Excommunicated for Priestcraft


MelvinGwenaFishIn the Mormon Church, excommunication is devastating. It is a real and constant threat for those who write publically about the church. In the five years I have been blogging about LDS themes, I confess I have written a few controversial essays. But I have never felt something I wrote could get me into trouble. This essay is different. You may find it to be critical of church leadership.

For the most part, serving in leadership positions in the LDS church is a volunteer assignment. The official phrase is “to receive a calling” but in effect, you are asked to accept a responsibility, often at considerable sacrifice of time and effort. In the local congregations, we have no paid ministry. Instead, the men are asked to lead the meetings and counsel local members as needed.

Being an old guy in the church, I have had my share of leadership assignments, but always in a support position. I would not want to be a Bishop or Stake President because of the difficulty of the task. My role has always been as a counselor or clerk to a Bishop or Stake President. Years ago I served on a Stake High Council, the group of men assigned to assist the Stake President.

Disciplinary Councils

One of the duties of priesthood leadership is to participate in disciplinary councils, something I never enjoyed. I am an imperfect man and am hesitant to pass judgment or even offer an opinion on the worthiness of another individual in the church. Gratefully, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Bishop or Stake President and never a bishopric counselor or High Counselor.

In the eighteen years I have served in leadership positions, I suppose I have probably participated in a few dozen disciplinary councils. That’s where a group of men get together to determine if another member should be allowed to remain in fellowship with the rest of the Latter-day Saints. When serving as a clerk, I have also written the follow-up reports that we send to Salt Lake.

In the years prior to the time I started serving in priesthood leadership, a disciplinary council was referred to as a church court. I never liked that phrase. To me, a court focuses on proving guilt, something I personally find distasteful. The purpose of a disciplinary council should be to help an individual struggling with personal moral failings find strength to turn their life around.

The Ideal Standard

I feel blessed to have served with men who loved the Lord and wanted to do his will. The Stake President with whom I served as a High Counselor is now a Mission President. He was and is a kind man, who always exhibited great care and concern for the welfare of the individuals who were called into judgment under his tenure. Let me share just one example of his kindness.

I recall an elderly gentleman who had been excommunicated for teaching false doctrine. It was evident the man had some mental and emotional problems. But he wanted to come back into the church. For those who don’t know, a disciplinary council must again be convened to reconsider the original evidence and to determine if change is evident and sufficient to be baptized again.

This stake president went out of his way to ensure this elderly man and his family members were comfortable with the procedure. He had his executive secretary sit with the family members the whole time the disciplinary council was being held. He sent his clerk out to the waiting area to keep the man and his family informed while we deliberated his case in the High Council room.

Justice and Mercy

Again, for those who may not be aware, in a Stake disciplinary council, half the High Counselors are assigned to look out for the interests of the person whose case is being heard. The interests of the church are the primary concern of the other six High Counselors. I have sat on both sides of that High Council room. In my experience it seems to be a fair and equitable system of justice.

In every disciplinary council in which I have participated, both as a bishopric member and as a High Councilor, without fail, mercy and love have been the prevailing concern. I said I dislike disciplinary councils. At the same time, I can tell you that it is in these councils that I have felt a strong closeness to the Lord as I have witnessed an outpouring of his love for these individuals.

Tears have almost always been shed by most of the grown men in the room as, in the end, we either brought the individual back into the church or pronounced that he or she would no longer be considered a member of our church. Tears of joy or tears of sorrow were accompanied by an overwhelming witness from the spirit to each of us that the will of the Lord had been done.

Zoob’s Law

I want to tell you about a friend who was excommunicated for priestcraft but before I do I need to tell you a little bit about what he does and why it is troubling for some people in the church. I also need to refer to Zoob’s law, which reads: “Generally people tend to oppose that which they don’t understand, the degree of their opposition being directly proportionate to their ignorance.”

In other words, when learning about something new and different, the non-informed attempt to hide their ignorance by a degree of aggressive descent roughly equal to the amount they do not understand. The greater their ignorance, the greater the opposition. If you think about it, you will recognize the truth of this axiom and circumstances in which you may have witnessed it fulfilled.

If you have not had personal experience with something and witnessed the good that it produces, you may feel uncomfortable with the idea or practice until you have had time to study it out for yourself to make your own determination if it is worthwhile. Imagine how you would feel if you are asked to pass judgment on a subject you don’t understand and only heard about hours before.

Opposition in All Things

In contrast, there are those who do understand something, at least to a small degree, and have decided it is not something of value because it exposes personal weaknesses or causes them to feel condemned by the light contained in the thing being considered. For example, if you are a controlling individual, wouldn’t you object to anything that gives freedom to those you control?

Even though it is expressly forbidden in our church, sadly, there are those who exercise control or compulsion upon others, usually their own family members, all in the name of priesthood authority and their right as the head of a household. This control may manifest itself in emotional abuse of their family members, and even more sadly, sexual and even satanic ritualistic abuse.

For those who are not aware, the problem of sexual abuse is well known and documented among church members living along the Wasatch front. In a 1990 document written by Glenn L Pace, then a member of the Presiding Bishopric to the Strengthening Church Members Committee, he detailed sixty alleged incidents of ritualized child abuse among Utah and Idaho Latter-day Saints.

Trauma in Southern Utah

I don’t want to focus on that negative element of the story but you need to be aware it does exist. The victims of that abuse experience deep psychological pain and trauma. It drives some to acts of self-loathing and even suicide. Because some of these individuals are strong, they seek help and healing from counselors and therapists in an effort to find peace and get on with their lives.

This is where my friend comes into the story. Melvin Fish has a Ph.D. in Counseling. He lives in Southern Utah, where, for some reason, there are a large number of individuals suffering from the trauma of sexual or emotional abuse. I know this because I have been studying the subject for about twenty years. Other counselors in Southern Utah have corroborated this fact, at least for me.

Now, to be fair, people come to these counselors from all over the Western United States, in fact, from all over the world. But our story takes place in Cedar City, where the men who sat on the High Council decided to excommunicate Mel Fish for priestcraft. I defined this unusual term in a previous essay but need to expound on the subject to make it clear in the minds of my readers.

Priestcraft in the LDS Church

The scriptural definition of priestcraft is that men set themselves up as a light instead of pointing others to Christ. The definition of priestcraft that seems to be used in the LDS Church today is that men charge money to help people find healing through Christ. As long as a man does his counseling the way the world recognizes and approves, the Church seems to have no problem.

As long as you practice techniques approved by the APA (American Psychological Association) or the AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists) then you are more than welcome to charge professional fees for your services. In fact, the church will support your business by sending you people from local congregations and then paying your regular fees.

In case you didn’t know, there is no place in the APA or AMCAP for the belief that problems of a psychological or emotional nature can be caused by the influence of evil or unclean spirits. In fact, there seems to be little belief remaining in the LDS Church in general that such beings exist. Even if you profess to believe that evil spirits cause problems, you can’t use that in your work.

Spiritual Counseling

On the other hand, let’s say you obtain a PhD in counseling with the intent of helping people resolve emotional issues that trouble them. You set up a practice and begin to see clients but are troubled by the fact that they have to keep coming back over and over to get help. Talking about their issues only seems to make them worse. You conclude that psychotherapy is ineffective.

So you search for other, more effective means to help people and are led to ideas and techniques that produce positive results in record time. Not surprisingly, these techniques center in ideas found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of others is central to this technique. The belief that problems can be attributed to the influence of evil and unclean spirits is also essential.

Encouraged, you start practicing a technique of discovering and teaching unclean spirits to go to the light of Christ. The people who come to see you are healed in record time. They go away from their counseling sessions filled with joy and relief, happy to be free of the burdens they have cast upon the Lord. You publish books and teach others how to do what you have done.

Discovering Hidden Stress

Well, that’s what Mel Fish has done. And for this he has been excommunicated. This happened in 2009 about the time I first learned about his work. I purchased his books in 2010, studied them and discovered they contained teachings that brought me closer to Christ, especially as I applied the principle of forgiveness of others and myself. His visualization techniques are powerful.

The problem with what Mel Fish did is that he was too effective. He helped people who were bound by the adversary and in the process upset a few people who lost the control over their family members they once had. They could no longer be manipulated or coerced into doing what the controlling individual wanted. These individuals found fault with Mel and his techniques.

Now unless you’ve been exposed to kinesiology or muscle testing, you may think this method of discovering and identifying hidden stress or darkness is, well, simply put, weird. I have written a blog specifically dedicated to the process of how I first learned about muscle testing and saw firsthand how it helped my family. I appreciate that the weirdness factor takes some adjustment.

Strengthening Church Members

I mentioned this committee previously. When someone finds fault with what another member of the church has written or is doing, they tend to call Salt Lake to complain. Of course the Church asks that such complaints be resolved through local church leaders. But even those leaders will sometimes call Salt Lake because they don’t know how to handle the complaints they receive.

If enough of these complaints are received, it comes to the attention of a loose committee of individuals identified as the Strengthening Church Members Committee. When Elder Oaks was asked about this committee he characterized it as a clipping service. It is much more than that. This committee keeps track of anything that is published about the church by church members.

That includes blogs, which is why I mentioned that this essay about a controversial subject – the excommunication of a prominent published member – is something that could come back to bite me. I don’t want my stake president to get a call or letter from this committee asking him if he is aware of my blogging activities. Ordinarily I do all I can to hold the church up in a positive light.

Telling Mel’s Story

In this case, I would like to share with you what I consider to be failing in our church, brought about because of the efforts of the Strengthening the Church Members Committee and the local priesthood leadership of the Cedar City Utah North Stake. Ultimately the fault can be attributed to the adversary as he works to keep people ignorant of the true power of Christ’s atonement.

When I met with Mel last week, my intent was to write a better book review. I wanted to focus on his work and his books. I was only incidentally interested in telling the story of how he was excommunicated. As we met and discussed things, it became obvious that bringing his story to the attention of a wider audience was more important and what the Lord wanted me to do.

What happened to Mel Fish should not happen to anyone in our church, but especially to a man who has spent a lifetime serving the Lord and helping God’s children heal from pain and sorrow. I can tell you from personal experience that Mel and Gwena Fish are loved of God. I know this because I asked God in prayer with my wife and received a revelation of God’s love for them.

The First Disciplinary Council

Mel first published Healing the Inner Self in 1999 at age 66 after counseling and helping many hundreds of grateful people over the previous decade. He received his PhD in Counseling in 1995. Anybody who has done the work for a PhD dissertation knows how difficult it is to meet the strenuous academic requirements. Mel’s work involved many years of clinical experience.

In 2007 Mel’s Stake President was asked by the Strengthening the Church Members Committee to hold a disciplinary council. The council was held and no action was taken. In preparation for the disciplinary council, the Stake President received expert witness and testimony from Dillon K Inouye, a beloved professor in the BYU Psychology Department before his death in 2008.

I have a copy of that expert testimony and can understand why Mel’s Stake President took no action on that occasion. The document is convincing in demonstrating that Mel Fish’s work is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it shows that Mel’s techniques are superior over three other well accepted techniques of producing psychological behavior modification.

The Second Disciplinary Council

A copy of that expert testimony was sent to Elder Holland, Elder Bateman and Elder McMullin. Mel’s Stake President was released in 2008. New priesthood leadership was put into place. In 2009, a second disciplinary council was held in which the testimony of the first Stake President was presented, along with a personal endorsement from Elder F. Enzio Busche, all to no avail.

Mel was not allowed to speak in his own defense. He was not allowed to explain his work or how he helped people discover and then relieve their burdens by giving them to Christ. As far as Mel knows, there was nobody assigned to see that his interests were met. At age 76, he was also required to stand for seven hours while the charges were considered and his case deliberated.

At that point in the story I knew something was terribly wrong. It seemed obvious that the church had received one too many complaints about Mel’s work and had made it clear that he was to be excommunicated, no matter what. The disciplinary council was not concerned about Mel. They were only concerned about meeting the technical requirements to justify the action taken.

Final observations

Of course I wasn’t there so I’m only telling one side of the story that I heard from Mel. As I wrote previously, the church does not comment on disciplinary actions. If you are familiar with the September Six, you know what a chilling effect the Church’s crackdown on intellectual criticism caused at that time. It seems now the Church has done the same thing among healers.

If you were at the disciplinary council I would like to hear from you (Strike that. It’s not an appropriate request to ask someone to break confidences). I doubt anyone will respond but as one who is familiar with the process from personal experience, I want to know if there was a spirit of love and concern expressed for the welfare of Mel’s soul. What efforts were made to help Mel understand what he had done that the Church found so offensive about healing lives?

I still intend to write that review of Mel’s book within the next few weeks. I received training in the techniques Mel uses so I know they are real and produce valid results. I have never seen a conflict between what Mel teaches and practices and what we find in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I welcome your comments. Mel gave permission to share the BYU document endorsing his work.

Update 3-28-13: I reviewed Mel’s book in this post.

Healing the Inner Self


HealingTheInnerSelfI am meeting sometime this weekend with Dr. Mel Fish of Cedar City. I bought his books a few years back, have enjoyed them and felt impressed to write an essay about them. Since this blog is my personal gospel study journal, I like to involve the Lord in what I write. I knelt down to pray Sunday, told the Lord what I was going to write and asked for guidance, direction and inspiration.

Immediately, the impression came to my mind to contact Mel and ask to meet with him. The Lord knew Carol and I are going to St. George this weekend to visit family and do the annual Parade of Homes. I don’t know why we torture ourselves. Although we intend to move to St. George when we retire, we’ll never be able to afford any of the lovely homes we see on the tour.

Excommunicated for Priestcraft

So Monday morning I went to his website, dropped him a note and asked if he would be willing to meet. I made it clear my intention is to write a review of his books and his work. I also wrote that I wanted to ask about his relationship with the church since I read this website that asserted Mel Fish had been excommunicated. I was saddened to read it and found it hard to believe.

Within an hour Mel called me and said he would be delighted to meet. We agreed I would call him when I got into town to finalize our meeting day and time. I hope Mel is willing to allow me to record our interview as Jan Graf did so graciously many years ago. It will help so much when it comes time to write my essay. There are many similarities between what Jan and Mel teach.

Supported by the People

I wrote a couple of friends who know Mel and asked them what they thought about the website announcing Mel’s membership status with the church. One of them wrote back “Priestcraft? He never uses the priesthood in his professional counseling. There is a method he uses that works better. I don’t know anyone who knows the scriptures better and uses them daily.”

If you’re mystified by the idea of Priestcraft being an offense worthy of excommunication, the use of the word today is not exactly the same as we find in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 1 we read of Nehor who taught false doctrines of salvation and told the people that the preacher should be supported by the people. Gee, that sounds like what most ministers do for a living today.

A Doctorate in Counseling

In the modern LDS Church, the definition seems to be anyone who counsels people how to get rid of stress and other difficulties in their lives by applying the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now if you happen to have a Ph.D. in counseling and you charge people for your time, apparently it’s wrong to help them heal by dismissing darkness in the name of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know the whole story and you know I’m never going to get the whole story from the church. I don’t even know if Dr. Fish will tell me his story. He may want to focus solely on his books and how he has helped people in his practice over the years. That’s OK. My review of his work is going to be positive because it has helped me and has brought me closer to the Savior.

Delusional Master Deceiver

If you read the reviews on Amazon or GoodReads you’ll see that they’re all favorable. I can’t imagine why anyone would go to the trouble of creating a blog with a single entry just to make an announcement to the world that the author of these wonderful books “is either a delusional man or a master deceiver.  …employing his methods are …destroying even the very elect.”

I’ve read his books. I’ve watched his video. I’ve employed his methods. I don’t feel deceived. I feel blessed. I feel closer to my Savior and filled with light because of what he has taught me. Oh, by the way, you can read a little about Mel on the church website. He has given a lifetime of service to a church he loves. I look forward to meeting him and learning more of his story.

Tell Me About Mel Fish

I’m writing this teaser blog entry to ask a favor of my readers. If anyone knows Mel Fish, or knows anyone who has been helped by Dr. Fish, please leave a note and add to the comments. If you want to keep your comments private, please email me at tmalonemcse@gmail.com. I have a list of questions I hope to ask him but if you share your experiences it would be very helpful.

Update 2-18-13: Thanks for all the private emails. I have added a report of my meeting with Mel in this new essay.

Update 3-28-13: As I first intended to do, I’ve finally added a review of Mel’s book, Healing the Inner Self in this essay.

Healing the Inner Self


HealingTheInnerSelfI am meeting sometime this weekend with Dr. Mel Fish of Cedar City. I bought his books a few years back, have enjoyed them and felt impressed to write an essay about them. Since this blog is my personal gospel study journal, I like to involve the Lord in what I write. I knelt down to pray Sunday, told the Lord what I was going to write and asked for guidance, direction and inspiration.

Immediately, the impression came to my mind to contact Mel and ask to meet with him. The Lord knew Carol and I are going to St. George this weekend to visit family and do the annual Parade of Homes. I don’t know why we torture ourselves. Although we intend to move to St. George when we retire, we’ll never be able to afford any of the lovely homes we see on the tour.

Excommunicated for Priestcraft

So Monday morning I went to his website, dropped him a note and asked if he would be willing to meet. I made it clear my intention is to write a review of his books and his work. I also wrote that I wanted to ask about his relationship with the church since I read this website that asserted Mel Fish had been excommunicated. I was saddened to read it and found it hard to believe.

Within an hour Mel called me and said he would be delighted to meet. We agreed I would call him when I got into town to finalize our meeting day and time. I hope Mel is willing to allow me to record our interview as Jan Graf did so graciously many years ago. It will help so much when it comes time to write my essay. There are many similarities between what Jan and Mel teach.

Supported by the People

I wrote a couple of friends who know Mel and asked them what they thought about the website announcing Mel’s membership status with the church. One of them wrote back “Priestcraft? He never uses the priesthood in his professional counseling. There is a method he uses that works better. I don’t know anyone who knows the scriptures better and uses them daily.”

If you’re mystified by the idea of Priestcraft being an offense worthy of excommunication, the use of the word today is not exactly the same as we find in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 1 we read of Nehor who taught false doctrines of salvation and told the people that the preacher should be supported by the people. Gee, that sounds like what most ministers do for a living today.

A Doctorate in Counseling

In the modern LDS Church, the definition seems to be anyone who counsels people how to get rid of stress and other difficulties in their lives by applying the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now if you happen to have a Ph.D. in counseling and you charge people for your time, apparently it’s wrong to help them heal by dismissing darkness in the name of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know the whole story and you know I’m never going to get the whole story from the church. I don’t even know if Dr. Fish will tell me his story. He may want to focus solely on his books and how he has helped people in his practice over the years. That’s OK. My review of his work is going to be positive because it has helped me and has brought me closer to the Savior.

Delusional Master Deceiver

If you read the reviews on Amazon or GoodReads you’ll see that they’re all favorable. I can’t imagine why anyone would go to the trouble of creating a blog with a single entry just to make an announcement to the world that the author of these wonderful books “is either a delusional man or a master deceiver.  …employing his methods are …destroying even the very elect.”

I’ve read his books. I’ve watched his video. I’ve employed his methods. I don’t feel deceived. I feel blessed. I feel closer to my Savior and filled with light because of what he has taught me. Oh, by the way, you can read a little about Mel on the church website. He has given a lifetime of service to a church he loves. I look forward to meeting him and learning more of his story.

Tell Me About Mel Fish

I’m writing this teaser blog entry to ask a favor of my readers. If anyone knows Mel Fish, or knows anyone who has been helped by Dr. Fish, please leave a note and add to the comments. If you want to keep your comments private, please email me at tmalonemcse@gmail.com. I have a list of questions I hope to ask him but if you share your experiences it would be very helpful.

Update 2-18-13: Thanks for all the private emails. I have added a report of my meeting with Mel in this new essay.

Update 3-28-13: As I first intended to do, I’ve finally added a review of Mel’s book, Healing the Inner Self in this essay.

The Stupor of Thought


scripturesAbout twenty years ago I served in a unique position in the church. My calling was “Melchizedek Priesthood Leader.” Because our little ward was so small, the Stake President had placed all priesthood holders in the ward into one group. In effect, he combined the Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests Group and put me in charge.

I also served as the de facto ward mission leader because we had none. As you can imagine I felt a little overwhelmed. I often prayed for inspiration to know what to do to help our little ward grow, but it was to no avail. We lived in an older part of town with many transients. Older members kept retiring and moving away to Utah.

On one occasion I attended a stake meeting where I had decided to speak up about the problems we were experiencing in our little ward. I thought about and prayed about what I wanted to say. But for some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this particular stake meeting was not the right place to bring up my concerns.

Preparation for Prayer

Now in order to understand what I’m about to share, I’ve got to tell you a little bit about how I receive revelation. When I pray and ask the Lord to help me with a problem or to guide me through a difficult situation, I know I’ve got to do two things first. I’ve got to study it out and make a decision about a course of action.

Then I present my decision to the Lord in prayer. I tell Him about the problem. I tell Him what I’ve studied. Then I tell Him what I’ve decided. Finally, I ask for a confirming witness of the spirit to know if what I’ve decided to do is good or best. It’s a time-tested formula that has worked for me as long as I have been praying.

After praying, I then wait and listen carefully. Sometimes I know immediately one way or the other about what I have discussed with the Lord. But often, my prayer is not answered right away. This was one of those occasions where I did not feel that confirming witness of the spirit that what I wanted to do was the right thing.

The Mind’s Eye

A little more detail might be helpful to understand how revelation works for me. When I ask the Lord for help to know if a certain course of action is the correct one, He will often answer my prayer by allowing me to see myself engaged in that particular activity. In fact, I can often hear as well as see some things in advance.

When I was young I wondered if I should go on a mission. I followed the formula. I studied it out. I made a decision and I asked the Lord for a confirming witness. I was then overwhelmed with what the Lord revealed to me about my mission. I saw myself helping people understand the truth. I heard myself preaching the gospel.

Over the years, this gift of seeing myself perform specific actions in advance of actually doing them has been repeated. There are times when I can hear the words I say as I am performing the task, such as teaching or speaking. There are also times where the Lord inspires me with specific words or phrases so I will write them out.

Revelation is Rehearsal

For me, revelation is kind of like a rehearsal. It gives me confidence and makes it easier to do the difficult tasks of life because I have already seen myself complete them successfully. I greatly appreciate this gift and have come to rely on it more and more as I go through my life. It’s like the spiritual creation before the physical.

Now back to my story. I had studied the problem out. I had made a decision. I had prayed about it. But I did not receive that confirming witness. I did not see myself sharing my thoughts in the meeting. I knew I had done my homework. I had done my part. The problem was clear in my mind. I felt confident I could explain it.

And indeed I could, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted expressed at that time in that meeting. The problem was real, my proposed solution was good, although not best as I later found out. In another setting, the discussion I wanted to have would have been appropriate. This meeting was not the time or place for my comments.

The Moment of Truth

I went to that meeting prepared, or so I thought. The meeting progressed to the point where the problems were being discussed. The Stake President solicited discussion. A sister shared her concerns. I raised my hand, was called on and began to speak. No sooner had I opened my mouth then I knew I had made a mistake.

A feeling came over me that I knew I was wrong in what I was trying to share. I should have stopped right then and graciously said something like, “What I’m sharing right now doesn’t feel right. Although I thought it was earlier, it doesn’t seem so now. Forgive me.” The discussion could have continued from there.

Instead, I foolishly continued to speak, reaching into my mind for the things I had studied out and thought about as I prepared to present my solution to the Lord. To my amazement and eventual embarrassment, what was once clear and concise was now a jumbled mess in my mind. I could not recall my points to make any sense.

The Stupor of Thought

And that, my friends, is how I learned that the stupor of thought is a real thing. I could not explain myself. My words weren’t making sense. My fellow brothers and sisters in the meeting were looking at me funny. Finally, the Stake President had to interrupt me to keep me from blathering on. My face burned with embarrassment.

The Lord had answered my prayer. I just hadn’t understood. There was nothing really wrong with my proposed solution, given a different set of circumstances. I didn’t have all the information the Stake President had. I didn’t have the whole picture. My ideas were fine, just not relevant or pertinent in the current situation.

I sat quiet the remainder of the meeting and reflected on what had just happened. I was chagrined and a little confused. It was then I realized I had not been careful in listening to the Lord as I prayed. I had not seen or heard myself sharing what I had studied out so carefully. There was no rehearsal, no advance spiritual creation.

Summary and Conclusion

I learned that the stupor of thought can last as long as it needs to in order to work. I had been given a stupor of thought and should have kept it to myself in my prayer. Instead, I took it with me to a public meeting where it was made evident to all. The stupor of thought God gave me caused me to forget my erroneous conclusions.

I have since learned to be more careful in my prayer rehearsals. If I am unable to see myself sharing my conclusions or performing my intended course of action with success first in my mind’s eye, then I know it would be better to seek another solution. I have come to greatly appreciate this wonderful gift of prayer.

I now know how to use the stupor of thought to refine my path through life without making embarrassing mistakes like I experienced in that stake meeting so long ago. In essence, I have learned to keep quiet unless the Lord distinctly inspires me to say something at the right time and in the right place. This has taught me patience.

Reference: D&C 9:7-9

Near Death Experiences Part 2


This is a continuation from Part 1

GatewayWeCallDeath19. 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.

EmbarrassedByTheLight20. 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.

SavedByTheLight21. 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.

NearDeathExperiences22. 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.

BeyondDeathsDoor23. 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.

RebornInTheLight24. 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.

EmbracedByTheLight25. 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. Read what Max Skousen had to say about Betty’s book here. He was responding to Jerry Lund.

CloserToTheLight26. 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.

BeyondTheVeil227. 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.

BeyondTheVeil128. 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.

TheLightBeyond29. 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.

JourneyBeyondLife30. 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.

TheUnquietDead31. 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.

ReturnFromTomorrow32. 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.

SpiritWorldManifestations33. 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.

LifeAfterLife34. 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.

TempleManifestations35. 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.

LifeEverlasting36. 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.

The Uncorrelated Church


PriesthoodCorrelationFrom a reader: I have a question; I was curious what you meant by “those still in the uncorrelated church.” Are there LDS churches not correlated? Thanks! My response: Ah yes, was wondering if someone would ask about that. Glad to know someone’s reading and thinking about my stuff.

Tightly Structured Teaching

The uncorrelated church (Google it) is a phrase made popular by John Dehlin a few years ago. It refers to the idea of a church being a body of believers, not necessarily a specific congregation, who are not too fond of the direction from Salt Lake that “you shall” present, study and discuss specific topics within tight constraints each Sunday in the block of meetings. They object to the idea of correlation as being a tactic or practice that kills the spirit because, the impression is, you are only allowed to bring up specific “approved” quotes and specific scriptures when discussing the assigned topic. The people who see the church as being too tightly correlated do not seem to enjoy teaching methods where one individual stands at the front of the class and spews forth everything they have studied during the past week.

New Youth Curriculum

The church recognizes this and is doing something about it. Beginning with the youth this year, the classes are designed to be less formal and structured, encouraging more involvement and discussion by the participants and less rigid in what can be shared or discussed in that specific class. The problem is that we are a church of lay teachers, so many of whom struggle with the confidence needed to effectively lead a class or to even present a decent sacrament talk without strong and tight direction from the priesthood leaders. It has even come to the point where ward and stake leaders hand out, in writing, specific rules of what you shall and shall not say when standing in front of the congregation. As President Lee opined when correlation was just beginning, he was afraid it would kill the spirit of revelation. I believe it has.

Sharing Sacred Experiences

Everybody is afraid to share any kind of personal or sacred spiritual experience that may be misunderstood because it hasn’t been run through correlation, the committee that approves everything that goes into our manuals. We are repeatedly warned in priesthood bulletins and directives to prevent or not allow individuals to teach unauthorized and unapproved doctrine from the pulpit and in the classrooms. I get that. I have seen the result of false doctrine being taught. A well-meaning brother or sister may share a beautiful, uplifting story that touches the heart and stirs the emotions but unfortunately, is based on a false premise or belief. It does more harm than good. So the church has cracked down over the years, beginning back in the 1950’s and reaching the zenith in the last decade. I have watched this happen firsthand.

Approved Stories Only

But again, the problem is that correlation has created an environment of fear in our church. Members are so afraid to say or share anything that is not in the official approved curriculum that they just keep their mouths shut. Very few people know what’s approved and what’s not so they don’t say what the spirit puts into their heart to say for fear of incurring the wrath of someone who says, “Where did you read that? Are you sure that’s approved by the Brethren?” Then they turn to whatever priesthood leader is sitting in the class and wait for him to respond. It puts the poor priesthood leader on the spot. I have seen this over and over in Gospel Doctrine classes. The pendulum has swung too far. I remember hearing all kinds of wild things when I was growing up but at least people felt they could share among their fellow saints.

Unique Spiritual Feelings

One specific example that really rankles me is the idea of discussing what happens during prayer. You and I have dialoged about this in our recent emails. Can you imagine bringing up your question when the subject is being taught in a priesthood quorum about the vibrational feelings you and I have both experienced in prayer? We would get blank stares or worse. Unless you can put what you have experienced into the proper words that one of our apostles has recently used (can’t use words of old apostles) then your brethren in the quorum will feel uncomfortable with what you have shared. Perhaps if you use the phrase “feeling in tune” or “in harmony with the spirit” you might get some heads nodding. But what if what happened to you in prayer went beyond the vibrational phase or being in tune with God?

Visited by an Angel

What if, to use your example, while deep in prayer one night, feeling happy and loved, at peace with the universe, you poured out your heart in devotion and felt the love of God descend upon you in great power and abundance? You were so happy and filled with joy that you felt your heart might burst. Just at that moment your spirit leaves your body and you find yourself in the spirit world with a guide there to meet you and show you a few things that the Lord wanted you to know. You are wrapped in the spirit. You see and hear things that are unimaginable to anyone in this world who has never experienced such things for themselves. When you return, and are still filled with the spirit, you write these things in your journal as a great treasure. You taste the joy of the Lord with you for days, weeks and months to come.

Sharing Your Testimony

Now, what if, during a lesson on prayer and revelation, such as the one we’re going to receive in Gospel Doctrine class tomorrow, the teacher has you read D&C 42:61, which reads, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal,” and then asks, Brother Jones, (this is right out of the manual), “How have these promises been fulfilled in your life?” How would you respond? Remember, you have just received a marvelous manifestation from the Lord a few nights ago in which he showed you joyous things about the world to come. You have received revelation. You have received knowledge. You have beheld the mysteries of God which bring joy.

I Have Seen a Vision

Do you share that? What if you feel impressed to stand and say to the class (and not just to the teacher), slowly and distinctly, “I have asked for and have received revelation from God. I have been shown things in vision that have given me knowledge of the spirit world. I have been visited by angels. I have been taught the mysteries and peaceable things of God. I have felt his joy and understand better what eternal life is going to be like.” You then sit down. What do you think would happen? How would the teacher respond? How would the members in the class around you respond? Would they whisper to their neighbor, “Did he say he had seen an angel?” Would someone in next week’s Ward Council meeting say, “Did you hear what Brother Jones said in Gospel Doctrine class last week?” Could this happen?

Ward Council Meetings

You bet it could and it has. I have sat in those ward council meetings over the years. There is great concern expressed about what some members say in class. Because of this they are not asked to teach or to speak in church. In essence, they are ostracized for sharing their spiritual experience, when they felt prompted by the spirit to do so. They are shunned and looked upon as being weird or different. “Why, he said he’s seen an angel. He said he had a vision,” implying that such things are only for the prophet or the apostles. “I’ve never seen an angel or had a vision. What makes him special? I know Brother Jones. He’s a sinner. There’s no way the Lord would send him an angel. He must have been deceived.” Yes, I know this last part is fictional but it is based on real leadership meeting conversations.

Church-Approved Answers

All this is the result of correlation, where the members feel that unless something has been approved of the correlation committee in advance, you had better not share it in church. Correlation causes us to feel we must keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves and only share approved or authorized stuff from church history. Go take a look at lds.org under Resources, Manuals, Melchizedek Priesthood and note the wording, “will study,” and “are to be taught,” from “church-approved resources.” Do you get it? Isn’t that pretty tightly controlled and correlated, even to the point of what you will study or read? And that’s why I say I am still in the uncorrelated church. I am old school, an old man who grew up studying whatever I felt the Lord wanted me to study, not necessarily what Salt Lake told me to read and study.

I Sustain the Brethren

I’ll bet that was a lot more than you asked for wasn’t it? Thanks for asking. Hope you don’t mind if I post my response on my blog. I won’t reference you other than in passing as a reader. It might get me into trouble. I love this church and I love the people in it but we have a problem in that people who don’t know, understand, teach and answer with the “official church-approved answers” are made to feel that they don’t quite fit in. I’m one of those and always have been. Because I have made it a matter of great effort in personal study over the years I can teach and speak at the pulpit in the way the church wants. I am OK with that. I sustain the Brethren in the direction they have taken the Church through correlation. That doesn’t mean I agree with the results of correlation that I have seen firsthand in our church today.

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