Thursday, August 25, 2011

Constructive Thoughts: Dad, Part 2

I wish today to celebrate with my family and friends the life of my father: our brother, granddad, and friend. I tried desperately to find a quotation from Dad’s favorite author, Louis L’Amour, but nothing seemed to fit–everything was filled with flying lead and oats. So I went to one of his other favorite authors, Victor Hugo, who wrote that “There are times that no matter the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” The past few weeks have been full of those times for me and my family. On behalf of my mother and all of our family let me again express our gratitude for the love you had for our father and for the outpouring of love and respect we have seen.

Father’s Day was difficult for me, my brothers, and my mother this year. But what better time to be able to remember what Dad meant to us? What a fitting time to celebrate his life and memory? And what a great time to consider the fact that he has gone ahead to prepare the way for us, and the fact that we will see him again? That our separation will be, in the grand scheme of things, only a little while. How wonderful is the thought that my children can embrace him once again, that we can sit at his feet and listen to his stories? That we can be together, forever, as a famliy?

And this is possible because nearly a millennium ago, an individual knelt in a garden and prayed to his Father. He was known as the “Carpenter’s son,” yet he was the Son of God. It was there, in that garden, that he took upon himself the sins of all mankind, the sins of all the world, both past, present, and future. It was an event that had been foretold by prophets throughout history.

It was there in that garden that night, as he bled from every pore, that Christ, “The Son of Man . . . descended below . . . all.” [D&C 122:8]
This was “the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” [Leviticus 17:11]
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29]
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . and with his stripes we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:4-5]
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” [Isaiah 53:3]
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]

The agony he suffered in that garden is unfathomable to us, both in intensity and in cause. But the gift that he gave us through that suffering is also marvelous, magnificent. On that night, Jesus shouldered the burdens of all of our transgressions -— my transgressions and your transgressions. I added to his anguish that night, as did each one of us. But he picked up that burden and took it upon himself so that a price would be paid. That price was paid so that I might escape, and so that you might escape, the required punishments that correspond to our sins. The scriptures tell us that the gift is ours if we but believe in him, accept his gift, repent and be baptized, receive the gift of the holy ghost, and to continue faithfully to observe and keep the commandments all the days of our lives. Christ gifted us with salvation from spiritual death, which grants us eternal life with our heavenly father.

Many years ago, a newspaper writer was asked, “What would be the most important news story the world could receive?” Think about how you would answer that question: would it be the development of the atomic bomb? Man walking on the moon? The death of a (fill in the blank) celebrity? The assassination of a president? After some thought the reporter finally answered that the most important story he could report would be that a man that had lived and died had come back to life; and specifically that Jesus Christ was truly resurrected and lives today.

No event in all history compares to the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Because of this gift all mankind will come forth, each in his own order. We will live eternally. We will be resurrected and overcome physical death.

Isn’t this a joyous, glorious message? It means that we will one day be reunited with Dad. I bear you my testimony that this Gospel principle is true; the Atonement is real — Christ has given us gifts that will liberate our spirit and our body from the bonds of death and allow us to live in God’s presence forever.

We are understandably sad. We have lost a loved one. I should restate that; I do not like that phrase. We have not “lost” Dad —- We know exactly where he is. He is with his loving parents, grandparents, and in-laws, his brothers and his close friends that preceded him from this earth. The list goes on and on. To paraphrase David O. McKay, a former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “[Our father] closed [his] eyes in peaceful slumber, and awakened with loved ones.” While no one mortal was with him when he passed from this life, the speed with which the event happened, and how he looked afterwards attests to the fact that his last minutes were indeed peaceful; it was indeed as if he was only sleeping when his spirit left this world. His pain and suffering were removed from him.

It has been written that “Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release; the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure; the comforter of him whom time cannot console.” [Charles Caleb Colton] Dad has been liberated. He is happy. He is youthful, and joyful once again, just as he was before the travails of mortal life began to take him away from us. We know where he is and we rejoice in who he is once more.

Yet we are filled with sorrow. Our sorrow is understandable, it is human: it is sorrow for us, not for him. Speaking for myself, as I have elsewhere here, it is a sorrow born of selfishness. In spite of knowing where he is and who he is with, I still want him back as a part of my everyday life. Dad is no longer physically present to talk to, to listen to our stories and concerns. We can no longer hear his stories, get his advice, or see or hear, except in our hearts and minds, his smile and his laugh. We can no longer go to him for advice and we can no longer learn from him skills such as woodworking. I cannot call him during a college football game and complain about a referee’s call or rave about an amazing play. These are the things that I am sorrowful for — the things that I have lost.

When I consider this, and think about the precepts of Christ’s gospel and turn my thoughts from an inward focus to an outward focus, when I consider these things and think about where dad is and who he is with, not to mention the fact that we will see him again in time, then my sorrow is lessened and the pain eases. He has graduated from the test of mortality to an institution of higher learning.

It is a change of attitude that is required. Anyone that knew Dad well knew that attitude was an important concept to him. It was something that he tried with his sons at an early age to instill: “ATTITUDE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE.” He was forever reminding us of this principle. Growing up, one of the most oft-heard phrases in the home was my father telling one us to “CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE!” It was his way of telling us to shape up. Eventually it got to just simply “CHECK IT!” That was one of those times you knew you were in trouble.

In my scriptures I still carry a laminated card that I made on my mission that reads “AMTD” — an acronym that Dad used when even “Check it!” didn’t work. “Attitude makes the difference.” My friends, to all who knew Dad: “Check your attitude.” Do not dwell on the sorrow, do not dwell on the pain. Negative attitudes are of the Adversary. Remember instead a man who very patiently, hour after hour, threw a baseball to his youngest son in the front yard -— a son who was somehow completely incompetent and inept in the handling of a baseball glove. Remember a man who learned to fly a plane, who flew around the world, while sitting with his brother on a log in a meadow in Southern Idaho. Remember a man who never failed to bring home from a business trip some treat for his youngest son, whether it be a Matchbox car or a bag of airline peanuts, even though that son fairly quickly realized that -— more than likely -— most of those treats were sent with him by my mother. Remember a man who always came home. Remember a man who did all he could to find work to support his family, while not allowing his family to suffer or, at least in my case, to even know that the family was struggling. Remember a man who grabbed every task set before him and performed it to the utmost of his ability, whether it was working, woodworking, whether it was supporting the University, or whether it was teaching the Gospel and sharing his testimony of the Lord. Remember a man who labored faithfully in the Temple of the Lord each week, even when his own physical health was declining, who begged to be allowed to serve the Lord, even when he physically could no longer do it. Remember a man who freely shared his testimony of the Savior to anyone that would hear it. Remember a man who walked ready and unafraid to the veil which separates this world from the next.

Most importantly, remember a man that is now free from pain and free forever from the specter of Death. The poet John Donne penned these fitting words, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!” Because of our Savior’s gifts to us, our beloved father, brother, granddad, and friend yet lives, in a higher place. Because of our Savior’s gifts, we can be assured of seeing him again one day; we can embrace him as he one day meets us on the other side of mortality.

I want to leave you today with the words of Norman Macleod:

We picture death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save.
We think of death as ending; let us rather think of life as beginning, and that more abundantly.
We think of losing; let us think of gaining.
We think of parting, let us think of meeting.
We think of going away; let us think of arriving.
As the voice of Death whispers “You must go from Earth,” let us hear the voice of Christ saying, “You are but coming to me!”
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John 8:12] “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” [John 14:27]

Dad still lives and we shall see him once again, in a better place. I know this for a fact. May we, each one of us, feel within us the peace that the Savior promised, and may our attitudes reflect joy and peace. This is my prayer for all of us who knew Dad. I leave this with all of you -- whether you knew Dad or not -- along with my testimony of these things, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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