I struggled in my youth with many of the same things our youth of today struggle with. Personal weakness combined with exposure to peer pressure, inappropriate media, and debasing music can all have a negative influence on any of us, but I have also come to believe that some of these things open the door to a more sinister presence in our lives.
Fortunately I was able to overcame many of my own struggles as I prepared for and then served a full time mission. However, a while after returning, there were new struggles for me which led to depression and despair. I greatly missed the spiritual high of the mission field. Repentance at times felt out of reach and I felt alone and detached. It was at this low point I received a wake up call.
I have always been an avid reader so I used that to keep myself busy during those down times. Gospel related study would help me keep the focus off the struggles and temptations that often afflicted me. In the process of doing this I happened to pick up a copy of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. His exposure of the means employed by the adversary to deceive and bind us began to open my mind to the nature and reality of my own struggles over the years. Looking back now I wonder if my new found awareness might have gotten the attention of the opposition.
As I laid down one night pondering about what I had been reading I had an experience I will never forget and one that I have only shared privately with a select few until now almost 30 years later. I don’t remember falling asleep on the night of my experience, but I definitely remember the dream/ vision that followed.
As the dream began, a dimensional type room adjacent to my own bedroom appeared before me. In this room I saw a tall, darkly dressed, and extremely focused man with his face turned slightly away from me engrossed in something he was working on at a table in front of him. After watching him work for a time with his back turned to me I suddenly felt like he was either the adversary or a trusted helper of his and that I was in danger. At that moment he become aware that I was viewing him working. As he turned to menacingly face me the vision or dream suddenly ended and I woke or came out of it lying in my bed staring at the bedroom closet. I felt a terrible invisible presence in my room and attempted to command it to leave in the name of the Savior, but no words came and no sound escaped my lips. A “paralysis” had overtaken me. I could not speak or move at all. So I began pleading with the Lord for help in my mind as I lied there completely frozen in my bed. Finally after what seemed like forever thoughts became a whisper and the whisper then turned into words. I kept repeating those words again and again until they were strong and clear and then it was suddenly over. I was extremely tired, but my strength and movement slowly retuned and I no longer felt that ominous presence subduing me. I finally sat up in bed thanking and praising God.
This all occurred in the morning hours sometime between 12:30 and 2:30 according to checks of my alarm clock before and after the experience. I was a little worried to try and sleep after that, but eventually did after saying a prayer. From that experience I gained a much deeper testimony of priesthood power, temple clothing, and covenants. We must pray always and follow God’s commandments. We should avoid anything that would grieve the Lord’s spirit and leave us vulnerable and unprotected. Conversely we should seek to cultivate wholesome and uplifting thoughts and guard against media, music, and messages that would leave us exposed to the power of the adversary.
Many would scoff at such experiences or explain them away to their own detriment. For those who have been through them they are left with a lasting impression of their own weakness and need to rely on their Savior.