Yesterday marked four months since our wonderful Alex passed away. We miss him so much but trust that someday we will see him again. Todd's brother Scott gave a beautiful talk at Alex's funeral. Many people commented on how profound it was, but when I asked Scott for a copy of it, he said he only used notes. So it has taken a few months to get it transcribed (thanks Allie!) so that we could post it here. We are grateful for Scott's willingness to speak of these important things, and we are grateful for the truths that he spoke of.
THE GREAT PLAN OF HAPPINESS – IN FAMILIES
Presented at the funeral service for Alexander Todd Mitton
17 May 2014
Good afternoon brothers and sisters, friends and family. My purpose today is to teach and to testify of The Plan of Salvation, or The Great Plan of Happiness, and how it applies to Alex and to all of us.
I greeted you as brothers and sisters because that’s what we are: all of us lived before as family in a spirit world with our Father in Heaven. And The Great Plan of Happiness is all about family. In Hebrews, in the New Testament, Paul tells us that God is the father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9), and in Romans 8 it says “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
God our Heavenly Father loved us and wanted us to become like Him, to live in eternal joy as He does. His plan was for us to come to earth, receive a mortal body, and learn through our experiences and by the receiving of ordinances to become like Him. Because all of us would sin and because no unclean thing can dwell with God, our Father provided also for us a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would atone for our sins. Jesus Christ was the firstborn of the Father in the Spirit, and like unto God from the beginning.
And so we all, every one of us, chose to come to earth, to follow God’s plan. Here on earth our purpose is to become like our Father in Heaven. We do this by receiving a mortal body and being born into a family. We learn through our experiences to choose good over evil. We also make covenants with God to repent of our sins and to keep His commandments; as we do so, and by the grace of Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins and errors and made clean again that we might return to the presence of our Father in Heaven one day. Again, this is possible because of the gift of Jesus Christ. We read in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, conveys this message in a better way than anywhere else. We read in 3 Nephi 9 the words of Christ himself to the people of the Americas, where He says,
Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin. Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved. (3 Nephi 9: 21–22)
And so here in this life we go through all these experiences, but ultimately all of us must die. And we go to another world, the spirit world. Again, the Book of Mormon teaches us in Alma 40,
Now, concerning the state of the soul [or the spirit] 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)
After this time in the spirit world we all, every one of us, will be resurrected, which is the joining together again of our spirits and our bodies. But in this case, our bodies will be perfected. We will no longer have illness and physical challenges. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul teaches us,
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 19–22)
And with that resurrection we will also be judged; we will stand before God to be judged of our intents and actions in this life. How we have lived and who we have become in this life will be reflected in the reward that we receive. The greatest reward will be to live again with God our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and with our families.
So, what of Alex? What was his place in this Great Plan of Happiness? In Job, in the Old Testament, it teaches us that all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). This was referring to that time before we came to the earth. I am confident that Alex was one of those who shouted for joy. He shouted for joy for the opportunity to come to this earth and to one day become more like his Father in Heaven. Even though he might have known about the challenges this life would give him, he shouted for joy.
Alex was born. He was born into a family. He was born into an ideal family, with a father and mother who had been sealed in the holy temple of God for time and all eternity, and with siblings who would love and care for him; and with other family members, grandparents, and others, who would help him along this path of life; parents who would teach him the gospel of Jesus Christ, to be baptized and to receive ordinances. And Alex received every ordinance of the gospel that was made available to him.
What of Alex’s physical challenges? Elder Russell M. Nelson, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, has said, “Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies. The gift of such a body can actually strengthen a family as parents and siblings willingly build their lives around that child born with special needs” (Decisions for Eternity, Ensign November 2013).
I’d like to remind us of a story in the life of the Savior, in John 9: “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1– 3).
How have the works of God been made manifest in Alexander Todd Mitton? First, what are these works of God? The work of God is to bring to pass the eternal life of men, of his children here on earth; so anything that brings people closer to God, or closer to that eternal life, is a manifestation of the works of God. Did not Alex bring those who knew him closer to God?
Think of the doctors and nurses who had the opportunity to administer their healing gifts. Were those not bringing them closer to God? Think of the deacons who pushed Alex in his wheelchair so that he could administer the sacrament, or others of his young friends at school who pushed him in his wheelchair. Did not they learn to be humble and kind? Think of those caregivers of Alex on Friday nights or other times of the week, who came so willingly. Did they not learn loyalty and charity? Most of all, what of Allison and Todd and Abby? Allison and Todd were saints before Alex was born, but they have been refined in a way that might not have been possible if not for their time with Alex. They have learned patience, and they are filled with the pure love of Christ.
The day will come when many of us will see Alex again, and we will thank him for how he helped us to become closer to God. Surely through Alex the works of God were made manifest.
Alex now is in the spirit world, relieved of the pain and suffering that he endured here. And there also we can be assured he is busy in a new way. Or perhaps it’s the same way, just in a different way. In the Doctrine & Covenants 138 we read,
(T)he faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. (D&C 138:57)
And so Alex now will have the chance to preach the gospel to others. He’ll be able to communicate in ways that were difficult for him here on this earth. And he will continue to bless the lives of many souls. Ultimately he will be resurrected, and he will receive a perfect and glorified body free from pain and suffering. That will be a glorious and joyful day.
I’d like to share this quote from the prophet Joseph Smith: “Those who have died in Jesus Christ may expect to enter into all that fruition of joy when they come forth, which they possessed or anticipated here. So plain was the vision of the resurrection, that I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand and said to each other, ‘My father, my son, my mother, my daughter, my brother, my sister.’ And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me. . . . All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection provided you continue faithful. . . . The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like their taking a long journey, and on their return we meet them with increased joy” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 295–296).
Brothers and sisters, I give you my witness that God lives. He is our Father in Heaven. He gave to us His Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, to make possible our return to Him. I know that Jesus Christ lives. He was resurrected, and because He was resurrected each of us will be resurrected as well. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; that we are led by a prophet of God; and that as we follow the teachings of these prophets our lives in this world can be filled with happiness and joy, and we can receive eternal joy and peace in the world to come. I testify the Book of Mormon is filled with truth, and by abiding by its precepts we can come closer to God than by any other book.
I know that this is The Great Plan of Happiness, the great plan of families. Alex has filled the measure of his creation. May we all go forth and do so as well, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.