Latter-day Saint Life

When Evil Spirits Attacked Early Missionaries in England (+ Joseph Smith's Surprising Response)


Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious, you have probably collected a decent store of knowledge about important events in Church history. But no matter how well you thought you knew these stories, there are a surprising number of fascinating facts that you might have overlooked. Here is an interesting story from a time when evil spirits tried to scare missionaries in Great Britain in the early days of the Church.

A Vision of Evil Spirits

Early success for the missionaries in Great Britain was plentiful, but opposition to the work also began to increase, including direct attacks by the servants of the adversary. The most vivid of these incidents began one night when Elder Isaac Russell woke up Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde and asked them for a priesthood blessing. As the two apostles placed their hands on Elder Russell’s head, Elder Kimball later recorded, “I was struck with great force by some invisible power and fell senseless to the floor as if I had been shot.” Elders Hyde and Russell helped him back to his bed. In intense pain, Elder Kimball began to pray. He and others then beheld a vision: “[I] sat up on the bed . . . and could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them for about an hour and half. . . . I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances . . . ; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain.”

A year later, when Elder Kimball related the harrowing story to Joseph Smith, the Prophet rejoiced and declared, “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.”

► You may also like: How Our View of the Word of Wisdom Has Changed from 1833 to Now

Lead image from

For additional unique insights into well-known and little-known events in Church history, check out What You Don’t Know About the 100 Most Important Events in Church History, available at Deseret Book stores and on

Find this and other great stories like "The Write Stuff" and "Reunited After 62 Years" in the March/April 2017 issue of LDS Living.


Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content