Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Casting out devils

I've had two experiences with casting out devils.

The first occurred during my mission. I had a new companion -- a "greenie" we'll call Elder Smith. He was tall and lanky and spoke English with a western drawl...and barely understood a word of Spanish. His family owned a huge ranch in Idaho. He was very proud of that. He had a girl waiting for him back home and a bright future ahead of him. His patriarchal blessing promised (he said) that he would serve as a zone leader on his mission. I never was a zone leader. (I barely made senior companion!) I didn't have a girl back home. I didn't know what tomorrow would bring.

One day I walked the streets of Valparaiso, Chile, with this elder while I whistled The Star Spangled Banner.

"Stop that, elder!" he said. "You're trunky!"

"I'm not trunky" I said. ("Trunky" means you're thinking of going home, not staying focused on missionary work.) "I'm just thinking about all of the blessings we have back home that we don't have here in Chile." (At that time, the Chilean government was a repressive, impoverished regime. Today Chileans enjoy many "freedoms" and "blessings" older Americans only vaguely remember now!)

"Stop it!" he said "or I'll punch you in the face!" He hovered over me, with his fist raised high in the air.

"Are you going to hit me right here [in the street]...in front of all of these people?"

He looked at me with disgust and lowered his hand.

"I hate your guts," he said and stormed away. He seemed to be going back to our pension (where we lived), but didn't wait for me to catch up to him. I followed him, taking a parallel route. At each intersection I looked south to the adjoining block to ensure that we crossed the street "together". We arrived at our destination (from different directions) almost exactly at the same moment.

Lunch was already on the table: a bowl of stew. We ate in silence.

After lunch I did something I rarely did: I took a nap. (We were not supposed to "nap" in Chile. Only "slackers" took naps. I was now a "slacker", apparently, as many of my "slacker" senior companions had been before me.) My companion took a shower. I laid my head on my pillow and fell instantly to sleep.

I awoke to a terrible ruckus. The woman who lived with us, who cooked our meals and washed our clothes, was banging on the bedroom door.

"Elder Carter! Elder Carter! Elder Smith needs you!"

I tumbled out of my bunk. Hideous screams could be heard in the bathroom! I turned the knob to the door, but it was locked. It sounded like someone was being butchered in there! I told the woman to get me a knife (to jimmy open the door).

As I entered the bathroom, the screaming stopped.

I closed and locked the door behind me.

It was a large bathroom -- a laundry room, really -- with a full tub / shower enclosure, a toilet and sink, a window, and extra space to wash and hang clothes. The room felt utterly "empty". The shower curtain was drawn shut. The water was running, but I heard no one.

"Elder Smith? Elder Smith? Are you alright?"

No answer.

Perhaps intuitively, perhaps by inspiration, I concluded that Elder Smith was either dead or unconscious, was having a seizure, or was possessed.

I was more than a little discomforted by any of those prospects. But I had to do something! I slowly pulled the shower curtain aside.

There stood Elder Smith, in the middle of the bath tub, almost facing me, swishing his backside back and forth against the tile wall. He had an utterly blank look upon his face.

"Elder Smith, are you alright?"

He didn't answer. I waved my hand in front of his eyes. There was no response.

"Can you hear me?"

No response.

He wasn't dead or unconscious, and he didn't appear to be having a seizure. (I had seen a student at BYU have an epileptic seizure in class. This was very different.) I concluded, for whatever reason, that Elder Smith must be possessed.

I remembered the account of the man possessed by devils who were cast out by Jesus, but I still didn't know what to do. Jesus asked the man what his name was, but the devils responded "Legion: because many devils were entered into him". I recalled something being taught about casting out the devil in the temple, but it had been a year or more since I had reviewed that lesson and I didn't remember what to do.

So I asked the elder: "What is your name?"

What came out of his mouth was something I will never forget. It was almost unhuman. It was the most guttural, animalistic, even horrifying sound I have ever heard someone speak...except in horror movies (which I don't watch). It was exactly like that!

He said (with the greatest difficulty, contorting his body as he did so): "Noooooooo saaaaaaaaaay". (I'm sorry. The written word simply cannot do that sound justice.) I understood him to say: "No sé", which, in Spanish, means "I don't know".

I thought "newbie" Elder Smith wouldn't speak in Spanish at a time like this, so I concluded he was possessed by a (Spanish-speaking!) devil (or devils). Still I didn't know how to cast a devil out!

"Elder Smith, would you like me to give you a blessing?"

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!" he squeezed out, in the most unnatural (almost cartoonish), low, "evil villain" sound you can imagine.

I turned off the shower.

"Get on your knees" I told him. But the naked elder didn't move. I put my hands on his tall shoulders and forced him to the tub floor. (I don't know why I did that. I didn't know what I was doing.) I placed my hands on his head and, in the name of Jesus Christ, commanded the devil or devils possessing Elder Smith to depart.

Instantly Elder Smith threw his arms around me, clutching me tightly -- like a drowning man holding on for dear life! -- still kneeling in the shower. "I love you, Elder Carter! Thank you!!" he gushed, surprising me. "I can see now!" he said. Apparently, he had been blinded by the influence that had overpowered him.

He rose from his knees his "normal" self again, but clearly quite weak. Before he could dry himself off, however, he doubled over and vomited, again and again, completely covering the bathtub floor with our previous lunch. It would not go down the drain, so I had to scoop it out with my hands and flush it down the toilet.

After rinsing and drying himself, Elder Smith asked me: "Would you please hand me my garments?"

"They're right there," I said, pointing to the rack beside the shower (where his towel had been). They were not two feet from where he stood.

"I know" he said, "but when I try to reach them, I can't touch them."

"You can't touch them?" He assured me he couldn't.

I took his garments off the rack and handed them to him. I helped him put them on. I then escorted him to bed, where he fell asleep.

Hours later we traveled to the mission home where Elder Smith spoke with the mission president in private. The mission president asked Elder Smith if he could share with me what happened. He said Elder Smith had been pleasuring himself sexually in the shower when he was overpowered by a supernatural force. He was possessed by a devil, in other words. Elder Smith said he never wanted to experience anything like that again.

Our companionship was different after that. There was no more contention, only love and mutual respect. I admired Elder Smith...and almost envied him. He had something happen to him that absolutely, positively turned him away from doing wrong. He experienced hell on a personal level that most of us can never know without completely ruining our lives. This was his "wake up call", his "Alma the younger" experience. Only the angel Elder Smith encountered was not of God, but of the devil himself.

I don't know if Elder Smith ever abused himself again. But I often wished that I had had "something" like that to help me turn away from wanting to do wrong. Something "big", something "momentous", something that would scare the hell out of me -- like Elder Smith was "blessed" with.

But I didn't.

I almost wished that I, too, had been possessed.

I didn't realize that I already was.

The scriptures speak of "the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men". Have you ever had an evil spirit in your heart? Have you ever wanted something -- or ever wanted to do something --- that you knew was wrong, but still you wanted to do it anyway, so badly that you almost couldn't help yourself? You could hardly stand it! Have you ever coveted something with almost uncontrollable desire?

Oh, heck, let's go all the way! Have you ever been out of control? Have you ever done something that you knew to be terribly wrong, but you did it anyway, because the desire just wouldn't stop?

I have.

And I know now that I was possessed.

I'll tell you how I know.

I've made no secret of the fact that, years ago, when I was a freshman at BYU, I was ministered to by the Lord Himself, by the power of the Holy Ghost. I saw Him. I heard His voice. I saw Him interact with others. It was a life-changing experience for me. I "walked in the clouds" after that, for weeks thereafter. I was consumed with love for Him!

Just seeing Jesus, or knowing intellectually that He lives (or that He lived) is no big feat. Thousands knew Him during His mortal sojourn and that had little (or no) effect on most of them. Few recognized Him for who He really is. His friends -- even members of His own family -- thought He was a good, though perhaps irrational, even delusional man. His mother knew He had special gifts...and a mission from God. But few others did. Even knowing "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God" is of little use to us -- as "useless" as knowing that Pluto slowly circles the Sun -- if we have no interaction with Him. "What's that to me?" one might ask. "Jesus doesn't speak with me. I know not the man!"

What is needed is a spiritual witness. Melvin J. Ballard related his experience "meeting" the Savior in a dream just prior to his being called to the LDS apostleship. My experience was similar to his. As I've related elsewhere, I saw golden undulating beams of light emanate from His body as He sat teaching a gathered crowd outside the walls of Jerusalem. I saw His light fill the immensity of space and pierce a poor, wretched, filthy, sickly boy who stood beside Him. That boy wrapped his arms around Jesus' neck and kissed Him! I saw Jesus' light pierce that boy's body. And, more importantly, I saw and felt it pierce mine. I was filled with perfect love! It was the most awe-inspiring, rapturous, exhilarating experience of my entire existence, to this day, bar none.

I was a complete mess thereafter. Like Lehi, I fell upon my bed "being overcome with the Spirit and the things which [I] had seen." It was not the last time the Lord ministered to me, but it was the most powerful. My memory of that experience has suffused everything I have done since. It has even moderated my sins. I have never been able to claim "I don't know that He lives" or that "He doesn't love me". I've never been able to "excuse away" my sins saying "There is no sin" or "there is no God". For I know He lives. I know He loves me. I am absolutely sure of that.

That doesn't always make it "easy" to keep His commandments. However, it does make it possible.

The years rolled by and I took the blows of life, again and again. (Some were delivered to me by accident, unfairly. But most were delivered "right on time", after I "put in my order" myself!) The devil slowly chipped away at my faith. He knew he couldn't wrest from my soul the knowledge that Christ lives or that He is the personification of perfect love. Rather, he concentrated on distancing me from Him by casting doubts in my own mind about myself. He would say to me: "You are not perfect. You cannot be trusted. You are sinful. Jesus may still love you, but surely you don't love Jesus enough for Him to answer your prayers. You are not 'worthy'. You should just give up now."

By the time I was old, married, and with children, I was, for the most part, estranged from Jesus. I was, by then, more than ever, fully "active" in His Church, but Jesus and I were no longer on "speaking" terms. I offered my prayers to Him, for sure, and, so far as I knew, He answered them. All of them! (All of the "right" ones, at least.) But, still, we were anything but "best buds". I offered my prayers in the hope that they would someday be received. That's the best faith I could muster at that time.

I was still plagued with temptation. I wanted something very badly. (I won't tell you what it was.) During my life, I wanted this thing more than (almost) anything else, again and again. I had seldom, if ever, had it, but still, I lusted for it with (almost) all my heart. (I say "almost" because of what happened next.)

The alcoholic stares at his god in the bottom of a bottle and hopes to be refilled with the spirit. The drug addict awaits for angels to dance at the end of a needle or for god to appear in a pill. The sex addict craves an unobtainable, euphoric embrace with his deity. The glutton cannot be sated but by a temple-full of food and, by that, not for long. The craven poor lust for unacquired gold even as the truly weak lust for undeserved power. All worship false gods. All have welcomed demons into their hearts.

I had my chance to have what I wanted at last. It was in my grasp! I could have taken it (had I chosen to do so). I knew that choosing to do so would have destroyed me. (And it would have destroyed my family, as well.) But I was -- almost -- willing to do that, anyway, so badly I wanted this thing I did not (and could not) have! I was at my wits' end. I was, indeed, captivated by a devil. I felt it was only a matter of time before I did his bidding.

I went to my knees in prayer, shaking, agonized by unfed hunger, anguished with unslaked thirst. My lust was overwhelming! "God help me! Take away from me this desire to do wrong!" I cried.

"Lovest thou me less than these?"

"You know that I love You, Lord!" I knew the Lord loved me and I knew His love surpasses all understanding. I remembered His love. I remembered feeling His love. And I felt it again.

"Lord, I love You! I love you more than this!" I honestly confessed. "Please take away from me this cup!" I poured out my soul to Him in prayer. I willfully, earnestly, whole-heartedly "gave away all my sins to know" Him. I made my choice. I wanted to be with Him -- more than anything in the world! With all my heart.

At that moment, at that very instant, my body shook. It shook violently! I felt an entity leave me and, with its departure, so too fled any desire I once had to do wrong.

I was delivered. My soul was delivered! I had no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually (in that thing)! In fact, I have never been tempted by its like again. The evil spirit that possessed me was cast out of me by God. And my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, delivered me by His love.

I have ever after remembered my former "captivity" and am careful to "not go there" lest I reawaken and "reinvite" that demon that once possessed my soul.

Other demons inhabit my heart besides that one that left. One causes me to feel intense anger. (I am working on casting him out, too!) Treating others like Jesus -- even the unjust and cruel -- will cast him out. He feeds on injustice. He yearns to be offended, to find justification for his anger! But one who submits willingly to God or to any other being (but not to sin), even to one who is unjust and cruel, as a child willfully submits to his father, offers no recreation to a spirit consumed with hatred and malice and an unwillingness to forgive -- and be forgiven -- for wrongs done to him or her. That spirit is looking for retribution, for vengeance, and will captivate any soul who will allow it to do so. The submissive offers no refuge for him.

When we "give up" and "give in" and willingly submit to all things, whatsoever the Lord sees fit to inflict upon us, there is no cause for anger.

The hostage held captive with his feet in chains, hung upside down, who is mercilessly tortured, beaten, starved and abused without respite, is delivered in the very moment he says "Lord, I am willing to submit to all things, whatsoever thou seest fit to inflict upon me." So, too, the cancer "victim". The "ugly" person. The handicapped. The poor. The broken, the lonely and the mournful.

All shall be comforted, even delivered.

God sees us. And He knows our suffering. Acutely. He has been there. He has experienced all things, including our pain. He has descended below all things that He might know how to lift us up. He is willing to deliver us -- not necessarily from our circumstances (though He does that, too, on occasion), but from our lusts and our own self-will, from the things which damn us.

When we change ourselves, we change our circumstances (even when our circumstances don't change!). When we change ourselves, it is impossible for our circumstances not to change. We simply can't "fit" into them like we did before. It's a "new world" for us.

It has been said: "Joy is not found in having what you want, but in wanting what you have."

But I say: "Joy is found in wanting only to please God by making one's eye single to His glory...and finding Him."

Blessed is the man (or woman) who does so.


  1. This is a powerful post. Thank you.

  2. You're welcome. It is scripture unto me: the lessons from God I am working on -- and learning from -- right now.

  3. Bravo, good writing, better meaning. my only problem is wondering how or why a devil could violently possess a person for simply masturbating. Did anyone in LDS history even consider this a sin before Spencer W. Kimball infamously said it was like a gateway drug to homosexuality? besides masturbation is common, nearly universal, and this type of powerful demonic possession experience is rare, how could they be related? besides I think the obsession with guilt over type of thing, while common for most LDS people, is very unhealthy. http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/masturbation_help.htm

    1. I agree with you about the unhealthy response to "normal" body functions. Can anyone imagine if we attached a "moral" stigma to passing gas? or hiccups?

      "Thinker of Thoughts" on the blog "Thoughts on Things and Stuff" has written about this subject:


      I particularly enjoyed his coining of the phrase "gap of Onan". (Look it up! I still chuckle just thinking about it!) It's really so true! Much of what we attribute to victory over the flesh is just the decrepitude of aging. We aren't "conquering"; we're dying!

      Most of us are robust sexual beings which strong biological urges. There are some who have no (or few) sexual cravings. Others have powerful inclinations in that regard. Most men surpass most women in that respect. And, clearly, a man's body (if normal) will induce sexual response (even if the man consciously represses it). Like a fart: one way or another, it's coming out!

      When we "detangle" sexual (hormonal) urges and desires from "love", we realize sex isn't love. It's just appetite. If we truly love someone -- not just "lust" them -- then we would be able to say about them: "I would love them the same whether they were a man or a woman, young or old, ugly or cute", etc.

      Can we do that?

      But if we say "I love their smile", "I love the way she walks (talks, etc.)", that, almost assuredly, is build-in biological triggers firing. In other words, sex.

      Sex is not intrinsically spiritual -- any more than appetite coupled with eating bread and wine are spiritual. Neither is sex demonic -- though it can be made to be such.

      Sex is, however, intrinsically, divine -- for it is creative -- and spiritually sensitive souls often feel even more spiritual in the throes of sexual passion. (They know a "good" thing when they feel it!)

      But sex -- like all "good" things -- can be hijacked. LDS missionaries have (had) special powers and privileges. What one person can do (seemingly without drawing Satan's ire), another (missionary, bishop, etc.) can't do without triggering hellish opposition. Priesthood power -- and protection -- require personal righteousness to be efficacious. Lusting with unchaste intentions certainly bespoils virtue, driving away the Spirit. You wondered why the missionary was possessed when others seemingly are not?

      What makes you think others are not? That's the grandest deception, perhaps, of them all! There are "zombies" all around us. If only we had eyes to see.

    2. Gospelfullness, the elder was full of anger. He was so angry that he left his companion. I believe it was that that opened the door to possession. I think masturbation was only a side show to the rage that was in his heart.

    3. Toni, great insight! I never thought of that before. I always wondered "Why?"

      It was a very unusual circumstance, for sure.

      A religion teacher at BYU related to me an account of a missionary who (if I recall correctly) served under his charge when he (the instructor) was a mission president (or something like that). The missionary had fasted for three days! Ordered to eat by his "superiors", the missionary refused. While he sat before them, adamantly opposed, a power picked him up and threw him across the room!

      The missionary decided to eat.

      Another story related to a missionary who refused to wear his garments at night. His companion complained, urging him to keep his covenants, but the missionary refused, saying they were "too hot" and "too uncomfortable".

      One night the "good" elder awoke to find his companion -- the "bad" elder -- circling the ceiling of the room like a blade of a ceiling fan, saying "Help me, elder! Get me down!"

      These stories are humorous (in a way), startling, attention-grabbing and (I hope) truthful. Having seen a companion possessed myself, I don't doubt that they are possible. But growing up in a Church that allowed and (at least for a time) encouraged Paul H. Dunn, one can't trust everything one hears now, can she?

      Still, one can trust the Savior's words when He said:

      22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

      23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—

      24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.

      25 Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison.

      26 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost senine. And while ye are in prison can ye pay even one senine? Verily, verily, I say unto you, Nay. (3 Nephi 12:22-26.)

      The Lord loves unity. He hates contention. He HATES it. The Lord would "shut up" and "submit" if The Powers That Be required it, if doing so was not sin.

      In other words, He lets people have what they want.

      (To be continued....)

    4. (Continuing....)

      I used to say to myself: "But this might be their only chance to hear the gospel!"

      Verily I say unto you, they will have their chance...worlds without end.

      And that is a sobering thought. We see "this life" as everything, with "the life hereafter" as "everything else". We do not realize that the Lord's course is "one eternal round".

      The devil speaks truth when he mentions "other worlds", implying that Adam (and others) ought to know of them, they both having lived there.

      We are now on one of them. A telestial affair. And we are doomed to repeat this cycle of things until we advance by faith in Christ and rise up Jacob's latter.

      If we fall or fail, we have to start over, even from the beginning.

      The very beginning.

      If we fall short in this life and do not make it back to Him, we, in the mercies of God, may have a chance to start over. But it begins entirely anew -- a new conscience, new memories, new choices, a new body.

      This is what we do. It's called eternal life. And all those who follow the Son -- or who repent, and in the world beyond bow the knee and acknowledge Him -- are privileged to receive such as we have now.

      Thus speaks the Spirit to me. it gives me great comfort and peace to know that I must not -- I dare not -- "bludgeon" people over the head with the truth. They will find truth enough, when they are ready, when they are searching, when they are hungry.

      The vast majority of saints stopped searching years ago. They are sated and satisfied with their religion. It gives them something to do and makes them better people (in some ways).

      It has been a healthy exercise for me to be "cast out" (like Lehi), forced to go to God for myself for answers, forced to conduct my own "sacrament meetings". (Do you want to experience your own little version of "hell"? Try recreating heaven! All hell will oppose you! Wrestling with the powers of darkness will test your mettle and either exalt you...or break you.)

      But your insight into the "danger" of anger is a good one. Maybe worthy of another post.

  4. I have just found your site, via Waterman. Thanks for this post. I love your thinking and your inspiration. I also believe that God gives his children as many chances as it takes. I view this life like school. Most of us are in grade school. Some of us have to repeat grades. Did you ever see the movie, "Defending your life?" It is an old movie, and yeah, there are many silly parts and parts I wish were not in it, but overall it really rings true. Sort of the same way the movie "Groundhog Day" does.

  5. My favorite "Groundhog's Day" movie is "Edge of Tomorrow", with Tom Cruise. Great movie! Worth watching over and over...just like the movie!