“What After Death?” Ensign, Nov. 1974, 52
I am very happy, brothers and sisters, to be privileged to share this wonderful conference with you and I have enjoyed the music immensely at all sessions and the talks of my brethren. In your presence this day I would like to humbly express my love for my Father in heaven and for his Son, Jesus Christ, who gave his life as an atoning sacrifice for us, and also for his restored gospel which gives us such a wonderful pattern of life to live by and such hope for the eternities that are to come when our work here upon this earth is completed.
I would like to express my love for the Saints as I travel through the Church and in the missions and see those at the Mission Home, and as I feel the faith of the people. We thank God for the great outpouring of his Spirit that is causing the great growth and development of the Church throughout the world today. I thank him for our noble leadership, for President Kimball and his counselors. I love them, and the people love them because they are truly our Father’s servants.
I thought today that I would like to direct what I have to say to those parents who have lost children in death before they reached maturity and could enter into the covenant of marriage and have their own children here upon this earth. I reckon that there aren’t many families who haven’t had that experience.
I think of the thousands of our boys who have lost their lives on the battlefields of their various countries. I think of our boys who have died in the mission field. While I was president of the Netherlands Mission, I held one of those wonderful missionaries in my arms as he passed on to eternal glory.
I think of the many wonderful, faithful women who never have an opportunity to marry here in mortality because they are not willing to throw their lives away on men who are not worthy to take them to the celestial kingdom. Many of them have filled missions and work diligently for the upbuilding of our Father’s kingdom, for the raising of the youth of Zion, and they are wonderful.
I would like to use my own family as an illustration of what I have in mind. Mother and I were filling a mission together over in Holland when we had a little girl born to us, and after we had been home a few years she passed away. When she was born, my wife has told me over and over again that she felt she saw an angel bring that spirit to her. And yet she is gone. Then I think of her four sisters. You voted here today to sustain one of them as a counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society. Her other three sisters are just as noble and wonderful, although their talents may be just a little different.
When I think of this little one that we laid away when she was three-and-a-half years old, I thank God I have the faith to believe that God reigns in the heavens above and in the earth beneath and that this little one will ultimately enter into her glory and be equal to any of her four sisters who have tarried here upon this earth and raised their families. I thank God for the statement of the apostle Paul when he said that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19.) In this brief period of mortality, it would not be possible for God to accomplish for all of his children all that he has in mind for them, the ones that are true and faithful.
I think of the statement of Moses as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) I wonder sometimes if we ever stop to analyze that statement. I think we can understand what “to bring to pass immortality” is, that we will never die after we come forth in the resurrection, as President Romney pointed out this morning. But what about eternal life? As I interpret this, I find in it the feeling that all that God has ultimately planned for his children who are faithful and true shall come to them in his own due time.
We read in the Book of Mormon that we are not all born at the same time (and that doesn’t matter) and that we don’t all die at the same time. (See Alma 40:8.) I think of the words of Abraham when he saw the placing of the spirits here upon this earth, that the Lord would prove them to see if they would do all things whatsoever he had commanded them. Then he adds: “And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon.” (Abr. 3:26.) That was in the spirit life before we came to mortality. “They who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abr. 3:26.) This little girl of ours kept her second estate as far as she could at her age.
Then I think of the statement of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said: “The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.” (D&C 3:1.) In other words, no one can stand in the way of God achieving what he has decreed for his children. Then a further statement in the Doctrine & Covenants where the Lord said: “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to eternity he is the same.” (D&C 76:3–4.)
Then there are the words of the Lord to the prophet Nephi when he said: “For my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.” (2 Ne. 29:9.) Now that should enable us to comprehend and realize that there will never be a time when God will cease to do his work to bring to pass, as we read in the Pearl of Great Price, the glory that will be added upon their heads forever and ever.
Coming back to our family, we had four daughters before we got a boy and he grew into beautiful young manhood; we lost him in an accident down at the beach in California while I was the president of the stake there. He was just turning 16 and he stood as tall as his father, and to think now of his own brothers who are here: they have their families, and one of them has just been serving as one of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve. I can’t believe that boy will come out any less exalted in the eternities that are to come than his brothers who have lived here in mortality. When he died, the principal of the high school came to our home (and he was not a member of the Church) and told Sister Richards that our son was the best boy he had ever had in his school, and we felt that, too, as he grew into manhood.
Then I think of our little granddaughter who died at the same age; her father and mother are here today and her brothers and sisters. After just a few days of sickness, she passed away at the age of 16, a beautiful little woman. To think that God’s plan would not ultimately bring to her everything our other children received who tarried here in mortality would lessen my appreciation of my Father in heaven and the perfectness of his plan.
I think of the parable Jesus gave when he said:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
“Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.” (Luke 14:28–29.)
If God started to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and did not provide an opportunity to complete the program, he would be like the builder who starts to build and then is not able to finish.
Coming back, then, to the family, I think of my wife’s sister who died here a short time ago. She filled a mission for the Church; she worked in the auxiliaries and she was a noble character. But she never married, and I can’t believe that the Lord’s plan is imperfect, that she will not ultimately enjoy all that her sister (my wife) with our wonderful family has enjoyed. “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.” (D&C 76:3.)
So I thank God for the thousand years of the millennial reign. My, what a lot of work needs to be done during that period! I can’t take time to tell you much about that, but I think of the words of Isaiah. He had a glimpse of it. He saw the day when we would have a new heaven and a new earth, when the wolf and the lion would lie down together, and the lion would eat straw like the ox. His people should build houses and inhabit them, and should plant vineyards and eat the fruit thereof. They should not build and another inhabit. They should not plant and another eat, for every man would enjoy the work of his own hands. (See Isa. 65:17–25 and Isa. 11:6–9.) Then he adds: “For they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.” (Isa. 65:23.) That sounds like a continuation of the family, doesn’t it?
Then I thank God for the statement of the apostle Paul when he said: “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.) That being true, the Lord must have a plan so that these children can ultimately enjoy that great blessing.
I will now read you a statement from the Lord regarding this millennial reign. He said:
“And there shall be no sorrow because there shall be no death.
“In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
“And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.” (D&C 101:29–31.)
So he is to live to the age of a tree, and then he is to be changed in the twinkling of an eye.
I want to read you one more statement of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph:
“And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, (and they can’t multiply unless they have that relationship of husband and wife) and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation.
“For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver.” (D&C 45:58–59.)
Then I think of the revelation concerning those who will inherit the celestial kingdom, and the Lord said: “… which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” (D&C 132:19.)
And so I expect some day to see the bride that my son has selected over there in the spirit world. If he can find one as noble as his little niece I have mentioned (my granddaughter), just think what a glorious day that will be. In order to properly understand this, I would like to read a couple of statements: one from President Brigham Young about what will happen during the Millennium, and one from President Wilford Woodruff.
President Young said: “To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple, but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal.” (Journal of Discourses 3:372.) Just think—if there are going to be thousands of temples and tens of thousands of people going to them, it will give you a little idea of what the Lord has in store for these spirits who have to have their temple work done.
Then the Prophet Wilford Woodruff said: “When the Savior comes, a thousand years will be devoted to this work of redemption and temples will appear all over this land of Joseph—North and South America—and also in Europe and elsewhere.” (JD 19:230.)
I close my remarks today with my faith that the Lord knows what he is doing and he has prepared a plan so that those who have gone before will not suffer. I therefore conclude with the words of the apostle Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven and paradise of God, and he saw things he was not permitted to write. But he did say: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.) That is my faith in my God, and I leave you my blessing in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.