Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, July 18, 2005

What the Gospel Does for People:
Reflecting upon the Life of Floyd Larson

In preparing to attend the funeral of my father-in-law, Floyd Larson of Sandy, Utah, I have reflected upon the life of that great man and the lives of his family. This was a man who took his religion seriously, a devout Latter-day Saint who sacrificed much to serve God and follow the teachings of his religion, a man thoroughly infused with what some call "Mormonism." He was a returned missionary, served in many callings including service as a bishop and later a Stake Patriarch, and served an additional mission to Nepal with his wife a couple years ago before his battle with cancer. He was a steady Temple attender, a student of the scriptures, a dedicated Priesthood holder, and a disciple of the Lord.

What did all this do for him and his family? The result of his lifelong pursuit of Latter-day Saint religion was not a frightening fanatic that threatened the welfare of society and damaged his family - in fact, it was the polar opposite of how some critics characterize us. Floyd Larson was a noble, gentle, loving man, selfless and kind, a true servant and follower of Jesus Christ. His example of love, patience, humility, and service has blessed my life and the life of my family in numerous ways. He and his equally noble and amazing wife, Doreen Larson, raised a large family of well-adjusted, successful, interesting, proactive, kind, and decent people - people that I am just happy to be around, people that I want my children to associate with. His approach to life was always founded on the Gospel. One of the greatest fruits of that approach was his first daughter, Kendra, who became my wife - and the most amazing and wonderful person ever in my life. The effect of a heavy dose of "Mormonism" in the life of Floyd Larson has been a legacy of joy and true success, an influence that lives on and inspires me and my entire family to be better people. I love what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does for people that take this precious religion seriously.

Floyd was not a deluded, unintelligent man duped by a religion for fools. He was a critical thinker. He was an intelligent electrical engineer with a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. He understood human limitations and intellectual fallacies. He worked hard to expand his mind throughout his life, studying and learning much. And he understood that there is a Supreme Being more intelligent than we all, a Being whom we worship as God the Father, Whose son Jesus Christ stands at His right hand and directs His Church through revelation to man. He knew that all of us mortals are imperfect, but that the true Leader of our Church can be fully trusted. He knew and loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and valued His acceptance more than any perishable thing.

I marvel at how many lives Brother Larson touched in his humble, quiet way. At the viewing last night, hundreds of people lined up to pay their respects. Many of them offered additional stories or insights into his life. For example, I met his former secretary who told me how he always managed to stay calm when others were getting heated over drastic deadlines and other problems. She was thankful for the peace and the politeness he brought in a stressful environment. And then there are so many stories from those who served with him in the Church or from those in his family. It will be a wonderful funeral.

If you've never been to an LDS funeral, you should go. They tend to be uplifting and filled with hope.

Yesterday, while walking back from Church (so strange to be in a heavily LDS area where one can just walk to Church!), a sweet Mormon widow approached us with an armful of banana bread she had baked. And the day before she had just brought some of the best wheat bread ever, baked in her own oven. As we chatted with her for a few moments, I was deeply touched by what I saw in her life. Her goodness shined from her face. She reminded me of so many other older LDS women I know: a sweet, loving person filled with hope and the desire to serve others. I was being blessed not just by a good baker, but by another disciple of Jesus Christ. Mormon widows are another great place where one can often see the true fruits of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. These wonderfully kind people belie the caricatures of LDS faith that I often see from some rather nasty critics. By their fruits ye shall know them.

The fruits that I see among those who are serious, faithful Latter-day Saints, including people like my late father-in-law and my precious mother-on-law, make me rejoice that God has restored the fullness of the Gospel in these latter days. How grateful I am for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

12 comments:

Mike Parker said...

My condolences on the passing of your father-in-law, Jeff.

May "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding ... keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus." (Philip. 4:7.)

Bookslinger said...

Thanks for an uplifting post that focused on the positive. I needed that after reading and writing so much about negative things.

I sometimes forget there's more to life than dealing with the bad stuff.

"As we ride through life, we can choose to focus on the beautiful scenery, or on the roadkill. Just make sure the driver keeps their eyes on the road."

Anonymous said...

My condolances to you also.

you said "If you've never been to an LDS funeral, you should go. They tend to be surprisingly uplifting and filled with hope. A sharp contrast to some other kinds of funerals I've attended."

Why are you surprised that they are uplifting? I wonder how many other denomination funerals you have attended? As a funeral professional who has attended hundreds of funerals I find you comment to be in serious error. Other denominations also have the reputation of being uplifting and filled with hope. I invite you to attend a Catholic mass, three lutheran funerals (one for each synod) and a couple of pentacostal funerals and then make the same comment. To say there is a "sharp" contrast is showing that you are overcome with grief. It is a false statement.

Anonymous said...

I need to admit that I wrote the third comment. I stand by it. I have met Floyd Larson. I know him to be everything that Jeff said. I man I would call a friend of all and everybody. A kind and Christ-like man.

Mormanity said...

I've deleted the offending sentence from my post. Perhaps my reaction to non-LDS services was tainted by my sense that they didn't understand the hope that Temple marriage brings or, in some cases, the physical reality of the resurrection and the reunions that await us. Perhaps the sense of emptiness at the end was my errant reaction. Sorry about that.

Mormanity said...

I did a quick Web search for funeral sermons, and seemed to find ones that only reinforced my unfortunate stereotype of those outside the Church. Look at the outline of the four funeral sermons marketed at preachingtodaysermons.com. None seems to deal with the power of the Atonement and reality of the Resurrection.

Another example I found was http://www.kingofpeace.org/sermons2004-2005/chrisduncan-funeral.htm.

If you ever encounter any, I'd love to see some online examples of non-LDS funeral sermons that any of you feel were particularly helpful and inspiring. This will help me overcome my stereotype based on very limited data. As you suggest, surely we do not have a monopoly on uplifting funeral sermons that inspire and nurture hope in the reality of the Resurrection and of joyful future reunions with our loved ones.

Anonymous said...

You certainly did not have to delete any sentence. A good preacher will prayerfully consider his/her remarks ahead of time, and do their best to reach the congregation. There have certainly been many great talks in LDS funerals.

We also have to remember that many ministers are "governed" by their church council, and make very little reference to Deity and the "stories" that are made up in the Bible.

Bookslinger said...

Oh my. PreachingTodaySermons.com charges $4.95 each to download those sermons.

I see Jeff's point though. A couple of my LDS friends have told me that they are in demand for preaching funerals for non-members because they said a few words once, then word got out how uplifting they were.

I can't remember going to a Catholic funeral, but Protestant funerals seem to run the gamut of weeping and wailing sob-fests to New Orleans style celebrations.

I attended one funeral held at an "apostolic" inner-city church for the brother of a friend. My friend was the only LDS in his family, so a few of us from the singles Family Home Evening group accompanied him to support him.

They had 3 preachers, an evangelist, and 2 singers; it was a real production and a show. Hand-waving, shaking in the aisle, preacher getting the audience all worked up, organist punctuating his remarks. But if that's what the family wants, that's fine.

The LDS funerals I've been to have been sort of like cross-stake and multi-ward reunions.

There's a 70-something year old man in our ward whom I admire. His son-in-law passed away. He invited the ward to the viewing, there was an announcement in sacrament meeting and in priesthood opening session. So I went to fellowship him.

His son-in-law had tons of friends in and out of the church. The viewing turned more into a meet-and-greet, and the members from my ward introduced me to almost everyone who wasn't in our ward. If it wasn't for the casket and the receiving line, you wouldn't have known it was a viewing.

I went with the intention of being their for the ward member, but I felt a little guilty later on for enjoying myself in the social situation.

Anonymous said...

Funeral visitations often become "social situations". I was at one this evening. It started out very sad as the family saw the deceased in the casket. But then many old family friends came in. The children of the deceased saw many neighbors they had not seen in years.

Then the Knights of Columbus came in together and a short prayer service was held. A real celebration of life.

Anonymous said...

I visited a Catholic mass recently. I was impressed by the signs and tokens used by the Priest and congregation. They are definately searching. They want to use signs. I hope we can teach them some day.

Anonymous said...

I attended a Catholic funeral for a long time neighbor recently. I was moved at the beauty of it and uplifted by the words spoken. Although I am not Catholic and it seemed that most in the congregation were not as well, I did not feel I was being preached at. It was a day for remembering the deceased, his life, and our relationship with him.
I hope that your funeral turned out the same Jeff.

Anonymous said...

I realize I am just a wee bit late ; ) in commenting on this - but I had to. I found this blog entry while looking for a support group for young Mormon widows (so far haven't found any....) but had to stop and read because it might be helpful.

I am a LDS member with many relatives who are Catholic including some religious and I have to say that as a relative of Catholics who has attended many a Catholic funeral mass I have never attended one where there was NOT an emphasis on the resurrection. The entire focus of a Catholic funeral mass is on the joy of the home-going of the deceased and the delights of heaven and eventual resurrection for the deceased. (I also must insert here that the Catholics do not see what happens as signs and tokens. They see what happens as part of a sacrament that is as sacred to them as temple sealings are to us. The actions that take place on the altar are a process by which they believe that Christ actually comes to exist at the mass. I think that if any Catholic were ever approached with the statement of "We have much in common - because you believe in signs and tokens." they would shut down tight and dismiss immediately what message we have to give them.)

I do have to say that the non-mainline Protestant/independent Protestant/"Christian" funerals that I have attended are to me at least very disturbing wallows in misery and carrying on about how lost and sorrowful the survivors are without their beloved and also are frequently used as opportunities to preach at those who rarely attend to scare them into attendence. Forgive me - but BLECH! Not what I could ever believe in! Not what I could have stood when my husband died either!