How do you know when someone is dead?
When do you give up hope? When do you pull the plug? How do you know when to harvest living organs from a “dead” donor? Most importantly, how do you call someone “dead” when every one of their 5 trillion cells is alive, functioning and viable—and will remain so for hours after the end of vital signs like heartbeat and brain activity?
This is a serious question, and one with which medical science struggles more than you might think. It’s also one that medical science has perhaps gotten wrong for many years.
In most cases, heart and brain activity are two standards by which death is declared. Both are inaccurate, and may lead to living people mistakenly being called dead. Not good.
So let’s talk about your death for a moment. Not the afterlife—not the spiritual realities. We’ll save those for later. Right now, let’s talk about your physical death.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you die from the leading cause of death, which is heart disease. In fact, let’s just assume you have a heart attack right now, while reading this blog. You suffer a myocardial infarction, and your heart stops beating.
What happens next?
Well, if you’re lucky, there will be someone around to notice your collapse and call for an ambulance. If you live in the U.S., you can expect an average response time of about 9 minutes before the paramedics arrive. They will quickly ascertain your heart’s condition and apply electric-shock defibrillation to attempt to re-start your heartbeat and circulation, getting desperately needed oxygen to your heart and brain.
Next, they’ll put an oxygen mask on you and transport you to a hospital. There you’ll be evaluated, medicated and further treated. You have about a 10-30% chance of survival.
But since we’re talking about your death, let’s assume you don’t survive.
What killed you?
Well, there could be lots of discussions about lifestyle, risk factors, diet, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and exercise. But let’s get a little more specific. What damaged your heart and brain to the point that they could no longer function? The answer may surprise you.
You see, when the blood flow stopped, your heart and brain cells didn’t die from lack of oxygen; they simply went dormant. Without necessary oxygen, they stop acting and just sit there—still fully alive, but not doing much of anything. They remain alive and viable for about 5-6 hours without oxygen. Lack of oxygen is not the problem.
The problem is that having been deprived of oxygen for any length of time, heart and brain cells don’t react well when the needed oxygen is suddenly reintroduced. The affected cells initiate a process called apoptosis—cellular suicide—and they kill themselves when the oxygen arrives. This is known as reperfusion injury, and it is what killed you. At the cellular level, your death was ironic because you died from receiving what you so desperately lacked.
And those paramedics who restarted your circulation and gave you oxygen? Current evidence suggests they likely contributed to your death. But don’t blame them; they were just doing what medicine has taught for the last 100 years.
But—there’s a new treatment rapidly becoming the standard of care: Hypothermic reperfusion. In this treatment, the paramedics don’t give you oxygen. Rather, they put you in the equivalent of an ice bath and do all they can to chill your body as quickly as possible, including administering cold fluids intravenously. They MUST rapidly get your core temperature down below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to save your life. Then they transport you to an advanced cardiac center where oxygen will be gradually reintroduced into your chilled system and your body temperature gradually increased over the course of hours or even days while you are carefully monitored for reperfusion injury.
This is the same approach at work when a child falls into a frozen lake, remains submerged for minutes or even hours, and is eventually pulled from the water and resuscitated with no ill effects or brain damage. For many years, medical science struggled to explain what made the difference. It turned out to be the cold (which slows cellular metabolism with its resulting damage) and lack of oxygen (which prevents apoptosis.)
Hypothermic reperfusion is something of a medical miracle, dramatically increasing heart-attack survival. With old-fashioned care you have a 10-30% chance of surviving your heart attack. But if they can chill you in time and reperfuse you slowly, your odds of survival approach 90%.
What a difference.
There’s a lesson in this. Just as a truly starving man will be made ill by a large meal, cells deprived of the oxygen necessary to life will simply die if oxygen is reintroduced too suddenly. It cannot be done all at once.
But when it’s done properly, both heart and brain are preserved. Since these two sensitive organs make the difference between life and death, their preservation is your salvation.
Heart and Mind
Not surprisingly, the Lord also has much to say about the heart and mind. When Oliver Cowdery sought the gift of translation, the Lord told him the following:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:2)And this perfectly matches what the Lord previously told Oliver:
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth; Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart. (D&C 6:15-16)Heart and mind. It’s interesting that these two are joined together so often in scripture (Matt 22:37, Heb 8:10, James 4:8, 1 Nephi 7:8, 14:7, 17:30, Jacob 3:1-2, Mosiah 7:33, Alma 36:18, Ether 4:15, D&C 43:34, 64:34, Moses 7:18, and many others.)
In many passages, the heart is the seat of emotions, motivations, convictions, and desires. The heart holds your purpose. The heart is where you love, and your actions manifest what you love.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalms 37:4)
And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts. (Mosiah 18:11)
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. (JSH 1:15)
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37)
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. (Moroni 7:9)The problem is that, due to the fall, our natures have become evil continually, and the enemy of our souls has power to put evil into our hearts. (Ether 3:2, Alma 42:10, Mosiah 3:6, 2 Nephi 4:27)
One of the prime evils that dwells there is hardness of heart, or the unwillingness to yield to God’s will, admit error, and learn truth. Hard heartedness leads to nearly all other evils. Therefore, if we are to have any hope of salvation, our hearts must change. They must be softened.
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16)
In contrast to the heart, the mind is seat of knowledge, understanding, logic, and choice. Whereas the heart must be soft so it can be changed, the Lord requires a firm mind, that will not deviate from a course of righteousness.
And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. (Moroni 7:29-30)
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— (D&C 84:54)
O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever. (Jacob 3:2)To have a firm mind, we must first acquire knowledge of the things of God. Then, having acquired this knowledge, we must act consistently with what we know. Said Joseph Smith:
Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (TPJS 137)The heart is flesh; it is tangible. The mind is spirit; it is intangible. The two, when congruent, receive the will of God. Your mind must believe and act in accordance with what your heart desires.
If your heart and mind match God’s you are like him.
Gospel Reperfusion Injury
Sadly, we live in a day when many are starving to hear the word of the Lord. It is one fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. (Amos 3:11-13)This condition is to be corrected in the last days, as prophesied by Joel, and reiterated by the angel to Joseph Smith:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)Unfortunately, Joseph scarcely got the restoration started before he was killed, and what he did manage to restore has been largely lost, ignored, or changed to the point that we live again in a day of gospel starvation. What is taught in our churches is too often, as Elder Holland put it, a "theological twinkie"—empty calories with no substance.
The lack of gospel understanding is compounded by a historical and cultural narrative that teaches us we CANNOT be misled. Such teachings lead to the mistaken ideas that “All is well in Zion,” that “the day of miracles has ceased” and that “God hath done his work and he hath given his power unto men.”
Those who believe such notions are unwilling to open their minds, soften their hearts, come down into the depths of humility, or consider themselves fools before God. Their (infirm) minds understand little, and their (hardened) hearts lack proper desires.
Sadly, such hearts, upon encountering a rich supply of truth, harden further and die. Having lived so long with an inadequate supply of desperately needed light and truth, such hardened hearts suffer gospel reperfusion injury when pure truth, like pure oxygen, is reintroduced too rapidly.
Such closed minds reject the Lord’s messengers, thereby rejecting the Lord himself, preferring instead to cling to a body of false teachings that have never brought them the baptism of fire, the ministry of angels, the visions of eternity, or the presence of the Lord.
And when such people do encounter the Lord at His coming, the light of his countenance will burn them as stubble. This is the ultimate gospel repurfusion injury; light and truth will literally destroy all hardened hearts, as Joseph was warned by the angel in his bedroom:
For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (JSH 1:37; see also 3 Nephi 25:1, Malachi 4:1, D&C 133:64. This warning appears in every one of our standard works.)
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thes. 2:8)
Protection from the Fire
The Lord has allowed this situation to persist for four generations. But his patience is ending, and what’s soon coming has the potential to break your heart and cause your mind to doubt. In this condition, having already rejected the light and truth He offered to give you through gradual and careful repurfusion, will you turn to Him then when truth is even harder to detect? Will you receive adequate light in time to avoid the burning?
How do you react to gospel truth? Do you open your heart and mind to what you may lack? Do you study and search the scriptures, crying unto the Lord for guidance? Or do you attack, ignore or shun any idea you do not already accept or that is not told you by someone you idolize?
How do you react to this blog?
Soften your heart now, while you yet can. Open your mind today and consider the words of Nephi:
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken. (1 Nephi 14:7)Do not fear to study the gospel more deeply and learn what you may not know. Fear is not of God:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage. (Mosiah 7:33)
God Always Warns First
Think about God's pattern. He always sends warnings before destruction. Sometimes the warnings are heeded and a people are led away to safety. He is sending warnings now, both in the scriptures of the restoration, and through modern servants who are boldly declaring His word. Will you heed them?
O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice! Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. (Alma 5:37-38)Ask yourself this: Who is teaching you today of the coming destruction? Who is raising the warning voice? Who is pointing you to Christ instead of themselves? Who is calling you to repentance? Who is preserving and defending Joseph's restoration and teachings?
The heavens are open again. God is speaking his final warning, both through servants on earth, and through the testimony in the heavens (more on the heavens coming soon.) Will you heed His warning?
Please don't let that day overtake you as a thief in the night. Open your mind to truth. Soften your heart to believe. Come unto the Lamb of God and be saved. Not to a man. Not to an institution. Not to someone claiming keys or control. Come unto HIM.
And perhaps there's a lesson to be considered in the hypothermic reperfusion technique. When you encounter truth that's new to you, don't immediately reject what may be life itself. Just chill.
Are You Alive Unto the Things of God?
I'll end largely as I began.
How do you know when someone is dead?
When do you give up hope? When do you pull the plug?
This is a serious question, and one with which all humanity struggles more than you might think. It’s also one that we have perhaps gotten wrong for many years.
In scripture, the heart and mind are two standards by which death is recognized. How are yours?
...for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
—1 Samuel 16:7