I remember washing the dishes on that sunny afternoon, my mind wandering, thinking ahead to all that needed to be accomplished. A clear thought came into my mind: “Call your grandparents.” I was surprised and caught off guard by what I considered to be a misplaced thought. I told myself I’d get around to calling each of my four grandparents, maybe later, preferably in a quiet moment. Needless to say, a busy afternoon gave way to a busier evening. That thought, along with my good intentions, eventually faded out of my mind.
A few weeks later, my grandpa suddenly passed away. Although he lived a long life, his passing was unexpected. I immediately recognized that my thought from weeks prior was actually a prompting from the Spirit, a gentle nudging to have one final chat with my grandpa. My heart ached while deep grief and remorse welled up inside. Guilt over a missed opportunity accompanied me for weeks. I spent those weeks intently studying about the Spirit World and the Resurrection, but the guilt persisted. Running became my coping mechanism; it alleviated the pain and silenced the guilt.
Nearly two months after his passing, I was able to return and visit my grandpa’s grave. I mapped out a running route in which I would eventually be led to the cemetery. The July sun was relentless and my lungs burned as I ascended that steep, long trail toward the cemetery. By the time I reached his grave, tears were streaming down my face as every question I didn’t ask and every conversation left unspoken flooded my mind. I sat beside his grave and spent half an hour talking to him. At some point, I had an overwhelming feeling that it was time to let go of the guilt and focus more fully on the joy made possible through the Plan of Salvation.
Just as death is not the end, our birth was not the beginning. As Henry B. Eyring taught in the most recent General Conference, “Before we were born, we lived in a family with our exalted and eternal Heavenly Father. He ordained a plan that enables us to advance and progress to become like Him. He did it out of love for us. The purpose of the plan was to allow us the privilege of living forever as our Heavenly Father lives.”
This doctrine is beautiful. We lived with God as distinct, individual spirits where we prepared to come to Earth and receive our physical body. We knew life on Earth would, at times, be challenging, and we would face trials and opposition. More importantly, we knew that Heavenly Father would provide His Son, Jesus Christ, and an Atonement would be made in which we could repent, be cleansed, and be given power to move forward with faith. Just as was promised, a Savior was provided whereby we could “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32).
At the center of God’s plan are families. In fact, marriage is essential to the Father’s plan. I do not believe that Heavenly Father intended us to have these sacred matrimonial bonds exclusive to mortality, or in other words, “until death due us part”. Instead, sacred covenants and ordinances performed in temples, under the proper Priesthood authority, make it possible for families to be eternal. My husband and I, for example, have the potential to live eternally, as husband and wife. It is by these same sealing powers that I am tied to my grandpa, as his granddaughter. My relationship with him will not dissolve because of death.
This plan, thought of by the Father and made possible through Christ’s Atonement, is a plan of love, which is why it is often referred to it as The Plan of Happiness. President Uchtdorf has said of this plan, “Brothers and sisters, we are eternal beings, without beginning and without end. We have always existed. We are the literal spirit children of divine, immortal, and omnipotent Heavenly Parents!”
Yes, parents! Not much has been revealed about our Heavenly Mother, but we believe She is there and that we, Her spirit children, inherited some of Her divinity. President Uchtdorf continues:
“We come from the heavenly courts of the Lord our God. We are of the royal house of Elohim, the Most High God. We walked with him in our premortal life. We heard him speak, witnessed His majesty, learned His ways. You and I participated in a Grand Council where our beloved Father presented His plan for us—that we would come to earth, receive mortal bodies, learn to choose between good and evil, and progress in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
When we passed through the veil and entered this mortal life, we knew that we would no longer remember the life before. There would be opposition and adversity and temptation. But we also knew that gaining a physical body was of paramount importance for us. Oh, how we hoped that we would quickly learn to make the correct choices, withstand the temptations of Satan, and eventually return to our beloved Parents in Heaven.
We knew we would sin and make mistakes—perhaps even serious ones. But we also knew that our Savior, Jesus Christ, had pledged to come to earth, live a sinless life, and voluntarily lay down His life in an eternal sacrifice. We knew that if we gave our heart to Him, trusted Him, and strived with all the energy of our soul to walk in the path of discipleship, we could be washed clean and once again enter the presence of our beloved Father in Heaven.
So, with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you and I accepted, by our free will, Heavenly Father’s plan.
That is why we are here on this beautiful planet earth—because God offered us the opportunity, and we chose to accept it. Our mortal life, however, is only temporary and will end with the death of our physical body. But the essence of who you and I are will not be destroyed. Our spirits will continue living and await the Resurrection—a free gift to all by our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.2 At the Resurrection, our spirits and bodies will be reunited, free from pain and physical imperfections.
After the Resurrection, there will be a Day of Judgment. While all will eventually be saved and inherit a kingdom of glory, those who trust in God and seek to follow His laws and ordinances will inherit lives in the eternities that are unimaginable in glory and overwhelming in majesty.
That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right.3
Yes, there will be deep sorrow because of sin. Yes, there will be regrets and even anguish because of our mistakes, our foolishness, and our stubbornness that caused us to miss opportunities for a much greater future.
But I have confidence that we will not only be satisfied with the judgment of God; we will also be astonished and overwhelmed by His infinite grace, mercy, generosity, and love for us, His children. If our desires and works are good, if we have faith in a living God, then we can look forward to what Moroni called “the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge.”
I can think of no greater gift than the eternal permanence of love and relationships. This doctrine fills me to the brim with hope and joy. The separation from my grandpa is temporary. The conversations I long to have with him and the questions I still have will wait until we are reunited.