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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 20 - Power and Reality of Satan

In this world there is both good and evil.  The Source of all good is Jesus Christ.  The source of all evil is the devil.  The devil, known as Satan or Lucifer, "[has] fallen from heaven, and [has] become miserable forever, he [seeks] also the misery of all mankind (2 Nephi 2:18)", says Lehi.  The Prophet Joseph Smith stated,

"The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him (TPJS, p. 357)."

In this article, both ancient and modern instances of the devil's power and reality will be shown.

The great lawgiver Moses had a confrontation with Satan now not known to Bible believers.  In Moses 1, which is a prophetic revision of the Bible done by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Satan confronts Moses:   

"Behold, Satan came tempting [Moses], saying: Moses, son of man, worship me. . . . And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.  And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.  Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.  And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.  And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not (Moses 1:12,19-22)"

Here we notice that Satan can be convincing, powerful, frightening, and hellish.  But, we also see that only by the Authority of Jesus Christ, called the Priesthood, can Satan be cast out.

We now turn to the words of Joseph Smith when he was in the Sacred Grove about to supplicate the Lord.  He writes,  

"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.  I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.  Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.  But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.  It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.  When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other— This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him! (JS-H 1:15-17)"

This power that encircled Joseph Smith was real, and once again, only God can cast out Satan.  You will notice at this time that the Authority of God (the Priesthood) was not exercised here, because at that time, the Priesthood had been taken away because of the Great Apostasy.

Lastly, we will look at an event in the life of then-Elder Heber C. Kimball in 1837, when he and some companion missionaries took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the British Isles.  On 29 July 1837, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde (both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), Isaac Russell, and Willard Richards were literally attacked by Satan and his many hosts, in consequence of them planning a baptismal service scheduled for the following day.  The account reads:

"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 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 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 recollect was being supported by Elders Hyde and Richards, who were praying for me. . . . 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 a 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 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 (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 130-131, emphasis added)."

Later, Elder Hyde wrote a letter to Elder Kimball about the event thus,

"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 around and apologized 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!' I replied to him thus: 'It matter not to me whether you have or not; you are a liar from the beginning! In the name of Jesus Christ, depart!' He immediately left, and the room was clear. That closed the scene of devils for that time (Ibid., emphasis added)." 

The Prophet Joseph Smith later told Elder Kimball that, "at that time you were nigh unto the Lord; there was only a veil between you and Him, but you could not see Him. When I heard of it, it gave me great joy, for I then knew that the work of God had taken root in that land. It was this that caused the devil to make a struggle to kill you (Ibid., p. 131-132, emphasis added)."

By these four accounts we know Satan is real and has real power.  But, I also know that if we rely on the Lord, read the scriptures daily, and pray unto Him we will be free from Satan and his imps inasmuch as we live the laws of God.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen! 

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