G. Mark Albright, Feb. 23, 2016
Sara enjoyed life and was fun to be around. She will be sorely missed. Everyone who knew her enjoyed being in her presence. She radiated goodness and was close to the spirit. Mourning the loss of a loved one is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response to the divine commandment that “thou shall live together in love insomuch that thou shall weep for the loss of them that die.” D&C 42:45 We can’t really appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now when loved ones pass away. As Elder Maxwell said, “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Sara had a firm testimony that we lived before we came to this Earth as spirit sons and daughters of our father in heaven. There we eagerly anticipated coming to earth to obtain a physical body. Sara strongly believed that in the pre-existence we willingly accepted the risks of mortality which would allow all of us the right of free agency and accountability for how we live. Sara knew that death could come as an uninvited guest at any time. But She also firmly believed what President Joseph F. Smith taught, “May I say for the consolation of those who mourn, and for the comfort and guidance of us all, that no righteous person is taken before their time. In the case of the faithful saints, they are simply transferred to other fields of labor. The Lord’s work goes on in this life and in the world of spirits.”
Where is Sara now? The scriptures teach us that after this life our spirits will be set free from pain, sorrow, grief and disappointment to enjoy life to the fullest extent possible without a body, until the resurrection. We will thirst no more, hunger no more, and tire no more. We will be full of life, full of vigor, with no pain and no weariness.
The Prophet Alma taught this principle beautifully when he said: “Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection. 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 their cares and sorrow.” Alma 40, verse 11 and 12.
I am grateful to know that Sara is now in a place where she is again full of energy, vitality, and vigor with no pain and no weariness that wore out her body while she underwent her long battle with cancer and her long and painful ordeals of the last several months. We’re grateful that she had a full and balanced life surrounded by friends and loved ones and sweet memories of many successful accomplishments. Despite the pains and sufferings that Sara went through, her testimony never waivered. Her love of the Lord, the brethren, the scriptures and her family never faltered. One of the hidden blessings of cancer is that it allows the patient time to gather their loved ones around and to plan and prepare for their departure into the next life. Sara, always the optimist, appreciated the opportunity she had to bid farewell over the last few months to her family and friends.
Sara strongly believed and looked forward to being together as an eternal family with her loved ones. Joseph Smith described it this way: “The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul … up against the evils of life. It is like they are taking a long journey and on the return we will meet them with increased joy.”
In other words, Sara believed that in every death there is a re-birth. Her spirit passed into the spirit world (upon her passing here from mortality) to a reunion of loved ones, family and friends who have previously overcome the struggles of life and gone home. This reunion of friends and family associations on the other side of the veil robs death of its terror, and sheds life and light on darkness and sorrow. Christ himself was the first to gain the victory over the grave. In Him is the sting of death swallowed up. Sara did not look upon death as an enemy. With full understanding and eternal perspective, Sara had faith that replaced her fear. Hope displaced despair as she prepared for this experience. The Lord said, “Fear not even unto death, for in this world your joy is not full but in me your joy is full.” D&C 10136
Sara believed the Lord’s beautiful promise “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. In Ecclesiastes we read that “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be born and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:12. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil when the doors of death open to those returning home? In Psalms we read: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalms 116:15.
Sara believed that Jesus Christ is literally the son of God, that He was the creator of this world, the only begotten son of the Father, the Prince of Peace, the Savior, the Messiah, the King of kings, the only name under heaven whereby one could be saved, that he was born of the Virgin Mary and died that we might live again. Sara knew that Christ paid the price for our sins so that we might not suffer if we would repent and be baptized and obey the commandments of our Father.
Sara accepted the resurrection of Christ as the most completely documented and witnessed event of historical importance in the history of the world. She accepted without question the testimony of the women friends of Jesus who visited his tomb on that first Easter morn and were met by angels who announced, “He is not here, for He is risen. Why seek ye the living among the dead?” She believed the testimony of the ten apostles who were gathered together behind closed doors when suddenly Jesus himself stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace be unto you.” They were terrified and thought they had seen a spirit. But Jesus said unto them, “Why are ye troubled and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet that is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.”
Sara taught in hundreds of church lessons that Christ also established his church on this the American Continent after his resurrection and that his followers lived in righteousness for over 200 years before a great civil war destroyed the righteous people, approximately 400 years after Christ. Their last great prophet by the name of Mormon, abridged 1000 years of history, including the invaluable evidence of the divinity and resurrection of Christ, in a written record. These plates which lay buried in the ground for 1400 years until Christ again came to a new prophet in 1820 and restored his church in its fullness with all of its power, glory and blessings. Sara Believed that those plates were translated by Joseph Smith and were published as the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus the Christ.
Sara understood that he had fulfilled his mission on earth and that this was part of her destiny. She strongly agreed with the prophet President Kimball who wrote, “I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. Sometime we will understand fully and when we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life that were so difficult to comprehend.”
Sara worked hard to fulfill each and every assignment that came to her in this life as a wife, as a mother, and as a church leader in countless capacities. She is well deserving of the savior’s praise: “well done my good and faithful servant.” The prophet Harold B. Lee reminded us that the Lord made death sweet for the righteous and that the greatest day in the life of Jesus was the day that He died and the greatest day in our life will be the day that we die, if we have lived righteously.
Sara knew that by coming to earth we would have both joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, success and disappointments. She knew that after a period of time we would die. She believed that all of us accepted this plan of salvation with a glad heart. We were eager to accept both the favorable and the unfavorable conditions of coming to earth and obtaining a mortal body. Sara put her trust in God knowing that despite our limited view, God’s purposes will not fail. With all of its troubles, life offers us the privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, to prepare us to return and share in God’s glory.
Sara believed that after her passing she would be able to continue to serve others in the next life. She was well prepared for such an assignment by her lifetime of devotion and service to others. She made this world a better place by her life of love and service. No doubt Sara has been called to do what she loved, teaching the gospel. Sara was loved by her family, neighbors, friends and colleagues. She had a remarkable rapport with the youth. She was gentle, concerned, compassionate and wise. She was a great teacher.
I look at a funeral service as a type of graduation. Sara has graduated from mortality to another stage of progress for which her lifelong labors have prepared her. This funeral service today commemorates Sara’s graduation, which in her case is surely with high honors. Sara was a kind and thoughtful friend. She showed courtesy and interest to everyone she ever met. She gave praise and compliments freely. She expressed her love to others with generosity. She fought for the underdog and the downtrodden. She wanted others to be winners and get the credit. Her life was a sermon, of hope, love, caring, and to keep trying in the face of adversity.
To my knowledge she never turned down an assignment or a calling. She supported her husband Mike in his callings, including four Bishopric assignments. She did what she was asked and tried to do her best. She lived a happy and productive life and was a faithful servant of the Lord, in spite of numerous accidents. She was a devoted wife. She was a doting mother to her children. She was a beloved grandmother. Sara loved the Lord with all her heart and served him with all her might to the very end of her mortal life. Through her long battle with cancer she taught us determination and endurance. She taught us courage. She taught us that death is part of life and essential to our eternal progression. She taught us that ordinances made and covenants obeyed qualify us for eternal life.
Sara believed in the atonement of Jesus Christ: After the Lord told Joseph Smith, “These things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good,” he then said, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8.)
Sister Reeves (Gen Conf. Oct. 2015) recently explained about difficulties in our life this way: “I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful loving Father, “was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their Presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter what we suffered here if in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the Kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?”
Sara understood that the Savior suffered in Gethsemane so that he would have an infinite compassion for us as we experience our trials and tribulations. Through his suffering in Gethsemane, the Savior became qualified to be the perfect judge. Not one of us will be able to approach him on the Judgment Day and say, “You don’t know what it was like.” You don’t know what its like to have a broken back and then struggle with cancer and then lose the use of my arm and leg. Chris knows the nature of our trials better than we do, for he “descended below them all.”
Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Sara and her family have cried out with faith:
“O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39.)
But we all must pass through our own Gethsemane.
There are probably no greater Gethsemanes than the death of one of our children or spouse. Just minutes after he learned of his ten-year-old daughter’s accidental death, a father wrote a letter to her.
I feel it applies to our beloved Sara:
“You have been an angel of light in our home. Even in your passing you have sanctified the experience by the sweet sorrow of this temporary parting. I have confidence that you are really home. It’s pleasing to know that you are not encumbered by troublesome physical limitations you accepted and lived with in such an adorable, noncomplaining way.
“Mom and I and your brothers and sisters are better because you came to our house. Soon after your day of birth, you helped us to accept fear and the unknown; to better love others with physical challenges; to accept the disappointment accompanying an unwanted medical prognosis; and to query and plead with our Father, who today you know better than we do.
“We pray for all of us whom the Lord expects to stay here on the job for yet a while. Our prayers are that we will be worthy to be reunited with you and to see you again whole and perfect. Oh, how we would have loved to have you stay here on earth with us! How we would love to hear your ever-so-spontaneous ‘I love you’! How we’d thrill to feel that clinging embrace! Oh, yes, especially today.”
Sara believed the Holy Ghost will testify to us of truth. If you have felt something in your heart today, Sara would want you to know it is the Holy Ghost testifying to you of the Love that Christ and Heavenly Father have for you. Sara would urge us to do good and always be looking for ways to serve others, like Christ did.
That the Lord’s blessings of comfort and understanding will be poured out on all of us and that God will bless Sara’s family with comfort is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.