Many Latter-day Saints confuse the term immune with the term unaccountable when contemplating Satan’s effects on children. While children under age 8 are innocent and unaccountable for the impact Satan has on them, they are not immune from Satan’s efforts.
Since I have become aware of the tactics of evil and unclean spirits to afflict me and my family, I have the opportunity frequently (at least weekly) to help my children protect themselves from active attacks from these spirits. I believe spiritual attacks are a common occurrence with everyone, though few correctly attribute the source of the problem to spirits.
The most famous scriptural account of a spirit plaguing a child is found in the New Testament:
17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.
19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.
20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
The following account by an LDS apostle describes an evil spirit plaguing a baby:
On the day following I parted with Elders Taylor and Fielding, who went to
Liverpool, and with Elder Richards, who tarried in Preston. Elder Turley and I went to ; it was the first time I had visited that city. There I met for the first time Elder William Clayton. As soon as I was introduced to him, he informed me that one of the sisters in that place was possessed of a devil. He asked me if I would not go and cast it out of her. He thought one of the Twelve Apostles could do most anything in such a case. I went with him to the house where the woman lay, in the hands of three men, in a terrible rage. She was trying to tear her clothing from her. I also found quite a number of Saints present, and some unbelievers, who had come to see the devil cast out and a miracle wrought. Manchester
Had I acted upon my own judgment I should have refrained from administering to her in the company of those present; but as I was a stranger there, and Brother Clayton presided over the branch, I joined with him in administering to the woman. The unbelief of the wicked who were present was so great that we could not cast the devil out of her, and she raged worse than ever; I then ordered the room to be cleared, and when the company, except the few attending her, had left the house, we laid hands upon her head, and in the name of Jesus Christ I commanded the devil to come out of her. The devil left, and she was entirely healed and fell asleep.
The next day being the Sabbath, the woman came before a large congregation of people, and bore testimony to what the Lord had done for her. We had a large assembly through the day and evening, to whom I preached the gospel. On Monday morning, the devil, not being satisfied with being cast out of the woman, entered into her little child, which was but a few months old. I was called upon to visit the child, and found it in great distress, writhing in its mother’s arms. We laid hands upon it and cast the devil out; the evil spirits thereafter had no power over that household. This was done by the power of God, and not of man.
Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, comp. Matthias F. Cowley [
: Salt Lake City Deseret News, 1916], 114 –15.
The following account by LDS president Heber J. Grant details Satan’s designs to kill President Grant’s young daughter:
When my wife died I took my oldest three daughters to Boston, New York and other places in the hope that the sorrow caused by the death of their mother might be forgotten. When we reached Washington two of them were taken ill with diphtheria. They were as sick as any children I have ever seen. The younger of the two was so low that her pulse beat only 28 times to the minute, and I felt sure she was going to die. I knelt down and prayed God to spare her life, inasmuch as I had brought my children east to relieve the terrible sorrow that had come to them; and prayed that I should not have the additional sorrow of taking one of my children home in a coffin. I prayed for her life, and shed bitter tears of humiliation. While praying, the inspiration came to me that if I would send for the Elders who were then in Washington and have them administer to her, she would live. Some people say we cannot know for a certainty that we receive manifestations from the Lord. Well, I know that I was shedding tears of sorrow, fear and anguish, while I was praying, and I know that immediately thereafter I received the witness of the Spirit that my little girl should live, and I shed tears of unbounded joy and gratitude and thanksgiving to God, thanking him for the inspiration that came to me to send for the Elders that they might administer to my little girl.
Hiram B. Clawson and George Q. Cannon were in Washington at the time, and I sent for them. When George Q. Cannon laid his hands upon my daughter’s head, to seal the anointing, wherewith she had been anointed, he made a statement that I have never heard before or since, in all my life, in any prayer. He said, in substance: “The adversary, the destroyer, had decreed your death and made public announcement that you shall die; but by the authority of the priesthood of the Living God, we rebuke the decree of the adversary, and say that you shall live, and not die; that you shall live to become a mother in the Church of Christ.” She did live to become a mother, and in the providences of the Lord her children are the great-grandchildren of the man who held the priesthood of God and gave her that blessing.
I often thought of that blessing during the days and weeks that she was convalescing, and I wondered about the peculiar statement that the adversary, the destroyer, had publicly announced her death. As we were leaving the boarding house, the gentleman whose wife had been in charge there—he was a clerk in one of the departments at Washington—said to me: “Mr. Grant, I have a joke on my wife. She believes in spiritualism, and when your little girls were taken sick she went to her medium.” The medium went into a sort of trance and told her the following story:
That she saw two little girls in her house; she saw the older one taken sick, very sick; then the other little girl became sick, nigh unto death; she finally saw the first little girl recover and the second little girl die. She then described how the child’s body was put into a coffin and taken to a railroad station; then she described how the train traveled, carrying the body of that little girl, hundreds of miles to the west, through great cities, finally stopping in a large city where the body was transferred from one train to another. Going from Washington you know that there is a transfer from all trains at Chicago. Then she saw it cross two great rivers—the Missouri and the Mississippi, although not named—she afterwards saw it traveling across the plains, and crossing mountains, mountains, always to the west, then saw it go south a little distance from Ogden to Salt Lake, although not giving the names—then the body was taken off the train and carried to a side hill to the place of burial; and as you know the burial place in Salt Lake City is one a side hill. But through the priesthood of the Living God, the decree of the adversary was rebuked, and my daughter lived.
President Brigham Young once made the statement that the planchette would tell ninety-nine truths and then put in one lie that would send you to hell if you believed it. Through the spiritualistic manifestation every detail was given on the trip which I have described. The adversary had publicly announced the death of this little girl, and that trip and the carrying of her body from Washington to Salt Lake City and burying it here on the side hill; but by the authority of the priesthood of God that false spiritualistic decree was rebuked. My daughter still lives and is the mother of four healthy children.“Many Remarkable Cures and Other Instances of God’s Power Attest That His Spirit Attends Church”—Address Delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday, February 29, 1920, by President Heber J. Grant, Deseret News, April 24, 1920.
See other accounts of how Satan and evil spirits afflict children physically in the next chapter.