Today the LDS Newsroom has an article on life and death, following the passing of President Hinckley. I like the quote that they gave from Harold Bloom:
Regarding the undaunted way in which Latter-day Saints confront death, well-known literary scholar Harold Bloom proclaimed the following: “What is the essence of religion? … Religion rises inevitably from our apprehension of our own death. To give meaning to meaninglessness is the endless quest of all religion. … Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Joseph Smith.”
The entire reason for religion is man’s apprehension of death. Hugh Nibley was wont to quote a poem by A.E. Housman on this subject of man’s preoccupation with life and death:
. . . men at whiles are sober
And think by fits and starts,
And if they think, they fasten
Their hands upon their hearts. ((Qtd. in Nibley, “Prophets and Glad Tidings,” The World and the Prophets, 259-67, http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=54&chapid=515))
Man has not been able to get away from death. Man has thought about it since time began, and it preoccupies his thoughts day in and day out. It is part of the “terrible questions” as Nibley put it, that man has made since the start. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? What is the purpose of this life? What will happen to me after I die? What will I do for eternity? It is the subject of much art, literature, and religion since the beginning. If there is one thing that man fears most, it is probably death, and the unknown that accompanies it.
But the Latter-day Saints know differently. We thank God for a latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, who restored the truths of the physical and bodily resurrection, of the sealing of eternal families, and the principles of eternal life and exaltation, and what eternity consists of, teachings we learn about and make a promised reality in the temples of the Lord.