False spirits are more subtle, and more contagious than the small pox; their number and diversity of operations cannot be counted by man; and the first moment the saints leave the path of duty, that moment they are subject to the influence of evil, false spirits, which once having taken possession of the soul, are difficult if not impossible to be removed by the person so receiving them, without assistance from those who have more wisdom.
The great object of evil spirits is to get bodies, and the only chance they have is to dispossess a soul of the spirit of the Lord, the light of eternal truth, and take possession of that body thus dispossessed; and when thus once in possession, it may truly be said there is a body possessed of the devil.
Jesus and his disciples in different ages have commanded the unclean and wicked spirits to depart out of those of whom they had taken possession, and they have departed; but there are those spirits which are not easily dispossessed, and go out only by prayer and fasting.
Who are the spirits that will hardly go out at any price?
Except it is by the will of those who harbor them, what class are they? They are invited spirits. Invited spirits? Yes, many spirits watch their opportunity to thrust themselves into a person when and where they are not wanted, and such are much more easily cast out than those who are invited guests.
For instance, a person, for some real or supposed injury or neglect from a friend, wishes to retaliate to be revenged, and of course, opens the way and invites the spirit of jealousy to take possession; and the moment jealousy enters the breast, there is a perfect hell of happiness; and no scheme that hell itself can devise to torment, perplex, harass, disturb, vex and mar the peace of the wife, or the wife of the husband, is left untouched, unmoved; and by that time the breast of the harborer is opened to all the evil spirits of Pandemonium, all have free access; and oh, what a world of glory dwells there.
And how shall that jealous spirit be removed?
By the laying on of hands? The Lord deliver us from such an ordinance, in such a case. Why? That spirit was invited to take up its abode there, and while that spirit is made welcome by that person, what right have we to dispossess it? It would be abridging the agency of the individual who invited the spirit, for any one to cause that spirit to depart, without the persons leave, and we choose that all should exercise their own agency and responsibility, and then they are subjects of accountability.
Other spirits, not particularly invited or desired, gain an easy access to those who are careless, heedless, and but too indifferent to the statutes, ordinances, and duties of God’s kingdom; who neglect their prayers, their assembling together, and doing as they would be done unto; and from these spirits arise contention, strife, evil thinking, evil speaking, evil surmising, detraction, revenge, law-suits, and a host of such perplexing annoyances, sufficient to disturb a nation; but the man who is obedient to his God in all things; who knows no will of his own, only to do the will of his father in heaven; is free from these spirits; the Devil has no power over him; for he resists him, and evil spirits are compelled to flee at his rebuke.
How shall I know when I am operated upon by a false spirit?
There are many keys by which the door of knowledge is unlocked to the saints, in relations to spirits, as well as other things pertaining to the kingdom; but one may suffice at the present time, for we have not designed this brief notice to cover all or any considerable portion of the ground which the subject includes.
The spirit of heaven is a spirit of peace, joy, comfort, consolation and knowledge to its possessor; and all saints who have enjoyed this spirit, (and all saints have more or less,) may know when this peaceful spirit dwelling within them is disturbed, that something is wrong, that some false spirit is lurking within or about them, striving to enter; and if they will resist the first impulse of their disturbed feelings, and command Satan in the name of Jesus to depart, peace will instantly be restored to their souls.
It is not the wrong doings of others which destroys that peace within ourselves which the world can neither give nor take away. It is our own wrongs which cause that peaceful spirit to leave us; and would to God that this truth were indelibly imprinted on the heart and recollection of every saint,
it is your own wrongs or evil spirits that destroy your peace, and not the wrongs of your friend or neighbor.
Know ye, all ye saints, if the peace of heaven and a foretaste of the blessings of the celestial world are not continually with you, there is something wrong within, some foul spirit has got possession of yourself, and the quicker you dispossess it the better.
At the danger of stating the obvious, but which must be emphasized, possession must be guarded against as strongly and as steadfastly as possible. The Saint who is able to keep his life in order will create a bastion of peace in his home and his life. As taught by Elder George Q. Cannon –
So long as evil spirits can obtain possession of living, human beings and influence them according to their wishes, so long has evil a tangible existence upon the earth. If there were no tabernacles for them to operate through—no men and women who would allow them to use their bodies (the great object of their desire, because of their own great lack of earthly attributes)—evil and sin would have no existence upon the earth….
1853 Deseret News Editorial