An intentionally late Fathers’ Day post

My father has never been antagonistic to the church exactly. For all intents and purposes, he appears to have been indifferent. He never objected when we went, attended when something important happened, and generally refrained from criticizing the aspects of it to which he objected. He has reportedly even told neighbors that if he was to join any church, it would likely be ours.

We have had a whole slew of missionaries come through the house. Sometimes he has liked them; usually he hasn’t. He’ll generally tolerate them through a meal, sit and listen to their lesson, and then disappear into a back room until they leave. I don’t think that he has ever taken a discussion; it is possible that he has never been interested.

During my mission, he started attending church with my Mom (it was really the first time she had had to go alone in a long time). Mom reported that he had started reading the Book of Mormon. In our eagerness for this development (long overdue in all our minds), we peppered Dad with so many questions (mine via mail) that we quickly overwhelmed his patience and he stopped reading to get us off his back. That period may have been the closest my father will ever come to joining the church and his family contributed to his turning away then.

We are told that there is no such thing as a death-bed confession. The spirit that inhabits the body in this life will be the same that in the next. We’ve also been told that this life is the time. My father is forty years older than me, has suffered pancreatitis and a heart attack. We are often told that there is hope for the parents of wayward children, what is there for the children of wayward parents?

I am not sure that my father will join the church before he dies. I used to be sure he would, but his mortality bears more and more upon me. He still isn’t interested in the church after 40 some-odd years in close contact with it. I (and the other family members) often wonder if it is our fault. Was there something we could have done to be a better example? Have we failed to offer testimony when the moment was right? Did our reaction that one time (when I was on my mission) ruin his one chance? If he dies, will he get another?

The scriptures are sufficiently ambiguous on this point. The whole point of the work for the dead is to help those who couldn’t help themselves. Does my father fall in this category? He has known about the church for a while; does his refusal to learn more constitute a rejection of knowledge or a simple ignorance of how important the gospel is? I know that he knows that we think the Gospel is important, but that’s hearsay right?

If my father dies before he joins the church, we will have him baptized vicariously. He knows this. Does his refusal now mean that he will refuse then? If we do it, are we disrespecting his wishes? Or giving him an opportunity that he couldn’t take advantage of in life?

This is a lot of mystery surrounding our beliefs about the work among the dead. I’ll be posting on it on occasion for the next little while, if for no other reason than that I am worried about my dad. I love him and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with him for an eternity or two.

  • Anonymous

    When Joseph was giving instructions on Baptisms for the Dead he stated:”There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, which hath no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. There is a way to release the spirits of the dead; that is by the power and authority of the Priesthood-by binding and loosing on earth. This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation.” (DHC  4:424-426)I like that. Posted by J. Stapley

  • Anonymous

    My wife grew up in almost the exact same situation and has the same questions as you do. That is to say, we don’t know the answers to some very difficult questions. I mean, it’s nice and all to talk about the Plan in the third person, but when someone you love doesn’t squeeze into your idea of exaltation, it makes it much more difficult to take in. Posted by Rusty

  • Anonymous

    I think every person has to make a choice eventually, and I don’t think Dad has yet… he has been procrastinating, and may continue to do so until after this life. But I think eventually he will have to make a definitive stand for or against Christ, Joseph, and the Church. Hopefully we can set a good enough example for him that when that defining moment comes, he will feel “enticed” to choose eternal life.I dont’ think our efforts (or lack of efforts) over the years have “ruined his one chance” although pushing him too hard (or not hard enough) may certainly have delayed the process. But it would hardly be fair to make his opportunity for eternal salvation depend solely upon us, his imperfect family. I think we should try to do what we can, as guided by the Spirit, but ultimately God has the responsibility to find a way to present the message to him in a pure form, unencumbered by the burden of predjudices and our human frailties, so that he can decide based on the merits of the gospel, not on the foibles of his family. Whether this message will be delivered in this life or the next, I do not know. One of us might be the messenger, or it could be a complete stranger. Or a heavenly visitor. But Ihave not given up hope. Posted by Rob


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