Near Death Experiences and Me
In a recent Facebook post I mentioned I had dozens of books on NDEs. A friend asked for my recommendations of those books so I decided to review them. Obviously I won’t have space to review all of them in detail but perhaps a paragraph on each might be helpful to someone. At the very least it will be helpful to me to remember these books and my experiences in reading them.
The books are listed in reverse order by date published and are by no means comprehensive. It is simply a list of books in my personal library. As far as I can remember, I have read all of them. I may not be able to recall some of the details of the earlier ones but will share what stands out and why I thought they were worth reading. Someday I should transfer these reviews to Goodreads.
This review has taken the better part of a week because I kept getting sidetracked in re-reading. There are so many wonderful things I have learned from these books about the spirit world, life after death, suicide, the Savior, the adversary, evil spirits, forgiveness, peace, healing, comfort from loss, the purpose of life, visions of things to come in the last days and much, much more.
1. Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander, Simon and Schuster, 2012 – Loved this book. Eben seemed so unassuming in telling his story. He just lays it all out there for the reader and lets you draw your own conclusions. It’s very matter-of-fact which is in keeping with the idea that Eben is a neurosurgeon. I especially liked that he addressed all the opposing theories for what could have happened. No, his story is very convincing. His spirit left his body for nearly a week and he lived to tell about it. What he shares is fascinating, especially the love of his family members who pledged to stay with him until he died or returned. He felt their love and prayers drawing him back. I highly recommend this book to anyone who doubts the idea of life after death.
2. Visions of Glory as told to John Pontius, Cedar Fort, 2012 – I reviewed this in great detail in a previous blog entry. I learned much from the first two NDEs he related. However, I was not quite ready for what he shared in his third NDE about the Last Days. There was much specific detail about events in and around Salt Lake and the Western United States after a huge earthquake and subsequent invasion by a foreign power. I agree that society and civilization will degrade to the point of tribes, but I had a hard time with his narrative of the journey to Missouri via Cardston. I especially struggled with his description of the Savior appearing at a special session of General Conference. It just didn’t fit in with what the scriptures teach about the Lord’s Second Coming.
3. Conquering Spiritual Evil, Doug Mendenhall, 2011 – I also reviewed this one in a previous essay. You may think it doesn’t fit in a list of books about NDEs but I also include some books that help us understand the spirit world and life after death. Besides, Doug relies heavily on what he has learned from his daughter who suffered a diabetic stroke which destroyed half her brain and now lives without a veil. She had an amazing NDE which I review below. What would it be like if you could ask a family member about spirits in the room around you wherever you go? Doug has some amazing insights that go beyond anything I have read in any other book about the spirit world. However, as I warn in my essay, the content of this book is not for everyone. The subject is obviously dark, even though Doug treats it with power and even some humor.
4. To Heaven and Back, Mary C Neal MD, Waterbrook Press, 2011 – I enjoyed this one. I think I lean more towards intellectual investigations and explanations. Some of the NDE books are too emotional or subjective for me. This one, similar to the book by Dr. Eben Alexander was filled with logical and precise descriptions. It was well written, well edited and well presented. The description of her spirit rising up out of her body while the kayak was pinned at the bottom of the river was riveting. Her story of survival is truly a miracle, but her story of being escorted by a spiritual guide to her spiritual home was even more miraculous. But it wasn’t her time so she came back only to be taught by an angel while recovering in the hospital. An enjoyable book.
5. Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, Thomas Nelson, 2010 – Loved this little gem. Written by a pastor whose son, at four years of age, went to the spirit world during surgery for an emergency appendectomy, it is filled with sweetness and light. This book has sold well, been read and reviewed by thousands and had a great reception. I got that it was probably very colored by Todd’s background as a pastor. So what? I have enough experience with reading and interpreting NDE’s that most of what is told is figured out long after the events transpire. It’s the same with any spiritual experience. It takes time to fully understand it. I have no doubt that little Colton did see Jesus, angels and deceased relatives. He came back and impressed his family with what he was able to reveal. I’ll bet he is still remembering things about his visit to heaven years from now. I for one was happy to read this book and thank Pastor Todd for sharing it with us.
6. In His Arms by Denise Mendenhall, Publishing Hope, 2006 – This has got to be one of the most amazing NDEs ever told. Denise was 16 years old at the time she penned this book. It is full of grammatical errors and typos. Please get past that. You will be astonished at what you discover. Her father told her story in two previous books. This one adds more detail, especially about Denise’s life in living without a veil after the coma. When Denise was ten years old she slipped into a diabetic coma and suffered a stroke which destroyed most of the left side of her brain. When she awoke, life was completely different. Denise can see the spirit world around us along with the spirits in it, both good and evil. She also had a wonderful visit with the Savior, who took her to visit with Heavenly Father and her Heavenly Mother. She writes that he showed her many things which she is not yet able to share, although she had been sharing a few things in the last few years. She claims to have met all the prophets and said she watched Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon. She says she does not want to be anyone’s “oracle chick.” You’re either going to love this book or hate it. I happen to love it and highly recommend you read it.
7. And Should We Die, Ron McMillan and Randy McMillan, American Family, 2003 – Ron tells the story of his brother Randy, who struggled with Leukemia and ultimately succumbed. I’m not sure this one should be on a list of books about NDEs since the only reference we have to life after death is Randy, now dead, visiting his father in the hospital when his father was sick. If you know the story, you know that Randy served as Lance Richardson’s spirit guide as told in his cousin’s book, The Message, listed below. The book is well written, uplifting, enjoyable, and very LDS. Ron did a good job but there are so many references to the LDS lifestyle that a person not of the faith would have a hard time understanding much of it. This book is a great tribute to Randy and a good follow-up to The Message but doesn’t add much to understanding NDEs.
8. Possibilities…Lessons From the Spirit, Doug Mendenhall, Publishing Hope, 2002 – This is a follow-up to My Peace I give Unto You, reviewed as number 11 below. It recounts the amazing experiences of Doug and Denise as they go about sharing her story. I say amazing because most people I know don’t have casual conversations every day about spirits they see everywhere they go. Denise lives without a veil and thus can see them around and often in people. This is another book that has heavy LDS themes, culture and vocabulary throughout. It may prove difficult for some who have no exposure to the LDS faith. I include it in my list of NDE books because it adds so much to understanding the spirit world around us. This book is also an introductory text to Doug’s latest book, Conquering Spiritual Evil, number three above.
9. Visits From Beyond the Veil, Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Horizon, 2002 – Marlene has written three books in this series. The First is And There Were Angels Among Them (2001), this is the second and the third is By The Ministering of Angels (2006). I remember buying these at Deseret Book in St George while visiting family there, and then reading them in one evening. There are also revised later versions available now. I happen to have first edition autographed copies. I contemplated if they belonged in this list but remembered that some of the stories involved near death or at the time of death of a loved one. The stories are all true and well documented. Marlene did a lot of research in early journals in the LDS Church archives. The time period for all three books is 1800’s. I see these books as evidence that we were once a much more favored and blessed people. Where are the modern stories of angels among us? Too sacred?
10. There is no Death, Sarah LaNelle Menet, Mountain Top Publishing, 2002 – A sad book in many ways. I was sad for the terrible life that she had to endure both before and after her suicide. I was sad to learn about the reality of hell she had to endure for a few moments reserved for those who commit suicide. It was similar to the hell Angie Fenimore told about in her book, Beyond the Darkness. She teaches a lot of truth in her book but I had a little difficult time with the claim that she foretold the 9-11 twin towers attacks, especially since the book came out shortly after the event. It seems to me that those who see future events in their NDEs are seeing possible scenarios, not events that will happen. Interesting reading but let’s not treat Sarah like a psychic. She’s not a spokesperson for God as to how things are going to come to pass in the very last days. For example, she talks about biological attacks that she said would happen sometime after the twin towers attacks. They haven’t yet. You can watch interviews with her on YouTube.
11. And There Were Angels Among Them, Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Horizon, 2001 – This is the first in the series of delightful easy-to-read short stories about angels in early LDS history. I enjoyed reading this book because the stories are uplifting and faith promoting. I recommend each of the three books in the series. They are wonderful collections, each fully documented with original sources. There is an index by name of the individual involved. This is a great source book for those still in the uncorrelated church (email me if you don’t get this) who appreciate the early history of our church dealing with the spirit world. I see that Marlene has a new book out just a few weeks ago that should be on this list: Gaze Into Heaven – Near Death Experiences in Early Church History. I will be making that purchase and reading it in the very near future.
12. My Peace I Give Unto You, Robert Lake with Doug Mendenhall, Publishing Hope, 2001 – This is the first in a trilogy of books about Denise Mendenhall who suffered a stroke as a result of a diabetic coma at age ten which resulted in the loss of the left half of her brain, and, the loss of the veil. Yes, that’s right. She sees the spirit world around us including all the evil and lost spirits that inhabit this world with us. Talk about a near death experience, this one is one of the most profound you will find anywhere. And this book is only the first part of the experience. Each successive book reveals more and more about what Denise saw in her NDE and what she continues to see as she goes through life. The first book was written by a family friend who did a pretty good job. It’s not perfect but a very enjoyable read. The focus is on the Savior instead of the weirdness of the world around us – both seen and unseen. I’m glad they wrote it that way. I highly recommend it. You may be incredulous at what you find but it will touch your heart.
13. The Message, Lance Richardson, American Family, 2000 – You may not like my review. I’m afraid I’m like some of the one-star folks on Amazon. I felt there was something wrong with the book the moment I read it. It felt contrived. It seemed packaged. It was slick even though it was in need of further editing. I don’t know how else to say it. I know 95% of people who reviewed it said it was wonderful. I think that’s because the message is so focused on…well, on the message of the LDS Church today. To me, it was a bit over the top in hammering the point of the family. Did Lance really die? I won’t call it cheap inspirational fiction, but I was put off by The Message. I didn’t feel I gained any unique insights from it like I have from others who share their NDEs. Lance passed away in 2004 from complications of Crohn’s disease. If you enjoyed this book you may be interested in a follow-up book by Ron McMillian, And Should We Die – number 7 above.
14. Life After Death, Robert L Millet, Deseret Book, 1999 – I hate to say this about a Robert L Millet book. The book’s OK, not great, just OK. It seems very correlated, meaning it uses only the safest of church sources. I didn’t find a lot of depth or new material in here. It seemed very basic and straightforward with only stuff from the scriptures or what is taught in Sunday school. There are no quotes from people who visited the spirit world, no modern evidence, nothing other than what you can find anywhere else in standard church material. It’s good for teaching a lesson or giving a talk, but to me, it wasn’t faith-promoting or helpful to understand what life is like after death. In short, it didn’t fulfill the promise of the title. Like the description on the book jacket, this work is “stripped of any sensationalism or speculation.” Sorry, I guess I like that stuff because it gets me thinking and pondering about possibilities. I wouldn’t recommend this book.
15. I Stand All Amazed, Elane Durham, Granite Publishing, 1998 – I remember this one well. Elane is one of the few up to that point who had been certified by a competent medical authority and by a Catholic priest to have died. They thought she had a drug overdose but she had suffered seizures, a massive stroke and then cardiac arrest caused by an Arteriovenous Malformation in the base of her brain. She was pronounced DOA at the hospital. As with several other NDEs I have read, Elane had a difficult childhood, having been sexually molested by her father for years. She carried great guilt and shame. That all disappeared when she met the Savior and felt His unconditional love for her. She was spiritually healed but continued to have numerous physical problems after she came back to life – discovered by the nurse prepping her body for the morgue. Elane was shown some amazing things that have great significance for members of the LDS faith. She was also shown things pertaining to the last days. Her visions of the future were profiled in the television documentary entitled “Ancient Prophecies.” Elane has spent her life ministering to those who are dying. I love her book and highly recommend it as helpful to all.
16. I Saw Heaven, Lawrence E. Tooley, Horizon, 1997 – This is one of those Duane Crowther specials. His editing is evident in the presentation of the story and the checklist at the end. I’m not knocking what we got. In fact, I would say this is Crowther at his finest. But because of the editing, I’m not sure that we got Larry’s story as he remembered it but as Duane discovered it. I know it’s a small distinction, but an important one, at least for me. In any event, the story is well told, especially because we have multiple viewpoints – Larry and his wife. It’s a little confusing that Larry’s spirit guide is also named Larry, and their conversation is such well written dialog – again, a probable contribution from Duane – but it makes the story interesting and enjoyable. Duane also added all the chapter subtitles. I do that when I’m editing. It helps readers who want to skim through the text faster, looking for interesting phrases that catch their eye. The book was well received by most reviewers, although many non-LDS folks struggled with the LDS focus. It confirms many of the basic NDE themes of the importance of forgiveness and kindness to others.
17. Heavenly Answers for Earthly Challenges, Joyce H Brown, Jemstar Press, 1997 – I re-read this book to remember the story from the first time I read it 15 years ago. Joyce suffered so many health problems that she prayed for death. Her prayer was answered. She had literally willed herself to die. But what she found out when she got to the other side caused her to ask to come back to her pain-wracked body to be given more time to complete the things she came to this world to do. This book is targeted at anybody who is contemplating suicide. She published a later edition in 2000. Reading online, I learned she then lost her home of 35 years to fire. In spite of continued tragedies including the loss of her husband, Joyce continued to work to help people struggling with thoughts of suicide. The book is well written, enjoyable to read and worth your time. There are unique insights and many revelations confirming the NDE visions of others. Her relating the life review common to many NDEs is perhaps one of the best I have ever read.
18. Beyond the Darkness, Angie Fenimore, Bantam Books, 1995 – This one has a special place in my heart. I have discovered over the years that I learn best from opposition and adversity. Angie’s story touched me deeply when I first read it and still does. I seem to read it every year at Christmastime. Angie has become my friend on Facebook. I believe she is trying to get the book published in Kindle format. It is well worth the read. There is so much truth in it. I read it to my son one night when he was contemplating suicide. He may not remember because I think he was drunk at the time, but it was a spiritual and emotional experience for me and Mike’s still with us. Thank you, Angie for sharing your story. It took courage to write and has greatly blessed my life.
I am glad we have multiple accounts from people who have attempted to take their own lives and recovered. My mother attempted suicide once. I will be forever grateful my father was inspired to return quickly from an errand on which she had sent him to find her still alive before the drugs had completed their work. I think that’s why Angie’s story is so close to my heart. Although Angie’s tale has more darkness in the beginning, her response mirrored my mother’s story of disappointment and sorrow at the way her own life was going before she tried to end her life. Angie’s story is well written and evidences an intelligent analysis of what she found beyond the darkness. Suicide is not the answer. It is the worst thing you can do with the life God gave you.
In reading reviews of others online, I came across a few additional books I will be adding to my library that are not on this list: Gaze Into Heaven (2013) by Marlene Bateman Sullivan, My Walk Through Heaven (2008) by Kim Rives, Through the Window of Life (2005) by Suzanne Freeman and My Descent Into Death (2005) by Howard Storm.
There are eighteen more NDE books reviewed in Part Two
19. The Gateway We Call Death, Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book, 1995
20. Embarrassed by the Light, Douglas Beardall, LDS Book Publications, 1995
21. Saved by the Light, Dannion Brinkley with Paul Perry, Villard Books, 1994
22. NDE – Near Death Experiences, by Lee Nelson and Richard Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1994
23. Beyond Death’s Door, Robert L Top and Wendy C Top, Bookcraft, 1993
24. Reborn in the Light, Cherie Sutherland PhD, Bantam Books 1992
25. Embraced by the Light, Betty J Eadie with Curtis Taylor, Gold Leaf Press, 1992
26. Closer to the Light, Melvin Morse with Paul Perry, Willard Books, 1990
27. Beyond the Veil – Volume Two, Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1989
28. Beyond the Veil – Volume One, Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1988
29. The Light Beyond, Raymond A Moody Jr MD, Bantam Books, 1988
30. The Journey Beyond Life , Michele R. Sorensen and David R. Willmore, Family Affair Books, 1988
31. The Unquiet Dead, Dr. Edith Fiore, Ballantine Books, 1987
32. Return From Tomorrow, George G Ritchie with Elizabeth Sherrill, Spire Books, 1978
33. Spirit World Manifestations, Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing, 1978
34. Life After Life, Raymond A Moody Jr MD, Mockingbird Books / Bantam Books, 1975
35. Temple Manifestations, Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing, 1974
36. Life Everlasting, Duane S Crowther, Bookcraft, 1967
I welcome your comments and opinions on other NDE books that should be on this list.