A father died. His young adult daughter missed him terribly. She thought about him regularly.
Her sister chided her: “By missing Dad, grieving over him, and insisting on his attention to your life, you are keeping him from doing his work on the other side of the veil. Because you are unhappy and he cares about you, he is drawn to you and it keeps him from doing what he needs to be doing. Let him go!”
The Wisdom of Heaven
That may sound like sensible advice. Yet I doubt that it captures the wisdom of heaven. When we impose mortal constraints on eternal doings, we are surely selling heaven short. As the Prophet Joseph observed, “It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty” (Smith, 1938, p. 320).
If we limit heaven’s doings by our rules and assumptions, we will shortchange heaven and ourselves. Maybe a set of laws different from those we know for mortality govern the doings of immortals. My propositions for the laws that govern immortals include the following:
- Immortals love us and yearn to be a part of our lives. There is nothing they enjoy more than serving the family and friends who literally mean everything to them.
- Those who live in eternity are not everlastingly at odds with time. While those in the spirit world may not be fully free of the constraints of time, surely they do not struggle with time the way we do.
- Immortals can only participate fully in our lives when we allow them to. They are not allowed to intrude on our lives uninvited but may take part as we appropriately invite them to take part.
- They will not violate our agency (nor do our chores), but they gladly teach us, love us, reassure us, and guide us according to heavenly wisdom.
- Though it may take us years to learn to hear their language, they already know us and our language.
Some years ago I began studying my great-grandfather’s life. The more I learned of him, the more I wanted to become friends with this good man who died almost two decades before I was born. I yearned to sit and talk with him.
One day as I finished an endowment session in the temple, I pondered. “How can I visit with Grandpa Ben?” I wondered if, after I strove to be more righteous, God would send him to visit me. I wasn’t sure. I also wondered if I might request of the temple president some time alone in a sealing room to invite him to visit. This option did not seem quite right.
As I stood in the temple, a single word from Alma’s great invitation (Alma 5) came to me with new meaning: Imagine.
Imagine! Suddenly it made sense. We do not spend a lifetime trying to be good and settle into great spiritual experiences as a retirement reward. We seek them. We pursue them. In matters of faith, we exercise all the energies of our minds and souls. Faith is mental exertion.
When a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. (Smith, 1834–1835).
Suddenly my path was clear. Rather than wait for Grandpa to come to me, I was to seek him. I began falteringly.
Sometimes I sought him as I drove alone at night to teach a class in a neighboring town. I would leave the passenger seat free of books and papers. In my mind I imagined Grandpa Ben sitting there. It wasn’t hard to imagine him. I have studied every picture of him I can find. And I have not only read what he wrote in his journals and articles, I have also tried to read books that he read so that I could know how he thought and what he loved.
So, as we drove along, I would talk to Grandpa. I would tell him what I appreciated about his legacy. I would thank him for leaving a journal filled with his spirit. Sometimes I would ask him for advice. To be honest, I never heard his voice in my ear. Yet I sometimes felt his message in my heart. It was sweet. Was it real or just “vain imaginations”?
It felt real to me.
Smith, J. (1834–1835). Lectures on Faith 7:3. Salt Lake City: N. B. Lundwall, compiler.
Smith, J. F. (Compiler). (1938). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.