While reading the daily newspaper, I often stop at the obituaries to look at the pictures and read some of the things written about the deceased individual. Sometimes seeing the picture of small children or young adults makes me pause and feel sympathy for those who have lost a loved one at such a young age. However, I am more disturbed by the inference in Mormon obituaries that many such individuals have “gone home to live with their Heavenly Father,” (a distinction rarely given to those who have lived long lives. Most Mormon obituaries about the elderly simply say “passed away.”) Mormons believe that the Spirit World is here on earth, and despite the comfort such language may give for the survivors, should Mormons really be suggesting that in the afterlife, we fall into the Savior’s arms or “go home” to our Father in Heaven? I know there are stories of near-death-experiences and renderings depicting this sort of reunion with Diety, but is there really some magic in death that makes us worthy to look upon the face of Christ or God even if we hadn’t or weren’t able to do so before death? I would like to hear what you have to say on the subject.
Mormon belief teaches that we are not left alone when we pass through death into the afterlife. Alma says,
Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection–Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life (Alma 40:11).
That does not mean that we remain in God’s presence. Alma continues–
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil–for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house–and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil. (Alma 40:12-13)
So there is an element of truth in the Mormon obituaries that you refer to. However, apart from that, the deep emotions that are felt when a loved one passes away are given expression in words of hope and consolation. Perhaps we should look more toward the feelings of the bereaved ones than to the technical accuracy of their epitaphs.