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