I taught the junior class in seminary this morning and yesterday morning as a substitute teacher. There’s nothing quite like getting up at 5am to teach early morning seminary in California. It brought back such happy memories of my high school days when I attended seminary in the old Covina ward building. The kids today seemed happy to be there and I was happy to teach them.
We were supposed to cover chapter nine of the gospel according to Mark this morning but the get acquainted activity I had planned took way too long to get to the lesson. Besides, it was Friday and the 18 kids enjoyed the fun we had with the activity. So I thought I would share something I learned as I prepared the lesson that I didn’t deliver. I hope you find it interesting.
The boy possessed of an evil spirit
Although the Transfiguration is the main point of Mark chapter nine, that topic was already covered earlier in the year when Matthew chapter 17 was taught. So the lesson focused on the Savior healing the boy possessed by an evil spirit as found in verses 14 through 29. It is a sad story about a poor little boy who is tormented by an evil spirit who wants to destroy him.
I’m sure most of you are aware that the modern interpretation of these verses is that the boy had epilepsy but I’m not convinced that was the case. The description the father provides indicates that the child was not in control of his body at times when the deaf and dumb spirit tried to cast him into the fire or into the waters. To the Savior, this was more than some physical ailment.
Evil spirits recognized the Lord
The lesson manual suggested we review previous instances in which the Savior healed those who were troubled by evil spirits. This is the point of my little essay today. I was amazed at what I found with just a few moments of searching. I’m sure you recall the unclean spirit that cried out when the Savior began his ministry, saying “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee?”
And then there is the story of the man in the country of the Gadarenes who was possessed of not just one unclean spirit, but of a legion of them. Again, the salutation to the Savior was, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” As in each of the other events like these, the Savior, and later his disciples, cast them out and commanded them to not return.
Evil spirits in today’s world
In case you haven’t noticed, I have three favorite topics that I seem to repeat in my essays. The first is marriage, the second is the prophesied events of the last days, and the third is the reality of evil spirits in the world today. The topic of marriage seems to be too contentious right now so I’ll give that a break until after the election. Besides, I have stated my position in previous posts.
I have found in the church that when I teach a lesson or give a talk that references evil spirits someone will invariably respond, “Why do you talk about evil spirits? We don’t believe in that any more. That’s just the way they described things they didn’t understand in ancient times.” I get similar responses when I write about it in my blog or discuss it in personal conversations.
The problem of a personal devil
This is not a new phenomenon, but I have watched it become more widespread in the last thirty five years since I first began to suspect that there was something to this belief, or lack thereof. One of the best resources that addresses this issue of a lack of acceptance of the reality of evil spirits can be found in a BYU Master’s thesis submitted by LaMar Garrard way back in 1955.
The Latter-day Saint history is rich in personal accounts of the influence of evil spirits where they have been clearly identified either by vision or by effect. I have written about a few of these previously. Early leaders of the church were much more open in acknowledging the existence of evil spirits but we do not find that so common in the teachings of current General Authorities.
An account of demonic possession
I have in my files an account of a conversation between a priesthood holder and an individual possessed of an evil spirit, having been diagnosed with multiple personalities. The dialog is gripping and revealing. The spirit identifies itself as having been born in England in the very early 1800’s. She willingly answers several questions put to her about how she got into the body.
I know I just stepped into uncomfortable territory for many of you so I’ll stop right there. Shoot me an email if you want to know more. I am not ignoring the scientific side of this as I know there are some of you reading my blog who have worked with those who have been diagnosed as psychotic. Medication can control, mask or diminish but not remove the effects of evil spirits.
A belief in things from days past
I think I am a rarity in today’s modern world. I am a computer technician by profession and have great respect for science and all that we enjoy because of the advancements in science. However, after many years of studying this topic, I am convinced that for all the progress we have made in mental health, only the teachings of the gospel answer some questions for me.
I have seen too many personal instances where behavior could only be explained by my belief in the reality of evil spirits and that they exist today just as they did in the Savior’s time. I confess that this view has shaped the way I perceive human behavior for most of my life. Unfortunately, my beliefs are not popular in the modern world, even among my fellow members of the church.
Summary and conclusion
Just as I believe we are on the cusp of being first-hand witnesses of cataclysmic catastrophes that have not been seen on the earth for thousands of years, I also believe we are about to see a new outpouring of evidence that there are those who walk this earth who do not walk it alone. In other words, they carry within them one or more co-habitants who are not very nice creatures.
Yep, weird stuff, I know. Don’t put me in the category of those who inhabit the LDS Anarchy blog. I don’t go for that hollow earth theory. I’m also not a believer in Planet X, but do believe that the Lost Ten Tribes are no longer found on this planet and will return in a most remarkable celestial event that will shock mankind. But I’m not crazy just because I believe in evil spirits.