Funeral, Eulogy, and Memorial Talks
TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM BERMAN PAINTER
[Talk given by John E. Enslen at White Chapel Montgomery, Alabama, February 10, 1975.]
[Background Note: William Berman Painter was a relatively recent, middle-aged convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was a long-time employee of the State of Alabama, working for the Department of Public Safety. He had worked as a state trooper and served as a body guard for Governor George C. Wallace. In the latter part of his career, he was an internal investigator for Alabama’s law enforcement agencies.
He was highly respected by his co-workers and others, and the large chapel inside of White Chapel in the capital city of Montgomery was full to capacity. At least 90% of those present were not members of the Church. Many present were state law enforcement officials. My friend and future Regional Representative James Paul Jensen was in attendance.
I had been in the Church less than two years when I gave this talk, and I consider it to be the first major gospel-related talk that I gave to a substantial number of non-members. Here in the South, the opportunity to speak to non-members is presented to LDS members at funerals more than on any other type of occasion.
I studied diligently in my preparation for the talk, laboring over a period of several days. I was still awake and preparing the talk at 2:00 a.m. the day of the funeral. This was prior to the advent of computers.
We Latter-day Saints were members of the Montgomery District of the Florida Tallahassee Mission at the time. The stake would not be formed until the ensuing November, and the Alabama Birmingham Mission would not be formed until early 1979. At the time of his death, Painter was a faithful member of the Montgomery Second Branch where Dianne and I had attended until the Wetumpka Branch was organized in October of 1974.
The branch president was President _____Harrison.
It was an unexpected honor for me to be called upon to speak at his funeral. There was a wonderful Spirit that gave force to my words. The attendees were very attentive, even if motivated by a high degree of curiosity about the Mormons and their friend who had decided late in life to become one. I still remember a subsequent telephone conversation from an interested non-member lady who attended the funeral and wanted to know more of our beliefs.
Here below is the funeral address:]
My Dear brothers and sisters, I am thankful to the Painter family and to President Harrison for the honor of addressing you today. This is truly a humbling experience for me. I esteem Brother Painter’s friendship most highly and I pray that my remarks will be suitable to this solemn occasion and of some comfort to the Painter family.
To the feeble mind of man, Brother Painter’s departure seems untimely and inappropriate, but the Lord states, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Brother Painter has been called to labor in another mission field, a portion of his labors being to prepare the way for his family’s reunion with him. Our knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ is especially invaluable to us at a time such as this, and it is to just a few of the concepts of this great gospel that I address my primary remarks. These are the things which were embraced by William Berman Painter in his lifetime. It is neither my intention nor desire to offend any man in his faith, but I declare these things to you as truth and without reservation. May I share with you some of the beliefs which Brother Painter maintained as a convert member to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Brothers and sisters, where did we come from? What is our origin? Did our existence merely begin at birth or does it lie elsewhere? Listen to what the saints have been taught by the Prophets through the ages, all from the King James Version of the Bible:
Numbers 16:22 - “And it they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?”
Numbers 27:15-16 - “And Moses spake unto the Lord saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.”
Ecclesiastes 12:7 - “Then shall the dust return to earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
Jeremiah 1:4-5 - “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
John 3:13 - “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man which is in heaven.”
Acts 17:28 - (referring to God) “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
Hebrews 12:9 - “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”
From the 38th chapter of Job we read: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Who were these Sons of God who were shouting for joy before the foundations of the earth? Why were they shouting for joy? Those sons of God were you and I, shouting for joy because unto us was revealed the PLAN OF SALVATION AND EXALTATION, whereby we might come to this earth and be tested in the exercise of our free agency, to choose between good and evil.
At mortal birth we each became composed of two united parts. One, a tabernacle of flesh which is a combination of the same elements which make up the dust of the ground. Secondly, a unique personality of spirit direct from the presence of our Father in Heaven. It is the spirit which gives animation and intelligence to our mortal bodies of clay.
Our reference to one another as brothers and sisters is literal. We are all children of our Father in Heaven. Man is of divine origin. He has within himself the embryonic seeds of Godhood. Our Heavenly Father is truly “Our Father which art in Heaven.” Is it any wonder then that He gives unto us a commandment: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” God loves us so much that he has granted to us through a divine plan the opportunity to become like him.
Then why do we come to dwell upon this earth? The reasons are many. Without the experience of mortality, our progress toward perfection would be halted. A spirit cannot know physical pain. A spirit cannot be baptized. A spirit cannot marry and have children. A spirit cannot know joy and happiness in its fullness. We are here to gain wisdom and knowledge which shall rise with us in the resurrection and be put to greater use. We are here to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are here to take on physical bodies as a part of the process of attaining a mortal resurrected body. We are here to learn eternal principals of righteousness, one of which is to live and walk by faith, the full nature of previous existence is not known to us. For faith is not having a perfect knowledge. We are here to see if we will do all the things whatsoever the Lord commandeth of us.
The most important thing we can do in this life is keep the commandments, and I refer not only to the Mosaic commandments, but to the commandment to love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, mind, might and soul; to love thy neighbor as thy self; to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of salvation; this sacred ordinance; to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; to forsake evil ways and endure to the end. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
We have discussed where we came from and why we are here. This leaves the question: Where are we going? We know that death is a surety for us all. No man escapes it. In death there is nothing to fear if we have a knowledge of its implications. It is part of the process by which our minds and bodies become perfected. Death does not end our conscious existence, neither does it suspend it. Death is the reverse operation of birth. Our spirits depart from our mortal bodies of flesh.
Do the scriptures bear this out? Next to Christ on the cross was a thief who had transgressed the laws of God and man, and who recognized his own guilt. He was a man about to die in his own sin. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Is going to paradise and returning to our Father in Heaven the same thing? Let us examine the scriptures further. After three days the resurrected Christ appeared to Mary: “And Jesus saith unto her, touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God and your God.” Where then had Christ been those three days? Shortly before his death he had told his apostles, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God.” His specific whereabouts during those three days that his body of flesh lay in the tomb is revealed in 1 Peter 3:18-20: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, (not his own, but yours and mine) the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah …”
Is it true then that the dead have a conscious spiritual existence after death? 1 Peter 4:6 - “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.” Every man who has ever lived upon the earth shall have the opportunity to hear and accept the true gospel of Jesus Christ, either in this earthly lifetime or after death.
After death we continue to work out our salvation, awaiting the universal resurrection of every man, occupying this spirit world in various states of happiness or anguish, depending upon our earthly conduct, but still receiving the opportunity to learn, and progress, and grow.
This is a small part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These things are plainly stated in the Bible for the honest seekers of truth. How did Brother Painter come to know these things? It was not by merely reading the Bible. He came to know these things through prayerful study of the revelation and truth restored to this earth by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
By virtue of the conduct undertaken by William Berman Painter during his lifetime after receiving the true gospel of Jesus Christ, Brother Painter bares testimony to you this day that God lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, Redeemer and Mediator for all mankind, the Son of God; that we are the literal offspring of God; that life has divine purpose; that we shall be resurrected unto an immortal body and be united one with another; that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is upon this earth today in this the dispensation of the fullness of times, and that the things of God have been decreed before the foundations of this earth shall surely come to pass.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.