We are talking here about Saturday’s Warriors—about youth of the noble birthright, so valiant in the pre-existence that they were saved to come forth in the last days, where they were taught the Restored gospel and baptized into Christ’s church. Some who die by suicide have been endowed and served missions and married in the temple. The things Alma says about the fate of the evil and wicked (all telestial beings or sons of perdition simply don’t apply to most of our loved ones. (See Alma 34:33-35 and Alma 40:13-14.) We don’t believe the sectarian doctrine of heaven and hell with its terrible arbitrary line drawn between the two—and if you commit just one too many sins you are cast out with the wicked. Leaving the church (or turning away the missionaries) or getting caught up in drugs without understanding what they are doing does not categorize them as “wicked.”
These loved ones of ours who have died by suicide are choice people who have been waylaid, detoured, temporarily snared by some combination of mental illness, addiction, and Satan’s wiles. I have read that those who are lured into the counterfeit “ups” of substance abuse are often tenderhearted souls chafing under the bleakness of mortality and yearning for life to be more beautiful. They had temporarily forgotten who they were. But we know who they are, and in a beautiful and complete way God knows who they are.
Here’s what the Prophet Joseph Smith said about them:
Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or in the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.10
I love the scripture in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” I took all that I know about our merciful God and reasoned it out. Does the Lord’s cleansing power continue in the spirit world? Undoubtedly.
Our loved ones in the spirit world still have infinite possibilities. Elder Maxwell continued in the same chapter:
Since those who go to the celestial kingdom include, as revealed, those who “overcome by faith” (D&C 76:53), the same efforts and triumph would need to occur in the spirit world before they receive resurrection and the entitlement to enter the celestial kingdom . . . Again, our existence in the spirit world is part of the mortal sector of our Father’s plan which culminates with the Judgment and the Resurrection. 11
Why don’t we hear more about this? My only conclusion is that we, as mortals, are all too likely to procrastinate if we think we have plenty of time—and the sooner we repent, the better!
Dale C. Mouritsen, in the article previously referred to, also indicated that the more aware we become that the spirit world is a real extension of our mortal existence, the less likely we are to fasten our hearts on the treasures of this world. 12
I believe that recognition of the great work in progress in the spirit world in behalf of all those who have passed on can be our greatest source of encouragement.
Triumphing Over Our Enemies
Larry Barkdull, in his book Rescuing Wayward Children, indicated that redemption comes down to one truth: the Holy Spirit is the key to happiness, and to lack the Holy Spirit is the source of misery. The devil attempts to keep us all in ignorance about this truth. But when the Lord reaches out and blesses our children with this knowledge, whether in this life or the next, salvation is at hand.
I like to imagine Brian turning to Jesus Christ and experiencing the Lord’s grace as He helps him triumph over all his enemies and “put them under his feet,” never again to be afflicted in this world or in the world to come. Like Paul and Alma, our loved ones will be presented with a merciful option—to forsake their sins, experience redemption, ascend from their fallen state, and help bring others with them. Larry Barkdull says, “This is the pattern, and this, we have good cause to hope, will be their destiny.”
The Wonder of the Spirit World
It is clear that our probationary second estate includes the spirit world existence—that our probation is not over until judgment day. While there are many preliminary judgments, the final judgment does not occur until the end of the Millennium.
My sister listened to a temple sealer answer the question, “If the people we are being sealed for are already dead, why do we seal them for time and all eternity? Hasn’t the ‘time’ part already passed for them?” The answer, “Time refers to all that transpires until the end of the Millennium on this earth. Eternity refers to all that transpires after the Millennium.”
This is part of the good news of the gospel that impacts not only those who missed out on it during mortality, but for all of us who have the gospel in its fullness but need more time to learn to apply what we know!
And so many people do not have the opportunity to learn eternal truths during mortality. Millions never hear of Christ, never know the true gospel, never experience Christ-like love. Many are never cherished or given a sense of their worth—and certainly never have the opportunity for baptism by priesthood authority or temple ordinances. Many others, like Brian, receive baptism as children, but never understand its importance and wander off before they can gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s Atonement.
Only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds out the assurance that sacred ordinances will be performed by proxy. Every person ever born will have the opportunity to be taught and really understand the gospel. They will choose to accept or reject it, not on the basis of prejudice, emotion, or distorted ideas, but on clear and true understanding.
That process happens in the spirit world for so many millions. They choose there whether to accept or reject spirit world missionaries, whether to accept or not accept proxy temple ordinances. Their decisions still count. They still have the possibility to learn, to progress, and repent.
We know there are preliminary judgments which correspond with the various times of resurrection. Christ was the first resurrected, and many have been resurrected since. But the final judgment is not until the end of the Millennium, after the last resurrection. The Lord hasn’t finished His work until then. (See D&C 76:85.) And what is His work? Redemption, which culminates in the resurrection. “And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul” (D&C 88:16).
Sweet Witnesses of the Spirit
I recently re-read my journal entries for the year after Brian died, and was thrilled to note that on two separate occasions I had received a spiritual witness that Brian now knows the gospel truths he resisted here.
I love this entry made not even three months after he died—on December 24, 2004:
I was listening to a tape in The Work and the Glory series. Joseph Smith turns to Lydia and begins talking to her about her recently deceased father—who had been so bitter against Joseph, the Church, and the Book of Mormon. He said something like he suspected that Josiah McBride’s opinion might be changed by having the Angel Moroni sit down and chat with him about directing Joseph to the gold plates.
I started to cry and the words came to my mind, ”Brian knows now. Brian KNOWS.” I was filled with peace and hope and assurance that he had been taught in perfect clarity, in a way totally acceptable to him, the reality of the Restoration, the plan of salvation, the mission of the Savior, and how the Atonement applies to him. Nothing could comfort me more.
But something did comfort me even more. A few months later, on June 5, 2005, I recorded the moment when the Holy Spirit told me for sure that Brian not only knew of Christ, but had also accepted Him.
Had a special study time with scriptures in the morning and was left with a burning desire to know if Brian is accepting the gospel and feeling what I am feeling, is knowing the truth of God and the redeeming power of Christ. Went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and the Spirit washed over me and I KNEW, I KNEW Brian has chosen Christ, is repenting and making great progress. I can’t begin to express the joy this brings me. There is absolutely nothing I have desired more than to know that Brian has accepted the love and teachings of Jesus.
Nothing surpasses the “knowing” in our hearts that comes from the Holy Spirit. The Savior is a Being of light and truth; truth conveyed by the Spirit brings profound relief from Satan’s lies. Such experiences are part of my personal witness to you. Quotes from church leaders are wonderful, but the best witness of all is from the Holy Ghost. I’ve received that witness and it is available to you too. As members of the Church we have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost—the Spirit of Truth.
Such experiences are part of my personal witness to you. Quotes from church leaders are wonderful, but the best witness of all is from the Holy Ghost. I’ve received that witness and it is available to you too. As members of the Church we have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost—the Spirit of Truth. So many things I may not know until I enter the spirit world myself. But so many things I know for sure right now because the Holy Ghost has borne witness to my soul: that God lives, that the spirit world is real, and that the Lord sends angels to escort dear ones when they leave this life. That last one I know from a special witness of the Spirit in regard to my mother’s death (which occurred four years before Brian’s). Here’s a brief summary of the experience:
Three weeks before my elderly mother died in my home, I went into her room at 7:00 a.m. and she was wide awake, her face glowing—which was a drastic change because she had been very depressed. She told me there had been angels in her room and one said to the other, “Look at Fern. She’s almost ready. We’ll come and get her in three weeks.” Our home was filled with light and love, and three weeks later—to the hour—my mother took her last breath and passed peacefully to the other side.
I’ve never had a sweeter experience than being in the same room where angels had been. As strange as it may seem, I felt that same sense of sweetness and peace (instead of the terror I expected) when I entered the room where Brian died. My heart knew that angels had been there. My heart knows he’s with angels now—and that he is one of them!
10 in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110, emphasis added.
11 Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship, 2001, 111
12 (Dale C. Mouritsen, “The Spirit World, Our Next Home,” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 47.)
Author’s note: For more information concerning my new book After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On visit my website darlaisackson.com.