Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Story Part III (The Exorcism of Young Kristophorus)

A Reason to Study
An account of how I was inspired to study the scriptures with a new sense of maturity.

September 11th, 2001.  Everyone talks about where they were the day the Twin Towers fell;  I remember that Tuesday morning when I woke up to get ready for school all the televisions in the house were tuned to Fox News Channel and the volume was blasting.  My parents did the same thing when ever something big had just happened so I knew something was up, but I never expected this.

I watched as the first tower smoldered from the first hit, billowing smoke into the sky.  The caption on screen read "Alert: Airliner Crashes Into World Trade Center."  I remember the commentators were discussing whether or not this had just been a terrible accident or if it was deliberate.

Their inquires were answered when the second plane rammed into the second tower confirming everyone's worst fears:  it was definitely on purpose.  My parents and I watched in horror as both towers burned on the television screen.

I wanted to stay and watch, but first period was going to start.  It was only the second week of my 9th grade school year and I didn't want to miss classes so early on.  I quickly got ready and hopped on my bike, racing to the school in hopes they would have the televisions on with a local news station broadcasting.

I quickly rushed into my first class, sat at my desk and asked my classmates, "Did you hear...?"

I didn't have a chance to finish,  the class was in utter confusion as we were anxious to find out what was going on.  It's all kind of blurry at that point, but I remember by the end of the class, which was about 9AM Mountain Time, we had the television on in our home room watching reruns being broadcast on local news of both towers collapsing.

Fast forward in the day to seminary which I remember was about 4th Period before lunch.  We gathered in the seminary building for the lesson and everyone was distraught.  The seminary teacher, who I will refer to as Brother F, calmed the class down.

I remember him saying something a long the lines of, "I know this is all a lot, but we need to pray."  The class joined in with Bro. F as he gave a prayer for the victims of the attacks as well as protection and solace for everyone else.  I remember I felt strangely numb to what had happened and nowhere near as emotional as a lot of my classmates did.  Not that I exactly felt safe or secure, I just wasn't nearly as afraid or worried as the others.

Over the next several days, even weeks, the atmosphere changed at school.  As President Bush's speech at ground zero aired, everyone became increasingly patriotic.  This mood was reflected in Seminary class as Bro. F gave lessons on the 'grand' purpose of America in the latter-days and why it was so important that we remain free even in the event of a violent attack like 9-11.

This was a nice segue into The Book of Mormon, which was what the class was to study throughout the year.

(It is important that I state this for the record-- There are many ways one can take The Book of Mormon.  Someone who is a member of the Church will usually take it as truth while someone who is non or ex-Mormon may take it as fiction (it really depends on the situation).  Since it is very easy to dismiss something like The Book of Mormon as a work of fiction with out little thought, I will not be addressing the book as such (that's a bit boring and unoriginal in the context of this blog, don't you think?).  I will not be debating details in the book as if we were determining whether or not it has validity (you can find a good job of that here or here or here.)  In fact, to the contrary, I will examine The Book of Mormon as if its contents are really as it is taught: that it is a record of the ancient Americans written for the modern inhabitants of the world.  We will continue on that note after we have established our new paradigm, but for now let's go back to the story-- where I experienced my first real dive into the book in my first year of seminary.)

According to the title page of the Book of Mormon:
"Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.
"An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
As the title page is supposed to be a translation of what the historian Moroni wrote when he compiled the books into one abridgment, the modern introduction page picks up where it leaves off and further explains:
"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel."
The Book of Mormon doesn't just deal with the drama of ancient times, it also gives prophecy of modern times in modern day America.  After establishing the setting of the first book in The Book of Mormon, the main character Nephi, who is the narrator, receives revelation from God concerning our modern times in 1 Nephi 13:
  10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.

  11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.

  12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

  13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

  14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

  15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

  16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

  17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

  18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

  19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations
The summary of Chapter 13 explains this all, leaving no room for personal interpretation:
Nephi sees in vision:... the discovery and colonizing of America;...
The chapter ends prophesying of modern America's "religious confusion" and that the restored gospel would be spread throughout the continent and the world by means of what we now know as The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price:
  34 And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb...

  39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
Here is the key in understanding The Book of Mormon and the modern translated scriptures of the LDS Church, basically, that they would support The Holy Bible as the word of God:

  40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

  41 And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
  42 And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
Even though I had casually read the Book of Mormon and referenced to it in church previous to my attendance of seminary, this really sunk into my mind.  I thought to myself, If the Book of Mormon is a record of ancient people that prophesied of something as huge as the colonization of America, this must truly be an important place.  Not only that, but the fact that this record survived all these years just for the inhabitants of this continent makes it even more special.

Bro. F concluded based on these versus that America needed to remain free so that the gospel could be spread among "Jew and Gentile".  (This was an apparent reference to one of the core tenants of Mormon theology, that of Free Agency.  Without freedom of religion, the restored gospel could not spread to Jew and Gentile.)

This was a catalyzing point in time for me as a young Mormon at the age of fourteen.  Just thirteen short chapters into the first book of The Book of Mormon and I found myself with a new interest in the religion I had been raised in with a new-found sense of maturity.  It also drew me into an attitude of urgency for missionary work.  Of course, at the time I continued to do what I had always done which was take things as a matter of fact.  It had not really crossed my mind whether or not I should question what I was being taught.

An Earnest Prayer
An account of my first prayer as to whether or not the Church and The Book of Mormon were true and the answer I received.

As the school year went a long, I found myself surrounded by a diverse group of friends which yielded new and interesting social situations in my life.  'B' and 'L' were my two best friends, both member's of the church but from inactive or non-member families.  B was actually in my primary class when I was younger, but his family had moved out of the ward.  It was a welcome coincidence that we should be brought back together.  L and I had been friends for a few years by this time and we considered each other like brothers.

B, L and I were in the same gym class together where we met 'T', a 16-year old who had been held back a year and 'R', who was a very laid-back stoner.  T was a very outspoken Pentecostal and R was an ex-Jehovah's Witness.

As time went by, 'A' came into the picture.  A was a very attractive young lady who entered into our circle of friends by way of B and I where we were all in the same English class.  A, B and I would often socialize during class which, of course, later lead to socializing outside of class.  Feelings developed on both our parts for A, but I chose to yield to B as I was still pretty shy with girls.

As more time went by and A and her friends socialized with our group of friends, I was surprised to find that every single guy in our group also developed feelings for A, creating sort of a "love heptagon" if you would.  As you could imagine, a lot of tension and drama built up in the process.

Though I'm sure this is all profoundly interesting to you (sarcasm), I assure you this is only to introduce the social conditions which lead me to an event that would change my life forever.

To put it simply, I was the only active Mormon in my large ethnically and religiously diverse group of friends.

During this time, seminary had transformed me into a mini-missionary.  I was intent on converting every single one of my friends (or reconverting, for those who were just inactive).  I would often find myself in friendly, but intense debates with T, the Pentecostal, and also B and A, who were both inactive.  But the time came that one of these debates sent me over the edge.

I remember it was a Friday afternoon and we (B, L, T, A and myself) had just gotten out of school.  We would often walk to A's house to wait for our carpool to come pick us up.  On the way there we had gotten into a discussion concerning dating as at the time A, in complete disregard to all the guys who had feelings for her, hooked up with a new guy who had just moved into the school.  It had built up tension even worse, especially for me, since I was the one who was keeping the most silent about having feelings for her.

It was about this time that the Church released For The Strength of Youth, a pamphlet which "summarizes standards from scripture and from the writings and teachings of Church leaders."  There was a massive campaign being ran by the Church in the youth programs, especially in seminary, to promote this new pamphlet.  Part of my restraints concerning expressing my feelings for A (aside from the fact all my friends had a crush on her as well) was due to the section in this pamphlet simply titled, "Dating".

This section, which you can find in its entirety here, reads:
"Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating
before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of
other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences
that will help you choose an eternal partner."
This was disappointing to me since I was only fourteen and I wanted to date but I understood the reasoning behind it.  As an obedient young teacher I chose to live by this pamphlet's words.  However, I could not help but feel frustrated when I saw my friends and other acquaintances casually date at school.  Though it may be hard to believe, I was honestly concerned with A, who was an inactive member of the church, in a weird way: my feelings for her were so strong that I did not want her to date either because she was also under the age of 16 (as I mentioned before, I was intent on reconverting her.)

And so we walked and talked about dating.  Because we had just talked about what it said about dating in the Strength for Youth pamphlet in Seminary earlier that day, I felt compelled to bring up the Church's official stance on not dating until you are sixteen.  T and B were not to happy I had brought up the Church's official stance on anything again but A took the most offense.  I, of course, became defensive of the Church and we argued all the way to her house and while we waited for the carpool.  Finally our ride arrived and we went our separate ways.

It's almost humorous now that I think about it now as I'm sure she had gotten the impression that I was just jealous of her dating the new guy and that I didn't want her to date anyone if it wasn't me.  I swear to you, though, in my innocence I truly did not want her to date anyone until she was sixteen.

I got home and became very emotional about what had happened.  I didn't understand why they didn't think the way I did.  I remember telling myself something along the lines of, "I know the Church is true, I have the truth, my friends need the truth too!" As I have already stated, I was very innocent, but I was also very naive and had been indoctrinated by the Church very well.

Then doubt started to sink in.  It crept up on me and sank down into my stomach.  It was the first time I had ever truly started to doubt what I had been taught to believe and it was very frightening.

Then I recalled the Challenge of Moroni towards in the last chapter of The Book of Mormon, which is found in Moroni 10:4--
  4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I also recalled the story of young Joseph Smith, who coincidentally also at the age of fourteen (according to the official account) went into the sacred grove and prayed for which church he should join--
  11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

   13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
  14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
Joseph Smith - History
So with all the emotions I had built up inside me, I decided to seclude myself in my room with my scriptures to pray if what I had been taught my whole life, even the religion I had been raised in was not true.

I knelt down at my bed with my scriptures in front of me, closing my eyes as I breathed deeply in preparation for my prayer.  I thought to myself, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ when he did this.  What will happen to me?

I remember I opened the prayer expressing my frustrations, describing my feelings concerning my friends, 'A' and the doubt that had been instilled in me by the day's earlier argument with them.  I was shaking.  It felt like I might explode, but as I vented my thoughts through my prayer I began to calm down.  I finally swallowed hard and let out the question, "Are these things not true?" and ended the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.

I opened my eyes and stared at my scriptures.  I waited for something or anything to happen; a feeling of confirmation, a vision, a disembodied voice-- nothing happened.

A few minutes passed and then I decided to try something:  I closed my eyes again, opened my quad scriptures up to a random page and put my finger down.  I looked to see where I had landed and this is what I found:
Explanatory Introduction? It was a start, I had thought.  Before me lay the introduction page to The Doctrine & Covenants, a collection of revelations given to Joseph Smith, Jr. during his years presiding over the early Church.  At the time I had not read much from this book, only that which I had referenced to in Sunday school lessons.  I began to read the page and I was shocked at what I found:
"The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind, and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation."
Alright, I thought, I'm interested.  I continued to the second paragraph.
"The book of Doctrine and Covenants is one of the standard works of the Church in company with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. However, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through his chosen prophets for the restoration of his holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days. In the revelations one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fulness of times; and the work that is initiated herein is preparatory to his second coming, in fulfillment of and in concert with the words of all the holy prophets since the world began."
To me this meant that my answer may lie in this book somewhere.  I was surprised; having been studying the Book of Mormon I expected to get an answer from it instead, but this explanation made all the sense in the world to me in the context of the prayer I had just asked.  I continued to read through, reaching the end of the introduction.  After finishing, I flipped a couple pages past the Chronological Order of Contents and turned to Section 1.

I read the section summary and then read the entire section.  I took from it four things and made them personal:

1.  The rebellious will be sorry they were.  My friends were being rebellious, they'll be sorry!
 3 And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.
2.  Those who go forth and spread the Church will be given power.  I need to spread the truth!
  8 And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious;
3.  Those who don't hear the truth will be cut off.  I don't want my friends to be cut off.
  14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

  15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

  16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
4.  The restored gospel through Joseph Smith and the Church he established is the only true church on all of Earth.  Here was my answer.
 30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
Or was it my answer?  At the time I was sure of it; absolutely positively sure of it.  But what happened next I did not see coming as it only frustrated my purpose of my spiritual inquiry.  As I knelt there staring at what I had just read, a darkness crept up over me blurring my vision.  I slowly began to lose all feeling in my limbs.  I tried to speak out, but my voice had escaped me.  I fell to the floor and I blacked out.

The next thing I remember is I am down the hall in the kitchen/family room.  I am calling out, crying and screaming.  The blurs above me I know are my parents and they are asking me what is wrong.  I feel the hand of my grandfather, the patriarch of the house, lay his hands on me giving me a blessing.  He is asking for what is inside of me to be cast out.  I hear it again and again.  I finally feel relaxed as lay there on the carpeted floor, staring at the ceiling.  My eyes shut and I black out again, one last time.

I wake up and I am on the floor.  There is a pillow under my head and a blanket covering me.  The warm aroma of food cooking in the kitchen reaches my nostrils, bringing me further into consciousness.  The only thing I can remember seemed like a horrible nightmare.  Had I really experienced all of that pain?  Or was it just a really bad dream?  As I reached full consciousness, I sat up and looked over to my grandmother who was preparing dinner in the kitchen.  She looked pleased to see me awake.

"You've been asleep for hours, are you okay?  What happened?" she asked.

I really did not know had happened, but as my grandparents explained to me what they experienced I was in awe.  They told me how I had crawled down the hall, screaming "It's all true! All true!" as if I were yelling at someone.  My grandmother called for my grandfather and as he saw the sorry state I was in, he laid his hands on me and gave me a blessing.  The first time around did nothing as I continued to cry out and lay helpless on the floor, so my grandfather said the prayer again.  Then again.  It took him a total of three times before I calmed down and went unconscious.  Not understanding what had happened and not being able to help me to the couch or my bed, they made me comfortable there in the middle of the floor.

I did not know what to think.  Based on what they had described to me, my grandfather basically performed the Mormon equivalent of an exorcism. I tried to remember the last thing I had done when it had quickly hit me concerning the prayer I had asked earlier in the evening.  I suddenly realized the insane synchronicty between myself and Joseph Smith, Jr. just before he had the First Vision in the Sacred Grove.
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

  16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
Except there was no pillar of light to save me; I was left only to myself until my grandmother found me and my grandfather laid his hands on my head to give me a blessing.  And then, only after three attempts, was I able to rest.  I knew whatever had come over me was powerful and that I was not strong enough to overcome it, but I was unsure of what it was.  I was only able to relate it to Joseph Smith's experience, concluding that it must have been Satan trying to prevent me from learning the truth.

Personal Prophecy
An account of my experience receiving a Patriarchal Blessing.

Though there are many documented discrepancies between the early versions of the First Vision and the "official" account I have quoted from that is found in the scriptures, I did not know about them at the time.  I had been left to interpret the event for myself in order to figure out what I was to do from there.  I only had the answers I had received in Section 1 of the Doctrine & Covenants and the synchronicity relative to Joseph Smith's experience.

It just wasn't enough.

I told the closest people in my ward, including the bishop.  My bishop was astounded at my experience but offered very little insight as to what the deeper meaning may have been, only talking up what I had already gotten from reading Section 1 of the D&C.  Some things about the experience just didn't sit right with me, especially the fact that it took my grandfather three times before I finally calmed down.  If it was really Satan that had take over my body, would it have not only taken one time to remove his grasp from my mind and body?  Why three?  I had always been taught that the Melchizedek Priesthood always trumped the power of the devil.  What was the exception here?

And then I realized what I needed was a Patriarchal Blessing.  Since it was a personal blessing given directly from God, I'm sure whatever direction I needed I could get from him in plain and simple words.  We had just had a lesson on it a few weeks before this event occurred in Sunday school, but I was hesitant to get one.  I then realized now was the time; we were taught how this once-in-a-lifetime blessing could shed light on things to come.  Some in the class who had already had gotten theirs told how the blessing described what type of work they would go into and also what their families would be like.  At the time I thought it a bit stunning that there was such a thing available to us in the Church, but I accepted it as fact.  I was hesitant to jump straight into it, though, cause they would often caution that one must be ready to accept the blessing.

After making arrangements with my bishop (entering into an interview and obtaining a recommend) and getting an appointment with the stake patriarch, I waited patiently for the time to come all while preparing my mind for what would be said unto me.  About a month passed from the time of the exorcism when finally the day I would receive the blessing, a Sunday, drew nigh.  The Saturday before I entered into a fast and studied my scriptures all day.  I contemplated the things I needed direction with, mostly concerning that day I fell victim to some unknown force.

As the time finally came, my grandparents escorted me to the house of the stake patriarch.  We entered into his office and we knelt on the floor in prayer, asking for the spirit to be with us as the patriarch gave the blessing.

The time finally came and I took my place in the chair set up for me in the middle of the room.  The patriarch laid his hands on me and began to give the blessing.

And now I will share with you the exact words he spoke.  To protect my family, I've blotted out personal information and names.  Here are the scans of the transcription that was later given to me. (Click to enlarge)

A few things initially stood out to me:

1.  The reference to Joseph of Egypt.  Joseph, if you recall in the end became the right-hand man of Pharaoh.  I was stunned at the thought of this.
"The same responsibilities that will be given to you throughout your life will be these same responsibilities..."
2.  "You have a teachable spirit."  This second paragraph confirmed my interest in knowledge and also that I will be able to use it to teach those who are "weak in the faith."

3.  The divine dichotomy and my life's mission goal.  The third paragraph seemed to confirm what I thought had happened the day of my exorcism and then further stated what it meant for me.
"You must always remember that there are two forces here upon this earth, that of your Father in Heaven... and the influence that is exerted by the adversary who was cast out of Father in Heaven's presence for rebellion in this pre-existent estate.  He is very real.  He is here with the desire to destroy the testimonies of our Father in Heaven's children... You're responsibility will be to teach that gospel to our Father's children, and to thwart all the desires of the adversary."
4.  What lay ahead and what I must do now.  The fifth paragraph told me that I must continue to study and "become conversant with [the scriptures]." The sixth paragraph outlined what I should expect.
"There will be trials.  There will be temptations which will come to you.  There will be times when you will desire answers that will not be there for you.  You must live by faith."
5.  The Promise.  That I would see many embrace the gospel through my efforts and that if I stayed true to the covenants I had made that I would be able to enter the Celestial Kingdom.
"Through your faithfulness you will have the privilege of many joyous occasions here upon the earth as you see many embrace the gospel through your efforts, and as you are true and faithful to every covenant that you take, you will have the privilege of entering into the Celestial Kingdom, there being in the presence of your Father in Heaven and the Savior, Jesus Christ."
All the answers I desired were given to me, but later on I would be surprised that this blessing was so brief and to the point in comparison to the others in my life who eventually got theirs.  And also, unlike my peers' blessings, there was no mention of what sort of work I would enter into and not a thing concerning a future family.

I did not question what had been told to me through this blessing.  I knew that there was an adversary that wanted to keep me from learning and spreading the truth.  I understood that I had to continue studying the scriptures and the gospel and that I had to do all that I could to spread it to those among me who were "weak in the faith", and so I continued to debate my friends all through the rest of the school year and into the summer.

But as time continued on, the "trials" came as well.  I preached so much to my friends that I eventually lost a majority of them in the transition from middle school to high school, except those among my friends who were active members themselves.  At the time I didn't really realize it was happening as I whole-heartedly believed I was on a mission from God and that even though there was nothing more I could do for them, I was comforted in knowing I was on the right side and that I had the truth.

But what little sense of humility did I have.  I look back now and can't help but realize how much of a self-righteous douche-bag I must have appeared to be.

To Be Continued... 
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