This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
~Walt Whitman, "A Clear Midnight"
This week I've been thinking a lot about death and life. When a friend or family member dies, it forces you to decide what you believe in. Are you going to see that person again? Where are they now? What do they think, and what are they doing? Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon), I've been taught things about life and death since I was a child. Still, when faced with the crisis, I now decide to accept or reject the things I've been taught. I accept them, for several reasons. Here I will give a few of the main ones.
I guess the first reason would be because it sounds great. LDS believe that after someone dies, that isn't the end, but the spirit lives on, reunited with spirits of ancestors and friends, and waits until the final moment when Christ returns to the Earth and everyone is resurrected. We believe that this spirit world is very similar to our world, and that spirits there can continue learning. For example, if they never heard about Jesus on earth, they can learn about him there, and accept or reject his gospel. So anyway, it's comforting to think that death doesn't just mean lights out, the end. To think that I can see my loved ones again makes me happy, and I want to believe that I will.
Second, it makes sense to me. With my belief in a loving God who is actually a Heavenly Father, I believe that he would not make us just for this earth life alone. Such an existence would not be very meaningful to him, and why would he put so much effort into teaching and schooling us if there is nothing after this. It makes sense to me that if there is a God, then there is life for us with him at some point after this life.
Third, I believe because I trust the people who have taught me. My parents are honest people, and they have shared with me the most personal moments in their lives, when the veil that separates this life from the spirit world has become so thin that they have seen for themselves that there is life beyond mortality. To deny it would be to call them liars. The same goes for prophets, both old and new, who have testified of life after death, which becomes possible because of Christ's atonement for our sins and his resurrection. I believe the prophets, and I believe in Jesus.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, I believe because I just do. There is a spiritual part of me that asks questions, seeks, feels, and receives answers. Many others believe in the Holy Spirit, by which it becomes possible to receive inspiration, answers, and comfort from God. To some it comes as a voice, to others just a warm good feeling. For me it is a good feeling, a clearness of thought, a burst of happiness from deep within, and a confirmation inside of myself that answers the question I'm asking. It's very hard to explain this sometimes, and I know that for others it can be much more of a struggle to receive answers and feel faith in things they don't understand. Death is very hard to understand, and separation from a loved one is painful enough to cloud the mind and heart for a long time.
However, I know that after winter comes the spring, after trials come blessings, and after hard work comes reward. Thus, somehow, after death comes life again.
I was thinking the day most splendid, till I saw what the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough, till there sprang out so noiseless around me myriads of other globes.
Now, while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me, I will measure myself by them;
And now, touch’d with the lives of other globes, arrived as far along as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or pass’d on farther than those of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them, than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.
O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me—as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.
~Walt Whitman, "Night on the Prairies"