Monday, January 7, 2008

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Exorcists

"God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual, or that people, to see whether they will keep their covenants with Him, and keep in remembrance what He has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy...So when individuals are blessed with visions, revelations, and great manifestations, look out, then the devil is nigh you, and you will be tempted in proportion to the vision, revelation, or manifestation you have received. Hence thousands, when they are off their guard, give way to the severe temptations which come upon them, and behold they are gone." (Brigham Young, JD 3:205-206)

Moses, the scriptures record, spoke with the Lord face to face, and was given a vision of the earth and all its inhabitants, and "of the same he greatly marveled and wondered" (Moses 1:8). Afterward, he was "left unto himself" and "Satan came, tempting Moses, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me" (Moses 1:9, 12).

Moses and the devil then have a fascinating conversation. I wouldn't generally recommend conversing with the devil, as you're not likely to gain light, knowledge, or power, but in this case, Moses handled himself beautifully, and gave us some great insights into how we can rebuff the devil when he comes, tempting us. Allow me to outline a few that I have gained, as this story has long been fascinating to me.

After Satan belittles Moses' divine nature, calling him a "son of man," Moses asserts who he knows he is: "Behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten" (Moses 1:13) What a beautiful statement of the first principle:

1. Know that you are a child of Heavenly Parents, that you have the seed of the divine in you, and that such conduct as the devil will encourage is unbecoming to one born for such great glory.

Moses then comments on Satan's lack of glory. He tells him of his vision of God, and the transformation that had to take place in order for Moses to be able to be in God's presence. Then he says, Satan, "where is thy glory, that I should worship thee...for it is darkness unto me? (Moses 1:13,15). He has thus distinguished between God and the devil, not always an easy thing to do, since the devil can appear "as an angel of light" (Doc. & Cov. 128:20). Having distinguished between two immortal beings, he asserts his commitment to worship only God: "I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve" (Moses 1:15). That outlines the second principle for getting rid of the adversary:

2. Distinguish between good and evil actions and influences, and choose to do those which uplift, strengthen, and add to your radiation of God's light and glory.

Moses then does something awfully cheeky: he commands Satan to get lost. He has to do it three more times before Satan actually leaves (more on this later), but such directness sent an unmistakable message that the devil's presence wasn't wanted (Moses 1:16,18,20,21), that Moses wasn't going to entertain his suggestions, continue the discussion, invite him home for dinner, etc. Moses' declaration "Get thee hence, Satan" was a flat-out refusal--no room for negotiation. Not very diplomatic, but the time for diplomacy has passed. We'll talk about this principle more later.

Moses also recounts God's words to counter Satan, saying "for God said unto me:" twice. He then says something that I initially found odd, but have come to appreciate: "And he [God] also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me" (Moses 1:17). Why, at this critical juncture, during a face-to-face encounter with the devil, would Moses start talking about a vision he had with the burning bush? Why wouldn't recounting God's more recent commandments be sufficient?

The only reason I can imagine for Moses to talk about his experience with the burning bush is to establish the distinction between God, a being with whom he had had previous experience, and Satan, who is new on the scene. Essentially, Moses is saying, "Look, Satan, what are you trying to pull? God and I go way back. Who died and left you king?" That leaves us with the next principle:

3. Recount God's words to counter Satan. Establish a relationship with God, so that when temptations or trials come, you can recall experiences you have had with Him, and recognize from whence every good thing in your life has come. Then it will be obvious that the Lord is a loving, caring, Father, and that the devil is the newcomer, the usurper, the deceiver.

Moses concludes his refusal with the recognition of the clear distinction between God and the devil, "I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan" (Moses 1:18).

Satan is awfully determined, and Moses' refusal makes him mad. "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" (Moses 1: 19). Wow! Talk about a temper tantrum! Here's what we learn:

4. Don't expect Satan to give up. He's a very determined man, and he's intent on destroying you. Expect Satanic opposition. And hold your ground.

All that ranting and screaming was a bit unnerving, to put it lightly (ever seen a devil rant? Sounds pretty terrifying). "And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell" (Moses 1:20). Why? Because one of the devil's greatest powers is fear. Fear is anathema to love, contrary to the nature of God. For "God is love," and "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:16,18, see also Moroni 8:16). "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (Doc. & Cov. 38:30). Fear seems to be the only thing Moses did wrong in this encounter. So we learn:

5. Be prepared, and overcome fear with the love of God. God has promised His protection to the faithful, so "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2 Kings 6:16).

Moses quickly got a grip on his fear, and "calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God will I worship, which is the God of glory" (Moses 1:20). Again, Moses is driving home the distinction between God and Satan, and choosing to worship "the God of glory," and calling upon Him for help. Number 6 is easy:

6. Pray for strength.

This seems to work for Moses where talking didn't: "And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook" (Moses 1:21). And here's the kicker: "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 1:21-22). Satan wasn't happy about it, but he left when commanded in the name of Jesus Christ. Just as His name is the only name by which we can be saved, so it is the only power which the devil must obey. If, having authority, we command the devil to leave in the name of Jesus Christ, he must obey. On our own power we cannot defeat him--the devil can only be expelled with the power of God. That's the last, and most powerful principle I've learned from this conversation:

7. The devil, and those who follow him, must leave when commanded to leave in the name of Jesus Christ by one having authority, for, as the disciples of old proclaimed, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (Luke 10:17).

Now, since "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect," (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we can "liken all scriptures unto us," and profit and learn thereby (1 Nephi 19:23). When sore trials and temptations come upon us, we can take comfort in our divine potential, and do those things which will increase the light and glory in our lives. When the devil persists in trying to drag us down, we can gain strength from our established relationship with our Father in Heaven, who loves us and will empower us, "that when [notice: not if] the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of
the rock upon which ye are built" (Helaman 5:12). We need not fear, because of our preparation and the love and protection of God, a power we access by pleading for it in prayer. And finally, we can know that the Lord has power over the devil, for "all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth" (Doc. & Cov. 50:27).

"And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive—and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him" (Doc. & Cov. 50:35).

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