Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mandy's Pure Love

I wrote this and gave it as a talk at a friend's funeral.


Jan. 6,2008

I’ll try to describe Mandy Richerson in a few words. How about playfully serene? Doesn’t that fit? She is definitely artistic, and lived life with flare. She seemed comfortable in her own skin. There was always a bit of whimsy in her smile and yet she was a fairly deep thinker and deeply spiritual. I believe caring about other people comes very natural to her. She loves other people for who they are. Wasn’t it her natural expectation that we would love her for who she is? It seems to me that Mandy wore her life like a pair of comfy slippers.

What was the foundation of her comfort? I’m sure it was partly her experiences in this life and definitely the love she received throughout her life from family and friends. But I believe it was also in the deep understanding she had of who she is and what it means to be a daughter of God.

Like Mandy and Larry, I am a convert to the LDS Church of many years. A friend of mine had been brought up in the church and arranged for me to meet with the missionaries. I’m a bit of a skeptic and didn’t join easily. Larry can relate to that. But there was one brand-new idea I had no trouble with. The missionaries explained God’s plan of salvation for us and outlined the steps we take along the way. I was familiar with the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life, but had never before contemplated the possibility that we had lived as spirit children with Heavenly Father before coming to the earth. The moment I heard it I knew it was true. As if it was something I had once known but forgotten. The veil that is drawn across our minds at birth parted for one brief instant and I could see that this was so.

This knowledge changes one’s perspective in a big way. Now when I consider God’s claim to know each one of His children intimately I better see how this would be. I don’t know if we were ever spirit babies bouncing on Father’s knee, but I feel comfortable in saying that we did not come to Him all at once, but perhaps one at a time. Unless we are blessed with twins, children come to us in this life one at a time. We bond with each one individually and grow to know and love them. We are taught that Jehovah is the first of Father’s children and therefore our elder brother. I can scarcely imagine a more illuminating doctrine. At once, this breathes life into our understanding of all relationships and makes them eternal. Those being the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son, between all of us to our Heavenly Father, our relationships with each other as spirit brothers and sisters, and also the very real kinship we have with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We can now imagine that He was there with us in the pre-existence, helping us along as a big brother, serving as an example of what we could become. He too would have come to know us and love us just as our Father does. When the time came for the Great Jehovah to come to the earth as Jesus of Nazareth and offer himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, He was not doing this for strangers, but for his family - for his brothers and sisters that he has long known and cared for. Likewise, it is within our nature to love one another. It is only the veil of forgetfulness that blinds us and forces us to rediscover on our own the underlying principle of love.

The world in which we now live, one torn apart by divisions of race, religion and political boundaries is most unnatural to our eternal spirits. But if we can learn to apply the principle of unconditional love here, where it does not easily fit, we have made a great discovery indeed.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

I believe Mandy has made this discovery and is prepared to return home to live with Father and to share in this loving relationship in the company of all her brothers and sisters with new-found appreciation. She has learned what the prophet Moroni called the “Pure Love of Christ”, that of Charity.

Moroni 7: 45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Charity isn’t just something you do - it is something you become. It resides in your heart and changes your view. You allow others to be who they are now and see through their imperfections to the person they will become. You ignore the petty irritations and forgive the serious sin. You find infinite value disguised behind temporary rebellion.

I believe Mandy is a most charitable person. Not only could you see this in the things she did for others, you could see it in her eyes. She absorbed the power of this principle, amplified it and reflected it back to us in greater strength.

There aren’t any more Mandys out there. She is a unique individual. It’s not a case of breaking the mold. There never was a mold. But it is not because of her uniqueness or in spite of it that we love her. It is mostly because she loves us.

You may notice that I don’t speak of her in the past tense. That is because Mandy is as alive now as she has ever been. Not to us, but to herself and those loving persons who surround her on the other side of the veil. Of this, I have no doubt.

As Vicki and I visited with Larry and Mandy a few hours before she departed for home, we wondered who might be on the reception committee to greet her and what a happy reunion that would be. When my time comes, I would be most pleased to find Mandy on my reception committee. I would find that… most comfortable.

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