I think that most people, religious or not, believe in something after this life. I've wanted to do a post like this for some time, but it always got pushed aside until I was reminded by it after having a conversation with a very good friend of mine from my home ward in Canada (I'll call her Virginia) about some amazing spiritual experiences she and her siblings experienced after losing each of their parents. When her mother died, Virginia had a very detailed dream about her mother, in which her mother looked the way she did when she was younger. They embraced and she recalls vividly how it felt and how her mother smelled. Her mother told her that she was happy and well. Later on, Virginia was talking to her sister, who told her of a dream that she had had herself about their mother -- which turned out to be the exact same dream that Virginia had had, right down to the details.
When Virginia's father died, he was an old man and had been ill for some time. As each of the sisters took turns sitting by his bedside, each one of them "heard" a special message from their father -- even though he was lying unconscious in his bed. The only one who didn't get a special message was Virginia (who is, incidentally, the only one in the family who was active in the Church along with her father). At first she was a little disappointed, but accepted that it wasn't meant to be. Their father passed away just a few hours later.
Later that evening after leaving the hospital, Virginia settled down to bed. At about 3 am, she suddenly awoke to see the room light up like day and a vision of her father, dressed in his nice dark suit and looking exactly like he did when he was in his 40's, stepping down through a sort of "portal" and walking towards Virginia's bed. He was smiling and he looked "radiant," as she described. But Virginia was so shocked by this vision that she freaked out, hid her face under the covers and yelled "NO!" And then he was gone.
Before I got married, I became good friends with an older woman in my ward. I'll call her Mary. When I was 18, she had gotten the news from the doctor that she was terminally ill. She had a bad heart but was not a candidate for a transplant because she was not strong enough to survive the surgery. I'm now 31 and Mary finally died just a couple of months ago. Over the years, I had many conversations with Mary, who talked openly about her impending death, what she imagined it would be like, and some interesting spiritual experiences she had had -- particularly concerning her husband, who died back in the 70's. Especially these last couple of years, Mary had a strong feeling of his presence on several occasions and even had a beautiful vision of him, much like Virginia had of her father.
My husband's father died during heart bypass surgery just after we met. So unfortunately, I never knew my father-in-law. However, I'm close to my mother-in-law (I'll call her Brita) and she told me an interesting story. My husband's family is not particularly religious, but I know that they believe in "something," and that there is "more between heaven and earth," as Norwegians like to say. One day a few years ago I was helping my mother-in-law dust the tops of her kitchen cupboards. As I carefully dusted a small porcelain music box, she told me a very interesting story. Her husband (I'll call him Rolf) had received that music box as a gift from either his mother or grandmother (I can't remember). It was one of those that you have to twist in order for it to play.
Shortly after her husband's death, Brita said that she was alone in the kitchen one evening and started to think out loud: "Rolf, if you're really out there somewhere and listening to this, let me know somehow." Then, to her astonishment, the music box started to play. I cannot believe that this was simply a coincidence because:
a) the music box is out of reach without a chair or a ladder
b) it won't start playing if simply touched -- it's needs to be twisted
c) it's never played on its own, before or since that particular occasion
d) Brita is one of the most rational, level-headed people I know and I KNOW she would not make up something like this
Not only do I believe in spirits, I also believe that certain people, so-called "mediums" have a special gift in making contact and relating messages between the living and the dead, much like some people have the gift of tongues or healing. I'm not talking about the type of people who place ads in newspapers and charge you 10 bucks a minute to call a 1-900 number. I'm not talking about those who are obviously frauds or who use sneaky tactics to make money off their supposed "gift." I'm talking about those who are sincere and who really appear to have a gift, those who make stunning connections that have to be more than coincidence, and offer their services not to get rich, but in order to bring comfort to those who are grieving over a loss or feeling burdened by a presence that is "haunting" them.
My parents have a copy of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. Even though it's been almost 15 years since I've read that book, a lot of things have never been forgotten -- mostly negative things, unfortunately. I've been home for a visit and after that conversation with my friend Virginia, I was reminded by some of the things that McConkie wrote in that book concerning spirits and mediums. I found the book buried beneath a pile of stuff in an old bookshelf and started to re-read the passages on a variety of topics that were burned in my mind all these years. I remember my mother telling me years ago how she never liked that book. I feel the same way. I get such a negative feeling when I even think about it. But because McConkie provided an opposing viewpoint to my own, and since his is most likely accepted as truth by most Mormons, I decided to cite his writings on the subject in this post for the sake of the "spirit" of discussion (no pun intended).
Under "Medium," McConkie writes:
"Mediums are witches; they are persons who have so trained and schooled themselves in sorcery and spiritualism that they have ready access to and communion with evil spirits. In modern spiritualism they are the ones who conduct seances and who profess to call back the dead and receive messages from them. In the main, of course, the messages received are from devils and not from the departed dead." (Mormon Doctrine, page 473)
McConkie continues in a section called "Spiritualism."
"It is true that some mediums do make contact with spirits during their seances. In most instances, however, such spirits as manifest themselves are probably the demons or devils who were cast out of heaven for rebellion. Such departed spirits as become involved in these spiritualistic orgies would obviously be the spirits of wicked and depraved persons who because of their previous wickedness in mortality had wholly subjected themselves to the dominion of Lucifer. Righteous spirits would have nothing but contempt and pity for the attempts of mediums to make contact with them.
Isaiah's famous statement on the falsity of spiritualism is: "And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter -- should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead? To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (2 Ne. 18:19-20; Isa. 8:19-20; Inspired Version, Isa. 8:19-20) Thus, no matter how sincerely mediums may be deceived into thinking they are following a divinely-approved pattern, they are in fact turning to an evil source "for the living to hear from the dead." Those who are truly spiritually inclined know this by personal revelation from the true Spirit; further, the information revealed from spirits through mediums is not according to "the law and to the testimony." Accordingly, though some true facts may be found in it, yet its acceptance and use has the effect of leading souls into the clutches of those evil powers which give the data." (Mormon Doctrine, page 759)
So here are some questions I have. Feel free to answer them all, or just the ones that you feel you can.
a) Have you or anyone you know ever had a mysterious experience with spirits, good or bad?
b) Do you believe that the dead can come back to comfort us or give us a message?
c) Do you believe in mediums? Do you believethat certain people have a spiritual gift that allows them to "see dead people" or communicate with them?
d) Do you believe in hauntings and do you believe that mediums can help these spirits to "cross over" and stop plaguing the living and/or relate a message of comfort to those who are grieving?
e) Do you believe, like Bruce R. McConkie, that all mediums are engaging in a sort of devil worship with evil spirits, whether intentionally or unintentionally?