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  1. I just finished reading Malachi Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil”. (candidly, it was my halloween read!) If you’re not familiar, it’s a book from a catholic priest who took the 5 most well documented cases of catholic exorcism. I’m skeptical of possession stories, but after reading this book, I so wanted to discuss evil / satan from an LDS viewpoint. Thanks for discussing this, I think we need to somehow address this topic, or have some doctrinal clarity.

      1. Well first of all, every one of his case studies had outside witnesses present, a psychiatrist, a policeman, family members, and a tape recorder. So if the evidence is accurate, the cases are compelling for some sort of super natural force. The formal exorcism rite does have parallels to how I remember being “instructed”. The part that resonated most with me, was the exorcist’s account that when they personally tried to expel the presence things got messy. But when the priest commanded in Jesus’ name they could progress.

        I’ll say it brought out more questions, because I’ve always thought these experiences are psychological. Now I wonder if there is some actual evil that attempts to gain control if our actions.

        Also every “possessed” person definitely knew what was going on before hand. They weren’t innocent. We would say they were already actively pursuing evil, then when it spiraled out of control, and they wanted to change course, the priests got involved.

        1. Fascinating. Thanks, Brian! I don”t know what to make of this sort of stuff either. I’m a bit more open to forces and entities with conscious malicious intent emerging on their own through choices of their own and figuring out ways to be powerful within the givens of the universe than I am to having all of this fit within the traditional narrative of these being among Satan’s legions cast down to earth, but I’m not sure why I want to fight against the original story as much as I do. Probably just because I find it much more psychologically healthy to think of us as responsible for our own turns away from God without having to imagine devils doing all the tempting. Still, we have to at least honor the “wild facts” as they come in front of us. In this case, I don’t feel compelled to accept explanations of “devils” inside these people, but there is clearly “something” about these cases that troubles any easy theories, and that’s good to remember. And couple this account of the name Jesus Christ having some definite effect more than own efforts along with Chelsea’s reflections in the podcast about invoking spirits, and this becomes even another layer of things to be sure to keep considering…

          1. This makes me wonder why the same thing happens when Buddha’s name is invoked when a Buddhist priest casts out demons…    Do possessing spirits ‘have religion’?  Do they recognize the general beliefs of their ‘hosts’?

  2. This podcast was super interesting.  You got into some really cool topics.  I especially liked the anthropology stuff from Chelsea.  I would love to read some of her published work if I could know where to look for it.  I’m excited to read Boyd’s article too when it comes out.

    1. Thanks Todd. I’m still finishing the dissertation and haven’t officially written up most of this stuff yet. I just got back from living in the field for a year and trying to grapple with all of this amazing information. Like I said, I’ve never really explored this stuff from a Mormon perspective except my article in Exponent II which is linked above.

  3. I am halfway through the podcast and I am finding it really fascinating.    I have always found the idea of the “war in heaven” very conflicting.   It seemed odd that we would have a “war”.   It seems more like a rift and less like a battle.   
    Also, one thought I have had several different ideas about  God’s “plan” vs.  Satan’s “plan”.  It has struck me that with God’s idea of agency, there is not only a greater risk and reward for mortals, but it was the only plan that any of us could return to live with God.   If we were to adopt Lucifer’s plan we would all have been lost to God, because God is continually gaining in glory and without our risking to gain the greater glory as well, we would not be able to stay/handle God’s even greater presence.   

    1. Hi Rachel, 

       

      I
      agree that the idea of progressing without a real test doesn’t make sense.
      Appreciate you adding in the wrinkle that not only wouldn’t spirits have
      advanced, but they’d be farther behind than they had been as God during this
      time would have outpaced them even more. Interesting.

       

      My
      big frustration with some of the ways the LDS church discourages exploration
      beyond the inherited and easy stories is it’s lack of faith in members’ ability
      to discern better from worse, right from wrong, what serves your spirit and who you truly are from
      what doesn’t. Within the narrative under discussion here, God is nothing if not trusting even though the potential for growth in negative directions is real. I’ve
      found it fascinating for a long time that more of the top leaders don’t seem to
      notice this and how all the “follow us” and “there is safety if you do
      this and that” rhetoric is out of step with the overall plan that we, according to the story, all fought to accept.

       

      A
      favorite poem of mine by Rainer Maria Rilke about God and this trust and how we’re
      to meet life that I think matches well with what you’re suggesting:

      God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
       then walks with us silently out of the night.
       
       These are words we dimly hear:
       
       You, sent out beyond your recall,
       go to the limits of your longing.
       Embody me.
       
       Flare up like flame
       and make big shadows I can move in.
       
       Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
       Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
       Don’t let yourself lose me.
       
       Nearby is the country they call life.
       You will know it by its seriousnes.
       
       Give me your hand.

      1. Wow-  Thank you so much for sharing that poem.   I keep mulling it over and over and am so struck by the line “let everything happen to you: beauty and terror… Don’t let yourself lose me.”

        I am often confused by the leadership of the church.  I find that they really don’t seem to trust members with much besides “milk”.   But perhaps in a way they do.  If I were to give them the benefit of the doubt, I would say that they expect those “ready for meat” to go out and “hunt for it” and satiate themselves on it.  Maybe you can’t hand-feed those parts of the gospel and you can’t shepherd people to it.   Perhaps you can only shepherd towards safety even while knowing that the more curious members of the flock must search out the edges and additional fields anyway.    I remember a talk by Holland about a year ago where he wrapped up conference and basically said that the membership was wide and varied and to focus on the talks that applied to you.   Perhaps it was wishful hearing, but I sort of grasped onto that idea.   It feels more like the church I was taught to believe in than what the church seems to be now.   I am even more confused by the membership’s continual acceptance of oversimplified narratives of faith.  This is where I have to employ your “let them have their own journey” mantra.  🙂  I was in sunday school today and a woman was speaking about how experience had spoiled her simple childlike faith, and I felt sad that so many praised that childish faith instead of pointing out how much richer grown-up faith can be.  I have found that as I have lost faith in certain points of customary church teachings,  I have gained faith and insight in rich gospel principles, such as the true complexity of charity and the beauty and difficulty of Christ’s teachings.    For example, I cannot remember a time when I believed that God has a personal plan for me, and I have strong doubts about the idea of that in general.  Every time I hear that it sounds more ridiculous and antithetical to the entire idea of life on earth.   Many would be appalled at the lack of faith that shows, but I have found my prayers enriched and my relationship to Christ and Heavenly Father and Mother more dear.   

        I have so much more to say, but I am such an amateur…  Thank you for the podcasts.  

  4. Great discussion, and strangely topical for me.  A few weeks ago I told my wife that I’d never really believed in the devil.  I can buy the general concept of Satan, but I reject the idea that some bogeyman has been personally tempting me all these years.  I can sin just fine on my own, thank you. 

    And Chelsea, I laughed when you talked about feeling a little bad for Lucifer.  I thought the same thing as a kid.   “But mom, wasn’t he just trying to help us all get to heaven?”

  5. Fascinating discussion. Thanks for the podcast.

    I’ve always been a little confused by the reluctance of many religious people to accept the existence of demons. God? No problem. Angels? Sure. Demons? Don’t be absurd.

    This seems especially odd among Christians, since Christ often spoke about Lucifer and demons. I think that much of the Bible is allegorical, but once you start dismissing Christ’s words things get a bit iffy.

    Just my view. Thanks again.

    1. It IS a slippery slope, Kevin! 

      Somehow to me “God” as a concept is so broad and so much easier to imagine different things about what sort of being he/she/it would be that it feels different from angels (at least understanding them as a separate class of beings rather than the LDS view of them as being advanced folk who are still basically of the same species) and demons which are so specific and easier to reject as likely real. 

      On everything else you say, though, I agree. Important to tread carefully. But, to me, it is also very important to still tread!  

  6. Dan, in my youth (1960s) and mission in the 70s, it was not uncommon for us to be taught that casting out the devil was a priesthood ordinance and would be required of us from time to time. Everyone had stories. I have noticed no mention of the need to cast Satan out anymore. I wonder if this deemphasis is because the brethren recognize that people really don’t get possessed and it’s unnecessary or what. The first miracle of this dispensation was, as was mentioned in the podcast, a casting out by Joseph Smith. Jesus and his disciples cast out evil spirits regularly it seemed. But we rarely, if ever, do anymore. We had a recent talk from a high councilor in our ward where he made a point of the reality of Satan and the need to cast him out sometimes. I then asked him if he’d ever needed to do this. He had. I said have you seen any instruction on this in Priesthood meeting lately. Not since the 70s.

    1. I think another reason the possession narratives are disappearing from the culture of the church is the same reason Joseph Smith felt the need to “retranslate” the verses throughout the bible that describe God as the agent who “hardened pharoah’s heart”, for instance.  If we believe in the principle of agency, by allowing for demon possession we are in effect limiting agency.  We may be the one who allows Satan or his minions to enter us due to our pursuit of evil, but allowing for demonic possession says that at some point we “lose control” and no longer are able to be an agent in our own choices.  This is problematic for our belief in being responsible for our own actions and it also feeds into the classic problem of evil, by saying God is less powerless to affect a change through his miraculous means to bring us around.

      Also, I think as we become more scientifically aware of physiological reasons for “demonic” behaviour, such as epilepsy or other psychosis, we are more socially programmed to look for reasonable explainations for strange behaviour than the folktale explainations.  For instance, one of the panelists described a possession type experience that he had during the night in his BYU dormitory that sounds alot like a sleep paralysis event that I have experienced myself and is pretty well understood by the medical community.  But I’m not an expert.

      1. Great take, Troy, about the agency issue being a very likely piece of much of the distancing from possession talk. Great point about the JST change! 

        Randy was the one who talked about his experience while at BYU, but he specifically said it was middle of day and he was not asleep (I am alerted to the sleep paralysis stuff, so I was ready to suggest that if it had happened right as he was waking). Still, this not fitting here doesn’t hurt the point you’re making about the rise of our awareness about psychology et al affecting our increasing skepticism about the possession explanation. 

        Quick story that relates: Earlier this year, as we were talking in Sunday School about demonic possessions described in the NT, someone near me who seems to value the extra things I bring at times to church lessons turned to me to ask some question about whether I was aware of something or other related to possessions today. I guess I was in a certain mood that day and responded along the lines of I just can’t get interested enough to even try to keep up on current stuff in that area because I don’t believe the people the scriptures talk about were possessed (if these are even real stories). I said I believed it was more likely schizophrenia or any of another bunch of possible things going on. It took him aback a bit to hear such a direct answer expressing serious doubt about the scriptures and their interpretations, and I did feel the need to do some smoothing later to make sure he got a broader framing from me about how I view scripture, etc., but a sister near us had heard the exchange and within a minute or so of my saying that to him in class, caught my eye and gave me a thumbs up. It was fun to realize here was yet another person, active in the church, who is also actively thinking and not just taking things at face value.

  7. It was stated by one of the panelists (Boyd, maybe?) that one of the strengths of Mormonism was its tendency to collapse black and white into a deeper and more complex story. I hope y’all realize how ridiculous this sounds to someone raised in the Hinckley-era church that was molded by the philosophies of Bruce R. McConkie and Ezra Taft Benson among others. The modern mainstream church accepts almost no complexity or shades of gray. These nuances are derided as muddled perception cultivated by Satan.

    I think Satan is preserved in modern Mormonism only as a link to its historical Christian and occult roots. The early saints would very much believe in the constant presence and influence of good and evil spirits all around us. Joseph Smith and others obviously had a deep-rooted interest in the occult, and these spirits are the way you tap into the occult. I think Chelsea’s discussion about how tribal people integrated the teachings and culture of Christian missionaries helps illustrate this point.

    As she said in the podcast, Mormons would be comfortable invoking the idea of Satan in discussing temptation and the plan of happiness, but would rarely argue for the literal presence of Satan in personal struggles. I think much of this attitude is the result of our legalistic perspective on salvation (Boyd K. Packer et al.). Because we have a body and Satan does not, Satan can never have power over us unless we give it to him. It is then very shameful to suggest that Satan was involved in your personal struggle. Secondly, even if we wanted to invoke Satan, we can’t blame him for anything. It is completely our own responsibility when it comes to our shortcomings. Satan is rather useless in modern Mormon theology except as an archetype of evil which we are always taught to acknowledge.

    1. Good insights, Jacob. Thanks!

      I also heard Boyd say that about BW vs gray (but just can’t go back and try to find right now), but at the time I thought he was just misstating the way we all do in live conversation and our tongues say the opposite thing as we’re rushing onto some point–and that’s my guess still now. (Boyd, feel free to clarify!) There are ways to argue for deep appreciation for “the gray” in Mormonism, but we’d definitely have to go into theology for that rather than culture and especially the current era and its attitudes that you’re talking about.

      In near total agreement with you on the things in the final two paragraphs. Appreciate your comments, as always!

    1. Don’t make me go back and listen! I can’t remember, really!  Sorry!

      I remember thinking we’d screwed up the third section and that I had grand plans to do a lot more with how other traditions and psychological schools of thought deal with evil without positing supernatural tempters, but we got sidetracked or were already going crazy long or something. I don’t think I had anything particular in eastern thought (which, of course, shouldn’t really be lumped all together) other than a general worldview that says what appears to be evil isn’t really genuinely evil but a manifestation of humans out of balance, that we cause our own misery, or that we don’t see that evil and good are dependent upon our understanding–the underlying reality being neither one nor the other. Do you have a particular interest in eastern views? I’m sure I can focus more if you have a specific interest.

  8. What was not mentioned in the discussion is Jesus’ take on this subject, who the Gospels record having one-on-one interactions with Satan.  It should also be noted that Jesus often references Satan as a real being and agent of disease and persecution.  I’m just saying, Jesus, who is perfect theology, had a cosmology which recognized Satan as real and actively opposed him through healing the sick, delivering the possessed, refuting temptation by quoting Scripture, and sacrificing Himself as a blood atonement.  

    Note, Paul compares the victory which Jesus scores through the Crucifixion to a Roman military triumphal parade, where prisoners of war are paraded through the streets of Rome.  Likewise, Jesus is parading defeated demons through the streets of His eternal city.  

    1. You are definitely bringing up something interesting here. To respond well, I’d have to do a lot of framing about my sense of what scripture is and is not. Shortest answer for me is that it is the writings of people sharing their experiences of God and what is true and important, but in their writings, I don’t see evidence of them transcending their cultural setting and assumptions or basic worldview. 

      For instance, Genesis assumes a view of the world in which there are pillars that hold up the firmament in which the stars and moon and sun are embedded and which has holes in it (windows of heaven) and water above, and there are waters below, etc. (Here is an article that has an image of that worldview on the third page of it: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/134-27-45.pdf). Genesis only fully makes sense when one sees that’s the  cosmology assumed by the writers. We don’t believe today that’s a true picture of how the earth and universe are structured, but most of us aren’t about to chuck Genesis as not inspired or worth a lot of study and consideration.

      In the same way, in the NT we have writers telling the story of Jesus based upon a combination of sayings that had been passed along (Q–the sayings source), a Christology–idea that Jesus was much more than a man–developed by Paul, and Mark combining those and weaving features of hero stories into a narrative about who Jesus was and what he did that was then followed somewhat by Matthew and Luke. (For examples, see our MM podcast on Christmas and the clear shaping of Matthew’s narrative to include elements of the Moses story, and clear shaping by Luke to include elements that situate Jesus in the mold of Samuel.) In the worldview during the NT period, persons who seemed to exhibit chaotic behaviors that we’d now see as manifestations of schizophrenia or epilepsy or several other possible things, were then understood to be possessed by evil spirits. To question that as a true diagnosis of what was really going on is not to say that the scripture is not to be honored and learned from any more than the creation and flood narratives that rely on an old cosmology. Same thing with Jesus in the desert where he met and was tempted by Satan. Nearly every hero-journey includes a scene like this where archetypal temptations are overcome. Perhaps it happened, perhaps not. Still true and important insight that I draw spiritual strength and nourishment from even as I’m open to its possibly having never happened in space and time..

      To assert the reality of Satan and demons simply from scripture saying Jesus interacted with him and them as if they are real requires granting scripture a particular kind of status (somehow radically transcending the cultural assumptions, views of how the world works, inherited narratives, etc. of the human writers of scripture–who I can still claim as “inspired”) that I don’t think is asked by the texts themselves, and which I don’t think can be defended except by reliance on extra-canonical authority–which would then be subject to all the questions about why this authority should be understood as “authoritative.” Somewhere along the line, we need to say this or that view is grounded in something other than just traditions we’ve inherited.

      My thoughts on it, anyway. Happy to continue to engage!
      Dan

      1. Not sure why the link to that article isn’t working. Tried fixing it this past half hour and think something is inhibiting it at the site (which is under construction currently but decently functional still).

        To access, go to http://www.sunstonemagazine.com, click on magazines, past issues, and on that first page, click “older.” Then you will be on a page where you can find issue 134 (Noah’s ark on magazine cover). Over to right, it gives you a choice to view articles in the issue. Do that and then find Duane Jeffery’s article on Noah and the flood. To the right is a button for a PDF version. That button brings the article up! Graphic is on page 3 of the article.

        Cheers,
        Dan

      2. Not sure why the link to that article isn’t working. Tried fixing it this past half hour and think something is inhibiting it at the site (which is under construction currently but decently functional still).

        To access, go to http://www.sunstonemagazine.com, click on magazines, past issues, and on that first page, click “older.” Then you will be on a page where you can find issue 134 (Noah’s ark on magazine cover). Over to right, it gives you a choice to view articles in the issue. Do that and then find Duane Jeffery’s article on Noah and the flood. To the right is a button for a PDF version. That button brings the article up! Graphic is on page 3 of the article.

        Cheers,
        Dan

  9. Interesting to see the comparison of priesthood power and traditional healer–on my mission in Amazonian Brazil, I knew a woman that was a traditional healer and the wife of a family that had been very prominent in the church (the husband had been a branch president and a counselor in the local district presidency, etc.).  Her husband was actually released from his calling in the district presidency, and the wife was disfellowshipped, for her unwillingness to stop practicing traditional medicine.  I think Chelsea’s absolutely right in that this is something that the institutional church frankly just doesn’t know what to do with yet, and it is something that is easily dismissed as being “devilish” or related to satanic power.  I think this is extremely unfortunate, especially given the church’s history of folk healing conducted by women in pioneer Utah (granted, that type of female healer role was white and European, and therefore perhaps a bit “safer” than indigenous healing practices that arise in indigenous communities that “don’t look like us white people” and easily become Otherized and associated with satanic influences a la Heart of Darkness).

    As someone with an academic background in Sociocultural Anthropology and Latin American Studies (with several field experiences in northeastern Brazil, where orisha worship is ubiquitous), it was fun to hear Chelsea’s discussion of indigenous West African religion, alongside a lot of the hybridic interactions between traditional religion and Christianity.  I did fieldwork in a number of terreiros associated with candomble in northeastern Brazil, and this was a fun memory trip back to those experiences.  One of my favorite Catholic chapels in Salvador, Bahia was one built by one of the first monasteries historically founded by free slaves–in the back of the chapel, behind the traditional altars dedicated to Jesus and Mary, was a beautiful hidden altar dedicated to Anastacia, a folk saint that, according to legend, was a West African princess that was enslaved and sent to Brazil but refused to acquiesce to Portuguese authority and accept her slave status.  I really wish there was more room for cultural syncretism like this in the global LDS church.

    Chelsea’s comment on her experience in Sunday School in Ghana was fabulous, too, and reminded me of a lot of my own experiences in Sunday School outside the US in Brazil and Mozambique, where interpretation of manuals can go in some fascinating directions. There’s a great dissertation in anthropology of religion embedded in that somewhere.

    1. Fascinating, Rolf. I really liked reading about your experiences and take on this discussion. I said it much better in my Exponent article linked above, but I genuinely fear that really important aspects of indigenous culture, like the power to heal, the occult, the fact that social interaction have legitimate power (i.e. we can’t just teach “that you shouldn’t be offended” in many of these cultures as the ability to offend is much much more potent and damaging than a few rumors, in some places, it is literally life or death, i.e voodoo death), etc. will get overlooked,  disregarded, or oversimplified due to our American cutlural values and perspectives. There is a rich field of potentially riveting new theology that we can sow, but what I think is more likely to happen is slash and burn acgriculture where the indigenous beliefs (concomitant with the gospel) are destroyed and ours (Western) ideaologies are planted and expected to grow.

      1. Rolf, maybe we should think about writing something together (we ca recruit some similarly trained LDS anthropologists) about this subject. Could make for a fascinating book! I’m still saddened by the disfellowship of your curandero friend. Think of all the midwives, naturopaths, homeopathic drs, DO’s, Chiropracters, Complementary and Alternative Healing Practitioners (CAM), etc. that are in full fellowship in the church in the states.

        1. Thanks for your thoughts, Chelsea–sorry for the lag in replying, it’s that time of year in academia when one’s days are swamped with grading and writing papers (and feeling your own writing confidence bolstered when you compare your graduate-level papers to the undergraduate ones you’re grading).  That, plus my wife and I are the throes of baby weaning, so the nights are getting long.

          I finally got around to reading your Exponent piece, and I loved it–from my own experiences participating in the church abroad (primarily in Brazil, Mozambique, and the Dominican Republic), I felt similarly that what I loved most about my church experience in those settings was the way in which it was culturally unique and uncorrelated.  I’s very easy for those who have been long-term members in the church in the States to not recognize the multitudinous ways in which what we think is “church culture” (or as you cited in the article, the “culture of Christ” discussed by Dallin H. Oaks that transcends cultural and national boundaries) is really American church culture that has been accepted as universal primarily because the worldwide spread of the church occurred after it had already been established.  In the international church today, diversions from the correlated norm are all-too-often stamped out or ignored, when local initiatives in the US were historically what created most of the institutional church’s programming today (the young single adult program, the mutual program, and the list goes on).  Think of how much more fulfilling and culturally decentralized church programming could be if church leaders outside the US felt the same freedom to innovate and accept as local leaders have historically felt in the US.  Instead, we get slash and burn theology, as you call it (great phrase, by the way), and so many fall by the wayside unnecessarily.

          As for writing something together on the subject, I’m all for it!  Sounds wonderful, and it would fill a much needed gap in the current Mormon Studies literature (there isn’t really that much in what could be called the Anthropology of Mormonism, much less the Comparative/International Anthropology of Mormonism).

  10. Dan, I loved this podast.  So last Sunday the lesson was on the second coming…and all it entails.  When we were discussing Satan being bound, one good sister opened her mind a bit and asked, “will our “evil” desires, personal faults, temptations etc. still be there when Satan is bound”.  I couldn’t keep quiet anymore, and raised my hand, and said, “what she means is who will we blame for our faults, desires, etc,  when Satan is bound?”  The teacher chuckled, and most of the class laughed out loud, but I don’t think anybody at all got my point.  They just continued to trudge forward, trying to figure it all out, and make it all make sense and fit in their literal views.  Oh well, I tried.   Thanks again for all you do.

  11. … ok, I feel ‘tempted’ (by who or what?) to add something to this
    discussion but I’m not sure how to approach it. A little history perhaps. I was
    born and raised in the church, always had a testimony, served a mission and
    certainly always took the words of the Brethren for absolute truth – with the
    caveat that sometimes I knew an idea was being presented figuratively. I have
    been directly involved in several situations that seem miraculous to me
    including variations on the Gift of Tongues, healings, and insights that arose
    and belonged well beyond my normal scope of life.

    Approximately 15 years ago, when I was in my mid-forties, I experienced a
    number of extreme life events involving death, unexpected job loss, a collapse
    of physical health and (just to make it more interesting), a major mid-life
    crisis. On top of all this, or maybe because of it, I had a migraine headache
    that lasted several months almost without pause. Also, I was unable to sleep
    properly during much of this time due to medications and pain. The lack of
    sleep seemed to induce wild nightmares (day and night) and eventually I reached
    a point at which I was in a nearly psychotic state according to my physician. I
    lived in this deep ‘fugue’ state for several weeks.

    The reason I am posting this here is that, while in this deeply dissociated,
    dream disturbed state, I experienced just about every category of mood and idea
    possible – and because of my LDS background, I did it all within the context of
    the gospel. I was having daytime dreams that put me in the shoes of ancient
    prophets; ‘actually’ reliving or acting-out their kind of experiences in my own
    life setting, I was having constant  inner visitations from Heaven, Hell and
    everywhere in between, and I was absolutely certain that it was all real. It
    took me a long time to sort it all out. 
    I should note here that for much of this time my ‘symptoms’ even
    manifested themselves in the people around me and also showed up in extended family
    members I was in virtually no contact with, across a very large geographical
    area and including most ages groups.  It
    was all very convincing at first and then later very confusing.

    Of course I was looking for help so I visited my bishop, family doctor and
    eventually several psychologists and psychiatrists.  I even spent a little time in a trauma unit
    for people with extreme PTSD (my diagnosis). 
    My bishop summarily accused me (us) of being possessed by devils but
    eventually apologized when the crisis was spent.  The family doctor sent me to the various
    psycho… doctors where I  got a lot of
    drugs but little relief.  Finally I met an
    understanding psychologist who attacked my early religious upbringing along
    with mid-life issues and also introduced me to Carl Jung’s writings.  I sort of ‘read’ my way out of the problem
    and into the astonishing world of archetypes. 

    Based on my experiences I would like to make the following observations that
    seem true to me: 

    1.      The
    human mind/brain is capable of and contains a wide variety of functionality and
    even non-specific knowledge that almost nobody really taps into during a normal
    life time.

    2.      It
    doesn’t require a devil to be possessed. 
    Even at the most confusing times, I could tell that it was ME acting and
    feeling.  I was doing the controlling and
    decision making but under deeply altered perceptions.

    3.      When
    in those kind of mind/body states, the inner experience takes precedence over
    the outer.  It is easy for me to
    understand why a person could physically self-mutilate for a ‘higher’
    cause.  After all, it is our brain doing
    the perceiving and if it is turned inwards, focusing on its own immediate
    priorities then the body’s sensations can become muted or completely ignored.

    4.      I
    feel quite certain that our conscious mind is based on many layers of deeper
    psychic (spiritual?) capacity.  My
    mid-life crisis and general studies lead me to believe that these deeper layers
    tend to work to the surface of consciousness over time as an attempt at
    maturation and self-awareness.  Buried
    with these contents are the seeds of the entire gamut of human capacities.  If you release them too quickly or in an
    uncontrolled environment, as sometimes happens in life’s crises, you are in for
    one ‘hell’ of a ride.

    5.      Also,
    I am quite certain that some kind of communication mechanism exists at lower,
    perhaps extra-dimensional, levels.  It
    was very disconcerting to find nearly identical ‘spiritual’ ideation playing
    out across such a wide geography for family members who hardly ever
    communicated.  This ‘communication
    system’ must be somewhat ‘intelligent’. 
    I suppose if ‘other-world’ entities were involved then this is the most
    obvious sign though I think other possibilities exist.

    All of that said, I think it is important to note
    that God (capital ‘G’) gave us His kind of physical and mental equipment to be
    like Him.  Over time I think He will help
    us figure out what it means to be tangled up in our own brains as opposed to
    working with His Spirit – or any spirit, but we are going to have to get a lot
    better picture of our own functionality first. 
    In the mean time, I feel that the General Authorities are on the right
    track and should be deeply respected.  In
    the past I spent a lot of time feeling angry at them for helping to ‘trap’ me
    in a state of immaturity.  Now I realize
    that, like any butterfly, you have to live in a containing cocoon and then
    break out to become a butterfly.  The
    church is designed to act as a comfortable but confining cocoon.  For us, that means maturing through many
    stages of miserable separation and realigning before finally finding the broader
    truths life has to offer.  So really, God
    can’t just pop the top off the cocoon when we feel crowded by narrow
    doctrines.  Frankly, I’m pretty sure the
    real doctrines already reside deep inside us. 
    With all we have to work with, God is probably disappointed when all he
    gets back at the end of a person’s long life is a righteous worm.

     

    1. WONDERFUL! Extremely insightful. Thank you, so much, for sharing your experiences and wonderful sense of the way ahead into deeper growth and maturity. I hope a ton of people will read this post!

      (If you see “edited by a moderator” above and in other posts here and there, it’s me simply fixing some weird formatting in the original comment. I never edit content.)

  12. well the browser decided it was going to close on me randomly while typing this.

    i wanted to reply to dispell any myths of any new people that might stumble across this even though this was written rather late. 

    if one is to become mormon in any sense one needs to acknowledge Satan is real. this is some myth character or abstract idea. the scriptures especially the book of mormon the cornerstone religious text of the mormon religion goes into great length and detail about Satan. even gives him several names. the father of all lies, the old serpent, the devil, lucifer, and the book of revelation even calls him the accuser of his brethern. so this Satan character gets named and called out. We see him visit people, get into peoples hearts(similar to The Holy Ghost can get into peoples hearts in a good way which is perhaps a attribute of being a spirit), and we see him surround cities. We even see that on the day of judgement people will look at him in a sort of shock that REALLY???? this is the guy that caused nations to tremble???? REALLY??? this guy??? so we see very much a literal character or person existing. to be mormon or christian you have to acknowledge Satan. 

    we then have the founding of the LDS religion starts out with Satan answering Josephs prayer by knocking him to ground and attacking him. Satan starts the LDS religion in that sense. He is the first one to appear. this is to dispell the myth that there can be a God but no Satan. God and Jesus let Satan do this before appearing. this is the point of that to dispell a very common myth. that we can have heaven but no hell. the book of mormon really goes into great detail on how Satan deceives man contrary to the bible that does not go into near the same level of detail. to suddenly say Satan is merely an idea sort of negates the entire set of scriptures as the 4 most central figures are Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Ghost, and Satan. these 4 occupy the central figures to take one out and cast that one as not real would change the ENTIRE story.

    this really speaks to a larger problem in the LDS church and that is the downplay of spirtual experiences. so quick are we in the world and in general to downplay these things in civilized modern countries. someone has a vision or dream? send him to the nut house. Satan appearing is labeled as sleep paralysis or any number of other explanations. we immediately dismiss the possiblity of Satan appearing or God or angels of either side appearing. we give this no credit it anymore. The priesthood is the power to act in Gods Name. this serves more power than merely blessing the sacrament and giving a blessing of healing. and on that note of blessings you should having The Holy Ghost overcome you and speak through you if you arent you are somehow doing this wrong. The Holy Ghost is what gives the priesthood the sealing stamp of approval. The Spirit is what allows me to use the priesthood to do all things. this is gotten by faith. this is a fundemental concept that church members dont grasp anymore. the priesthood can be used to move mountains if need be. it is far greater than its common accepted role of blessing some bread and water. this is the priesthood people the power used to create earth lets give it more credit than we do.

    this is really all what Satan wants. this is truely “the philosphies of men mingled with scripture”. Satan does not want to be mentioned he wants people to think he does not exist. from a military stand point it is impossible to fight the invisible unseen unknown enemy. so Satan is best when he is unseen. yes he will and can manifest himself. but to fool the larger masses being unseen is very effective. 

    i do having said all that one to be clear. i appreciate thought provoking questions and i encourage and am glad you asked these questions and are curious. i just think the question never got asked or answered or really addressed the fact that the book of mormon mentions Satan a lot and seems to be quite clear He does exist.

    so in short a true testimony of Christ also bears witness that there are devils. it is just the way it is. 

    to add my own experience i have seen Satan no less than 10000 times probably. i have had great at length conversations. and great encounters. let me be clear while a fascinating fellow in some aspects and there is much to be learned from those experiences. one thing that never made sense till i went to the temple was why he was wearing an apron or cape thing odd it was the first thing noticed lol. the underline point is this. He is PURE EVIL. not just evil. but pure evil. much like God is Pure Love and cannot be described Satan too cannot be described. one might think hitler is pure evil but that means you simply have not confronted Satan who is pure evil. to put it this way the pains of a damned soul if you were to combine every horror movie and every horrible act on this planet’s history and every vile thought every human has had on this planet and combined this together in one act of pain and misery that pain and misery is still heaven in comparison to soul wracking pains of a damned soul. God is not kidding when He says “it would be better to of never been born”. which if we look at that statement because we are co-eternal with God this means we always existed in some state. what that statement truely says is it would better to never of existed in any state of existence in any plane of any reality anywhere to be blotted out from the eternities would be a better fate than to go to this place called outer darkness. a fate of Which the devils are going. this is the level of pain that will exist there.

    to deny Satan is doing yourself a great disservice. The Son of Man descended below it all for art you better than him???. if we are to become a type of Christ we too must descend into the abyss. the path way to heaven traverses through hell.

    ive heard in one of those “evil R rated” movies that Satans greatest trick is making us think he is not real. perhaps there is great truth to that. though i dont know the movie made it sound like he was quoting the bible but im not sure. either way its a great truth indeed.

    and FYI its hard to say what those other cultures do or dont do as far as shamans go. given the fact women used to give blessings and didnt really possess the priesthood in the same sense men do although some reports say they did it is hard to say how that works. that said Satan can heal us and satan does possess the priesthood. but ive no real comment on those cultures.

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