Reflections on Life after Death
If you want to believe but are still unsure
Written for the Harvard Business School Class of 1977 35th Reunion, October 2012
Life after Death
About 20 years ago, I was unexpectedly asked by the leaders of our Church if Kathy and I would be willing to leave our businesses and home in Florida and accept a position in the worldwide leadership of the Church. We accepted this life-changing responsibility with some apprehension and much humility. It has taken us to many parts of the world including Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. We have lived 10 years in Europe and South America.
I have been able to observe and hopefully encourage hundreds and thousands of people in many languages, cultures, and economic situations as they discovered or strengthened their faith in Jesus Christ. With our subject of life after death, let me share a few of the principles I deeply believe. While I speak from the perspective of a converted Christian, my hope is that my tone will be inclusive and that my reflections might be seen as sincere and thoughtful to those of differing views.
I believe in a loving and personal God. I believe human beings are His crowning creation and that our individual destiny is of paramount interest to Him. The Apostle Paul called us “the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher, has been quoted as saying, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
I believe that truth is truth, whether it is in the physical world or the spiritual world. As we discover it and apply it, our lives are more complete. The discovery of spiritual truth is vital to our happiness in this life and beyond. Because it is important for all, God makes it available to all: rich and poor, young and old, educated and uneducated, independent of gender, race, and citizenship.
The spiritual gift of faith comes from God. While environment certainly is important, while reason plays a role, and while the emotions of life’s experiences turn us one way or the other, faith comes by connecting with heavenly powers. The Apostle Paul, once again, said: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
I believe that faith is more available when we ask for it through prayer, expressing our intent to accept and honor what we receive. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7). The Apostle James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, … and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Curiosity or intellectual interest is not sufficient. There must be an honest desire and a willingness to act on what is received. Faith, of course, cannot be purchased with money.
No matter how much we begin with, even if it is no more than the desire to believe, our faith can grow as we exercise that faith (see Alma 32:27). Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). For example, as we follow the teachings of Jesus, turning ourselves toward others, disciplining our passions, and thinking more of God and what He would have us do, our faith expands. As we worship with others, take time for quiet contemplation, and speak about the spiritual feelings in our lives, our faith expands. Someone has said: “If we want to speak to God, we pray. If we want to listen to God, we read His word.” With some of the important questions you may be now asking yourself in your life, read the Gospel of John with the question, “What would God have me do and become?” My experience is that answers come into our mind and our heart.
Faith will always be misunderstood by some. The Apostle Paul said, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
What do I anticipate after death? (Let me say that not all of my Christian classmates will agree with my perspective. Also, describing spiritual events through a mortal framework hardly seems adequate.) Death is not the end, but a necessary step in our progression, just as was our birth.
We remain the same person we were prior to our death but without our body. I believe that eventually our spirit will reunite with our body. This is the resurrection. Our personal identity will remain with us forever. The faith, understanding, character, and qualities we develop on earth go with us. For all of us, death is an important transition to the next stage in God’s plan of happiness for His children. We continue to learn and progress. We continue to have interaction with others.
There is a hell for the evil and wicked. What that means would take too long to explain, but I do not see it as the paintings of Dante’s Inferno. Rather, it is a place where one comes to understand the terribleness of his actions, and guilt and remorse bring extreme sadness and sorrow. I do not believe it lasts forever except for a very, very few.
There are wonderful opportunities and special promises for those who have shown faith in Christ, trusted in His promises, and kept His commandments. Eternal life means life with God, and there is no greater gift. I believe the day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (see Mosiah 27:31).
For me, faith in Christ has become more than a belief. It is a spiritual power that is real and palpable. Paul said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Substance, evidence, and faith have brought me to much more than belief. Faith is now in my DNA, my very bones.
Angels at the tomb of Jesus spoke clearly:
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?
“He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:5–6).
I have the firm assurance that He did rise. We too will live beyond death.