Missionary funeral: Church leader shares First Presidency’s compassion
‘Missionaries are so dear to the entire church,’ First Presidency wrote in letter to family of Elder Michael Austin Davis
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The executive director of the missionary department spoke Saturday at the funeral of Elder Mike Davis, one of two young missionaries who died July 22 in a car accident on the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico.
“I want everyone to know that I represent a lot of people who are grieving from afar,” Elder Marcus B. Nash said during the funeral in Brigham City, Utah.
“When a missionary passes away, it’s a shared gut blow that we all feel deeply,” he added. “I come to express love, sympathy and support. Your invitation to be on my knees for the Davis family is already happening and will continue.”
Elder Nash, who is a General Authority Seventy, brought with him a letter from the First Presidency and read it during the funeral. He gave the letter to the family afterward.
The First Presidency expressed sorrow, sympathy, love and a prayer that the peace of Father in Heaven will sustain the family.
“We earnestly pray that the comforting spirit of our Heavenly Father will attend you at this difficult time,” Presidents Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring said in their note. “Missionaries are so dear to the entire church. The loss of one is felt deeply by all who know of it. And so, we extend you not only our sympathy, but that of all those who support the missionary cause throughout the world.”
Davis and Elder Tyson Gene Haycock, age 20, of Miles City, Montana, died from injuries sustained during a head-on collision between two pickups. Elder Sam Wong, a General Authority Seventy, spoke at Haycock’s funeral on Friday.
The third missionary in Haycock’s and Davis’ companionship, Elder Britton Jeremie Berrett, 19, of Roberts, Idaho, is recovering from serious injuries.
Mike Davis was eulogized robustly by his family as an enthusiastic disciple of Christ and an action-oriented fix-it man with a fierce love of football. His parents and six brothers and sisters said he had a contagious laugh, infectious smile and the biggest heart. The entire funeral service is available on YouTube.
“I’ve felt so blessed through this whole terrible, awful, tragic experience we’ve had, but I promise you we’ve had the windows of heaven opened and it has showered on our family,” said Mike’s mother, Kim Davis. “We have so many tender mercies and sweet miracles that have happened. We know without a shadow of a doubt that Mike was where he was supposed to be. Mike was so happy. We could feel it surround us. We knew that he was doing the right thing, and he knew that he was.”
One of those tender mercies was the spiritual experience family members had when they first gathered around Mike’s body four days after he died.
“He looked so beautiful,” Kim Davis said. “He had a big old shiner on his eye, but he looked like he just got done playing football. He just looked beautiful. Brian and I cried and were able to kiss him and hold him, and then we had all his brothers and sisters come in. I’ll tell you what, that was the perfect moment. I would give away my home, my car, my air conditioning — and that is super important to me — I would live in a box in a field to have my family and that feeling again.”
She asked those at the funeral to walk with her “out of the valley of the shadow of death” to a mountain top with a beautiful vista.
“You can see so far out in front of you, and it’s amazing. That’s where I’ve been,” she said. “I’ve been sitting at the top of the mountain because I love my Father in Heaven’s plan. It is a beautiful plan. I don’t understand, but I know Mike is working hard, and he is joyful and happy.”
Elder Nash described the plan of salvation. He said the earth, “this oasis of life in the vacuum of space,” was created so God’s children could develop in ways they couldn’t while living with him. Part of that is to learn to know the bitter to prize the good. Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ to provide resurrection and redemption to all.
“He really was striving to be more like Christ,” Elder Nash said of Mike Davis. “Our standard is (Christ). It’s the people like Elder Davis who help us understand, in the flesh, what some of those attributes really mean in mortality. So my invitation, if I may be so bold, with all love from the deepest recesses of my heart, is to prize the good.”
Kim Davis embodied it in her talk.
“If any of you are wondering or doubting or trying to figure out how to be happy, you call the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they have a message that will make you happy, and you will be happily together with your family for eternity. That’s what I count on.
“Be joyful,” she said at the end of her talk. “Live a good life. Be happy and serve others, because Mike would love that.”
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