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I share here one of the many striking accounts contained in Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Gaze into Heaven: Near-Death Experiences in Early Church History (Springville UT: CFI, 2013):
Marriner W. Merrill (1832-1906) — who served as both the first president of the Logan Utah Temple (1884-1906) and as an apostle (1889-1906) and who was the father of the scientist and apostle Joseph F. Merrill (1868-1952) — had a striking near-death experience of a very rare kind. During the time in which he perceived himself as being on the other side of the veil, he saw and spoke with a young woman to whom he had recently given a priesthood blessing. He was elderly and, at the time that he gave the blessing, he was himself quite ill.
Surprisingly, she asked him not to bless her to live. She said that, having lost both of her parents and having no close friends, she really had nothing special to keep her here. She wanted to join her mother. Elder Merrill found that both surprising and regrettable. He gave her a blessing nonetheless, though what he said in that blessing hasn’t been preserved.
The quotation below comes from a recounting of the story by Elder Rudger Clawson, of the Council of the Twelve, as transcribed by J. Berkeley Larsen:
Brother Merrill went back to his bed, and later both he and the young lady died.
“They went over to the Other Side, and as Brother Merrill was walking down a sidewalk with some brethren, he met this young lady who said, ‘This is my mother; this is one of the reasons I wanted to come.’
“Well, it just so happens they both came back. They saw each other over there. They conversed together. They met other people they knew and talked to, then came back and both remembered the incidents. President Clawson said, ‘That is one of the most singular instances of this type in the history of the Church.’” (37-38)
This is indeed a very unusual case, although I think that I have at least two analogous accounts in my files. What is unusually about it? The fact that it was apparently shared, and that both of those who had the experience afterwards described it and described their interaction in it. This seems pretty strong corroboration. (Unfortunately, the M. W. Merrill account is second- or third-hand, which weakens it just a bit. Still . . .)
Mark R BischoffDecember 9, 2021
I am the great-grandson of Mariner Wood Merrill and I have never heard this story before. There are other very interesting stories about him that have been shared and passed down in the family but I'm a bit shocked that this hasn't been one of them. What a fantastic experience. Thank you for printing this!