The Desire of Their Hearts


The Desire of Their Hearts

My sister Tammy and I had a typical relationship when we were younger. As a clumsy fourth grader, I looked up to Tammy, who was three and a half years older, in the eighth grade, and seemed to me to be much wiser. I worshipped her and she tolerated me, just like many sisters.

Every once in a while, however, Tammy would do something special for me. She’d hug me or put her makeup on me, and at those times I knew that she loved me, though she’d deny it when the moment had passed. I never saw her much after that year—she ran away from home and didn’t come back. But I will always remember Tammy by those shared moments. She died July 18, 1983.

On January 26, 1985, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just before a youth temple trip in May, I decided to be baptized for my sister because I had a very strong feeling that she would accept the gospel. I filled out the proper papers and submitted them. The verification to do the baptism came, and I thought that everything would be easy after that. However, one delay after another put the baptism off until January 14, 1986.

On that night, my bishop took me to the Boise Idaho Temple, and I felt that Tammy was there with me. A computer problem further delayed the proceedings, but finally my bishop was able to baptize me for my sister.

Not long after the baptism, I began to worry about Tammy. I felt that she had accepted the gospel, but I was concerned about her eternal progression. As a convert to the Church, I was still learning and didn’t fully understand where she was or how we could be together again. I felt cheated because I had never had much of a chance to get to know my sister. I could remember things we had done together, and the memories hurt. I got tired of hearing “families are forever,” because I didn’t know how I would ever see her again.

Then in seminary one morning, I read a scripture that answered my questions. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph Smith addressed the doctrine of salvation for the dead:

“Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

“Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:7–9).

This passage answered many of the questions I had concerning Tammy, and it helped develop my testimony of the strength that can be found in the scriptures. It has also given me another reason to strive for the celestial kingdom. If my sister has accepted the gospel and is continuing in her progression, she could be there waiting for me. Families really can be forever.

[photos] Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff and Marty Mayo