The doctrine of life after death is central to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which is often inadvertently called the Mormon Church). Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, believe that at death, the spirit of a person continues to live, though the body is buried in the grave. Jesus Christ overcame sin and death through His atoning sacrifice. “And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men…” (2 Nephi 9:22). Jesus became the first resurrected person, meaning His spirit and his body of flesh and bones were reunited and He physically lives again.
The first president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, declared that the spirits of righteous people who have died “are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and are often pained therewith” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 326). President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 18; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 33).
In his article, The Enabling Power and Ministering Angels, Dr. Craig R. Frogley discussed how interaction with the dead is under divine design through the Holy Spirit.
We have been instructed by the Savior to pray to the Father in the name of Christ. When we receive divine inspiration or revelation it comes through the Holy Spirit. But President Kimball taught,“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”Could that other person include an ancestor on the other side? If so, when they communicate, it is under divine direction and through the Holy Spirit.
Accounts of visitations of deceased persons to the living demonstrate God’s reality, fulfillment of prophecy, comfort and protection to mortal man.
1 – The Angel Gabriel Visited the Virgin Mary
One of my favorite scriptural examples of a deceased person ministering to a mortal person is the interaction of Angel Gabriel, known during his mortal life as the prophet Noah, to the virgin Mary. “Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. … Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favour with God. … For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:28, 30, 37). The Anunciation of Christ’s birth had been prophesied for centuries! What heavenly news!
2-Jesus Walked With Disciples to Emmaus
There are many stories of the Savior’s appearances after His Resurrection. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus walked and talked with two friends and then broke and blessed bread with them. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:30-32). Can you imagine how that would feel? To have been in the presence of the Savior without realizing it? “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
3-Jesus Fulfills Prophecy Appearing To His Other Sheep
In a poignant Book of Mormon passage, the Savior appeared to people on the American continent,
And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth… (3 Nephi 11:6-12).
Imagine seeing a heavenly being descending from heaven, speaking to you, and declaring Himself to be the Christ. He spent time with every person that day, healing them, teaching them, loving them. Though they were a crowd of thousands, He blessed them individually.
4-The “First Vision” that Began the Restoration of Christ’s Church
In modern times, 14 year-old Joseph Smith wanted to know which church to join. While reading the New Testament, James 1:5 impacted his young heart: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph went to a nearby grove of trees and prayed to God. He saw God the Father and Jesus Christ!
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other — This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17).
Have you prayed to know that God exists? I have and have received the calm reassurance of the Holy Spirit in my mind and heart which removes doubt and fear and increases faith. I know that God the Father lives and that He and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in answer to his prayer.
5-Founding Fathers Appeared to Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff, an Apostle and later president of The Church of Jesus Christ, related that many eminent men, women, and America’s Founding Fathers appeared to him requesting sacred ordinances be performed for them in the temple.
Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them. I straightway went… 1
James G. Bleak also witnessed this event:
I was also present in the St. George Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. And also the spirits of the Presidents of the U.S. up to that time. And also others, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley, who came to Wilford Woodruff…. 2
6-Heber J. Grant’s Life Preserved
Eugene Cannon recorded in his journal, dated June 1, 1898, that
Brother Heber J. Grant arose and bore his testimony that when he was sick one year ago and was operated upon, that prior to his being taken to the hospital that both of his wives went and consulted Dr. Richards as to his condition and Doctor told them, if a certain kind of pus was found in him there would be no hopes whatsoever for his recovery. Later his wife who is now dead appeared to one of his wives and told her that if he was taken to the hospital he would recover. He went to the hospital and the pus spoken of by Dr. Richards was found in him. He recovered and is a living testimony to the people of the power of God. 3
God is aware of our individual needs and can bless us with the inspiration to know what to do for ourselves and our families.
God’s glorious Plan of Salvation affirms that while death separates a spirit from its body until resurrection, that person is still alive in Christ. Interactions with righteous departed souls generally occur under divine direction for communication or protection. Many Latter-day Saints have enjoyed personal interaction with their deceased loved ones for healing, comfort, and the advancement of God’s work on the earth.
I invite you to learn for yourself that God lives and knows you. You can learn more about God’s Plan of Salvation by visiting with Mormon missionaries.