From The Christ- Focused Beatitudes by Robert E. Wells BYU Talk May 20, 1986
Blessed Are They That Mourn: For They Shall Be Comforted
It may be that pain and suffering from the death of loved ones is really an essential and important part of our mortal experience, just like our own death is inevitable some day. There seem to come a maturity and a deeper dimension and a more profound understanding when we are left behind. The reality of death obliges us to face the question of the reality of the spirit world and the hope of the resurrection. It is through suffering that one discovers the difference between those things that are important and that which is unimportant in the eternal perspective.
It might be that it is a blessing to become more fully aware, through the death of a loved one, that God’s ways are not our ways and that we must trust him in that fact. One of my favorite stories with roots in Islamic traditions illustrates that especially in death we need to look for the hidden purposes of the Lord, which, when understood, turn to comfort and blessings.
It seems that Moses, being in heaven, wondered about the work of a certain angel who was departing for earth. He asked the angel if he might accompany him on his errand. The angel responded, “Nay, thou wouldst not be able to stand that which thou wouldst see.” Moses insisted, so the angel placed a condition. “No matter what thou wouldst see, thou must remain silent.” Moses agreed and the two came to earth.
They left the borders of dry land and went far out over the sea, even beyond sight of land, where they found some humble fishermen in their boat fishing. The angel, unseen, broke the boards of the keel, the boat sank, and the fishermen drowned. Moses started to protest but the angel declared, “Thou must remain silent.”
Next they came upon an Arab boy walking through the sands of the desert. Unseen, the angel breathed in the boy’s face; his blood froze, and he fell to the earth, dead. Moses started to protest but the angel silenced him, “I told thee that thou wouldst not stand what thou wouldst see. Thou must remain silent.”
Then the two came upon a poor home where lived a widow and her two sons. Their only means of survival was the produce from their small garden, protected against the wind and sands of the desert by a tall adobe wall. To Moses’ surprise the angel pushed the wall over, crushing the vines, melons, and cucumbers, which the family sorely needed. Moses could not stand it any longer. He erupted. The angel silenced him and said, “Thou canst go with me no longer. Thou must return. But first, lest thou misjudge Allah who has sent me, I will explain. The fishermen would soon have been captured by a pirate boat approaching over the horizon, and been enslaved, tortured, and killed. This way they die in the profession they loved. The Arab boy would soon have fought with another mother’s son, killing the latter. This way the second boy lives and this one dies blood guiltless. The widow’s husband, before he died, hid a fortune in the base of the adobe wall. Now the boys, rebuilding the wall, will find the fortune, invest it wisely, and prosper. But thou didst doubt. Thou canst go with me no longer.”
When we can see the Lord’s purposes fulfilled in that which gives us sorrow, the Holy Ghost can give us full consolation, and the atonement and resurrection truly become to us the cornerstone of our faith. In the midst of mourning one discovers deeper dimensions of love, friendship, and brotherhood. In the midst of mourning, one determines if his faith is a social decoration or if it is an essential ingredient upon which his whole life is based. It is in the midst of mourning that one discovers the personal closeness of his Heavenly Father and his Savior Jesus Christ and the comfort of the Holy Ghost. As President McKay used to say, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity” (John Flavel [c. 1680], see Burton Stevenson, comp., The Home Book of Quotations [New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1956], p. 1430). We will be blessed in mourning and be comforted as we reflect on eternal marriage, eternal families, eternal values.