First I will define evil spirits. According to LDS doctrine, a third part of all Heavenly Father’s spirit children chose to follow Satan in our premortal life, so they were cast out with Satan from Heavenly Father’s presence (see D&C 29:36 and Rev. 12:4). This group of spirits is known as evil spirits. Many LDS members mistakenly assume that “a third part” is the same as “one-third.” It is important to understand that these two terms are not synonyms. A “third part” means that a third “group” followed Satan: Abraham chapter 3 explains that the three premortal groups were (1) noble & great ones; (2) the general population; (3) Satan’s followers. The scriptures do not ever say that the evil spirits who followed Satan equal one-third of God’s children; this group was an undetermined size.
I was curious to know if God would tell me through personal revelation what percentage of His children followed Satan and thus became evil spirits. God won’t tell me the exact percentage, but He will tell me that the number is less than one-third (33%) of His children. (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.)
Satan commands all evil spirits to do his bidding of tempting and plaguing mortals on Earth. They are organized in an impressive arsenal to afflict humankind. I will write more about the characteristics of evil spirits (including references) in a separate chapter.
Now I will define unclean spirits. It is shocking to me that almost no one in the
knows what an unclean spirit is. Satan has carefully hidden this huge group of spirits from our awareness so that he can use them against us. LDS Church
After mortals die on Earth, their spirits go to a spirit world. This spirit world is located on our mortal Earth and has both a paradise and prison division. Many think that paradise and prison are physically separate, but Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught that paradise and prison are one place, right here on Earth:
When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world. Are you going into Abraham’s bosom? No, not anywhere nigh there but into the spirit world. Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they both inhabit one kingdom? Yes, they do. Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. Where else are you going? Nowhere else, only as you may be permitted. 3:369.
But where is the spirit world? It is incorporated within this celestial system. Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies, as did the servant of Elijah. If the Lord would permit it, and it was his will that it should be done, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world, as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes. 3:368.
Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [
: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 376. Salt Lake City
There are millions and millions of spirits in these valleys, both good and evil. We are surrounded with more evil spirits than good ones, because more wicked than good men have died here; for instance, thousands and thousands of wicked Lamanites have laid their bodies in these valleys. The spirits of the just and unjust are here. The spirits that were cast out of heaven, which you know are recorded to have been one-third part, were thrust down to this earth, and have been here all the time, with Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, at their head.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [
: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 4:133-34. Funeral sermon by Brigham Young on the death of President Jedediah M. Grant. London December 4, 1856.
Hades, the Greek, or Shaole, the Hebrew: these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Shaole, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits. The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection. … The great misery of [wicked] departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers.
Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., intro. and notes by B. H. Roberts [
: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 5:425. Salt Lake City
The separation between paradise and prison, then, is simply a spiritual separation between those who have accepted Jesus Christ’s atonement and repented of their sins, and those who have not. When spirits go to paradise, their journey is not a physical one but a spiritual one. The terms “accepting the gospel” or “accepting Christ as one’s savior” are both accurate synonyms for “going to paradise.”
Those who go to spirit prison are temporarily stuck from enjoying the peaceful happiness that comes from accepting Christ and obtaining His forgiveness for our sins. We know that all imprisoned spirits can go to paradise; Joseph Smith taught that all spirits in prison “can be ferreted out and saved,” with the exception of perdition spirits who have denied the Holy Ghost (see Chapter 11). While some spirits in prison are simply waiting to be taught the gospel, others are more unhappy or wicked. These unhappy spirits are called unclean or foul spirits. Early Church leaders such as Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt understood the nature of unclean spirits and wrote at length about them.
I will write much more about the characteristics of unclean spirits (including references) in separate chapters.
If the difference between evil spirits and unclean spirits is not yet clear: Evil spirits have never had a body and are in Satan’s power, while unclean spirits gained a body on Earth but are currently in a state of “spiritual prison” after death so they are also in Satan’s power.