The Headline You Will Never See

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These horrific tragedies happen all too often. Most of the time, the “reasons” become clear with time, but not always. Investigators work to solve the crimes, while expert and armchair psychologists, detectives and doctors put forth a plethora of potential reasons that someone “snapped.”

Some actions are blamed on radicalized religious beliefs, others on radicalized political beliefs. Depression, brain tumors, addictions, drugs, alcohol, psychotic breaks and a hundred other reasons are proffered for why someone could do something so terrible.

There is one headline you will never see on TV or in the newspaper: “Experts conclude that the Las Vegas Shooter was under Satan’s power.”

The majority of Americans (since the founding of our Nation) has been Christian. Any quick read through of the New Testament would give you several instances where we are told of those possessed by an evil spirit, and that Jesus would have to deal with them. King Benjamin prophesied of this in Mosiah 3:6: “And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.”

In one case, Christ cast devils out of two men, and the devils went into a herd of pigs. (Matthew 8:28-32) In another story, he cast an evil spirit out of a man at the synagogue. It was rough. (Mark 1:23-27)

The ability to cast out evil spirits was not limited to Christ. His disciples had experience in this as well – in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.

Nephi (of 3rd Nephi fame) also had his run-ins with evil spirits: “And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits.” (3 Nephi 7:19)

In the restored Church, the first recorded instance of an exorcism was performed by the prophet Joseph Smith.

“While there (Colesville), Joseph challenged Newel Knight to pray vocally. In the attempt, Newel was attacked by an evil spirit that lifted him from the floor “and tossed him about most fearfully.” Neighbors gathered, and then saw the Prophet command the devil in the name off Jesus Christ to depart. Newel felt great relief and gladly accepted baptism.” (link)

I know that these type of things still happen, but they are usually held in quiet confidence.

There are other example in church history and scripture, both ancient and modern, but these examples should suffice to make the point: According to the tenets of our faith, Satan is very real, and sometimes he is able to possess the hearts and bodies of people. It is part of our, and all Christian theology.

Yet this is not something that is discussed very often. One reason is that it creepy to talk about the Devil, and isn’t something we should fixate on. Another reason is that the loudest voices in today’s society do their best to leave the devil out of the discussion – because if you talk about a devil, you acknowledge that there is a God, and we can’t have that!

Yet ignoring the reality of evil influence when searching for answers is like a doctor looking to cure a terminal illness while denying the existence of cancer.

“The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” (Charles Baudelaire.) And from the perspective of the mass media, the devil has pulled it off.

We must be aware: “Satan is just as real as is the Savior. He is clever. He is strongly motivated. In his battle to enslave he will resort to any lie, any trickery, any means to accomplish his end.” (Victor L. Brown)

Yet the influence of Satan is very real. “For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.” (Alma 5:40-41)

In the context of horrific crimes such as the Las Vegas shooting, Sandy Hook, Columbine, and the Amish school children murders all have one thing in common. After the barbaric crimes had been committed, the murderers all did the same thing: Committed suicide.

I had never really thought murder/suicide it in the context of satanic possession until I was re-reading about Korihor, the Antichrist in the book of Mormon. Korihor had been causing problems for the church. Eventually, with the help of a curse, Alma helped Korihor see the truth. Korihor admitted that Satan was involved, and had deceived him, Eventually Korihor was trampled to death. Long story to get to this wise summary form Mormon:

“And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:60)

Satan will not support his children. Rather, he abandons them. He convinces us to do things we shouldn’t do, and then he is out of there. He doesn’t need to stick around and console us, or make us feel better about what we did. He doesn; care. He is just happy that he messed up one more life, and is on to the next.

I can’t possibly relate to what goes through the mind of a murderer after he commits the act, but I am sure he grief/remorse/abandonment must be crushing. I can admit that there have been times that I have been tempted to do something that I should not do, and within the very second that I committed the act, all of the reasons and justifications disappeared, leaving me full of regret and remorse, Abandoned.

To be clear, I am not making a case that every mass murder, or homicide is the result of demonic possession. Yes, drugs, emotional problems, mental and physical illness can all lead towards such atrocities. That said, not all instances can be excused by science. It is in the areas outside the “provable” where where Satan wields his most power, and it begins with anger.

“For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20)

Jesus said, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)

There is a lot of rage out there. There is a lot of contention, and Satan LOVES it. And why wouldn’t he? If someone is already hateful, how much easier would it be for Satan to coerce them to do something extreme? Just. little shove, a little suggestion, an idea?

Such hate exists on all sides of the political and social spectrum. We know that hatred towards the GOP can lead to an attack on a baseball practice. We know that a hate-filled view of Islam can lead to countless atrocities. We know that right-wing hate groups can, and do, lead to the same type of evil. It is on all sides.

Is it any wonder that just this past weekend Elder M. Russell Ballard counseled us to “embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism,” (link)

Why? Because participating in any of those “isms” requires some form of hate. If there is hate, the door is open to the adversary. Hate is in fashion. Hate is a profession. Hate is a movement. Hate makes for good ratings and lots of clicks.

Satan is like a fat kid in a candy store.

The classic battle between Good and Evil is real. We already know which side is going to win, and the Savior leads that side. That doesn’t mean that it will not get even rougher until the endgame plays out. Sure, it sounds dark, but there is hope:

“The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it—men and boys, each of us. We are winning, and the future never looked brighter.”  Gordon B. Hinckley (link)

Something to chew on…

How to fight hate and Satan’s influence? Here is great counsel from our leaders. Christ’s representatives are on the earth – waging war against evil.

The Power of Evil, David B. Haight.

Beware the Evil Behind Smiling Eyes. Neil L. Anderson

The Great Imitator, James E. Faust

The Cancer of Contention, Russell M. Nelson

Anger and Agency, Lynn G. Robbins

The War We are Winning, Gordon B. Hinckley

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I think there is a wide gap between being influenced by Satan and being possessed, and I think that gap is very important to not ignore.

    The possessions you mention from the scriptures suggest that the people lost volition–they were totally taken over by Satan and couldn’t do anything else until they were exorcised. Being influenced by Satan still allows for agency and your own choices.

    I think it’s pretty dangerous to confuse the two. It feels a bit like excusing the behavior to suggest that possession and influence are the same. People who commit these acts are obviously influenced by Satan, but I suggesting they were possessed suggests it’s not their fault. Which feels kind of like a slippery slope to me.

    • There was no attempt made to excuse it. It is my understanding that Satan cannot take over someone’s body involuntarily. Agency cannot be violated unless surrendered.

  2. I often see news articles with headlines such as “Roomates’ dispute over T.V. channel leads to homicide.” I think “No, the dispute did not lead to homicide. That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. A long series of poor choices led to that moment.”

    People kill others because they have made it a habit of ignoring their consciences for a long time before they do such things. Just as heroes aren’t made in a moment, but, rather, develop selfless character through years of service and good living, so are killers also made through years of selfishness, self-destructive behavior such as abusing mind-altering substances, and other, such evils.

    The shooter in Las Vegas didn’t snap. This event was pre-meditated for a long time. He sent his girlfriend out of the country. He checked into a hotel the night of a well-publicized event with the arms he’d been collecting for years.

    People spend a lot of energy after such events asking the question “How can such events be prevented?” We then focus on outward control (like weapons regulation) to cure an inner ill.

    The only real answer is for people to act in accordance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, thereby cultivating, rather than quenching, their consciences. Even demonic possession is typically invited into one’s life through a lack of the protective power of the Holy Spirit or light of Christ created through chasing it away through poor choices.

    • Exactly. All the problems everyone is so up in arms about from climate change to the homeless to taxes, to curing diseases, etc, would all resolve themselves if everyone involved kept themselves right by the Lord, the gospel, the commandments, so they were being guided by the spirit and not seeking advantage over each other. Then insight, discernment, and revelation would flow freely to know how best to finally deal with these problems. I’ve been trying for some time to explain this to a drifting away friend of mine, but she still thinks the solutions are in the hands of natural man’s science and reason.

      Btw, Satan is the supreme narcissist. That is that element that you guys are trying to pin down. That’s what ties the whole concept together.

      • Amen, Sister! BTW I was chatting with a coworker today about how communism — a Satanic counterfeit for taking care of people — is the biggest catalyst for mass murder that the world has ever known.

  3. First: Who are those experts? Second: Satan is the ultimate scapegoat for all christians who commit horrific acts. Let’s grow up and take responsibility

    • I don’t see him as a scapegoat at all. Limiting Satan’s influence in our lives is a proactive choice. Trying to live righteous lives *is* being a grown up

    • I think that the key was in MMM’s response to a previous comment: “There was no attempt made to excuse it. It is my understanding that Satan cannot take over someone’s body involuntarily. Agency cannot be violated unless surrendered.”

      “Being under Satan’s power” is voluntary. Here’s how Korihor confessed it:

      “I have taught his [Satan’s] words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true” (Alma 30:53)

  4. I am appalled I didn’t think of this reason. I believe what you say is true, & explains some of the unexplainable.

  5. I love this so much brother. As a literal fat kid who frequents candy stores, I am mildly offended. But I digress. Really well thought out and beautifully written. It gave me some things to consider that I hadn’t thought of. I am also pondering why I hadn’t thought of this situation in this context. Really great stuff. Thank you!

  6. Wow. Great post. I didn’t think of the Vegas sshooting in this way, but now I do (along with a lot of other things we’re seeing these days.)

  7. Great minds think alike. As we drove home from the temple (St. Paul) on Saturday my husband and I discussed this very thing. I can believe that Satan influenced this man to commit murder, then abandoned him, and the man, realizing what he had done and the consequences thereof, killed himself. We learn from the scriptures that in the last days the love of many will wax cold, that men’s hearts will fail them, that Satan will rage and men will be filled with hate. I firmly believe that just as the Lord has prophets, appearing to them and instructing them, that Satan also appears to his “prophets” and instructs them.

    My grandfather cast out evil spirits while on his mission in New England. He told us that the veil was parted for a short time and he could see the spirit world, which he said is all around us. He said that it was easy to discern which were righteous and which were evil. (I neglected to ask what the difference was, but I’ll trust him that it was easy to tell.) Grandpa didn’t like talking about evil spirits, but concentrated on teaching us the truths of the Book of Mormon. I’ve had my own scary experiences with evil spirits. They are real! You know the new video of the First Vision? The part about the power from the unseen world is so similar to my experience it gives me chills and I get teary each time I watch it.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and testimony.

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