My name is Calvin Andrus. I am married to Burke and Dorothy's oldest daughter,
Janet. We currently live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
The Missing Three Days (John's Version)
... On the morning of the 3rd day after Christ's death, Mary Magdalene got up early to visit the tomb to put spices on the body. She arrived before dawn, and upon her arrival she looked in the tomb and noticed Jesus's body was gone. Being quite alarmed, she ran back into town, crying, and found two of the Apostles -- Peter and John. I'm sure they asked her why she was crying. She told them the body of Jesus was missing and asked if they could come and help her find the body. Peter and John ran to the tomb. John, who was younger and in better shape, arrived first. He stopped at the portal and peered in. Peter, with his characteristic overconfidence, went around John and walked straight into the tomb. The clothing that had been used to wrap Jesus's body was lying on the bench, folded neatly. The body was nowhere to be found.
It then occurred to Peter and John that if they were found at the tomb while the body was missing, the local authorities would accuse them of grave-robbing, or worse, perpetrating a myth that Jesus had come back to life. They decided to leave quickly. By the time Mary arrived back at the tomb, Peter and John were on their way back home. You can imagine Mary's despair at being abandoned by those she hoped would help her. She broke down into tears.
Crying, she walked over to the tomb again. This time she saw two angels sitting on the bench. They asked her why she was crying. (These must have been men angels -- woman angels would have known!) She told them she was upset because someone had taken Jesus's body. Getting no solace from the angels, she turned to walk away. As she turned, a man, whom she supposed was the gardener, was standing in front of her. He asked her why she was crying. She responded with a plea that if he had taken Jesus's body, would he please return it so she could take care of it. The man spoke her name. She recognized his voice as that of Jesus's and reached out to give him a hug.
Jesus forbade her, saying, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father." (John 20:17) He had been dead for three days, but had not yet gone to see his Father. Mary may well have asked herself, "Then where have You been for the last three days?" Good question. Where was Jesus for those three days while his body was in the tomb?
Spirits in Prison
Just before Jesus died on the cross, he conversed with the two theives that were on either side of Him. To one of them he said, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) So while Jesus's body was in the tomb, he and this thief went to a place called "paradise." But according to what He told Mary Magdalene, Jesus's Father--Heavenly Father--was not in this place. Jesus did not go to Heaven to see His Father until he came back to Earth to get his body. This place "paradise" must be a different place than Heaven. It is the place were Jesus went for three days while His Body was separated from His Spirit. It wasn't until His Body was reunited with His Spirit--which is what we call resurrection--that he ascended to His Father who was in Heaven. Paradise is the place Jesus stayed while he was waiting to take up his body again. It is the place where the one thief went after he died.
So what was Jesus doing for those three days in paradise? The Apostle Peter explained this matter in his first recorded letter to the church. He explains that after Jesus's death, but before His resurrection, "[Jesus]" and I quote, "went and preached to the spirits in prison." (1 Peter 3:19) So, for those three days while Jesus was in paradise, he taught the gospel to others who had died. Evidently, after death there is a place to go, for those who have not have the gospel preached to them. They, too, are spirits who have been separated from their bodies. They are also waiting to be reunited with their bodies--waiting to be resurrected. Using Peter's language, I call this place "spirit prison."
From the New Testament, I conclude then, that upon death--and while their bodies lay in the ground--the spirits of all people go to a spirit world that is divided into Paradise and Spirit Prison. Those who have been taught the gospel and lived it go to Paradise, while those who have not been taught the gospel go to Spirit Prison. All people stay in the world of Spirits until their Spirits are reunited with their bodies, in other words, resurrected. Once resurrected, all people are then eligible to ascend to Father in Heaven.
So now what?
Unfortunately, in solving the mystery of the missing three days, another perplexing problem arises. We have discovered that the spirits of those who hear the gospel and live it in this life go to this place called "paradise" when they die. Like Jesus, they wait there until they are resurrected. We have also discovered that the spirits of those who do not hear the gospel in this life go to a place called "spirit prison" when they die. They, too, wait there until they are reunited with their bodies. The problem is this: If Jesus preached the gospel to those who had died without hearing the gospel and then was resurrected and went to heaven, who will preach the gospel to those who didn't hear the gospel in this life and who died after Jesus went to heaven? Who will teach the gospel to the Chinese woman who dies today and goes to spirit prison?
Fortunately, we are not the first ones to stumble onto this dilemma. It turns out there was a Prophet who wrestled with this very problem. He had a vision laid open to him wherein he saw the arrival of Jesus to paradise. This prophet saw a large crowd of people in paradise standing around talking to one another. Then--and I quote--"While this vast multitude waited and conversed . . . the Son of God appeared . . . and preached to them the everlasting gospel . . ." (DC 138:18-19) "But behold, from among the righteous [Christ] organized his forces and appointed messengers, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead." (DC 138:30)
So, just as Jesus set up a ministry here on earth with his Twelve Apostles so that the gospel would be preached after Jesus was gone, so too did Jesus set up a ministry in this place called paradise. And from this paradise, ministers and missionaries go to the "spirits in prison" to teach the gospel to those who did not hear it in this life. It appears, then, that those who live righteously go to paradise when they die and have a full-time job waiting for them--namely to teach the gospel to those who did not have a chance to hear the gospel in this life. This ministry continues in the world of spirits until the resurrection. To this I bear my solemn witness.
Let's talk about Burke now
I can only assume that Burke is now engaged in this ministry. You were all wondering how I would work him into this--it is his funeral after all. He most assuredly is right now teaching the gospel to those who did not have a chance to hear it in this this life. Burke spent so much of his life teaching the gospel--through a little preaching, but mostly by example. His teaching was most evident within his family. I have been the grateful recipient of his teaching. It is only natural that he would continue this same work on the other side. I believe he will be engaged in this ministry until his own resurrection.
And now that we are finally taking about Burke--and the resurrection--I have one experience I shared with Burke which I want to relate.
Every so often Burke and Dorothy come to visited us on the East Coast. During one of these visits Burke and Dorothy and Janet and myself decided to go to a worship service in the Mormon Temple just north of Washington, D.C. Mormon Temples are few in number compared to the local meeting houses such as the one we are in today. Mormons conduct their normal Sunday services in the local meeting houses, like the one in which we are now gathered. Temples are closed on Sunday so those who work there can attend their local Sunday meetings. For Mormons, the Temple bridges the gap between this life and the next. Temples are reserved for special religious activities, like marriages. One of these activities we Mormons have nicknamed "A Session." If you hang around Mormons very long, you will hear them say, "Let's go to the Temple and do 'a session.'"
Well, the four of us were going to do 'a session.' And what is it we do when we do a session? Simply stated, we spend about 1 & 1/2 hours being taught two things. The first concerns those Christian principles that should govern our behavior. These consist mainly of obeying the commandments and keeping our lives focused on righteous activities, rather than worldly pleasures. The second gives an overview of our life's progression. So we learn a little about the creation, the Garden of Eden, and the world in which we now live. We also learn a little about heaven. As part of the learning experience we do an exercise. To make the point that heaven is different than Earth, we move from one room that represents this earth to another room that represents heaven.
As we pass from this "earth room" to this "heaven room," we have an interview which can be thought of like meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. We must pass this interview before we are admitted into the heaven room. (Of course, in this exercise, everyone passes the interview.) And while this may seem like a simple exercise, we Mormons take it with grave seriousness. For us, this interview is perhaps the most sacred one we have, for it determines our worthiness to enter heaven. In taking the interview so seriously, we also feel extreme joy and happiness when we pass the interview and are subsequently welcomed into heaven. We take turns playing the different parts in this exercise. On this particular day, I was assigned to play the part of someone already in heaven who greets and welcomes those who pass their interview. As luck would have it I got to welcome Burke into heaven. So it was at this point, when Burke had passed his interview, that I had the pleasure of seeing Burke's face as he emerged into heaven. It was glorious, indeed! He had a smile from ear to ear.
When I had finished my welcoming assignment, I joined Burke, Dorothy, and Janet as they were conversing in the heaven room. We were so happy together in that room. It is a moment that for me is frozen in time. I will always remember and treasure the feelings of family love I shared with him then. That day I got a small glimpse of what it must be like to be a family together forever. I look forward to the time when we all will be in the 'real' heaven together.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.