Sunday, March 5, 2017

My Mother Died

My father called me on Friday, February 17, 2017 a little after 5 pm to tell me that my mother had passed away.  She was 71 years old.  She had lain down to rest and my father was in his home office down the hallway from their bedroom.  He heard her loudly gasp and when he arrived by her side he knew she was gone. He tried administering CPR, but the height of their bed along with his Parkinson’s prevented him from being able to do so effectively. By the time the paramedics arrived they realized that there was no hope in even trying resuscitation efforts.

My father shared with me that five days earlier her body was going into weird contortions and spasms and he gave her a blessing, in faith, using the priesthood authority that he believes he has been given.  During the blessing he heard a voice tell him to release my mother from this life.  My dad couldn’t do it. I’m not sure many people who have loved a spouse for as long as my dad has my mom could have either.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; … a time to heal; …a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance[1]

Back when I was an active and believing Latter-Day Saint Mormon I had great comfort and “carnal security”[2] in the fact that she had received her endowments and been sealed to my dad in the Salt Lake Temple.  I believed then that “Families are Forever” and that the spirits of those who have been members of the LDS Church would be taken to “Spirit Paradise”.
I have no such comfort today.  I can understand why Alma, in the Book of Mormon, inquired diligently of the Lord:
And now I would inquire what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection? Now whether there is more than one time appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men. Therefore, there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. And now, concerning this space of time, what becometh of the souls of men is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know. And when the time cometh when all shall rise, then shall they know that God knoweth all the times which are appointed unto man.
Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.[3]

I have no assurance in regards to my mother.  I do not know if God judged her righteous and that she is, even now, in a state of paradise where she is resting from all troubles, care and sorrow.  I hope that this is the case, because above all else she craved peace and rest.

Joseph Smith said, “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave”[4]

Joseph F. Smith, at the age of 80, had been sick for many months and felt very close to the Spirit of the Lord. On the night of October 3, 1918 while pondering on 1 Peter chapters 3 and 4 concerning Christ’s preaching to the spirits in prison, his eyes were opened and he saw the spirit world. The next day, after the LDS Church General Conference, he dictated the vision to his son, Joseph Fielding Smith.  This vision was later canonized and added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1976 and is known as section 138.[5]  I believe that Joseph F. Smith really did have this vision.  What is not clear is how much of what is now D&C 138 is a correct interpretation of what God was trying to teach him. There is, in my mind, concern that what was “seen” and “understood” was interpreted and flavored by his belief that the LDS Church was the only true church on the earth as well as the doctrine and beliefs he possessed at the time of the vision. Since there is no voice recording of his dictation to his son, nor other witnesses to the proceeding, there is also concern in my mind as to how much of what is now recorded was enlarged, added upon, etc. by his son, Joseph Fielding Smith’s agenda to strengthen the Brethren’s[6] position in the Church as well as the missionary program of the Church.[7]

One thing I have been learning in life is that when God tries to give us more light and knowledge we invariably interpret it based on our current understanding and therefore we generally interpret things partially or even take them to incorrect conclusions. It must be an enormous task for God to teach us, yet he patiently continues to do so whenever we ask to be taught.

I have lost sleep over the past few weeks worrying about, praying about and asking the Lord to give me comfort in regards to my mother and asking Him to teach me. Slowly, He is teaching me.  I know so very little. I believe that the spirits of all men and women, whether good or evil, are taken back to a world of spirits after their mortal body dies. While there they still have the opportunity to learn about the Savior, to repent of their sins and to believe on His name. Nowhere in scripture can I find that the spirit world is divided into separate spheres.  Rather, I believe that Joseph F. Smith saw one spirit world, much like the world we now live in, there are righteous and good people co-mingled with the proud and rebellious and they that do wickedly.  Those trying to be valiant in their testimony of Jesus hear His voice when he calls to them and find themselves in the light, or in other words, paradise.  Those who cannot hear the Savior are in darkness in this life as well as the next, or in other words, prison. According to Joseph F. Smith’s vision, all spirits look upon the absence of their bodies as a bondage. I believe that the world of spirits resembles the Telestial Kingdom or the world in which we presently reside.  In this life and in the next the only way to be free from the bondage of sin and unbelief is to search for the Savior, to hear Him, to see Him, to know Him.

Christ sends His true messengers to us in this life as well as in the next. Their message is the same: faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, repentance and baptism.

I hope that my mom has found the peace and joy that can only come through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
[2] 2 Nephi 28:21 “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
[3] Alma 40:7-12
[4] King Follett discourse
[6] Referring to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve
[7] See, in particular, verses 53-57