Posts Tagged ‘Angels’
This is a continuation from Part 1
19. The Gateway We Call Death, Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book, 1995 – I get the impression this one was written as something you would give to a friend who had just suffered the loss of a loved one but didn’t understand doctrines of salvation. It’s a good little book but just a little too basic for me. There is a chapter on Life after Death and one entitled The Veil is Sometimes Thin but there’s just not a lot there beyond what you can already read in the scriptures or should have learned in Sunday school. Elder Nelson reminds us that “Our purpose in life is to be tested, to develop faith, to make and keep sacred covenants and later, to leave.” I’m afraid there in nothing in this book about NDEs or any real detail about what the spirit world is like. Joseph taught that we ought to study this subject more than any other. I’m constantly surprised by how little some people know about life after death. This is a good starter book for those who need some basics.
20. Embarrassed by the Light, Douglas Beardall, LDS Book Publications, 1995 – If you haven’t read Embraced by the Light then you won’t appreciate this book. Doug wrote it to counter all the embellishments he found in Betty Eadie’s book. If you weren’t around back in the early 90’s you may not remember the uproar Betty’s book caused in LDS circles because of contradictions to LDS doctrine and beliefs. People were quoting her book in Sunday classes and over the pulpit. I am fairly certain I recall someone reporting Boyd K Packer getting up in a stake conference and denouncing Betty’s book. I thought Doug was a little heavy in his rebuke but then I always like forcefully stated points of view. Whether you believe Bettie or not, take the time to read Doug’s rebuttal to get both sides of the story. No, Doug wasn’t there but one of his main points is that Betty’s story was embellished by Curtis Taylor with new-age stuff that simply didn’t happen. You decide for yourself. I’ve gone back and forth on some issues but agree with many he made.
21. Saved by the Light, Dannion Brinkley with Paul Perry, Villard Books, 1994 – This is one of the more controversial NDE books because it’s full of predictions about the future that failed to materialize. When I read how the visions of these future events were presented to him I had to put the book down for some time before I could finish it. In his NDE, beings of light came to him with little TV sets in their chests that showed future world events. He claimed to have seen in his 1975 NDE numerous major world events that happened prior to the publication of the book in 1994. Of course, I was immediately suspicious, especially because he also claimed to have seen events such as a 1995 nuclear accident in Norway that didn’t happen and the economic collapse of the United States prior to the year 2000. I had a hard time with this book when I read it and I still do. I don’t doubt he had an NDE, or three as he has claimed but I’m not too sure about his interpretations. Either he didn’t remember very well or he embellished them for some reason.
22. NDE – Near Death Experiences, by Lee Nelson and Richard Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1994 – Lee, who has written several previous volumes of life beyond the veil, collected stories of NDEs from people around him and published eighteen of them in this book. They are amazing stories, all of them, and well worth reading. Apparently some are repeats from the first three Beyond the Veil books. I found some of the online reviews a little half-hearted. One said, “An OK book if you’re into this kind of stuff.” They gave it three out of five stars. The reviewer apparently wasn’t into NDEs. I would give it five stars since I’m obviously into this kind of stuff. Each story was well written and well told. I enjoyed the book. Lee Nelson is a good writer. I think you’ll like it. Note: This is considered volume four of the Beyond the Veil series. I have volumes one and two.
23. Beyond Death’s Door, Robert L Top and Wendy C Top, Bookcraft, 1993 – Don’t confuse this one with the book of the same name by Maurice Rawlings (1991). I have read excerpts from that one and thought it would be interesting but decided against buying it based on the reviews. This book from Brent and Wendy Top examines NDEs in the light of LDS doctrine. This is a well written, well researched and well organized book. It’s one of the best from a conservative or cautious LDS viewpoint. It examines all the elements of NDEs and discusses them along with what we are taught in scripture. You’ll read about meeting a being of light, the commonly related experience of feeling not dead but seeing your dead body, the rapid life review, the tunnel of light, communicating via thought, high-speed or instant travel, expanded 360 degree vision, beautiful scenery, vegetation and buildings beyond any earthly beauty and the wonderful feeling of unconditional love and peace. There is even a section on hellish NDE’s which we don’t read about enough. Coincidently, Dr. Rawlings book of the same title addresses just that subject. I highly recommend this book by Brent and Wendy Top. Get a copy of you can. It’s a good read.
24. Reborn in the Light, Cherie Sutherland PhD, Bantam Books 1992 – If you want to read a well written professional review of NDEs, this book is for you. It was originally written as a dissertation and as such, is full of facts, scientific methodology, analysis and case studies. In other words, it was not written for sensationalism or emotional impact. Bantam capitalized on the success of Bettie Eadie’s book when they came out with this one so it also sold well. I remember I enjoyed it better than Betty’s book it because of the scientific / academic approach. But the book is not for everybody. It’s long, detailed, drawn-out in places and contains stuff that you may not be looking for if you just want to get to the meat of NDE stories. There are thousands of such stories out there, perhaps millions. It seems every book has unique stories to tell. This one is no different but the commentary in dissecting the stories makes this one more worthwhile to me. If you want to know how experiencing an NDE changed fifty Australians into more loving, caring, sensitive, happy and fulfilled people, then this book will be helpful to you. It was to me.
25. Embraced by the Light, Betty J Eadie with Curtis Taylor, Gold Leaf Press, 1992 – This is by far the most controversial book on this list. If you haven’t read it, you must in order to be well informed about the NDE literature out there. It’s still available, it’s still being reviewed and it’s still causing strong emotional response on both sides. Good for you Betty and Curtis. In other words, it’s a successful book. Does it contain truth? Yes. Does it contain errors? Yes. Does it contain pernicious falsehoods that will damn you to hell if you believe them? You decide. I made my mind up years ago when I first read it. My review might have been a one-star because of how contrived and misleading it is, but if I were judging solely on the salability of the product, she gets five stars – or rather Curtis does, since he really wrote it. To understand the controversy, read the one-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Or you can read number twenty on this list, Embarrassed by the Light from my friend Doug Beardall. But you really should read the book and form your own opinion. Betty is a nice lady who probably had an NDE but I’m not so sure the interpretation we got in her book is accurate, reliable or believable. It negates the good stuff.
26. Closer to the Light, Melvin Morse with Paul Perry, Willard Books, 1990 – This one is sad for me, mainly because I learned the author was recently charged with torture of his eleven-year-old daughter. This book was a bestseller at the time of publication. He was interviewed on Oprah, Larry King and other shows. It is specifically about Near-Death Experiences of children. At the time I read the book I thought it was well-researched and well-written. After all, Dr. Morse is a recognized authority in the field of near-death studies. His book was endorsed by Dr. Raymond Moody. I enjoyed the book and learned much from it. He published a later book on the same subject entitled Transformed by the Light (1993) which is about how NDEs transform people. It is similar to Cherie Sutherland’s Reborn in the Light (1992). Seems like everyone was writing some sort of book about NDEs back then and making sure they had something about the light in the title. I don’t know if you can get past his current problems and get some good out of this one that did well back in the 90’s. Perhaps focusing on the beauty and innocence of children will help. I hope the charges prove to be false. The torture charge stems from his daughter’s claim that he held her face under running water as a form of punishment and called it waterboarding. As his lawyer said, he has already been tried in the court of public opinion and the media. So sad.
27. Beyond the Veil – Volume Two, Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1989 – For those who don’t know, Lee Nelson has published at least 36 books. He is mainly known for his Storm Testament series of fiction. I confess I haven’t read them. He relates in his forward that the reception to the first volume was enthusiastic and the outpouring of additional stories from readers prompted the second volume to be published. The publisher continued in their prologue to admonish their readers not to share these stories but to allow them to be read and cherished but not discussed from a doctrinal point of view. Where’s the fun in that? The stories are enjoyable, add to the body of available literature on the subject and enhanced my understanding of how the spirit world works. I recommend the book and will probably buy a used copy of volume three soon.
28. Beyond the Veil – Volume One, Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1988 – I think the publisher’s forward speaks volumes about these books. They expressed a concern that the stories would not be believed and a concern that the project to publish the stories would be seen as purely for commercial gain. Well, they wouldn’t be a book publisher worth their salt if they didn’t expect to make money off the project. As far as being believed, there are far too many people in the world who have experienced NDEs for themselves or know someone who has for them to not be believed. But I guess they didn’t know that at the time. They also expressed that many of those who contributed the stories were reticent to share for fear of being misunderstood. Thus, the publisher asked specifically that the stories not be passed on orally but only read and pondered in private in order to avoid any distortion or inclination to sensationalize. OK, I get it, but some of the stories were so wonderful that I just had to discuss them with others. Sorry. Get the books.
29. The Light Beyond, Raymond A Moody Jr MD, Bantam Books, 1988 – The follow-up to Dr. Moody’s best-selling first book, Life After Life, this must-read book adds to our knowledge of the spirit world as we learn about meeting deceased loved ones in the afterlife, experiencing an increase in knowledge and the ability to absorb knowledge, the idea of guardian angels, and the way an NDE changes us. As I’ve written elsewhere, my own NDE way back in 1974 changed my life forever. I did not go as deep into it as many experienced and mine was a descent into hell but I was never the same again. My values changed. I understood better the purpose of life and decided I wanted to use my life to prepare to the fullest for my eventual transition to the spirit world. This book addresses the transforming power of NDEs in the lives of those who survive and provides helpful commentary on why an NDE isn’t mental illness, something that is still a problem in our society. If someone claims they almost died and want to tell you about it, then we should be kind and listen with love. Who knows, you might learn something. I know I have.
30. The Journey Beyond Life – Volume One, Michele R. Sorensen and David R. Willmore, Family Affair Books, 1988 – Guess what? There is no volume Two. Not sure if this was written to capitalize upon the demand for books about NDEs but they did a good job and I’m glad I read it. It includes numerous NDEs not found elsewhere, great analysis and even better scriptural and doctrinal support for what is shared. Even though I picked it up at Deseret Book, I wonder why they didn’t publish it. In fact, the only two books from Deseret on my list are both very timid about the subject. Is reading about NDEs considered not acceptable in the LDS church? You decide for yourself. I like the study guides or question and answer section at the end of each chapter. The doctrine and the supporting scriptures are presented there while the interesting NDE stories compose the chapters. This is a good book. I enjoyed it. I recommend it. I wonder if the other book they published together called When the Spirit Whispers is considered volume two.
31. The Unquiet Dead, Dr. Edith Fiore, Ballantine Books, 1987 – Now this one moves beyond the idea of encountering spirits in an NDE and provides what for me is evidence of the reality of spirits who want to possess, to harm or destroy us. Because of my own experience with evil spirits in my NDE, I was fascinated that someone, a professional with medical experience was willing to publish a book that was sure to be mocked by our modern, sophisticated society. How many people do you know who are comfortable talking about spirit possession? Besides the idea that most people have a fear of even talking about spirits, so also many I talk to are afraid their friends will think them foolish for even considering the concept might be worth studying. Even in the LDS church, it is not a comfortable subject. I have written about it numerous times and still get private emails from both camps – one side claiming I’m doing everyone a disservice by writing about this stuff and the other side saying I am not being assertive enough in sharing what I know. Sorry, I’m not providing a very good book review. Bottom line: I highly recommend you read this book and take seriously the idea that there are spirits among us who want to possess us. Be aware that Dr. Fiore has some strange ideas about reincarnation that take some getting used to. Just remember that she’s talking about the past lives of the spirits who possess her patients.
32. Return From Tomorrow, George G Ritchie with Elizabeth Sherrill, Spire Books, 1978 – I loved this when I first read it. I was introduced to it by a friend who wanted to point out the things George witnessed when he saw a group of spirits in a bar just waiting to get into the bodies of men who passed out drunk. George had died and his spirit went on a journey trying to get back home when he witnessed this scene. He came back to life ten minutes after he died. I’ve written extensively on my other blog about this book and the things George saw. This book was instrumental in my accepting the idea that there are spirits of the dead around us in this world that are not in a separate place. They are alive and can see us even if we can’t see them. I’m still amazed by the number of people who have no clue about this fact, don’t believe it or worse, believe it is a false doctrine of the devil. Get over it folks, there are spirits around us. Once you can accept that fact, read The Unquiet Dead and then read Conquering Spiritual Evil. But be warned, that reading path is not one to be taken lightly. But then, I’m a fan of William James.
33. Spirit World Manifestations, Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing, 1978 – If you enjoyed Temple Manifestations (#35 below) then you’ll enjoy this one even more. It’s also more in line with the subject being considered. There are numerous stories of individuals being visited by angels, being taken on tours of the spirit world and of several NDEs which is why it belongs on this list. If you are like me and wonder why we do not hear as much about spiritual experiences or visits from angels in our church today, then this book will be a comfort and a revelation to you. Most all the stories are from our early church history, none later than the 1930s or so it seemed to me. What has happened to our church? Why do we not talk about piercing the veil and entertaining angels as we used to? Has our faith failed? Are we condemned for our lack of faith? In any event, this book always gets me thinking about how much more at ease the early members of the church were about relating experiences involving the spirit world. This is a great book.
34. Life After Life, Raymond A Moody Jr MD, Mockingbird Books / Bantam Books, 1975 – This is the classic that some say started it all. Personally, I say Duane Crowther’s book was first by a decade but of course it only sold in LDS circles at the time. Life after Life was a bestseller with millions sold – more than 13 million now. It did so well because for the first time, a medical doctor came out and said there may be something to these NDE stories that doctors and nurses had been hearing for years from patients who had been resuscitated. Modern medical emergency procedures increased the number of people who survived a near-death experience to the point where there were too many to ignore. Who better than the medical personnel who heard them first to share them seriously? So Dr. Moody did just that. He interviewed more than a hundred people who experienced clinical death and were revived. He then compiled and correlated the similarities into the standard NDE themes we know today – the out of body experience, the tunnel, the light, the interview, the boundary and the return. This is a great book with lots of case studies, commentary and impressions – not conclusions – at the end. You make those yourself.
35. Temple Manifestations, Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing, 1974 – You may wonder why I include this one in a list about NDEs, life after death and the spirit world. It’s one my favorite LDS publications in my library from the 70’s. It has some amazing stories in it. The stories are inspirational, unusual and faith promoting. They are also all true according to Bro. Heinerman. As is stated on the back cover, “…it has been a constant desire among Mormons to erect holy houses unto the Most High God so that heavenly personages can reveal themselves to mortals in wonderful temple manifestations.” And reveal themselves they do. There are numerous stories in the book of those who witnessed visits from relatives and others who had passed beyond the veil. One of my favorites is from a brother confirming at the font in St George who wondered if those whose work was being done were aware of it. He described the vision of seeing the good sisters react as their names were called and the proxy baptisms were performed. There are lots more similar stories in there about the first nine temples of this dispensation. I recommend the book.
36. Life Everlasting, Duane S Crowther, Bookcraft, 1967 – The book contains hundreds of NDEs published early in our church history. It also relates the personal experience of the author’s daughter drying and seeing those in the spirit world. It was one of the first books I read on the subject of life after death. I was a teenager when I read it just after my uncle died. It is a classic on the subject and has guided me for many years in my thoughts in this area. Many people think the NDE publishing phenomenon started with Life After Life by Dr. Moody but this one was the first for me. No matter what you think of Duane Crowther’s books, I highly recommend this one.
Suggestions and additions welcomed. Want to discuss? Leave a comment.
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.
This is another in a series of my study notes from Passing the Heavenly Gift by Denver Snuffer. I’ve spent considerable time this past year studying the material presented in an effort to come to grips with a paradigm change in how I view the LDS church. I am a lifelong active member. I love this church and the people in it. But the religion has changed dramatically even in my life.
In this essay I attempt to reconcile the changes I have seen from the religion of my youth to the faith we practice today. For those familiar with Denver’s latest book, you may recognize some of the wording in the early part of this essay to be taken from his summary of the four phases on pages ten and eleven. It can also be found on the back cover and the publisher’s online summary.
Besides a summary of the four phases, I’d like to respond to selected quotes from chapter two of the book, entitled History and Truth. If you don’t approve of quoting D. Michael Quinn or Davis Bitton for that matter (“I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church”), then you’re not going to like this chapter. From Denver: “If this book challenges your faith, then stop reading it.”
The Four Phases
Phase 1 – 1820 to 1844 – 24 years
Phase 2 – 1844 to 1904 – 60 years
Phase 3 – 1904 to 1951 – 47 years
Phase 4 – 1951 to present – 61 years
From its very beginning, Mormonism has undergone constant change. It has yet to assume a final form. It has undergone at least four distinct phases to date. The first was during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and ended with his death in 1844. The key changes during the first phase were exciting, additive and innovative: new revelation, new church structure, new doctrine and new ordinances.
The second phase began with Brigham Young and lasted until the second manifesto in 1904. As you can imagine, the key component of this phase was the influence of plural marriage. The end of this phase was so traumatic for some leaders of the church that they resigned their positions as apostles. Abandonment of polygamy was a watershed event in the maturing of the LDS religion.
The third phase began with the Smoot hearings and ended with the death of President George Albert Smith in 1951. This was a period marked by a church struggling to find its way in a modern world. Long gone were the days of isolation and clinging to old ways at all costs. The church became increasingly more conservative, doing all it could to shed a timeworn image.
The fourth and current phase of Mormonism began with the administration of David O. McKay. The early part of this period saw explosive growth of the church in membership, wealth, temple building, political influence and scholarship. In the latter part, Mormonism adopted correlation and corporate management techniques to consolidate and direct central church decision-making.
The Focus has Changed
In the early days of the church under the leadership of Joseph Smith, the focus was on every man becoming a partaker of the heavenly gift. The culmination of this period was at the dedication of the Kirtland temple. The rich outpourings of the spirit are unmatched to this day. The opening of the heavens in such great abundance for all greatly blessed the lives of early church members.
Brigham changed everything with the public announcement of polygamy as a major tenet of our religion. At one time we taught in this church that a man could not be exalted unless he entered into plural marriage. Mormonism became something I don’t think Joseph intended. The focus changed from receiving heavenly manifestations to a religion that only talked about them.
Later, the abandonment of polygamy became grounds for excommunication. The church outdid itself in efforts to prove to the world we are a “normal” church and people, just like the rest of America. We still celebrated our rich spiritual heritage but fewer and fewer people, especially leaders, focused on opening the heavens to pursue manifestations or new spiritual experiences.
In the modern church, we rarely hear of members, or leaders for that matter, who are willing to share their spiritual experiences. The church grows through modern efficiencies until one can say it is probably the best run church in the world. The focus on sharing spiritual events from our lives has almost completely disappeared. It seems we are expected to keep such things private.
What is Missing Today
I’ve thought long and hard about what it is I feel is missing in our church from my pre-mission days. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I recall stories of spiritual experiences, firesides focused on how to have the heavens opened, and classroom discussions that always included invitations to go and get a personal revelation on the subject so you could be an independent witness.
“Mormonism has become increasingly less mystic, less miraculous, and even less tolerant of ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. Although it retains an emphasis on personal revelation, there is no continuing expectation of new scripture, new commandments, or Divine visitations. The concepts are retained, but the expectations are gone. The idea of angels, visions and visitations are regarded as ‘magical thinking’ belonging to an earlier, primitive people.” – pages 45-46
Today, we seem to be a church at odds with itself. On the one hand, we continue to teach the importance of receiving personal revelation. On the other hand, those who talk about their own revelations are looked upon as weird or unusual. When did it become a taboo subject to talk about having the heavens opened? This is the major change I sense in our Mormon culture.
“The first phase of Mormonism was dominated by visions, angels, and direct involvement by God. Those experiences are still celebrated and taught. However, they are only used as a legitimizing credential for a demystified church. The current phase of Mormonism is missing the direct appearance or involvement of God, angels and visions. There is a disconnect between the miraculous events upon which Mormonism is based, and current church events.” – page 47
Expected Audience with God
It seems in the modern Mormon Church we are tolerant of just the right amount of revelation and no more. We nod our heads approvingly when we hear testimonies of new converts as they talk about how they prayed to know if the Book of Mormon is true. We smile as we hear them relate how they received their answer from God. Ah, yes, the warm, peaceful feeling of the spirit. We remember with fondness our own introductory experiences with the spirit in our youth.
“Every convert to the faith restored through Joseph Smith was, and is expected to have a revelation from God affirming to him or her that the work is God’s. … The purpose of Joseph Smith’s work was not to inform people of revelation as a theoretical possibility, but to install it as a practical reality. Revelation is required to bring converts into the religion, but an audience with God is always the expected culminating event.” – pages 49-50
Wait, what? An audience with God? Well, sure, maybe in the next life but not in this one. Yes, I know what D&C 93:1 says, but Joseph must have been referring to the life to come. “Verily, thus sayeth the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” It can’t be any clearer than that, can it? But in this mortal life?
Yes, I think it means in this life. We are expected to work towards and receive an audience with God in this life. Forsake our sins, come unto Christ, call on His name and do what he says. The heart of the work is to hear His voice and do as He personally directs us. We are to meet God face to face. Each person should approach Him for themselves. This was the primary message of the first phase of Mormonism that doesn’t seem to be taught today. I miss that.
Belief, Faith and Knowledge
Belief means to understand and accept true doctrine. Unbelief, as used in the Book or Mormon, means to accept false doctrine or to have an incomplete, and inaccurate understanding of correct doctrine. The phrase, “dwindling in unbelief” is the Book of Mormon’s way to describe moving from a state of belief, with true and complete doctrine, to a state of unbelief, where the truth has been discarded. Miracles end because men dwindle in unbelief. (page 52)
“The word ‘faith’ is used when an angel has ministered to someone. Going from belief to faith is a natural progression as soon as any person with a firm mind in every form of righteousness has been tried and found committed to the truth.” This short paragraph, also on page 52, was a real eye-opener to me. From it, I have come to the conclusion that I have not been a person of faith. Denver backs this up with Moroni 7:37, Jacob 7:5 and Moroni 7:30.
“A person acquires ‘knowledge’ when they have an audience with Christ. The Book of Mormon intends for all those who read it to acquire knowledge of Christ. They are to meet Him; to know Him. Hence the saying by Joseph Smith: ‘A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.’ Saving knowledge comes from ‘knowing’ – meeting with and being ministered to – by Jesus Christ. He is the Second Comforter. (page 53) We must gain this knowledge to be saved.
The Whole Purpose of the Temple
“The whole temple message can be summarized in one brief statement: We are to be prepared in all things to receive further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. The ceremony of the temple is not the real thing. It is a symbol of the real thing. The real thing is when a person actually obtains an audience with the Jesus Christ, returns to His presence, and gains the knowledge by which they are saved.” (page 53)
“The ceremonies and ordinances of the temple all point to Him. They are not the end of the search but instead teach you how to conduct the search. If all you receive are ordinances, you have nothing of real value. They are dead without a living, personal connection with God. God alone can and will save you. …when men come into contact with the Lord, they gain authority from Him. The Lord’s friends and fellow-servants are always endowed with power.” (pp 55-56)
I have always wondered about the purpose of the prayer circle and veil ceremony if they are not to teach us how to approach the Lord and receive instruction from Him directly. We are taught what we must do, but then we don’t do it. Why? Do we continue to think it is only symbolic, or that it is not meant to be done in this life? When is the appropriate time to knock at the veil to receive further light and knowledge? Surely the Lord didn’t intend for us to wait until we die.
We Must be Taught by Angels and Christ
“Returning to God’s presence is Joseph’s witness, message and theme. If you return to His presence, you will learn more in five minutes than you can by reading all that has ever been written on the subject. Joseph showed that we like him, can gaze into heaven and gain knowledge. No man or woman has ever, or will ever, be saved in ignorance. All of us are saved only as quickly as we gain knowledge of Him directly from Him.” (pages 60-61)
“…revealed religion is always founded on the dramatic; the light going on suddenly and illuminating the room. Without the dramatic appearances of the Lord after His resurrection, the New Testament account would not provide the promise of redemption through Christ. Despite all His profound wisdom, it is the suddenly miraculous return to life which moves Him from teacher of wisdom to Savior of mankind.” (pages 62-63)
“The restoration is marked by the First Vision, the appearance of Moroni, the visit of John the Baptist and return of Peter, James and John. These events identify it as something quite different from other Christian religions. It is not another sect. It is God’s latest work among mankind. When angels stop ministering to the Latter-day Saints, then the original faith has ended among us. At that point we become like any other Christian sect.” (page 63)
Statements from Heber J. Grant
“I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” – Heber J. Grant, 13 April 1926, private letter to Mrs. Claud Peery
“I have never prayed to see the Savior. I know of men – Apostles – who have seen the Savior more than once. I have prayed to the Lord for the inspiration of His Spirit to guide me, and I have told Him that I have seen so many men fall because of some great manifestation to them, they felt their importance, their greatness.” – President Heber J. Grant, 4 October 1942, probably referring to Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor
These are troubling statements, because they seem to be in direct contradiction with the whole focus of the religion restored by Joseph Smith. Why would the president of the church denounce the need or desire to receive a visitation from the Savior who he represented as his prophet? Is personal knowledge of Jesus Christ unnecessary or viewed as a negative leading to a fall? This is so different from what Joseph taught – that such a visitation is the defining moment of our lives.
I also wonder why President Grant was not aware of Lorenzo’s Snow’s testimony that he saw the Savior in the Salt lake Temple directing him to reorganize the First Presidency immediately upon the death of Wilford Woodruff in 1898. In addition, On August 1, 1890, Charles Ora Card recorded in his diary that Apostle John W. Taylor had testified that “he had beheld the Savior.” Was President Grant withholding information on purpose? If so, why would he do such a thing?
Summary and Conclusion
Denver concludes chapter two with a discussion of the concept of “practical infallibility” that we have given to our prophets in the modern church. He quotes a few statements of the Brethren to the effect that the Lord would not allow the President of the Church to lead the people astray. It is the idea of respect for the office of the President of the Church that causes us to assume that they and all the apostles must be eyewitnesses of Christ, as opposed to administrative apostles.
In the next chapter Denver tackles the idea of succession in the church, another difficult subject in which he presents material in a different light from the traditional narrative of the church. As he wrote in the book and has written many times on his blog, “If this book challenges your faith, then stop reading it.” Remember, Denver is not advocating anybody leaving the church. On the contrary, he is encouraging all to remain a part of the church, to love and serve one another.
Occasionally, if you do a Google search for Denver Snuffer, you will note that two suggested phrases behind his name are “apostate” and “excommunicated.” Google searches are very telling in that they are a good indicator of what people think of a given subject or person. Denver has stopped posting as much as he used to. I think it’s to give some of us time to catch up and come to a better understanding of what he says the Lord asked him to share. That’s what I’m doing.
Consider two hypothetical conversations. Here is the first:
“Bishop, I’d like to see an angel.”
“Why would you want to do that?
“Moroni 7:37 says that if angels no longer minister unto men it’s because we have no faith.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask to see an angel.”
“Because you might be deceived by the devil as an angel of light.”
“But section 129 teaches us how to know an angel from the devil.”
“I don’t think you should be messing with the mysteries. Leave that stuff to the Brethren.”
Second theoretical conversation:
“Bishop, I’d like to see an angel.”
“That’s wonderful. Do you feel you’re ready for that?”
“Well, I’ve been reading the scriptures. There are so many references that tell me I should seek to see the face of God. From what I can tell, if I exercise faith in prayer, angels come first to tell me what I need to do to be prepared.”
“Since you’ve been to the temple, I think you are ready. I admire your faith and encourage you in your desire. If you feel it’s not too sacred, let me know how it turns out.”
Do you see the difference? While these are both imaginary conversations, they are based on real attitudes I have encountered all my life. I’d like to address the concerns raised by the bishop in the first example, then a few more things I have heard when discussing spiritual manifestations. If anybody feels strongly enough that I’m spreading false doctrine and desires to correct me, please feel free to do so by leaving an intelligent response for discussion in the comments.
Audience with the Savior
First, by asking why anyone would want to see an angel, the bishop is either exhibiting ignorance of the scriptures or is expressing personal hidden fears and frustrations at his own inadequacies in spiritual matters. Perhaps he is testing the individual to see if they are serious in their desire. Either way, it is not a very positive response to a member of his congregation who is seeking guidance in a spiritual matter. Even, “Really? Tell me about it,” would be a better response.
I like the reply of the bishop in the second conversation because it is both encouraging and at the same time is gently probing to determine sincerity. A bishop is to watch over his flock and to encourage them to do good works. I can’t think of a good work more important than preparing for an audience with the Savior. The Bishop is simply trying to determine if there is anything he can offer in counsel to help this person achieve an exciting and admirable gospel ideal.
Lack of Belief
Moroni 7:37 has always impressed me as both a warning and an enticement to increase faith. I can’t imagine how anyone can read this and not ask why they haven’t had an angel appear and minister unto them. Of course the answer is “because of unbelief” or that faith is lacking. But it is the last phrase “and all is vain” that really catches my attention. Is Moroni suggesting that we waste our lives if we don’t receive angels and have them teach us of the things of eternity?
The reaction of the bishop that he didn’t think it was a good idea to seek to be visited by an angel is based on fear and not faith. D&C 67:3 addresses this directly. It is a real problem that was common then and even more common now. It is fear that keeps us from receiving promised blessings such as visits from angels or other manifestations of the spirit such as visions. These and more witnesses are promised in abundance to those who follow the counsel in D&C 67:10.
In fact, if you want to follow that whole scripture chain of promises start with D&C 38:8, then go to D&C 50:45, then D&C 67:10, D&C 88:68, D&C 93:1 and finally D&C 107:18-19. These are amazing and marvelous promises, each with increasingly greater privileges assured until you are promised to be brought into the presence of God the Father and Jesus the Mediator. I have long marveled at these declarations and wondered why they are not more fully believed today.
Now, the big question is, do you believe these promises are intended to be fulfilled in this life or are reserved from some future day, after this mortal life is over? I am convinced that the Lord wants us to do what it takes to receive these blessings while we are yet mortal, specifically in order to prepare us to dwell in the presence of God in the life to come. If we do not, how can we hope to feel comfortable when we are brought to that judgment day to kneel at the feet of Christ?
And yet, how many people do you know who can say that these promises are real, because they have both tested them and proved them? Perhaps some things are too sacred to share but I am of the opinion that we are under the condemnation mentioned in the Book of Mormon because we do not believe and use that book to bring us unto Christ like it was intended. I don’t think the Lord was speaking to Gentiles who don’t accept the Book of Mormon. He was speaking to us.
D&C 84:54-57 clearly spells out that condemnation. We are condemned because we do not believe and act upon the promises contained in the book. Do we or don’t we believe that we can have experiences similar to those of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Alma, Mormon and Moroni? Or are those kinds of things reserved only for prophets and apostles? Or perhaps you feel that such spiritual manifestations were only intended for the Brethren in early days of the modern Church.
Never Seen an Angel
I write this as much for me as for anyone else who happens to read this. I confess that I have never seen an angel, or at least not one of which I am aware. Perhaps the Lord has sent angels to me as a test to see how I would respond and I did not do as well as I should have. But then, I have never specifically asked to have an angel come and teach me, probably out of fear. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that things are kept from us out of mercy so we are not condemned.
Is that a false doctrine, one that keeps us from asking for further light and knowledge as we should? Everyone has to decide how much they want to bind the Lord by doing as he commands. We are the ones who keep the heavens sealed by not asking in faith and in the way we are taught in the temple. I have taught priesthood quorums and asked the question why we don’t take the Lord seriously enough to ask that angels be sent to teach us what he wants us to do to come unto him.
Seek Visits from Angels
The answer I have received is “We have the scriptures. That’s enough. Everything we need to know about how to come onto Christ is contained in them. We just have to read them and do what they say.” While that sounds fine and admirable on the surface, I can’t help but think of the scripture “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” It is as if we are saying we don’t need personal revelation because it has all been given and recorded.
The other common answer, which is similar to what the Bishop brought up in my first example, is that we should not ask for manifestations, visits or visions because we might be deceived by false spirits. It’s doubtful that the devil would be interested enough in us to appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14, 2 Ne 9:9, D&C 128:20 & 129:8), but it could happen, right? That’s why Joseph gave us the three grand keys of how we could identify messengers from the spirit world.
Dealing with Evil Spirits
When I was preparing for my mission back in 1975, I read D&C Commentary by Hyrum Smith in about two months. It was a most wonderful time of my life. I had many spiritual experiences. When I got to section 50, I read about how to deal with evil or unclean spirits that may come to us as a result of asking for spiritual manifestations. Note particularly the instructions in verses 30 through 33. They are to be fought, or as I like to say, “taught” in humility and not fear.
Yes, I am saying that if you ask the Lord to send you an angel, it is very likely that you will first be visited by evil or unclean spirits trying to pass themselves off as angels of the Lord. I know this is scary stuff, but from personal experience, I can tell you that it is real. While I confessed earlier that I had never seen an angel of the Lord, I can assure you that I have been visited by evil and unclean spirits attempting to deceive me. There is a difference between them.
Devils and Demons
No, I haven’t seen them with my natural eyes, but the experience is real nonetheless. An evil spirit, also known as a devil (male) or demon (female) has never had a mortal body. An unclean spirit is a deceased individual who died without the light of Christ in them, did not desire to go to the light and continues to hang around trying to co-habit the bodies of those who let them. The unclean spirits have much more power in that they know how to use our bodies against us.
Update (9-8-12): There has been enough discussion about my definition of devils and demons that I feel a need to claify. I had been taught and believed that devils were male evil spirits while demons were female evil spirits. This definition served me well for years. I have since been taught by others I trust that devils fit the description of any unborn (never mortal) spirit that followed Lucifer. Demons, I am told, are creations of Satan, along with imps (more in a furure essay).
You’re going to have to deal with fear if you’re serious about entertaining visitors from the spirit world. There’s no way you can have visits only from the Lord’s angels and not expect visits from the devil’s angels. It’s an eternal principle that there is opposition in all things. That will never go away. It is part of the balance of the universe. Simply prepare your heart and your mind to deal with them with humility and the Love of Christ, not with fear, anger or a rebuking attitude.
Cast out the Unclean Spirits
We read and hear often in Mormon culture about the casting out of evil spirits done by raising the arm to the square and commanding them to leave in the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, I have also done this. But lately, I find it more effective that I talk to them first and teach them about faith in Christ, then invite them to go unto Christ or an angel he has waiting for them in the light. This is especially effective with unclean spirits but a bit harder for me with devils and demons.
Update (9-11-12): This is important enough that it deserves clarification. I have learned since I wrote this that devils and demons will not go to the light. They hate the light. They have no light within them. They cannot understand it, comprehend it or even conceive of light. They do not want it and cannot be deterred from their course to destroy light. I have written about this in my essay on Conquering Spiritual Evil. They will not and cannot repent so don’t try to send them to the light. Just cast them out.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. This is all so weird. You’re never been taught any of this in your Sunday school, Priesthood or Relief Society classes. Just like so much of the early history of our church is not taught openly, these things are not in our curriculum. They’re deemed too scared and not for those who are young in the gospel. Yes, I agree with that assessment, but am also concerned that what was commonly understood by the early Brethren is being slowly lost.
Mysteries of Godliness
I conclude with a commentary on the bishop’s final statements in the first example I used. The word “mysteries” has taken on a negative connotation in the modern church. Joseph Smith taught that we should seek to have the mysteries of Godliness revealed to us. Do a search in the online scriptures on lds.org or use the topical guide in your own scriptures. There are 23 results in the Doctrine and Covenants alone that provide evidence of the Lord’s intent to reveal mysteries.
That was then. Today, when we hear that somebody is “seeking after the mysteries” we think of someone who has gone off the deep end and is “looking beyond the mark” or trying to make the simplicity of the gospel into something it was not meant to be. I find this frustrating. Yes, I know of individuals who fit that description, but they are also folks who do not yet have a firm grasp of the basic concepts of obedience and sacrifice, let alone purity and consecration to the Lord.
Seek after Mysteries
I disagree with my fictional Bishop’s advice. I do think we should be seeking after mysteries. I do not think that the Lord intended for us to leave that only to the Brethren who we sustain as the leaders of our church. In fact, I think it’s imperative that we make every effort to seek after greater light and knowledge than we now have. We are only saved as fast as we gain knowledge. Don’t be afraid of going off the deep end. Learn to trust in the Lord to lead you to greater truth.
Am I right or am I wrong? Am I off in left field, going in the wrong direction or have I stumbled upon a basic truth that we need to emphasize and teach more to those who are ready? I confess that I have combined many of the things I have learned from Denver Snuffer and Jan Graf in this essay, but they have all agreed with what I have studied and come to understand on my own over the years. Give me some feedback folks. Let me know if you think this is dangerous territory.
“Why doesn’t he get out of the way?” I asked from the middle of the front seat.
Dad didn’t respond. He locked up the brakes and laid on the horn. Our late 1960’s American Rambler slid down the hill on screeching tires.
Mother stopped talking mid-sentence in the back seat. She had just changed places with my sister and me a few miles back to talk with grandmother.
I was in the middle of the front seat. My sister was to my right. Seatbelts? I can’t remember. Shoulder belts became law in 1968. I can tell you I wasn’t wearing one.
Our California car probably crested the hill before the intersection doing 65 mph. Best guess from the photos looks like we hit the other car going 35 or 40. The impact pushed him into the ditch twenty to thirty feet past the crossing. Our car ended up on top of the stop sign.
I remember dad throwing his right arm out in an effort to protect me. I don’t remember the impact. Gingerly, I pulled my broken left arm out of the circular air conditioning vent. My sister was already out the right door. She held her left wrist. I followed quick as I could.
Dad came over to see if we were alright. The look in his and my sister’s face told me I wasn’t. I glanced down to see what they were looking at. The blood dripped profusely from the cut over my eye. It was hard to see.
“I’m OK, I’m OK,” I tried to assure them. I hopped about in an effort to deny the pain. The hopping didn’t help. The abnormal angle of my left arm frightened me.
“Son, didn’t you see that stop sign?” my dad asked the driver of the other car. Dad’s calmness amazed me. He then knelt next to the car in an effort to comfort my mother.
A low moan came from the back seat. Mother didn’t get out. She couldn’t. X-rays later revealed a broken pelvis and ruptured spleen. She had been sitting sideways when we hit.
Two ambulances took us to the hospital. Grandmother went with mother in the first. My sister and I went in the second. In spite of broken ribs, dad stayed behind to talk to the trooper.
I wasn’t prepared for surgery. I broke my finger in a skateboarding accident years earlier. The doctor reset the bone then and put a splint on it. My arm was in much worse shape.
“You sure swore a blue streak when you came out of the anesthesia,” the orderly said as he wheeled me to my room. Embarrassed, I made a mental note to clean up my language.
“Are you sure?” the nurse asked again on the third day. She asked the same thing every day. I had no idea what a bowel movement was. Why did she keep asking me that? My sister finally explained what she meant. I was glad we didn’t stay more than a week in the hospital.
The trip home to California was my first airline flight. I don’t remember if mother came with us then or travelled later. I know she had a difficult recovery. She lay on the couch at home for several weeks. As far as I know she started teaching school on time again in September.
It’s funny how everyone’s injuries were on the left side. Dad’s broken left ribs; my sister’s broken left wrist and my broken left arm. To this day I have the scars from the pins in my elbow. Occasionally my arm locks up, a reminder of that painful day.
In a quiet reflective moment with my dad years later, I asked him about the accident. He expressed the concern he felt for us at the time and then shared something sacred.
“You know your mother was hurt pretty bad,” he said.
“We were all messed up. She had surgery like me, didn’t she?”
“She did. I sat by her side all that night and every night for a week.” He struggled to go on. I could tell it was difficult for him to talk about this.
“I didn’t think she was going to make it. I can tell you I never prayed so hard in my life.” He was crying. Dad never cried. “It was a miracle we weren’t hurt worse.”
“I know. I still can’t remember the impact. It’s like I blanked out,” I said.
“We were protected by an angel, especially you.” Dad never talked about angels. I didn’t even know he believed in them. “It was a miracle.”
“What do you mean?”
“That night your mother lay close to death, I pled with the Lord to preserve her life. I didn’t think I could go on without her.” This was my invincible, invulnerable dad.
“I must have dozed off. When I woke, someone was sitting on the other side of the bed, looking at your mother.” Dad was serious in a way I had never seen before.
“Was it a doctor?”
“No. He had on a white robe that sort of glowed. His face shone. He looked up, smiled at me and then disappeared. I knew everything was going to be alright.”
“Who do you think it was?”
He looked at me long and hard before responding.
“I think it was the same person that kept you from going through the windshield of that car. Maybe it was your brother who died just after he was born.”
The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have. The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.
You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?” A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.
The redemptive mission of the Savior
In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.
He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.
Receive the Holy Ghost
This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.
I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it. Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.
Promise of the Father
One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power. The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us. So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.
The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father. Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created. It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost. This fills us with great power.
We must seek this gift
I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed. I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.
We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer. We must hunger and thirst after this gift. As Paul said, we must covet this gift. It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more. Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.
Temple ordinances part of the process
We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed. The temple ordinances serve two purposes. They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom. I believe it is analogous to being born again. It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost. The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.
Endowed with power
The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name. Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.
The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high. It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.
More than the ordinances
The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple. The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power. There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.
The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s. It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.
Pattern found in Third Nephi
In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem. Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.
Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world. They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side. They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.
Witnesses know for themselves
Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute. They had seen him and they had touched him. No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.
And yet they lacked something. When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.
The endowment begins
It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day. Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.
Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention. He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.
In the midst of fire
The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.” I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times. This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.
This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire. The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not. This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.
To be continued…
I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here” (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen. Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU. The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.
After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe. There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone. Galaxies like ours exist in the billions. We are not the only life in this universe.
People on other worlds
Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us. Or do we? Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds. In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.
Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space? How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings? I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride. After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time. No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet. Their method of travel is currently beyond us.
Prophets taught of other worlds
Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds. He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.” Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:
The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.” Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…” Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.
God created countless worlds
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” What an amazing testimony! But wait, there’s more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” Now that is deep doctrine!
Purpose of all these worlds
We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now. We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God. We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it. But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept. President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.
Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created. The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven. Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son. We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.
Believed but not taught
I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church. There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders. And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter. However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs. A favorite hymn contains these words:
“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”
We are Gods in embryo
We are of the race of Gods. We are of his species. God looks likes us. We look like him. He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.” We are his sons and daughters and he loves us. The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me. There are no green, bug-eyed monsters. They are also of the race of Gods.
The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence. Like us, some are passing through a temporal period. Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory. This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever. I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true. You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.
Space travel to the earth
Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth? Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer. Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth! They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years. God and angels visited Adam. They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people. It is quite common!
In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836. In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited. When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.” Awesome!
Communication from space
Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life. On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication. This is more than a future possibility. It is a present fact! Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.
They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence. These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom. But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say. Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.
They are coming to visit us
What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon. The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs. “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period. They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”
But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens. They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality. What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided. First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden. Don’t believe it? Look it up in our history!
Summary and conclusion
The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years. They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits. They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend. These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character. They love us. We are their children and their brethren. They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.
Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred. The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us. These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them. One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man. Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.
How often do we think about the spirit world? If you are a typical adult, you lead a very busy life. Our families, our jobs or our educational pursuits take up the majority of our time. In fact, most of us are hard pressed to find time to read the scriptures, pray, visit others or fulfill church assignments. This is especially true when our families are young and demand so much of us.
Such things can seem like a burden in today’s busy, even hectic world. Who has time to ponder about the spirit world? Because we are so busy, when we do sit down to think, we are bombarded by mental lists of things to do. Yet, Joseph Smith said that the study of the spirit world is a subject that should occupy our minds more than any other. He taught:
The most important subject to study
“All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more?
It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation [to God]. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.”
Sources: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p 211 or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 324, or History of the Church, 6:50; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Oct. 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois.
The spirit world is greatly misunderstood
The spirit world is indeed a subject that fascinates many members of the LDS Church. There have been numerous books written about it over the years. It is a topic of study in many of our adult, youth and even children’s Sunday classes. It is commonly addressed by our leaders in general Conference. And yet, what do we really know or believe about the spirit world?
For example, I have written previously about the amazing survey a few years back (2001) in which 41% of the members of the LDS Church do not believe that the devil is a real person. Why is that? I believe it is because they have not pondered the spirit world and the inhabitants there. It is a basic doctrine of our church that the adversary and his followers dwell in the spirit world.
The spirit world is here among us
Brigham Young taught, “Where is the spirit world? It is right here…Do [spirits of the departed] go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies.”
The prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The spirits of the just…are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.” Most LDS do not have a problem with understanding the doctrine of the post-mortal spirit world with paradise designated for the righteous and spirit prison as the destination for the ungodly.
The inhabitants of the spirit world
So just what kind of spirits can we find in the spirit world? I think we are all clear that the spirits of the departed who have not yet been resurrected dwell there. Although they are separated, we can find both the righteous and the wicked there. It is my understanding that those in Paradise are not troubled by the influences of the adversary or evil spirits; it is a place of rest.
However, we have been taught that we who remain here in mortality are subject to the influence of both spirits who have never been mortal as well as those who have passed through this life. Unless you have never really studied LDS doctrine, you know that one third of the spirits that were supposed to come to this earth as mortals, arrived here instead without a physical body.
The influence of evil spirits
Now, back to that survey – I doubt that anybody who reads this has ever seen the devil. And although I might be surprised, I also doubt that very many of you have seen an evil spirit. But I have no doubt that if you are a faithful Later-day Saint or just a good Christian person, you have seen the influence of the adversary either in your own life or in the life of someone you love.
In fact, there may be someone reading this who is not a member of our faith that has a story to tell about how they came under the influence of an evil spirit or two at sometime in their life. Why do we shy away from this topic? The sophisticated among us like to mock and point out how foolish it is to believe such stuff. But then, they mock our faith in God and Jesus as well.
The influence of righteous spirits
Not wanting to leave this essay on a negative note, let’s focus for a moment on the doctrine that we can have and should seek the influence of our departed loved ones upon us in this life. Why? To assist with family history research, of course. Like many of you, I can share experiences of impressions I have felt from beyond the veil when I am engaged in researching my ancestors.
I know that those who are living on the other side of the veil in the spirit world are anxious to help us find their records. There are too many stories that have been shared over the years to believe that our departed family members are not allowed to visit us and help us in our quest. It is a sweet spirit that comes upon us as we seek to know our ancestors and be sealed to them.
Summary and conclusion
I am convinced that there is so much more to understanding the influence of the spirit world than we normally think about in our day-to-day lives. Isn’t the whole purpose of scripture study and prayer to bring us into a frame of mind to feel the influence of the spirit? Isn’t that why the Brethren invite us over and over again to pause and listen to the impressions of the spirit?
It is my personal belief that our Heavenly Father can answer our prayers any way He wants to. Sometimes that means he may send departed ancestors to deliver messages and help us in our journey. The whisperings of the spirit are very quiet and require careful pondering to feel. If we are too busy to stop, ponder, read and pray, we can miss out on much needed direction.