Visions of the Spirit World

Although it happened back in Feburary, until yesterday I hadn’t seen President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy Nelson’s wonderful joint address to the RootsTech conference. President Nelson shared a remarkable story from his family history. This weekend Elder Kopischke of the Seventy came to our Stake Conference and he quoted the story at length while speaking of the importance of Family History and Temple Work. I offer the story with the caveat, of course, that it is not canonized revelation and does not supplant D&C 138 in any way.

I wanted to tell the family about my Grandfather Nelson and the precious gift he gave to us. His name is Andrew Clarence Nelson. They called him A. C. He died when my father was 17 years old, so I never knew my Grandfather Nelson. He’s the only one of my four grandparents I did not know. When my Grandfather A. C. Nelson was a young husband and father, just 27 years old, his father died. Then, about three months later, his father, now deceased, came to visit him. The date of that visit was the night of April 6, 1891. Grandfather Nelson was so impressed by his father’s visit that he wrote the experience in his own journal for his family and his friends. …

Listen to my grandfather’s words about that sacred experience:

“I was in bed when Father entered the room. He came and sat on the side of the bed. He said, ‘Well, my son, as I had a few spare minutes I received permission to come and see you for a few minutes. I am feeling well, my son, and have had very much to do since I died.’

“‘What have you been doing since you died, Father?’

“‘I’ve been traveling together with Apostle Erastus Snow ever since I died. That is, since three days after I died. I received my commission to preach the gospel. You cannot imagine, my son, how many spirits there are in the spirit world that have not yet received the gospel. But many are receiving it, and a great work is being accomplished. Many are anxiously looking forth to their friends who are still living to administer for them in the temples. I’ve been very busy preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.’

“‘Father, can you see us at all times, and do you know what we’re doing?’

“‘Oh, no, my son. I have something else to do. I cannot go when and where I please. There is just as much and much more order here in the spirit world than in the other world. I have been assigned work to do, and it must be performed.’

“‘We intend to go to the temple and get sealed to you, Father, as soon as we can.’

“‘That, my son, is partly what I came to see you about. We will yet make a family and live throughout eternity.’

“‘Father, is it natural to die?’

“‘It is just as natural to die as it is to be born, or for you to pass out of that door.’ And here he pointed at the door. ‘When I told the folks that I could not last long, it turned dark and I could not see anything for a few minutes. Then the first thing I could see was a number of spirits in the spirit world. The paper you gave me, my son, is dated wrong. But it makes no particular difference. Correct records are kept here.'” …

“‘Father, is the gospel as taught by this Church true?’

“‘My son, do you see that picture?’ Pointing to a picture of the First Presidency of the Church hanging on the wall.

“‘Yes, I see it.’

“‘Just as sure as you see that picture, just as sure is the gospel true. The gospel of Jesus Christ has within it the power of saving every man and woman that will obey it, and in no other way can they ever obtain salvation in the kingdom of God. My son, always cling to the gospel. Be humble, be prayerful, be submissive to the priesthood, be true, be faithful to the covenants you have made with God. Never do anything that would displease God. Oh, what a blessing is the gospel. My son, be a good boy.'”

There is much I could say about that incredible vision. But I will only add a few thoughts. First, I love how this deceased father cares so much about his son and his family. That eternal love is the essence of the Gospel. Second, I love his declaration that “we will yet” make an eternal family. It is never too late to seal and family together for eternity thanks to Heavenly Father’s plan. As someone whose father passed away quite recently, that thought brings me a lot of comfort. Third, the spirit world is organized after the pattern of this world. This may be a source of discomfort for those who chafe at Church organization on this earth, but to me it suggests that God has a plan and is not leaving anything to chance. There is a systematic effort to teach the vast number of spirits in the spirit world.

Elder Kopischke added his testimony that deceased sisters are also lanolin dilligently on the other side of the veil. I imagine my mother, preaching the Gospel to her ancestors and those who have not yet heard of it. That thought fills me with such gratitude. Even though she died more than a decade ago, I can sense that we are co-laborers in the work of the Lord. I am grateful for the Plan of Salvation and for the remarkable vision and President Nelson’s willingness to share it with the world.

10 thoughts on “Visions of the Spirit World

  1. Obviously D&C 76 and D&C 138 are important canonized references to the spirit world and its activities.

    Another interesting account comes from Heber Q. Hale, coincidentally a cousin of mine, who was asked in 1920 to relate an experience he had visiting the spirit world.

    I like to note how the canonized scriptures are consistent with Heber Q. Hale and also consistent with the visitation Andrew Clarence Nelson received from his father. These all are also consistent with spiritual experiences individuals in my immediate family have had, specifically having to do with seeing the spirits of recently departed infants, as well as seeing the spirits of those long gone.

  2. What an awesome story. I read a lot of NDE books and this is pretty much a similar experience from an excellent reliable source.

  3. I can’t begin to count the number of visions/visitations in my extended family and close friends which teach that he post-mortal life is one strongly based on organized families (dare we call them family councils?). The inhabitants of that realm feel accountable for both their ancestors and posterity. If there is anything which causes those persons anxiety, it is abuse of children and failing to properly and lovingly instruct children in the Gospel.

  4. These accounts include the information That the spirit world is organized and intent on the mission of redemption except for those rebellious spirits who feed the mediums and superstitious with unauthorized appearances. I believe that temple workers experience a glimpse of the realm of righteous spirits as they engage in facilitating the work of redemption. One by one, but adding up to multitudes, the work proceeds. Those who diminish or deride the vicarious acts of baptism and confirmation fail to comprehend the joy and satisfaction felt by workers who witness daily miracles.

  5. Realizing that this story is not canon, it is enlightening. I’ve long been curious about the nature of relationships across the veil. Through latter-day revelation we know that:

    a) The mortal and spirit worlds share a common plane.

    b) The veil is a semipermeable membrane. While interactions can and do occur across it, the mortal world can’t interact with the spirit world willingly or on-demand.

    c) There are numerous mortal souls who are curious about the spirit world and, although they may not actively seek it, would welcome an inter-veil interaction with a deceased loved one in a heartbeat.

    So my big question has always been about the parameters of the interactions that do occasionally occur. I’ve mentioned here before my devout LDS grandmother who lost her husband 30 years ago and has humbly desired some sort of interaction with him since. Nothing. I’ve also mentioned my other grandmother who did not desire an interaction with a deceased loved one, but who had almost a random experience with them.

    I can only tentatively conclude that spirits can willingly initiate interactions with the mortal world, but that it is not a common occurrence because 1) it’s somehow (physically?) difficult to pull off and/or 2) that spirits are discouraged from doing so for some reason.

    This post seems to support my prior assumption that– at least in the case of deceased LDS– it’s dependent upon permission from some authority. I suppose the busy nature of society on that side might lessen the likelihood of encounters, but we know they look after and are concerned about us. If there’s time to think about us or physically watch us, why can’t there be time to pop in for a 3 minute chat every decade or so?

    This is something I’ve always wanted to ask general authorities about when they visit for meetings, but the Q&A time is usually hogged by millennials asking about same sex marriage policy. Granted, the topic of inter-veil interactions is non-salvific, but it’s something a lot of every day members wonder about– and yet extremely rarely addressed.


  6. I would suggest it’s also linked to receptivity. I was the mother of one of the deceased infants, but the gift of seeing the mature spirit was given to another, who had in her day seen the mature spirit of her own departed infant.

    It is a gift, not a right. Not all gifts are given to every individual.

  7. Ok, I can buy that it’s a gift. But take an anecdotal look at the numbers. How many among the living have a deceased loved one they miss, and how many deceased spirits are hanging around wishing they could somehow communicate with or comfort us? If it’s a gift, it’s one of the rarest and highest regulated. Even considering the likelihood that not everybody shares those sacred experiences, the fact that it happens so rarely is quite astonishing.

    Which begs the question– why?

  8. Tossman, many of the spiritual gifts mentioned in scripture are pretty rare these days too…. Praying/preaching/singing/speaking in tongues (2 Nephi 31:13, “shouting praises to the most high in the tongue of angels”), interpretation of tongues, raising the dead, walking on water, talking babies, etc.

    Individual spiritual promptings and personal revelation come under the “prophecy” heading (prophecy is not restricted to just foretelling the future) , and those are mentioned frequenty in conference talks and church magazines, and by GAs and local leaders/speakers in local settings.

    So…. Why? Well, God doesn’t change, so either circumstances changed, or some gifts just aren’t needed or particulaly useful at present, or maybe they are happening but the participants and witnesses just aren’t talking.

    Moroni wrote that if there aren’t spiritual gifts, it’s because of a lack of faith. It’s probably a matter of degree. There are still some types of gifts at, at least, some frequency, so, we still have some faith.

    The cool thing is that every believer is entitled to at least one based on their faith. Paul wrote that the only gift we should seek or covet is prophecy, the revelation/prompting thing. Which is exactly what the GAs keep repeating: seek the guidance of Spirit, heed the Spirit, be worthy of the Spirit, etc.

    “and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide”, DC 45:57, is the gift of prophecy.

    If one has the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, then what does one need visitations of angels or dead people for? The Holy Ghost out-ranks them.

  9. Let me preface this comment by clarifying that 1) I don’t particularly seek some sort of inter-veil encounter, 2) nor am I staking an undue amount of testimony on these types of experiences.

    That said, I’ve always been incredibly curious about the nature of our post-mortal existence and have always wondered why not more has been revealed about it. The grandmother I mentioned who did have an encounter with somebody beyond the veil wasn’t– and isn’t– particularly faithful or spiritually receptive. Now, I’m not inclined to try to parse the minutiae of what exactly makes somebody worthy of this particular gift, but I personally believe the criteria (if they indeed exist) are more nuanced than many think.

    Regarding the other rare gifts you mentioned, Bookslinger, one reason I don’t base my testimony on them is I don’t personally believe they were ever as prevalent as we tend to believe they were.

    My interest in inter-veil contact isn’t so much about strengthening testimony or comfort (two things the Holy Ghost can more effectively do; see Laman and Lemuel) as it is about the nature of post-mortal existence. Again, it’s a mere curiosity, but definitely ranks higher for me personally than gender confusion, if Coke is against the WoW or whether women will ever get the priesthood.

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