues –.5 points– MTC miracles happen, but weren’t Jesus’ intent. Pioneer women got it right, but that was a gift taken away.

    -Resisting deadly drink –.5 points–We’re better known for avoiding deadly drink

    -Laying on of hands –1 point– This is where we shine

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 2 He did, really??? Yikes.

  5. RT, wait ’till the finale.

    Mark IV, yeah.

  6. They shall take up serpents

    The symbol of modern medicine is the caduceus which consists of snakes entwined, rising on a staff.

    If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    This scripture may foretell modern technology such as, medicine, telecommunications, translation, programming languages, etc.

  7. I believe the judge was Pickering Sr., while the congressman in the video is Pickering Jr.

  8. “Casting out devils” does not solely refer to exorcism of a possessed individual; it can also refer to seeking to dismiss an evil presence or influence from a given location or situation. In that sense, I’d say this is still very much alive and well (and quite real, IMHO) in the LDS Church. ..bruce..

  9. “Only the Catholics take this seriously.” That used to be true. Now Protestant “deliverance ministries” probably represent the most vigorous exorcism movement in the country (and the existence of these groups probably helped spur the Catholic resurgence in exorcism as well). Read Michael Cuneo’s American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty for a good sociological treatment of the issue.

  10. sister blah 2 says:

    Wikipedia says just say no to snake-handling:

    Several of the leaders in these churches have been bitten numerous times, as indicated by their distorted extremities. Hensley, the founder of modern snake handling in the Appalachian Mountains, died from snakebite in 1955. In 1998, snake-handling evangelist John Wayne “Punkin” Brown died after being bitten by a timber rattler at the Rock House Holiness Church in rural northeastern Alabama. Members of his family contend that his death was likely due to a heart attack, although his wife had died three years earlier after a snake bite while in Kentucky. Another follower died in 2006 at a church in Kentucky.

    Reminds me of the recent sidebar link: Slain in the Spirit, and suing

  11. This is a wonderful topic. Expect more on this over the next year or so from mb and smb both severally and jointly. God is a God of miracles, indeed.

  12. Mark IV says:

    Bill, #7,

    You are right. Thanks for the correction.

  13. I’ve often wondered what the modern-day equivalent of “casting out devils” would be. Is it an archaic way of referring to healing/resolving physical or mental maladies? Or is it exactly what it says (i.e., literally casting out a demonic spirit from a person’s body)? If so, is the reason why some (most?) do not witness these signs/miracles very often because some of us are not discerning enough (either by not being blessed with this gift or not cultivating it) to recognize them (such as recognizing an “evil spirit” in the first place)? Or are they simply just very, very rare occurrences?

    Moroni would tell us that the lack of some of the miracles listed in the OP would indicate a lack of faith. I often feel bluntly condemned by his words, but when I carefully look back, I realize that I have witnessed some of these signs/miracles firsthand. They have just been dimmed by time and perhaps by me not holding them sacred enough. This has caused me to keep a small, special journal devoted to spiritual experiences, and helped me to remember a little more the Lord’s hand in my life. At the same time, I have recognized that they are not everyday experiences.

    On a related note, we had a couple from our ward who recently returned from serving a mission to the Church archives. He told me that they had a notation procedure as they went through all of the records, most of which were journals and the like. I unfortunately can’t remember all of the notations that he mentioned, but I did remember one that stood out to me. The notation was something like “sacred and private” – usually referring to the recording of personal spiritual experiences. As I understood him, he said that the “sacred and private” records would then be awfully hard for anyone to get a hold of.

    Another example of this is that soon after my father was called into the seventy, he received instruction that all personal journals kept while serving in that capacity (especially of spiritual experiences) would be property of the church (and I believe they had him sign something to that effect). I think he said that it was a new procedure, and I don’t know if it still is the case. However, he mentioned what he thought may have part of the reasoning – that some things that have been published by descendants, such as Lorenzo Snow’s vision of the Savior in the Salt Lake Temple, should never have been published, being a very sacred and private experience. My father wondered, however, what put that policy in motion at that time. I’ve wondered if it had anything to do with the journals of Pres. McKay being published privately, but from what I’ve read from Greg Prince regarding the positive reception his book received from some of the general authorities, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I know there have been other disputes over private journals, and maybe it just added up.

    In any case, the church seems to take very seriously the principle of keeping certain personal spiritual experiences private. In addition, it seems that those who have these experiences most often are the least likely to talk about them. This may be another reason why we don’t hear as much about miracles as one may expect from scriptures such as that in the OP.

    In the end, although there seem to be clear physiological or psychological explanations for such phenomena as “possession of devils” and “casting out devils”, personal experience leads me to believe that the sign of “casting out devils” is real.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Here’s a question, scholars: why these signs, of all things?

  15. sister blah 2,
    PBS (I thought–it was produced by the History Channel, though, so maybe it was them) recently showed Hillbilly: The True Story (hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus), which was pretty much a history of Appalachian culture. Toward the end was a segment on the serpent-handling movement in Appalachian churchs, including how it got started, footage, interviews with people involved in it, mentions of some deaths, and discussion of West Virginia’s attempts to outlaw the snake churches. It was really interesting, I must say (and gives a little color beyond the Wikipedia article).

  16. “They shall take up serpents…”

    I’ve wondered if this is more of a special sign given to the early church at the time, just as the parting of the Red Sea was for the children of Israel. That is, it is a sign to be remembered, not perpetually employed. Moroni states the exact same signs that would follow those who believe in Mormon 9:24-25, presumably referring to the saints in the latter-days. But could it also be a sign to be remembered, but this time having it occur to some in the latter-days?

    Interestingly, the passages in the Doctrine & Covenants state it a little differently, and I believe this is how these signs/miracles apply to us in our day:

    65 And these signs shall follow them that believe—
    66 In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
    67 In my name they shall cast out devils;
    68 In my name they shall heal the sick;
    69 In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
    70 And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;
    71 And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
    72 And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.
    73 But a commandment I give unto them, that they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; for these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation. (D&C 84)

    And to William Law:

    98 And these signs shall follow him—he shall heal the sick, he shall cast out devils, and shall be delivered from those who would administer unto him deadly poison;
    99 And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings.
    100 And what if I will that he should raise the dead, let him not withhold his voice. (D&C 124)

    Notice that instead phrasing it in a way that seems to infer the active pursuit of a snake bite, the miracle is now the avoidance of the snake bite in the first place, or, if bitten, the healing of the venomous bite.

    Of course, the new passages may raise more questions than they answer, but they do give some insight into how we can apply the passages from the ancient scriptures to a more modern day.

  17. The problem with putting these signs in a technological framework is that medicinal miracles are not restricted to those “that believe.”

    All I can conclude is that I don’t believe.

  18. Ronan, when last I met you, you were babbling in some Akkadian dialect, conducting an exorcism on a cripple whilst sipping Null Komma Josef with an asp hanging from your elbow, so I don’t want to hear this crap from you.

  19. Steve (14) – Interesting thought. Perhaps it is not the nature of the sign that is important (i.e., the handling of a poisonous snake), but the fact that it is a sign that God is with them. Perhaps, then, the nature of the signs may be different in 2008 than they were in the 1830s, or 30CE, for that matter.

  20. The problem is this whole post is based on a false assumption. The earliest versions of the book of Mark do not have the entire chapter of Mark. The farther you go back, the shorter the chapter. What we see in Mark 16 are most likely a progression of editor notes. Each new addition including the last last editor’s note as part of the text.


  21. sister blah 2 says:

    interesting Sam B (15), thanks.

  22. David – He could have cited Mormon 9:24 just as well, which is, I believe, the exact same wording.

  23. Stephen,
    It was Sumerian, you twit.

  24. I heard from CES employee that the reason we don’t cast out devils anymore is because it’s a cheap shot, like a parlor trick- and could confuse people’s faith.

    I want to hear Ronan babble in Sumerian.

  25. David L., the problem with your comment is that it is based upon a false assumption about what my post is about.

  26. O Faithless Slackers, The reason those snake people died is because they did not have the fulness of the truth. We have the fulness. We’re the ones who can drink poison, suffer snakebites and live. Not THEM. Duh.

  27. aba mudanu aba mudanu
    gubi mara aba mudanu

  28. sister blah 2 says:

    Vizzini was not one of them that believe.

  29. mola ram, sula ram….

  30. Oh, be still my heart!

  31. Ah Vizzini! Excellent example, sb2.

  32. Patzafazoola mitchakaboola
    bibbity bobbity boo…

  33. Someone needs to torch Steve to wake him from the Black Sleep of Kali before he starts whipping little children and lowering random people into molten lava.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    (jolts awake)

    huh? who? waaaaa? Where? Oh, what a horrible dream. I was married to Kate Capshaw, and George Lucas wanted me to destroy Ronan’s childhood… Thank goodness that is over.

  35. FWIW–my mission president (Japanese) believed in the casting out of devils, assured me it was a modern (circa 1990s) practice, and that he had participated. He was that kind of guy.

    My local Catholic Priest in Kenya was a famous exorcist and they did it every Monday evening (no appointment necessary, just bring your afflicted loved one; first come, first served). I can give you directions on how to get there if you require such a service.

  36. Liero devo jirankemango, ad sileabano, durem subramo, deviranto diacerimango, jasse vah pe cii evanigalio; de vom grom seb crinom, os vare cremo domo.

    —Glossolalia by Thomas Brown two centuries ago, while caught up in early Shaker enthusiasm. Thomas Brown, b. 1766. An Account of the People Called Shakers . . . (Troy [New York]: Printed by Parker and Bliss. Sold at the Troy Bookstore; by Websters and Skinners, Albany; And by S. Wood, New-York, 1812), 297.

  37. RE: Casting out devils. Apparently everyone forget about this classic thread a couple years ago.

  38. Randy B. says:

    That was a seriously awesome thread.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    Man yeah, that was a great one.

  40. Probably one my favorite threads of all-time, narrowly beating out the “Shelving” one. Of course, that one took a bit of a hit once I discovered they were a man’s boobs being shelved.

  41. Tim, just close your eyes and hum a hymn, and all will be well. That thread is still a classic.

  42. sister blah 2 says:


  43. Ronan must be compelled to tell the missionary ghost story to which he alludes in comment 27 of that thread.

  44. The ‘shelving’ post was penned by Jennifer Mailer, at Banner of Heaven.

  45. Latter-day Guy says:

    As far as demonic possession, I’ve never had any personal experience, but the Elders in the Haitian Creole program on my mission had some freaky tales to tell (if you could coax them to).

    And thanks for the Borat clip. I love that part, but I don’t think that it is very good for me. Coming from the buckle of the bible belt, I don’t have very warm feelings for many evangelical protestants, and clips like that (or the one where the baptist minister preaches about “pissing standing up,” or the one with the hefty “God Warrior” lady) tend to fuel my sense of vindication and my feelings about the utter irrelevance of most evangelical worship and belief. I guess that makes me not very nice, but I don’t plan on losing any sleep over it…

  46. Eric Russell says:

    I think this one’s still my all-time favorite.

  47. I’m interested in the term “signs”. One of OED’s definitions of “sign” is: “an act of a miraculous nature, serving to demonstrate divine power or authority”. I guess the point of these signs is to make others aware of God’s power over evil spirits, language, animals, diseases, and other physical and spiritual threats. While the threat of evil spirits, wild animals, and diseases are evident, why throw in the speaking in tongues thing with this group? Are we to understand language as a barrier to the spread of the gospel which can be torn down by the power of God working through His faithful servants? Or are words themselves a physical or spiritual threat that God’s power overcomes? I can see speaking in tongues being used as a metaphor for being capable of deflecting slanderous, blasphemous, hateful words directed at the woman or man of faith. But am I reading too much into the phrase, focusing more on its grouping than on the most simple explanation of the phrase “speaking in tongues” (i.e. being able to speak words in languages otherwise unknown to the speaker)?

  48. Mark,

    Short version:

    “Haunted” apartment in Haag am Hausruck, Austria, ca. February 1997. I was the DL. It got so bad, the missionaries had to leave.

  49. I knew a guy in Oklahoma that used to come in the cafe where I worked as a teenager that believed malfunctioning appliances were possessed by devils. He said (though I never got to see one of the healings) that he would lay his hands on the fridge or air conditioner or whatever and command the devils to depart. The appliances would usually work fine after that. Damned devils in the air conditioners!

  50. Steve,
    You mean “Jennifer Mailer”.

    That one was good too. Boy Banner of Heaven was fun. Damn Rusty…

    Now that enough time has passed (I hope) someone really needs to do a retrospective on the whole thing.

  51. Eric Russell says:

    Tim, I did a review. My biggest mistake was giving Steve a B+. He never forgave me for that.

  52. Steve S,

    In ancient times as well as modern, those who witnessed someone gibbering in a way that appeared to be a language but was not understandable to anyone present often claimed it was the miraculous gift of tongues, when in reality it wasn’t. A person who is truly under the influence and authority of God will suddenly have the ability to speak a real language they have never studied in the presence of those who actually do speak that language. In other words, God provides a miracle so that all present can understand the message in their own language.

    Additional scriptures indicate that this gift is only to be used when it is actually necessary (ie someone in the audience doesn’t understand the language being used by the speaker), if there is another person present who can interpret the “foreign tongue” suddenly spoken for the others present, and that the message is always one that edifies and enlightens hearers to the truth.

    Perhaps the ability to speak in tongues was included in the list to indicate that being poisoned or sickened spiritually by liars or those under an evil influence is just as dangerous and threatening as their physical counterparts.

  53. Left Field says:

    The guy did say that it was a nonvenomous python, so the snakebite wasn’t particularly alarming. I don’t think surviving a nonvenomous snakebite is quite the miracle referred to in Mark. However, I can say that it is an interesting sensation to feel the two halves of the snake’s jaw moving independently.

    Another elder and I once cast out a devil when I was a missionary.

  54. I don’t hang out where snakes are so I can’t make a comment. As for drinking deadly things, same story.

    When it comes to the gift of tongues, dealing with evil spirits (devils), and Priesthood healing I have experience enough to stand as a witness.

  55. I still can’t believe I couldn’t push to an A-.

  56. When I clicked on the BoH link, my whole screen went white, and I had to reboot… doo-do doo-do…

  57. Eric, somehow I missed that. Nice job.

    But what I want to see is a complete recap of the beginning to end of the entire episode. How it got started. The investigation on 9M. The crucifixion on T&S. The coverage in the SLTrib. Steve’s self-imposed banishment which led to what I believe were the funniest moments in Bloggernacle history: everytime SteveEM would comment, annegb would immediately follow with, “Are you Steve Evans?” Every time. Always killed me.

  58. Tim, make it so. I’ll be happy to help, but that is a tale I cannot write.

  59. Now I understand the “can’t write a hundredth part of what I have seen” passages.

  60. UH, the question of xenoglossia (what you propose) versus glossolalia (a kind of praying in unrecognizable syllables) is an interesting one. Joseph Sr and others had in mind xenoglossia from a surprisingly early stage (1836 and on), but Joseph Jr and Brigham Young and many others (including famously Lucy Mack Smith) clearly engaged in glossolalia. I think if you perceive it as singing (which in fact it generally was) alongside a pursuit of the mysterious language in which God spoke and there was light, you’ll find yourself more sympathetic to the behavior. I happen to rather like it, though it is not a part of my personal faith walk.

  61. It’s worth remembering the associations of serpents with Satan for people who breathed Bible narratives the way we do the spirit of the free market.

    Matt Bowman’s raising the dead paper in JWHA Journal is a great read and very useful in these discussions.

  62. Steve Evans says:

    smb, is there anything to read on the connection of tongues and singing in early Mormonism? That strikes me as something interesting.

  63. You guys ever listen to “Coast to Coast with Art Bell”? Now that is some freaky stuff.

    I once had an AC guy who was convinced we had a ghost or demon that was messing with our AC unit. He offered to pray over it because he was a little Cherokee. I told him we were a little Native American too and could do it ourselves.

    I really love living in the south. There are some colorful characters and history here!

  64. Aaron Brown says:

    Amri — There was an elder in my mission who would do the same! Well, almost the same. He’d annoint broken apartment heaters with oil and give them priesthood blessings so they would work again. I’m told these blessings were not successful. Good times.


  65. The current treatments of glossolalia are still fairly voyeuristic. I’ve been collecting material for a while; I think Staples and mb have as well. Maybe we should do a trio post or something when we get the time. Some wonderfully haunting songs are interpretations of glossolalic hymns (not least Moroni’s Lamentation, which I treat in my chapter 4). there’s a JI discussion on glossolalia recently that has some material as well.