Friday, January 20, 2012

Sister Daniels' younger 38 year old brother recently passed away leaving his wife and five young children. I was asked to speak at the funeral and to focus my remarks on the non-members that might be in attendance. Below is the basic message that I delivered:

Whenever we hear of a tragedy or premature death, the first question that comes to our minds is Why?

And the answer is: We don’t know. We know that God is omnipotent, omniscient and could easily prevent these types of trials and challenges. We don’t understand the reasons why he doesn’t intervene but we place our faith in him as stated in Mosiah 4:9 “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend”.

We do know that none of us are immune from these challenges and that eventually each one of us will die and continue our eternal journey towards immortality. Other great men whose names started with J also died in their 30's: Jesus Christ was 33, Joseph Smith was 38, J.D. Park was 38.

Spencer W. Kimball said in Faith Precedes the Miracle

“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure,and short life would be a calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the pre mortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.

Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

If all the sick for whom we prayed were healed, if all the righteous were gathered and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and Godhood.

Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education. Hebrews 5:8-9 though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

What is the purpose of suffering in our lives?

Elder Harold B. Lee observed: "There is a refining process that comes through suffering . . . that we can't experience any other way than by suffering. We draw closer to Him who gave His life that man might be. We feel a kinship that we have never felt before. He suffered more than we can ever imagine. But to the extent that we have suffered, somehow it seems to have the effect of drawing us closer to the Divine, helps to purify our souls and helps to purge out the things that are not pleasing in the sight of the Lord" (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996],188).

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted,” said Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God” (quoted in Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).

In order to gain the comfort associated with the perspective of our eternal existence that President Kimball mentioned, we need to look at mortality as one realm of our eternal existence. We need to remember that we lived prior to mortality and that we will continue to live after this earthly existence.

We know that God’s purpose is clearly defined in Moses 1:39 “ Behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Man”

Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits. As spirit children, we lived with our Heavenly Father and Mother and progressed in becoming like him. As we reached certain limitations in our progress as spirits, Heavenly Father devised a plan that would allow us to continue to progress towards immortality and exaltation and become more like him. This plan was called the Plan of Happiness or the Plan of Salvation. The Plan of happiness provided a path for us to come to earth, to gain physical bodies, to exercise agency, to gain experience and to perform sacred ordinances that qualify us to return to our Heavenly Father.

To assist us in our mortal journeys, God gave us recipes for happiness called commandments, prophets to teach us, scriptures to direct us, the Spirit of Christ to help us discern right from wrong, the Holy Ghost to protect us to comfort us and to help us recognize truth, families to support us and most importantly, the sacrifice of his only begotten Son to atone for our mistakes and lead us back to him.

From the words of Christ at critical junctions in his life, we gain insight into Christ's purpose: To do the will of the Father. The first recorded words of Christ take place in the pre- existence as found in Moses4:2

“ But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me -- Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

Christ’s Ffrst words in mortality are recorded in Luke 2:49;

“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”

Christ’s last words in mortality are in the JST of

Matt 27:50 “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying Father it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost.”

Christ’s first words as a resurrected being to the ancient American people are recorded in 3 Nephi 11:10 “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”

How did Christ complete the will of his Father? Through what we call the atonement. The nature of the atonement is explained in

Alma 22:14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.

Alma 33:22 If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.

The New Testament provides glimpses of what happens after death. We read the words of Christ on the cross in Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

We also read of a realm of existence called the Spirit World in

1 Peter 3:18,1918 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

Fortunately, we have another testament of Jesus Christ, The Book of Mormon, that provides more detailed insight after the glimpses of the New Testament.

In Alma 40:11, we read: “ 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.

12 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.”

The Book of Mormon also sheds insight into the resurrection

2 Nephi 9:13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.

Alma 11:43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

We know that as we pass from mortality, we enter a state of peace and rest called Paradise. We then wait for the resurrection where our spirits and perfected bodies will be reunited, where we will be judged for our actions and then permitted to return to our Heavenly Father and live eternally with our families.

Having this understanding assists us in establishing our priorities in mortality. In modern day revelations given to Prophets of God, we learn about our priorities in D&C 130.

In verses 1 and 2, we learn “ When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.

2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” We know that sociality is interpreted to mean our eternal families. Therefore, our most important priority is serving and loving our spouses and children.

In verses 18,19

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”

In addition to building strong family relationships, we need to constantly seek knowledge and learning. Our experiences in mortality provide us wisdom, knowledge and intelligence. As we have the right priorities, we can prepare for the next phase of our existence and maintain faith and hope in mortality.

Moroni 7:41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

Now I would like to close my remarks with some words to Symmony, Avery, Isaac, Sam and Josh. Two of the most important and influential people in my life experienced what you are experiencing: my mother's mom died when she was 8 and my wife's mom died when she was 10. Both of these young girls used this experience to solidify their faith in the plan of salvation, to strengthen their testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ and to live worthy to be reunited with their loved ones in the presence of God. They both have mentioned that at different times in their lives, they have felt the presence of their mothers just as you will feel the presence of your father. Heavenly Father promises us in

D&C 84:88 “And whoso receive you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

My mom and your Aunt Terry, Uncle Mike and Aunt Laura used this experience to prioritize their lives and keep a unique perspective about the purpose of life. They lived their lives so that they were worthy to go on missions and marry in the Temple. Their actions have blessed the lives of generations as their children have gone on missions, married in the temple and been blessed by performing the necessary ordinances to prepare to return to their Heavenly Father. Their grandchildren are being raised in the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will have the same opportunities to bless future generations by the refinement that takes place from overcoming this trial in your young livews. As we continue our earthy sojourns, we can look forward and anticipate a wonderful reunion someday with your Father and our other loved ones who preceded us in death. Families are Forever.


  1. Sister Daniels, we are so, so very sorry about your brother. Tears streamed down my face as I read this, Bishop... I know your words gave so many comfort at a time when peace seems almost impossible to grasp.

    Our prayers are with you all as well as J.D.'s wife and five children.

    Rachael and Wes Charles

  2. this was an amazing talk, dad. i'm so glad i was able to hear you give it, and i'm equally as grateful that you took the time to share it on here so we can have it documented for years to come.

  3. A comforting testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--I will refer to it the next time I am called upon to speak at the death of a family member of friend.