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I See Dead People

MCQ - June 10, 2009

I’ve noticed a trend lately.  I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but it seems that a popular plot device in many TV shows and movies involves visions or visitations of dead friends, relatives or strangers.  For example, in Rescue Me, Dennis Leary’s character sees all his dead family members and the fire victims that he has failed to rescue; in House, Hugh Laurie’s character has halucinations about dead people telling him things he needs to know to solve his cases, etc.  There have been several recent movies built around the premise of the dead coming back to harass the living, either as a horror device or a comedic one.  Also, in real life, one family member has related to me that she has had dreams or visions of my mother that have occurred after her recent death.  All of this has started me thinking about the Mormon belief in the spirit world.

I don’t know much about what other religions, even Christian religions, teach about the recently departed.  In Mormon thought, my understanding has always been that we believe that the newly dead spend some time in the spirit world, in either “paradise” or “spirit prison” depending on some factors relating to their behavior in this life.  But the location of the spirit world is what I really want to talk about.  Supposedly, Brigham Young and other prophets have taught that the spirit world is right here, and that the spirits of the dead walk among us, though we can’t see them.  Is that what you believe?  If so, how difficult is it to believe that these spirits are sometimes able to communicate with us?  Or that it is sometimes given to mortals to have the gift of speaking with the dead?  What do you think, are these things possible in your view?  Or is it all a bunch of Hollywood hooey?


  1. If you talk to my mom’s side of the family, they communicate often. According to them this usually happens a day or two before someone dies, they are visited by relatives and loved ones to comfort them for the coming journey.

    If you talk to my dad’s side of the family, that’s all a bunch of hooey! (or maybe my dad’s side is just full of sinners and my mom’s are all celestial>8p)

    Personally, I’m skeptical both ways. I have a hard time reasoning to myself the reasons the dead have a reason to communicate to us and if so, why not me! I could use all the help I can get, especially right now. Guess I just don’t have enough faith.

    On the other hand, I think it can happen/does happen more often than we may realize. I mean, have the day of miracles ceased? Why did all the angels and such only visit members of the church back in the 19th century? Doesn’t make any sense and goes contrary to what I’ve been taught.

    Comment by Bret — June 10, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

  2. There is a family story about my great-grandmother (I think. I may have lost track of “greats”.) who lost a baby shortly after birth. In a dream she saw her deceased mother holding the baby and promising to take good care of it.

    I’m of two minds about it. It seems to me that the scriptures and other related materials support the idea of those who are “beyond” communicating with us and vice versa.

    On the other hand, it opens up the question of much less benign stories that give me the absolute willies and that I avoid even thinking about.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — June 10, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  3. Bret, I’m not sure it’s a matter of faith, it may just be a gift of the spirit, which you either have or you don’t. I’m certain that revelation and other miracles, whether through the spirit or through angels, can be affected by faith, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here, I’m thinking of just communication with the dead specifically, not to reveal some religious truth, but just communication.

    PDOE, yeah, these stories obviously can be scary, but it seems to me that if it is a gift of the spirit, we will find it peaceful and fulfilling rather than scary. Certainly there are other sources of spiritual communication which can be scary. If we accept that one is possible, we probably have to admit that the other is too.

    Comment by MCQ — June 10, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  4. That would be what scares me, MCQ. I want the good to be possible but not the bad.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — June 10, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

  5. I have had quite some experience in this area, by my own experiences and those of others.

    I worked doing night patrol (security) for some time. I was informed of some haughted woolsheds. They certainly were. You had the hair raised on the back of your neck whenever you went there and left the light off in a particular room.

    One day I saw them. There was a huge collection of men from all times ranging back to the 1800′s from their dress. The place had existed that long.

    Also my mother has had a lot of communication from the dead. One lady was looking for her father’s will. My mother was informed by the deceased that the will was in the back of the piano. Inside taped onto the right hand side. The people went away and came back the next time to inform my mother that they had found it just as she had said.

    This was the most obvious thing that I have seen of communication.

    However those people I saw in the woolsheds I did hear them communicating to each other. There was a bunch of hoons who, upon seeing me coming, said, let’s go scare him.

    So the Spirit Prison and Paradise would be more a state of mind that a place.

    Comment by DougT — June 10, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

  6. I do believe that contact between the living and the dead is possible through the Spirit, but only when it’s a part of Heavenly Father’s plan–especially if something important needs to take place between those who are given the opportunity.

    From what I’ve seen, it’s something that happens because it NEEDS to happen, and when the person on earth is sensitive enough to receive that contact through the Spirit. Perhaps not unlike any other contact between man and Spirit, really.

    Comment by Paradox — June 10, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  7. I lean more toward MCQ’s view than that of Paradox. I don’t necessarily believe that God manually controls every little thing that happens, and I can easily imagine that extending to spirit-mortal interactions. I further think this is often a spiritual gift. For example, there was an elder on my mission who could see spirits (both evil and just, if I recall correctly) regularly, similar to what DougT described above. It was sort of a common thing for him.

    Beyond this gift, there have certainly been special visitations in my own family, including a particular incident that occurred when I was a toddler.

    I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere an experience I had on my mission. It involved a young man who was high on paint fumes or something, a second fellow who was there and then simply was not there, and the priesthood. The best phrase that describes my companion and I afterward is this: we went on our way rejoicing.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 10, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

  8. Paradox, you seem to assume that the Spirit, or God himself, is in control of all such contact. But even scriptural accounts don’t necessarily bear that out. After all, the brother of Jared was able to see the finger of the Lord without “needing” it and without the Lord “planning” it. It happened purely as a result of his faith. If that’s possible, then perhaps it’s possible to communicate with the dead through faith, or by way of a specific spiritual gift that allows such contact.

    Comment by MCQ — June 10, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  9. From an evangelical view, I think that the account of Saul and the medium of Endor summoning the spirit of the prophet Samuel shows that the dead can be contacted by the living. Then there’s the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, wherein the rich man begs Abraham to send the departed Lazarus to visit the rich man’s living brothers and warn them of the dangers of hell. His request is denied, but I think the fact that he even made it shows that it was theoretically possible. A lot of evangelicals believe that the account of the rich man and Lazarus was an actual event and not just a parable.

    Personally, I felt pretty strongly that my mother came and visited me on the day she died. I didn’t actually see her though, just sensed her, so who knows. Maybe I was just a crazy grieving woman.

    In any case, I think the living can contact the dead, and vice versa.

    I sure as hell hope that the dead can’t move among us at will and see us though, because that sounds creepy, and I don’t really want them to see me naked.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — June 10, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  10. Regarding what Ben Pratt wrote:

    “I further think this is often a spiritual gift. For example, there was an elder on my mission who could see spirits (both evil and just, if I recall correctly) regularly, similar to what DougT described above. It was sort of a common thing for him.”

    That is correct.

    Here is a comparison of the scriptures that describe such gift. The lists of the gifts of the Spirit vary in the accounts, so I have included part of the surrounding gifts in the list just to note the order and matching of the specific gift I am talking about: discerning of spirits. Note how Moroni in verse 14 provides somehow a more evolved and clear description of the gift:

    1 Cor 12
    10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
    11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

    D&C 46
    21 And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
    22 And to others it is given to prophesy;
    23 And to others the discerning of spirits.
    24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
    25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
    26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

    Moroni 10
    12 And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles;
    13 And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things;
    14 And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits;
    15 And again, to another, all kinds of tongues;
    16 And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues.
    17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

    Most people with that gift choose not to disclose it to anyone, following the good old saying “thou shall not throw pearls to pigs.” It is sacred and it becomes very difficult when someone receives it in worldly skepticism and doubt. On the other hand, it is very difficult for people who have never experienced such a thing to believe in these accounts, and they shouldn’t be blamed for their skepticism since there have been many charlatans that may claim the gift when they don’t really have it.

    In any case, I thing these type of sacred things should remain private. Sharing them should be considered carefully and in prayer. There are some individuals whom simply aren’t meant to have these things, and they are given other things. Sharing them carelessly may result in negative outcomes.

    Comment by Manuel — June 11, 2009 @ 12:37 am

  11. I would also like to add the Joseph Smith himself gave “practical” teachings regarding ministering angels/spirits. Today, I sense many members seem to think of this section of the D&C as a relic of past beliefs. And that is very sad, I feel the Church membership has grown so skeptical of these things that that in itself may be the cause that some do not open their hearts to these experiences. I think this is one of the reasons Joseph Smith was chosen, he was no skeptic, he truly believed he could communicate beyond the veil and the natural reach of physical sight. So I will just paste some of Doctrine and Covenants 129:

    4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
    5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
    6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
    7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
    8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
    9 These are three grand akeys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.

    Also regarding the gifts I mentioned before, D&C 46 appoints the Bishops to discern if a gift is from God:

    27 And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God.

    From the previous teachings, it seems to me that Joseph Smith expected people to have such experiences.

    I also disagree with Paradox that such events would “only [occur] when it’s a part of Heavenly Father’s plan–especially if something important needs to take place between those who are given the opportunity.”

    Alma spoke of conversing with angels while on his mission.

    We are all encouraged to seek for these gifts, and instead of signs, we should ask for gifts.

    1 Cor. 14: 12
    12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

    D&C 46:
    8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
    9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
    10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your aminds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.

    “Faith is a spiritual gift. So is personal revelation. So is a testimony of Jesus Christ. And there are other spiritual gifts. We know too little about spiritual gifts. This is evident in our communications, and it is also evident in our failure to seek after and use spiritual gifts.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    “We should seek after spiritual gifts. They can lead us to God. They can shield us from the power of the adversary. They can compensate for our inadequacies and repair our imperfections.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    “The real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the christian church, was, because the christians were turned heathens again.” Elder Orson Pratt

    Comment by Manuel — June 11, 2009 @ 1:35 am

  12. Years ago I saw a program about UFO’s and the commentator said that UFO enthusiasts no longer believe that UFOs come from outer space but that they are “between the atoms.” I remember thinking at the time about our believe that the spirit world is simply “in another dimension” which is a term I once heard or saw used in a gospel discussion.

    I DO believe that the spirit world is all around us and I worry that my deceased grandmother is shaking her head at me when I she sees me doing stupid things. But, as has been stated previously, that same belief gives me comfort in knowing where I’ll be when my mortal life ends. My maternal grandfather once told my mother, after his third near death experience, that “I keep trying to get to Mam (a name he called his mother) but she keeps slamming the door.” Shortly before his death, when the family was gathered together at Thanksgiving and he somehow knew it would be his last time to talk to us all, he bore a testimony like I never heard from him before, something to the effect that “I’ve always believed there was a God in Heaven who answers our prayer, but now I know.” That testimony may not seem that extraordinary my some measure but coming from him it gave me the firm belief that he had experienced the other side, in some form or fashion.

    Comment by Lamonte — June 11, 2009 @ 5:04 am

  13. Hey Lamonte, would you email me at tombo at jhu dot edu?

    Comment by Tom — June 11, 2009 @ 6:31 am

  14. God the ultimate micro-manager?

    Comment by psychochemiker — June 11, 2009 @ 6:40 am

  15. Psycho: I’m not sure what you mean by that comment. It doesn’t appear to apply to what anyone is saying here.

    Comment by MCQ — June 11, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  16. I do believe that the spirit world is around us in another dimension. I was told by a Mormon psychic (yes there are such people) that I have a large number of the dead coming and going around me all the time. I tend to clean up more now :)

    I heard a couple of parapsychologists on Oprah years ago who said there are three kinds of spirits on earth. They said one kind was a bad spirit that was angry at us for having a body. These spirits (demons) cause problems for the living.

    Another kind of spirt was a spirit with a purpose. These are Angels.

    The third kind of spirit is the souls of the departed who did not choose to go to the next life (ghosts). They are neither all bad or good stuck in limbo and not always aware of our presence.

    I live in a southern town that is “spook central”. I have talked to too many sane people who have had a serious ghostly experience. I have seen only a little myself.

    Comment by JA Benson — June 11, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  17. psychochemiker is probably referring to the view expressed in #6, that God personally allows or disallows specific spirit-mortal interactions. As I said, I don’t buy it.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 11, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  18. Oh, i get it. Thought we were past that.

    JA Benson: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I think that what some people call being “psychic” may actually be a gift of the spirit. And, yeah, if we really believe this stuff about the dead being all around us and even able to observe and communicate with us occasionally, we should probably act a little differently than we do. I’m not as concerned as Jack is about being seen naked (and I’m nowhere near as cute naked as Jack is, I suspect) but if the dead can actually see what we’re doing, I do want to “clean up more.” Literally and figuratively.

    Comment by MCQ — June 11, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  19. You might be interested in the studies done by Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr. M.D. “Life after Life”, “The Light Beyond” and several other books he has written about studies done concerning near death experiences. Some of the experiences include visits from dead relatives or friends. The accounts are very interesting and one has to realize that all such experiences are subjective.

    The society on the other side, I’m sure is very very rich and diverse.

    Comment by Glen Hopkinson — June 11, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  20. MCQ After spending just 15 minutes with the LDS psychic I am now a total believer. believe psychic is definitely a spiritual gift. Like all gifts it could be used for bad or good.

    I was the most delightful experience to communicate with my departed grandparents. There was no way she could know what she knew. I was careful not to give clues, and she just knew stuff that was just amazing. In no way was my experience weird or bad or dark. I am just a little psychic (gift of discernment) myself, so maybe it made me easier to read.

    I believe (I know I am getting just too woo woo) our departed ancestors work out some issues thru us as we conquer the earthly travails that we experience. LIke say we over come being shy; they see us, help us, and with us overcome their shyness as well. I hope this makes sense. Often our demons were their demons. Funny how behaviors tendencies, weaknesses etc… get passed down.

    Comment by JA Benson — June 11, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  21. Whoops! I should not post at night, 3rd sentence should read: I believe being psychic is definitely a spiritual gift.

    Comment by JA Benson — June 11, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  22. I’ve seen dead people. Also had an experience with an evil spirit. It sounds completely loony to say but that’s what it amounts to.

    I do think the spirit world is all around us. Sometimes I’ll be doing something completely goofy, like singing really loudly when I’m in the car alone, and suddenly start laughing thinking about whether my dead brother and sister are watching me.

    I also tend to think that some psychics are real (but not all), as far as being able to communicate with the dead. My sister has a psychic friend who saw some things about my brother’s death that I can’t quite write off as coincidence. I tend to think that many psychics aren’t necessarily tapping into the Holy Ghost with their connections to the spirit world, though.

    It sounds so completely loony.

    Comment by Susan M — June 12, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  23. My mother passed away from cancer in Nov of 2008. After her passing, I wondered what she was doing. I bought this book from the LDS book store by our temple here in Dallas.

    Life Everlasting by Duane S. Crowther.

    and it has enlightened me as to what my mother may be doing.

    It is very interesting and a good read for people who wonder about the afterlife.

    Comment by Jackie — June 19, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  24. Dead people speak to me. I am trying to find others who blog about the experience. Too creepy for some to accept…creepy to me at times, although I’ve become used to it mostly. I am a christian, but cannot deny my ability, and it appears to run through others in the family. Can you provide any guidance? Sincere thanks! Melody

    Comment by Phoenix Dove — October 4, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  25. Dead people speak to me. My blog is located at beyondthepurplesky@blogspot.com. I very much hope to hear from others who understand my unique ability.

    Comment by Phoenix Dove — October 4, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

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