Thursday, April 5, 2012

5. Unclean Spirit References

The Bible sometimes uses the term “unclean spirits” or “foul spirits” or “lying spirits” in reference to evil spirits or devils (those who followed Satan and were cast out of heaven). However, evil spirits and unclean spirits are not synonyms! Unclean spirits (also called foul or lying spirits) are those who have lived and died and are currently in a state of spiritual prison in the spirit world, being temporarily stuck from progressing to a spiritual state of paradise. The Book of Mormon and the book of Revelation show that unclean (or foul) spirits are distinct and separate from evil spirits or devils:

And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.
1 Nephi 11:31

And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.
3 Nephi 7:19

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
Revelation 18:2

Parley Pratt, an apostle in the LDS Church from 1835 to 1857, gave his own definition of unclean spirits and some of their influence on mortals:
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. The more wicked of these are the kind spoken of in Scripture, as “foul spirits,” “unclean spirits,” spirits who afflict persons in the flesh, and engender various diseases in the human system. They will sometimes enter human bodies, and will distract them, throw them into fits, cast them into the water, into the fire, etc. [see Mark 9:14-29, Matt 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-43] They will trouble them with dreams, nightmare, hysterics, fever, etc., and will sometimes compel them to utter blasphemies, horrible curses, and even words of other languages. If permitted, they will often cause death.
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], 120–21, 122, 123.

Other early LDS leaders, along with scriptures, reference unclean spirits:
Seeing that I have got on this thread, I will ask, Is there any revelation in the world? Yes, plenty of it. We are accused of being nothing more nor less than a people possessing what they term the higher order of Spiritualism. Whenever I see this in print, or hear it spoken, “You are right,” say I. Yes, we belong to that higher order of Spiritualism; our revelations are from above, yours from beneath. This is the difference. We receive revelation from Heaven, you receive your revelations from every foul spirit that has departed this life, and gone out of the bodies of mobbers, murderers, highwaymen, drunkards, thieves, liars, and every kind of debauched character, whose spirits are floating around here, and searching and seeking whom they can destroy; for they are the servants of the devil, and they are permitted to come now to reveal to the people.” It was not so once, anciently or formerly, when there was no Priesthood on the earth, no revelations from Heaven. Then the Lord Almighty shut up this evidence, and all intercourse between men on the earth and the foul spirits, so that the latter could not deceive and destroy the former with their revelations. But God has spoken now, and so has the devil; Jesus has revealed his Priesthood, so has the devil revealed his, and there is quite a difference between the two. One forms a perfect chain, the links of which can not be separated; one has perfect order, laws, rules, regulations, organization; it forms, fashions, makes, creates, produces, protects and holds in existence the inhabitants of the earth in a pure and holy form of government, preparatory to their entering the kingdom of Heaven. The other is a rope of sand; it is disjointed, jargon, confusion, discord, everybody receiving revelation to suit himself.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 13:282. October 30, 1870.

Among the diversified spirits abroad in the world, there are many religious spirits which are not of God, but which deceive those who have not the keys of Apostleship and Priesthood, or, in other words, the keys of the science of Theology to guide them. Some of these spirits are manifested in the camp-meetings falsely called “revivals.” All the strange ecstacies, swoonings, screamings, shoutings, dancings, jumpings, and a thousand other ridiculous and unseemly manifestations, which neither edify nor instruct, are the fruits of these deceptive 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.

[Joseph Smith] said the time would come when there would be strong delusion and lying spirits permitted to come forth among the people. He declared that God had restored the priesthood to the earth, and the ordinances of the Gospel, and had established His Church in its purity; and that those who did not believe the testimony of the servants of God and obey it, would be given over to hardness of heart and become subject to evil influences that were known nothing of previous to the establishing of the Church and the restoration of the priesthood.
George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 12: 369. January 31, 1869.

[Alma speaking to Korihor:] Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.
Alma 30:42


In 1 Kings 22:19–22 (especially 22), the prophet Micaiah has a vision of a spirit volunteering to be a lying spirit in order to deceive the prophets of King Ahab. These prophets erroneously foretell success in battle so Ahab will be lured to the battlefield (the Lord’s will was that Ahab fall in battle as a punishment).

The inquiry might be made, “Can any person in the world prophesy, unless he possess the spirit of it?” No, they cannot. They may prophesy lies by the spirit of lies, by the inspiration of a lying spirit, but can they see and understand things in the future, so as to prophesy truly of things to come, unless they are endowed with the spirit of prophecy? No.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 3: 89. August 8, 1852.

I believe there are places and circumstances in which people can be placed, where there are influences of this character brought to bear upon them that are more difficult to resist than there would be under other circumstances and in other places. I have often heard it remarked by the brethren, and I have remarked it myself, that in some places there is a greater disposition entertained by the people to commit adultery and indulge in kindred sins of this description than there is in this country. There seem to be influences in the atmosphere in those lands of such a character, that unless a person is on his guard and constantly watching and resisting them, he will be led down to destruction by them. A spirit and disposition will creep over the people unless they are careful, to lead them astray in the direction which I have named. This is undoubtedly the case. There are spirits in the atmosphere that are filled with that disposition, and who seek to influence those with whom they are brought in contact, impressing those who are in the tabernacle of flesh to indulge in the same sin.
There are influences in the atmosphere that are invisible to us that, while we are here upon the earth, we ought to resist with all our might, mind, and strength—influences which, if we would be led by them, would lead us to destruction—influences that are opposed to the Spirit of God—influences that would bring upon us destruction here and hereafter, if we would yield to them. These influences we have to resist. We have to resist the spirit of adultery, the spirit of whoredom, the spirit of drunkenness, the spirit of theft, and every other evil influence and spirit, that we may continually overcome; and, when we have finished our work on the earth, be prepared to govern and control those influences, and exercise power over them, in the presence of our Father and God. I have no doubt that many of my brethren and sisters have sensibly felt in various places and at various times evil influences around them. Brother Joseph Smith gave an explanation of this. There are places in the Mississippi Valley where the influence or the presence of invisible spirits are very perceptibly felt. He said that numbers had been slain there in war, and that there were evil influences or spirits which affect the spirits of those who have tabernacles on the earth. I myself have felt those influences in other places besides the continent of America; I have felt them on the old battle grounds on the Sandwich Islands. I have come to the conclusion that if our eyes were open to see the spirit world around us, we should feel differently on this subject than we do; we would not be so unguarded and careless, and so indifferent whether we had the spirit and power of God with us or not; but we would be continually watchful and prayerful to our heavenly Father for His Holy Spirit and His holy angels to be around about us to strengthen us to overcome every evil influence.
When I see young men indulging in drunkenness and in stealing, I come to the conclusion that they are led captive by the evil spirits around them. We call it the spirit of the evil one; but he has numerous agencies at work, even as the Lord has numerous agencies to assist him in bringing to pass the consummation of His great designs. The adversary has numerous agencies at his command, and he seeks to control and lead to destruction the inhabitants of the earth who will be subject to them. If we could see with our spiritual senses as we now see with our natural senses, we should be greatly shocked at the sight of the influences that prompt us to disobey the counsels of God or the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts. But we cannot see them, for they are spiritually discerned; and he who discerns the most, is the most fully impressed by the Spirit of God; he who does not discern, has not profited by the instructions given to him, and yields to those evil influences in an unguarded moment, and is taken captive in his blindness. He who is imbued with the Spirit of God is sensibly aware when the evil power approaches; but he does not welcome it to his bosom; he resists it with all the might and strength God has given unto him, and he obtains power over it, and it no more troubles him; if it does, its influence is more weakened than previously.
George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], –30. November 13, 1864.

If you go on a mission to preach the Gospel with lightness and frivolity in your hearts, looking for this and that, and to learn what is in the world, and not having your minds riveted—yes, I may say riveted—on the cross of Christ, you will go and return in vain. Go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, full of the power of God, and full of faith to heal the sick even by the touch of your hand, rebuking and casting out foul spirits, and causing the poor among men to rejoice, and you will return bringing your sheaves with you. Let your minds be centered on your missions and labor earnestly to bring souls to Christ. 12:33-34.
Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 325.

Are you not astonished to see people who have received the Holy Spirit of promise, the Holy Ghost,—who have received visions—who have been endowed with faith and with the knowledge of God—who have had power to lay hands upon the sick, and diseases have departed at their command, and foul spirits at their word, turn away and forsake their covenants and their God?
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 7:133. December 18, 1859.

I have been for some length of time past associated with the Gentiles. I have been engaged in battling corruption, iniquity, and the foul spirits that seem to fill the atmosphere of what you may term the lower regions [i.e., earth], if you please; and the Lord has been with me, His Spirit has dwelt in my bosom ….
John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 5:113. August 9, 1857.

I repeat that it is not your lawful privilege to yield to anything in the shape of amusement, until you have performed every duty, and obtained the power of God to enable you to withstand and resist all foul spirits that might attack you, and lead you astray; until you have command over them, and by your faith, obtained, through prayer and supplication, the blessings of the Holy Spirit, and it rests upon, and abides continually with you. 1:113.
Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 239.

And it is my constant prayer, all the day long, that God would multiply the righteous and righteous principles throughout the world, while he decreases the ungodly; and also that we may so live as to enjoy all the brethren have spoken of this morning, root out the devils, and bid all foul spirits to depart from our houses and community, that we may enjoy the peace of the Gospel in its fulness.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 4:346. June 7, 1857.

You hearken to that still small voice that whispers eternal truth, that opens the visions of eternity to you that you can discern, understand and follow, and the foul spirits that throng the air, and that fill our houses if we let them in, will not have power over you. 15:7.
Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 35.

There was at this time in Kirtland, a society that had undertaken to have a community of property; it has sometimes been denominated the Morley family, as there was a number of them located on a farm owned by Captain Isaac Morley. These persons had been baptized, but had not yet been instructed in relation to their duties. A false spirit entered into them, developing their singular, extravagant and wild ideas. They had a meeting at the farm, and among them was a negro known generally as Black Pete, who became a revelator. Others also manifested wonderful developments; they could see angels, and letters would come down from heaven, they said, and they would be put through wonderful unnatural distortions. Finally on one occasion, Black Pete got sight of one of those revelations carried by a black angel, he started after it, and ran off a steep wash bank twenty-five feet high, passed through a tree top into the Chagrin river beneath. He came out with a few scratches, and his ardor somewhat cooled.
Joseph Smith came to Kirtland, and taught that people in relation to their error. He showed them that the Spirit of God did not bind men nor make them insane, and that the power of the adversary which had been manifested in many instances was visible even from that cause, for persons under its influence became helpless, and were bound hand and foot as in chains, being as immovable as a stick of timber. When Joseph came to instruct these Saints in relation to the true Spirit, and the manner of determining the one from the other, in a short time a number of those who had been influenced by those foul manifestations, apostatized. Among the number was Wycom Clark; he got a revelation that he was to be the prophet—that he was the true revelator; and himself, Northrop Sweet and four other individuals retired from the Church, and organized the “Pure Church of Christ,” as they called it, composed of six members, and commenced having meetings, and preaching, but that was the extent of the growth of his early schism. John Noah, another of this class, assumed to be a prophet, and in consequence thereof was expelled from the church.

Among the early baptisms in Northern Ohio, was a Methodist minister by the name of Ezra Booth. He was present when the Elders first received the ordination of the High Priesthood. They met together in June, 1831, in a log school house in Kirtland, a room about eighteen feet by twenty. While they were there, the manifestation of the power of God being on Joseph, he set apart some of the Elders to the High Priesthood. Ezra Booth was bound, and his countenance was distorted, and numbers of the brethren looked at him, and thought it was a wonderful manifestation of the power of God, but to their astonishment, Joseph came forward and rebuked the foul spirit, and commanded it to depart, in consequence of which Booth was relieved, and many of the brethren were greatly tried at such a singular treatment by the prophet of these wonderful manifestations of power.
George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 11:3­–4. November 15, 1864.

2 Behold, verily I say unto you [the elders of the church], that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
3 And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
D&C 50:2–3