I’ve mentioned the meeting on Tuesday afternoon in which I shared the platform with Elders Randy Funk of the Seventy and Gary Stevenson of the Twelve, as well as with Elder Robert S. Wood, an emeritus member of the Seventy, who was the moderator. The only other non-General Authority speaker beside myself was my good friend Dr. Brent Top, until recently BYU’s dean of Religious Education.
Brent spoke on near-death experiences, and, knowing my strong interest in the topic, kindly gave me a copy of a paper that he has written on the subject (“The Near-Death Experience: Why Latter-day Saints are So Interested”), as well as copies of two relevant books that he has published (What’s On the Other Side? What the Gospel Teaches Us about the Spirit World  and Glimpses beyond Death’s Door [2012, written with his wife, Wendy C. Top]).
I would like to share just a bit from these materials. First of all, a quotation from Joseph Smith that Brent cites in What’s On the Other Side?:
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. . . . 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. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. (cited on pages 2-3)
And here, cited in “The Near-Death Experience,” is a lesser-known element of a fairly familiar event from the life of the Prophet Joseph:
One experience is particularly remarkable. It involves Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon Prophet, himself. 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 [be] 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 teaching 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.”