Relief Society Lesson #7: The Immortality of the Soul

Christ's resurrectionTalking about immortality and eternal life necessarily requires discussion of mortality and death, which can be hard to talk about, especially in front of a large audience.  I think it would be easier for the women of my large Relief Society class to have this discussion in small groups, so I am going to ask them to divide into groups of about six people.  Each person in the group will receive one of these quotes and its accompanying discussion questions to share with the rest of their group.

Testimony of Eternal Life

I have no more doubt about eternal life and the immortality of the soul than I have that the sun shines at midday.—George Albert Smith

More of my dear ones are on the other side than are here, and it will not be long in the natural course of events before I, too, will receive my summons to pass on. I am not looking forward to that time with anxiety and distress, but with hope and with the assurance that the change, when it occurs, will be for increasing happiness and advantages that we cannot know in mortality. —George Albert Smith

Is it possible for us to gain such strong testimonies of eternal life as George Albert Smith had? If so, how?  If not, how can we  find comfort when we have doubts about the afterlife?

Dealing with Grief

As my husband and I huddled together in the hospital after [our daughter] Mandi’s passing, we clasped hands and pledged that never, even in the most unguarded moment, would words of blame be uttered. We knew that our reactions as parents to the death would largely determine our children’s reactions. Though it is true that some accidents can be prevented, they are nevertheless a part of everyday living. No one is immune to accident; and no one should be required to carry a heavier burden of responsibility than is necessary… Allow children’s own feelings to dictate their actions. Our children displayed a variety of responses to Mandi’s death. One chose to attend school and continue his activities without a break; “business as usual” helped him through the crisis. Others were fearful of facing peers and teachers; they chose to remain out of school until they were able to cope with their feelings. One child returned to school immediately, only to find the experience too much to handle. He returned home and tried again a few days later… Let your children know that other people are uncomfortable with death and will have a hard time knowing what to say. Our children experienced the whole gamut of personal encounters, from the rather blunt comments of peers who said, “I hear your little sister croaked,” or “You mean you are still going to swim in that swimming pool?” to the genuine expressions of friendship: “I’m here if you need to talk,” and “I’m sorry about your sister.”—Betty Jan Murphy, Ensign, Jan. 1984

How can we help children who are grieving? What are sensitive ways of responding to or comforting a friend or neighbor who has lost a loved one?  Is there anything we can do to prepare ourselves for times of grieving?  If so, what?

Purpose of Life

Eternal life is to us the sum of pre-existence, present existence, and the continuation of life in immortality, holding out to us the power of endless progression and increase. With that feeling and that assurance, we believe that “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.” Being created in the image of God, we believe that it is not improper, that it is not unrighteous, for us to hope that we may be permitted to partake of the attributes of deity and, if we are faithful, to become like unto God; for as we receive of and obey the natural laws of our Father that govern this life, we become more like Him; and as we take advantage of the opportunities placed within our reach, we prepare to receive greater opportunities in this life and in the life that is to come. —George Albert Smith

What experiences do we have during mortality that can help us “partake of the attributes of deity”?

“Eternity Today”

I sometimes have said to my friends when they seemed to be at the crossroads, uncertain as to which way they wanted to go, ‘Today is the beginning of eternal happiness or eternal disappointment for you.’1 —George Albert Smith

Our comprehension of this life is that it is eternal life—that we are living in eternity today as much as we ever will live in eternity. —George Albert Smith

What does it mean to you to live in eternity today? How could understanding this principle influence our lives? How can we make today the beginning of eternal happiness?

Things of Eternal Worth

We may have given to us, in this life, a few things that will give us satisfaction, temporally; but the things that are eternal, the things that are “worth while,” are those eternal things that we reach out for, and prepare ourselves to receive, and lay hold of by the effort that we individually make.11—George Albert Smith

What are some things of eternal value that we need to work for and prepare for?  How do we work toward attaining these things?

Causes of Dread

Isn’t it a singular thing that what the world has struggled for from the beginning, wealth, power, all those things that make men comfortable, are to be had in abundance today—better and more clothing than ever before, more food than can be consumed, more wealth of all kinds than the world has ever had before. Our homes are more comfortable. The conveniences of life have been multiplied marvelously since the Gospel came upon the earth, and today everything that we have struggled for we have. Education has arrived at its highest point. More knowledge of the things of this earth is possessed by men than ever before. Everything mankind has struggled for from the beginning of time that is considered most desirable is upon the earth today; and notwithstanding that, there is doubt and dread of what the future has in store. What is our trouble? It is that we have sought the creature comforts, we have sought the honors of men, we have sought those things that selfishness puts into our souls. We have sought to set ourselves up and have preferred ourselves to our Father’s other children.12—George Albert Smith

Do we still experience the “doubt and dread” Smith described seeing in his generation?  Are we still guilty of the sins he described that cause these problems?  What does it mean to seek “creature comforts” or “honors of men”?  In what ways to we “prefer ourselves” to other groups of people or individuals?  How can we avoid these sins?

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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6 Responses

  1. Danielle says:

    This past summer I was able to be in the room when my grandma took her last breath and died. The moment was sweet and memorable but it was also simultaneously jarring. I wasn’t quite ready for death’s blunt force and it caused me to examine my testimony of the afterlife.
    When death was abstract it was very easy for me to believe in rosy stories of a perfect heaven- equipped with rejoicing angels, and ancestors on the other side. But when I experienced it with my own eyes and it came time to bust out my super-mormon-style faith, I surprised myself with my uncertainty.

  2. EBrown says:

    I’m confused: is that couplet doctrine?

  3. Jessica says:

    I think that having a close family member recently pass away much too young and very quickly has changed how I live. I think that we live in a society where the young and the healthy don’t die too often, especially from illnesses or minor injuries that used to besiege humanity (and still do in a lot of the world).

    I do believe that we still do feel uncertainty and confusion especially when it is a child or someone in their young parenting years. I think that I strive to live in a way that will help those around me now, to have a focus to be kinder and more compassionate. So that I can leave this place better thank when I found it.

  4. Mhana says:

    @EBrown — yes, I’m pretty sure it is.
    I appreciate this — I’m supposed to teach this lesson on Easter and have been struggling to prepare myself, both for the lesson and the day. Thank you.

  5. Emily says:

    Thank you for this idea, I wasn’t sure I’d like breaking up in groups for this until I read through your lesson idea. I’ll be using this and some of my own ideas for my lesson this week.

  6. Patti says:

    I like the idea of splitting into group activities because it puts some responsibility on the sisters to be an active participant in the lesson rather than just sit, listen and occasionally make a comment. It is good to have variety in what we do.

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