This life is a test. Along our journey we will face opposition from the adversary who is forever on the prowl seeking to thwart the good intents and purposes of significant events. Wherefore, we are warned in scripture to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lehi, in the Book of Mormon, counselled his young son Jacob that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).
The experiences that the first seven missionaries to Britain had when they arrived in Preston, England in July 1837, exemplified Lehi’s counsel to his son. Upon their arrival one of the missionaries, John Goodson, went to find lodgings. They obtained lodging in the house of a widow who resided on the corner of Fox Street and St. Wilfrid Street. Joseph Fielding referred to them as “comfortable private lodging.” (Fielding 1:17). The missionaries provided their own food which the widow cooked for them. The top two floors of the three-floor home which still stands today, served as the mission home. A week after the missionaries arrived, and on the day when the first British baptisms were about to take place, an amazing event occurred within the lodgings.
An article by Peter Fagg for the 7 March 2016, online edition of LDSMag.com, takes the different accounts of the event and puts them all together in chronological order.
Heber C. Kimball’s account
Sunday, July 30th, about daybreak, Elder Isaac Russell…. came up to the third story, where Elder Hyde and myself were sleeping, and called out, ‘Brother Kimball, I want you should get up and pray for me that I may be delivered from the evil spirits that are tormenting me to such a degree that I feel I cannot live long, unless I obtain relief.
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 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 rebuked the devil. While thus engaged, I was struck with great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless on the floor. (Whitney p. 129-131)
Orson Hyde’s account
His [Heber’s] voice faltered, and his mouth was shut, and he began to tremble and reel to and fro, and fell on the floor like a dead man, and uttered a deep groan. I immediately seized him by the shoulder, and lifted him up, being satisfied that the devils were exceedingly angry because we attempted to cast them out of Br. Russell, and they made a powerful attempt upon elder Kimball as if to dispatch him at once, they struck him senseless and he fell to the floor… (Elder’s p. 4)
Heber C. Kimball Continues His Account
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. Elder 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. (Whitney p. 130-131)
In 1856, Heber related the account to a congregation in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and told them that the evil spirits he saw had “full formed bodies” – hands, eyes, facial features, hair on their heads, and ears. (See Journal of Discourses Vol. 3 mar 2, 1856, p. 229). His account continues:
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 (Kimball) 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 sometime. (Whitney p. 130-131)
Orson Hyde’s Fight Against the Principalities of Darkness
In the Bible, in John 10:10, scripture teaches, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” Therefore, as scripture also teaches in Ephesians 6:12, we must realize that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Nevertheless, all is not lost, for the faithful are promised that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).
These verses of scripture were born true to Orson Hyde as he further recalled that as Heber lay senseless on the floor and upon the bed after being laid there, that he stood between Heber and the devils and fought them face to face, until they began to depart from the room. He stated that the “last imp that left turned around to me as he was going out and said, as if to apologize, and appease my determined opposition to them, ‘I never said anything against you!’ I replied to him thus: ‘It matters not me whether you have or have not; you are a liar from the beginning! In the name of Jesus Christ depart!’ He immediately left, and the room was clear.” (Whitney 131). Orson’s actions exemplify what James taught in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Joseph Fielding’s Account Substantiates What Orson Hyde Experienced
They [the demons] however kept their distances, but turned their heads toward Bro. Hyde; one looking at him said distinctly, but with a murmuring tone, slowly demure, I never spoke against you. He said there seemed to be legion of them. He was alarmed, but very much disgusted. He could scarcely bear to speak of them. (Fielding, p. 23)
Upon returning home, Joseph Smith declared to 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. (Whitney p. 132)
From his own experiences in the Sacred Grove (See Joseph Smith History 1:15-17), Joseph was able to teach Heber an important truth about the satanic attack in Preston. He stated, “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.” (Whitney p.132)
Lehi’s further counsel to his sons is applicable to us at this hour. Said he:
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit.
And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom (2 Nephi 2:27-29).
* Information for this article was obtained from a 7 March 2016 article published in the online edition of Meridian Magazine by Peter Fagg titled A Satanic Attack on the First Missionaries in Preston, England.
* See also: 175 Years of Mormon Missionaries in England by Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.