“My Old Friend, Shepherd,” Friend, Apr. 1999, 20
When I was a small boy, even too young to go to school, I lived on a farm with my aunt and uncle in Burley, Idaho. My uncle had a dog named Shepherd that I loved with all my heart. Shepherd was getting old when our friendship started, but we still spent hundreds of hours together. We dreamed our dreams, and we accomplished great feats within our little kingdom.
But Shepherd, my true and loving companion, was moving through life much faster than I was. After a while, I noticed that he no longer wanted to bark at the ducks, jump across ditch banks, or follow me out to the green alfalfa field. He was content to simply lie in the shade by the house and watch me come and go. Although I respected his wishes, I missed the times we had shared.
One morning my uncle came to me and said, “Francis, Shepherd is very, very old, and he is ill.”
“What can I do to help him get better?” I asked.
“He can’t get better,” was my uncle’s reply. “We have to take him to the animal doctor so his pain and suffering will last no longer.”
Running to Shepherd, I knew I would have to say good-bye forever to the friend I loved so dearly. Locking my arms around his neck, I was determined to protect him, as he had so often protected me.
I remembered the time he had saved me from an angry, charging, muskrat. And how, after a few loud barks from my faithful friend, a man-eating water snake changed its course, leaving me happy to be alive.
But my strength and size were no match for the mature strength of my uncle, who with loving care and understanding pried me loose from old Shepherd. Frantically I tried to regain hold of my friend. As I grabbed him, a tuft of hair came off in my hand.
Unable to control the pressure in my small body, heartbroken sobs came from deep within my soul. My battle was lost; my beloved pet would be gone forever.
Sorrow filled my young life. There was no joy because there was no hope I’d ever see Shepherd again. I lost all interest in adventuring to the apple orchard, watching white fluffy clouds, or playing in the big tree.
A few days later, my uncle asked me if I would like to go to Park Valley with him while he rode for cattle. Usually when my uncle went to Park Valley, I loved to go with him. I’d spend long hours with my cousin, exploring old barns, bird’s nests, and cedar draws (shallow ravines). But now my heart wasn’t in it. I said, “Thanks, but I don’t feel like going.”
“Well, Francis, it’s up to you,” he replied. “But you can be miserable there just as well as here. Besides, it will be a good change of scenery.”
I wasn’t sure he was right, but I finally decided to go.
We were quiet as we climbed into the truck. I knew that my uncle was trying to think of something to say that would make me feel better. Finally he spoke. “Francis, do you see that outcrop of rocks along the ridge of that mountain?”
“Yes,” I replied, puzzled. I had seen that ridge many times, and I wondered why he wanted me to look at it again.
“If you could see old Shepherd now, he would probably be on that ridge, running like the wind. He’d be free from all the aches and pains he suffered.”
I asked, “How could Shepherd be dead and still run along the crest of that rimrock?”
“When Old Shepherd died,” he replied, “his spirit became separated from his body. His mortal body was buried, but his spirit body didn’t die. Spirits are always alive.”
So that’s how Shepherd can run and jump now, I thought happily as my mind locked onto this new and exciting idea. Then I asked, “If I could see Shepherd’s spirit, could I hug him around the neck and could he lick me on the cheek?”
“No,” my uncle said. “We can’t feel a spirit because spirits are made of a material different from mortal bodies.”
My young heart grew heavy again. What fun would Shepherd be if I could never give him a hug, or scratch him, or wrestle with him. Would I never be able to have those experiences with my beloved dog again? Sadly I asked, “Will I ever be able to touch old Shepherd again, or will we only be able to sit around and look at each other?”
Smiling, my uncle said, “The time will come when you will be able to feel him bump against you and feel him lick your hand.”
Suddenly I felt happier than I had for a whole month. Now questions began to tumble out of my mouth. “When will I be able to touch him again? What will happen to make it possible to touch Shepherd again? Who is able to do this wonderful thing?”
What joy filled my little chest! Perhaps there was a way to get my dog back after all.
“Hold on a minute,” my uncle said. “Catch your breath, and I’ll answer your questions. Do you remember hearing of Jesus Christ?”
I nodded. “Yes, you’ve told me a lot about Him. And every time I go to church, my Primary teachers talk about Him.”
“Do you remember what He did when He lived on the earth?”
“I remember that He was really good, and He made people well,” I said. “But some people put Him to death by nailing Him to a big wooden cross.”
“So Jesus died, is that right?” my uncle asked.
“Yes,” I answered quietly.
“What happened to Jesus when He died?”
I wasn’t exactly sure, but I decided to venture a guess. “If Shepherd’s body separated from his spirit when he died, then Jesus’ body must have separated from His spirit when He died, too.”
“That’s exactly right,” my uncle said. “So when this happened to Jesus, where did His followers put His body?”
I knew the answer to that one. “They put His body in a cave place and put a great stone in front of the way in.”
“Right again. Now, did His body stay in that cave forever?”
“No,” I replied. “Three days later a lady came to see if His body was OK. But when she got there, she saw an angel who told her that Jesus was gone.”
“Yes,” my uncle said, nodding. “And do you know why Jesus wasn’t there?”
“He came alive again.”
“That’s right—He came alive again. And that’s called the Resurrection. Resurrection is when, after a person or animal dies, his or her body and spirit come back together again. Jesus made it possible for everyone to be resurrected.”
“Even animals?” I asked eagerly.
“You mean that Shepherd will someday get his body back and that I will be able to touch him?” I whooped with joy.
“Yes,” my uncle assured me. “Even old Shepherd will get his body back. But this time he won’t have any aches or pains.”
At that moment all the sorrow and pain I felt for my beloved pet was gone. It was replaced with love and gratitude for Jesus, who had died and come alive again. He made it possible for everyone, even animals, to have their bodies forever.
Note: In 1909, the First Presidency (Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund), stated: “God … organized the earth, and all that it contains. … He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant; but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with Godlike reason and intelligence. Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, … and will enjoy ‘eternal felicity.’” (See Improvement Era, November 1909, page 81.)
In the October 1928 general conference, President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Death is not the end, neither of man nor of the earth. … The Lord intends to save … not only man … but all things which he has created. The animals, the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, as well as man, are to be re-created, or renewed, through the resurrection, for they too are living souls.” (See Conference Report, October 1928, pages 99–100.)
See also Doctrine and Covenants 29: 23–25.