Wednesday, April 11, 2012

17. Satan Monitors Our Speech

In the previous chapter I shared what I consider Satan’s greatest tactic against us. In this chapter I will share another of Satan’s important tactics against us: Satan uses the things we say out loud against us.

We as Mormons face an interesting command in scripture to pray both vocally and silently:
And again, I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.
D&C 19:28

I think we should generally use silent prayers for a different purpose than vocal prayers because of Satan. While prayer is a wonderful tool for communicating our troubles with God, praying our troubles out loud (or any vocal mention of our struggles) lets Satan and his followers know exactly what is vexing us. And they will use this information against us. We can reduce the influence of Satan by simply watching what we say out loud because Satan cannot read our thoughts.

These principles are affirmed in the following discourse by Francis Gibbons, an LDS Church leader. Elder Gibbons teaches that God and those inspired by God through the spirit of prophecy can read our thoughts, but Satan and his followers cannot:
But a more significant reason for praying secretly is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 6, where it is written, “Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart” (D&C 6:16).
Other scriptures broaden this concept to include not only God, but those whom God inspires. So Zeezrom, the crafty lawyer who was taught by Alma and Amulek, became convinced “that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy” (Alma 12:7).
It is clear, then, that Satan and his followers, who have been cast out of God’s presence and are dead to His Spirit, are excluded from those who, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, may know the thoughts and the intents of our hearts.
Francis M. Gibbons, “The Dual Aspects of Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 78.

Elder Gibbons also affirms the importance of praying silently in order to combat Satan’s tactics against us:
So, in his wisdom and mercy, God has provided a channel of communication between him and his children on earth that Satan, our common enemy, cannot invade. This is the channel of secret prayer. The significance of this to the Latter-day Saint is profound, for by this means we are able to communicate with our Heavenly Father in secrecy, confident that the adversary cannot intrude.
… while Satan can convey thoughts, he does not know whether these thoughts have taken root unless they are reflected either in words or in actions.

So how do we balance the command in scripture to pray both vocally and silently? My approach is to have somewhat separate purposes for vocal prayers versus secret prayers: I try to focus my vocal prayers with my family on gratitude for blessings, while using silent prayer to pour out my challenges and weaknesses in private in order to receive assistance from the Lord without Satan monitoring the conversation. Certainly, families and couples have need at times to pray vocally about challenges, and children need these experiences to build their faith in the face of opposition. So my approach is not a rigid one. My goal is simply to give Satan and his followers as little ammunition as possible.   

Another important point made in Elder Gibbons’ 1991 address is that we talk too much: “Often, we talk too much. We say things that need not be said or should not be said; for in saying them, we may open a crevice which enables Lucifer to wedge his way into our lives.” If Elder Gibbons could have seen in 1991 where the internet and cell phones and email and social media have taken our communications today, I imagine he would have stated this principle even more emphatically. I think Satan laughs that now media sources have transformed a small “crevice” of evil opportunity into a vast chasm.  

As a personal example, when I falter and say something critical about someone out loud, I can be certain that I will be immediately tempted with additional critical thoughts about that person. This increase in temptation is due to the fact that Satan and his followers take careful note of what we say and then use the intel to tempt us or those connected to us. We certainly don’t want to give Satan ammunition against us, but we do just that when we speak carelessly.

16. Fiery Darts

The focus of this blog is spirits. I have defined evil spirits, unclean spirits, and the gift of discerning of spirits. I have offered many thoughts on how to help various spirits. Yet I could also write much about Satan and his direct tactics against us. I often hear people say that Satan has no power to harm us unless we allow or invite it. I know from many experiences that this idea is dangerously false. I have collected much scriptural evidence refuting this idea, as well as statements from LDS leaders. Instead of presenting all of that information here, let me simply remind you of the life of Job. He was a righteous man, yet Satan was allowed to destroy everything he had—even his family. Job did nothing to invite the tremendous harm that Satan caused him. In the same fashion, Satan seeks to harm all of us because he enjoys our suffering. Satan harms us even when we do nothing to invite it.

So even though this blog is about spirits, I need to include what I consider Satan’s greatest tactic of harming us: fiery darts. LDS leaders have not defined fiery darts, but many members assume they are a synonym for temptations. The following scripture shows that they are not temptations because they are listed separately in the same phrase:

And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
1 Nephi 15:24

The distinction that fiery darts are listed separately from temptations is very important! We all realize that Satan tempts us by having his evil-spirit followers torment us with negativity. But we fail to understand that Satan uses a separate, powerful tactic against us: fiery darts. While God gives us wonderful and precious spiritual gifts to bless our lives, Satan counterfeits this practice by firing negative spiritual gifts, or curses, at us. Hence, his fiery darts are literal. They are the opposites of the spiritual gifts we receive from God. Some examples of Satan’s curses are depression, low self-esteem, fear, anger, loneliness, abandonment, pride, envy, jealousy, and even physical ailments. (This list is by no means exhaustive.) We can actually count the number of curses Satan has given us. You can usually figure out what they are by pondering the things you struggle with that seem to overpower your agency or don’t make sense.

To remove Satan’s curses, we must have faith in Christ to be healed. Notice that faith is listed in each scripture below as the defense against fiery darts:

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Ephesians 6:16

15 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.
16 Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you;
17 Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;
18 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen.
D&C 27:15–18

Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.
D&C 3:8

We can ask God through prayer to bless us with faith if we feel we lack it. Then ask God through prayer to literally remove Satan’s fiery darts. Sometimes God requires that we identify each specific curse before He will take each one away; He does this to teach us how Satan works at harming us. God may also require us to learn something from the curses or make amends to others before He will take them away. Also, sometimes we require a priesthood blessing to remove Satan’s curses. God will tell us which course to pursue.

We can protect ourselves from new curses by praying every morning and night for God to literally dress us in the armor of God (D&C 27:15–18). Ask Him to completely surround you—not just shield a little part of you—with both pure, white light (Romans 13:12; John 1:9; D&C 93:37; D&C 50:25) and Jesus’ love (“The Lord is my strength and my shield …” Psalms 28:7; see also Psalms 3:3; 59:11; 84:9; 115:9–11).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

15. Helping Unclean Spirits

The previous chapter detailed the process I follow to help evil spirits using the gift of discerning of spirits. This chapter will detail the more-complex process I follow to help unclean spirits (those who have died and are in prison in the spirit world). Definitions of unclean spirits are found in Chapters 4 and 5.

We know from Joseph Smith’s promise that every unclean spirit can be saved (see Chapter 11). This assurance from Joseph Smith has motivated me on several occasions not to give up in my efforts to use the gift of discerning of spirits to help unclean spirits. The occasional desire to give up stems from the complexity of each unclean spirit’s issues that need to be resolved before that spirit will choose to move forward and leave his or her spiritual prison. Think of all the negative emotions and experiences mortals can take with them when they die; those negative emotions don’t vanish upon death unless the deceased are willing to let them go and move on. For us to help these “stuck” spirits, we have to understand what is holding them back and, like a good friend would, help the spirits resolve their issues. The only way we can know how to help is through the gift of discerning of spirits (see Chapter 10).

Doctrine and Covenants 138:30 explains that the Lord sends righteous spirits in paradise to preach to unclean spirits in prison. We would logically assume that these righteous spirits would have more success than mortals in preaching to unclean spirits because they can see each other and communicate without a veil. So why are mortals needed to help unclean spirits at all? I was puzzled by this dilemma for a long time, despite the fact that unclean spirits kept coming to me for help. Eventually I came to understand that mortals can have surprising success in preaching to spirits because of the powerful combination of our physical bodies and spirit into a soul (see D&C 88:15). Our physical bodies are very important in developing spiritual powers. Joseph Smith stated that “all beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.” (fn1) Another prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, taught that “through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.” (fn2) The apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, “The gospel cannot be written, except in the bones and sinews and tissues of a human body. When it is so written, the record is then found in the Book of Life of the converted believer.” (fn3) And my favorite evidence of the importance of bodies to those in the spirit world is found in D&C 138 where the prophet Joseph F. Smith details his vision of the spirit world. President Smith saw many biblical prophets and other righteous people in his vision. I am fascinated that even these righteous spirits “had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (138:50). I think we completely underestimate how much spiritual power our bodies afford us. I believe that unclean spirits are influenced by mortals because of our bodies, thus once we have their attention we can use our sincere desire to be friendly to them as a catalyst to help them.

(fn1) Joseph Smith, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Alma P. Burton [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 82.

(fn2) Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56], -48.

(fn3) Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], .

All unclean spirits are under the influence of Satan (see Chapter 6). However, only a small percentage of them are actively trying to harm us the way evil spirits do. Most unclean spirits are just very unhappy and want our comfort or help. It may feel like even the nonwicked unclean spirits are trying to harm us because their presence around us does harm us by interfering with or blocking our spiritual light—but they often don’t realize the effect their presence has on us. Satan uses the ignorance of nonwicked spirits to ultimately harm us by encouraging them to come to us. He tells them that we are kind and honorable and will be good hosts to them in their unhappy state. The spirits agree that we are good people so they believe Satan and come to us, without realizing that their very presence in or around us influences us and harms us.

As I have helped millions of unclean spirits move forward and leave their spiritual prison, I have learned that these spirits often associate with other unclean spirits who have the same issues, similar to the adage “misery loves company.” Categorizing these groups of spirits helps me work with them more efficiently. I will share my categories below with the caveat that I used to think all unclean spirits fell into one of these categories, but as I continue to learn from this gift I see that there is still much I don’t know. I assume there may be unclean spirits out there whose issues don’t fall into any of the following categories:

1. Spirits who won’t forgive someone else

Think how often mortals hold grudges against each other in life. Unless we choose to forgive others, we take all those grudges (and all our personality traits) with us when we die. There are many spirits in the spirit world who are imprisoned because of their unwillingness to forgive the offenses of others. They carry their offense as a heavy chain. Their willingness to forgive can be very elusive because the offenses may be severe—such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuses cause by family members. Sadly, I encounter many female spirits in this group who were abused by male family members who should have treated them so much better.

To help these spirits forgive the offense, we can use the following exercise:
• Speak to the offenders and ask if they are sorry for their offense. If the offender is not yet sorry, help persuade them to have faith in Christ and repent (the gift of discerning of spirits will tell you specifically how to persuade in each case).
• Ask Jesus if He has forgiven the offender (the answer is always yes if the offender has repented).
• Ask the offenders if they would like the offended spirits to forgive them; the offenders always say yes once they have repented.

The information given to the offended spirits in this exercise is often enough to melt the grudge. If the offended spirits are still not willing to forgive, then ask Jesus if He would like them to forgive the offenders; He always says yes. If this added information from Jesus is still not enough to melt the grudge, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the offended spirit a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity and anger, replacing those emotions with a desire to forgive. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirit should be ready to forgive and leave the imprisoned state. Sometimes we need to ask that the offended spirits be allowed to work through the offense directly with the offenders. Sometimes we need to explain to the offended spirits that Christ forgives all, but He requires us to forgive in order for the atonement to remove our pain caused by others.

2. Spirits who are having difficulty leaving behind a loved one on Earth

Mortals who believe in life after death and the eternal nature of families are very fortunate to possess such a comforting truth. Such a belief softens one’s views on the finality of death. Unfortunately, mortals in many religious cultures throughout the world do not hold such a comforting belief that families are forever. For them, death brings a fear that they will never see their loved ones again. When these mortals die they chain themselves to the presence of a living spouse or other beloved mortal, or as Parley Pratt described it, “Many spirits of the departed, who are unhappy, linger in lonely wretchedness about the earth, and in the air, and especially about their ancient homesteads, and the places rendered dear to them by the memory of former scenes” (see chapter 5). These spirits are afraid to leave the mortals’ presence because they fear they will never see their friends again. Thus, the overwhelming emotion transmitted by the spirits in this group is fear. These spirits may also not want to leave the earthly state because Satan has told them they need to stay around their families. The spirits don’t understand that staying around their mortal loved ones while the spirits are in a fearful, imprisoned spiritual state will harm the mortals rather than help them. These spirits are only able to help their posterity if they accept the gospel and receive priesthood power as ministering angels.

To help these fearful spirits:
• Educate the spirits about Christ’s plan of salvation for everyone after this life. Help the spirits understand that families are forever.
• Ask Jesus if the spirits can receive a calling as a ministering angel to the loves ones they are having a hard time leaving once they accept the gospel and receive the calling; He usually says yes.
• Ask Jesus if the spirits can do much more good in helping their loved ones as a ministering angel (having a calling and the power that goes with it) than if they stay chained to the mortal state; Jesus always says yes.

The information in this exercise is almost always sufficient to persuade the spirits to accept the gospel and receive a calling to become a ministering/guardian angel. In the rare case that the spirits still won’t accept the gospel, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the frightened spirits a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity and fear, replacing those emotions with faith in Christ and knowledge that He will entitle the spirit to the power of ministering angels. After an angel gives this blessing, the unclean spirits should be ready to accept the gospel and leave the mortal sphere.

3. Spirits whose mortal lives ended prematurely

The spirits in this category were often killed by unexpected events such as plagues, famine, natural disasters, crime, or acts of war. They are unhappy that their lives were cut short. Satan works hard on spirits in this group to convince them that God does not love them. Satan uses the lie that a loving god would not allow such atrocities to occur to them. Satan is effective at heaping lies onto these spirits until they are convinced they are unloved. The overwhelming emotion transmitted by the spirits in this group is sadness.

To help these very unhappy spirits:
• Explain the principle of agency to them. Help them understand that God gives all His children agency that they can use for good or evil. Some mortals use their agency to harm others and even kill them when they should be helping others.
• Ask God whether the premature deaths were a judgment against these spirits or a sign that God does not love them; the answer is always no.
• Help these spirits understand that they can use their agency to accept Christ and then act as ministering angels to help mortals.

The information in this exercise should persuade the spirits to believe again in a loving Heavenly Father. If the spirits still won’t accept the gospel, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity and sadness, replacing those emotions with knowledge of how much God and Jesus love the spirits, and with faith in Christ. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to accept the gospel.

4. Spirits who are unbelievers

The unclean spirits in this category do not believe in Jesus Christ as the savior of all mankind. They have not yet chosen to follow Jesus and progress in the spirit world. These spirits have had the opportunity to be taught about Jesus by righteous spirits (those in a state of paradise) in the spirit world, but they have not accepted the gospel.

To help these unbelieving spirits:
• Use the gift of discerning of spirits to understand the reasons these unclean spirits are unbelievers. Perhaps they come from a religious culture that downplayed or refuted Jesus Christ as the savior. Or perhaps the spirits have other concerns that cause their unbelief.
• Help the spirits resolve their unbelief by educating them with gospel truths and personal testimony. Ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing if prompted.

5. Spirits who have sexual sin

Satan works hard to demoralize spirits (and mortals!) who feel anguish over their earthly sins by telling them that they are not worthy of Jesus’ forgiveness and that Jesus would never want them in paradise. Satan uses all of his cunning lies to fill these spirits with anguish and negativity so he can subject them to his power. This tactic is most fruitful when the unclean spirits’ mortal sins were grave, such as murder or sexual sin. Once spirits have lost their faith that Christ’s atonement can heal them of any sin, Satan is able to entice them to do his bidding against us by promising them relief or revenge for their anguished feelings by making mortals miserable like the spirits are. These spirits intend to hurt us. Satan delights in his tactic of promising wicked unclean spirits that they can achieve gratification for their specific hurts or sins by plaguing mortals now with those same painful feelings.

Parley Pratt, an early LDS apostle, taught that some mortals who have sexual addictions are being manipulated by adulterous unclean spirits: “Some of these spirits are adulterous, and suggest to the mind all manner of lasciviousness, all kinds of evil thoughts and temptations. … There are, in fact, most awful instances of the spirit of lust, and of bawdy and abominable words and actions, inspired and uttered by persons possessed of such spirits, even though the persons were virtuous and modest so long as they possessed their own agency.” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1891, 5th edition], 122.) It makes perfect sense to me that unclean spirits would be Satan’s preferred agents (over evil spirits) to plague mortals with sexual addiction because unclean spirits have had a body, so they have a working knowledge of the body that evil spirits—and even Satan—do not have.

We see an ongoing debate in society over the cause of homosexuality. From my experiences with the gift of discerning of spirits, I believe adulterous unclean spirits are the cause of homosexuality. If an adulterous male unclean spirit acts upon a mortal male, the mortal male will be possessed with the male spirit’s sexual desires for females, so the mortal male will have temptations toward a mortal female. But if, instead, an adulterous female unclean spirit acts upon a mortal male, the mortal male will be possessed with the female spirit’s sexual desires for males, so the mortal male will have temptations toward another male. I believe that homosexuality is caused by adulterous unclean spirits of one gender acting upon a mortal of the opposite gender.

Many years ago I helped a man with his homosexuality who wrote the following account of his experience:
I always felt I was different, even as a kid. The attractions I felt to other males seemed to be a part of me at a very deep level. It was just who I was, no choice about it. As I grew up and matured sexually, the attractions to men were not a choice. I did not want these gay feelings. I felt so much guilt and confusion. Fast forward a lot of years to my experience with Brother X. He told me the desires were from female spirits who were making me feel their sexual desires for men. I was skeptical, but Brother X said that I would have my own experience and I did not need to believe anything he told me. When we met, Brother X taught me about a gift where I can know if any spirits are bugging me. I learned how to receive answers directly from the Holy Ghost. In my case, 3 female spirits with sexual sin had been in me since right after I was born and I was feeling their strong sexual attraction for men. Other females had come and gone during my life, but these 3 had always been with me. Then Brother X talked to the 3 women calmly. I was nervous about it until this feeling of love came through me and then I felt the women leave. The sensation is hard to describe, it was like the area around my lungs and heart felt lighter or less crowded for a moment. I didn’t see any spirits but some images of women’s faces flashed quickly in my mind. After that the attraction to men was just gone. It was so strange to suddenly have a normal heterosexual reaction to the people around me like I was a different person. I see now that the reason the women came right after birth was so that I wouldn’t know what my real personality was—I would only know the desires of the women and accept them as a core part of me. Now that the female spirits are gone, Satan sends other females sometimes to make me feel attracted to men again, but I am able to help the spirits and then the attraction is gone. Satan also tempts me sometimes, but the temptations are much weaker than the spirits and I command Satan to leave me. I find it ironic that people really are “born that way,” but it’s a spiritual cause instead of biological. - J.D.

To help these spirits who have sexual sin:
• To help these spirits throw off Satan’s lies, we must educate them on Jesus’ true feelings about them. Ask Jesus if He loves these spirits as much as He loves anyone; He will always say yes.
• Ask if Jesus has paid the price for the spirits’ sins; He will always say yes.
• Ask if there is any reason why these spirits cannot repent of their sins and accept the gospel; He will always say no.

Sometimes the answers to these three questions are enough to free the spirits from Satan’s lies and convince the spirits to begin the repentance process. Usually, however, we must go further and ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity, replacing those emotions with a desire to have faith in Christ, a knowledge of how much God and Jesus love the spirits, and a knowledge that Christ will heal the spirits of all of mortality’s sins. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to leave us.

6. Spirits who have addictions

This group has much overlap with the previous group, “Spirits who have sexual sin.” Spirits in this category are those who had any addictive behaviors in life. Satan lies to these spirits by telling them that Christ does not want them because of their addictions. Once spirits have lost their faith that Christ’s atonement can heal them of any addiction, Satan entices these spirits by telling them that they can feed those addictions by possessing mortals in order to experience the addictions again through a mortal host. Most of these spirits feel no remorse when they hurt us as they feed their own addictions. However, some spirits with addictions are horrified by their loss of control and they feel guilt when afflicting mortals.

As an example, Satan may encourage a spirit who had the addictive behavior of gluttony to enter a mortal so the spirit can “feel” the sensation of the mortal’s food consumption. The spirit can often influence its mortal host to eat gluttonously, even when the mortal is not hungry, in order to feed the spirit’s desire for the sensation of food consumption.

To help these spirits who have addictions:
• To help these spirits throw off Satan’s lies, we must educate them on Jesus’ true feelings about them. Ask Jesus if He loves these spirits as much as He loves anyone; He will always say yes.
• Ask if Jesus has paid the price for the spirits’ sins; He will always say yes.
• Ask if there is any reason why these spirits cannot repent of their sins and accept the gospel; He will always say no.

Sometimes the answers to these three questions are enough to free the spirits from Satan’s lies and convince the spirits to begin the repentance process. If the answers are not enough, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity, replacing those emotions with a desire to have faith in Christ, a knowledge of how much God and Jesus love the spirits, and a knowledge that Christ will heal the spirits of all of mortality’s sins. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to leave us.

7. Spirits who encourage divination

Parley Pratt, an early LDS apostle, described these spirits: “There is still another class of unholy spirits at work in the world, spirits diverse from all these, far more intelligent, and, if possible, still more dangerous. These are, the spirit of divination, vision, foretelling, familiar spirits, ‘animal magnetism,’ ‘mesmerism,’ etc., which reveal many and great truths mixed with the greatest errors, and also display much intelligence, but have not the keys of the science of Theology, the holy Priesthood.” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1891, 5th edition], 120–21, 122, 123.)

After I developed the gift of discerning of spirits, I had many experiences with this group that I had nicknamed “psychic spirits.” My experiences taught me that when mortals act as psychics or mediums, they are connecting with this group of unclean spirits in order to gain powerful information about the past, present, and future. I agree with Parley Pratt that these spirits are very intelligent and that they convey truth to mortals to demonstrate their power, but the truth is mixed with error that will ultimately harm the mortals. I could see how dangerous this group of spirits is to mortals so I wanted to help all the psychic spirits leave spirit prison, thereby effectively shutting down the psychic channel between mortals and spirits. Regrettably, I made some unkind jokes about psychic spirits and offended many of these spirits. In being flippant, I forgot the fundamental principle of being a friend to unclean spirits in order to assist them. I paid for my error when the offended psychic spirits banded together and attacked me physically. I apologized and learned a valuable lesson.

Once I learned to treat psychic spirits with greater respect and caution, I learned how they became unclean spirits. As mortals these spirits had low self-esteem because they were not popular and outgoing, yet they were intelligent and sensitive. They were lonely. When they died, Satan told them that they could become very popular with mortals as psychic spirits, that mortals would line up to communicate with these spirits. Mortals would fawn over the spirits’ great power. The spirits were more susceptible to Satan’s efforts of flattery when he promised them power and fame by following him. The relationship between spirits and mortals appeases the spirits’ self-esteem issues and the spirits are able to exact revenge on mortals by telling dangerous lies mixed with impressive truths.

To help these divination spirits:
• To help these spirits throw off Satan’s lies, we must educate them on Jesus’ true feelings about them. Ask Jesus if He loves these spirits as much as He loves anyone; He will always say yes.
• Ask if Jesus has paid the price for the spirits’ sins; He will always say yes.
• Explain to these spirits that Christ’s atonement applies to their pains as well as their sins, so Jesus will heal the feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem these spirits had when they were mortals.
• Ask if there is any reason why these spirits cannot repent of their sins and accept the gospel; Jesus will always say no.
• Explain to these spirits that they can be called as ministering angels once they accept the gospel and leave their prison. As angels, they can be of great assistance to mortals in righteous ways.

Sometimes the answers to these questions are enough to free the spirits from Satan’s lies and convince the spirits to begin the repentance process. If the answers are not enough, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove all effects of Satan and negativity, replacing those emotions with a desire to have faith in Christ, a knowledge of how much God and Jesus love the spirits, and a knowledge that Christ will heal the spirits of all of mortality’s sins and pains. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to leave us.

8. Spirits who lie

Unclean spirits are sometimes called lying spirits in the Bible. When I refer to this group “Spirits who lie,” I do not wish to confuse my group with the lying spirits in scripture who are synonymous with unclean spirits. My group is much more specific. My group consists of spirits who do not answer truthfully when I communicate with them because Satan has put a curse of confusion on them (which is the negative equivalent of God’s gift of intelligence). Some of these spirits are so confused they do not realize they are dead. Their lying is not intentional or malicious; it is more like interacting with someone who is mentally handicapped.

I have found that the most effective way to help these spirits who lie is to address all questions to Heavenly Father rather than to the spirits directly, such as, “Heavenly Father, are there any unclean spirits here who won’t answer for any reason?”

To help these spirits who lie:
• Ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove Satan’s curse of confusion and all effects of negativity from the spirits, to replace the confusion with faith in Christ and intelligence, and to bless the spirits to know how much Christ loves them.
• Once Satan’s curse of confusion is removed, ask the spirits if they need anything else. They may need a spiritual gift like courage, or reassurance to overcome the fear of leaving the mortal state.

If needed, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the needed blessing of whatever gifts you feel prompted the spirits need. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to leave us.

9. Spirits plagued with Satan’s other fiery darts

Satan is able to put curses on unclean spirits in the spirit world in order to prevent their spiritual progression. These curses are also called fiery darts (see Chapter 16 for an explanation of fiery darts and Satan’s tactic of using them against mortals). Satan can follow the same process of cursing spirits as he follows with us mortals. The previous group “Spirits who lie” in this chapter identifies a specific satanic curse of confusion, but in reality Satan can curse spirits with any number of negative traits.

To help these spirits plagued with fiery darts:
• Ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the spirits a priesthood blessing to remove Satan’s curse(s) and all effects of negativity from the spirits, to replace the curse with its opposite (positive) spiritual gift from God (see Chapter 16).
• Once Satan’s curse is removed, ask the spirits if they need anything else. They may need additional spiritual gifts or other blessings to move forward.
If needed, ask Heavenly Father to send an angel to give the needed blessing of whatever gifts you feel prompted the spirits need. After the blessing is given by an angel, the unclean spirits should be ready to leave us.

10. Perdition spirits

This group of unclean spirits, known as perdition spirits, is the most dangerous group of all. While mortals, these spirits had a very close relationship with God and then denied Him. This is a rare occurrence so there are very few perdition spirits. According to Joseph Smith, to become a perdition spirit a mortal must “receive the Holy Ghost, deny Jesus Christ when the heavens are open to him, know God, and then sin against Him” (see Chapter 11). These men and women are most dangerous because they are leaders in Satan’s army against us and they have had the experience of having a body, so they have knowledge of how to torment us physically that body-less Satan and evil spirits do not have. Because there are few perdition spirits, they often travel together in a gang and seek out righteous people with important missions, causing them horrible, breathtaking physical pain. Perdition spirits are described in D&C 76:28­–49.

The timing of attacks by perdition spirits is always important. Two personal examples: 1) My mother was about to embark on a lengthy service opportunity that would bless many people. Satan wanted to prevent her important service so he commanded perdition spirits to attack her right before her departure. In an effort to cripple her physically, the spirits squeezed her back and torso so hard that she could barely breathe. The pain was unbearable until she phoned me and I helped her remove the spirits. 2) The morning that my 8-year-old son was to be baptized, he awoke in his bed screaming in pain. I ran into his bedroom and was overcome by the presence of evil. The room also had a foul odor. I commanded the perdition spirits to leave while my son screamed in pain. When the spirits departed, my son’s pain was immediately gone. Satan had instructed the spirits to attack to prevent my son’s baptism.

I had one experience with a perdition spirit who did not attempt to harm me. I was driving about town, lost in thought, when I suddenly felt an unusually strong darkness in the car. I could not see him, but I knew instantly that Cain, son of Adam and Eve, was sitting in the passenger seat next to me. I also knew instantly that he was a perdition spirit. I was afraid because I thought Cain was going to attack me and try to force me to wreck my car to kill me. When Cain did not attack, I calmed a bit and asked him what he wanted. I felt an anguishing sadness coming from him. He asked if I could help him. I told him that I wished I could help him, but he had made choices that prevented it. I said I was sorry for him and he left.

To help perdition spirits:
• Sadly, we cannot help perdition spirits because they have denied the Holy Ghost (see Chapter 11). They cannot repent and accept the gospel because they have fully rejected Christ’s atonement. Removing perdition spirits from our presence requires that we send them away in the name of Jesus Christ. We can only block their influence on us by commanding them to leave and asking Heavenly Father to allow Jesus to shield us from their attacks through a priesthood blessing.

14. Helping Evil Spirits

This chapter will detail the process I follow to help evil spirits using the gift of discerning of spirits. The next chapter will detail the process I follow to help unclean spirits (those who have died and are in prison in the spirit world).

While evil spirits can repent of following Satan in the premortal life (see previous chapter), they cannot escape a punishment for following Satan. Abraham teaches that “they who keep their first estate [followed Jesus in the premortal life] shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate [evil spirits who followed Satan] shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate.” So evil spirits cannot have “glory in the same kingdom” with those who gained a body on Earth. I do not know what glory evil spirits can have. I do know from many years of experience that evil spirits can get away from Satan and stop being evil through repentance. This principle of persuading evil spirits away from Satan is all I care about; I’ll leave the complex assignment of glories to Jesus at Judgment Day.

I knew from my experience in Chapter 12 that not all evil spirits are happy in Satan’s employ. I was curious to know if God would tell me through personal revelation what percentage of evil spirits are unhappy with Satan. The answer I received is that 22% of evil spirits are completely unhappy following Satan. (Incidentally, any time I write in this blog about answers I received through prayer, I invite you to also pray to receive your own answers. I don’t want anyone to ever accept my personal revelation as yours.) These evil spirits are miserable because they realized at some point after being cast out of God’s presence that Satan lied to them when he promised them happiness and glory by following him. These 22% continue to follow Satan’s orders because they think they have no other options. However, they would leave Satan’s employ and choose Jesus’ plan of salvation if they had the knowledge that they can. We know that Christ’s atonement applies to all who will have faith in Him and repent. We also know that the greatest gift Heavenly Father gave all His children is agency, meaning that all of us who chose Jesus’ plan initially can still choose evil at any time, and those who chose Satan’s plan initially can still choose good at any time. Satan is not going to pass these truths on to his followers, so it is up to us to educate them.

From the remaining 78% of evil spirits who embrace their servitude to Satan, a subset of 12% of these evil spirits embrace evil only because they don’t know they have the option to choose Jesus’ plan. If this group had the knowledge that they have agency to choose a better way, they would choose to leave Satan’s employ. Thus, only 66% of Satan’s evil-spirit followers want to follow him under any circumstances.

When we discern that evil spirits are around us, we can educate them in a loving manner using the following discourse (offered vocally or mentally):
“Evil spirits, you don’t have to be evil. Satan has lied to you in telling you that Jesus doesn’t love you or want you. Jesus does love you. He has paid the price for your sins. His atonement applies to you. You can have faith in Him, repent, and progress spiritually. I invite you to do so because I love you as your brother/sister. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Addressing spirits in a loving manner is critical because love is the perfect antidote for evil. I have never understood the motive for angry “casting out” of evil spirits found in so many scriptural accounts. Using anger against evil doesn’t make any sense to me.  

Instead of addressing only evil spirits who are bothering us directly, our communication can reach a greater audience by being extended to all evil spirits whom God is willing to let us address. Simply change the first sentence to, “All evil spirits who can hear me, you don’t have to be evil.” Evil spirits and Satan cannot normally read our thoughts, yet they are allowed to hear us when we address our thoughts directly to them. Broadening the audience allows you to potentially help hundreds or thousands of evil spirits at once—instead of just the smaller quantity who were bothering you directly.

After communicating this information to evil spirits, either in your mind or vocally, you will find that some may leave you and embark on a new righteous path, while others may not. Such is the price of agency! It is not acceptable for evil spirits to stay with you and bother you, so at this point the evil spirits who did not leave must be sent away (cast out). Everyone has the ability to cast out (see Mark and D&C 84:65,67 and D&C 24:13 and D&C 35:9). Address those evil spirits who stayed and say:
“Spirits, you always have a choice to follow Jesus. I hope you will use your agency and choose His plan now. If you choose not to follow Jesus, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to leave me and to be cast far from my presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Be certain to say “in the name of Jesus Christ” because spirits won’t leave without it. In Moses 1:12–23, Moses commands Satan to leave him in verse 16 and again in verse 18. But not until verse 21 does Moses command Satan in the name of Jesus Christ, which causes Satan to depart in verse 22. Again, say the prayer with love instead of anger.

This prayer forces evil spirits to leave you, but they may come back—even quickly—to torment you with redoubled efforts. If spirits return, we can call on Jesus to help us in our battles with evil. We know that Jesus is infinitely more powerful than Satan, so Jesus will help us when we offer the following prayer:
“Heavenly Father, please allow Jesus to come and literally stand with me, to surround me with love and light and protection, to fight my battles with Satan for me, and to cause Satan and his followers to flee from my presence (James 4:7). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Some of us may be tempted to jump to this final prayer for Jesus’ help without first talking to the evil spirits and educating them on their ability to choose the right. Please know that helping any spirit who was once evil turn to the light and pursue good is the best kind of charitable work you could ever possibly do. Heavenly Father is very pleased when we make the effort to bless those who cursed and abused us because it shows tremendous humility and compassion on our part. The results are profound for the aided spirits, and for us!

Some may think this process is a one-time event, or used infrequently. Think about the math: billions of evil spirits are around us on the Earth. They may band together to focus their efforts on those mortals who are trying to avoid sinful behavior. So the potential to encounter their opposition is constant. I deal with them at least weekly.

Interestingly, Satan initially sent legions of evil spirits to plague me when I was learning to use the gift of discerning of spirits. He did this to overwhelm me so that I would give up and lose the gift. I did not give up, even though some of the things Satan and his followers did to me were truly horrible. Now Satan does not send as many evil spirits my way because he knows he will probably lose a few more followers after I lovingly preach faith in Christ and repentance to the evil spirits.

In addition to bothering humans, evil spirits can also possess animals and plants because animals and plants have spirits. Animal and plant possession is less common, but it is something to consider when one encounters a particularly disagreeable animal, or a plant that is failing to thrive without cause. As an example, a friend tried for several years to develop a lovely backyard with beautiful flowers and bushes. Everything died, despite her careful attempt to cultivate truckloads of plants. As she showed me her barren backyard and told me of the years of struggle to beautify it, I discerned that spirits were killing all her plants. I helped the spirits so they permanently left her yard. The following year, she showed me a thriving yard of beauty.

Friday, April 6, 2012

13. Evil Spirits Can Repent

My thinking about evil spirits changed dramatically after I developed the gift of discerning of spirits. Knowing that evil spirits have consciences and agency causes me to want to help them when they are receptive. I was thinking about all the “fire and brimstone” scriptures about evil spirits being eternally damned. Many scriptures speak of three negative judgments for the wicked:
Endless torment see 2 Nephi 9: 19, 26; 2 Nephi 28: 23; Jacob 6: 10; Mosiah 3: 25; Mosiah 28: 3; Moroni 8: 21.
Eternal damnation see Mark 3: 29; D&C 29: 44.
Eternal or endless punishment see D&C 76: 44; Matthew 25: 46; Jacob ; Alma 42: 16.

Then I discovered that these terms do not mean what I initially assumed. The Doctrine and Covenants chapter 19 clarifies that the terms “endless” and “eternal” in the above scriptures are another name for God, rather than meaning “without end.” This is such an important clarification! Verse 7 teaches that these dramatic terms like “eternal damnation” are used in scripture to work upon our hearts (persuade us) to repent. Verse 4 also teaches us to repent to cease suffering. The entire passage indicates that God’s torment for our sins is temporary if we will repent.
4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.
6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.
8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.
9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—
11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment.
D&C 19:4, 6–12

An LDS apostle confirms the principle that eternal punishment can be temporary:
During this hundred years many other great truths not known before, have been declared to the people, and one of the greatest is that to hell there is an exit as well as an entrance. Hell is no place to which a vindictive judge sends prisoners to suffer and to be punished principally for his glory; but it is a place prepared for the teaching, the disciplining of those who failed to learn here upon the earth what they should have learned. True, we read of everlasting punishment, unending suffering, eternal damnation. That is a direful expression; but in his mercy the Lord has made plain what those words mean. “Eternal punishment,” he says, is God’s punishment, for he is eternal; and that condition or state or possibility will ever exist for the sinner who deserves and really needs such condemnation; but this does not mean that the individual sufferer or sinner is to be eternally and everlastingly made to endure and suffer. No man will be kept in hell longer than is necessary to bring him to a fitness for something better. When he reaches that stage the prison doors will open and there will be rejoicing among the hosts who welcome him into a better state. The Lord has not abated in the least what he has said in earlier dispensations concerning the operation of his law and his gospel, but he has made clear unto us his goodness and mercy through it all, for it is his glory and his work to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.   
Elder James E. Talmage, Conference Report, April 1930, Third Day—Morning Meeting.

So the big question is whether God’s mercy applies to all His children, or only to those who came to Earth to receive a body. Is torment for evil spirits truly endless? I learned from personal experience that evil spirits have consciences and agency (see Chapter 12), so they must be capable of repenting and thus are able to avoid eternal damnation. I know this because of the gift of discerning of spirits, which has allowed me to lovingly persuade millions of evil spirits to accept Jesus Christ and repent of their sins.

Nevertheless, by affirming that evil spirits can repent, I do not wish to imply that all of them will. Nor do I wish to imply that evil spirits are not subject to any punishment for following Satan in the premortal life. These caveats are discussed in the next chapter.

12. Some Evil Spirits Are Not Happy with Satan

After I learned from Joseph Smith’s discourse that every unclean spirit in prison can be saved, I wondered about the evil spirits who followed Satan and have never had a body. I assumed these spirits were absolutely evil because of their choice to follow Satan in the premortal life. But then I read a scripture that shows that evil spirits do not all have equal wickedness; some are less (or more) wicked than others:

[Jesus speaking:] Then goeth the evil spirit, and taketh seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there …
Luke (JST)

Thinking and praying about this scripture brought me some important personal revelation: if evil spirits are not all equally evil, then they must have agency to make choices. If they have agency to choose evil, then they have agency not to choose evil as well. I sensed that I needed to keep an open mind about evil spirits in case there was any hope of helping them leave Satan’s employ.

Then I read the following account where two early LDS apostles battle evil spirits in England. I had finished reading the last paragraph of Elder Hyde’s supplement and was about to move on to other reading material when the Holy Ghost stopped my action. I heard a loud command “Look again!” in my mind. As I reread the last few sentences, I was struck by the oddity of an evil spirit apologizing to a mortal. Why would an evil spirit ever apologize to anyone if that spirit were completely 100 percent evil? The account affirms that some evil spirits have remorse in their conscience and are not entirely happy in Satan’s employ.

Sunday, July 30th (1837), about daybreak, Elder Isaac Russell (who had been appointed to preach on the obelisk in Preston Square, that day), who slept with Elder Richards in Wilfred Street, came up to the third story, where Elder Hyde and myself [Heber C. Kimball] were sleeping, and called out, ‘Brother Kimball, I want you should get up and pray for me that I may be delivered from the evil spirits that are tormenting me to such a degree that I feel I cannot live long, unless I obtain relief.’
I had been sleeping on the back of the bed. I immediately arose, slipped off at the foot of the bed, and passed around to where he was. Elder Hyde threw his feet out, and sat up in the bed, and we laid hands on him, I being mouth, and prayed that the Lord would have mercy on him, and rebuked the devil.
While thus engaged, I was struck with great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless on the floor. The first thing I recollected was being supported by Elders Hyde and Richards, who were praying for me; Elder Richards having followed Russell up to my room. Elder Hyde and Richards then assisted me to get on the bed, but my agony was so great I could not endure it, and I arose, bowed my knees and prayed. I then arose and sat up on the bed, when a vision was opened to our minds, and we could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half (by Willard’s watch). We were not looking towards the window, but towards the wall. Space appeared before us, and we saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain. I perspired exceedingly, my clothes becoming as wet as if I had been taken out of the river. I felt excessive pain, and was in the greatest distress for some time. I cannot even look back on the scene without feelings of horror; yet by it I learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God, and got some understanding of the invisible world. We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them, and blessed us exceedingly that day.
Elder Hyde’s supplemental description of that fearful scene is as follows, taken from a letter addressed to President Kimball:
Every circumstance that occurred at that scene of devils is just as fresh in my recollection at this moment as it was at the moment of its occurrence, and will ever remain so. After you were overcome by them and had fallen, their awful rush upon me with knives, threats, imprecations and hellish grins, amply convinced me that they were no friends of mine. While you were apparently senseless and lifeless on the floor and upon the bed (after we had laid you there), I stood between you and the devils and fought them and contended with them face to face, until they began to diminish in number and to retreat from the room. The last imp that left turned round to me as he was going out and said, as if to apologize, and appease my determined opposition to them, ‘I never said anything against you!’
Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Kimball Family, 1888], 129–31.

The evil spirit who apologized to Elder Hyde stayed on my mind as the heavy implications of his apology and his conscience became clear to me. I asked God if I could help this spirit by preaching faith in Christ and repentance to him. God said I could. This evil spirit accepted my message and became the first evil spirit whom I helped leave Satan’s employ. This spirit is no longer evil.

The results from helping this evil spirit are profound:
1.      The spirit was so grateful for the assistance
2.      I could feel all of his anguish feelings before receiving the gospel
3.      I could feel his amazing joy and peace after receiving the gospel
4.      This spirit has a sensitive nature and a good heart … he was simply duped by Satan
5.      One of this spirit’s new duties as a ministering angel is to assist me from time to time.  

Remember, evil spirits are children of Heavenly Father just as we are. They are our brothers and sisters. They have unique personalities just like mortals do. They can feel remorse just like we can.

11. Every Unclean Spirit Can Be Saved

After God taught me to develop the gift of discerning of spirits (defined in the previous chapter), I needed to understand what to do when I discerned the presence of spirits. Do I always cast out the spirits, as frequently described in scriptures and writings of early LDS leaders? The answer from God was a very strong NO! Casting out spirits does not help them and only sends them to torment some other unsuspecting mortal. A much more productive solution is to help the spirits so that they accept Jesus as their savior, repent, and receive forgiveness from their sins so they can progress eternally.

As I began to use the gift of discerning of spirits, I was unclear which spirits could be helped once I discerned their presence. I assumed that evil spirits (those who followed Satan in the premortal life) could not be helped, but I was wrong in this assumption. Chapters 12 through 14 discuss helping evil spirits. So what about unclean spirits, those who have lived and died and are currently in a state of spiritual prison in the spirit world?

I prayed to ask God about the success rate I should expect in helping unclean spirits. I was overjoyed when God led me to Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse where Joseph taught that every unclean spirit in prison “can be ferreted out and saved,” with the exception of those who have denied the Holy Ghost (perdition spirits). Joseph points out in his discourse that we must be a friend to these spirits in order to assist them. I was very happy to learn the principle that spirits are helped by friendship and love, rather than casting out in anger. An excerpt of the King Follett discourse is copied below:

I have a declaration to make in relation to the provisions which God made for every creature from before the foundation of the world to suit the conditions of man. What has Jesus said? All sins and all blasphemies—every transgression that man may be guilty of—shall be forgiven in this world or the world to come, except one—the sin against the Holy Ghost. There is a provision for salvation for him, either in this world or in the world of spirits which is to me. Hence, God has made a provision that the spirits of our friends and every spirit in that eternal world can be ferreted out and saved, unless he has committed that unpardonable sin which can’t be remitted to him, whether in this world or in the world of spirits. God has wrought out salvation for all men, unless they have committed a certain sin. Every man who has got a friend in the eternal world can save him, unless he has committed the unpardonable sin. You can save any man who has not committed the unpardonable sin. So you see how far you can be a savior.
A man cannot commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body. He cannot be damned through all eternity; there is a way possible for his escape in a little time, so he is not particularly damned. If a man has knowledge he can be saved, for knowledge saves a man. There are those that are without wisdom until they get exalted to wisdom, and in the world of spirits there is no way for a man to come to understanding and be exalted but by knowledge. If he has been guilty of great sins, he is punished for them. So long as a man will not give consent and heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. When he consents to obey the Gospel, whether alive or dead, he is saved. …
I know the Scriptures; I understand them. I said that no man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body. Why? Because they must commit the unpardonable sin in this world after they receive the Holy Ghost. All will suffer in the eternal world until they obey Christ himself and are exalted. …
All sin shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, for Jesus Christ will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He has got to deny the plan of salvation; he has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it with his eyes open; he has got to receive the Holy Ghost, deny Jesus Christ when the heavens are open to him, know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him.
Joseph Smith, “The King Follett Discourse: a Newly Amalgamated Text” by Stan Larson, BYU Studies, vol. 18 (1977-1978), Number 2 - Winter 1978, 205-06.

10. The Gift of Discerning of Spirits

When God began teaching me about the nature of evil and unclean spirits, I had an immediate question: How do I know when these spirits are around me and my family? I was led to two scriptures that name some spiritual gifts:

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
1 Corinthians 12:7–10

And to others [is given the gift of] the discerning of spirits.
D&C 46:23

In these scriptures, my eyes were drawn to the gift of discerning of spirits, even though I had no idea what the gift does. Incidentally, other gifts listed in D&C section 46 include: Know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, believe on the words of others, know the differences of administration, know the diversities of operations, have word of wisdom, have word of knowledge, have faith to be healed, have faith to heal, work miracles, prophesy, speak with tongues, interpret tongues. Other gifts mentioned in the scriptures include: revelation, visions, exhortation, preaching, judgment, and teaching (see Moroni 10:8–18, 1 Cor 12, and D&C 46:8–29).

Now that I knew the gift of discerning of spirits exists, I needed to know what it did. I found the following discourse on this topic by George Q. Cannon, an LDS apostle. Elder Cannon teaches that the gift of discerning of spirits gives to those “who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced.” The gift also gives the bearer “the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves.” I was amazed that such a powerful gift is never spoken of in the LDS Church:
One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits—a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. . . . No Latter-day Saint should be without this gift, because there is such a variety of spirits in the world which seek to deceive and lead astray. In a revelation to the Church upon the spirits which have gone abroad in the earth the Lord says: “Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world” (D&C 50:2).
The Lord warns the Saints and says: “Beware lest ye are deceived” (D&C 46:8). And that they may not be deceived, He commands them to seek earnestly the best gifts.
The Apostle John says: “Behold, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). This counsel of the beloved Apostle applies as much to us in these latter days as it did to the Saints of his age. All manner of spirits have gone forth to deceive, to lead astray and to obtain possession of the children of men; and many people yield to them because they are invisible and cannot, perhaps, think that they can be possessed by invisible influences. Anger, backbiting, slander, falsehood and various passions are manifested by people under the influence of false and deceptive spirits. . . .

Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it.
The gift of discerning of spirits, also, is one that is of great importance to the Elders who are laboring in the ministry. We have known Elders become so filled with zeal and so desirous to do good, or what they supposed to be good, that they exposed themselves to the influence of the adversary. They would be filled with a species of what has been called “wildfire,” and, carried away by zeal, they would go too far; they would say and do imprudent things and yet, being prompted by the purest and best motives, would feel entirely justified in their course. In the history of the Church there have been many illustrations of this. Elders can work themselves up beyond that which is proper and wise and be led to say and do many imprudent things and overstep the line of propriety. Now, the gift of discerning of spirits is necessary to keep these kind of feelings in check.
The gift of discerning of spirits is not only necessary for this purpose, but it is necessary in the branches of the Church. Newly baptized members, anxious to obtain the gifts, are liable sometimes to be taken advantage of by the adversary and to imbibe or yield to a wrong spirit. A newly organized branch of the Church, where the gifts are manifested, especially the gift of tongues, has to be watched with great care. The Elders laboring in the branch or presiding in the conference must be in a position to discern between the Spirit of the Lord and other spirits that may seek to steal in. . . .
In all the situations in life, therefore, in which Latter-day Saints can be placed there is great need for them to possess the gift of discerning of spirits. Fathers and mothers need it for their own benefit. They need it in their families, in the training of their children. All Saints need it to enable them to escape from the many evil influences that are abroad. The Elders need it for their own sakes; they need it also in the government of the branches, of the conferences, of the wards, of the stakes and, indeed, the entire Church. It is a great and blessed gift, and it should be sought for by all. (Oct. 1, 1896 JI 31:572-74)
George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 156-58.

Other early LDS leaders also spoke of the gift of discerning of spirits:

The gift of discerning spirits will be given to the Presiding Elder. Pray for him that he may have this gift.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 6:240. June 2, 1839.

There is a variety of blessings; a different blessing being probably given to one, two, three or four of this congregation. Thus, one will have faith to lay hands upon the sick and rebuke disease, and drive it from the person afflicted. Many may receive this blessing of faith, the gift of healing. Some may receive faith to the discerning of spirits; they can discern the spirit of a person, whether it is good or evil. They have such power, that when a person enters this congregation they can tell the spirit of such person; then they have received the gift of discerning of spirits.

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 16:164–65. August 31, 1873.

The members of the Church also partook of this Spirit [Holy Ghost], through the ministry of the Apostles, by which miraculous gifts were imparted unto them, some to one and some to another: some to speak in tongues, some to interpret, or translate from one language into another; some to prophesy, see visions, or converse with angels; others to control, or cast out devils, or heal the sick; and others, again, to teach and edify the Church, or the world, by the word of wisdom, and by the word of knowledge.
Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1891, 5th edition], 108.

A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.
Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 4:573.

Joseph Smith was speaking from personal experience in the previous quote when he wrote of the danger of being under the influence of a false spirit. The following narrative, written by Oliver Cowdery, shows how Joseph Smith became possessed by an evil spirit en route to receive the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah so that Joseph became fixated on obtaining the plates for personal wealth (to help his impoverished family). The angel Moroni told Joseph that he had been allowed to have the experience of being possessed so that he would understand the difference between a true spirit and an evil spirit. This early experience marked the beginning of Joseph’s learning regarding the gift of discerning of spirits.
You [the reader] will have wondered perhaps, that the mind of our brother [Joseph Smith] should be so occupied with the thoughts of the goods of this world at the time of arriving at Cumorah, on the morning of the 22nd of September, 1823, (see Star, p. 131-2) after having been rapt in the visions of heaven during the night, and also seeing and hearing in open day [the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph three times in one night and then again the following day with instructions on obtaining the gold plates]; but the mind of man is easily turned, if it is not held by the power of God through the prayer of faith, and you will remember that I have said that two invisible powers were operating upon his mind during his walk from his residence to Cumorah, and that the one urging the certainty of wealth and ease in this life, had so powerfully wrought upon him, that the great object so carefully and impressively named by the angel, had entirely gone from his recollection, that only a fixed determination to obtain now urged him forward. In this, which occasioned a failure to obtain, at that time, the record, do not understand me to attach blame to our brother: he was young, and his mind easily turned from correct principles, unless he could be favoured with a certain round of experience. And yet, while young, untraditionated and untaught in the systems of the world, he was in a situation to be lead into the great work of God, and be qualified to perform it in due time.
After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light pry, brought to his natural vision its contents. No sooner did he behold this sacred treasure than his hopes were renewed, and he supposed his success certain; and without first attempting to take it from its long place of deposit, he thought, perhaps, there might be something more equally as valuable, and to take only the plates, might give others an opportunity of obtaining the remainder, which could he secure, would still add to his store of wealth. These, in short, were his reflections, without once thinking of the solemn instruction of the heavenly messenger, that all must be done with an express view of glorifying God.
On attempting to take possession of the record, a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power, which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength. He desisted for an instant, and then made another attempt, but was more sensibly shocked than before. What was the occasion of this he knew not—there was the pure unsullied record, as had been described—he had heard of the power of enchantment and a thousand like stories, which held the hidden treasures of the earth, and supposed that physical exertion and personal strength was only necessary to enable him to yet obtain the object of his wish. He therefore made the third attempt with an increased exertion, when his strength failed him more than at either of the former times, and without premeditation he exclaimed, “Why can I not obtain this book?” “Because you have not kept the commandments of the Lord,” answered a voice within a seeming short distance. He looked, and to his astonishment, there stood the angel who had previously given him the directions concerning this matter. In an instant, all the former instructions, the great intelligence concerning Israel and the last days, were brought to his mind: he thought of the time when his heart was fervently engaged in prayer to the Lord, when his spirit was contrite, and when his holy messenger from the skies unfolded the wonderful things connected with this record. He had come, to be sure, and found the word of the angel fulfilled concerning the reality of the record, but he had failed to remember the great end for which they had been kept, and in consequence, could not have power to take them into his possession and bear them away.
At that instant he looked to the Lord in prayer, and as he prayed darkness began to disperse from his mind and his soul was lit up as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit; and again did the Lord manifest his condescension and mercy: the heavens were opened and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the angel said, “Look!” and as he thus spake, he beheld the prince of darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, “All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one. Behold, whatever entices and leads to good and to do good, is of God, and whatever does not is of that wicked one: it is he that fills the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth, that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest. You now see why you could not obtain this record; that the commandment was strict, and that if ever these sacred things are obtained, they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and for the glory of this world: they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge. … No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred; and besides, should they be entrusted in unholy hands, the knowledge could not come to the world, because they cannot be interpreted by the learning of this generation; consequently, they would be considered of no worth, only as precious metal. … You have now beheld the power of God manifested and the power of satan: you see that there is nothing that is desirable in the works of darkness; that they cannot bring happiness; that those who are overcome therewith are miserable, while on the other hand, the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God, where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them, and they continually feast upon his goodness and enjoy his smiles. Behold, nothwithstanding you have seen this great display of power, by which you may ever be able to detect the evil one, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass, then know that the Lord is God, and that he will fulfil his purposes, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven.—This is the sign: When these things begin to be known, that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things, the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow; they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time he will again give you a commandment to come and take them.
“A Remarkable Vision,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, vol. 1 (May 1840-April 1841), Vol. 1, No. 7, November 1840 175–78.) Extracts from Elder Oliver Cowdery’s Letter, contained in the October No. of the Messenger & Advocate, p. 195.

Now that I understood the definition of the gift of discerning of spirits, I wondered how I might obtain it for my own needs and to protect my family. I wondered about the appropriateness of asking God for a spiritual gift … or was I being greedy and unrighteous to want a gift that had not been given to me? A scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants taught me that it is okay to ask God for “the best gifts,” especially when those gifts offer protection from evil:

7 But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, … that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.
8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
D&C 46:7–8

Finally, a discourse from an LDS apostle convinced me that asking God to help me develop the gift of discerning of spirits was a righteous and appropriate request:
Faith is a spiritual gift. So is personal revelation. So is a testimony of Jesus Christ. And there are other spiritual gifts. We know too little about spiritual gifts. This is evident in our communications, and it is also evident in our failure to seek after and use spiritual gifts. . . .
We should seek after spiritual gifts. They can lead us to God. They can shield us from the power of the adversary. They can compensate for our inadequacies and repair our imperfections. Almost a century ago President George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency taught the Saints:
If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. . . . No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lacks wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth (Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, 260).
Dallin H. Oaks, “Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 68, 72.

I had planned to write here the specific steps that God used to teach me to develop the gift of discerning of spirits. Instead, I feel constrained. I was puzzled why I should not be allowed to share the steps, but then I received the inspiration that God teaches everyone in personal ways that are unique to the individual. So my steps may not apply to others. If you are stuck in your efforts to develop this gift, let me know and I will give you some ideas that may help.