In Jesus’ day, it seemed common for demons or evil spirits to take possession of mortal bodies; and be cast out by priesthood authority. Such incidents seem less prevalent currently; and Church leaders do not refer to such in talks, etc. Seizures, etc., all seem to be ascribed to medical/physical deficiencies. Can you shed some insights on this? Thanks Gramps.
I state unequivocally that Jesus cast out literal devils, and that such possessions unfortunately occur in modern times. The first miracle of this dispensation had Joseph Smith casting a devil out of Newel Knight (who saw the spirit leaving) (History of the Church vol. 1, ch. 9). Such power is no light thing, as it is only granted through much prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21), which makes complete sense when considering Joseph Smith’s and Moses’ confrontations with that evil one. An encounter with any spirit (unembodied or not) who is in open rebellion against God is weighed down with darkness and I state again is no light thing. Overcoming such then becomes the sort of experience that is only brought up when the Spirit prompts of its appropriateness.
Shortly before serving a mission, I mentioned to my father that the instructions for performing ordinances really covered the gamut: births, baptisms, dedications, deaths – the only thing that was missing was casting out demons. The mood turned quite solemn as my father taught me, “if you ever need to command Satan to leave, you follow the pattern shown in the Temple.” I never followed up with him on that instruction. It was clear to me that he was convinced of the reality of the Adversary and (unlike the things of God) was uncomfortable dwelling too long on it. Suffice it to say, he learned what he needed to and passed that on to his children.
In the modern Church (and even in the New Testament Church, as far as I can tell), miracles are mentioned to bolster the faith of the believing saints and to uplift them. Casting out devils is probably the least uplifting of the gifts of the spirit, but is shared on occasion to testify that this sign still follows “them that believe” (Mark 16:17). It was prophesied that the Messiah would carry such power (Mosiah 3:6), and as I mentioned it is recorded in the Church annals to testify in token form that such authority is still exercised in the Lord’s church.