(From my dad, thank you dad for sharing)
I would like express our deepest appreciation on behalf of my family for the support and prayers we have felt over the past few days. We have seen and felt your expressions of concern and love in so many ways. It has been an honor for us to be part of this community for the past 6 years. We haven’t fully realized the blessings of it until the past few days. The support and prayers you have had for us have brought great comfort and strength to us. Thank you from the deepest parts of my heart.
You might think it foolish for me, being Josh’s dad, to choose to speak at his funeral service. I certainly can’t think of anything more difficult I have done to date, and I have been praying that I will be able to say the things that I wanted to say without my emotions taking over. I just felt that I needed to personally share some things with you that help us make sense of this tragedy and have brought peace through perspective to our lives.
Life comes with many challenges, some easier than others. It also can bring much joy and happiness. We have certainly been blessed to have so many happy moments together with Josh. We have gained more strength through the challenges and treasure the happy moments by understanding what the purpose of life is.
I want you to know, when you see us in the store, or at sports, or at work, and you wonder how the Wards are doing, you will know that we have peace in the knowledge that I’m going to share. These things come from the bottom of my heart and are very precious to me. I hope they will give offence in no way and will be received with the spirit they are given. What I’m going to share with you we call our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness.
Prior to our life here, we were spirit children of loving heavenly parents. This makes each of you my spiritual brothers and sisters. That’s why, if you’ve been around members of our church, you may hear us use the title Brother Jones, or Sister so-an-so. We try not to use those titles outside our church because we always get that head-cock.
Because of his love for us, our Heavenly Father gave us an opportunity to grow, through our agency and choice, by coming here to earth. Before this life, as spiritual bodies, we didn’t have all of the capacities we do with our physical bodies to experience pain and happiness. By choosing to come to this earth, through an earthly father and mother, we gain a physical body and have the opportunity to experience things which are only possible when the spiritual body and the physical body are together.
The other part of the purpose of this life is to gain experience and to be tested, for us to choose if we will do what will bring us true happiness. It was necessary to draw a veil over the memories of our spiritual lives with our heavenly parents in order to make the test relevant. In other words, it’s a closed-book test for us to choose what we will become.
The choices we make in this life do affect who we are to become and can affect the lives of those around us, for good or for bad. It was paramount that he gave us agency to choose. Our Heavenly Father knew that we would make mistakes, not only mistakes that affect our lives but that affect others as well. So He sent His only begotten son in the flesh, our spiritual brother, Jesus Christ, the only perfect man to have walked the earth, to pay the price of our mistakes and to give us an opportunity to overcome our sins. Again, overcoming these mistakes is by our choice, by our applying what we call the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. The Atonement is the finale, if you will, of the mission of Jesus Christ here on the earth, where he overcame the effects of sins that we would commit, and of death, in order for us to be able to be reunited, spirit and body, with our Heavenly Parents after this life.
The Atonement reconciles us to God and allows us to return to him, both in this life by regaining his Holy Spirit, and in the next life by actually living in his presence again. We apply the Atonement in our lives by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ through baptism by the priesthood of God, committing to pattern our lives after Christ’s, and sincere repentance when we make mistakes.
Now if you think about this, there is a big question unanswered: What about all of those people who have lived on the earth that have not even heard the name of Jesus Christ? I know that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us and will judge us fairly, based on the knowledge that we have. He provided a way for us to make some important decisions after this life.
This is where our temples come in. You have likely seen one of our temples off of I-90 in the Bellevue Eastgate area with the tall white spire and the guy with the trumpet on top. One important thing that occurs in our temples is the work that is done for those who have not had the opportunity to do it in this life. This work is done in our temples by proxy, and those who have passed on are free to accept or reject it. Our temples provide the opportunity for those who have had not had the opportunity in this life to apply the Atonement, to apply it in the next.
One other important aspect to our sacred temples, which gives our family great comfort at this time, is that families our sealed together. By being sealed we are promised that if we are faithful to what we have promised our Heavenly Father, we can be with our families forever. You might recall the simple song we sang as an opening song, Families Can Be Together Forever.
What happens after this life and where is Josh now? I know that Josh still lives, as a spirit body in what we call the Spirit World. He and my earthly father, who passed away several years ago, and was there to greet Josh, will be working to bring the knowledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to those who do not have it.
They will be in the Spirit World until the resurrection, when all who confess that Jesus is the Christ, will have their perfected body reunited with their spirit. They will then be rewarded according to what they have become, according to the desires of their hearts, according to the choices they have made with the knowledge that they had. It will be the same for each of us. We have the opportunity to live with our Heavenly Parents, with our savior Jesus Christ, and with our families.
This, my brothers and sisters, is our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. This is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
• To know that that this life is not the beginning, nor the end;
• to know that we chose to come here knowing that there would be challenges and heartaches with great opportunities;
• to know that there is a purpose and plan with this life;
• to know that we have Heavenly Parents that love us and that we can return to;
• to know that Jesus Christ, the key to making all of this work, paid the price necessary for each and every one of us to be reconciled to God and be forgiven of our sins.
It makes all the difference in my life to know these things are true. This is what brings my family peace at this time in our lives.
You’ve probably asked yourself at this point, how I can know these things. The knowledge didn’t come easy. I had to work for it. I had to search and pray, and test principles that I have been taught. It not only makes perfect sense to me now, but more importantly the Spirit of God has born witness to me that these things are true. I have no doubt that if you are sincerely searching for truth, through effort and prayer, you can also come to this same knowledge.
So when you see us in the store, or at soccer or track with our kids, please know that we are at peace. We will miss Josh for a time, but if we are true to the things we know, we can be with him as a family, forever. I hope if you have questions about what I’ve shared with you, that you will feel like you can ask me or one of your other friends and neighbors that have this same testimony.
We have been blessed that for 16 years, most of the choices Josh made were good, that the desires of his heart were good. We’ve also have been blessed in the past couple weeks to have a great relationship with him, which is not always the case between parents and a teenager.
I am so very proud of you Josh. I will miss that exuberance in your eyes, when you laugh like a two year old, and your tender heart and empathy for others.
It may seem hard to believe when you’re Josh’s age, but there’s not likely anyone else on this earth that loves you more than your parents and who want you to be happy and successful. We as parents, with our many imperfections, have the sacred responsibility to guide and correct our children when necessary. It may seem to you that we are trying to keep you from having fun. I hope you understand a little more now that we are trying to guide you and keep you safe. We want your happiness. It really works the same way with our Heavenly Father. He is not trying to keep us from having fun; he loves us and wants us to be happy. He has told us what to do in order to be happy. In the end, it’s really our choice.
We’ve had so many small miracles from the Lord these past few days. Just one example: you might think I didn’t get anything for Father’s Day from Josh. Not so. Last week, Josh wrote me an online Father’s Day card that would be delivered this past Sunday. This isn’t like him to not procrastinate until the very last moment and then scribble something out on a piece of paper. It has been one of the many small miracles and tokens of love from our Heavenly Father that we have recognized over the past few days.
Again, from the bottom of our hearts we want to express our gratitude to you for your support. We have taken so much strength through your prayers and support. We have an open invitation for his friends from school, cross country, wrestling, track, whatever, to come by our house. It brings us strength and peace to know his friends a little bit more and share experiences with you, to know how he’s touched your life.
I humbly leave these things with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.