In Mormonism we are sometimes seemingly casual about death: it’s a veil or a mission call to the spirit world. But our actual encounters with the reality of death inevitably change us in ways that are difficult to articulate.
In this collection, Mormon writers wrestle with mortality and its aftermath. A family sings a hesitant rendition of Happy Birthday to a grief-stricken mother who buried who toddler just a few hours earlier; an agnostic son decides he’s Mormon enough to arrange a funeral for his believing father.
Some essays use death as a means to understand faith. One author imagines a world where Heavenly Mother visits her children in the form of their female ancestors, appearing to her descendants in times of grief or pain.
Others address practicalities: how do you protect your children from death while still allowing them to experience the world; how do you get through one more nausea-ridden day of cancer treatment?
Still others delve into death’s questions: does the overwhelming suffering that occurs in the animal kingdom have a function in the “plan of happiness”?
Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always thought-provoking, these personal essays, poems, and stories may never be heard at a Mormon funeral. But they probably should be.
Stephen Carter is the director of publications and magazine editor for the Sunstone Education Foundation. He is the author of Mormonism for Beginners and a collection of award-winning personal essays on spirituality and contemporary Mormonism, What of the Night? His graphic novel, IPlates (with Jett Atwood) won the 2014 AML award for comics. Additional contributors include Phyllis Barber, Richard Dutcher, Angela Hallstrom, Jack Harrell, David G. Pace, Steven L. Peck, Eric Samuelsen, Bengt Washburn, and thirty-six others.