Doors of Death – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Doors of Death, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1992 General Conference.

I guess I’ll start by saying that this was a really good talk. There are a lot of things that I highlighted (which is usually the case). It’s kind of funny to say that a talk about death was good, but it’s true. There seems to be no better way to think about life than by talking about death.

Heber Valley Golden Hour
Just a nice picture for you.

President Nelson stated:

“Death separates “the spirit and the body [which] are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15.) That separation evokes pangs of sorrow and shock among those left behind. The hurt is real. Only its intensity varies.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m sure that everyone reading this post has experienced the death of a loved one. And that each person reading this post has experienced the pain of this loss in various intensities. I have not yet experienced the death of a parent or spouse, but all my grandparents have passed away. My little brother tragically died seven years ago when he was only 18. I have mourned the death of loved ones and friends.

Not only that, but I’m going to be turning 40 this year, and it seems like the older I get, the more I realize that life is fragile. When I was a teenager, I never would have said that I thought I was invincible. I knew better than that! But it seems like I only knew that logically. I never really thought about the fact that I will one day die, and I didn’t usually attach any of my actions to this fact.

I mean, I drove recklessly, I jumped off bridges, I stayed up late and ate a diet of 90% junk food! Yes, I knew that I was going to die one day, but instead of using that information to make wiser decisions, it was more or less a reason for me to push the boundaries – YOLO!

Now, as I’m getting older, I have a fully formed frontal lobe. I’m a mother. In fact, I actually think that sometimes my anxieties have the best of me. But it is for the same reason…YOLO! I love my life, and I want to really live it. For a long time, too. Which is why this statement made by President Nelson really stood out to me:

“The only length of life that seems to satisfy the longings of the human heart is life everlasting.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the only length of life that is satisfactory to me. I love life! What’s not to love? And yet, when I write this, I can’t help but think about recent events – like suicides of public figures – which are a small representation of so many more who feel so much pain that they think that death is the best option. My heart is filled with sorrow to know that there are people suffering to this degree. I can’t even imagine it.

But I do love life. Here are a few reasons why:

Sunrise at Maleakahana
Sunrise at Malaekahana
Wawa Hoagie
Wawa Hoagies – FAVE
Late Summer Sunflower
Late Summer Sunflowers in Midway
Little Bear Big Luck
Little Girl, Big Luck
Magic of Christmas
The Magic of Christmas
Superstar Medallion Quilt
Quilts!
My BFFs
My BFFs – Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Basil
Waiting for Pie
A Little Girl Waiting for More Pie
My puppy Dog
My Sad Little Puppy Dog
Rex and a Butterfly
This Boy has My Heart
Baby Deer in Snake Creek Canyon
A Baby Deer in Snake Creek Canyon
Cannoli
Cannoliiiiiiiiiiiiiii…..
Flowers on the Tops of the Mountain
Wildflowers at the Tops of the Wasatch
Halloween in Hingham
Halloween!
Chocolate Haupia Pie
Chocolate Haupia Pie
Horses in Heber
Horses in Heber
Homey and Little Homey
World Cup Haircuts
Provo City Center Temple
Provo City Center Temple
My Fave
My Total Favorite

Okay. That was more than a few. Why I love life, yet this is a talk about death… So a few thoughts from the talk.

One

“Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is such a good reminder and gives us perspective. Before we came to this earth, we existed as spiritual beings – spiritual daughters and sons of a Loving God. We had intelligence and purpose long before we took our first breath. And we will still have an existence for an eternity after we take our last mortal breath.

This life is only a portion of our eternal lives.

Sometimes I don’t really internalize that. Even though I have had the gospel my whole life and I have known the truth of our eternal natures, I can’t remember life before this life! I haven’t died yet either, so it’s easy to get consumed with this mortal life. It is easy to let this consumption beget anxiety and fear – that I’m missing out or squandering this life.

Instead, I need to keep a proper perspective on how my mortality fits into the rest of my life. The decisions we make here on earth will have some impact on our eternal futures. We must keep our eternal nature in mind as we balance zest for life with mindfulness of the real purpose that we are here – to prepare to meet God.

Two

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

“…it was appointed unto men that they must die;…” – Alma 12:27

Just as we had a life before mortality, we will have a life after mortality. Which means that we enter into mortality through birth, and that we exit from mortality through death.

We all die.

There is a purpose in the timing and seasons of our lives – and of our death.

Three

“Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.)

Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now.” – Russell M. Nelson

As I mentioned earlier, seven years ago, my little brother passed away. He was in a freak accident. It was completely unexpected and just terrible.

I was living in Arkansas at the time and my sister was living in Oklahoma. We drove together to Massachusetts to be with my family during this time. We drove as swiftly as we could, and when we arrived to Massachusetts, we went straight to the viewing.

People came to pay their condolences.

I kept hearing over and over again, “Stay strong.”
“You are so strong.”
Strong, strong, strong.

And yes, everyone was grief-stricken. We were mourning. But it seemed like we all tried to rush the time of mourning – and wear our stoicism as a badge of strength.

I was troubled by it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I, too, was proud of my “strength.” I had eternal perspective. Why should I be sad. We were there to celebrate my brother’s life, not mourn his death. We wanted to focus on the positive. I’m an optimist, so this idea naturally appeals to me.

Strength. Perspective. Hope. Optimism. Those are good things, right?

Jesus said:

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they that mourn.

It seems like – for my whole life – I’ve tried to run away from mourning, as if it is a sign of weakness. Yet the Savior, in his short list of beatitudes, includes a blessing on those that mourn.

It was a few years later when I was seeing a therapist. I was feeling in a funk, and felt strongly prompted to see this particular woman. As we went through therapy she asked me: “Why do you intellectualize yourself out of your emotions?”

hmmm…Because I’m strong! Because I’m smart! I’m not emotional! Because I’m an optimist!

I didn’t understand the value of emotions. I didn’t understand that I could accept my emotions as the signals they are – that I didn’t have to be ruled by them as an “emotional person.”

She asked me about that – without giving me any insights or answers other than stating what I do. (“You were talking about something – it was really sad. I saw that you wanted to get sad. You started to feel sad. Then instead, you just explained it away. It’s okay to be sad about that! It’s a sad thing! So why do you do that?!”)

I thought about that for a while, and of course when we try to change, with our hearts, the Lord helps us with opportunities.

One day, I saw a woman in the parking lot of the fitness center I went to. She had a license plate on her car that had a “Donate Life” symbol on it – having been a recipient of organ donation. She was also wearing a similar tee-shirt. For some reason, I felt like I should say something to her.

She told me that it was her five year anniversary of life – receiving an organ that had kept her alive. I wanted to explain to her that my brother was an organ donor. I wanted to see the perspective and hope in this situation. But instead, I felt a prompting: Don’t intellectualize yourself out of this emotion. … So instead of saying something eloquent or strong, I broke down and cried, hugging her. Telling her that it was the two year anniversary of my brother’s death – and that he was an organ donor. We, two strangers, a woman I’ve never seen again, held each other and cried in the parking lot. She out of gratitude and grief. Me – finally letting myself mourn.

It was strange. I got in my car after that, a little embarrassed, and laughed to myself.

This was followed by heightened emotions for days. Finally, as things started to settle, I realized something. If I chose to bottle up my emotions, then I was bottling all of them up. I couldn’t only close myself off from grief and pain. Because peace and joy are connected to them. If I close myself off to negative emotions, I also miss out on the beautiful ones.

President Nelson taught:

“The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” – Russell M. Nelson

Mourning. Sorrow. Grief. These feelings are all okay! They don’t indicate weakness. They don’t indicate a lack of perspective or gratitude! They show that you loved! They show that life mattered!

Four

I know I just went on about mourning. And we are blessed when we mourn. But we can’t forget the rest of the beatitude: Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.

We need to also allow ourselves to be comforted. We can’t wallow in grief, refusing to be comforted. Comfort comes to those who mourn, but we still must accept the comfort, otherwise grief and sadness come at the cost of joy and peace.

How can we be comforted? We can remember that this life is a part of a bigger plan – A Plan of Happiness.

President Nelson taught:

“Our limited perspective would be enlarged if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil, when doors of death open to those returning home.” – Russell M. Nelson

Just as we mourn when our loved ones pass, there are people on the other side of the veil who rejoice at the reunion with their family!

Again, the experience with my brother. It was 5AM when I was notified that Sean was in the hospital – dead. That they were keeping him alive so they could harvest his organs. It was terrible, and feels terrible as I write it right now. Like a punch to the gut.

I knelt down to pray. I felt worried and sad – grief stricken…the first stages of mourning. As I prayed, the very words that the Savior promised they shall be comforted were fulfilled.

I felt a distinct impression – Sean was okay. There were loved ones there welcoming him. That there were more people praying for all of us on the other side of the veil than here on earth in mortality. That we were united in prayer – that prayer not only transcends distances but also through the veil. I knew that because of the covenants in the temple that I had made and that I had performed in proxy for my family we were united. I knew that the power of the priesthood was blessing me – as I am their posterity. I knew that the power of the priesthood was blessing Sean. I knew that really, as trite as it sounds he is okay. We would be sad for a time. It was a tragic loss. But it wasn’t an eternal loss.

He was with loved ones.

And one day we’d be with them, too.

Five

Death feels so permanent. It is hard to remember that it is only a temporary state. But we have hope – we have Good News. Christ overcame death. His victory over death is our victory over death. Just as Paul taught: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

I love the way that President Nelson put it:

“The Lord who created us in the first place surely has power to do it again. The same necessary elements now in our bodies will still be available—at His command. The same unique genetic code now embedded in each of our living cells will still be available to format new ones then. The miracle of the resurrection, wondrous as it will be, is marvelously matched by the miracle of our creation in the first place.” – Russell M. Nelson

ISN’T THAT AMAZING!!!!!???????!!!!

I’ve never thought of that before. I hadn’t put it together – that of course Christ is the Resurrection. He created us in the first place! I love President Nelson’s background – as a medical doctor. He brings insight into the plan of Salvation and these truths – such as resurrection – that make so much sense I sit and think Duh! Of course!

Of course the miracle of resurrection will be amazing. And our creation – in the first place – is a witness of the remarkable power of Creation that our Lord has.

***
With each conference talk I read, my admiration and love for our Prophet grows. I’m so grateful for a prophet who understands death. He has had to experience the grief that comes with passing. He is 93 years old! He has had to experience this more times than most of us.

Yet he also understands where to find peace and comfort. He understands the purpose of this life, and that death is just a part of the bigger whole of our eternal lives.

I’m grateful for a Prophet who not only understands this life and death, but also that the resurrection is real. I’m grateful for a prophet who has internalized the Plan of Salvation and leads us in a way that we can find happiness in this life and in the life to come.

One last thought from our dear prophet:
Love Life Quote

Grandma

I’ve been thinking about writing a post since Friday. And honestly, I should have written this post a long time ago.

This is how I think of my Grandma
This is how I think of my Grandma

This is my Grandma.

She passed away this Friday.

Grandma and Me
Grandma and Me

At the beginning of my life, I had a very close relationship with my Grandma. I was born in San Francisco, and my Grandma lived only a few hours north. My mom wasn’t married to my biological father (there was no man in the picture at my birth), so when I was born, it was just my mom, my grandma, me, and my mom’s roommate Doris.

Women.

Strong Women. And a little baby.

Grandma, my cousin, and me...I'm the baby looking for an escape route.
Grandma, my cousin, and me…I’m the baby looking for an escape route.

When I was about two, my mom got married to my dad, and then we moved to Houston. I didn’t have as much interaction with my Grandma after that.

Yet I have memories. We took a few trips out to California. She and my Grandpa made a few trips to Houston. My grandma would write us letters. She would send us books and tapes where she read the text out loud, so we could listen to her tell us a story. She made me a quiet book when I was a baby. And she made me a quilt.

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day
Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

Even after my parents got divorced, my dad would always remark about my grandmother, his ex-mother-in-law, “She’s a pretty amazing woman.”

And she was.

She could do it all. She knit, crocheted, quilted. She cooked and cleaned. She gardened. She raised a family and she was a breadwinner throughout most of my mom’s childhood – in a time when most women didn’t work outside of the home.

I remember Grandma coming out to Houston when my brothers were born. She’d clean, cook, and help my mom…all while crocheting baby blankets, tying quilts for my sister and I, and doing some small renovations in our house. Even though I didn’t understand everything that went into what she was doing, I remember that I loved having her there. And I remember that she never seemed too tired. She never complained. She worked, worked, worked, and we reaped all of the benefits.

This is another favorite picture. Doesn't she look like a feisty, fun girl?
This is another favorite picture. Doesn’t she look like a feisty, fun girl?

In some ways, my grandma seemed kind of no-nonsense. She had such a work ethic. Yet she was also absolutely hilarious – in the kind of quiet way that sneaks up on you. She was so practical, so matter of fact.

One time, when I was an adult, my Grandma was visiting me while I lived in Utah. We headed to Target to buy her a shirt. I was helping her look for something that she might like. I found a shirt, and thought it was very basic, it had something printed on it – some kind of label or brand. I honestly can’t remember.

She said, “What’s that, written on the shirt?”
“I think it’s the name of the brand.” I replied.
“Well, I’m not getting that. They don’t pay me to wear their clothes.”
“It’s a good price, though.”
“I’m not a walking billboard,” She said, and she found a plain, coral tee shirt that suited her much better.

I appreciate this outlook more and more every time I think about it.

So Pretty.
So Pretty.

After living in Houston for about 14 years or so, when I was a teenager, we moved to Pennsylvania – which happens to be even further away from California. We didn’t see my grandma for a really, really long time.

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!
So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

My grandma endured trials. So many trials. She was very poor, in a material sense, throughout most of her life. My Grandpa had a difficult upbringing of his own, and suffered from his own vices as a result. My grandma had to pick up the slack most of the time.

She suffered through the death of a son (My uncle died of cancer in his early 20s), she suffered through the death of four of her grandchildren. Yet she remained faithful and determined. She never seemed to complain or feel sorry for herself, despite experiencing true grief.

Grandma as a Child
Grandma as a Child

When I went to college, I moved to Utah. I was able to have more experiences with her – anytime she came to Utah for a family reunion, or when I would visit her in California. I tried to make more of a relationship with her by writing her letters and talking to her about family history. I was an okay granddaughter back then even though I hadn’t been geographically close to my grandma for so many years.

I went to California when My grandparents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary.

Fifty Years
Fifty Years

I went to California a few years after that, when my Grandfather passed away.

Grandpa
Grandpa

And then, a few years after the death of my Grandpa, my Grandma had a stroke. I don’t know who was most devastated by it – my grandmother, or her children and grandchildren. Everything about her changed.

The stroke didn’t effect her physically as much as it effected her mentally. It’s amazing how the brain works – how much we take it for granted. She had a lot of trouble speaking and communicating. She knew what she wanted to say, she knew how to say it, but it wouldn’t come out of her mouth.

She was a different woman.

It was a shock to all of us, but I think maybe it shocked her more than anyone else. She had always been so capable, and now, she was struggling with the most simplest of communication.

Despite this trial, she still bore such a strong, moving testimony of the Savior and the Gospel. Though her speech was slurred, her simple testimony that “This book, the Book of Mormon, is good,” was powerful and clear through the Spirit that accompanied her conviction.

She still worked hard. She came to my house when my first daughter, Tiger, was born. She held and rocked the baby, sang “I am a child of God,” and crocheted Tiger’s blessing dress.

She made progress and was able to keep living on her own. I stayed at her house once, shortly after she got this little (six-pound) dog, Millie. It was so cute. Grandma would clean, and garden, and cook. She would walk the dog, then hold it in her lap while complaining to it, “Someone needs to teach you to work. This is still one of my favorite memories. Hilarious.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa

More time passed, as did more strokes, and more difficulties, and then eight years ago it was determined that she would move away from California and to Pennsylvania to live with my mom.

She hung on for eight years. With each passing day, clinging tighter to her memories and her family history.

It was all so hard for her at the end, which almost makes me angry. I’m not angry at God or even Grandma. It’s just that general sense of anger – the kind that actually gives you the strength to persevere, in spite of your challenges.

I’d like to think that I inherited that stubbornness from her.

Maker's Gotta Make
Maker’s Gotta Make

I recently moved to Hawaii, and all of my stuff is still on the mainland. My sewing machine – in storage. My crochet hooks – in storage. My knitting needles – in storage. My art supplies – in storage. My embroidery floss – in storage.

Hawai’i is paradise, but at night, I need something to keep my hands busy. I finished a small project I was working on, and I’ve been craving making something.

I was telling my mom about this, and she laughs. “You can’t just watch T.V. You always have to do something.”
“Exactly!” I agreed. “I like watching a movie or show at night, but I can’t just sit still and do it. It drives me crazy.”
“You’re just like Grandma.”

It was a true compliment.

I hope that I’ve inherited a fraction of her faith, strength, work ethic. I know that I haven’t inherited her green thumb, but I hope that I’ve inherited her hands that make, that produce, and serve.

You know, actually, I do feel it. I feel like a part of her is in me, and I know that a part of her is in my children, too.

I’m so grateful for mothers and grandmothers. Women. I’m so grateful for my Grandma. This world was a better place because of her.

I only hope to honor and uphold her legacy.

FHE – Visiting Family

Yes…We are still having FHE…even if I haven’t posted about it.

We just moved! (Into a more permanent living situation). We are excited, but are going crazy – unpacking, getting settled, and it took about a week for the internet to start working. So I haven’t had much of a chance to post anything.

But we are now getting into the swing of things, which is nice to have life back to normal right before the holidays.

Last night, we visited Homey’s Grandma. She has Parkinson’s disease, and has suffered with it for years. Things have made a turn for the worst recently (she has stopped eating and drinking), and everyone thinks that it may be a matter of days before she passes. So, we went down to Mesa to visit her.

(I forgot to take pictures there, of course…but it may be just as well…she wasn’t looking well. I didn’t think anyone would appreciate me taking pictures).

When we got there, she was resting in her bed. We all gathered in her room – with Homey’s sister and her son, too. Grandma lives at Homey’s Uncle’s house, so he was able to update us on Grandma.

I have to admit, I was actually really ashamed. We’ve been living in the valley for six months now, and haven’t visited Grandma! Homey and I had talked about visiting her, but never made the trip. How horrible! How is it that we can forget our own family? And then I thought about my grandma – how she lives at my mom’s house, and I haven’t been writing her or anything. I felt a lot of guilt and sadness – understanding how much I love my children, and imagining how much I’d love my grandchildren. I can imagine how my grandma feels about me and my kids, yet I forget about her. Shameful.

Despite the shame we felt, it was good to go down and see Grandma. She wasn’t waking up for a while – everything took so much energy. We stood in her room, chatting with Uncle D, and then Grandma started mumbling something. Finally, it was audible – I love you. I am proud of you.

It brought a tear to my eye.

This is the first time someone in our family has been close to death (since the death of my brother). Many of the emotions that I had with Sean’s passing came back. Family is what matters. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, it is our family we have. Do we say I love you enough? Do we tell our children, our husbands, our parents, our siblings – I am proud of you? Do they know? Are we taking the opportunity to show our love, concern, and care? This life is short, and there are times when I let myself get caught up with things that seem so important right now, but in the long run are pretty stupid.

It was neat to hear Grandma’s loving words. I picked up Sasquatch (our three year old), and helped her to pat Grandma’s hand. Grandma took it and shook it. I was proud that Sasquatch wasn’t scared. This is the first time that Grandma has met Sasquatch or T-Rex. (We lived out of state for a few years). They won’t remember this experience, but I’m grateful that we took them to see Grandma. She had a few more good experiences before she will pass. She will have a few more good memories. She has met more of her own posterity.

After visiting with Grandma, we chatted with Uncle D. Uncle D(2) showed up as we were leaving. We chatted with him, too, then finally made the trek back home.

T-Rex kept everyone happy on the way home…in his own brotherly way.

For more exciting (she just had her baby!) FHE experiences, click over to Jocelyn’s Blog.

Death and The Spirit World

In the past, I’ve always had a matter-of-fact feeling about death. I knew and understood that it came to all of us. No matter how rich, poor, humble, powerful, beautiful, or ugly – we will die. Often, death is stated in the scriptures as “going the way of all the earth.” No one who is born will escape the occasion of death.

Two of my grandparents died while I was young. I wasn’t particularly close to them, so it was just another passing. For some reason, when my grandparents died, they didn’t bring us (kids) to the funeral. I think that may have added to my unemotional response to death.

When I was in my twenties, my maternal grandfather died. We didn’t really know him growing up. In fact, I probably saw him once in a twenty-plus year span. When he passed, I felt a good deal of sorrow for those who would be missing him, but I didn’t feel much of a loss. My life hadn’t really been impacted.

The rather robotic feelings I had about death doesn’t mean I lacked sympathy for those who experienced the death of someone close. I could understand why they were sad, even though I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Then, last year, my little brother passed away. He was only 18 years old. He fell from the bumper of a car (it was going slowly down the drive-way. In a sick twist of irony, my brother had never been a risk-taker). He was a big boy – 6’4″ and broad. I’m not sure how much he weighed, but he was very athletic. He fell down hit his head, and in an instant, he was gone.

My Little Brother – forever 18.

In a recent General Conference talk, President Thomas S. Monson stated:

“Among all the facts of mortality, none is so certain as its end. Death comes to all; it is our ‘universal heritage; it may claim its victim[s] in infancy or youth, [it may visit] in the period of life’s prime, or its summons may be deferred until the snows of age have gathered upon the … head; it may befall as the result of accident or disease, … or … through natural causes; but come it must,’1. It inevitably represents a painful loss of association and, particularly in the young, a crushing blow to dreams unrealized, ambitions unfulfilled, and hopes vanquished.

What mortal being, faced with the loss of a loved one or, indeed, standing himself or herself on the threshold of infinity, has not pondered what lies beyond the veil which separates the seen from the unseen? – Thomas S. Monson

When my brother passed, my first thoughts went out to my father who is not LDS and who experienced a very tough year last year. I wondered how, without the comfort of the gospel, he would cope. I thought of my step-mom, my sisters, my brothers. We were all living in different parts of the country. I was worried about them, and I wanted to see them.

I said a prayer, and I realized that, though the death of my brother was sad in many ways, I didn’t need to fear. Sean was okay.

I understood concepts of the Spirit world: that though he had passed from this mortal realm, his Spirit was still alive. Though Sean was not LDS and had never really learned the gospel, I also felt comforted by the revelation given to Joseph F. Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” – Doctrine and Covenants”>Doctrine and Covenants 138:30-34

I knew that there were people, members of my family who had preceded Sean to the Spirit World. I knew that many of them had the gospel, and that they would be able to welcome Sean into the next phase of his life. I also knew that he would be taught the principles of the gospel. I knew that his death was not the end, but just the next step in his progression.

This knowledge brought much comfort.

The day after hearing about the passing of my brother, I embarked on a journey (with my family) to Massachusetts. We celebrated the life and mourned the death of my brother. It was a strange event, fraught with many emotions. I felt sadness and regret. I also was comforted and hopeful. I recognized the reality: that our mortal lives are not going to last forever. We grow, we age, we die. Sometimes, we die before we even grow or age. We need to spend our lives wisely – strengthening our relationships: with God, our families, and good friends. We will all eventually pass on to the next part of our eternal lives.

From this event (and a few others that have happened in the past year), I have become keenly aware that once a soul passes to the Spirit world, we aren’t separated from them. Though we can’t physically communicate with them, we are connected. Of course, we have the potential to become eternal families, but I learned that our connection is more immediate than the far-off implication of an “eternal family.”

Elder Scott teaches:

“Another example of revelation is this guidance given to President Joseph F. Smith: ‘I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. … We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors … who have preceded us into the spirit world. We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.’2

Relationships can be strengthened through the veil with people we know and love. That is done by our determined effort to continually do what is right. We can strengthen our relationship with the departed individual we love by recognizing that the separation is temporary and that covenants made in the temple are eternal. When consistently obeyed, such covenants assure the eternal realization of the promises inherent in them.” – Richard G. Scott

The families and friends that have passed on before us, though dead in a mortal sense, are still alive in a spiritual sense. They continue to love us – and perhaps in a better way, as they are not troubled with the temptations of the world. They pray for us, they root for us, they think about us. In the Spirit World, they continue to progress, and this progression blesses us, too. Even though we are physically separated from our families, our relationships can grow as we remember them and live worthy of the companionship of the Spirit – who strengthens these bonds.

Knowing the Plan of Salvation – and that even death and the Spirit World are part of it – brings me so much comfort. I’m thankful for a wise God who created such a merciful plan.

What have you – either through study or personal experiences – learned about death and the Spirit World? How is knowledge of God’s Plan of Salvation comforting when you think on these topics?

Click the links for the following study-series assignments:
Yesterday’s Assignment on Death
Today’s assignment on The Spirit World
Tomorrow’s Assignment on The Resurrection

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1. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. (1916), 20.
2. Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1916, 2–3; see also Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 430–31.

Easter Scripture Study – The Death of the Lamb of God

The Crucifixion of the Savior

For the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here

This is a pretty sad point. I mean, it seems like the entire last week of Christ gets progressively more depressing. You start with the high of the triumphal entry, but then the rest of the week kind of goes downhill. There are good parts (Christ’s healing the blind at the temple, the Widow’s Mite, Mary washing Christ’s feet, and the Last Supper), but it feels like the events get heavier as we get closer to the point we’re at today: The Death of the Lamb of God.

Okay…in general, this concept is too huge to put into one blog post. As usual! But there are three things.

One
Watch this video…

I love the Bible Videos that the LDS Church has put out. They are really good. I feel like they aid in understanding the scriptures because they help to bring us to the event. Yet they are tastefully done. So, check it out.

Two
I’m struck by Simon the Cyrenian. He was passing through and happened to be along the path where Christ was carrying His cross. Simon was compelled by the soldiers to carry the cross of the Savior.

I don’t know much about Simon. I’m not a Bible Scholar. I am just touched by this because I can only imagine bearing the cross of the Savior. Since He was only a passer-by, it seems like he wasn’t there to mock or judge the Savior. He just happened to be there at that time.

Can you imagine helping anyone bear their cross? Then…imagine if you found out that you helped to carry the cross of the Savior?

I have been baptized, and I have covenanted to be willing to “…bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;…”Mosiah 18:9 For Simon, the Cyrenian, he helped to lighten the Savior’s burden.

Obviously, there isn’t much I can do to physically lift the load of the Savior, but I think that I can be like Simon when I help to lift other’s “crosses.” Elder Maxwell put it best:

“Part of discipleship should be to become high-yield, low-maintenance members of the Church,” – Neal A. Maxwell

Three
I am struck by what I consider to be the most difficult part of Christ’s atonement: being Forsaken of God. Of course, I know that Gethsemane was difficult for Christ. He asked that His cup be taken away. This suffering made Him bleed at every pore. I know that He needed to go through it, so that we could repent and return to Heavenly Father.

Then, there was the mockery, the scourging, and the crucifixion itself. I can only imagine that it was horrible. He went through this for us, too. And somehow, the knowledge that the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross helps to comfort me when I suffer.

But, the hardest event seems like it was when God forsook Christ. All along, Christ had the help of Heavenly Beings and companionship with His Father. But, while He hung on the Cross at Calvary, He was left alone.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland teaches:

“Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” 16

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? 17

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.” – Jeffrey R. Holland

I’m grateful, also, that Christ submitted to this loneliness. I have felt it. As Elder Holland explains, we have all sinned. We have all felt the loss of the Spirit. And, as mortals, we are all separated from God. We can only be united with Him through Christ. The Savior had to be “forsaken” to understand our plight, and because He descended below all, He is able to ascend above all. Because He has experienced this – He can empathize with us perfectly, and He can save us.

And, as I write this, the other idea comes over my mind: He chose this.

Nephi explains Christ – and everything He did – so well:

“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.” – 2 Nephi 26:24

Everything Christ did was for our benefit. It was for your benefit, my benefit. As depressing as things went for Him in the last week of His life, He did it for us, and we can rejoice.

***

Lessons I’ve learned from my Little Brother

It was my brother’s birthday Friday.

Potty Training...A Classic Memory

The crazy thing about this birthday is that we are all “celebrating” it without him. Okay, it isn’t as much of a celebration as it is a remembrance.

For my brother’s birthday, I sent a text to each of my siblings – saying that I love them. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but for our family it is a lot. The more time passes, the stranger it seems that Sean is passed on.

However, I’m so grateful, still for the gospel. Often, people ask me how I’m “dealing” with Sean’s passing. It is strange to think about, sure, but I feel like I’m okay. Here’s a list of three things I’ve been thinking about…

  • Gratitude – I know where Sean is, and I know that I’ll see him again. I know that Christ made this all possible. We learn from the Book of Mormon

    “And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.

    But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.” – Mosiah 16:7-8

  • Regret – Okay – so my parents were divorced when I was ten. Then my dad remarried another woman. They had two more children. Sean is the first son of my dad’s second marriage. We all have always been close, and I consider Sean my brother, but he was raised a little differently than I was. He was not raised with any religion.

    Often, I would think to myself that I needed to share the gospel with my little brother and sister. I would have this thought – What will I say to them later – when we have finished our mortal probations – if they ask me why I didn’t share the gospel with them? That thought haunted me. I didn’t know how to share the gospel with them, yet I felt mortified that they would live their lives, and I’d live mine – without ever sharing the gospel.

    Well, this is exactly what happened. I’m not even sure if Sean knew that I was a Mormon or much about that. It never came up. I’d go to church, but I am so much older, and I always lived so far away, it wasn’t something that he ever really witnessed.

    So – there is a little regret, that I didn’t share the gospel with him. I regret that I wasn’t closer to him. I really wish that I had done things a little differently. Even if I didn’t have the chance to share the gospel, I wish I had been close enough for him to know that I had faith – I wish I had been close enough to him for him to see how faith had affected my life.

  • Hope – even though I feel regret – that I wasn’t closer to my brother, and that I didn’t share the gospel with Him, I’m surprised because I feel filled with hope.

    Years ago, I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of family history work. My dad is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so, naturally, there was quite a bit of family history and temple work to do. About 9-10 years ago, I was prompted to start doing it. So I did.

    I have experienced many miracles in doing family history work. While I don’t know which family members of mine have accepted the gospel, I know that there are souls who not only accepted it, but have prayed that I would get around to performing these sacred ordinances for them. I know that they were ready long before I was.

    When Sean passed, as much as I felt regret and grief, almost instantly, when I knelt to pray, I was filled with relief and hope. I was comforted. I realized that because ordinances had been performed for my ancestors, Sean’s ancestors, he was not alone in the Spirit world, but had been welcomed by his own family. I know that he is now learning about the gospel, and maybe he’s being taught by someone who he is related to! (See Doctrine and Covenants 138:29-32)

    I realized that he was learning, and that even though I never had the chance to share the gospel with my brother, I didn’t leave him hanging. I’m grateful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to do family history and temple work for my family. I know that they are teaching him what I never had the chance to say. I know that these ancestors pray for each of us – their descendants; their hearts are turned to their children.

These things: Gratitude, Regret, and Hope have all helped me to be a little bit more resolved – to be a better Mother, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Granddaughter, etc. Our families are so important. Why is it so easy to forget this?! I am committed to changing – and being better. I know that I can make sure Sean’s life and death wasn’t meaningless if I truly learn from this experience. So, while I’m not really making a ton of improvement, I’m trying – little texts, messages on fb, care packages, and above all – prayers. I’m trying to be more forgiving and less judgmental.

What are some things that you do to be a better “family member”?