Tag Archives: mormon beliefs

World Death Rate Holds Steady at 100 %

That title is a headline from The Onion and it succinctly calls attention to the elephant in every room: we are all going to die. It’s not a topic we discuss much, but maybe we should, since it’s the one unifying experience of all humanity — indeed, of all life.

I am on a plane somewhere above Nebraska, flying across the country to see my mom. She has dementia. She is dying. We say that of someone we expect to pass soon, but in reality, it’s true for each of us; we are all dying and the fact is we don’t know how or when death will find us. I’m sitting next to a psychotherapist from Washington D.C. whose wife died of cancer this year. Death is hard on the living. Which is perhaps why we try so hard to avoid thinking about it.

I’m not afraid of death. But it’s easy for me to say that, because at the moment, I’m healthy and “too young to die.” If the plane’s engines suddenly stopped roaring and we plunged to the plains below, I’m fairly certain I’d feel afraid. Like most of you, I’m not afraid to BE dead — but I’m not too thrilled at the idea of dying painfully. Like you, I hope to go to sleep one night when I’m really old and feeling complete and simply not wake up, passing gently in the night.

I have a firm belief in an afterlife, confirmed by sacred experience. In fact, I look forward to that life after; I am spending my mortality preparing for it. Perhaps it’s just the transitions that make us nervous. Birthing is beautiful, but difficult and often dangerous, not just for the mother but for the child as well. We don’t generally think of dying as beautiful — at least not in our Western culture — but I suspect we’re missing something important by not recognizing the holiness of the transition from this life to the next. It’s easier to see as we sit by the bedside of a dying loved one who is ready to go, easier than dealing with the shock of the sudden or violent death of someone we love. It brings up the unanswerable question: would you rather know you’re dying, so you have time to say goodbye and get ready, or would you rather go instantly, to minimize the pain?

I have little experience with death first-hand. Much of my ruminations on the subject are theoretical. I am aware of the risk I’m taking to talk about it here, when so many of you have buried parents or children, siblings or friends. Please forgive any boorishness. But Death is on my heart lately because I am not prepared for my mom to die. Are we ever? As I was praying for her yesterday, I could not bring myself to ask God to heal her of her latest physical infirmities. She’s been in the hospital and the rehab unit for almost four weeks now, and Memory Care for months before. She can’t walk. She’s not eating. She’s just aware enough to realize that her life is no life. I wonder if she is trying to die, perhaps unconsciously, but intentionally.  And what right do I have to insist she stay, just because I don’t want her to die?

The paradox of our modern world is that we can keep people “alive” indefinitely, but what does that say about our relationship with Death? We spend far more money on end-of-life care than on any other medical need. And for what? When does our regard for Life and our collective fear of Death become untenable?

My mother-in-law died well. She had colon cancer, which she knew would kill her without treatment. She went to a couple of chemotherapy sessions, then said, “No more. I choose to let this cancer take me.” And eight months later, it did. I asked her once, “Are you afraid?” She replied emphatically, “No!” And I could tell she was telling the truth. Toward the end, we could see a new clarity and light in her eyes, as if the veil was already lifted and she could clearly see the glorious path ahead. But that’s all conjecture. I only know that she died in peace, even joy, her life complete. She embraced the transition fearlessly, with faith and a humble eagerness. We mourned her passing, of course. We still miss her, years later. But her example of dying well will remain in my heart forever.

Believing Mormons have a clear, joyous narrative about Life and Death, which makes our funerals not-so-somber and our conversations about Death almost flippant. Some think we are unfeeling because our grief does not generally manifest in extreme ways. But the peace that accompanies our understanding of Death as simply one more transition in our eternal lives is real and soul-sustaining. Our grief is certainly just as real. But we hear enough and have enough inter-world experiences with our dead to make it all somehow bearable, even beautiful.

I have much to learn. Much to yet experience. Our stories of Death are important, the difficult as well as the divine. We will all die, after all, but it’s hard to talk about because we know so little of what’s beyond. I believe those who live well tend to die well, so maybe that’s all we can do. Maybe there’s no difference, really. All we can do, perhaps, is  help each other live well and when the time comes, die well.

How would you describe your relationship to Death? What are your fears, your hopes, your experiences?

SURPRISE: “Lo, I am with you always”

This year I am focused on living in the Spirit. My aim is to pay close and constant attention to the spiritual signals I receive and to “obey flawlessly” — a phrase I adopted from John Pontius. I am well aware that I am full of flaw-full obedience every day, but my commitment is to obey the Spirit of the Lord as precisely as I can determine His will and direction. I have joined a few “spirit sisters” in this quest, and our communal experience has been enlightening, and in a fundamental way, quite surprising.  Continue reading

Making Your Calling and Election Sure

I’ve been stewing about this blog post for weeks, because I mean it to be provocative. I want to write about one of our most important Mormon doctrines, but it’s a topic that seems to be shrouded in a cultural taboo, like Heavenly Mother or polygamy. They used to sermonize about having your calling and election made sure a lot more than they do now. “They” being our church leaders. It was a naturally accepted piece of doctrine back in the days of Joseph Smith and the early saints. I imagine that every alert saint was keenly aware of whether or not they had personally been sealed up into eternal life by the Holy Spirit of Promise. I don’t know that we later latter-day saints give it much thought or attention anymore. But maybe we should. Continue reading

I Have a Dream

I have a dream that one day we will reach a critical mass of Zion-prepared people and the Lord Jesus will return in glory to live and reign here with us.

I have a dream that my children and my grandchildren and their children will inherit a healthy earth, that they will be freed from the tyranny of sin, free to grow in righteousness in a peaceful, joyful world.

I have a dream that one day I will talk with my Lord face to face, that I will learn all truth, line upon line, directly from the Source of Truth.

I have a dream that the church I love will one day be truly perfect, that everyone — of every gender and race and social class — will find a welcoming home, a place to rest and contribute, to love and be loved.

I have a dream, a powerful dream, of the celestial world, where my Mother and my Father reign in all perfection and glory, a celestial Home where I belong.

I have a dream of a marital partnership that mirrors our Parents’, to which we each bring divine power and tenderness, and with which we  further the work and glory of our God.

I have a dream that every soul on earth and in heaven will come to know who they really are, that they will each embrace the grace of our Savior and come Home.

I have a dream, an impossible dream, that Love and Truth and Mercy will prevail, that humankind will finally find within themselves the divine spark that makes us beloved sons and daughters of God, the spark that once ignited and fanned, flames into glory, one precious soul at a time.

I dream the impossible. And I believe . . .

 

What do you dream?

 

By Their Fruits…

“We believe the bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.” Article of Faith 8

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Article of Faith 13

As members of the church, I think we sometimes believe this in theory, but, at least when it comes to religion, we avoid the seeking part, unless it’s through “official” LDS channels.

Which is unfortunate. Because the fact is, we do not have the market cornered on truth. Nor is our culture a perfect fit for everyone. Sometimes you can hear the same message from two different people, and one of them will really reach you, while the other barely catches your notice.

It’s also unfortunate because as members, in conjunction with our traditional study methods, we have the Holy Ghost available to help guide us. He will let us know the truth of all things, so we don’t actually need to worry about being led astray if we seek with our hearts attuned to the spirit. When ideas don’t resonate; if they have a hollow sound and do not ring true, we will know they are of little value, and ultimately our learning will be directed toward truth, as described in D&C 93.

It’s with this in mind that I share thoughts about one area today.

A few weeks ago I was in Georgia visiting friends. They are Christians, and I had the opportunity to attend their church services while there.

It was my first time ever going to a “mega church”. And by mega, I mean many thousands of people. Between the seven different locations in the area, they have over 25,000 attendees each week. It’s a seriously fine-tuned operation.

It was a vastly different experience culturally, and I’m grateful for the renewed exposure it gave me into how many of our friends and neighbors experience religion and worship. It increased my appreciation for their goodness and faithfulness.  A reminder of just how many truly good, humble, earnest people there are.

Services started with an (optional) live concert. Professional musicians performed while the whole thing was projected onto three huge screens. The audience was on it’s feet singing along when we arrived.

After the music, an excellent sermon was projected via satellite onto the huge screens. The pastor was quite engaging; his message was based on verses in 1 Corinthians. Every word he said rang true with my beliefs. It was part of a series of talks on the topic, and I thought it would be interesting to hear the others, so when I got home I went looking for them online.  While searching, I found several excellent series that I’ve enjoyed listening to, as have my kids.

It is because I know everyone wrestles at some point with relationship issues that I share the following. For some time now I’ve been studying, fasting and praying for direction and answers. I knew I needed divine guidance about our situation, but it never occurred to me that perhaps the truths I sought would be presented by a Christian pastor on the internet. Yet perhaps this four-part series I stumbled upon, Staying In Love, is the missing link not only for us, but also some of you, fair readers.

Even though he no longer believes in any religion, my husband and I have watched all four parts together (they’re about 40 minutes each). Not only did we both enjoy them, they’ve inspired some very good discussions.  Every word of these talks rang true to me, and I’ve gained insights I haven’t had before about the Savior and relationships.  I don’t know what will happen with us, but either way I am grateful for the insights I gained.

Whether you are single or married, happy as clams or barely hanging on, I can’t imagine any couple not benefitting from these messages. And remember, you don’t have to worry about being misled. Just apply 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Our lives can only be richer as we incorporate truth from any source into them.

Have you ever found truth in unexpected places?  Does the thought of attending another church make you uncomfortable? How could being more open to learning about other faiths or belief traditions build bridges and foster community with others? I know style matters, and these may not be to your liking, but if you’ve watched the talks I’ve linked to, what do you think? Did you feel the spirit while listening?