Alex’s Funeral Address
July 15, 2008
Written and delivered by Olivia Soderborg
As I was looking around and noticing all of the people dressed in orange yesterday and today, I am reminded of a letter I received from Alex last Christmas while I was on my mission. He said, “Besides baptisms, retention, and money what do you want for Christmas? Remember if it’s clothes we’ll need sizes for tops and bottoms. Now don’t get weird, I can pick out good lookin’ stuff. I just don’t choose to.” I’m sure if Alex could have chosen something to wear to for this occasion, it would have been something orange.
When I found out about Alex’s death I had feelings similar to those described in this passage from first Kings when the Lord speaks to Elijah on Mt. Horeb:
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire: but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
When I heard about Alex’s motorcycle accident, I felt like a great wind had rent my mountains and that there was an earthquake and fire that threatened to consume me…and after all that, as we opened the scriptures and knelt in family prayer, I felt the still, small voice of peace that comes straight from God, who promised:
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
Our loving Heavenly Father has not left me or my family comfortless.
A few months ago I was talking to a man who asked me a question that I’ve thought about frequently since. He said, “I have proof that God exists, but you’re only 23. What’s your proof?” Since then I’ve been collecting evidences in my life, and this past week I have collected enough evidence to make the case conclusive. I know that God is real. He’s been there for me and for my family, filling our lives with peace, understanding, and perspective. We couldn’t have made it through this experience without His love, the power of His priesthood, and the truths of His gospel. I testify that, like Isaiah said, “He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” (Mosiah 14:4).
Wednesday night after spending a couple hours with my family when we heard the news, I was getting ready for bed and decided to open my scriptures. I turned to a familiar passage in Alma I had used on my mission time and time again, but as I read it again I saw it with new eyes.
“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection – behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
And then shall it come to pass tht the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all care, and sorrow.” (Alma 40:11-12)
The Spirit confirmed to me that Alex as well has been taken home to the God who gave him life. He is in a state of rest and a state of peace, where he will remain until he is resurrected.
After the night of darkness, just like the Nephites after three days of darkness, our “mourning was turned to joy, and [our] lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, [our] Redeemer.” (3 Nephi 10:10). Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection – his atonement – is the greatest gift my family and I have received during our time of sorrow. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) And we are taught that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor 15:22) One thing that has brought me peace is knowing that I will see Alex again on the morning of the resurrection, and I’ll be able to give him a big hug and hear him call me “Livi” again. With the hope of such a sweet reunion, I can echo the sentiment: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:55)
Alex had a testimony that God lives, and even though he can’t stand here and bear his testimony to us, his life is filled with “evidence[s] of things not seen” (Heb 11:1) that prove he had a deep and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We can know this because Alex always did his duty. President Thomas S. Monson said, “I love, I cherish the word duty.” Robert E. Lee of American Civil War fame declared: “Duty is the sublimest word in our language. … You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less” (in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations , 620). Alex faithfully did his home teaching and magnified his church callings. He served in the temple, he helped people move, he gave priesthood blessings, he gave his money and his time to people and to the gospel. He was not afraid of hard work, and he always did what was required of him and more. People could always count on him to be where he said he’d be and do what he’d promised to do. Alex also cherished the word duty. He couldn’t do more. He wouldn’t settle for less.
When Alex was born 24 years ago, it was not the beginning of his eternal journey. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that “man was also in the beginning with God.” (D&C 93:29). We also know that “before [Alex] was born, [he], with many others, received [his] first lessons in the world of spirits and was prepared to come forth during this time.” (D&C 138:56). H. Burke Peterson asked this question, “Do you think for a moment that Heavenly Father would have sent one of His children to this earth by accident, without the possibility of a significant work to perform?” (May 1979 New Era “Your Life Has a Purpose”). I know that he wouldn’t. He didn’t. Alex had a purpose here, and now God has called him to another purpose. He’s touched each of our lives and we’re grateful for the person he was and is.
OUR PURPOSE IN MORTALITY
As I think about Alex’s purpose in mortality, I am reminded of Christ’s intercessory prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He stated, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “We do not know Him until we become like Him.” I know that Alex was on the path to becoming like our Heavenly Father, and those of us whose lives he touched have also come closer to Christ because of his example and testimony. Isn’t this the central purpose of all of our existence here: to come to know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to become like them? We can only become like them through the power of the atonement. Elder David A. Bednar taught that “one of the principle purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the atonement of Jesus Christ.” Alex understood this process of change. I received a letter from him one time that ended with a one sentence p.s. that said, “are you converted yet?” Are we converted yet? Have we let Christ’s atonement change us into the people we are capable of becoming?
I have a quote written in the margin of my scriptures which Alex shared with me a couple of years ago. It says, “the big secret of existence is to pray.” The more I think about it, the more I realize its truth. Alex knew God and Jesus Christ. He became familiar with their spirit through prayer.
Alex was transformed through Christ’s atonement. The change was especially noticeable in the letters he wrote me on my mission while he was serving as a temple worker in the Jordan River Temple. Luke tells us that the purpose of temple work is “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) I believe that Alex’s service in the temple did just that. It refined him. At the beginning of my mission, he wrote me a letter mentioning a song on the radio that had reminded him of me. He had wanted to send it to me, but Pam told him he couldn’t because it was of the world and I wasn’t supposed to listen to that type of music. As I neared the end of my mission, he wrote me a lot more frequently and thoughtfully. In one letter he related the story of Antipus in the Book of Mormon and (as I’ve roughly translated from Spanish) concluded with, “Antipus had the charity that many search for in this life. I know that I I’m searching for it. I also know that the Book of Mormon was written so that I would be able to obtain an understanding of the works of Satan and how to overcome them. Hermana mia, fight in the battle against the enemy! Be like Nephi who wanted to shake at the appearance of sin and like the sons of Helaman whose only thoughts were that no soul should have to endure endless torment. You know that I love you carnala, and that the work you are doing is pleasing to the Lord. With a testimony to strengthen yours, Alex.” How could I doubt that he had a testimony, and that Christ had changed him after receiving a letter like that? I think he found the charity he was seeking for. Who of us hasn’t been touched by his service?
As I think about all of the joy we’ve felt as my family has learned and grown together over the years, I’m grateful for the knowledge that we have been bound together by the power of the priesthood, to live with God forever as a family. “Families are central to the creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children,” and God meant for them to be forever. I know that we will be with Alex again. I know that God’s plan is perfect and that Christ makes it possible. I love Him and hope to become more like him through Alex’s example and legacy. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.