It was a shock to hear of Dennis’s death. The last time I saw him, some months ago, he seemed to be in better health and doing well. I hoped he would have long life because he has been such a good example and influence in his family, in his church, and in the community.
The shock was compounded, I admit, by realizing that he was only a year older than I am.
I considered him a friend, but it could not be truly said that we were close. Circumstances never permitted that opportunity. I admired him, and wished in many ways that I could be more like him. If anyone were to tell me that I shared some of his qualities, I would consider it a high compliment and an honor.
His passing is a loss for all of us on this earth, but I am sure he was welcomed home warmly in the kingdom of His Father.
I am equally sure he is prepared to go on serving among his fellow beings in that kingdom—among the other children of our Heavenly father who have passed on and are awaiting the great day of judgment that we will all face.
That is the kind of heaven I look forward to. If I can live obediently so that the atoning grace of Christ applies to my personal inadequacies, then I expect a heaven that offers eternal progress through learning and service. What else would heaven be but a place to build on what we have just barely begun in mortality?
Jesus Christ repeatedly called his disciples to service; many times the invitation was, “follow me” (John 12:26). Shortly before his crucifixion, he told his devoted apostles, “I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). Again, after his Resurrection he exhorted them to obedience and service (see John 21). He continued to instruct them through revelation, and even to call new apostles after His Resurrection—Saul, for example. Obviously, Jesus Christ’s work among the children of His Father was meant to continue after He wrought the promised Atonement through His suffering and death.
If we accept His invitation take up His cross and follow Him, we can expect to serve Him in this life and in the life to come. Why should we expect service to end simply because we go from mortality to immortality? It is the doctrine of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), that those who faithfully follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in this life will have the opportunity to continue serving in the hereafter. This was revealed to a prophet in our day. (See Doctrine and Covenants section 138, particularly verses 57-59.) I believe. God has given me my own personal witness.
This is the heaven I hope to find, one in which there will be opportunity to continue serving, if only I can live obediently until the end of my mortal life, “(showing) my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
As long as I knew Dennis, that is the way he lived. I imagine that one of his first questions on finding himself in his new surroundings would have been, “How may I serve?” I can only believe that our Savior and Redeemer would reward such a willing servant with opportunity.