The Second Act

 Below is my address I gave at the funeral of my friend's mother.  Be sure to click on the hyperlinks for additional information. 

I’m one of those people who forgets movies aren’t real.  I get so caught up in the story and the characters, I think it’s really happening.  Every time I watch Pride & Prejudice, I still wonder just a little bit if Lizzy and Darcy will actually get together.  

Sometimes a movie will just get so tense and the characters are in such a mess,  I pause the movie.  I feel like I need to give them a break, and I need to calm down.  

For those who have seen this movie, you'll know this is when everything goes horribly wrong.

When I pause the movie, a marker will pop up showing how many minutes the movie has played so far, and how many minutes are left.  Almost always when I press pause, there is 20 minutes left in the movie.  This brings me a measure of comfort because I know that there is still adequate time for everything to become right again.  I press play feeling more relaxed knowing that I’m most likely going to see a happy ending.   

I’ve discovered that it isn’t coincidental that I usually end up stopping the show with 20 minutes left.  You see, Hollywood has a formula for making movies.  It’s known as the 3-act structure. 

The first act is called the Setup – this is when the audience is introduced to the characters.  We are shown who is the protagonist, or hero, and who the villains or antagonists are.  The first act ends at the first major plot point or after the inciting incident. 

The second act is called Confrontation.  This act has what is called rising action.  We watch our hero get into horrible situations.  At first they don’t have the skills to fight the antagonist, but they eventually start to gain some skills and awareness of what they are capable of.  Usually mentors and other protagonists help him or her on their journey.  As they keep getting into difficult predicaments, they begin to change.  The second act ends when it looks like the problems are insurmountable. 

The third act is called Resolution.  This is when we see the protagonist overcome all odds, beat the villain, and get their happy ending. 

Former President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Boyd K. Packer said that our existence is like a play in three acts.  To read his speech, click here.  

Right now we are all living in the Second Act here on earth.  However, we can’t remember the First Act, which was when we lived with Heavenly Father.  We don’t remember the setup.  This is what allows us to be tested and to have faith. 

Because we can’t remember our life with Heavenly Father, many things that happen in our Second Act can be frustrating.  Who are the heroes, who are the villains?  Why does that person have cancer, why did that little baby die?  Why are there wars?  Why is there crime?  Why do some people get sick and die, yet others get better? 

Boyd K. Packer said,
“If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during Act II, you surely will be frustrated. You will understand little of what is going on and why it is permitted to be as they are.Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”

We are actors on the stage trying to figure out our lines and what to do in this second act called mortal life which is full of conflict and challenges to help us grow

Fortunately, Heavenly Father didn’t push us out onto the stage all by ourselves.  In His wisdom he put us here in family units.  These serve as our co-protagonists and mentors to help us on our journey.

What I find so fascinating about the Lord’s plan is how it connects to family.  In the First Act, when we lived with Heavenly Father, we were a family.  In the Second Act, we live as families here on earth.  And in the Third Act, we have the opportunity to remain as families throughout eternity.

The family unit is an interesting relationship.  Think of all the relationships we have on earth.  We have business relationships—bosses, employees, and co-workers.  We have relationships in government--elected officials and constituents.  We have social relationships--friends and acquaintances. 

With those relationships we have choice.  We can quit our job.  We can let an employee go.  We can vote for a different representative. We can let friendships fade away.  But family is different. The only family member we get to choose is our spouse.  

All others are chosen for us--parents, siblings, and children.  And yet despite the fact we didn’t pick them, we love them and will even die protecting and defending them. 

Why?  Why do we love our families so much?  Especially when they have the ability to drive us the most crazy?  I think it’s because we love whom we serve, and serving our families teaches us to love as Christ did.  It’s also why we mourn the loss of a family member so deeply. 

Johnny said after we learned of Michelle's passing, “It will be so weird to walk into the Frary’s home and not see Grandma.  She was always the first person I saw.”  I know her absence has been felt this week and will be felt for quite some time. 

I remember when my mother died many people offered condolences by saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  The first time I heard it I was rattled.  “Loss?  I didn’t lose her.  It’s not like I misplaced and can’t find her.  I know exactly where she is….
her spirit is alive and well, and she’s happy to be free of her broken body.”  

Brent L. Top, the author of several books on death, said, “Death is the opening of another door in our eternal existence.  Without minimizing the sadness that occurs with the loss of a loved one, I like to think of death as walking from one room in the house to another.  Doors open and doors close, but we are not really “gone” at all—we’re just in a different part of our home.”

When I think of Michelle in her Second Act, I remember someone who showed her love by quietly serving.  She had a hard time keeping still.  Even when her body started to slow down, she wouldn’t quit and kept serving.   

Now Michelle has moved on to the Third Act by leaving this mortal life and she is alive and well.  I love how our former prophet Spencer W. Kimball describes what happens during the Third Act. 

The meaning of death has not changed. It releases a spirit for growth and development and places a body in the repair shop of Mother Earth, there to be recast, remolded into a perfect body, an immortal glorious temple, clean, whole, perfected, and ready for its occupant for eternity.”

Today Michelle’s body will be put to rest in what Pres. Kimball calls the repair shop.  Mother Earth will surround it and care for it.  But her spirit is still very much alive.  In D&C 138:33-34 we learn that she is now being "
taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for [her] to know."

She is learning who she is, and whose she is.  She will have the opportunity to accept this gospel and her ordinances can be performed on her behalf by someone here on earth. This is why we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ, good news.

The good news is there is a happy ending for Michelle, and for all of us because of Jesus Christ.  He has shown us the way.  Because of Him, after we die, we will be able to continue loving and serving our families. Not in the imperfect way we have tried to here on earth, but as resurrected beings whom have become perfected by Jesus Christ.  

I think that on days like today, more than on others, we are cognizant that one day our own curtain will close and our second act will end.  Sometimes this can make us feel like I do when I’m watching a movie.  We want to push pause because the pain is too much to bear, or we are filled with regret.   But I testify to you that if we could somehow pause our life and look to see where the marker is, we still have at least 20 minutes.  We are still in the Second Act.  We still can look forward to when we reunite with our families, reunite with our Heavenly Father, and get our happy ending.  

'Of Such Is The Kingdom Of Heaven' by Del Parson

To learn more about our life before we came to earth and what happens after we die, visit or contact the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.