On Saturday morning, 3 August 2013, at the request of my Bishop, I spoke at the funeral services of one of my dear friends. This was the first time that I had ever spoken at a funeral service and though I was thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the life of my friend through humble elocution, I don’t believe that I was fully prepared for the impact that the message that I felt inspired to give that morning would have on my own life, not to mention, the indelible impression that it left upon the minds of his family, loved ones, and other dear friends.
My friend was only 80 years young, and as I spoke that morning, my mind began to be flooded with thoughts about the brevity of life. I was reminded of just how precious our life is, and that we should never take one single moment for granted. We should strive to make each day of our life better than the day before. We should leave behind a memorable legacy of the good that we have done in making even a minute change in the world and in the lives of others. As I spoke, I was also reminded of the declaration of the Psalmist, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4).
I debated for several months since the funeral about sharing the message that I shared that morning perhaps because I felt that it was too personal, but I now feel impressed that this is a message that someone out there needs to hear. If this message only touches the heart, mind, and soul of only one person, it will have fulfilled its purpose. What follows is the complete transcript of the message as given on Saturday morning, 3 August 2013, at the LDS chapel in Annapolis, Maryland.
Good morning. My name is Keith Brown. I currently serve as a Ward Missionary in the Annapolis Maryland Ward. Bishop Card has asked that I might give a few brief remarks this morning, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so, and to be here this day as we remember the life of my dear friend, Robert Kay Chidester.
As man journeys through this life, I believe that in his own way, regardless of his level of spirituality, or even if he professes to be of no religious affiliation, seeks to find the answer to three questions: “Where did I come from?”, “Why am I here?”, and “Where am I going?’ Three very important and profound questions which comprise what we as Latter-day Saints refer to as “The Plan of Happiness”, or it may also be referred to as the “Plan of Salvation” or the “Plan of Mercy.”
In the Book of Mormon, in Alma 42:15 are recorded these words:
And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
This is something that Bob knew and understood well, as was evidenced in lessons that he taught, and in his personal testimony of the vicarious atonement of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father who is indeed perfect, just, and merciful. As I knew my friend, not only did he testify of these things in word, but he also testified of them by the life that he lived and the example that he endeavored to set before others – he was a living witness of these precious truths. Bob could also answer the three aforementioned questions.
First, “Where did I come from?”
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have been blessed with an increased knowledge and understanding of our pre-mortal existence. That increased knowledge includes:
Understanding our literal relationship to God as spirit sons and daughters who lived with Him before we came to earth in mortality (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:24; 93:29). And, it is the knowledge of that special relationship that should influence our behavior and attitudes here on earth.
A knowledge that we participated in the council in heaven and accepted with great jubilation, the Father’s plan for our salvation and exaltation (See 2 Nephi 2:24-26, Alma 34:8-9, and Abraham 3:24-25.) The elements of that plan include: the Atonement and mission of Christ, the creation of the earth, the Fall of man, the plan for receiving bodies and being tested, and free moral agency—the ability and opportunity to choose good or evil.
Present during that council in Heaven was Lucifer, who we know sought to withhold our free moral agency by forcing and compelling our behavior, and thereby hoping to gain the Father’s power for himself. He and those who followed him were cast out of Heaven and lost their opportunity for mortality and salvation. Also present during that council was Jehovah – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – who became the central figure on whom the whole plan depended for its success. His desire was to bring glory to the Father by being obedient to His Father’s will.
In Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19 are recorded these words of the Savior which demonstrate how He obeyed the Father’s will:
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
Second, “Why am I here?”
We learn from the scriptures that great and noble spirits were chosen by the Father and foreordained to carry out important responsibilities on the earth as the work progressed and the plan was executed. I know that my friend, Robert Kay Chidester, was one of those great and noble spirits.
In the Book of Mormon in Alma 42:31 are recorded these words:
And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.
Bob loved the scriptures and he loved every opportunity he was afforded to teach and share his knowledge of the scriptures. For a few years, he, another member of this Ward, Sister Linda Becker, and I would meet together on Monday night for Family Home Evening which consisted of reading and discussing the scriptures. During those times together we were able to read the entire Book of Mormon and all of the Doctrine and Covenants together, as well as have other spiritual discussions. I looked forward to each of those Family Home Evenings as did Bob.
One of the additional blessings that we had with Bob as part of our scripture studies was his vast knowledge of history which helped to put our studies into perspective. He had a great understanding of the scriptures and had a gift for explaining things using few words and simple illustrations. The life that he lived was a living testimony of the Savior that he loved, and set the example for those whom he came in contact with. Perhaps, he never realized just how many lives he influenced for good as he strove to do the Father’s will for his life. I sincerely believe this morning that at the end of his journey here on earth, he could echo the words of the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Third, “Where am I going?”
Bob often spoke of the love of his life – his eternal companion – his wife, Carol. I never personally had the opportunity to meet her, but it was evident when Bob spoke of her, he yearned for the day when they would be reunited, and what a joyous reunion that must have been for the two of them.
I believe that at the close of his mortal life, because of his valiance; because of his faithfulness and obedience; and because of his willingness to endure to the end, he could once again echo the words of the Apostle Paul, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
It is my humble prayer this day that we will all live our life as Robert Kay Chidester lived his, as living witnesses and testimonies of the divine love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; that we will be good examples before the world as His disciples; and that at the end of our journey – this mortal life – we too can hear our Heavenly Father say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” “Well done!” In the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.