Remarks at Reed Irvine's funeral
November 20, 2004
Delivered by James T. Johnson

We meet today to pay tribute to a noble and elect son of God, Brother Reed Irvine. We join with his wife Kay, and son, Don, and daughter-in-law, Young, grand-children, Kristy, Spencer and Steven. other family members, professional colleagues, fellow church members and friends in this reflective time for all of us as we mourn his departure from mortality and, yet, rejoice at his release from suffering and his moving onward and upward in the Lord’s eternal plan. As many of you are aware and as briefly summarized in the eulogies given earlier, Reed Irvine was a man of principle and integrity, a warrior, a stalwart and fearless champion of truth and fairness. We could all benefit from his example. I wish to make special mention of the dedication of Don and Young and children as they watched over Reed’s last months in mortality, as well as over Don’s mother, Kay, in her lengthy recuperation from a serious fall and subsequent surgery.

I am aware that my feeble words will not adequately cover the long and valiant struggle for life and meaning that Reed Irvine waged, nor describe his love for his Father in Heaven and his Savior, for his country, for freedom and for the dissemination of truth. I will always remember his spirit of working to improve the circumstances that life afforded, a commitment which he maintained to the end. In the several visits I made to Reed a his home and in various hospital settings, his brightness of spirit never failed nor did I ever hear him complain of his suffering nor abandon his optimism, nor ask “why me?”

He was a fighter to the end, heart-warmingly exemplified, for me at least, in his hospital bed when, even though the rest of his body did not respond to his brain signals, his right hand did and he would engage in thumb wrestling with members of his family determined to win or as, over and over again, he would valiantly try to throw a small stress ball to one of his grandsons at the end of his bed.

I am honored to have been asked to provide words of comfort and counsel as we say farewell and pray for rich blessings yet to be experienced by Reed Irvine and by all of us as we continue our eternal journey. And let us not give in to the doubt and despair of the world that would have us believe that these 70 or 80 or more years that we spend here below are the sum total of our existence. It is a journey which is “eternal” on which we are embarked. There is no victory for the adversary in death. For this we express eternal gratitude to our Savior Jesus Christ who alone could and did triumph over the tomb and provide for all mankind the promised resurrection.

In the words of the prophets, Whether young or old, “we need not look upon death with any degree of terror, for death is swallowed up by the victory of Christ over it.” (Alma 27:28) “He is our Redeemer, He is the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) In the words of a modern prophet, “Whenever the cold hand of death strikes, there shines through the gloom and the darkness of that hour the triumphant figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, the Son of God, who by his matchless and eternal power overcame death. He is the Redeemer of the world. He gave His life for each of us. He took it up again and became the firstfruits of them that slept. He, as King of Kings, stands triumphant above all other kings. He is our comfort, our only true comfort, when the dark shroud of earthly night closes about us as the spirit depart the human form.”

A funeral to commemorate the life of someone we love, provides us a natural occasion to contemplate the meaning of life and of death and to reflect on our own status before our creator. Much has been said of Reed’s dedication to the truth. In keeping with that objective, I want to share with you now some eternal truths that concern us all. I will begin with a brief overview of our role in God’s Plan of Happiness, where we fit in, and how we should look confidently to the future and know that our Father in Heaven is in control of all of His marvelous creation. We are His children , begotten in His image and likeness. We are His seed and have the potential within us to become like Him. For this to happen, our Heavenly Father prepared a plan. An earth would be organized upon which our spirits would be born into physical bodies, a place where we could have experiences that would teach and test us, a place to develop the godly potential within us.

The central aspect of this new world on which we were to live was to be the Free Agency of Man, the right of choice, to choose to do good or evil or to do nothing, which some say, in any event, is equal to the latter. A war in heaven (as described in the Book of Revelations) was fought over this principle. We were to learn lessons of sacrifice, of obedience or disobedience, of experiencing darkness and light, pleasure and pain, and of sickness and health. We were to know beauty and ugliness, sunsets and sunrises, colors and seasons and to learn to shape brute matter with our hands. We were to bear children and to learn nurturing and sacrifice for them. In short, we were to have opposition in all things so that our conduct, our choices would be weighable by the God of Heaven. In that eternal plan, an all-knowing Father knew ALL would err and become corrupted, some to a greater degree than others, and that we would thereby become subject to death, never thereafter to rise from the grave unless power exceeding our own were brought to bear. And so, long before this world was, one who would not err was prepared, prepared to come to earth, to live his exemplary life, to teach those who would listen, and then to give up his mortal life voluntarily in a symbolic yet most real act, accepting upon himself the sins of the world, asserting his power over death and the grave by resurrecting the body from the tomb and joining it with the body of spirit, opening the way for ALL–ALL--to follow Him. The resurrection was to be universal, applying to the criminal and the righteous alike, but with some to be resurrected to a state of eternal progress and joy and others to a future of lesser reward or misery.

In furtherance of that glorious plan, briefly described above, which, as the scriptures teach, included a pre-mortal existence in which we lived as spirit children with our Father In Heaven, we learned, we inter-related as brothers and sisters, and progressed to the point where we needed this additional sphere–mortality–in which to acquire the attributes which a body of flesh and bones would provide us. And so the process of birth to earthly parents and their stewardship over Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters was instituted. But don’t we have our terms mixed? We were in the presence of a heavenly family. In going to earth a veil of forgetfulness would be imposed so that our conduct would be uncontrolled by former knowledge and we would, of necessity, live by faith. But, shouldn’t that birth more properly be called death–separation from a loving heavenly family–and, then, after working out our salvation here below, after our 70, 80,or 90 or fewer years here–after dying as to mortality–couldn’t that be called birth–a rejoining with loved ones in the eternal realm?

Many of you will have heard this piece from “An Author Unknown” but I repeat it because, at least for me, it sets in context, what has just been said. It goes like this, “I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There she’s gone.” “Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.” She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There, she’s coming.” And such is dying.

I conclude with two important aspects of the glorious plan of eternal life prepared for all God’s children. The scriptures tell us that as the body of flesh and bones dies, there is an intermediate state prior to the resurrection to a degree of glory, described by the apostle Paul as one of three levels, comparable in glory to the light emanating from the sun, moon and stars. That intermediate state prior to the resurrection is called the “spirit world,” as follows:

“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. 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)

Then, at the resurrection, as an apostle has said, “The elements which compose this temporal body will not perish, will not cease to exist, but will come together again, bone to bone, and flesh to flesh. The body will come forth as it is laid to rest and changes to perfection will come by the law of restitution with a restoration effected; every organ, every limb that has been maimed, every deformity caused by accident or in any other way, will be restored and limb and joint restored to its proper frame. It is marvelous to contemplate that we will meet again, if we keep the laws of God, the same individuals that we associated with here in the flesh–not some other being of different form or likeness but the same person we knew and were associated with in our mortal existence, but with imperfections removed and defects eliminated in their proper time, as men and women attain to the perfection of their spirits, to the perfection that God designed in the beginning.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said this, “We see but dimly through the mists and vapors; Amid these earthly damps, what seem to us but sad funeral tapers, may be heaven’s distant lamps.

The Apostle Paul (1Cor 13:12) puts it this way, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Further, he said (1Cor 15:22) “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ...shall all be made alive.”

As with the apostles and prophets, I bear solemn testimony that we shall live again. Though our vision is limited and our faith must still prevail, the Plan referred to above and the resurrection of the Savior, leading the way for all of us to do the same, attested by a multitude of witnesses both ancient and modern, gives us hope and assurance that this mortal life is not the beginning nor the end and the perspective that, if we persevere in seeking and living by truth, it will all have been worth it. This is my testimony and sincere prayer for all of us and I offer it in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.