I was scheduled pretty solidly today — I gave a fireside here at the Calgary Stake Centre tonight for which I needed to create or at least significantly revise my PowerPoint presentation (since the title that had been given out didn’t really fit what I was originally planning to present) and I wrote an article for submission to Meridian Magazine — so I share with you again here a few interesting passages that I marked some time ago while reading John Burke, Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015). Some of you may have missed them, and some of you may enjoy seeing them again. (The article for Meridian is on a wholly unrelated topic.) These quotations are certainly worthy of sustained consideration:
The first three concern the so-called “being of light,” familiar to anybody who has read much about near-death experiences:
I went through this dark, black vacuum at super speed. You could compare it to a tunnel. . . . I saw a bright light, and on my way there I heard beautiful music and I saw colors I’d never seen before. [The light] was of a kind that I’d never seen before and that differs from any other kind such as sunlight. It was white and extremely bright, and yet you could easily look at it. It’s the pinnacle of everything there is. Of energy, of love especially, of warmth, of beauty, I was immersed in a feeling of total love. . . .
From the moment the light spoke to me, I felt really good — secure and loved. The love which came from it is just unimaginable, indescribable. It was a fun person to be with! And it had a sense of humor, too — definitely! I never wanted to leave the presence of this being. (Steve Miller, cited at 149-150)
It knew me deeply and overflowed with qualities that all my life I’ve always associated with human beings, and human beings alone: warmth, compassion, pathos . . . even irony and humor. (Dr. Eben Alexander, cited at 151)
[Raymond] Moody points out that, of those who saw this light, “not one person has expressed any doubt whatsoever that it was a being, a being of light. Not only that, it is a personal being. It has a very definite personality. The love and the warmth which emanate from this being to the dying person are utterly beyond words, and he feels completely surrounded by it and taken up in it, completely at ease and accepted in the presence of this being.” (149)
And then the famous “life review”:
My whole life so far appeared to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic, three-dimensional review, and each event seemed to be accompanied by an awareness of good and evil or by an insight into its cause and effect. Throughout, I not only saw everything from my own point of view, but also I knew the thoughts of everybody who’d been involved in these events. . . . And throughout, the review stressed the importance of love. (Steve Miller, cited at 150)
And here are some related quotations from Brent L. Top, What’s On the Other Side? What the Gospel Teaches Us about the Spirit World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012):
I have a father, brothers, children, and friends who have gone to the world of spirits. They are only absent for a moment. They are in the spirit, and we shall soon meet again. . . . When we depart [from this life], we shall hail our mothers, fathers, friends, and all whom we love, who have fallen asleep in Jesus. . . . It will be an eternity of felicity. (Joseph Smith, cited on pages 42-43)
We have more friends behind the vail than on this side, and they will hail us more joyfully than you were ever welcomed by your parents and friends in this world; and you will rejoice more when you meet them than you ever rejoiced to see a friend in this life. (Brigham Young, cited on page 43)
What is more desirable than that we should meet with our fathers and our mothers, with our brethren and our sisters, with our wives and our children, with our beloved associates and kindred in the spirit world, knowing each other, identifying each other . . . by the associations that familiarize each to the other in mortal life? What do you want better than that? What is there for any religion superior to that? I know of nothing. (Joseph F. Smith, cited on page 43)
To which I append the following, from Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D., who is, pretty much, the father of the serious study of near death experiences:
What do I think happens when we die? I think we enter into another stage of existence or another state of consciousness that is so extraordinarily different from the reality we have here in the physical world that the language we have is not yet adequate to describe this other state of existence or consciousness. Based on what I have heard from thousands of people, we enter into a realm of joy, light, peace, and love in which we discover that the process of knowledge does not stop when we die. Instead, the process of learning and development goes on for eternity.
Not a bad description, on the whole, of the Latter-day Saint concept of eternal progression.
We had dinner with our hosts and other friends at The Ranchmen’s Club before the fireside. The place has quite a history. In one of the rooms hangs a copy of the famous Yousuf Karsh portrait of Sir Winston Churchill and I was told that, at some point — I have no idea when — Churchill had used that room for a while as an office.
The fireside itself went reasonably well, I think. The Calgary Stake Centre is an unusually large one that was built when N. Eldon Tanner was the stake president and that was dedicated by President David O. McKay. It was fun to speak from a pulpit where President Tanner had once presided. He was a pivotal figure in my formative years: a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church for nearly two decades (from the time when I first became aware that there was a First Presidency until after I had completed my mission, graduated from college, married, and finished my studies in Egypt.) The chapel held a solidly good congregation, and I’m told that there was a quite substantial online audience for the fireside. I’ve enjoyed myself here in Calgary, and our hosts have been very kind and remarkably generous.
Posted from Calgary, Alberta, Canada