In the portion of my post from yesterday that talked about our visit to Vancouver Island’s famous Butchart Gardens, I commented on the brilliant colors that are often reported in accounts of near-death experiences. I think that I’ll revisit the topic again, briefly.
Here are four passages from John Burke, Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), that report a multi-colored “sky” in heaven,:
Dean Braxton recalls, “The most gorgeous sky ever seen here on earth cannot even come close to the atmosphere in Heaven. It is bright because of the glory of our God. . . . The atmosphere is something you experience, not just see. It is golden, yellow, white, and had more colors moving throughout it . . . like the Aurora Borealis lights.” (126-127)
Dale Black mentioned experiencing the atmosphere of Heaven: “The colors seemed to be alive, dancing in the air. I had never seen so many different colors. . . . It was breathtaking to watch. And I could have spent forever doing just that.” (127)
“I saw the most dazzling colors, which was all the more surprising because I’m color-blind,” a Dutch patient in Dr. Pim van Lommel’s study recalls. “I can distinguish the primary colors, but pastels all look the same to me. But suddenly I could see them, all kinds of different shades. Don’t ask me to name them because I lack the necessary experience for that.” (127)
Marv found himself captivated as the atmosphere projected a heavenly light show, displayed on the most brilliant shades of deep blue sky as the backdrop:
The sky in which I flew to heaven, and the firmament surrounding the heavens, were a wilder and bluer yonder than you would ever believe. . . . The closest shade I can associate this otherworldly blue with is the surreal tones of the water in the Caribbean or off the coast of Hawaii at sunset. . . . That color is waiting for you and me on the other side . . .
The colors and lights in heaven were simply sublime. . . . They were the deepest, richest, most gloriously lush colors I had ever seen, and some I had never seen before. Heaven is a dream-come-true for those who love all things colorful, and our home there is lit by the Father of Lights. . . . [There were] robust and bold and vigorous beams that were somehow gentle to my eyes. I simply don’t think those colors and lights exist on earth . . .
The white in heaven was — forgive me! — like none other I can compare. From a brilliant white to an opal stone to a milk glass moon color, the white shades clustered in the sky like a huge bridal bouquet. . . . The colors in heaven would meld from whites into blues and reds and purples and greens. The multiple colors would change and shift and move constantly, twirling and twisting and floating . . . shape-shifting in a way that fixated and enthralled me. The closest I can come to describing what that light show was like is probably the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. . . . Then again, if I compare the light show in Alaska to the light show in heaven . . . it’s not even close. . . . Even just the light show was utterly transfixing. (127-128)
And, while I’m in the NDE vein, here are a couple of stories out of Church history that are featured in my friend Brent Top’s paper on “The Near-Death Experience: Why Latter-day Saints Are So Interested,” of which he kindly gave me a manuscript copy some time ago. (I don’t know whether or not it’s now been published.)
In 1838, Phoebe Woodruff, the wife of Mormon 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 sister 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.”
This is a very interesting reference that I do not believe that I had seen before:
As Mormon 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 and came back again.”
His comment to Dr. Richards helps, in my mind, to explain the fact that, on several subsequent occasions, Brigham Young spoke very confidently about the spirit world and conditions there. I’ve always wondered exactly what and how he knew about the subject.
On a distinctly different note: The New Yorker is a very good magazine. Here are a couple of things that I’ve recently encountered in it:
Am I thrilled about this? Not especially. But the section excerpted by The New Yorker, which focused on Martin Harris, wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be.
You might be interested to know that Halldór Laxness’s 1960 novel Paradísarheimt (“Paradise Reclaimed”), published five years after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, focused on the Latter-day Saints.
Posted from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada