Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ethan and Tommy Larson Funeral

As many of you may know, my daughter Stefani Larson was 6 months pregnant with twin boys. At the beginning of December, we learned that both of the boys had died. Stefani and Eldon then had to proceed with the delivery, funeral and burial of the boys. I spoke at the funeral and several of our friends requested a copy of my comments. I wasn't sure how to get everyone a copy and then decided that this might be the best way.

This time of year, there are many gatherings to celebrate the birth of a baby boy. It is because of His birth and His life, that we have hope in the resurrection. For Christ has conquered death, and in Him, all are made alive.

We instead, are gathered to say farewell, for a time, to Ethan and Tommy Larson. We have faith that one day, in the not too distant future, we shall be united as an eternal family and enjoy their company and get to know them better.

When an event, such as the loss of these two sweet babies occurs, for a while, the world seems to get turned upside down and many things don’t seem to make much sense. Here it is, the most joyous time of the year, and I don’t remember ever shedding so many tears. When I mentioned this to Stefani, she remarked that it was because they had not had their chance as apposed to someone living a full and complete life. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.”

I pondered this and decided that this was not the reason for so many tears. The poet’s words would be true, if wrong choices were made, and the glory of the eternities were lost forever. But that was not the case here. These infants had already received their promise of eternal life. It was because as a parent, I saw my child hurting, and there was nothing I could do or say to ease the pain. She had to go through it alone, not unlike the Savior in His final hours as the Father withdrew His Spirit and left the Savior to complete His work alone.

At every funeral I have ever attended, there is usually a speaker who talks about the life of the deceased, or one who talks about spiritual or religious things in an attempt to promote faith and help those who mourn. I would like to attempt to do both today, but in reverse order. First I would like to share some of the things that I have learned about infant deaths and stillborn births and then tell you what I know about Ethan and Tommy.

When our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, the heavens were once again opened, and many plain and precious truths were restored to the earth. God, once again gives to his children, the information whereby they can return to his presence and have joy in this life. Modern prophets can and have answered our questions and we can have confidence that the answer came from God.

As most of you are aware, Ethan and Tommy were stillborn. Now what does that mean? It means that they had not yet taken a breath on their own. They were nourished and received oxygen through a connection with their mother. In some women the emotional connection is strong while in others it is not strong and in some it seems to be about the same as a miscarriage, each feels the passing differently. That is why the church leaves the decision for funeral services, like this one, up to the parents and to their needs. But the Church suggests that names are given to the babies and the event is recorded on their family group records.

The scriptures do not give much information about children yet in the womb. But one reference I would like to share with you. When Mary discovered that she was with child, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, then in the sixth month of pregnancy with John, who would be called the Baptist. Just about the same maturity in the womb as Ethan and Tommy.
In Luke Chapter 1:41 we read; "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb;"
John recognized and reacted to Mary and the infant Jesus yet growing in her body.

I know that Eldon and Stefani have been trying for some time to get pregnant. They have already had two miscarriages and so they had many concerns about the well being of these children. I was with Stef at the doctor’s office when she approached the 12-week mark, the point where miscarriages become much less likely to occur. I saw amazing 3-D color images of these two little boys. And we rejoiced together as the weeks continued.

And then, some weeks later, something went wrong. The boys weren’t getting the nourishment they needed to continue to grow. Measures were taken to increase what blood and nourishment they did receive in an attempt to give them a chance at survival. During this time of stress and worry, Stefani requested a priesthood blessing from Eldon and me. After the blessing Stef remarked that during the blessing, it was the first time that both Ethan and Tommy were moving at the same time. I believe that they were sensitive to the Spirit and the Priesthood blessing being given.

The Prophet Brigham Young said that he believed that when a mother feels movement, he called it a quickening, that the spirit had already entered the body in preparation for earthly existence and that if children were then stillborn, they would still be resurrected and belong to us. He stated that no work would be required for them because they were right with the Lord.

The prophet Joseph Smith and his wife Emma had eleven children, including those they adopted. Their first child died shortly after birth, they tried again and had twins who also died shortly after birth. They then adopted the Murdock twins whose mother had died giving birth and then later one of the twins died. Of their eleven children, only five lived to adulthood. Joseph and Emma had much cause and much time to ponder, pray and ask the Lord that very important question that I’m sure Stefani and Eldon also ask. Why?

At the funeral of an infant, the Prophet Joseph said: “In my leisure moments I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us, especially those that seem to be the most intelligent and interesting?” The answer he received was this…
“This world is a very wicked world; and it … grows more wicked and corrupt. … The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again. …”

“He said that the parents should receive those children in the morning of the resurrection just as they laid them down, in purity and innocence.”

After the funeral service of another infant, Joseph also told the mother that she should "have the joy, the pleasure, and the satisfaction of rearing her child, after the resurrection, until it reached the full stature of its spirit; and that it would be a far greater joy than she could possibly have in mortality, because she would be free from the sorrow and fear and disabilities of mortal life, and she would know more than she could know in this life.”

We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows all things from the beginning to the end and He provides for each of us the testings and trials, which He knows we need.

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall die in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. Our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.

Knowing all of this does not make the pain or hurt go away. During the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4;)
It is right that we should mourn and feel a loss at being separated from someone we love. The Savior also told us. “I will not leave you comfortless. … Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:18, 27.)

So we have the promise of the Comforter and we have faith in the promise that we shall once again be reunited, not in sorrow, but in joy and happiness on the morning of the first resurrection.

An ancient prophet defined faith as a belief in things unseen which are true.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we get the Lord's definition of truth. "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;" (D&C 93:24)

In order to really know the truth, we must look at things from an eternal perspective. Not just this small piece of time we call mortality, but must consider the existence before our birth and after our death. Before we came to the earth, we lived as spirit children with our Father in Heaven, we knew and worshipped Him and accepted His plan by which we could obtain physical bodies and progress towards eternal life.

Let me tell you now a little about these precious children of our Father in Heaven.
I have a good friend who now serves as a Patriarch. Not long ago he made the comment that as each year passes, the youth coming to him for blessings are better, brighter and more spiritual than those that came before them. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

We know that Ethan and Tommy were saved until this time of the earth’s history. A time when they could be born into a family that had been sealed in a Holy Temple as an eternal family. They did not need to be tested to reach the celestial kingdom. I believe that they had to be among the first of our Father’s spirit children. They were among the most valiant in the war with Lucifer, and were willing to do anything the Father asked of them. Because of their obedience, they proved themselves, in the pre-mortal realm.

The book of John begins like this. 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

In the premortal world, the Savior had already reached the status of Godhood, and while yet a spirit He created worlds without number. There were among Father’s spirit children, those like the Savior, who would always be obedient to the Father’s will. They need not be tested. All they lacked to be like the Father was to obtain a physical body.

Ethan and Tommy were always together, that is why they were chosen to come to earth together. Ethan had a quick and ready smile and was loved by all. Tommy was a little more serious and paid more attention to detail. Together they made the perfect team and could accomplish anything.

They loved the Father very much, and He loved them. That is why they were granted their desire to come to earth together and to be gone from his presence for the shortest time possible. When told that they would not have to be tested and away from His presence for long, they rejoiced. But then they felt sorrow for they knew of your pain and mourning for them as their chosen earthly parents. They sought you out, and you rejoiced with them, knowing that their eternal destiny was secured. You agreed to be their parents and assured them that you would not grieve for long, for you knew that they would be with the Father and that He had important things for them to accomplish. You didn’t realize then how much you would miss them, and how much you could come to love them in such a short time. You understood the Father’s plan for them, and you agreed to sacrifice your needs and your wants for their benefit. You agreed that it was worth the sacrifice. They would be a moment in your arms but forever in your hearts.

On the morning of the first resurrection, hand-in-hand, you will be there to lift the resurrected bodies of Ethan and Tommy from their grave. You will take them in your arms that have ached for their embrace, and the promises of the ages shall be fulfilled.

As an eternal family, you will be there to nurture and instruct them. At first their physical bodies limit the things you can do together. You carry them in your arms, as all parents do. You smother them with hugs and kisses as they learn the wonders of touch and of being loved.

Although they have the intelligence of the ages, they cannot yet talk. The physical body is still developing. Stef teaches them sign language, and they communicate well with her. The rest of the family tries to learn too, but we are very slow and sometimes we stutter with our hands.

Finally, they have matured enough to communicate verbally, and they express their love and appreciation for your love and service to them. They learn to walk and to jump and run. Together you begin exploring the marvels and intricacies of Father’s marvelous creation. The earth by then, will be like the Garden of Eden, and will have received it paradisiacal glory. You start by walking in gardens of beautiful flowers. Hand-in hand, you learn together how things are connected and what a marvelous world the Lord has created for us. You learn that there is no such thing as bad mud, that all mud is good and fun to jump in and make mud cakes from, even while wearing white clothing. You visited the temple often, for that is where the Savior dwells and you love to be near Him.

As the boys grow still larger, you teach them to swim, but without fear of them drowning or even fear for them swimming with sharks. Even Grandma Larson doesn’t fear for them, well, maybe still a little. It doesn’t take long until they are taller than both Stef and Eldon. They are growing until they match the stature of their spirits. They were mighty as spirits, and could grow to be 6’6’’ or more. Soon they tower over both of you. And just for fun they cradle you both in their arms like you have done for them so many times before.

Now don’t think that this time is all fun and joy. There will be sorrow too. There will come a time when as the scriptures say. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

You will find joy and happiness as they start their own families, but there will be a little sorrow too. Sorrow that they no longer need you, as they once did. And not only on this day, but as they grow you will recognize that they need you less and less each day and you begin to dread the day when they will soon find someone whose love they seek more than your own.

I have heard many women while holding their small babies say, “I wish they could stay small for just a little while longer. They grow up so fast, and then they don’t need me any more. While yet small, they hold the promise of the future. They can be anything and their possibilities are unlimited.

Well, Ethan and Tommy have granted that wish. They shall remain small for a little while longer. Then you shall have them again, and the promises of eternity shall all be fulfilled. And you have laid up for yourself treasures in Heaven.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

12 December 2009
Funeral service for: Ethan Dere Larson and Tommy Mons Larson

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Family Blog

Ok, so I got this blog started, but it will be up to Mom and Dad to keep it up. I just have to have time to show them how. But i figured I would at least get it started. Good Luck! Love ya, Stef