I just returned from a week in Salt Lake City and Provo. My wife’s nephew passed away at the age of forty-four, and we attended the funeral. I cannot remember when I felt more spiritually fed. The Spirit was strong, and we were comforted. It was not a secular funeral. It was a gospel funeral, a Church meeting. Mormon funerals are filled with hope, and a genuine testimony that the life after this one is real. Over the last fifty years I have noticed that because the saints have such a strong faith in the teachings of their church, and are not just going through the motions, their funerals are very different from others.
I just spent nine days far away visiting a brother that I have loved since he was born in 1950. We grew up together for years, sleeping in the same bedroom. I love him with all my heart. Although he believes there is a God and attends church regularly, he has been resisting my efforts to make a Mormon of him for nearly fifty years since I joined. Because I believe the teachings of Joseph Smith and his successors, and because I believe the teachings of the scriptures, I have no confidence that we will have a family relationship after this life, because the “forever family” is assured only to those who marry in the temple and keep those covenants thereafter. I do not want to lose my wife and children, of course. But I also do not want to lose my brother. Now that we are approaching 70 years of age, I am beginning to lose hope. My concern becomes more urgent. When we love someone, how do we find comfort as we watch them slip away?
When I try to discuss this with him, he just says that religion is not his “hobby,” suggesting that it is mine. He believes there is a God, but religion is just not something that interests him. How can a good man, an honorable and honest man be disinterested in the welfare of his own soul? How can he care nothing about what comes next after this life or in what he might do today to improve his situation there? The Savior asked us in the Sermon on the Mount to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth… But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
My brother has been far more diligent than I in carefully managing his earthly treasure. He is a cautious, prudent man. And his estate shows it. If he believes in God, and a life after this one, how can he be so cavalier in his attitude about heavenly treasure? If we cannot be the great friends and brothers in the next life that we have been here, I will sorrow. I will be forlorn.