Spiritual Experience of Charles Hickenlooper (1862)

Set down in his 71st year by Charles Andrew Hickenlooper in Salt Lake City, 1 February 1933.
Re-typed from a xeroxed typescript copy 28 July 2004.

The following incident is one of the most faith-promoting experiences I have ever had. It is, in fact, a miracle. I have made it a matter of prayer that I might set forth the incident just as I experienced it and that I might tell it truthfully and exactly as it actually happened. It is with the thought that some of my own descendants or any others who may happen to read this may be strengthened in their faith that I set it down in writing.

Not many people ever have the peculiar experience of coming back to this earth and living again once they have left it. This is, however, the experience of Dr. LeRoy Cowles, who is now a professor at the University of Utah.

LeRoy was living with his parents on their farm at Harrisville in Weber County, some six miles northwest of Ogden, Utah. His father’s farm and my own were very close together, being about a half mile apart, and our families were very close friends.

The incident occurred in 1897 when LeRoy was just seventeen years of age. On October 11th he went to bed with a fever. During the week he became very ill. On the Friday following, I was visiting him and was asked to administer to him. While performing that sacred ordinance, I was impressed to promise him that his life would be spared and that he would live to accomplish a great and mighty work.

On our way to Conference in Ogden the following Sunday, my wife and I called to see him. We found him very, very sick. The doctor had been there and had given very little hope for his recovery. His mother asked me to see if I could get Professor Moench to come and see him. Professor Moench was principal of the Weber Stake Academy and a very good friend of the family. Together with Professor Haag, another of LeRoy’s teachers, Professor Moench left the morning session of the conference, went to LeRoy’s home, and stayed with him all day. Before leaving that afternoon, he gave LeRoy a blessing and told him that although he would be brought to death’s door, his life would be spared through the power of God.

On my return from conference that afternoon, I called and found that he was worse. I asked his mother who was going to stay with them that night.

“I wish you would volunteer to stay with us,” she replied.

I told her I would come and stay with them after the evening meeting. When I returned about nine o’clock, LeRoy was failing very fast. We worked with him as best as we knew how, but it seemed that the “Angel of Death” had come for him. A number of times he ceased to breathe. At such times, we would raise his arms over his head and expand his lungs to start him to breathing again. Finally his breathing stopped entirely. His eyes became set and glassy, and we heard the death rattle in his throat. Then he lay still and quiet with all signs of life gone. I have seen quite a number of people die, but never one more real than this one.

I stepped to the bed and began straightening his limbs. His parents commenced weeping and calling for their boy to come back to them. While I was looking for a cloth to tie over his head and around his chin to hold his mouth closed, I noticed his mother pick up a bottle of oil. I had a feeling that she would ask me to administer to her boy, but I pretended not to see her with the oil. LeRoy’s father had been pacing the floor and saying, “Roy, Roy, come back to us. Speak to us.” All at once he turned to me and said, “Brother Hickenlooper, administer to him.”

“I haven’t faith enough to administer to a dead person,” was the first impression I had, and I was just about to say it aloud when another thought came rushing into mind: “You promised him just two nights ago that he would live; and Brother Moench promised him today that, even though he should be brought to death’s door, he should be restored through the power of God.”

The thought of the promises struck me very forcibly, and with them turning in my mind, I mustered all the faith I could. Taking the bottle of oil from his mother, I asked his father if he could do the anointing.

“No, Brother Hickenlooper,” he said chokingly, “you will have to do it.”

As I started the anointing, all weeping stopped and everything was quiet. When I was ready to seal the anointing, LeRoy’s father placed his hands upon his son’s head. I sealed the anointing and pled with the Lord to return LeRoy to us and thus make good the promises given him. When I finished my feeble petition, the father offered one of the most humble and pleading prayers I have ever heard.

As long as I live and retain my reason, I shall never forget the intensity of the following moments. As we removed our hands from his head and I looked at his lifeless form, what little faith I had been able to muster seemed to vanish. The father and mother began again to pace the floor and to cry, “Roy, come back to us. Speak to us.”

All at once I noticed signs of life. LeRoy opened his eyes, sat up in bed, and began to speak in a clear, audible voice. Inasmuch as he had been so weak for days that he could hardly move his arms or could scarcely speak loud enough to be heard, it was indeed startling to see him sit up and speak in his natural tone of voice when just a moment before he had been as though dead. We all listened breathlessly as he related this wonderful story:

I have been to the spirit world. A messenger came and took me to a most beautiful place. There were a great many people there and everyone seemed to happy and contented.

“LeRoy,” said the messenger, “you can either stay here, or you can go back to earth.”

I replied that if I could stay there in such a beautiful place that I never wanted to go back to the cruel earth. Just then I heard the voice of my father crying, “Roy, come back to us.” I looked and saw the distress of my parents. Turning to the messenger, I said, “For their sakes, I will go back.”

The above is only a brief account of what he told us. After relating his experience to us, LeRoy lay down and slept peacefully during the rest of the night. I shall never forget the peaceful heavenly feeling that came into the room when LeRoy sat up and commenced talking to us. The dark heavy feeling that had been there seemed to vanish and peace and light to enter. It was, needless to say, a most thankful father and mother who listened to their son’s account of his visit to the spirit world.

Within a few months of this incident, LeRoy was in the Eastern States on a mission. Although he was one of the youngest elders in that conference, he was soon made president and filled a wonderful mission.

After returning from his mission, he continued his studies and is today one of the leading educators of our state and is a power for good.

_Note: LeRoy Cowles was born 13 Apr 1880, Chester, Sanpete, Utah, son of Willam Henry Cowles and Sarepta Eveline Judkins. He was President of the University of Utah from 1941 to 1945. See http://www.arch.utah.edu/hba/htmlfiles/bldg013.html and [http://history.utah.gov/apps/markers/detailed_results.php?markerid=2306]...

_Louis Frederick Moench was the first principal of the Weber Stake Academy, which first opened its doors on 7 January 1889. See http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/w/WEBERSTATE.html_

_I understand that there is a confirming account of this from LeRoy Cowles himself, but I have not had access to it. Jean Ohai, 2004. _