My beloved daughter, age 30, (active LDS) and her darling 2 daughters (my granddaughters,) age 5 and 18 months, were shot and killed while they slept on Nov 17, 2016, by the husband/father. We are shocked and grief stricken. I worry that they can’t “rest in peace” since their life was taken prematurely. What is your opinion of the states of minds of people who were murdered? Do you believe they are happy and at peace, or longing to be back on earth?
Dear Mary Jane,
I mourn with you as I read of the unspeakable tragedy that has unfolded in your life. Take the time necessary to grieve. President Kimball, in his talk Tragedy or Destiny?, speaks of several ordeals that challenge us in this life and the weighty questions that accompany them.
“The daily newspaper screamed the headlines: ‘Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy,’ and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: ‘Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?’
“Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?
“Why should the young mother die of cancer and leave her eight children motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her?
“A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?
“A man died one day suddenly of a coronary occlusion as he climbed a stairway. His body was found slumped on the floor. His wife cried out in agony, ‘Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who still need a father?’
“A young man died in the mission field and people critically questioned: ‘Why did not the Lord protect this youth while he was doing proselyting work?'”
As Latter-day Saints who have diligently learned the doctrines of the restored gospel (including the purpose of mortality, the existence of the spirit world, the principle of agency, and so forth), we may too quickly respond to questions that are best answered by God Himself. President Kimball showed wisdom, compassion, and sympathy in his remarks:
“I wish I could answer these questions with authority, but I cannot. I am sure that sometime we’ll understand and be reconciled.”
I cannot answer your questions specifically about your daughter and grandchildren. I can, like President Kimball, share general principles, but the comfort and peace you seek can only be found in those moments when you find God in your Gethsemane.
In these last days, the Lord has revealed “that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them” (D&C 42:46). Additionally we have the teaching of Alma that “between death and the resurrection … the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, … are taken home to that God who gave them life. 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” (Alma 40:11-12). For those of us who have not been privileged with a glimpse of the spirit world, we accept the testimony of Alma and the angel who visited him that the righteous dead whom we loved so much are in a state of happiness, rest, and peace.
That being said, paradise is not unadulterated joy. A “fulness of joy” cannot be experienced until the resurrection (see D&C 93:33-34), and even the righteous look “upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (D&C 138:50). Your daughter may similarly feel frustration that she is no longer embodied, but still feel “joy and gladness … because the day of [her] deliverance [is] at hand (D&C 138:15). This does not necessarily mean that she is resentful for being killed before her time, as my next point will hopefully address.
Amulek testified that the “same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life … will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34). If your daughter was the sort of person who looks longingly back to times far spent, then she is probably looking longingly back to the life she once had. If, on the other hand, your daughter was the sort of person who could be at peace in the most trying of circumstances, then she is probably at peace regardless of the circumstance of her death. Let me add also, that if your daughter is the sort of person who (like many of us) works from a state of bitterness and sorrow to a state of peace in Christ, then she is probably doing just that (if she hasn’t found peace already).
You have a rough time ahead of you. You will feel to pray “God, where art thou? … where is … thy hiding place?” (see D&C 121:1-6). If God’s prophet can ask, so can you. You will feel isolated and alone, not only because this trial you face is so singular (few will have experienced it as you have) but because the nature of grief can often make us feel isolated. I want you to know that God is aware of you and loves you. He also loves your daughter and grandchildren. When Christ was crushed under the winepress, God sent an angel to strengthen Him. Do not remove yourself from God. He answers the unasked questions locked in your heart and knows how to succor us. I don’t want to give you some formula on how to hear God’s voice in the midst of these struggles (such formulas are often wrong and lead to frustration), but I say again that God is there in depths of anguish and can be found.