Spring has returned to the community of Franklin, Idaho. One can hear the ever-welcome chirp of the robin and see the beauty of the first daffodil. Seemingly overnight, the drab brown grass of winter turns to a bright green. Soon plows will turn the earth, seeds will be planted, and a new cycle of life will commence. Some distance away from the bustle of activity and next to the foothills is the town cemetery.
It was there one spring that a new grave was dug—not a large one—and a tiny casket was lowered into mother earth. Three lines appear on the attractive headstone:
MICHAEL PAUL SHUMWAY
Born: October 24, 1965
Died: March 14, 1966
May I introduce you to the Shumway family. They are my neighbors here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mark and Wilma Shumway and each of the children always greet you with a friendly smile or a wave of the hand. They make the people of the neighborhood happy. They are good people.
Can you imagine the happiness in the family home on that 24th day of October when little Michael was born? Father was proud, brothers and sisters were excited, mother was humble, as they welcomed this sweet new blossom of humanity, fresh fallen from God’s own home, to grow on earth. Happy months followed.
Then came that fateful night in March when little Michael was called to his heavenly home and the breath of life was gone. Mark and Wilma were overcome with grief from the loss of their precious son. But while their grief was intensely personal, their experience in losing a loved one in death is common to all mankind, for who hasn’t lost a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a son, or a daughter?
Every thoughtful person has asked himself that question best asked by Job of old: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14.) Try as we may to put the question out of our thoughts, it always returns. Death comes to all mankind. It comes to the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its call is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life’s journey, and often it hushes the laughter of little children.
While death is inevitable, it can best be understood when we learn of life, even eternal life.
Life on earth does not mark the beginning of our existence. The poet William Wordsworth wrote:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.1
In the wisdom of God, an earth was created upon which man might dwell. Genesis records that the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light; “Let there be a firmament,” and there was a firmament; “Let the earth bring forth grass,” and the earth brought forth grass. He made the fowls of the air, the creatures of the water, the beasts of the earth. (See Gen. 1.)
And then God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. To man was given dominion over every living thing. Earth became a place to be tested, a place where we gain needed experience.
We laugh, we cry, we work, we play, we love, we live. And then we die. And dead we would remain but for one man and his mission—Jesus of Nazareth. Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, his birth fulfilled the inspired prophecies of many prophets. He was taught by God. He provided the life, the light, and the way. Multitudes followed him. Children adored him. The proud rejected him. He used parables and taught by example. He lived a perfect life. Through his ministry, blind men saw, deaf men heard, and lame men walked. Even the dead returned to life.
Though the King of kings and Lord of lords had come, he was given the greeting given to an enemy or a traitor. There followed a mockery that some called a trial. Cries of “Crucify him, crucify him,” filled the night air. (John 19:6.) Then began the walk to Calvary.
He was ridiculed, reviled, mocked, and jeered, nailed to a cross amidst shouts of “Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32); “He saved others; himself he cannot save; (Matt. 27:42); “If thou be Christ, save thyself” (Luke 23:39). His response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)
He died. His body was placed by loving friends and relatives in a tomb made of stone.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came unto the sepulcher. To their astonishment, the body of their Lord was gone. Luke records that two men in shining garments stood by them and said: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. …” (Luke 24:1, 5–6.) Job’s question, “If a man died shall he live again?” had just been answered.
The sacred scripture records the events following his ascension. Stephen, doomed to the cruel death of a martyr, looked up to heaven and cried: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56.) Saul, on the road to Damascus, had a vision of the risen, exalted Christ. Peter and John also testified of the risen Christ.
Who can help but be inspired by the stirring testimony of Paul to the Corinthian Saints. He declared:
… Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And he was buried, and … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;
And … was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve;
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present. …
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles … and he was seen of me. (1 Cor. 15:3–8.)
God the Eternal Father spoke to the multitude on the American continent and said:
Behold my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
And … as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven. …
… he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
… I am the light and life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world …
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him. (3 Ne. 11:7–11, 14, 16–17.)
This loving God who introduced his crucified and resurrected Son was not a God lacking in body, parts, or passions—the God of a man-made philosophy. Rather, God our Father has ears with which to hear our prayers. He has eyes with which to see our actions. He has a mouth with which to speak to us. He has a heart with which to feel compassion and love. He is real. He is living. We are his children made in his image. We look like him and he looks like us. This is the God who so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son that we might have everlasting life.
To you, Wilma and Mark Shumway, and to all who have lost a dear one, he provides the courage to say, “… the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21.) May your hearts burn with the knowledge that the bands of death have been broken and that members of your family, though now separated by death, will one day be reunited to share the blessings of eternal life.
With all my heart and the earnestness of my soul, I testify as a special witness that God does live. Jesus is his Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; he is our mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the resurrection. Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to discuss the following ideas in your home teaching discussion:
1. Death is best understood when we learn about eternal life.
2. Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He died on the cross to atone for our sins.
3. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will be reunited with our loved ones who have died.
1. What evidences do we have of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
2. The Easter holiday we celebrate this month commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What are some appropriate ways we can “celebrate” Easter? The discussion might include such things as
Reading the scriptural accounts of the Crucifixion and Resurrection
Visits to the grave sites of loved ones who have died
Special family home evening discussions and testimony bearing.