Sermoncitos, a family tradition
As branch president, it is my job to teach the Gospel today, to bring you the glad tidings. I started writing this message on Eternal Life, last Monday morning. As I prepared, I thought often of Bill and Ervin, and the conversations I had with them. The last time I saw them sitting together and smiling, was two weeks ago right here in this chapel. I want to talk about life here on earth, and the eternal life we have before and after this life.
In preparation for the wave of retirements by the “Baby Boomers”, the people born after WWII, there are many studies about aging. They have concluded that life expectancy and years of productivity and health have increased. In fact, two thirds of the people who have ever lived over age 65 in the history of the earth are currently living on the earth! So many people are striving for extended youth and long life, such that when they approach they end, they think it is a tragedy instead of looking forward to the next step in life. Many even blame God for their grief or refuse to believe a just God would take their loved ones. This attitude toward life and death is not new. Consider this glimpse into human nature from over 2,000 years ago:
“The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives, the more his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.” Chuang-Tzu (369-286 B.C.).
Writing hundreds of years before that, Isaiah recognized our life of sorrow: “...I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro... Behold, I was left alone...” 1 Nephi 21:21.
Yet he saw the past and future too: “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth... for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” 1 Nephi 21:13.
The Prophet Lehi wrote of the miseries of man on the earth; “but behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things” 2 Nephi 2:24.
Six hundred years before atoned for our sins and broke the bonds of death so we could be free (hiin¡), Lehi knew he was at the end of his time on earth. He gathered his children and grandchildren around him and gave these words of hope: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." 2 Nephi 25.
The prophet of our day, shows us how to follow this plan of happiness, by setting our priorities here on earth. “The only things you will take with you, when all is said and done, are your family relationships... God bless us to be good fathers,... good parents, and good husbands to our good wives, for we shall continue our relationships with them in the next life.” Gordon B. Hinckley.
The last years of my mother’s life, I got into the habit of calling her regularly. They rigged a headset for the phone, since she could not hold it with her hands. She could only listen, and not even respond, but I was told that she deeply appreciated hearing my voice.
For the next ten years after she was gone I continued calling my father every week. He always asked about my children and sent his love to my wife. After the funeral last spring in Kamas, Utah, I started calling my brother in Washington. He never fails to tell me all about his children and express interest in mine.
Yesterday I wished my youngest sister a happy 55th birthday. She told me about all the new babies and expectant mothers in our our extended family.
“What is the great strength of this Church? ...It is the emphasis which we place on families.... We put great emphasis on the family. Keep your families close together and love and honor your children. Raise them in truth and faith to love the Lord” Gordon B. Hinckley.
Lehi continues his advice: “and now my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediato; and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life...” 2 Nephi 2:28.
The ancient Náhua people of México considered the extreme difficulties of this life to be a sign that this life is not our real life, it just a dream; death is waking up to our real life. “Is it true, there is life on the earth? Not for always on the earth, only for a bit”.
Eighty two years before Christ was born, Amulek clarified this truth: “And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality... Alma 12:12.
“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body....
And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; ; which death is the grave 2 Nephi 9:10, 11.
When we pray we call upon our Eternal Father... because he lives eternally. We are His children just like the song suggests: God be’awee’ nishl•. The glad tidings, hane’, is that we live eternally, just like God. We lived with God before our birth, and return to his presence after our short life on earth. We are God’s people.
Last weekend I was in the temple, Diyin God bighaan, and witnessed the baptism, of our youth for hundreds of people who live in eternal life. This is a basic tenet of our religion, that we continue to know and love and be loved even after this earth life. Love is the greatest commandment, and the love we have for each other continues beyond the grave. In their time of difficulty, Bill and Ervin returned to the bosom of their family, and found each other and all of you. That is their disposition, to love their family. They still love each one of you and look forward to seeing you again.
These things I have written to share the words of the prophets of God, Diyin God y¡ dahalne’ii bahane’. I also bear witness that I know these things to be true.
May God bless you with peace, a gift of the Holy Ghost, and a reminder, “for I the Lord have not forgotten my people... I leave this blessing upon you in the name of Jesus Christ . Amen.