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JOSEPH - Besdes what Joseph Smith experienced are there any other stories of the spirits of dead people appearing to others?
JOEL - We often hear stories of such things happening and those experiences are very personal things meant for the bennefit of the individual. There are a few that have been recorded in church history, such as Parley P. Pratt who recorded the appearance of his deceased wife to him as he lay suffering in a Missouri dungeon with his mind set on one question. "Shall I ever, at any time, however distant it may be, or whatever I may suffer first; shall I ever be free again in this life?" The answer came in this manner:
"After some days of prayer and fasting, and seeking the Lord on the subject, I retired to my bed in my lonely chamber at an early hour, and while the other prisoners and the guard were chatting and beguiling the lonesome hours in the upper apartment of the prison, I lay in silence, seeking and expecting an answer to my prayer, when suddenly I seemed carried away in the spirit, and no longer sensible to outward objects with which I was surrounded. A heaven of peace and calmness pervaded my bosom; a personage from the world of spirits stood before me with a smile of compassion in every look, and pity mingled with the tenderest love and sympathy in every expression of the countenance. A soft hand seemed placed within my own, and a glowing cheek was laid in tenderness and warmth upon mine. A well-known voice saluted me, which I readily recognized as that of the wife of my youth, who had for one or two years been sweetly sleeping where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. I was made to realize that she was sent to commune with me, and answer my question.
Knowing this, I said to her in a most eager and inquiring tone: Shall I ever be at liberty again in this life and enjoy the society of my family and the Saints, and preach the gospel as I have done? She answered definitely and unhesitatingly: "YES!"
(Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 261, 262.)
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 into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others." (Wilford Woodruff, in a Conference Report, April 10, 1898)
Then there is John Wells, who at one time was a member of the Presiding Bishopric. "A son of Bishop Wells was killed in Emigration Canyon on a railroad track. His boy was accidently run over by a freight train. Sister Wells was inconsolable. She mourned during the three days prior to the funeral, received no comfort at the funeral, and was in a rather serious state of mind.
"One day soon after the funeral services while she was lying on her bed relaxed, still mourning, she says that her son appeared to her and said, 'Mother do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right.'
"Now, listen. He said that as soon as he realized that he had died and was in another environment he tried to see his father, but he couldn't reach him. His father was so busy with the duties in his office he could not respond to his call. Therefore he had come to his mother. He said to her, 'You tell father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn any more.'" (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 415)
A couple lessons taught here. First this visitation is another testament to the reality of life after death and secondly we should not be so busy that we miss out on opportunities to have such spiritual experiences.
My own mother had a similar experience shortly after my father died at the young age of 42, leaving her a widow with 5 young children still to be raised. She was quite upset and depressed wondering how she was going to support the family, never having to have to work before. One day she decided to go up in the mountains to our family cabin to be alone with her thoughts. While she lay on her bed thinking about her husband his face appeared to her on the wall above her bed and he simply said, "I just want you to be a good mother in the home", and then he left.
It was hard for her but she did the best she could to honor his request.