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The Power of God Versus The "Evil Gift"

Moroni 10, with its emphasis on spiritual gifts and the reality of the power of God, seems to be written with an especial message to skeptics. But not just skeptics. There's also a warning in Verse 30 "to touch not the evil gift." Could that be directed at modern readers who are willing to believe, but may be led astray by manifestations of a different power that masquerades as godly? Given that the bulk of the chapter discusses spiritual gifts and their role in the process of becoming perfected in Christ, it makes sense to me that "the evil gift" refers to psychic or spiritual gifts that do not "come by the Spirit of Christ."

But which spiritual gifts are those? How do we discern whether a miraculous gift comes by the Spirit of Christ? Isn't the fact that it's miraculous evidence enough?

To help answer the first two questions, we have Friday's update to the General Handbook of Instructions. In the medical and health care section, members are now discouraged "from seeking miraculous or supernatural healing from an individual or group that claims to have special methods for accessing healing power outside of prayer and properly performed priesthood blessings. These practices are often referred to as ‘energy healing.’ Other names are also used. Such promises for healing are often given in exchange for money.”

Saying that is not to accuse faithful, Latter-day Saint energy healers of doing something malicious and diabolical. I have a number of precious friends who have been practicing various forms of energy healing out of a desire to serve others. So, when I suggest their practice might be an "evil gift," it might help to quickly review how our understanding of the word "evil" has changed in the last 200 years.

In modern usage, the term means "profoundly immoral and wicked." Nowadays, we differentiate between behavior that is "inappropriate" or "naughty" versus more shameful and darker deeds that we describe as "evil." But that distinction doesn't arise from the scriptures, and Webster's 1828 dictionary provides a number of definitions that are more in line with how the word was understood when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. Then, it meant "having bad qualities...which tend to injury, or to produce mischief" as well as "wicked; corrupt; perverse;" and "wrong."

So "the evil gift" does not necessarily mean a gift that emanates from the Devil, but rather, a gift that may appear to be beneficial but that is tainted in such a way as to ultimately produce injury.

To my understanding, the problem with practices like energy healing is not that they're a hoax. I'm pretty confident that, at least in cases with which I'm familiar, they're effective. I have myself received treatment that I found to be helpful. But I have not felt settled about it.

The problem, as I understand it, is that such practices bypass the Way to redemption from the Fall, that is, Jesus Christ.

The Fall of man was a double whammy. It affected our bodies, making us subject to illness, pain and death. And it also altered our spiritual nature, making us prone to being "carnal, sensual and devilish" or, in more modern terms, selfish, given to lust, and proud.

I believe that our physical and our spiritual ills tend to be connected. Often, a physical ailment has a root that is spiritual. And that's why "energy healing" works. It is a method for addressing spiritual imbalances in a way that affects physical well-being.

The problem is, we're not just unbalanced. We're fallen. Superficial tinkering to try and heal the spirit is, at best, a spiritual bandaid and painkiller. It inclines us to think that we're healing or whole, when in fact, we're broken, lost and incapable of restoring ourselves. The more bandaids and painkillers we apply, the more we feel capable, enlightened, and confident and the less we understand our need to fall to our knees and rely on the merits of him who is mighty to save.

By contrast, healing through the power of the Priesthood requires us to exercise spiritually-healing faith in Jesus Christ. And it requires the Priesthood holder to submit his will to God's, to tune in and hear the voice of the Spirit, and to be clean. Healing by the power of the Priesthood is humbling at the same time that it is ennobling. And it is seldom sudden or showy, because spiritual growth is ordinarily gradual and line upon line.

I believe that energy healing can reverse physical damage and enable cripples to walk. What it can't do is save our souls, and what it's prone to do is to persuade us that we are mighty and we don't need saving.

But we do, and to that end, Mormon invites us to touch not the evil gift nor the unclean thing, but come unto Christ and be perfected in him.

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Anne Kassel
Anne Kassel
Jan 04, 2021

Revisiting the Allegory of the Vineyard this morning, I was struck by the servant's explanation to his master for the corruption of the trees: "Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard -- have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?" (Jacob 5:48).

In that allegory, I think we are the branches and the covenants between God and his children are the roots. Jesus Christ is both Master of the vineyard, and the source of strength for…

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