“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
“And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
“And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.”
–2 Nephi 9:10 - 12
Death and Dying are Central Themes
for Remembering our Dead in Holiday Celebrations
Usually when Halloween approaches we find ourselves deciding upon costumes for ourselves and our children, buying candy to give out as treats, decorating our homes, carving pumpkins or jack-o’-lanterns, visiting haunted attractions, bobbing for apples, telling scary stories and watching a lot of horror movies. My mom used to dress up to greet the kids at the door (often scaring them a bit) and then after we were all tucked in for the night would go to visit and party with neighborhood friends. She always decorated the front door and porch area. This was at a time in the 1950’s when not many were doing this, so our house became a sure stop for trick-or-treaters.
The word Halloween comes from All-Hallows-Even (evening) or the night before all Hallow’s Day or All Saints Day. Trick or treating –resembles a late medieval practice of “souling” when the poor would go door to door on Hallowmas (Nov.1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (Nov. 2). This tradition of trick-or-treating was called “Guising” in Scotland and Ireland –children disguised in costume would go door to door for cakes, fruit or money, often carrying a lantern carved from a turnip to light the way (1895). Today’s U. S. tradition began about 1930 although mention of parts come as early as 1911.
|The Grim Reaper by autistic boy in Tucson|
When I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico in the late 1990’s, I was surprised to find children celebrating a typical U.S. style Halloween with costumes, trick or treating , and gathering great bags of candy. I was surprised because the most popular and traditional celebration in Mexico is called the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). This is where family and friends gather on the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov.2) to pray for family members who have died. In remembrance of a specific deceased person, they will build private altars using marigold flowers, photos, memorabilia and sugar skulls then prepare the deceased person’s favorite foods and beverages. They take these gifts to the grave site of their ancestor. This three day event finds families cleaning the graves and cemeteries before they decorate. Then the celebrations take over. Some have picnics or even spend the night beside the graves of their ancestors telling humorous events and stories about the departed.
|Day of the Dead Offerings in Mexico|
|Decorating Ancestors Graves in Mexico|
Similarly themed traditions and holidays appear all over the world. Some of these include Bon Festival in Japan; Chuseok or Hangawi in Korea; Ching Ming and pin yin in China; Gai Jatra in Nepal. Brazil and Spain also celebrate similar to Mexico. African cultures have bits and parts of this celebration or remembering of the dead in ceremonies spread throughout the year.
|The anniversary of this little boy's birth is remembered|
|This is the memorial of Cooper Hamblin Koffer - What Fun!|
|Located in East Lawn Cemetery, Provo, UT|
MY QUESTION FOR YOU: Will you remember a deceased person this week? You might take a moment to think of your ancestors or those who have recently died in your circle of family and friends. Will you write a humorous memory about them or a story that will entertain their descendants for years to come? Or perhaps you will find someone on this date was born, died or was married in your genealogies.
MY SUGGESTION: Read the Bible Dictionary description of Death and ponder the two deaths described. Death and dying are part of the Plan of Salvation. Physical dying must come to us all. I call this an ordinance date for it is one of three dates that we record for identifying a specific person in our family history research to prepare them for submission for temple ordinances. We can not provide this work for a deceased person before they have been dead for exactly one year. Our responsibilities also are for our own direct ancestors first; these usually take us back about 100 years.
As we ponder our own mortality we, as Latter-day Saints, must surely think about the consequence of our own sins for we do indeed make our own spiritual death by our works, our thoughts and our actions. It is this spiritual death that the world worries so much about. Granted, we sorrow and mourn for our dead. We miss them and think about them. What a glorious and joyful light has broken upon the world with the restoration of the gospel and the saving ordinances performed for our dead. The rest of the world is focused on the grave. We are focused on the Resurrection and the promise and hope of eternal life.
QUOTE: “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” –by William Wordsworth
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
THOUGHT: Our birth is indeed a sleep and a forgetting; and we do enter this earthly body trailing clouds of glory, just ask any parent who has looked upon a newborn baby. Our Father in Heaven must say good bye to us for a small season when we come down to live upon the earth. He watches over us, rejoices in our repentance, baptism and our obedience to his commandments. He delights in our diligent prayers and scripture study. He wants us to succeed so that when we die, we return to Him having lived a righteous life from youth to the end. Our death to Him is a joyful reunion, for we are his heirs and he will give us the greatest of all treats when we knock upon His door, that of eternal life and the promise of “all that he has.”
In your patriarchal blessing do you find such phrases as “rightful inheritance in the promised land”, “binding for time and all eternity”, “a kingdom that shall never fail”, “a place in the celestial kingdom” or “come forth in the morning of the first resurrection to receive an inheritance”? These phrases will be a comfort to you and a reminder to reverence the Lord, and provide for your ancestors the opportunities and blessings they did not have when they lived here upon the earth.
Death or dying is the gateway to these wonderful promises