Russell Ricks was having a hard time at school just after he was baptized; he was a target of continual teasing and bullying. Then one night, just weeks after his baptism, he fell asleep -- and promptly had a dream about his pre-mortal life which he discloses fully in this post. However, there are two excerpts of his post that I found most interesting and informative (after the jump):
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. Later, in another chapter, we will discuss more on this striking feature of the Savior. His voice was gentle, yet like the rushing of great 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. 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 Neph 11;21-23). 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 this personage to be the 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.
In His compassion, the Savior gently scooped me up into His arms, carrying me 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, glorified yellow-gold. A glorious indescribable prism of light emanated from the entire city. Even the Heavenly light itself, seemed to be alive and in the attitude of praising the Glory of God. 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. Two of the many buildings had a 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, which 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 loving and peaceful. I felt no fear of Him. 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 what I would face in the future with my childhood peers in mortality, was one of the reasons I hesitated and even feared entering the mortal sphere. In life, it is also most 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 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 our real home is and have no desire to continue our mortal journey. Although I miss my spiritual home, 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 ministered comfort to me in the form of a promise.
What's interesting is that when the Savior took Ricks into the city, He didn't take him to the temple-like building, but instead took him to the tabernacle. It's as if the Savior recognized that Ricks was still too young for temple access and knew he didn't have a temple recommend. This conveys even stronger meaning to Matthew 18:18, which states "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". Perhaps the Savior intended the experience to drive home this lesson to Brother Ricks.
Here's the next excerpt:
The Savior told me that because of what I had accomplished in my First Estate (Pre-earth life), I was 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 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 a message of His love through various means to let me know He loved me and I had not been forgotten.
Having read countless accounts by people who have had these experiences, I do not recall a single instance where a non-Mormon was ever told bluntly by spirit authorities to join the LDS Church; usually, the message is to live differently and serve people more fully. In many cases, those having these experiences are taught within the context of their current religious beliefs. So what the Savior has done here is to tell Brother Ricks that he is exactly where he belongs, and explains to him why he was born into a LDS family. Years later, Brother Ricks reported an interesting follow-up when he visited the Idaho Falls Temple and saw a mural remarkably similar to a scene in heaven during his dream. This experience further strengthened his testimony.
Dreams, pre-born experiences (PBEs), and near-death experiences (NDEs) are part and parcel of the lives of many LDS members. On Latter-Day Commentary, Tim Malone provides short summaries of several related books HERE and HERE. However, such experiences are given to individuals only for their personal use, and no one will ever get one of these experiences to give direction to the Church as a whole. Information applicable to the Church as a whole comes to only one source -- the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. In addition, while information conveyed during an authentic experience may add to scriptural knowledge, it will NEVER contradict existing scripture. No one will come back from an authentic NDE saying there is no hell and there is no devil.