My husband didn’t know about the church’s Word of Wisdom when he began drinking in his youth. When I married him he was 55 years old, and had recently been baptized. He was confident he could conquer the disease that had gripped him so long, but he couldn’t. Seven years later, heading into a fourth relapse, he shot himself. Suicide! So awful for loved ones, as eloquently expressed by writer/blogger Kristina Cowan: Suicide is an earthquake. Sudden, jolting and catastrophic, it ruptures the lives of those it leaves behind. Emotionally it crushes everyone. I know. So did our bishop who preached a funeral sermon of hope and comfort that was the beginning of the healing process for me as well as for others.
In Memoriam Tom
Speaker: Bishop Marvin M. Poulton – In the Eighth Psalm we read these words: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visiteth him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.”
Man has great stature with the Lord, and the Lord has placed man at the head of all his creations on earth. This is most evident in God’s statement to his Son. “Let us create man in our own image” (Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 1:27). Before the creation and placement of man on the earth, the Lord established a plan whereby man could leave the presence of God and then return.
The great plan of our Father in Heaven was presented to the host of heaven in the pre-existent earth life. We were in that host and chose to follow the Father’s plan.
The plan was simple, eternal, and tailored to individual needs. It gave man an agency to make choices without interference. It mapped a course for us which took us out from the presence of our Father, through our earth existence, and provided the way that we might return to our Father after having experienced being on our own.
It provided a place where we might dwell and prove ourselves through the exercise of Free Agency to do whatsoever the Lord would command us; that we, having succeeded, might then be found worthy to return to his presence and live forever.
The plan seemed simple enough. However, opposition was placed in our environment so that we might experience good and evil, and thus learning about the good, we would not choose evil. Our Father in Heaven, knowing that we would sin and fall short of the end goal, provided a savior for us so that we could divest ourselves of sin and be found clean to enter again into his presence.
The greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is eternal; and though there is a demand for justice, there is also a granting of mercy that will be meted out to men to reward them for their righteous desires. The Lord is the one who will administer that judgment and who will render mercy to all of us who have sinned and fallen short of the mark. I am confident the Lord will look upon our great friend Tom and discern the righteous desire of his heart, showing him great compassion because of his affliction and because of his great compassion and love that he showed for others.
Understanding the Lord’s plan of redemption takes a lifetime of effort and schooling. The Lord did not intend that our learning of this great eternal plan be accomplished overnight or at a single sitting as a scholar with a great teacher. He carefully constructed his plan so that we might receive a full knowledge and understanding of it through the experience of our own efforts and work.
He realized that many of us would stray from the plan and would need some extra help in groping for the way. Many of us would stray into areas that would take us through a refiner’s furnace from which we would exit with severe wounds. However, he would provide many things to help us such as the scriptures, prophets, and continued revelation to guide us. He would encourage us to have experiences for service, and would give us emotions to control, appetites to curb, people to love, sorrow to face, pain to endure, and even examinations that would be tested and grades given so that we might reflect on our progress and standing.
And even though many of us might receive low marks in many of our tests and experiences, the Lord does not and will not turn from us. He has provided a way for all to return to his presence. As the Psalmist records, “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Holy Bible, KJV, Psalm 22:24).
When we lose our way and seek to return, the Lord has placed help by our path that we might grasp onto a guide, a rod of iron which is the word of God, so that we might travel through the depths of darkness, the deepness of sorrows, the pain and anguish of futility, and yet be able to view the great light and partake of the sweetness of the fruit of eternal life.
All must pass through a mist of darkness which is the temptations of the world. This passage is dangerous, and we must remain constantly on guard so that we might endure and arrive safely at our destination, the eternal love of Christ.
It takes a lifetime to meet the challenges and tests that are established for us. Our dear friend Tom was young and impressionable when he began traveling through a mist of darkness. The path led him through a labyrinth of rooms and paths that left deep scars and wounds he constantly struggled to overcome. I spent many hours with him, watching him weep and wishing his wounds would heal and the pain leave so he might have the peace and joy promised by the Savior.
But in spite of his pain and thorns of the flesh, Tom was a kind man with a great capacity for love. He often expressed his desire to be able to do more for others, especially his wife and children. He was proud of his sons and daughters and their accomplishments, and talked of them often. He loved them unconditionally and accepted them for who they were. He was concerned that he might be a burden to others.
He liked to feel free. He loved the out-of-doors and sought the comfort of nature and the solace of its quiet surroundings. However, his health often left him without the strength to fight against the great adversary who gripped him so hard and who would not release him. I felt helpless, as did many others of his friends and family, in trying to exorcise this great affliction from him.
Now we must open the safety curtain of silence and speak of things as they are so that we may all receive the healing touch of the Master’s hand. I testify that Christ can comfort and heal us from our many afflictions. There is the same power on this earth today that Christ used when he was here. We can use that power to heal a troubled heart or mind or spirit.
When death is self-imposed, spouse, children, brothers, sisters, and friends often suffer overwhelming shame, guilt, anger, anxiety, depression, and fear. There is much blaming of self and of one another. These are real feelings. They need to be recognized, taken out, and looked at.
If we do not avail ourselves of the opportunity, then our grief goes inward and silently poisons our souls. This silent grief becomes the enemy that prevents a person from recognizing his divine nature and purpose. Any pain that is hidden away from light and truth will grow and fester in the darkness.
Four Sources of Healing
Surround ourselves with good friends. They help us in our mourning. They need only listen without judgment or often even without comment. Each person who has been baptized in Christ’s name covenanted to mourn with those that mourn.
More important than friends, we will benefit most from faith in our kind and forgiving Savior Jesus Christ. To those of you who might be afraid of God, know that fear is Satan’s greatest tool. It is the opposite of love.
It is this fear or indifference that keeps us from prayer. God pleads with us to pray and honestly discuss our feelings with him so he can heal us. His arms are stretched out, pleading with us to come to him.
Read the scriptures. I promise you with all my heart that if you will read from the scriptures and pray daily, the grief and pain you feel so strongly at this moment will be taken away from you and you will be able to heal. The true source of light is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has said, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
There may be those who have no faith in Christ. I ask that you simply hope that he is a savior, and live as if you know he is, and he will fulfill his promises and will do what he says he will do. Dag Hammerskjold, former President of the United Nations, stated, “Hope until hope creates out of its own wreck that which it contemplates.” These are wise and prophetic words. With that small glimmer of hope, even like a pinprick of light, you will be guided through the darkness towards even more light. Eventually your life will be filled with light and truth.
Bishop Marvin M. Poulton
13 August 1994