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In 2013, I was invited to read and write a review for a book by Marlene Bateman Sullivan titled Gaze into Heaven. It was a compilation of documented near-death experiences of life beyond the veil, drawn from the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I found the book engaging and insightful, teaching me much about life and death.
Now a new book by Sullivan on the same subject—The Magnificent World of Spirits—has been released, and once again she asked if I would read it and write a review. This book was also filled with fascinating documented stories of individuals who died then returned to earth because there was yet a job for each of them to do. These stories provided for me further glimpses of life beyond the veil.
Coincidentally, during the time period I was reading this second book about individuals who visited the spirit world and returned to earth, a friend shared with me a personal experience that was very sacred to him. He, too, had visited beyond the veil and returned to complete his mission!
I had not mentioned these books to him, yet many of his words were remarkably expressed in the same terms as I had read from the books. He didn’t have the words to describe how beautiful it was on the other side of the veil—the vibrant colors, the magnificent landscapes, the overwhelming feeling of order, calm, and peace. My friend said he returned because he still had a work to do here on earth.
Even as a young adult I was concerned about fulfilling my mission in life. Has completing your mission been a concern to you? Do you know what God expects you to accomplish during your stay here upon the earth?
Because of my great desire to fulfill my part on earth, and because of the feelings I have had while reading these books and listening to my friend, I set out to find the steps that could safely be followed to fulfill our missions on this earth and have the assurance that we are doing that which is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
Be Still and Know He Is God
“Now,” said Elder John H. Groberg, “that understanding and assurance won’t come all at once. God will unfold it to you line upon line, according to what is best for the progress of his work.” (Devotional address delivered at Brigham Young University, September 1987, “What Are You Doing Here.”)
Did you notice that Elder Groberg said, “His work,” not “your work”? We are all a part of the whole plan, not just a plan for us individually, but the whole plan. That means what I do overlaps with what you do to fulfill the Father’s purposes here on the earth, and in the process we fulfill each of our missions as well. We are placed here, with our individual talents, at a specific time and place that gives us the best opportunity to progress as well as to be of assistance to others in their progression.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained as follows: “To carry forward his own purposes among men and nations, the Lord foreordained chosen spirit children in pre-existence and assigned them to come to earth at particular times and places so that they might aid in furthering the divine will. These pre-existence appointments, made ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Pet. 1:2), simply designated certain individuals to perform missions which the Lord in his wisdom knew they had the talents and capacities to do.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 290.)
President Brigham Young explained, “There is neither man nor woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live.” (Brigham Young, “Remarks,” Deseret News, July 3, 1867, 201.)
Once we understand we are not on earth at this time, born into this family in this place, by accident or whim, we can move forward with faith that our Father will assist us to overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of fulfilling our foreordained missions. We don’t need to be overly concerned about where or how we fit in to the eternal scheme of things. Heavenly Father takes care of that. We just need to know we do fit, and therefore look for ways to use our God-given unique gifts and talents to do our part and make a difference. And certainly, we must not think we are without talents. Scripture tells us everyone has them, and everyone is expected to use theirs! (Refer to Doctrine and Covenants 46.)
Today we live, indeed, in a difficult, unsettled time. But when we have a conviction that it was part of the Father’s plan that we are here right now, and we know when we keep our covenants He is going to guide and sustain us, we do not, we cannot allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed or forgotten by Him. So this, regardless of the disappointments in life, is the first step to follow to safely fulfill our missions on this earth and have the assurance that we are doing that which is pleasing to our Heavenly Father—be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10) and has it under control, according to His plan.
Press Forward with Unshakable Faith
The Lord always knows where we are and where we need to go. When we choose to keep His commandments and do our best to listen to and follow the promptings of the Spirit, He guides us down the path of making crucial decisions. Day by day, one experience after another, we find ourselves gaining greater confidence and we more easily recognize His hand in our lives.
When I was a single mom, I saw many miracles that I attributed to paying my tithing. Overnight, I became the provider. Money was extremely scarce and hard to stretch far enough to care for my family and pay the bills. Up to that point, I had been a full-tithe payer my whole life. In my dire circumstance, however, I questioned whether I could continue. I read in the scriptures the promises regarding paying tithes and consciously decided I would test that principle. I went to the Lord in prayer with this scripture in mind: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
In my prayer, I said something like this, “Heavenly Father, you’ve made these promises and you’re bound in keeping them if I do my part. So I’m going to do my part completely and I expect your help to see me through.” It wasn’t a very conventional prayer, but it was a firm commitment on my part!
There were some extremely difficult times during those years. We didn’t have the money for luxuries, but I saw miraculous intervention in acquiring jobs and seeing money stretch. I believed the scriptures. I chose to have faith, act on that faith (pay my tithing), and trust in the promises being kept. And I immediately received confirmations that paying tithing was a true principle. With all the bizarre and scary things that happened during those years, I was blessed with comfort and peace and the assurance that my Father would see me through. And He did!
Our Heavenly Father always keeps His promises. Repeatedly through the scriptures we see this statement verified one story after another, one time period after another.
I am reminded of a story in Sullivan’s book The Magnificent World of Spirits. Mosiah Hancock was born in 1834. When he was about 21 years old, he had a vision where he saw the premortal existence. He saw Heavenly Father present the plan of salvation. Jesus offered to become our Savior, and Lucifer rebelled.
After Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven, spirits began leaving to go to earth. . . .
Education appeared to be a high priority in the spirit world. Mosiah said, “During all this time the classes met frequently, being taught by instructors appointed. Each member knew his or her own place, and took it each time, and the best of order prevailed. They were taught in the arts and sciences, and everything necessary to make the heart happy. The teachers of the classes received the instruction they imparted from certain notable ones, who in turn got their directions from the Father and the Son.”
When it was Mosiah’s turn to go to earth, he asked the Savior if he could have the same position—that of a teacher—when he returned.
The Savior told him, “Yes, and greater, but you have to go down to the earth, and take a lowly position and be misunderstood by man, even your brethren and endure many hardships and set many examples of humility and patience, that you may return and enter the glory, even such as I have.”
“Jesus added, ‘Your time is now come to take your mission to the earth,’ and He laid His hands on my head, as He had done to others, and set me apart for that important mission. He again said to me, ‘I will see you safely thru [sic] until you return again.’”
Mosiah ended his account by saying, “I fully believe on that promise.” (Marlene Bateman Sullivan, The Magnificent World of Spirits, CFI, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 2016, pp. 126–127.)
The second step to safely fulfill our missions on this earth—remember the Lord is bound when we keep His commandments. Our Heavenly Father always keeps His promises!
Realize Your Mission May Not Be to Change the World
Not many become presidents of nations. Not many capture the attention of the world by writing positive, influential bestselling books. And not many are called upon to be prophets, seers, and revelators. The vast majority of earth dwellers are called upon to do just what Mosiah Hancock was called to do—to “endure many hardships and set many examples of humility and patience.” Our missions might be to teach a child, to serve the lonely, to give to the poor, or to simply bring cheer by smiling at a passerby. Not big things that change the whole world, but big things in the scheme of our worlds, our neighborhoods, our homes, and our hearts.
We have the scriptures and the words of living prophets to guide us. We have our patriarchal blessings that open a view of the larger picture. For some individuals their blessings are detailed. Others see little defined direction. But all can benefit from the outline offered in their patriarchal blessings.
Rick Crawford, my stake patriarch, offered this. “Since our Heavenly Father has told us what His work and His glory involves, our mission should be to help fulfill His ‘mission.’ We need to strive to keep the commandments and qualify for exaltation. A patriarchal blessing gives the recipient a ‘blueprint’ to help, through the Holy Ghost, on our path back to Father.”
The third step to safely fulfill our missions on this earth—stop looking to fulfill the spectacular; stop comparing our work to the work of others; set goals according to the blueprint given to us through our patriarchal blessings and the promptings of the Spirit.
When we lose ourselves in the service of others, especially but not exclusively in service to our families, we show our devotion and love for God. Simply put, we fulfill our missions whenever we choose to act on a prompting, respond to others’ specific needs, day after day, week after week, and year after year. When we pattern our lives in this way, enduring to the end, along the way we recognize the mission(s) the Lord has for us to fulfill.
Several years ago I served (from our stake) as the Relief Society president for a retirement/care center. It seemed to me that many of the sisters were just letting the days go by, waiting for their time to pass over the veil. We only had a few with callings to serve—a couple teachers for the weekly lessons and a small handful of visiting teachers. Most of the church-called service was done by members outside of the center by members of our stake.
I was prompted to go room to room and invite every single sister to accept the calling of visiting teacher. My request was often met with, “I’ve done that, been there.” Some complained of their limited mobility. Others just admitted they simply didn’t want to do it. With a definite push from the Spirit, I often responded with, “You really are not any worse off than the other sisters of our branch. You can surely visit someone one day a month and bring her some cheer.”
I remember one sister in particular who argued against the idea until finally she laughed and said, “Fay, you scoundrel. Okay. I will do it!” And like most of the others, once said, she diligently followed through with the commitment.
One day I was walking down the hall to check on someone when I was met by two elderly sisters pushing walkers toward me. “Fay,” one said, “we are on our way to do our visiting teaching. But we cannot remember who we are supposed to see. Do you have your list with you? Can you tell us where we are supposed to go?”
They were on their way but they could not remember who they were supposed to see!
I smiled and reminded them who they were responsible to visit. And I carefully gave written reminder lists to the sisters at Relief Society every month.
You know, that service by the sisters to each other seemed to be a real turning point for our branch. The sisters began talking less about their own infirmities and taking action to console and lift up each other. Those who participated felt a real sense of purpose. In this way, not only did our branch see more unity, growing friendships, and a feeling of support, but the sisters more often were able to forget their own troubles and concerns.
The fourth step to safely fulfill our missions on this earth—share your unique gifts and talents in service to others.
This is undoubtedly the most important step of all!
Like you probably have, I’ve read my patriarchal blessing many, many times, and I’ve tried to set my goals to keep me on the projected path. Sometimes I’ve felt pretty good about the path I was on. Other times, through the adversary’s encouragement, I’ve questioned whether I could ever complete my mission here. I’ve had seasons of feeling overwhelmed, convincing myself I could never be counted good enough. (Prompted to do so, last year I wrote an article on the subject of being good enough) But when I pray for guidance, it always comes. I feel assured God knows my heart, and I feel that sweet hint of a voice saying, “Stay on the path. Do not give up. All will be well.” Then for a too-often fleeting moment I believe opportunities will be made available for me to learn and to grow so day by day I can achieve my goal.
I say “too-often fleeting moment” because that is my point of guilt, and perhaps yours. For a time I forget Heavenly Father knows me so well and loves me so much that when I keep my promises to Him, He will always keep His promises to me. I forget to trust Him.
I know that God has a mission for me, and I know He has a mission for you. I do not know exactly what they are, but I do know where we should start—living close to the Spirit and, like Mosiah Hancock, without reservation trusting Heavenly Father to see us through.
Fay A. Klingler is the author of the best-selling book The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, I Am Strong! I Am Smart! and many other books and articles (www.fayklingler.com). She can be contacted on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FayKlingler.