Bishop Waddell tells us that we must not expect our faith to protect us from sorrow. But peace of mind can be present during the storms of life. The key is to keep our focus on the Christ.
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ.” (D&C 19:22-3)
Learn, listen, walk form the structural audit of the sermon.
Learn: go to the house of the Lord.
Listen: follow prophetic counsel.
Walk: repent and walk with Christ.
I would like to complicate his narrative just a bit in a couple of spots. First let me say that I appreciated the reference to Gethsemane AND the Cross. That is important. As Elder Holland has noted several times, the Cross was the culmination of atonement, of the way of bringing repentance to salvation. The mention of the “garden tomb” is probably just a phrase that came to mind, but it demonstrates some historic prejudice rooted in anti-Cathoic feeling, and moreover, it is almost surely fantasy as regards the tomb of Christ.
One other point comes from bishop Waddell’s story of sealing as comfort in regard to his Learn signpost.
Bishop Waddell tells of visiting a stake conference in South America and encountering a couple who had only a few weeks previous lost an infant in death. Even though the couple had been sealed in the temple, they were under the impression that they would have to journey again to the temple to have their child sealed to them, a prohibitively expensive and likely impossible repeat journey. The bishop explained the concept of “born in the covenant” to an astonished brother.
Amazed, he asked if this was really true, and I confirmed that it was. He then asked if I would be willing to speak with his wife, who had been inconsolable during the two weeks since his son’s death. Sunday afternoon, following the conference, I met with Sister Tumiri and explained this glorious doctrine to her as well. With the pain of her loss still fresh, but now with a glimmer of hope, she tearfully asked, “will I really be able to hold my little boy in my arms again…is he really mine, forever?” I assured her that as she kept her covenants, the sealing power found in the temple, effective because of the authority of Jesus Christ, would indeed allow her to be with her son again, and hold him in her arms.
As I belong to the unfortunate club of having a dead child, there are a few points that I’d like to expand on. The first is the emphasis on theological pessimism. “if she kept her covenants.” I think a very important point here is the notion of sealing parents and children has never been closeted in joint faithfulness. And of course in the case of an infant, there is no applicable faith clause. How sealing is preserved in that case is not clear, but the idea is embedded in the way we consider sealing dissolution: each has a blessing, independent of the other, as odd as this may sound.
A trickier thing is how the news impacted the sister. Everyone experiences grief in different ways. Establishing an expectation that sealing negates that grief in part or whole places a stumbling block in the way of many grieving loved ones. For many, mortal grief is not relieved by the notion of sealing, and scripture acknowledges such differences.
Finally, the idea that children will be resurrected as children has a very problematic history, one that I have studied with some depth. I don’t think establishing an expectation of infants returned to faithful parents as infants is bad or even wrong. I’m sure it may be classed as “doctrine” whatever that means in Mormonism. But historically it is problematic. Perhaps it is innocuous because it feels good to many, and can’t by definition, be tested (like much of faith).
I’m not critical of the speech. I think it has much to offer. But there are some aspects that deserve discussion, more than those I’ve singled out here.