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 …
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
. 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. England
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 [
: Kimball Family, 1888], 129–31. Salt Lake City
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.