Heber J. Grant, the seventh called prophet in this modern day, spoke most eloquently about death. Having lost a number of family members young in life, including his wife at 34 years of age, it was a topic he was intimately acquainted with.
When President Grant spoke of the sorrow that comes at the death of loved ones, he spoke with empathy born of personal experience. In addition to his son Heber, six other immediate family members preceded him in death. When he was nine days old, he lost his father. In 1893, his wife Lucy passed away at age 34 after a three-year struggle with a difficult illness. The death of 5-year-old Daniel Wells Grant, his only other son, followed two years later. In 1908, shortly after President Grant and his wife Emily completed a mission in Europe, stomach cancer claimed Emily’s life. One year later, President Grant mourned the passing of his mother. In 1929, eleven years after he was set apart as President of the Church, his daughter Emily passed away at age 33.
President Grant felt these losses keenly. During Lucy’s illness, he wrote in his journal: “Lucy feels that she cannot possibly get well and we have had some serious conversations today and have both shed tears at our contemplated separation. I can’t help fearing that her life is not going to be spared.” (“Chapter 5: Comfort in the Hour of Death,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 43)
This topic is on my mind because I attended the funeral of the father of two very dear friends of mine this week. Each child spoke and shared memories of their father, they sang, the grandchildren sang and the final speaker was President Thomas S. Monson. He spoke of comfort and peace the plan of salvation brings to Mormons in times like these.
President Grant found hope and peace as he relied on the truths of the gospel. He said that he never attended a funeral of a faithful member of the Church without thanking the Lord “for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for ” 3 He spoke of experiencing this “comfort and consolation” at the death of his son Heber: “I know that when my last son passed away (I have had only two) there was in my home at that time a peaceful influence, a comfort and a joy that is beyond the comprehension of those who know nothing of the Gospel and of the peace that it brings into our hearts.” (“Chapter 5: Comfort in the Hour of Death,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 43)
Although Mormons know our loved ones who pass from this life are busy on the other side of the veil, we still feel the loss of their daily, physical presence keenly. I know the plan of salvation is real. I know we are children of a loving God. I know we are meant to triumph over mortality, not succumb to it. I know where we are going. But, oh how I cried when my father passed away in March.
The peace that comes is from the knowledge we have of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the precious, comforting gift of the Holy Ghost the Savior left with the world when He ascended into heaven. (John 16:7-8, Acts 1:5-8)
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the godhead which is comprised of Heavenly Father (God the Father,) Jesus Christ (God the Son,) and the Holy Ghost (God the Testator.) His role is to testify of truth and provide comfort, with that truth, to those in need. When we lose loved ones, we require the healing warmth which envelops us when the Holy Ghost testifies to us at that time, the one who has passed is with loved ancestors and they will be put to work teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, they are free of the pains and illnesses of a physical body. The stresses of having to carve a living out of this chaotic world. The constant barrage of Satan and his miserable minions . . . all this is gone for the righteous who have passed to the other side.
President Grant spoke of this:
“I am always grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the plan of life and salvation, but I am never so grateful for the truth as I am upon occasions of this kind [funerals]. The perfect and absolute knowledge that we as Latter-day Saints have of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged, the absolute assurance that when life ends, if we have been faithful we are to have the pleasure and the privilege of going back into the presence of those whom we have loved and who have gone on before, and that we shall be associated with our Heavenly Father, our Redeemer, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Patriarch Hyrum and all of the great men and women who have devoted their lives to this cause, brings a peace and a happiness upon occasions of this kind into our hearts, which I am sure no language that I possess or that anybody else possesses can fully explain.” (“Chapter 5: Comfort in the Hour of Death,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 43)
There is much in this world that is so confusing. The evil which seemingly runs rampant is held in check by the followers of Jesus Christ. While it seems as if the wicked are winning, they are not. And in times when we must deal with the lost of a loved one Jesus Christ is the one who broke the bands of death so that we might be reunited with our bodies once again and gain the eternal reward we have earned in our First (premortality) and Second Estates (mortality). It is Jesus Christ who made it possible for families to be reunited and to live together forever. I will be reunited with my father, as will my friends with their father.
So how is this possible? What must one do to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?
Since he is the one who testifies of truth and provides comfort, how do we have him around at all times? We must be baptized by one having authority. (D&C 76:50-53) You We must live our lives worthily, in a fashion befitting a companion of the Holy Ghost. We must make right choices. We must study the scriptures. We must pray often and sincerely. We must attend church. We must serve Jesus Christ in all things, and at all times and in all places. These are the actions which will provide that overwhelming peace spoke of above.
“After a person is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders lay their hands on the person’s head and, in a sacred priesthood ordinance, confirm him or her a member of the Church. As part of this ordinance, called confirmation, the person is given the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is different from the influence of the Holy Ghost. Before baptism, a person can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time and through that influence can receive a testimony of the truth. After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a person has the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead if he or she keeps the commandments.” Gospel Topics – Holy Ghost, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007 www.lds.org)
Until you have experienced the comfort of the Holy Ghost, there really are no words that can explain that peace, comfort, warmth and love which pours down from heaven upon you as you struggle with grief or pain.
And the other question, how are we reunited with loved ones and able to live with them forever?
We must live our lives worthy of such a blessing. Meaning, live your life as Jesus Christ lived His. Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote of this very thing in our 13th Article of Faith:
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
It’s really as simple as that. Who do you love? Do you want to be with them forever? Is the thought that you will be surrounded by the good, righteous members of your family, back through all generations of time, a comfort to you?
Are you alone and cannot conceive of an eternal family? Because although it feels as if you are alone, there are those who have gone before you who have fought for you, loved you, cried for you, protected you, guided you and inspired you . . . you may feel alone, but you are not. You may feel alone, but Jesus Christ lives and He loves you. Heavenly Father lives and He loves you. This I testify to you as absolute truth. You are not alone.
We were never meant to live our lives alone, we WILL NOT eternal lives alone if we are willing to follow Jesus Christ. Learn more at www.mormon.org. You will be surprised that there are answers to all your questions. There are answers to your hopes and dreams. There is a way . . . you have only to take the first step and the Savior will walk the rest of the way with you, if you will let Him.
We will finish this post with the words of Heber J. Grant on death:
“May the peace and comfort of our Father in heaven bring its healing influence to all who are called upon to mourn and to bear affliction. And may we be strengthened with the understanding that being blessed does not mean that we shall always be spared all the disappointments and difficulties of life. We all have them, even though our troubles differ. I have not had the same kind of trials that others have had to undergo, yet I have had my full share. . .
“We of this Church have been told of the Lord that before we came to this earth we had a life running back to the remotest stretches of eternity; that as spirits we lived out an existence before we came here, in which we prepared ourselves for life on the earth; that then, having kept our first estate, we came to this earth to obtain knowledge, wisdom, and experience, to learn the lessons, suffer the pains, endure the temptations, and gain the victories of mortality; that when our mortal bodies give up life, our spirits return to take up again the spirit life which we left to come to earth life, and we thereafter go on, building upon the achievements of our first spirit-life, our first estate, and of our mortal life, or second estate, progressing through the endless eternities that follow, until we reach the goal the Lord set: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (“Chapter 5: Comfort in the Hour of Death,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 43)
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