The following excerpt is from an e-mail I wrote the night of September 11-12, 2014 to one of my nieces about spiritual ticks and what God’s creation can teach us about spiritual hygiene. Earlier that week I learned that Faren Charles Persall, a good friend of mine from our high school days, had passed away September 8, 2014, from cancer. Originally, I had not planned to write this e-mail that evening because I had to finish up a presentation and some documents for a business trip, which I was scheduled to take the next week. However, as I thought about my friend’s passing, the word “priority” kept coming to mind along with the impress that this e-mail was much more important at that moment than the presentation and documents for my business trip obligations. And so I wrote beginning at around 10 p.m. on the 11th and finishing and sending it around a quarter past 5 the next morning. I first learned the lesson of spiritual ticks back in early 2004 when I got a tick bite while backpacking with my four oldest children in Southeast Kansas. After I discovered and removed the tick, a red ring formed around the bite while I was on a business trip the following week. You can hear my testimony regarding that event in a sermon I gave on April 4, 2004. Following is an excerpt of the e-mail that I sent my niece.
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— Start of excerpt from my September 12, 2014 e-mail (with minor edits) —
As I have prayed about your request, something the Lord has taught me about “spiritual ticks” keeps coming to mind. Here’s some information on this topic and why it is important. First here are some background scriptures to put the subject into its scriptural context.
Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, tells us that God has revealed the invisible things of Himself through the things that He has created.
Romans 1:20 For God hath revealed unto them the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, which are clearly seen; things which are not seen being understood by the things that are made, through his eternal power and Godhead…
There are other verses of scripture which give us this same general understanding, meaning that spiritual things may be understand by things that have been created. For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
D&C 85:12a-c The earth rolls upon her wings; and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night; and the stars also giveth their light, as they roll upon their wings, in their glory, in the midst of the power of God. Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand? Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these, hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
It is very important to understand, however, that to properly understand spiritual things by that which has been created, we must come to discern them by the Spirit of God, the Comforter, who quickens us and enlightens our minds (Genesis 6:64), and this we must do with a humble, repentant, and sincere desire to understand all such matters as God understands them.
D&C 67:3a-3c …inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent, and you shall see me and know that I am; not with the carnal, neither natural mind, but with the spiritual; for no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God; neither can any natural man abide the presence of God; neither after the carnal mind; ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore continue in patience until ye are perfected.
So with this as some background, let’s take a look at physical ticks and how they are a “type and shadow” of spiritual ticks. Again, it is important to keep in mind that the spiritual world may be seen and understood via the created world, but that we can come to a correct understanding of this connection only through using our spiritual eyes as quickened by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is vital in this regard. Why? As it is written, we receive the Spirit of our Lord through prayer – so please prayerfully consider these matters by praying for light and truth in the name of Jesus Christ.
D&C 63:16a Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit, and in this there is no condemnation; and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.
Here is the lesson which I feel led to share with you at this time: We know that when we walk through wooded areas during certain seasons that those pesky little critters known as ticks can latch themselves into our skin and start drawing life-giving blood directly out of us. They can also transmit sickness and disease into us.
To avoid such painful experiences with ticks some people just stay away from the woods altogether. Others venture into these infested areas only after applying a repellant and/or taking other special precautions (such as choosing appropriate clothing).
But what if a person happens to go into a tick-infested area unaware of their presence or are uninformed about what they can do to a person? Or what if someone goes into the woods and brings his or her clothes home with a few of those little creatures hidden inside? Yes, we can get those bugs in our skin and possibly one of the diseases they carry into our bodies, and all of this through no fault of our own.
One may think that ticks just happen to be present in this world, or perhaps they exist for no reason at all other than for a reason known only to God.
When considering why they exist, remember that this is God’s world and that He has said that we are without excuse if we fail to understand the spiritual meaning of things by what He has made (see Romans 1:20). To come to a proper understanding about such things, as noted above, we must therefore be quickened by His Spirit (pointing back again to prayer).
So is there really a good reason for ticks in this world? I have been taught of the Lord that there is indeed at least one very good reason for them and that is, it is because there are spiritual ticks the Lord needs us to learn about so we can be wise and take care of ourselves in this life and the next. These spiritual ticks are creatures that exercise their ability to choose to obey God or to disobey Him in a manner that is self-serving and ultimately destructive to themselves and to others in ways that drain them and make them weak and unhealthy.
Remember how the Lord has said “…this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man” (D&C 22:23b). Since this is His work and glory, we need to keep our eyes on His work and glory in our lives as well (Matthew 6:22). This includes allowing God to teach us about such things as spiritual hygiene and our spiritual health in ways that prepare us and equip us for living on earth and in eternity.
I won’t be able, nor will I try to cover all that this involves, but I feel led to share with you at this point that it is not only possible but probably that people will pick up spiritual ticks at times in their lives just as they may pick up a physical tick when hanging out in the woods, and that one can come upon them through no fault of their own. Nonetheless, the places and circumstances we place ourselves in can increase or decrease the risk factor of picking up a spiritual tick just as is the case with physical ticks.
For example, just standing in line at a supermarket looking at the magazines can expose us to an opportunity for a spiritual tick to latch onto us and begin drawing on our spiritual vitality. Have you ever noticed where your mind goes when you see something that is not right, like a sinful picture, etc.? Well, I have, and when I have inquired of the Lord about this loss of focus on good thoughts, He typically reminds me of how the setting I am in and the things around me have drawn my thoughts away from Him. So I seek to turn back toward God while removing the tick by turning away from whatever it was that caused me to experience this separation from God. Furthermore, I have learned to do so according to counsel in verses of scripture like the following:
James 4:5-12 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; who art thou that judgest another?
Philippians 4:4-8 Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be afflicted for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just; whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Colossians 3:1-16 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience; In the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him; Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
I do this because I have learned that it is very important to cleanse ourselves in and through the word of God. For I have come to experience some spiritual ticks which come out only with much prayer and fasting (e.g Mark 9:2) both in my life and the life of others. Therefore, we should not neglect the fact that a tick may have embedded itself in us. If we do, in time it can get so embedded that it takes a physician to remove it, and then we may need to be put on special antibiotics to treat a disease they may have left behind in us, something like Lyme disease but in the spiritual realm.
It is truly sad, but not many people in the church know about these things or have a working understanding of how to remedy them, either because no one has taught them or because they just assume that being in the church means that they are immune to getting a spiritual tick embedded in them. Others perhaps just learn to live with ticks hanging onto them (such as bitterness, anger, fear, doubt, pride, envy, etc.), such that over time they become numb to their presence or they begin to believe that these parasites are actually a part of themselves, that is, just another appendage that can gain voice and vote in their lives. But Jesus came to free us of all such oppressions and spiritual diseases (Matthew 8:17), that is, only if we exercise faith in Him (John 1:12).
Mosiah 1:97-99 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven, among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases; and he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
The following is testimony I hope will encourage you and lead you to further understandings which will be of benefit to you.
A number of years ago now, an elder in the church was unaware of the extremely dangerous situation he had gotten himself into. It appeared at first that he had done so rather innocently and without any thought of falling into sin. However, one thing apparently led to another and he ended up committing adultery. When I found out about his plight, I grieved for him knowing of the suffering he faced in this life and in the world to come if he did not repent (D&C 63:5a-c). As I prayed for this brother, the Lord encouraged me to write him a letter, telling him of how the Lord had ministered to me when I had been overtaken in a sin (II Timothy 2:24-26) by eventually restoring my spiritual health through the ministry of Jesus Christ (in other words, it took time). So I wrote to this elder as directed. As I wrote the Lord encouraged me to write the same words to many more of my brethren who were in the bondage to similar sins, bondages they couldn’t figure out or understand, bondages that drained them and left them empty. And so I turned the letter into an open letter which I ended up sending to many people including many elders as well as the one for whom it was originally intended.
One of the other elders who received my letter had gotten it just before going on a missionary trip to Africa. When he returned home from his travels, he personally thanked me for the letter, telling me that had he not read it ahead of time he would not have been prepared for the work to which he had been called while over in Africa. Although it was a very difficult letter for me to write, this one man’s testimony made it all worth it.
The letter is titled, “That ye may be healed.” Here is the link to the document as well as the webpage where the link to this document may be found.
I must admit that I now often think of the words of Jacob in my soul: “O be wise: what can I say more?” His words often motivate me to action, more particularly, to be wise in working to keep my soul free of spiritual ticks which can drain the life blood out of our spirits.
Spiritual hygiene is very important in this life and the life to come. But spiritual health requires more than just taking good care of ourselves. We must check ourselves often for spiritual ticks, especially when we return home from going out into the world (the woods) where we can pick up spiritual ticks in many different settings and occasions. We must equip ourselves with the proper means of removing them (e.g. faith, prayer, scriptures, and ultimately through the Lord’s Spirit) and the appropriate spiritual medicines to apply when infections such as bitterness, fear, and doubt set in.
Here is another very important understanding we should have in this regard. Just as we are to come to understand the spiritual universe through what has been created, we must understand the connectedness between the spiritual and the physical worlds. In this regard we must keep in mind how Satan is determined to make our lives miserable both spiritually and physically.
II Nephi 1:101-103 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable for ever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.
Jesus explains the situation with Satan further. Speaking to the evil leaders of His day, Jesus said to them:
John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Simply put, Satan is a murder. He seeks our misery and our death, both spiritually and physically – through any process that will inflict as much misery as possible. After seeing what is going on in the Middle East right now it is not hard to image a creature such as this.
What may we learn by reading such passages about Satan and the misery he seeks to inflict upon us? In a word, Satan’s oppression of people is not just spiritual, it is physical as well. And since there is a connection between the two, meaning between the spiritual and the physical worlds (Romans 1:20), Satan works in both realms and through pathways that connect the two for a particular end, that we may be miserable forever as he is miserable.
However, it is important to understand that although Satan means it for evil against us, God “meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20 with Romans 8:28). Even the Apostle Paul was subject to the Lord in such a way.
II Corinthians 12:6-10 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth of me, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Even though Paul had asked the Lord three times to have this messenger of Satan (a spiritual tick?)which was afflicting him removed, the Lord simply humbled Paul by saying His grace was sufficient for Paul. Similarly it may be wisdom in God that we are humbled in some fashion so we may come to more fully rely upon God’s grace. He knows what we need. Therefore, as James admonishes us, we need to let patience have it perfect work while asking God what we should do in such matters. Perhaps He will remove what afflicts us or perhaps He may call us to suffer for a while until we learn the lesson He holds in store for us.
At the same time, it is important to understand that God expects us to take care of our bodies, spiritual and physical, and to keep our spiritual bodies free of parasites and other things that can make us sick just as we keep our physical bodies free of such things.
An example could be in the area of sleep. Satan would like to deprive people of sleep because he knows that in doing so they become more irritable, for example, as well as more vulnerable to his suggestions and temptations. Foods are another area in which he may work with a person. Satan may study us and our physical makeup so he can tempt us to eat things that cause ill health in us (perhaps gradually). If successful, this can make us more susceptible to his spiritual attacks in the same or related areas of our lives through temptation.
Here is a reference to this principle and how it has affected all of mankind: when we yield to temptation as did Adam, we come under subjugation of the tempter. In D&C 28 the Lord gave Adam as a specific example in this regard:
D&C 28:11a-c Wherefore, it came to pass, that the Devil tempted Adam and he partook the forbidden fruit, and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the Devil, because he yielded unto temptation; wherefore, I the Lord God caused that he should be cast out from the garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression: wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death, which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say, Depart ye cursed.
When Adam yielded to the temptation of the devil, he become subject to the devil (see Romans 6:16). In such a state, Adam became spiritually dead and was cast out of God’s presences. However, God provided hope for Adam. He sent angels to minister to him by calling him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
D&C 28:12a-d But, behold, I say unto you, that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption through faith on the name of mine only begotten Son; and thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation; that by his natural death, he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe, and they that believed not, unto eternal damnation; for they can not be redeemed from their spiritual fall,because they repent not, for they will love darkness rather than light, and their deeds are evil, and they receive their wages of whom they list to obey.
Repentance is truly a marvelous gift of God (see Alma 10:30, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, II Timothy 2:24-26). And the conditions of repentance are life giving (II Chronicles 7:14, I John 1:1-2:2, Helaman 2:73, D&C 16:3c-f). Without these we would remain subject to that fallen angel who seeks our continual misery (II Nephi 6:19-30). God is truly good and everyone who repents and comes to Him (D&C 3:16) will be delivered from the bondage of sin and welcomed into the everlasting kingdom of our God. In the words of James, those who submit to His and resist the devil will receive more grace (James 4:5-10).
Footnote Compare with Revelation 2:10 along with Hebrews 11:40 and similar verses such as Job 1:8-12. Contrast with Matthew 7:32,33 versus Ephesians 2:10.