Two LDS apostles, Elder Wilford Woodruff and Elder Heber C. Kimball, record their experiences with evil spirits during the launch of the British Isles Mission.
Wilford Woodruff writes: “The very day we entered that house it was filled with evil spirits, who sought to destroy us. We felt their power day after day. They did not particularly injure us at that time, but we knew they were with us. The incident that I am going to refer to now occurred after Brother Kimball had returned to Manchester.
“Brother George A. Smith and myself were left there. We sat up one night till about 11 o’clock, talking about the Gospel of Christ, and then went to bed. The room in which we slept was small; there was about three and a half feet between our cots. Those spirits were gathered together in that room and sought to destroy us. They fell upon us with the determination to take our lives.
“The distress, the suffering and the horror that rested upon me I never experienced neither before nor since. While in this condition a spirit said to me, “Pray to the Lord.” Well, a man in that kind of warfare, when he is choking almost to death, is in a peculiar position to pray. Nevertheless I went to praying with all the power I had. I knew we would die unless God opened some door for our deliverance, because we were being choked to death, and I prayed the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, to preserve our lives.
“While I was praying, the door opened and three messengers entered, and the room was filled with light equal to the blazing light of the sun at mid-day. Those messengers were all dressed in the robes of immortal beings. Who they were I know not. They laid hands upon me and my companion, and rebuked those evil powers, and we were saved. From that hour to this day, not only our lives were saved, but those powers were rebuked by the angels of God so that no Elder since has been tormented with them in London.”
C. Kimball writes: “I had been sleeping on the back of the bed. I immediately arose, slipped off at the foot of the bed, and passed around to where he [Elder Russell] was. Elder Hyde threw his feet out, and sat up in the bed, and we laid hands on him, I being mouth, and prayed that the Lord would have mercy on him, and rebuke the devil.
“While thus engaged, I was struck with great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless on the floor. The first thing I recollected was being supported by Elders Hyde and Richards who were praying for me, Elder Richards having followed Russell up to my room. Elders Hyde and Richards then assisted me to get on the bed, but my agony was so great I could not endure it, and I arose, bowed my knees and prayed.
“I then arose and sat up on the bed, when a vision was opened to our minds, and we could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half (by Willard’s watch). We were not looking towards the window, but towards the wall. Space appeared before us, and we saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain.
“I perspired exceedingly, my clothes becoming as wet as if I had been taken out of the river. I felt excessive pain, and was in the greatest distress for some time. I cannot even look back on the scene without feelings of horror; yet by it I learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God, and got some understanding of the invisible world. We distinctly heard these spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them, and blessed us exceedingly that day.”
When he returned home Heber C. Kimball asked the Prophet, Joseph Smith, “What was the matter of us? What had we done that we had to be submitted to such an experience?”
Joseph responded, “Brother Heber, at that time you were nigh unto the Lord; there was only a veil between you and him, but you could not see him. When I heard of it, it gave me great joy, for I then knew that the work of God had taken root in that land. It was this that caused the devil to make a struggle to kill you. The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of his purposes.”
1. Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses, Vol.5, October 5, 1896
2. Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney, Bookcraft, 1992, pp. 131-132.