In Our Lovely Deseret: And should we die — the great mystery of death, what comes after

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we possess a sacred knowledge of life and death. We know that we are eternal beings with a pre-existence in the presence of our Father, and a life hereafter that will transcend the dim limitations of this mortal day. Yet death — and what lies beyond — is still the great, last mystery for each of us — each one, individually, who must cross the unknown abyss and make that journey alone.

We grieve at death — but we grieve mainly for ourselves, for that which has been taken from us, which for us, in this moment, is no more. We grieve for our own loss and suffering.

We also have a deep yearning to know and to understand. Despite spiritual experiences with death and the dead that may be precious to us, we have not been there ourselves, and we are afraid. When my mother died in late 2001, she was afraid. We wanted to talk about what she was experiencing; she did not. We honored that. She said to me the day before her death, “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go anywhere. Susan, come with me!” One of the remarkable hospice workers told me that even the most strong and spiritual of her patients, as death approached them, were afraid.

To accept that mortal fear is perhaps the first step toward wisdom. Kahlil Gibran said in his book "The Prophet," “You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?” Oliver Wendell Holmes stirs us with his statement in "Death and Dying Quotes," “Death twitches my ear. ‘Live,' he says, ‘I am coming.’ ”

LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “We are limited in our visions. With our eyes we can see but a few miles. With our ears we can hear but a few years. We are encased, enclosed, as it were, in a room, but when our light goes out of this life, then we see beyond mortal limitations …." (see “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball”, p. 13).

The veil that guards our mortal limitations was partially lifted when the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed new light and knowledge to the Saints in the King Follett funeral sermon, assuring them of the continued life and growth of their loved ones who had died; sharing with them his vision of the resurrection when he saw men and women rising from the grave and joyfully greeting one another. “And may we contemplate these things so?” he asked. “Yes, if we learn how to live and how to die” (see “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith”, p. 175).

Even the state of our bodies when they return to the earth is illuminated by President Brigham Young as shared in “Discourses of Brigham Young.” “Death only separates the spirit and body, and a principle of life still operates in the untenanted tabernacle. … There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life … every material part and portion pertaining to … the temporal organization that constitutes the man will clothe his spirit again. … The particles of this earth that now compose this body will be rearranged, and the spirit will be clothed with an immortal tabernacle.”

And where is the spirit world? President Young answered that vital question, too. “Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. … Where is the spirit world? It is incorporated within this celestial system. Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No … if the Lord would permit it, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes.”

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