I have a dear friend who works at the Mission Training Center. When I told her the following story, she asked me to write it down for her, so she and her husband could use it in teaching missionaries about the great power of the Plan of Salvation to change lives and offer hope in times of crisis and change in peoples’ lives, when only the Savior can offer them the help that they need.
My husband is the first member in his family. His parents are some of the most righteous, charitable people I have ever met—totally dedicated to Jesus Christ. Although it was never expected of them, and though their funds were meager, after retirement they served valuable humanitarian missions at Heifer Project International as well as among the poverty-striken people of the Appalacians. My father-in-law was a man of complete integrity and humility and the most Christ-like person I have ever met. My mother-in-law has been a lay preacher for many years in all the Protestant churches where they retired in Ft. Dodge, Iowa. She also leads two Bible study groups. Staunch Methodists, they neither drank nor smoked.
With these examples before him all his life, my husband, David, was well-prepared to receive the gospel, and wanted to share it with his parents. We did not know it, but wherever they lived, they always invited the missionaries in and fed them when they came tracting. However, their message never touched their hearts. We think it is because they were totally fulfilled by their relationship with the Savior and didn’t think it mattered which church they belonged to.
Five years ago, my father-in-law died from an aneurysm while shoveling snow on the church sidewalk before Bible Study. Since then, my mother-in-law has felt lost and has grieved heavily. Now eighty-seven years old she came to a family reunion when we blessed our newest grandson this last summer.
We had a family portrait taken among all the beautiful flowers at the Provo temple. David and I were married civily thirty-eight years ago at the advice of our Bishop, two months after his baptism, and were later sealed in the L.A. temple. For this reason, my in-laws inability to enter into the temple had never been an issue. When my daughter was married, it was in Salt Lake, and our youngest son, not yet endowed, had taken his grandparents on a thorough tour of temple square during the wedding.
However, on this occasion, I felt this dear, grieving woman’s desire to know what went on in the temple, so when we reached home, I asked her if she would like me to tell her about what we learned in the temple. She said she would. Taking a piece of paper, I drew out a picture of the Plan of Salvation. I explained it carefully, dwelling on the fact that we had existed before this life, and especially what happened after we died. I quoted from Alma 40:11, answering the question that she had had ever since her husband died:
“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. UAdd a Note
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
I then explained about the millenium and the final judgement, ending with a discussion of the three degrees of glory. I told her how much we reverenced the Celestial Room and what it represented, and how often I went there to pray and contemplate.
When I was done (she had punctuated my explanation with little phrases of enlightenment such as “Oh, I see!”), she looked at me, completely dumbfounded and said, “GG, I’m a Methodist. I have studied the Bible all my life and have tried to live a good life. Why is it that you know this, and I don’t?”
She had tacitly admitted that she accepted it as truth! I told her that it was because we had the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible. I explained how much the Bible had suffered in translation and during the years when it was only available to the clerics of the Catholic church, telling her how much had been lost. She agreed that she had long suspected this. She was very interested in reading more in the Book of Mormon. I printed out the whole Chapter 40 of Alma in large, bold type, as she has little eyesight left. Because of her lack of understanding about life after death, I had given her the most precious and comforting truth I could ever have conveyed to her.
She said, “If all the missionaries that were in our house all those years had explained this to me, we would have joined your church.”
I have no doubt that she was taught the Plan of Salvation at some point, but she was not ready to hear it until this life change made her realize how incomplete her knowledge of the hereafter was. She was ready to hear it, and the Comforter witnessed to her that it was true. She is living in a Methodist Assisted Living Center now, and preaches there, so I don’t expect she will be baptized in this life. However, I have no doubt, that when we do the work for her in the temple after she has passed on, she will accept it readily.
We are sorry now that we did not offer her this instruction five years ago, so that her grieving could have been ameliorated somewhat. Now I know that we should always be ready to testify at the crucial times in a person’s life: when a new baby has just entered this life through the veil of forgetfulness, and when a person dies and goes through the veil to meet the Savior.
G.G. Vandagriff is the author of ten books, including the Whitney Award Winner for Best Historical Fiction, The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War , and her most recent release, The Pieces of Paris. In connection with the latter book, she has built the website http://PTSDweb.com. She loves to hear from readers at either her website, http://ggvandagriff.com or her blog, http://ggvandagriffblog.com. UAdd a Note