In November of 1997, I was asked to speak at the funeral of Keith Nand. I gave the following sermon.
Beauty for Ashes
The Savior, Jesus Christ, was in the synagogue of his home town on Sabbath day. He quoted the following verses to the people.
v1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
v2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
v3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Bible Isaiah 61)
Beauty for ashes. What could be more useless than ashes? How could beauty ever come from ashes? I hope to explain this today. And by so doing, may I too “bind up the brokenhearted.” I am indebted to many prophets, both ancient and modern for the thoughts I am about to share.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the great example of our lives. His life, as recorded in the scriptures, teaches us of our own lives. Let us review the plan God established for our lives through the life of Jesus Christ.
The ancient prophet Jeremiah was told: ”Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; . . .” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
We, like our Savior, lived with God before we came to earth. God knew each of us by name. We are his literal spiritual children. Speaking of this time before we came to earth, the Lord revealed the following to Abraham.
v24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
v25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
v26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
v27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
v28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3)
God had a plan for his Son Jesus Christ. He also had a plan for each one of us. He designed our earthly life. And just as the Savior participated in this planning, I believe each of us participated in making the plan of our lives.
Job, a man of great sorrow and trials, said, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” (Job 14:1-2)
Why is life so difficult? King Benjamin, an ancient prophet, tells us:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Book of Mormon Mosiah 3:18-19).
We must learn to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us. President Spencer W. Kimball, a modern day Job in many ways, stated:
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 98).
Elder Marion G. Romney said:
This does not mean that we crave suffering. We avoid all we can. However, we now know, and we all knew when we elected to come into mortality, that we would here be proved in the crucible of adversity and affliction. . . . (in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 57).
Again, the Savior is our guide. The glorious morning of the resurrection was preceded by the awful night of the atonement. He has said:
v16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
v17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
v18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink–
v19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
v23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.
v24 I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will. (Doctrine & Covenants Section 19)
He said he suffered “these things.” What things? Jacob gives us the answer:
And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9:21-22)
Our Lord and Savior suffered the pains of all men, women and children. Not just our sins — those things that we know we should not do. He suffered all pains. The suffering that comes from illness, from loss, from misunderstanding. Our Savior experienced our experiences. President Howard W. Hunter, who suffered many afflictions including cancer, said, “He suffered these afflictions as we suffer them, according to the flesh. He suffered them all. He did this to perfect his mercy and his ability to lift us above every earthly trial.” (“He Is Risen” Conference Report April 1988).
He learned to “submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Book of Mormon Mosiah 3:19).
Death and the Spirit World
After His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and at Golgatha, our Savior’s spirit left his body. Moroni, an ancient prophet looked forward to that day with these words, the last words of the Book of Mormon:
v34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen. (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:34)
He goes to “rest in the paradise of God.” Others have described this place of rest. A place where we are not alone. Elder Neil A Maxwell, who is current battling cancer, related the following story.
Joseph and Janice Clark were blessed with two sons, Jacob and Andrew. [In 1991], Joseph [the father] was stricken suddenly and, in effect, became a hospitalized quadriplegic. There, supine Joseph’s sons would often be cradled in his arms. Joseph would always smile even when he could not speak audibly. In the eyes of the world, his was a catastrophic illness. Nevertheless, Joseph, his saintly wife, their two boys, and with strong support from parents and families, coped remarkably for five years. Because they trusted God as to what was really going on, like Job, they did not charge “God foolishly” (Job 1:22).
Amid all the incessant and difficult problems, many of us watched Janice and Joseph apply King Benjamin’s words by showing that they were “willing to submit” to what had been inflicted upon them (Mosiah 3: 19). Radiant Joseph died [in 1996]. The very day after his death, prescient, nine-year-old Jacob, who knew firsthand of his father’s loving and outreaching nature, said, “Mom, I’ll bet Dad already has a lot of friends in heaven!” A few days later, seven-year-old Andrew struggled with a computer assignment at school but later reported to his mother, “I just thought of Dad, and he helped me.” (“Becometh As a Child” Conference Report, April 1996)
We will have many friends there, friends we knew before we came to earth. Friends who prepared a way for us to come to earth, such as grandfathers and grandmothers. And those who have died are not far away from us. They help us when we need.
The Resurrection and Eternal Life
After the Saviors death three days passed while he sojourned among the spirits. Then a glorious morning came.
v1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
v2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
v3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
v4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
v5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
v6 He is not here, but is risen: . . . (Bible, Luke 24)
Elder James E. Faust, a modern witness for Christ, said:
As Mary stood without the sepulchre weeping, she was addressed by an apparent stranger with two ever-so-tender, compassionate questions: “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” In her grief and blinded by tear-filled eyes, she pleaded with the stranger, whom she supposed to be the gardener, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”
“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself.” (John 20:15-16.)
One, only one, person could speak her name that way. With that single word all doubt, confusion, and uncertainty was swept away. Mary, in that instant, came to the grand, sublime realization that He for whom she mourned, even Jesus that was crucified, had risen from the dead, just as the angels early that very morning had testified, “He is risen.” (See Luke 24:6.) (“The Resurrection” Conference Report, Apr. 1985)
Again, the Savior is our example in all things. We too shall rise. Our spirits will be reunited with our bodies. We will be reunited with those we love, and those that love us. There will be great joy on that day.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)
After the joy of the resurrection will come the joy of the day of judgment. You may think it odd that I would describe that day as a day of joy, but I sincerely believe it will be a great day of joy. A great day of joy for almost all of God’s children. Let me tell you why.
The day of judgment is not the day that suffering will begin. It is the day that suffering, for almost all of God’s children, will completely end. On that day, we will understand the meaning of the atonement more fully than we can here.
We can choose to turn to God for relief from our pain and suffering. If we have sinned, we can repent, and turn to Christ and he will forgive us of our sins, and remove the suffering. He will also give us strength to endure those trails and afflictions which are not the result of sin. Alma taught:
v10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
v11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
v12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Book of Mormon Alma 7)
He knows how to succor, or nourish, nurture, and strengthen each of us. He has walked in our shoes. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:4)
We can choose to suffer ourselves here. We can choose not to look to the Son of God for relief. God will not force us to turn to Christ. We can choose to go it alone. And going it alone will not end at death. We can continue to suffer the pains of this life if we choose not to turn unto God.
But ultimately “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess” that Jesus is the Christ (Doctrine & Covenants Section 88:104). I believe on that great day, we will each stand before Christ, and he will remove all pain from us. He will satisfy the demands of justice for us. We will still remember our lives here, but they will not be painful any longer. He will make us whole.
We will then choose which eternal kingdom we wish to live in, for as he said, “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). We will receive the Savior’s approval for our choice.
It will be a day of great joy. From the ashes of our lives, will come great beauty.
Keith Nand and the Plan of Salvation
On this day when we contemplate the Keith’s life, let us review the great plan of our God, the plan of Salvation.
Keith is a child of God. We each lived with Keith, as his brothers and sisters, before we were born. We knew him as well as we know our own brothers and sisters. We certainly loved him. God prepared a plan for Keith’s life.
Keith was born, and forgot his heavenly home, and this divine plan. He received a body in the image of God. He learned to submit to all things his father inflicted upon him, even a child doth submit to his father. Keith lived according to God’s plan.
Keith’s spirit, which is in the likeness of his body, has left his earthly tabernacle. He is freed from the trails of this life. He is at peace.
And in a coming day, Keith will be resurrected. His body, laying here before us, will be lifted up, and be reunited with his spirit, that part of Keith which will never die. He will be reunited with us on that glorious day. We will then continue our eternal journey.
I testify to you that I know the things that I have spoken today are true. They have been witnessed to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. You may be feeling it’s influence as well, whispering to your soul that there is a God, we are his children, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and that there is meaning and purpose to our lives. I know this to be true.
I say these things as a representative of Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.