Thursday, April 5, 2012

9. Spirits or Satan Cause our Physical Sickness

There are four possible sources of our physical sicknesses: 1) our sickness can come directly from Satan and his followers; 2) our sickness can come from sin; 3) our sickness can come from God’s will to teach us something; and 4) our sickness can come from living in a mortal world with imperfect bodies. Each of the four possible sources of sickness is examined in this section.

1. Satan and his followers as a source of our sickness.

Ironically, people rarely consider Satan as a possible source of sickness, even though from my experience I see that he and his followers cause the vast majority of sickness in our world. Most of the people who come to me for help with spirits do so because they have physical problems caused by evil influences.

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.
Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1891, 5th edition], 120–21.

Do you think that brother Jedediah can do more good than he could here? When he was here the devils had power over his flesh, he warred with them and fought them, and said that they were around him by millions, and he fought them until he overcame them. So it is with you and I. You never felt a pain and ache, or felt disagreeable, or uncomfortable in your bodies and minds, but what an evil spirit was present causing it. Do you realize that the ague, the fevers, the chills, the severe pain in the head, the plurisy, or any pain in the system, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, is put there by the devil? You do not realize this, do you?
I say but little about this matter, because I do not want you to realize it. When you have the rheumatism, do you realize that the devil put that upon you? No, but you say, “I got wet, caught cold, and thereby got the rheumatism.” The spirits that afflict us and plant disease in our bodies, pain in the system, and finally death, have control over us so far as the flesh is concerned. But when the spirit is unlocked from the body it is free from the power of death and Satan; and when that body comes up again, it also, with the spirit, will gain the victory over death, hell, and the grave. …
You and I have yet to deal with evil spirits, but Jedediah has control over them. When we have done with the flesh, and have departed to the spirit world, you will find that we are independent of those evil spirits. But while you are in the flesh you will suffer by them, and cannot control them, only by your faith in the name of Jesus Christ and by the keys of the eternal Priesthood.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 4:133–34. Funeral sermon by Brigham Young on the death of President Jedediah M. Grant. December 4, 1856.

My beloved wife, while I am waiting for a boat to go to Buffalo, I improve a few moments in writing to you. I have been to Kirtland, left there about this morning in order to take the morning boat, and I have been so haunted with foul spirits that I could hardly sleep a wink in the place. Lanke County, Fairport, June 12, 1844.
Letter from Brigham Young to His Wife Mary Ann Angell, Improvement Era, 1941, Vol. XLIV, July, 1941, No. 7.

[The apostle Heber Kimball is speaking:] One day while visiting Joseph, he took me for a walk by the river side, when he requested me to relate the occurrence at Brother Bozier’s. After I had done so, I also told him of our vision of the evil spirits in England, on the opening of the Gospel to that people. He then gave me a relation of many contests that he had had with Satan, and his power that had been manifested from time to time since the commencement of bringing forth the Book of Mormon. I will relate one circumstance that took place at Far West, in a house that Joseph had purchased, which had been formerly occupied as a public house by some wicked people. A short time after he got into it, one of his children was taken very sick; he laid his hands upon the child, when it got better; as soon as he went out of doors, the child was taken sick again; he again laid his hands upon it, so that it again recovered. This occurred several times, when Joseph inquired of the Lord what it all meant; then he had an open vision, and saw the devil in person, who contended with Joseph, face to face, for some time. He said it was his house, it belonged to him, and Joseph had no right there. Then Joseph rebuked Satan in the name of the name of the Lord, and he departed and touched the child no more. 
Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 269–70.
The previous account is also quoted in: Joseph Smith, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Alma P. Burton [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 228.

The previous account of Joseph Smith’s battle with Satan illustrates three important points. First, Satan can cause physical sickness. Second, Satan can plague children. Third, priesthood blessings may appear to be ineffective when Satan is not identified as the source of the problem. Joseph Smith was not able to cure his child permanently until he finally took the time to discern what was causing the illness. Relying on inspiration from the Holy Ghost is critical to correctly discern Satan as the source of an illness.

Samuel Tyler testified that the day following this miracle, his own son, James, complained of an earache, and his wife was very sick, so he asked Elder Peck to administer to them. Immediately following the administration, he said, his son’s pain ceased and his wife was healed. Moreover, he reported that on August 5 his wife was again healed following an administration, and on August 8 elders walked among the people “rebuking diseases and foul spirits,” and some, including himself, were promptly cured. [Diary of Samuel Tyler, 14, 21-23. See also pages 26 and 28 for references of healing among participants of Kirtland Camp.]
Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838 [Salt Lake City: Desert Book Co., 1983], 360.

In the following scriptural account, Jesus identifies Satan as the cause of the woman’s 18-year illness:

11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
16 [Jesus speaking] And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
Luke 13:11–13, 16

In the following scriptural account, the Lord allows Satan to afflict Job with boils:

6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, [Job] is in thine hand; but save his life.
7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
Job 2:6–7

In the following account, an LDS apostle identifies “an evil power” as the cause of his childhood illness:
Elder Marriner W. Merrill, of the council of the Apostles, was the next speaker. All that had been said during Conference was in harmony with his views. He said he knew that there was an evil power as well as one which was good abroad among the people, and related some experiences of his boyhood, which had demonstrated the existence of such influences. He had been visited by evil spirits and felt their power. He concluded at that time that he would find out whether there was a God. He appealed to the Deity in prayer and told the Lord of his affliction. His prayer was heard, yet he had not at that time heard about the Gospel as revealed through the Prophet Joseph. He was given an evidence and testimony, although a mere child, that the Lord would come to his rescue, and he had peace after that time. He recovered from an illness which had been caused by the spiritual influences to which he referred. Subsequently, before he heard the Gospel, he had evidence of its existence. He continued to pray for years and the Lord revealed the Gospel to him in an open vision in the day time. He saw the Church, the Prophet Joseph, the Elders of Israel, the trials of the Saints and their gathering in these valleys. He saw that some of his youthful companions would become identified with the Church, and they had, and were now residing in this State.
Deseret Evening News, October 6, 1896. Synopsis of the speeches given at the October Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; third day—morning session.

The next account is of great interest because it shows—at an early date after the Church’s organization—that the Joseph Smith family knew that evil spirits can cause physical sickness and that the priesthood can cure this type of sickness. In this account, Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph Smith’s mother) visits her niece Lovisa, who “had been under the influence of [a nervous affection] for several years” (p. 290). The “good spirit” operating on Lovisa is presumably an angel assigned to watch over her. This account occurred on June 16, 1831.

“Now, Lovisa,” I said. “Do you know what it is that ails you? I can tell you exactly. There is a good spirit and an evil one operating upon you, and the bad spirit has almost got possession of you, and when the good spirit is the least agitated, the evil one strives for the entire mastery and sets the good spirit to faltering, just ready to leave you, because it has so slight a foothold. You have been sick a long time, and you may yet live many years. These men who are with me are clothed with the authority of the priesthood, and through their administration, you might receive a blessing; and even should you not be healed, do you not wish to know something about your Savior before you meet him? …
I told her that I would like to have her calm her mind as much as possible, and when the elders came have them lay hands on her and pray for her. To this she consented, and it was done after dinner. She went to her room again, being a little fatigued. I asked her if she wished them to pray for her again. She answered very readily that she did, for she had been better since they had administered to her.
Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Scot F. Proctor and Maurine J. Proctor, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company (Bookcraft), 1996, 291.

2. While Satan and his followers often cause our physical problems, sometimes our physical problems may be the result of our own sin.

The following passages illustrate physical problems caused by sin.

Jesus appears to Saul to rebuke his persecution of the early saints. As a result, Saul goes blind for three days:
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
Acts 9:8–9

3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
4 Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him.
5 And it came to pass that they went immediately, obeying the message which he had sent unto them; and they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him.
6 And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
7 And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people; and the knowledge of this went forth throughout all the land of Sidom.
Alma 15:3–11

50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
52 And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.
Alma 30:50, 52

Not long after Brother [Jared] Carter became one of their party [Church members led away against Joseph Smith in Kirtland], I [Lucy Smith] was made acquainted with the fact, and having a great regard for him, I improved the first opportunity of talking with him to dissuade him from continuing to associate with persons who would be the means of his destruction. As I had been informed that he had declared in one of their meetings that he possessed power to raise “Joe Smith” to the highest heaven or cast him down to the lowest hell, I questioned him about the matter in the presence of my husband. Mr. Smith, not knowing what I was talking of, began to reason with Brother Carter upon the impurity of his course and warned him to speedily repent and to confess his sins to the Church, or the judgments of God would overtake him. He remained with us until , acknowledged his fault, and said he would confess to the Brethren.
The next morning he was taken with a violent pain in his eyes, and continued in great distress for two days. On the evening of the second day, he rose from his bed, and kneeling down, he besought the Lord to heal him, covenanting that if he were healed, he would make a full confession to the Church the next Sabbath.
Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Scot F. Proctor and Maurine J. Proctor, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company (Bookcraft), 1996, 338.

About this time, owing to some murmurings and insubordination in the camp, the cholera broke out among them, in fulfilment of the word of the Lord, by the mouth of His servant Joseph, and resulted in the death of some fifteen or twenty of the camp, or of others connected with the Saints.
Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, edited by his son, Parley P. Pratt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 95. The “fulfilment of the word of the Lord” mentioned in this account is a revelation from the Lord to Joseph Smith found in D&C 105:5–6, 9–10, stating that the Lord’s people “must needs be chastened until they learn obedience … by the things which they suffer.”

3. In some cases our physical problems may be God’s will to teach us something and/or to promote faith and testimony in us or others.

See the following two scriptural passages.
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
John 9:1–3

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Ether 12:27

4. Finally, our sickness can come from living in a mortal world where microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, amebas, parasites, fungus) and toxins harm us, or imperfections in our physical bodies make us susceptible to sickness.

God is the ultimate physician. Before we run to a doctor when we are sick, we should inquire of God regarding which course to follow. If God tells me to go to a doctor, I happily go. But God usually instructs me to cure illness with priesthood blessings instead of doctor visits.

A simple approach to restoring health that the Lord has advised in modern scripture is to use herbs in healing and preventing sickness; see the following scriptural passages. Note that the Lord advises us to use herbs if we don’t have enough faith to be healed.

And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.
Doctrine & Covenants 42:43

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
Doctrine & Covenants 89:10–11

And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—
Alma 46:40