A father died. His young adult daughter missed him terribly. She thought about him regularly.
Her sister chided her: “By missing Dad, grieving over him, and insisting on his attention to your life, you are keeping him from doing his work on the other side of the veil. Because you are unhappy and he cares about you, he is drawn to you and it keeps him from doing what he needs to be doing. Let him go!”
The Wisdom of Heaven
That may sound like sensible advice. Yet I doubt that it captures the wisdom of Heaven. When we impose mortal constraints on eternal doings, we are surely selling heaven short. As the Prophet Joseph observed, “It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty” (TPJS, p. 320).
If we limit heaven’s doings by our rules and assumptions, we will shortchange Heaven and ourselves. Maybe a set of laws very different from those we know for mortality govern the doings of immortals. My propositions for the laws that govern immortals include the following:
- Immortals love us and yearn to be a part of our lives. There is nothing they enjoy more than serving the family and friends who literally mean everything to them.
- Those who live in eternity are not everlastingly at odds with time. While those in the spirit world may not be fully free of the constraints of time, surely they do not struggle with time the way we do.
- Immortals can only participate fully in our lives when we allow them to. They are not allowed to intrude on our lives uninvited but may take part as we appropriately invite them to take part.
- They will not violate our agency (nor do our chores), but they gladly teach us, love us, reassure us, and guide us according to heavenly wisdom.
- Though it may take us years to learn to hear their language, they already know us and our language.
Some years ago I began studying my great-grandfather’s life. The more I learned of him the more I wanted to become friends with this good man who died almost two decades before I was born. I yearned to sit and talk with him.
One day as I finished an endowment session in the temple, I pondered. “How can I visit with grandpa Ben?” I wondered if, after striving to be more righteous, God would send him to visit me. I wasn’t sure. I also wondered if I might request of the temple president some time alone in a sealing room to invite him to visit. This option did not seem quite right.
As I stood in the temple, a single word from Alma’s great invitation (Alma 5) came to me with new meaning: Imagine.
Imagine! Suddenly it made sense. We do not spend a lifetime trying to be good and settle into great spiritual experiences as a retirement reward. We seek them. We pursue them. In matters of faith, we exercise all the energies of our minds and souls. Faith is mental exertion.
When a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. (Lectures on Faith 7:3).
Suddenly my path was clear. Rather than wait for Grandpa to come to me, I was to seek him. I began falteringly. Sometimes I sought him as I drove alone at night to teach a class in a neighboring town. I would leave the passenger seat free of books and papers. In my mind I imagined Grandpa Ben sitting there. It wasn’t hard to imagine him. I have studied every picture of him I can find. And I have not only read what he wrote in his journals and articles, I have also tried to read books that he read so that I could know how he thought and what he loved.
So, as we drove along, I would talk to Grandpa. I would tell him what I appreciated about his legacy. I would thank him for leaving a journal filled with his spirit. Sometimes I would ask him for advice. To be honest, I never heard his voice in my ear. Yet I sometimes felt his message in my heart. It was sweet. Was it real or just “vain imaginations”?
It felt real to me.
Getting Counsel from My Dad
At a time when I was at a spiritual and professional crossroads, I desperately wanted counsel from my wise and compassionate dad. But he had died a year previous. I missed him terribly.
Fortunately I got even more desperate as I struggled for an answer and found none. One day I got desperate enough to leave meetings and find solitude in a restroom where I locked the door and begged Dad for his counsel. When I paused to listen, I felt warm, reassuring, and wise counsel come to mind. I knew it was from Dad. I wrote it down. As I acted on his counsel, our lives have gotten better and better. I believe that my dad is just as interested and even more able to counsel me now than when he lived in mortality.
I did not want to presume on Heaven’s goodness. But I felt there was still more.
My paternal grandmother was a counselor in the general presidency of the Young Women beginning in 1937. I read her articles in church magazines. I read her correspondence. I also read her expressions of love to her children.
Unfortunately, Grandma died when I was just barely 16 months of age. So I can’t remember her holding me and cooing to me, her first grandson. I can’t remember her voice or words. But everyone who knew her told of her powerful testimony and great passion for the gospel. When I read a letter inviting her to speak to a group of Young Women in Logan, I longed to be there.
I exerted myself. I studied her notes. I found a quiet place and imagined her sitting on the stand in a chapel of that era. I found that the Spirit would not let me sit in the audience, but He would allow me to stand in the foyer and hear Grandma speak. I could almost hear the words and themes in my mind. I certainly felt the warmth as she testified of God’s great gifts and invited the Young Women to be true to their covenants.
What a blessing to hear Grandma speak after these many years of silence!
Recently our family gathered in the temple for a sealing. I felt sure that our ancestors wanted to attend. And we wanted them to attend. So I sent an invitation – by way of prayer. I asked that Father allow them to visit and be a part of this cherished family experience.
When we arrived in the sealing room, I mentally placed our cherished visitors in specific seats. I imagined them sitting there. I mentally expressed my love and appreciation to them. I was flooded with joy even before the sealing began.
Moments in History
Some years ago I started to make a list of the great moments in the history of this world that I would like to witness. The list did not include the expected moments: Elijah on Mount Carmel, Moses parting the Red Sea, or Jesus feeding the 5,000. The moments in history I wanted to see were more personal.
I would like to see Grandpa Ben as he traveled Utah selling Bibles. He was a reluctant immigrant, an English preacher following his girlfriend. I would like to see his face as it was illuminated by the preaching of Bishop Price in Goshen, Utah – and this Methodist preacher from England decided to be baptized.
I wanted to see Grandpa Ben’s retirement party at the Bureau of Information on Temple Square after he had led the work for 27 years. I wanted to see my young dad serving at the gathering.
I wanted to see Grandpa Wallace – after whom I have the blessing of being named ? on the morning he got news that he had not been re-elected to an eighth term as Salt Lake County Attorney. I wanted to see him clear out his desk and return home to his dear companion and hear her say, “Welcome home, Lover-dear.”
I would like to see my Goddard ancestors gathered on a summer’s eve in the cabin up Emigration Canyon. I would love to peer through the screen door and hear my grandpa Goddard lead the family in prayer.
I would love to see my dear companion’s childhood. She is the kindest and finest person I have ever known. I know that I would enjoy seeing her play with Acel, Susan, Alan, and Lori.
There are other moments in the history of this world that seem especially sacred to me. I have already seen some of them. I look forward to seeing more.
Ministering of Angels
Are there other ways that immortals can bless us? Are the ways only limited by our imaginations? I have often invited my dear dad to accompany me on speaking assignments. I have asked Heaven to allow immortals to help me when I undertake a new writing project. (I call them the book team!)
We might modify Elisha’s insight: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than [we ever imagined]” (2 Kings 6:16).
Consider the words of President Faust at the April 2006 General Conference:
In ancient and modern times angels have appeared and given instruction, warnings, and direction, which benefited the people they visited. We do not consciously realize the extent to which ministering angels affect our lives. President Joseph F. Smith said, “In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.” Many of us feel that we have had this experience. Their ministry has been and is an important part of the gospel. (Emphasis added)
I would extend President Faust’s statement to say that the ministry of immortals can be, not only an important part of the gospel, but also an important and blessed part of our daily lives.
For the young woman who is missing her dad I say, “Invite him over for some daddy-daughter time. He will come gladly. You will both be blessed by the time together.” I know from experience.
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