Disclaimer - While I have tried to provide references, I am not a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am a life-time member of the Church and a graduate student studying to be a professional counselor. If you wish to cite this article, the format is
Doerr, A. (December 18, 2007) "Possession and Exorcism in the Latter-Day Saint Culture". Retrieved on (insert current date)
from http://ldsconnections.livejournal.com ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~
The subject of possession and exorcism is a sticking point between many mental health practitioners and religious sects. While Latter-Day Saints (aka "Mormons") do not deny the possibility of possession, it is considered a rare occurrence and is rarely discussed. Because of this, it should be remembered that many Latter-Day Saints are converts and may still have some of the beliefs of another religion in this area. To understand the LDS view, it is necessary to understand the religion's view on mental health, the definition of being possessed by an evil spirit and its theory on the process of possession and exorcism.
The official stance on mental illness is that it is a disturbance in thinking or behavior that interferes with a person's ability to deal with the normal stresses of life. To quote Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Quorum of the Seventy, "Some blame their problem on demonic possession. While there is no doubt that such has occurred, let us take care not to give the devil credit for everything that goes awry in the world! Generally speaking, the mentally ill do not need exorcism; they require treatment from skilled health-care providers and love, care, and support from everyone else." (Morrison, 2005, ¶ 10)
Being possessed by an evil spirit can mean anything from letting one's worst desires and drives control one's actions to being actually possessed by a foreign spirit that never had a physical body of their own. Obviously, only the latter would require an exorcism. The former requires mastering those desires through diligence and repentance, with the support of those who care. The belief is that one can only be possessed by an evil spirit of either type if they allow entry through lack of attending to one's personal spiritual well-being. (Cave, 2003) Latter-Day Saints are counselled to treat these people with love and tenderness to encourage them in their efforts to grow spiritually. (Oakes, 1996)
As for the rare exorcism, it is simply a blessing given by a Melchizedek priesthood holder, commanding the evil spirit to depart. If it is not successful, then it is because the priesthood holder has not prepared himself enough spiritually. (Romney, 1982) Under no circumstances is the possessed person subjected to physical abuse. References
Cave, V. (March 2003). “Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Empty House,” Ensign
. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints : Salt Lake City. Retrieved on December 18, 2007, from http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=aa9476e6ffe0c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Morrison, A. (October, 2005). "Myths about mental illness." Ensign.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints : Salt Lake City. Retrieved on December 18, 2007, from http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=a9e72ee01e31c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Oaks, D. (October 1996). “Sins and Mistakes,” Ensign.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints : Salt Lake City. Retrieved on December 18, 2007, from http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=5a9bdbdcc370c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Romney, M. (July 1982). “The Blessings of the Fast,” Ensign.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints : Salt Lake City. Retrieved on December 18, 2007, from http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=14e4aeca0ea6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Thu, Sep. 13th, 2007, 11:20 am
An excerpt from post of mine from a debate about validating matters of faith sceintifically....
First off, the brain is not wired to know truth. It can only recognize patterns and consistencies. If you've ever been to a lecture on how the brain translate stimuli into what we perceive, you would think at least four times before actually relying on them to tell you the truth. The brain is also lazy. It plays a lot of "fill in the gaps" to make life easier on itself.
Second off, patterns and consistencies can be very opened to personal biases and interpretations. I know I just said the brain was lazy, but the truth is there is just not enough time to process everything, so it compensates by discarding anything that it deems unimportant or improbable. This bleeds over into the cognitive processes too.
In short, from a scientific view, nothing can really be known because humans are physically not capable of knowing anything completely. We can only conceive of the most likely explanation that we can accept based on our own set of internal rules.
For the past few months, I've been considering the different views on the subject and been trying to figure out where I really stand on the matter. From what I've seen, most people take one of two stances:
1) Killing anyone is wrong. The death penalty makes a murderer of the state.
2) People who kill should forfeit their lives as punishment for their crimes.
I disagree with both.
I define murder as shedding innocent blood. So if someone is guilty of a crime worthy of death, then killing them is not murder. (I will get to what I consider "a crime worthy of death" a little later.) And throwing up the fact that it costs more to keep someone on death row than to keep them imprisoned for life is dishonest because what we are actually paying is not killing them, but the appeals process we have set up to keep our collective conscience clean. Now, I have no idea what a clean conscience is worth in dollars, so I'm not sure I am against this, but I do think that we should be more honest with ourselves and admit that the reason we are paying so much is to make us feel better, not because it costs more to execute someone.
I don't buy into this punishment thing. In my mind, you need to give people a chance to repent of their sins, unless they show signs of being a continued danger to innocent people. Our criminal justice system does not care much about repentence, but sadly, it gives more of a chance for forgiveness than most people I know.
What this means is that if someone is likely to kill innocent people again, then they are a danger. The fact they are mentally impaired or young does not mitigate the fact unless there is evidence that they can change their endangerment to society. The bottom line is public safety. Emotional desires should not have any bearing on the matter.
I watched a forensic TV show about serial killer Charles Ng. In it, I saw the sister of Paul Cosner express rage over the fact that while Ng had been convicted of several murders, her brother's was not one of them listed. This is totally irrational as far as I'm concerned. The man was already convicted of enough murders that he would never see the light of day, having one more added to the list won't change that. It won't make her brother's death make more sense. It won't bring him back to life. And reading the scriptures, it won't make his spirit rest any more in peace.
There is a reason why God states "Vengeance is mine" (Rom. 12: 19). Vengeance is God's territory. He can take care of it much better than anyone else. I am personally of the opinion that you either pay for your transgressions in this life or the next. Making someone pay for a transgression in this life creates the chance for inappropriate punishment. And if you judge wrongly, you will be held accountable for it (Lev. 19: 15; Matt. 7: 1 & 2). So, I do understand the desire to put in safeguards against accidently condemning an innocent person to death.
(I also think that it's possible that if you punish someone for something in this life that it can absolve God from doing it in the next. I believe God is a just personage and doesn't believe in double indemnity.)
In general, I am against killing people, except where it comes to removing an immediate or definite danger to other people's lives. In that case, I don't have any real objection to the matter. In fact, I could probably pull the trigger myself if I thought it was the case. I wouldn't be proud of the fact and it would probably bother me some, but I would do it. I do believe that we have a duty to protect the innocent and if we don't, then we are also guilty of the crimes against them.
However, I also believe that if we do the best we can with the knowledge we have, God will be understanding and merciful to us. (2 Nephi 25:23, Heb. 4: 12.)
Another place where things get sticky for me is the concept of allowing people to repent. There are scriptures that say that if someone knowingly takes an innocent life, they must pay for it with their own blood to make their repentence complete. My institute director once threw that out for discussion to us once. From what we determined, hanging or poisoning someone for murdering someone else was probably the worst way to kill them because it doesn't give them a chance to pay for their transgression correctly. We were more inclined to a firing squad where all but one or two of the shooters had blanks, so they could believe that maybe it wasn't their shot that did the actual killing. We then decided that God being merciful would probably find a way to cause some blood to be shed of a repented murderer in the case of hanging, electrocution or lethal injection. Of course, this was based on the assumption that it was the willingness to have one's blood shed for the crime that was most important and not the amount of blood shed. In which case, a nose bleed would satisfy the requirement.
In conclusion, I am not against the death penalty, but I am against the way we approach it. As for the practical application of my opinion on the matter, I really haven't been able to work that part out yet.
Sun, Sep. 3rd, 2006, 09:09 pm
2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.
I don't remember this being one of the highlight scriptures I studied when I was in Seminary. However, I am quite fond of couple other phrases in the same section because they give some of the guidelines for receiving information from God.
From D&C 8:1 - ...surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge...
From D&C 8:10 - Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.
In the Section 9, there are even better guidelines:
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong...
This was given specially to Oliver Cowdery, but I have found that sometimes when after I study it out and then try to ask God in prayer if it's a good idea, I will lose the ability to state the choice I made. I can have it written out in very clear and concise words, but when I try to ask God, I can't get the words to come together. And if I try to force it, I become mentally unfocused until I decide to either study more or choose another option. This I believe is my version of "a stupor of thought".
Likewise, I have had moments when I've made a decision when I suddenly experience an infusion of energy into myself, like every cell of my body is saying, "Yes. This is right." This I consider my verions of "your bosom shall burn within you".
But sometimes, I don't feel either things and I realize it's one of those time where it doesn't really make which way I do things as long as I actually do something. Or I get the feeling that I am being impatient and should wait. I remember one time, while asking if I should take a certain action, I heard in my mind the words "not yet".
And sometimes the answer is just "no". Many people don't understand that "no" is still an answer to a prayer. They think of God as a genie who grants whatever we want, when we ask for it. And then they get angry because they didn't get what they what. That makes so much sense - treating the ultimate being of the universe like a slave, like a spoilt little child.
I've always found that what God has planned for me usually pays off much better than what I usually come up with. It's taken me a long time to accept the career path I am finally on. I've considered it several times in the past, but decided against it because of my family. Until a few years ago, I never even considered running it past God. And it weren't for some of the things I've gone through in my life, I still wouldn't have asked him about it.
But I'm glad I finally did.