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In Theory

May 29, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 will be observed Monday. Americans will be remembering U.S. servicemen and women who have fallen while fighting their nation’s wars. Most of these people died in their 20s and 30s. Some were even as young as 18 or 19.
From a religious and/or spiritual perspective, in your opinion what does dying violently at such a young age do to one’s soul?

As a Marine Corps veteran with a grandson serving in Iraq, I become emotional when I think of those who have made the supreme sacrifice to preserve our freedoms and the freedoms of people in far-off lands. In the last century, only one nation in the world has been willing to lay down hundreds of thousands of lives and take no land in its victory.

We honor those who have served and pray for those now serving.

In a theological sense, our lives on this Earth are but a phase of our existence. Latter-day Saints believe we lived with our Heavenly Father before we came to this Earth, have entered the second phase of our existence through birth, and at death, “graduate” to the eternal realm where we will continue our pattern of growth.

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It is a painful experience to have a loved one taken at a young age, regardless of the cause. However, the soul is eternal, so the manner of death or the age at which it occurs is irrelevant. Since the family is eternal, there will be and has been a great reunion at anyone’s passing.

Tom Thorkelson
director of Interfaith Relations, Orange County Council
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The most profound spiritual teaching is that more than we are a body that has a soul, we are a soul that has a body. The soul, not the body, is the essence of who we are and what we may aspire to be.

Though we are physical beings who share much in common with the beasts of the field, man is endowed with that unique dimension of the soul that links him to Heaven. It is through the soul that we know there is a God Who created us in His image, Who endows us with free will, and Who commands us to arise to our highest potential.

Whether one dies violently at a young age or peacefully in the fullness of age, Judaism believes the soul that God breathed into us, that which we truly are, returns home to God’s eternal presence after our brief visit on Earth.

Rabbi Mark S. Miller
Temple Bat Yahm
Newport Beach

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