I usually only read one comic strip in the newspaper and that’s Pickles. But, the other day, I peeked at Marvin. There’s this talkin’ blue toilet that says to the stubborn looking little boy, “Look, kid, there are three things in life that are unavoidable…death…taxes…and potty training.” Most of us have surpassed the potty training ordeal, and many of us have dealt with the unpleasantness of taxes, but all of us have yet to face death.
Death is the doorway to the Spirit World. And what awaits us there? As post-mortal spirits, we continue in the spectrum between misery and happiness that we chose for ourselves by how we lived here on earth. If we sought to follow Jesus’ example, we may become ministering angels while in the spirit world.
In October’s general conference, Elder Holland spoke about the ministry of angels.
“From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. Usually such beings are NOT seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are ALWAYS near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, (to provide) guidance in difficult times.”
Elder Holland said that most angels are unseen. Their service to us most often remains anonymous. Do you remember the last time you did a good deed and never told anybody? Wasn’t it so fun? Maybe you mailed an uplifting card without signing it and without leaving a return address. Maybe you left someone a treat or a gift on the front porch, rang the doorbell and ran like the dickens. Is there anything more joyful? This is the kind of stuff we get to look forward to in the Spirit World. I believe much of our angelic service will be to those within our own family circles.
We know that as members of the church who have testimonies of Jesus Christ, we would be called upon to testify of His truths to others in the Spirit World. Let me share with you something from my great-great-grandmother’s life history.
At age 23, Elizabeth Cook was happily married with 3 children and one on the way. One day her husband, Phineas, ‘went with a hayrack’ into town. His brother, Henry, came riding along on a horse. He told Phineas that he had just repaired his gun at the blacksmith shop. As Phineas reached out for the gun, the lines slacked and the horses started going faster. Phineas put the gun down and grabbed the lines. Just then, the wagon went into a chuck hole. The gun went off. The bullet went through Phineas’ heart, killing him almost instantly.
The interesting part of this story is what happened the night before. Elizabeth was up late carding and spinning wool with her mother. Phineas, who had been sleeping about an hour, came out and told the women that he had had such a peculiar dream. He said, “I thought I was in an old ancient city and a man came to me. He had long white flowing hair and a beard. His white garments reached to his feet. Around his waist was a cord and to this cord was a bunch of keys. He took the keys off, handed them to me saying, “take these keys,” and turning, he pointed to a long row of dug-outs. He said, “unlock the doors to these prisons and go in and preach the gospel to those who are waiting for it.” Phineas told Elizabeth and her mother, “I woke up with such a strange feeling; I know there’s meaning to it.”
Even with the understanding that her husband was called to the Spirit World with the purpose of preaching the gospel, Elizabeth’s heart was broken. Months later, after she had given birth to her baby, she went into the bedroom and flung herself onto the bed crying. She said she must have fallen asleep. In a dream, she saw her husband as plain as she ever could have seen him alive. He said, “Lizzie, the Bible says we must not covet that which belongs to our neighbor. You are coveting that which belongs to the Lord.” Then after entreating her to stop grieving, he gave her a loving look and was gone. She awoke and that heavy load was lifted. In her own words: “I became reconciled.”
This experience reminds us that when we enter the Spirit World, we enter a world of service, missionary service as well as sending comfort and love to those still in mortality.
Although we will be busily engaged in the Spirit World, we will certainly be anticipating the next step in our eternal progression: the Resurrection. When our bodies and spirits are reunited through the resurrection, we will never again have to suffer pain, sickness, or death.
I’ve had some dreams since Josh passed away where I’ve been able to see him and gain new insights. In one dream he came into the living room and sat on the floor, leaning against the couch where Cody, Nate, and I were sitting. In our conversation, Nathan asked Josh what it was like in the Spirit World. Quick witted, Josh answered, “Lot of people craving Coke.” Before long, Josh told us he had to go. As he stiffly stood, he mentioned that he didn’t like being back in his body; he had forgotten what it was like to have back pain.
When I woke up from this dream, I felt the unpleasant sensation of a very dry throat; my neck was out and my low back ached as I rolled out of bed. As I remembered my dream in detail, I smiled with the thought that Josh was done with all physical pain and aches. Although I see myself as being mostly healthy, it’s hard to imagine a full day without any moans or groans from pain or discomfort. Aren’t we glad that Jesus opened the door to the miracle of resurrection for all of us?
Everyone who is born on earth, whether they are righteous or wicked, will be resurrected and thus given the gift of immortality. Eternal life is not the same as immortality. I like something that Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Immortality is about quantity. Eternal life is about quality. To use a metaphor, immortality is how long the dinner lasts. Eternal life is what is on the menu and who is with us at the table.”
This brings us to what is referred to as the Judgment. After the resurrection, we will be brought before God to be judged. We’ll remember perfectly our righteousness and our guilt. That’s probably a better thing than we realize. Most of us are already well-trained in recalling guilt yet we quickly forget our own goodness.
Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fullness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify.
People who do not accept the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom.
Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom.
The moral of the story.
“…ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ,
having a perfect brightness of hope,
and a love of God and of all men.
Wherefore, if ye shall press forward,
feasting upon the word of Christ,
and endure to the end,
behold, thus saith the Father:
Ye shall have eternal life.”
Eternal life, or exaltation, is God’s life. It is attainable.
I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.
I started my talk with a comic strip quote about the unavoidables of life. Death is unavoidable, but it shouldn’t be grouped with potty training and taxes. It follows Birth and it precedes the Resurrection, Judgment and Immortality. It’s another step in our progression to become like our Father in Heaven.
I’m thankful for our Savior, whose atonement makes God’s plan a plan of happiness and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.