Jedediah Grant, second counselor to President Brigham Young, died of pneumonia on Dec. 1, 1856, just nine days after the birth of his son, Heber. President Grant was only 40 years old.
Speaking at his funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, his fellow counselor, Heber C. Kimball, recalled a visit with him the previous week.
“He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, though I had to do it. But oh, says he, the order and government that were there! He would mention one item after another and say, ‘Why, it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time.’ He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the Plains, in her arms, and said, ‘Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right.’
“ He also spoke of the buildings he saw there, remarking that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom and poured gold and silver into his hands that he might display his skill and ability, and said that the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world.
“In regard to gardens, says brother Grant, ‘I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk.’ He spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body, after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together. After speaking of the gardens and the beauty of everything there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.”
“What a dark valley and a shadow it is that we call death!” said Brigham Young himself at an 1874 funeral service. “To pass from this state of existence as far as the mortal body is concerned, into a state of inanition [emptiness], how strange it is! How dark this valley is! How mysterious is this road, and we have got to travel it alone. I would like to say to you, my friends and brethren, if we could see things as they are, and as we shall see and understand them, this dark shadow and valley is so trifling that we shall turn round and look about upon it and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body.
"My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my Heavenly Father, by the power of his Spirit. I want to say to my friends, if you will live your religion, live so as to be full of the faith of God, that the light of eternity will shine upon you, you can see and understand these things for yourselves.”
(This column is dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law, Ruth M. Stephens, who, after a multi-year struggle with debilitating illness, passed into the next world on April 6, 2013. We miss her greatly, but we rejoice in her liberation.)
Daniel Peterson, professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, edits BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs MormonScholarsTestify.org, chairs "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture," blogs daily at Patheos, and speaks only for himself.