Russell R Experience
POUR OUT MY SPIRIT
When I was eight years old, I had an unusual dream one night. It was unusual for several reasons. First off, my typical dream at that age was of me going to school in my pajamas or just my underwear. One of my recurring dreams at that time, a nightmare, was of me being chased by a giant grizzly bear, but that’s another story. Socially, I struggled making friends at school and perhaps, these types of dreams were a subconscious expression of my social struggles and lack of self esteem. Among my favorite dreams, sometimes I would see myself flying or even dream in black and white instead of color. I thought the black and white thing was really cool! However, the night vision I had on this one particular occasion was different, very different. It was accompanied by a powerful and amazingly peaceful feeling I had not felt in any other typical dream before or since and it felt so real… It was more real than real, if that makes any sense. It also seemed as if pure knowledge and pure love from a divine source was continuously being poured out to me in abundant portions, thus enlightening and expanding my understanding of heavenly things and filling my heart with unspeakable joy! This observance of pure intelligence continued with me until the dream closed. It appeared to be consistent with my current understanding of the plan of salvation and with scripture. Have you ever been in the middle of a dream, knowing it was not reality, allowing the dream to continue? I have. With the experience I’m about to share with you, I was not sure at first, if I was having a vision or what some call an out-of-body experience. It felt so convincingly, absolutely real. After I woke up and went about my daily routine, the powerful feeling I felt accompanying my night vision, continued to stay with me for days and even weeks after that incredible experience. To this day, no other dream has ever had such an impact on my life as this one has had.
I do remember feeling discouraged and unloved for several days before I had the experience. I had just turned eight a few weeks prior to the dream and the fall school schedule was under way. I remember thinking that if I just stayed in bed all day, not allowing myself to have to face the difficulties I had among my peers, then I could avoid all the hurt, abuse and pain I was currently dealing with. As I mentioned above, I struggled socially in school. A typical week in my efforts to make friends or feel accepted, would often result in me getting bullied. I would frequently, sometimes almost daily, come home with a bloodied nose and a black eye. Even into my adulthood, I continued to struggle with social nuances. I did not learn the cause of my social struggles until at the age of Fifty, I went in for a brain scan. While in the radiology lab I learned I had a neurological disorder called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. This did not affect my intelligence, only my social struggles until learning to manage it better through extensive therapy. I received this therapy only just a few years ago, in my early fifties when I first found out about my disorder.
At the breakfast table the next morning, after all my siblings had their bellies filled and went on their way, my mother busied herself with the chore of cleaning dirty dishes. I however, decided to hang around so I could talk to her alone. I wanted so bad to tell someone about my dream. I especially felt I needed to share the experience I had with her.
As I began relating my experience, my mother realized I needed her full attention. She slid up a chair, sitting down across from me to face me and held my hands in hers. After I finished relating the details of my dream the best I could, my mother expressed to me that she felt this was no ordinary experience, that I had something very special and it came from a divine source. I remember asking her what it meant. She responded something like this, “I don’t know, but it was something very special. Just be patient, the Lord meant this for you. Someday you’ll understand.”
As I write about this experience, I am now fifty-six years old. Looking back now at divers crossroads in my life, I have personally witnessed the hand of God pointing directly to the fulfillment of experiences and promises made to me in my night vision.
My account may not be for everyone, yet I believe there are some who would benefit from my words. After my experience, I went on a personal quest to find out if anyone else had experienced something similar. I discovered the book titled, Life Everlasting by Duane S. Crowther particularly comforting, then discovered the accounts of many others who had an NDE. My vision was my personal experience which was meant for me. I am not in a position of authority to claim what I witnessed is LDS church doctrine, nor claim what I witnessed is exactly how the Kingdom of Heaven is. I will not make such a claim. Leave that up to the Lord’s modern-day Apostles and Prophets. I can only relate the experience the best I can, using the language I have been given, though it may be inadequate. Much of what I saw I believe was more symbolic, for the purpose of relating divine truths, shown to me in a way I could understand. It will be difficult to put some things into words, but I will do my best. I do not take this task of sharing it lightly. I consider it to be a very sacred personal experience. In the past, I have shared the full details of my dream with a few others. I found that some have appreciated what I related, understanding it’s sacredness, others were less impressed and had mocked me. This shocked me, because some of these people I thought were once very close of whom I often confided in. Now, learning from past experience, I try not to share the dream with others, unless the Lord’s Spirit dictates they will benefit from it. Why am I sharing it now? I do so, acting upon a recent prompting of the Spirit that the time has come to put it in writing, into a manuscript form.
If I were to ever write a book about this and others experiences I would title it, Pour Out My Spirit, which refers to a passage of scripture found in the Holy Bible by one of the Old Testament prophets named Joel (1 Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions”.
As I understand this passage, it refers to our day, when the Restored Gospel has flooded the earth and the Spirit of the Lord is poured out to every, nation, kindred, tongue and people to prepare their hearts to receive the message of the restored gospel. In our day, many people from all walks of life, believers or previously self-declared atheists, have related their remarkable
spiritual accounts after dying, leaving their body, then returning to life. After you read my account and before you draw any conclusions, I would encourage you to study the experiences of others (LDS and some non-LDS) who may have had a similar dream, a near death or an out-of-body experience, the scriptures and words or visions of modern-day prophets and apostles relating to life beyond the veil. I give my witness that I do know for myself, our life existed before we were born into mortality and will continue as immortalized beings after we die.
The Young Men Shall Dream Dreams
I was baptized at the young age of eight years old. A few weeks after I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through baptism, I remember feeling how wonderful it was to have my slate wiped clean. I remember thinking that if I just stayed in bed, not having to get up and face the trials and temptations of the day, I could keep myself unspotted. I was also afraid to face my peers, for fear of being a target of continual teasing and bullying. Socially, my school days were difficult, abusive, painful and lonely---especially my elementary school period. With those thoughts in my mind, I tearfully fell asleep feeling quite depressed and unloved.
When my dream began, I found myself in the midst of a small, indescribably beautiful garden grove, surrounded by what appeared to be aspen trees, a variety of flowers and other pleasant forest plant life. The place seemed familiar, as to the trees and plant life on the garden’s forest floor---or in other words, like what we would find here on earth, yet far, far more glorious. Though familiar in that sense, I quickly perceived the place where I stood was not found in our earthly mortal world. Along with that observation, everything seemed so very real, that I was unsure at first if whether I was having an actual near-death experience (NDE) or having a dream---a vision if you will. In fact, the whole experience seemed more real than the reality we know here on earth as mortals. A full spectrum of colors in the garden grove, the flowers and the surrounding atmosphere, exceeded beauty beyond anything I had ever seen before. It seemed almost as if I was witnessing colors I had never before seen with my naked eyes. As a professional artist (my profession today and my aspiration back then), these celestial colors really intrigued me. If I could find a way to paint these colors I would, but I’m afraid that would be impossible. All plant life and the glorious sunlit sky, seemed to radiate it’s own light and pure intelligence. Everything seemed to have it’s own vibration which I could feel and during the dream, comprehend. It was as if all creation was in the attitude of praising God without ceasing. I could also hear continuous heavenly music and a choir singing praises to their creator, yet I could not tell from what direction it was coming from. I think the choral music was all around me. An overwhelming feeling of peace and joy beyond description also seemed to emanate from this strangely familiar place. It also seemed to me that everything I was witnessing was somehow connected as if it was One and I was a part of that Oneness. A small well-worn footpath intersected the center of the grove and continued beyond, then deeper into the forest. This tiny grove seemed to be a familiar and favored place for many to visit. I found myself leaning face-first against a small boulder near the base of a few aspen, which were on one edge of the grove and next to the footpath. Although I was eight years old when I had this experience, in the vision I was represented as a small and innocent child of about two to three years old. I perceived this
representation to symbolize the life I lived before being born into mortality. It was as if I went back in time, into a pre-earth spiritual dimension. Perhaps I once actually stood in that very spot in times past. Maybe it was a favorite place I frequented in my pre existent state to quietly meditate. While in this dimension, my own perception of things seemed heightened far beyond my eight year old understanding. It was as if pure intelligence continuously flowed to my understanding and I comprehended many things all at once and in an instant. But once the vision closed, I could no longer retain the knowledge I had gained and only remember having felt an incredible increase of knowledge. There is however one thing that has stayed with me all these years since my vision-- an actual knowledge and not just a belief in the existence of God, the premortal existence of man and that we will continue to exist after we lay down our mortal bodies in the dust. Before I had the dream, my parent had taught me about God and my Pre Existence. I believed what they taught, but now I know with absolute certainty that it is true.
Though I was in a place of pure happiness, my face was buried in my hands. I was leaning against the boulder and in tears. I knew I must continue on the path beyond the grove, but for some reason, I felt a great deal of anxiety and hesitated. I then perceived the mortal world was just beyond the grove. As I held back, I wasn’t confident how I would make out in mortality and fear overtook me. Moments later, as I lay pressed against the stone, I felt a gentle touch on my right shoulder, accompanied by a gentle and calming voice “Russell” the personage called me by my given name…”Why are you crying?” I was taken by surprise and remember thinking, yet not fearing, “Who is this person who knows me by my name?”
Turning back over my right shoulder to look up, I saw a being in a long white flowing robe standing in the air a few inches off the ground. His hands were exposed a little above his wrists and his robe’s hem touched the tops of his feet. A glorious, but non-blinding white light brighter than the sun, radiated from his being, flooding the surrounding grove. His radiance was brightest nearest his personage. His thick hair, white and shoulder length, was neatly groomed and he wore a full, white, neatly trimmed beard. His most striking and curious feature to me was his eyes, which seemed to appear as if they were on fire and yet they were not. Remember, this was how I perceived the Savior’s eye’s as an eight year old. In my writing, I will comment more on what I discovered later regarding this striking feature. His voice was gentle, yet like the rushing of mighty waters and when he spoke, it was through his thoughts, communicating with my thoughts. I do not recall seeing His lips move as He spoke. Perfect love, pure and unconditional, emanated from his personage. I felt complete acceptance. The power of his love encompassed everything, filling my heart with peace and joy indescribable. His love felt similar to the witness of the Holy Spirit when it finds place in your heart, yet far exceeded the power of the Spirit than I have ever felt in my lifetime. It reminded me of the Joy the prophet Lehi must have felt, after partaking of the fruit of the Tree Of Life [1 Nephi chapter 8; 1 Nephi 11;21-23 (BOM); Revelations 2:7 (KJV)]. It was because of this love and joyousness, I hesitated to leave this happy place. This pre-earth life had been my happy home for perhaps eons of time. For the first time in my spirit’s existence, I was about to embark on the unknown and would have to walk by faith in God, without beholding His presence in mortality.
I perceived clearly this personage to be my Savior Jesus Christ, as witnessed by His wounds,
which pierced His hands, wrists and feet. He looked into my eyes with great understanding and compassion and seemed to be able to look deep into my heart and soul. I felt no fear when He penetrated my soul, only pure love and perfect acceptance.
In His compassion, the Savior stooped down to lift me up and as He did so, His robe fell open a little, revealing what looked like a wound at His side. He then gently scooped me up into His arms, carrying me off to a beautiful distant and radiant city above the clouds. We traveled in an instant, to the city in a pillar of light. All the buildings, the gate where we entered and the streets appeared to be paved in the purest yellow-gold. Gloriously indescribable prisms of light, again with colors I had never before seen, emanated from the entire city. Even the Heavenly light itself, seemed to be alive and reflecting the Glory of God, even singing joyful praises to Him. Here, the power of the love of God overwhelmed my soul with pure joy! I perceived this city to be near the throne of God, perhaps it was the Celestial Kingdom. Of all the buildings in the city, two of them had a strange familiarity about them. One appeared to be in the design and architecture of the Salt Lake Temple, another adjacent structure looked like the Salt Lake Tabernacle, except they were were both constructed of pure gold material. The Savior led me to the tabernacle. We went inside, discovering we were alone and sat down on a pew near the front. Lovingly and with His arm cradled around me, the Lord gazed deep into my soul, inviting me to express my fears. His presence was so loving and peaceful. I felt no fear of Him. Having great anxiety, I expressed to Him that although I understood the plan and purpose for entering mortality, I wished I didn’t have to leave. I felt the place where I now was is my real home and where I truly belonged. I seemed to have somewhat of an understanding of many of the future trials and tests I would have to endure. Perhaps the abuse I would face in the future with my childhood peers and others throughout mortality, was one of the reasons I hesitated and even feared entering the mortal sphere. In life, it is often very difficult to depart from home for a great length of time, leaving behind loving associations with family, close friends and the precious memories attached to these relationships. Leaving my Heavenly home, my first home, was the same and more. I believe that if the veil were removed from us today, so that we could clearly gaze into our Pre-earth life, we would immediately comprehend heaven is where we first came from, where we truly belong and have no desire to continue our mortal journey. Although I miss my spiritual home today, I know that mortality is a necessary part of progression in God’s plan for us, so continue we must, if we are after mortality, worthy to enter His kingdom. He wiped my tears with a sleeve of His white robe. Always assuring, always loving and compassionate as is His nature, He then ministered comfort to me in the form of a promise.
The Savior told me that because of what I had accomplished in my First Estate (Pre-earth life), I was very blessed. He then proceeded to list all of the reasons why I was so blessed.
He said that I would be born into a family who had the knowledge and blessings of the fullness of the gospel. He said that I would be taught well, the true gospel of Jesus Christ through my family association and that I would be blessed with a strong testimony of the truth. He also promised my testimony would include the sustaining of modern-day apostles and prophets as prophets, seers and revelators. He promised that the parents selected to go before me were choice and chosen to help me make it through mortality. He declared that through this chosen lineage, the
authority to perform the necessary saving ordinances of the gospel would be given and performed upon me for my eternal benefit. Those ordinances, He taught, included; Baptism, the Gift the of the Holy Ghost, the authority of the Priesthood, the Temple Endowment and the Sealing Ordinance for time and All eternity. Since my parents would be sealed in the temple, I would be born under the covenant through the blessings of their own sealing ordinance. The Savior reminded me that through the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I would have a powerful guide to help me use my agency to make correct choices. He also reminded me that personal prayer was a great blessing and an important tool to communicate with God. He admonished me to pray often. The Son of God taught me that through His Atonement which He had already fulfilled, I could repent and be forgiven of mortal mistakes I would likely make. He concluded with a promise that from time to time throughout my life, He would send messages of His love through various means to let me know He loved me and I had not been forgotten.
After The Savior ministered comfort to me through the blessings and promises He had personally made, He gently reminded me it was time for me to enter mortality. I took courage and faith in His promises, letting Him know I was ready to go. We left the tabernacle and departed the city in the same manner in which we came, returning to the aspen grove where my vision began. Here we said our last farewell through a kiss and embrace, then I turned down the path, entering the thick of the beautiful forest where my vision suddenly came to an end. I then awoke from my sleep feeling the most awesome joy and having a sure knowledge that God, Himself had held me in His holy arms and let me know He was aware of me and that I was dearly loved by Him personally!
Since that awesome, sacred night, that night I cried myself to sleep with tears of sorrow, yet awoke with a feeling of hope which flooded my heart with tears of inexpressible joy. I no longer felt alone and unloved in this world. I continued to be abused, bullied and teased harshly by those around me up to about my sophomore year in high school, yet I had been given a rare gift from God and I knew that I was loved by Him personally, if not by anyone else. This new knowledge helped me survive those difficult years.
Eleven years later, when I reached the age of nineteen, I received a call to serve a two year mission for my church in Northern and Central California (the California Sacramento and California Oakland missions). While on my mission, I was one day reading in Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the LDS church’s canonized set of scriptures. D&C 110 is a revelation Joseph Smith, Jr., prophet of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, had received while dedicating the Kirtland, Ohio Temple to the Lord. D&C 110:1-4 reads,
“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow;
and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.”
I was overjoyed when I read this! This passage, particularly verse three, was a perfect description of the personage I intimately witnessed in my Pre Birth Experience eleven years previous. It was like a divine signature to me that God was watching out for me, even as He had promised to me in my pre-earth life. This scripture fortified my belief that the vision I received was not just an imaginary dream and had a purpose. This experience further fortified my desire to understand what that purpose was. I began reading everything I could get my hands on about life before and after mortality. The first book I read was titled, Life Everlasting, by LDS author, Duane S. Crowther. This book discusses near death experiences, visions, dreams and prophecies relating to the afterlife of members of the LDS faith. Within it’s pages, I found many similarities with my own experience and had been given great comfort. Other interesting books I studied were written by non-lds individuals. This led me to believe I was on the path to discovering my vision’s meaning. Their accounts were different and varied, but nonetheless, interesting. I did however find some similarities when compared to my own PBE. Later in my life and through the aid of the modern miracle of the internet, I began to find a few others who have had PBE’s. Each experience was tailored to each of them personally, yet there were some who had experiences which paralleled my own in many ways. At least four things tended to dominate almost every NDE or PBE I have read; God’s perfect love, heightened mental capacity during the experience, the vehicle of communication is most often through the medium of something similar to telepathic thought and the sense that our first true home is in Heaven and we will return to the spirit realm after we die.
A couple years later, after having returned from my mission for the church I married. And after I had been married for about a year or two, I had a remarkable experience in the Idaho Falls Temple. An LDS temple is a very sacred place, where we are schooled in the things of God and where we perform sacred ordinances for ourselves and for the dead. Because of the sacredness of the temple, there many are things we cannot and do not discuss outside its walls. We make sacred covenants to God, the details of which we do not discuss, because they are so sacred. What I am about to share is not part of the temple ceremony, but it is very sacred to me, because it relates to my dream.
While I was meditating and enjoying feeling the abundant Spirit which flooded the Celestial room I was admiring the murals painted on the walls. It suddenly dawned on me that the artist, had clearly depicted some of the symbolic things which were shown in my dream! To get to the Celestial room, you must pass through one of two entrances, one for the women and one for the men. After I entered into the Celestial room and found a place to relax, I sat facing these two doorways. Painted on the wall between the two openings, I noticed a small cluster of aspen
trees with a boulder! I was overjoyed to discover this and asked myself, “Why had I not noticed it before? Surely the vision I had in my youth was from God!” To my surprise, a similar scene was painted on a parallel wall across the room between the doorways to two sealing rooms where Celestial marriages for time and all eternity are performed. This fortified the truth of my new discovery! In my dream as an eight year old boy, I perceived the boulder and cluster of aspen to represent a passage similar to a portal which separated the world of spirits and mortality. In the mural, it became clear to me that was definitely what it represented, because of these symbols having been painted next to the entryways. As I began studying the mural more intently, I also noticed one other thing which had been shown to me in my dream. In one corner near the ceiling, the artist had painted a Celestial city in the clouds. All the buildings were painted to appear as gold and two of the buildings represented the architecture of the Salt Lake Temple and the Tabernacle! One other representation in the temple mural was very personal, although it was not part of my dream experience. The artist, Lee Green Richards had added several figures representing spirit children of our Heavenly Father, who had earned the right to enter God’s Kingdom. Two of the figures very closely resembled my Grandma and Grandpa Hunter (my mother’s parents), who had passed away a few years previous. One sitting figure reminded me of my mother when she was younger. This to me, was a another divine signature if you will, from God that what I had experienced in my dream and witnessed in the temple mural was not a coincidence. It was almost as if God had the artist paint those symbols to send a message to me personally that He was still watching out for me! Some skeptics might call it a coincidence. I will tell you that was rather unlikely if not impossible. Being a skeptic by nature in many things, I wondered this at first myself, but after a temple is dedicated, tours to a temples interior are closed to the public. After that, only members are allowed to enter. Even then, in order to qualify, members must prove their worthiness first through an interview with their LDS bishop and receive a temple recommend. I had never been on a tour of any temple before my adulthood. The mural was painted more than a decade before I was born, yet I was not aware of it, until I saw it for the first time eleven or so years after my baptism. There were some books in my family library about temples. Going through all of them, even turning the pages carefully one at a time, none of our books had any picture of the Idaho Falls Temple celestial room interior. One of the most illustrated books on temples in our possession had several photos of temple interiors, even pictures of some of the wall murals in the Los Angeles Temple, but none depicting similar scenes as in the Idaho Falls celestial room interior. Each celestial room temple mural is hand painted, unique and one of a kind.
After my temple session was over, I found the president of the temple, Elder Devere Harris sitting in his office. I asked if he had a moment to answer a question. He let me in, inviting me to sit down. I shared my experience with him and the relationship of my vision to the murals in the Celestial room. After I finished relating the experience, I said, “I believe the artist was inspired!” I then asked him if he knew what it all meant. President Harris responded, “First I want to let you know that yes, the artist was inspired and second, you should know that you’re not the first one who has had such an experience. Many others have had a similar experience!” He also said he couldn’t answer what it all meant, but offered that someday I would understand when the time was right. I left the temple filled with unspeakable joy and gratitude that I was not alone in my
experience! There were others out there somewhere, who had a similar experience, who were perhaps searching for answers to similar questions too. I left his office, even more firm in my testimony, that we truly existed before we were born and we will continue after we die! I also left with hope that I would find some of these people. Many years later, not long after I had turned fifty-five, I began to meet them online through the miraculous power of the internet.
The most powerful thing I gained from my experience was knowing that God loved me and accepted me perfectly. I learned I was not alone and that I was truly loved, despite my insecurity and lack of feeling accepted by my peers and others.
One of the priesthood offices in my LDS faith is that of a Patriarch. A Melchizedek priesthood holder who is called and set apart as a Patriarch, by a modern-day Apostle of the Lord, has been given sacred keys and spiritual gifts from God. This office and calling is like the patriarchs of the Old Testament, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The patriarch has the gift of prophecy, seership and revelation. They can give worthy members of the church a patriarchal blessing, which is like a blueprint, outlining important events, promises and blessings in your life, if you keep God’s commandments. Patriarchal blessings are also personal and sacred to a Latter Day Saint.
I received my patriarchal blessing when I was about fifteen years old. My patriarchal blessing begins by relating that I had a strong desire in the Pre Existence to live so worthily in mortality, that I would earn the right to return to my heavenly home. I have read my blessing over many, many times throughout my life. Funny thing is, I did not discover this in my blessing until about a year ago. It is also interesting to note that I have received many other priesthood blessings from various priesthood holders over the years, who knew nothing of my dream, when I was sick or requested a blessing of comfort. In many of these blessings, they also expressed I had this desire before I came to earth. How else would they have known this except through the Spirit of the Lord? I wonder sometimes if my dream was a parting of the veil or literal gaze into the past of a very real personal moment with the Savior. For me, sacred moments like these are part of God’s tender mercies and His way of fulfilling His promise He made to me in the pre existence, that He would take the time to send messages of His love to me while I travel this lonely mortal road. It is so wonderful to know and feel that God loves me, watches out for me and is always there when I need Him. My patriarchal blessing also states that I would feel the Savior as a companion to me throughout my life. This, I testify that I truly have. One such example happened to me when I was a teenager at the age of fifteen, on a cold winter morning a few months after I had obtained my daytime drivers licence.
Before dad became a full time fine artist, which is what I also do professionally, he operated a sign business. Every few Saturdays, we would load the shop garbage up in the back of dad’s pickup and drive to the landfill. On one particular early, slushy-snowy Saturday morning, dad pulled me out of bed bellowing in his macho false gruff voice, “Get out of bed now and take the garbage to the landfill or I’m going to can you!” Dad had a crease between his brow forever imprinted on his forehead which looked very much like a scowl, even when he wasn’t scowling. All he had to do was give us that look and we would, without question, do what he asked. He never physically disciplined (spanked) my six siblings and I, except on very rare occasions. I can
only recall being spanked by his massive hand or kicked in the rear-end with his heavy boot on two occasions in my life. Both of those occasions were when I deserved it, because I mouthed-off at my mom. He taught us to treat her with great reverence and respect. Other than those two occasions, all dad had to do was look at us with his imprinted scowl and jokingly threaten he would “get out the old frozen boot!” then we would obey. To the truth, he was really a good father and I loved him.
Shortly after I rose from my bed and got dressed, I told my younger brother Marty what dad had asked us to do. After a quick breakfast, Marty and I went about our task.
As I mentioned, I had only been a licensed driver for a few months. After my fifteenth birthday, I passed the written test then qualified to get behind the wheel in drivers ed. My birthday is in July, during the summer season. I had never driven in snow. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous... okay, very nervous to get on the snow-covered road in this weather, but I tried not to show it so I wouldn’t frighten Marty. The heavy metal ladder rack was on the truck, loaded also with ladders and a four inch by twenty foot iron pipe. The twenty foot pipe was not tied down and freely rolled only a few inches between two sets of vertical pipe, which were designed to keep ladders in place. I figured it would be okay and the extra weight would give me good traction on the roadway.
About a mile and a half west of Rexburg, Idaho where I was born, the road bends to the left, to the right and to the left and right again in a double “S” curve. I hit the due west stretch traveling about forty-five miles per hour, then began to pump my brakes to slow down a few hundred feet before the first curve. The truck started to fishtail, but pumping the brakes got it under control. It was then I heard a loud, very clear and distinct manly voice, “Russell, there’s a truck up ahead and it’s going to hit you!” I then saw an image in my mind of a truck pulling a long trailer loaded with hay. I turned to my brother and asked,
“Marty, did you say something to me?”
He gave me an odd look and said, “No. Why?”
“I heard a voice!”... Marty looked at me like I was crazy.
On approaching the crest of the first curve, an irish setter dashed out into the road in my lane. At the same time, a diesel pickup pulling an eighteen foot trailer, exactly as I saw it in my mind, came around the bend headed my way. My whole life flashed before my eyes in a split second, I panicked, slamming on the brakes and forgetting to press down on the clutch. Our pickup slid into the oncoming vehicle’s lane and the engine of course died. I tried to restart the truck, but I could see it would be too late. We both just knew our lives would end right there!
To avoid us, the other driver did some quick thinking. Instead of maneuvering his vehicle into our lane and potentially cause another accident from an unseen vehicle approaching, he steered into the shoulder on his side, avoiding a head-on with us. Unfortunately, he had to swerve to his left again and avoid hitting a power pole. When he maneuvered to the left, his hay trailer hit the
drivers side of our pickup, making the end result look like an old-fashioned rolled up, opened sardine can. The twenty foot pipe on our ladder rack then bounced off and landed on the driver’s hay trailer, splitting it down the middle longwise and scattering hay bales all over the highway. Grateful to God that I was alive and even more grateful my brother was unharmed, yet I was quite shaken up with all that had happened. As soon as I could, I went to the nearest house to make a phone call home. I was in tears and bawling when dad picked up the line. I just knew I was going to “get the frozen-boot” for what I had done, but when I explained with fear the details of the accident that just happened, dad spoke softly, ”Oh really?... Are you okay?” I bawled even harder, but with surprise that my dad did not give me the tongue lashing I expected!... Dad later got his revenge on me, by forcing me to chauffeur him in the pickup everywhere he needed to go. This, he said, “was to teach me a lesson never to wreck another vehicle he owned.” I can’t say I learned that lesson very well... “sigh.”
Sometimes even today, during moments personal prayer and pondering, I have heard or felt His gentle voice in my mind bringing comfort-- what a blessing this has been throughout my life!
Since my mission service and frequently throughout my life, I have often felt the Savior’s unselfish, loving hand via the Holy Spirit. Have you ever sat quietly, then softly and seemingly out of nowhere, the Spirit of the Lord gently floods your soul, beginning with a soothing, peaceful warmth in your bosom? This, to me, is the Lord gently reminding me again that He is watching over me and loves me. The way I see it, the Lord is keeping the promise He made me before I was born. One of those periods in my life when I was very much in need of His unconditional and healing balm, came to me as I was on my knees one night in fervent prayer. My wife had filed for divorce. Fifteen years of marriage with my first wife was officially and sadly coming to an end the following day. In our religion, we believe that marriages and the family unit is sacred and eternal. Sacred ordinances for time and all eternity seal a husband and his wife and all their children to each other, which means that we can all be together as a family unit in the next life, not just for time in mortality. She wanted to end our sacred bond and I would no longer be with my children twenty-four, seven as I had been. My sign shop and art studio was next to our home, so my children could come and talk to me whenever they chose. This was also the way I grew up, with my dad having his shop behind the house.
I was in such a bottomless, depressing depth of sorrow. I could not be comforted. I felt the world itself was about to collapse around me. On that particular night, I had another miracle! I again heard His voice in my mind and it was that same gentle voice I heard and learned to trust from my vision when only eight years old. The spirit and the power of the Savior’s love was so strongly felt that night, It felt as if He was truly in the room with me. I was overjoyed that He, Jehovah would take the time out of His busy schedule of creating worlds without number, to visit me! I also felt a very strong impression to pull up my stakes and move from Rexburg, Idaho where I grew up, to Central Utah. I received a witness of the Spirit that there was a new, perhaps better life for me there.
It took me almost two years before I had the courage to act on the prompt of relocating to Utah, because all of my children lived with their mother at home near Rexburg. A few months after I
did move, I had another experience which clearly pointed directly to my childhood vision. I was thirty nine at the time I rerooted to that state. The new neighborhood where I had settled was in Springville, Utah, the place they also call “Art City”. Being a professional artist myself, I was certain I would feel at home there. I attended a beautiful old LDS church, which was decorated in skillfully crafted stained glass windows, original paintings of the Savior and a relief sculpture depicting a scene from the life of the Savior inside the chapel. Being a new transplant in an artist community, Art City, Utah, this beautiful chapel helped me feel a part of it. One particular Sunday, at the beginning of a Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class, the instructor handed me a slip of paper with a quote by Apostle Erastus Snow. I read the quote to myself I choked up, and was shocked by the incredible words! Apostle Erastus Snow said something like this, “It has been thirty one years since I heard the voice of the Savior in the temple”. After being so overcome by the words, I was afraid I would not be able to read it to the class members. Miraculously, It had been almost exactly thirty one years since my own vision when I met the Savior and heard His voice. The Lord’s timing is amazing! The Savior once again let me know He was watching out for me.
Since that day, I have felt the Savior close to me many times in my life and I
know He lives, knows us individually and loves us very personally. For me, this
is a real and sure knowledge of the reality of God’s existence and not just a
mere belief. I also know with conviction that each of us are sent from heaven to
dwell here on earth with a plan and purpose to fulfill.
At the time of your experience was there an associated life-threatening event? No
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes it is impossible to completely describe in its fullness events and experiences from the spirit realm. since every NDE and the like candidates come from diverse backgrounds and traditions, which include levels of spirituality and religious understanding, we all describe similar events differently.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I felt a heightened sense of awareness and an increase in my mental capacity to clearly comprehend all things around me at once and in their fullness.
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal I experienced an intellectual understanding far beyond my years and even beyond the capacity of mortal man. When the vision closed, the knowledge I had gained during the experience was taken from me and I remember feeling a little frustrated that I could no longer retain that knowledge.
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I had near perfect vision as a mortal before and after I had the experience, but my "spiritual vision" or in other words, my ability to "see" and comprehend the nature of things beyond it's outward appearance was increased one hundred fold.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I was born hearing impaired in my left ear and I have always struggled with fully understanding the sounds around me without a hearing device. During my PBE however, I heard everything very clearly.
Did you see or hear any earthly events that were occurring during a time that your consciousness / awareness was apart from your physical / earthly body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? fear and anxiety, contrasted by inexpressible joy!
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain I do not recall "seeing" any tunnel or the like, but I had a sense of somehow being pulled into a different dimension or realm and suddenly I became aware that I was in a beautiful garden.
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes the light was brighter than the sun, yet not harmful. it was warm and inviting and illuminated with colors and brilliance beyond anything I have ever seen. I also felt the vibrations of the light giving glory to God for creating it in the sphere and element for which it was made. It was as if I could literally hear the light shouting praises to God and singing with joy for it's creation.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
the Savior Jesus Christ stood before me. I knew it was Him because I saw His wounds in His palms, wrists, feet and side. I also knew it was the Son of God from His personage, which radiated total acceptance of me and feeling the power of His pure love. His physical description perfectly matched LDS scripture that I was not aware of the time of my experience and only became aware of many years later. I heard His voice as we communicated telepathically.
I also sensed the presence of numerous spirit
beings, yet I do not recall seeing anyone other than Christ.
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? Yes the Savior Jesus Christ stood before me. I knew it was Him because I saw His wounds in His palms, wrists, feet and side. I also knew it was the Son of God from His personage, which radiated total acceptance of me and feeling the power of His pure love. His physical description perfectly matched LDS scripture that I was not aware of the time of my experience and only became aware of many years later.
I also sensed the presence of numerous spirit
beings, yet I do not recall seeing anyone other than Christ.
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes the Savior Jesus Christ stood before me. I knew it was Him because I saw His wounds in His palms, wrists, feet and side. I also knew it was the Son of God from His personage, which radiated total acceptance of me and feeling the power of His pure love. His physical description perfectly matched LDS scripture that I was not aware of the time of my experience and only became aware of many years later.
I also sensed the presence of numerous spirit
beings, yet I do not recall seeing anyone other than Christ.
Did you become aware of past events in your life during your experience? Yes Only to the capacity that my PBE was a replay of an actual interview with Christ before I was born. I also sensed as a premortal spirit I would face future challenges in mortality and this gave me great anxiety.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm
I was in the midst of a beautiful garden similar to what we might experience here on earth only far more glorious. I knew I was in the spirit realm.
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
My experience seemed to last for days, yet I suspect it only happened for a few moments while I slept.
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe
I could clearly comprehend everything about the universe, how it was made and by what power. What would seem like extremely complex science to a mortal who was a scientific genius, was given to me in such plainness and clarity, as if it were only the basics of elementary knowledge.
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes
I was aware that as soon as I took the path beyond the circumference of the heavenly garden grove, there was no turning back and I had no place to go but mortality.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was "sent back" against my will
I was aware that as soon as I took the path beyond the circumference of the heavenly garden grove, there was no turning back and I had no place to go but mortality.
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness suggesting that there either is (or is not) continued existence after earthly life (“life after death”)? Yes My experience was perfectly consistent with the Doctrines of Salvation clearly outlined by my religious faith. As Mormons, we believe we existed before mortal birth as intelligent spirit beings, children of our Father in Heaven. We believe that we came to earth to receive a physical body and have specific things to accomplish relating to our own salvation and the salvation of mankind and that fulfilling our mission on earth faithfully, will qualify us to receive a crown of glory from God the Father, which is All that He has and is. We can become like Him and live in immortality throughout all eternity.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that God or a supreme being either does (or does not) exist? Yes I know for absolute certainty in the existence and reality of God. I felt His touch, His embrace, heard His voice and felt His love.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that you either did (or did not) exist prior to this lifetime? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that a mystical universal connection or unity/oneness either does (or does not) exist? Yes My faith teaches that God said, "This is my work and my glory; to bring to pass the Immortality and eternal life of man." We are all connected and the universe is one with us. Jesus taught that He wants us to become one with God and Christ as Christ is one with God. One in purpose-- and God's purpose is to bring to pass the Immortality and eternal life of man.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s meaning or purpose? Yes I seemed to sense that my future life would be encountered with great difficulties, challenges and hardships. This knowledge caused me to feel great anxiety.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s difficulties, challenges, or hardships? Yes I seemed to sense that my future life would be encountered with great difficulties, challenges and hardships. This knowledge caused me to feel great anxiety.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding love? Yes I sensed that God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ or Jehovah were the source of all love that existed in the universe. When I encountered Christ in my PBE, I felt the power of His love, which exceeded all bounds. God's love is a pure and undefiled perfect love. He loves us with complete acceptance and no judgement.His love is beyond our power to put into words.
During your experience, did you encounter any other specific information / awareness that you have not shared in other questions that is relevant to living our earthly lives? Yes Portals or doors which can open up to other dimensions exist between mortality and the spirit real. We use these "doors" to travel between these dimensions.
Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge or purpose? Yes God made me specific promises in my pre-earth life He had promised to keep, which He has. He also promised me I would literally feel His loving awareness throughout my life and He would send messages of His love in various ways, like Divine Signatures or more than coincidental messages that He is aware of me and loves me personally.
What occurred during your experience included: Content that was entirely consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience It was completely consistent with LDS doctrine of the Plan of Salvation found in canonized scripture: the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price and with the LDS church authorities teachings, who are called as modern day prophets and apostles. Every detail of what I experienced pointed directly or indirectly to Mormon teachings regarding life before and after death.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience Not only do I remember the details of my experience vividly, for several weeks afterward, a very powerful sensation of overwhelming love, joy and peace, continued with me, never leaving my awareness. It was the same powerful feeling I experienced during my PBE.
My experience directly resulted in: Large changes in my life
Did you have any changes in your values or beliefs after the experience that occurred as a result of the experience? Yes My faith in God began as a strong belief before my PBE then became absolute knowledge afterward. I cannot deny it.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain I have always been more interested in spirituality than any other subject and have felt God's presence through many of the most common gifts of the spirit such as those outlined in the scriptures. Psychic or some sort of mystical powers?... NO.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? 1. The knowledge that God knows me by name, loves me with out judgment and keeps His promises He made me. 2. The image of Christ I witnessed in my PBE and the description of His personage found in Doctrine and Covenants 110:2-4 are one and the same.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes The first person I shared my PBE with was my mother the morning I woke up. She embraced it. I then shared it with my father, who accepted it. My parents told me it was from God. Some of my sibling accepted it and some of them thought I was crazy.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened: Experience was definitely real During my PBE it felt unquestionably real. After my experience, I had never before or since had a dream/vision impress upon me a strong desire to become a better person in such a powerful way as this experience had.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time: Experience was definitely real Everything about my PBE occurred with such purity and clarity, all the pieces to the puzzle fit with perfection. The sensations of my heart and my mind were aroused in such a way, and the literal physical feeling the Savior's touch and embrace, I was left with no doubt about the reality of what I experienced. In contrast, my subconscious dreams were usually frivolous and made little sense.
Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes More capacity to love, accept and forgive others. I also became more sober and pensive in nature.
Have your religious beliefs/spiritual practices changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes Only in the sense that I came out of my PBE with more conviction that my religious beliefs and faith in God were more sure.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes I discovered a mural inside the Idaho Falls, Idaho LDS temple that had symbolic representations which were identical to my PBE. This mural was inside the temple's Celestial room.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? no
Did the questions asked and information that you provided accurately and comprehensively describe your experience? Yes I think so.