Near death experiences of early latter day saints.

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kirtland r.m.
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Near death experiences of early latter day saints.

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It would be in the last half of the 20th Century that the term N.D.E. would be coined and spoken about to a growing degree, but such experiences had been going on and even written about among early members of the church and others, enjoy.

The following is condensed from
The Near-Death Experience
Why Latter-day Saints Are So Interested
Brent L. Top

Latter-day Saints are keenly interested in what an ancient Book of Mormon prophet called “the state of the soul between death and the resurrection” (Alma 40:11). It has been so from the Church’s very formation.

Speaking in honor of his recently deceased friend, Joseph Smith Jr. declared in Nauvoo, Illinois, on 9 October 1843:

All men know that all men must die.— What is the object of our coming into existence. then dying and falling away to be here no more? This is a subject we ought to study more than any other, which we ought to study day and night.— If we have claim on our heavenly father for any thing it is for knowledge on this important subject— could we read and comprehend all that has been writtn from the days of Adam on the relation of man to God & angels. and the spirits of Just men in a future state. we should know very little about it. could you gaze in heaven 5 minute. you would know more— than you possibly would can know by read[ing] all that ever was written on the subject.[2]

There has been . . . no alteration of the LDS understanding of the afterlife since its articulation by Joseph Smith. If anything, the Latter-day Saints in the twentieth century have become bolder in their assertion of the importance of their heavenly theology. . . . In the light of what they perceive as a Christian world which has [largely] given up belief in heaven, many Latter-day Saints feel even more responsibility to define the meaning of death and eternal life.Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Land, Heaven: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 312–13.

Most Latter-day Saints are familiar with an 1832 event in Hiram, Ohio where Joseph was beaten, tarred, and feathered by his enemies. What may not so familiar is the account of Joseph’s out-of-body experience at the time. His wife, Emma Hale Smith, remembered:

The converts to Mr. Smith’s preaching were constantly arriving from all parts of the country, [which added] greatly to the disturbance of antagonists to the Mormon religion, and in March, 1832, the most violent persecution followed. Mr. Smith was dragged from his bed, beaten into insensibility, tarred and feathered and left for dead. A strange part of this experience was, that his spirit seemed to leave his body, and that during the period of insensibility he consciously stood over his own body, feeling no pain, but seeing and hearing all that transpired.Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, in Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893), 98.

In 1838, Phoebe Woodruff, the wife of Latter-day Saint apostle Wilford Woodruff, became seriously ill and apparently died. Wilford recounted: “The sisters gathered around her body, weeping, while I stood looking at her in sorrow. The spirit and power of God began to rest upon me until, for the first time during her sickness faith filled my soul, although she lay before me as one dead.” Woodruff then recounts how he anointed her with oil in the name of the Lord and “rebuked the power of death” and commanded her to be made alive. “Her spirit returned to her body, and from that hour she was made whole.” Later Phoebe related to her husband and those present that as she was being anointed with oil, “her spirit left her body, and she saw it lying upon the bed, and the sisters weeping. She looked at them and at [Wilford], and upon her babe, and while gazing upon this scene, two personages came into the room. . . . One of these messengers informed her that she could have her choice: she might go to rest in the spirit world, or, on one condition she could have the privilege of returning to her tabernacle and continuing her labors upon the earth. The condition was, if she felt that she could stand by her husband, and with him pass through all the cares, trials, tribulation, and afflictions of life which he would be called to pass through for the gospel’s sake unto the end. When she looked upon the situation of her husband and child, she said: ‘Yes, I will do it!’ At that moment her spirit [again] entered her tabernacle.”[26]

As the pioneers were crossing the plains, Brigham Young himself experienced two (and possibly more) near-death experiences on 17 February 1847. A seriously ill Brigham Young told his associate and fellow apostle, Willard Richards, “I actually went into Eternity last Wednesday week and came back again.”[27] These experiences undoubtedly influenced Young’s sermons regarding the conditions of the spirit world, the capacities of departed spirits. He spoke often on the subject. “I can say with regard to parting with our friends, and going ourselves,” Young declared in 1871. “I have been near enough to understand eternity so that I have had to exercise a great deal more faith to desire to live that I ever exercised in my whole life to live. The brightness and glory of the next apartment is inexpressible.”[28]
Jedediah M. Grant, second counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of the Church (and father of later Church president, Heber J. Grant), had an extensive near-death experience shortly before his death in 1856. He detailed his experience to President Heber C. Kimball, first counselor in the First Presidency, who publicly recounted it at Grant’s funeral:

He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, though I had to do it. . . .

[Grant] also spoke of the buildings he saw there, remarking that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom and poured gold and silver into his hands that he might display his skill and ability, and said that the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world.

In regards to the gardens, say brother Grant, “I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk.” . . .

After speaking of the gardens and beauty of every thing there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.[29]

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, numerous near-death experience accounts of prominent Church leaders or their family members such as Lorenzo Dow Young (brother of Brigham Young), George Albert Smith, Jacob Hamblin, George Brimhall, and other Church members were published in the official publications of the Church such as the Juvenile Instructor, Relief Society Magazine, Elders’ Journal, and Improvement Era. Additionally, hundreds of spirit world encounters, near-death experiences, or visions can be found in the Church’s historical archives.
A 1920 account of a vision of or encounter with the spirit world by Heber Q. Hale, stake president in Boise, Idaho, is one of the most often quoted accounts. It has been published in a variety of sources. His descriptions of the spirit world correspond remarkably with other accounts, regardless of the denomination. ... experience

By the way, that Heber C. Hale experience, here it is.

Heber C. Hale, President of Boise Stake, visits the spirit world. Here were some highlights.
I immediately recognized President Brigham Young and the Prophet Joseph Smith. While I thus gazed, Joseph F. Smith parted from the others and came to my side. "Do you know him?", he inquired. I quickly answered, "Yes, I know Him.My eyes beheld my Lord and Savior." "It is true," said President Smith. Oh how my soul filled with rapture--unspeakable joy filled my heart.

As I was approaching the place where I had entered, my attention was attracted toward a number of small groups of women, preparing what appeared to be wearing apparel.Observing my inquiring countenance, one of the women remarked: "We are preparing to receive Brother Phillip Worthington very soon." (Phillip Worthington died on January 22, 1920. President Hale was advised by telegram and returned to Boise and preached the funeral sermon on January 25, 1920.) As I gasped his name in repetition I was admonished, "If you knew the joy and glorious mission that awaits him here, you would not ask to have him longer detained upon the earth."

Men and women and children are often called to missions of great importance on the other side, and some respond gladly while others refuse to go and their loved ones will not give them up. Also, many die because they have not faith to be healed. Yet others live long and pass out of the world of mortals without any special manifestation or action of the divine will. When a man is stricken ill, the question of prime importance is not--is he going to live or die so long as the will of the Father is done. Surely we can trust Him so long as he is with God. Herein lies a special duty and privilege of administration of the Holy Priesthood namely: It is given the Elders of the Church of Christ to divine the Will of the Father concerning the one upon whose head their hands are laid. If for any reason they are unable to presage the Father's will, they should then continue to pray for the afflicted one, humbly conceding supremacy of the Will of God, that His will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Here is a link to all he wrote.

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