Aaron Thoma, a good man and member of our local congregation, passed away this past week. He was not an old man, but he lived with serious health challenges, which it seems caught up with him too soon. I marvel at the faithfulness and good cheer with which he endured these difficulties. Some years back he visited our home regularly as what we now call a “ministering brother.” I am grateful for his willingness to share fellowship and faith with our family at a time when I was not particularly receptive to spiritual things. He was also one of the most regular participants in our congregation’s monthly testimony meetings, in which members take turns sharing their faith in and experiences of the power of Jesus Christ in their lives as they feel moved to do so.
It was only with great physical difficulty that Aaron could get around, and as I reflect on the determination with which he mounted the several steps up to our porch and the steps up towards the pulpit in our church building, the words of a modern prophet enter my heart with special force:
“What a dark valley and a shadow it is that we call death! To pass from this state of existence as far as the mortal body is concerned, into a state of inanition [emptiness], how strange it is! How dark this valley is! How mysterious is this road, and we have got to travel it alone. I would like to say to you, my friends and brethren, if we could see things as they are, and as we shall see and understand them, this dark shadow and valley is so trifling that we shall turn round and look about upon it and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body. My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my heavenly Father, by the power of his Spirit. I want to say to my friends, if you will live your religion, live so as to be full of the faith of God, that the light of eternity will shine upon you, you can see and understand these things for yourselves.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 273)
Aaron was one of those who, as Brigham enjoins us, lived his religion and lived so as to be full of the faith of God. He sought truth, was receptive when he found it, and was obedient to the ordinances of the house of God. After his sojourn and work in the spirit world Brigham described are completed, I am confident he will rise with the just.