Despair turns to joy
Testimony of Tyler Rogers
As a young missionary in Salt Lake City we had many opportunities to teach the Gospel. For a period of time my companion and I taught a single mother trying to make her way back to the Church. She had often missed appointments. On one particular evening we were not totally surprised to find her not there after we'd set an appointment. I took out my notepad and proceeded to write a note to her explaining that our work was very important, and that we were very busy, and not to have her there was a challenge. After finishing my note, I felt the Spirit suggest, "Now Elder, tuck that note in your scriptures." I obeyed, and I'm glad I did. Returning home we had a message waiting on our answering machine letting us know she'd been in a minor car accident, and was profusely sorry that she'd missed the appointment. My righteous indignation evaporated. What changed? My perception. I now saw things as they really were.
Several years ago we were at a family reunion in California when I received word that a young man from our ward had been killed in Iraq. This was a terrible shock, of course. Sharing this news, though, with my cousin who once had the Gospel in his life but has since become an atheist, was instructive. Though he did not know this young man, his remarks and demeanor were indicative of a great hopelessness. I sensed a great emptiness from him as I recognized his realization - this was really the end.
As Latter-day Saints, we have as part of our doctrine that Christ died willingly, and as Isaiah spoke - "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth." (Isaiah 53:6) And Abinadi teaches, "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)
The bands of death are broken by Christ, and we each can have the hope of the Resurrection. All will be resurrected and live again. This is a gift from Our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ.
Haven't we, as Latter-day Saints, so much the advantage with this knowledge? Surprisingly, most Americans do not believe in the Resurrection. A survey conducted in 2006 illustrated some startling findings.
“Most Americans don’t believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies when they die, putting them at odds with a core teaching of Christianity.” As the reporters explain, “Only 36 percent of the 1,007 adults interviewed a month ago by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University said “yes” to the question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?” Fifty-four percent said they do not believe and 10 percent were undecided.”
Even those Christians that do believe in the Resurrection (and not all of them do), there's some variance on what that Resurrection entails. For some they believe in a physical resurrection for both the righteous to dwell in Heaven with God, while the wicked are resurrected to dwell in hell with all manner of pain and grief. For others their belief in the Resurrection is that it is an eternal spiritual dwelling -without a body - in a peaceful setting. Some Christians believe that we are somehow incorporated into the ethereal body of Christ.
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us about the Resurrection - especially in section 76 where it speaks of glories of the Resurrection - that there would be a resurrection for those who had lived a celestial law, those who lived a terrestrial law - those who were not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and also a resurrection for those who had lived a telestial law, "which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differ from the moon in the firmament." I have bored the young women with some astronomy facts at girls camp, but this is one I learned some years ago which was fascinating to me - as Paul the apostle and Joseph Smith describe these different glories, we should not be so casual in their differences. There is a profound difference between the glory of light we observe from the stars compared to the moon. But just considering the difference between the moon and the sun - the moon is literally one millionth of the brightness of the sun. It would take 1 million full moons to give us the brightness we enjoy at noon day. Is this the difference between terrestrial glory and celestial glory? No - it is much, much more. It is infinite.
And yet, The Prophet Joseph taught that the Telestial glory is of such beauty that Joseph Smith taught that we cannot even comprehend the beauty of that world.
A story from Spanish Fork, Utah, printed in a recent Readers Digest starts, "Our friend and her 4 yr old son were standing in line at a … restaurant when in walked a man covered in tattoos. The boy turned to him and said, "Looks like somebody got into the markers!" - Now, brothers and sisters, let's not be snowflakes - if you have a tattoo, I love you! And I love you if you don't. It's just a great story. Our Earthly bodies, with all their problems and our insecurities, are a gift. They are sacred. We should take proper care of them - as best we can - to be healthy, and to be strong. As we master them, we prepare for a greater glory. We should be grateful, too, for the gift that we've been given. Perhaps we do not look like the movie star that we would like to, but this is not important. Gratitude needs to drown out the many voices in the world that suggest our bodies are inept. Let us be grateful for what we're given, with the optimism of what is to come. I believe that is hopeful perspective.
Elder Packer taught, "A knowledge of the plan of Happiness, even in outline form, can give young minds a 'why'… The Plan is worthy of repetition over and over. Then the purpose of life, the reality of the Redeemer, and the reason for the commandments will stay with them." As I reflect on the incredible gift of the Resurrection, I am humbled, and brought back to a spirit of gratitude for what I have, and what I hope to someday have. Consider - even to those who have done great harm to others, have lied, have done terrible things on Earth, I think of an Omnibenevolent, Omniscient Father in Heaven - Heavenly parents who simply love their children and want for their happiness. While justice will be served, this is undoubtedly a merciful gift. And, considering that almost all who've ever lived upon the Earth will receive one of these three glories, it is also the most inclusive vision of salvation in all Christianity. I think of this passage of scripture sometimes during the Sacrament - Luke 22:19, the Last Supper of Jesus Christ where He institutes the Sacrament, and tells his disciples, "This is my body which is given for you."
And so a message to all in this room who bear the Savior's name, and perhaps to our primary children and youth - who hope to grow a foot or two so they can teach and preach and serve as missionaries do - Mormon offers this aside and plea in Alma 28:13. He considers upon those who had fallen in battle - some prepared, some not prepared, and perhaps those left behind - some with understanding, others without. " And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
" And thus we see the great call of diligence of men [and women] to labor in the vineyards of the Lord…" (Alma 28:13-14) How is there inequality between man because of sin and transgression? There are many voices in this world. And while I do not pass judgment on my cousin - whom, by the way, I adore as a Corsican twin, and one of my closest friends in all the world, I also feel a deep sadness for him, and the hopelessness that he feels as he sees his own friends and loved ones pass - without hope of ever seeing them again. How must a perspective on the eternities alter the way we see this present, mortal condition?
Said Joy F. Evans, who served as 1st Counselor in the General RS presidency, "The death of a child is especially poignant, or that of a young person, or of a needed father or mother. We do miss those who die. No matter how many friends or family members one has, the loss of one beloved person is difficult.
"One great difference for us is our added knowledge that death is not permanent, that families can be forever. The understanding we have of the reality of the Resurrection makes the waiting endurable and purposeful. Indeed, 'sweet is the peace the Gospel brings.' " (Ensign, Nov 87, p93)
On having a very challenging day with school, siblings and parents, my 5 year old Camden announced to the family in some frustration - "I don't love anyone here! I only love Daisy!" Daisy was our dog who had died some 2 years prior. While I do not know the doctrine on resurrected pets, I do know that all things are created spiritually, and that animals have souls, and I don’t intend to trivialize the topic, but to quote Elder Oaks on a separate topic, "I don't know the answer, but I'm bullish on the future."
What we do know should give us great hope in the face of the world that is so consumed with its own self-loathing. Boldly declared the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "[Christ] instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the Earth.
"We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
"He rose from the grave to "become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His "other sheep" (John 10:16) in ancient America…"
Some years back, President Hinckley counseled us to get out of debt. He counseled us to pay off our mortgages. I've wondered on this counsel for years. The tax-breaks from a mortgage are nice to have, and there seems to be financial logic against this counsel. Doctrine & Covenants 29:34 reminds us - "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal…" In consideration of this, I've reflected on this statement by the Prophet Joseph who said, "Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was Death." - STPJS p. 331 I don't necessarily regard the bank as my enemy - but perhaps in this case - an entity that has some power over me. What other influences or worldly powers have power over me? How can I become independent of them? I cannot overcome all - but this life is short. And I certainly cannot overcome them without my Savior. Again - "Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was Death." - STPJS p. 331
I believe, as we recognize a path forward, and the capability that we can be agents to ourselves, we feel a sense of our eternal unfolding, and hope begins to take larger shape in our lives. That hope has a proclivity to breed faith, if we are willing, and all the magnificence that comes from that. Consider the hope within the prophet Ether. Moroni, similarly faced with the extinction of his own people, must have felt some kinship with this prophet who, as Moroni described as being unable to be "restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him. For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled…" Such was Moroni's sense of Ether's hope, he elaborated further on its effect: "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea even a place at the right hand of God; which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make the sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." This Earth is filled with much that is good. But again - how great the advantage to one who has the understanding of the Gospel. It can change our perspective on the world around us as we reflect on its magnificence.
What need does our world have of hope? What need do we each have to be anchored? Without which, we are as James says - like waves of the sea - driven with the wind, and tossed. We don't have to let discouragement drive us. Rather, consider the souls of men and women with spirits steadfast - firm - not wavering, that abound in good works. Would we not each glorify God in this way and point one another to Christ?
As we reflect on the great blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of His Resurrection. Let us take notice, too, of the magnificent blessing that is to know He lives, and that we to will live in the flesh with bodies glorified, that we will be reunited with those who have gone before us, or those who follow. All will be made right. If you want your heart to melt, watch the videos of soldiers returning to their homes, and surprising spouses and children - even dogs - the reunion is perhaps a glimpse of what lies in our future and I believe we will be struck with wonder as we become acquainted with distant ancestors who share our traits, and who may have silently and usually indiscernably helped us here during our mortal probation.
Do not these things bring a spirit of hope? Isn't hope wont to make us better? To impel us to make a better world here while hoping for a better one following mortality?
My oldest daughter was a part of the AF High School Chamber Choir. What a magnificent program. They sang a song which is now one of my favorites, called simply Pilgrim Song. A portion of the words say -
My soul doth long to go where I may fully know
The glory of my Savior;
And as I pass along I’ll sing the Christian song,
I’m going to live forever.
So it will be with us - Death has been conquered, and we will be made free of it forever. Glory to the Father, and Glory to Our Savior for this merciful blessing. May we feel the impact of that on our daily lives is my prayer in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, amen.
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