Exploring Near Death Experiences

In 1975, Dr. Raymond A. Moody coined the term “near-death experiences” in his bestselling book Life After Life.

Mormons have latched on to this concept, which is not surprising, considering our unique doctrine regarding the afterlife.

Dr. Brent Top has researched extensively near-death experiences, especially by those outside of the LDS community.

He has identified several common elements to these experiences such as the “life review,” encountering loved ones, and spirit communication.

Far from fading as a fad, the topic is becoming more and more popular.

While Dr. Top finds his studies interesting, he warns of the danger of trying to establish doctrine through experience. He emphasizes what the LDS doctrine is regarding the afterlife rather than anecdotal experiences. He also introduces a concept he coined as the “Apocraphal Principle” to help us evaluate these stories.

Check out links to extra resources at LDS Perspectives.

5 thoughts on “Exploring Near Death Experiences

  1. Interesting – one take away is that there are many experiences that people have with individuals on the other side that don’t occur strictly in the context of nearly having died. I’ve had several such experiences, but prior to listening to this discussion would not have considered them “near death” experiences.

    At any rate, a delightful conversation.

  2. Laura, thanks for this. I was fascinated with near-death experiences and their commonalities when I first converted in my 30s. Since then, they have become less important to me and to my testimony. I guess I would say that I am find the doctrine more important than the anecdotes, just as you say in this podcast.

  3. Fascinating stuff. Very interesting. Thank you for this wonderful podcast.

    On a separate note, I am curious if perhaps a future topic could be explored: experiences with evil spirits. Not the most uplifting subject, to be sure, but I’ve known several people that have had encounters and I wonder if it’s been treated before.

  4. Not totally related, but something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past several years and a suggestion for a future episode of your wonderful podcast…

    It’s curious to me why we don’t have more doctrine (or Talmage-esque reliable near-doctrine) on the nature of the spirit world. Specifically, I’m interested in the interactions people sometimes have with spirits of loved ones who have died.

    I have two living grandmothers– both of them women of great faith– whose husbands have passed. My maternal grandmother lost my grandfather two years ago. She recently told us that he appeared to her shortly after his death. She described the experience as a “total presence.” To her (although she doesn’t recall coming into contact with him) he was physically present. She swears she was completely lucid at the time, and I have no reason to doubt her. Other members of my family have felt his presence at times– including at a temple sealing– but have not seen him.

    My paternal grandmother lost my grandfather about 30 years ago. He was a temple sealer, stake patriarch and all-round spiritual giant. I recall him often talking about his own experiences beyond the veil. After hearing about my maternal grandmother’s experience with her late husband, I asked my paternal grandmother if she had experienced anything like this since losing her husband so long ago. Aside from feeling a general presence at some points, she said she had not. For the record, she said she’d be thrilled if it happened.

    I think it’s clear that interveil-veil interactions can and do occur. I wonder about the protocols. What are the rules of such interactions? Neither of my grandmothers sought out these interactions. One happened; the other simply didn’t. Perhaps it shows the limitations of my mortal logic, but I imagine both parties separated by the veil would desire some kind of interaction. The missus and I have promised each other that whoever goes first will try to reach out. So what, if anything, determines when this can/will occur and when it can’t/won’t?

    Maybe it’s not within the scope of your podcast, but I’d love to hear from somebody who might be able to shed some light on this. Not essential to salvation, of course, but it’s darn interesting.

  5. Some years back I wrote an essay for Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 showing that the Alma’s conversion while “nigh unto death” matches all of the phenomena and all after-effects noted by modern NDE research. And it is Alma who provides most of the Book of Mormon teaching on the topic. The Book of Mormon also provides insights on the cultural aspects of NDE accounts consistent with the issues explored in Carol Zaleski’s Otherworld Journeys.

    Writing it today, I would also note that the the most direct and interesting teachings of Modern Prophets come through Brigham Young, who had such an experience at Winter Quarters (his famous vision of Joseph Smith). Compare the Spirit World chapter of the Brigham Young manual which has many interesting details unmentioned in scripture but consistent with modern accounts. Brigham was clearly teaching from personal experience. Later, in a conference session Heber C Kimball reported a conversation with Jedediah Grant, who after having such an experience, commented to Heber, “Why it was just as Brigham has told us many times.”

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