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Suicide

[Note: This Page contains several articles]

by Clyde E. Sullivan

From an LDS perspective, suicide is a moral issue and is to be handled with particular sensitivity and human caring. The Church Handbook of Instructions (1989) says, "A person who takes his own life may not be responsible for his acts. Only God can judge such a matter. A person who has considered suicide seriously or has attempted suicide should be counseled by his bishop and may be encouraged to seek professional help" (11-5). Such contacts need to be personalized and enduring. The inclination to commit suicide represents a crisis in a person's life and should not be taken lightly. Underlying causes should be identified and treated.

The body of a person who has committed suicide is not dishonored. If the person has been endowed and otherwise is in good standing with the Church, the body may be buried in temple clothes. Normal funeral procedures are followed (see Burial).

Suicide and attempted suicide are painful and dramatic aspects of human behavior, but this does not mean that they should not be dealt with in terms of the same basic principles as those applicable in understanding and managing any other aspect of human behavior. Thus, principles associated with concepts of agency, accountability, Atonement, eternal life, immortality, resurrection, and family establish the frame of reference Latter-day Saints use to guide their responses to such behaviors as they occur.

Despite traditions and beliefs that recognize and honor the ways in which value decisions led to the death and martyrdom of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith, there is no support in LDS doctrine for anyone intentionally seeking death.

The ancient commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is interpreted in most traditions to include a prohibition against killing oneself. In LDS doctrine, "Thou shalt not kill" has been extended to "nor do anything like unto it" (D&C 59:6). This extension is relevant in considering a variety of life-threatening behaviors that suicidologists identify as suicide equivalents (e.g., death as a result of deliberate reckless driving) or "slow suicide" (e.g., drug and alcohol abuse).

Suicide prevention sometimes is criticized by people who claim that individuals have an innate right to do whatever they want with their lives, including a right to kill themselves if they want to. Suicide, however, is never fully an individual matter. Even when difficult physical and biological factors are present, suicide is a social act, with interpersonal, family, and social systems ramifications.

A social milieu organized to help people find adequate housing and life goals of learning, loving, and working provides genuine choices between life and death. It is the position of the Church that when there are such choices, the majority of people, including those who are suicidal, will choose life. This is not to deny inequity, unfairness, conflict, instability, evil, aging, and illness of loved ones, but to provide a basis for behavior so that when crises occur, they will be seen as resolvable.

Bibliography

Ballard, M. Russell. "Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not." Ensign 17 (Oct. 1987):6-9.

General Handbook of Instructions. Salt Lake City, 1989.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Suicide

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company


by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one's own life, particularly where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind. Mortal life is a gift of God; it comes according to the divine will, is appointed to endure for such time as Deity decrees, and is designed to serve as the chief testing period of man's eternal existence. It is the probationary state or time during which man is tried and tested physically, spiritually, and mentally. No man has the right to run away from these tests, no matter how severe they may be, by taking his own life. Obviously persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord's; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course.

Mormon Doctrine, p. 771, Suicides

Copyright by Bookcraft


by President Spencer W. Kimball

Shortening life is sin. This temple of God is the body that the Lord has given us. It has been given to us to last a long time. It is a terrible criminal act for a person to go out and shorten his life by suicide or by any other method if it is intentional, by shortening it with the things that will create an early death. That isn't the way the Lord arranged it. He intended that men should live to the age of a tree…. (76-20)

Suicide affects others. Your life doesn't belong to you totally. Your life belongs to your family and to your children, to your posterity. You have no right to throw away your life. Suicide is a terrible crime, yet it is followed and meditated by many people. (75-28)

Mentally ill suicides are not fully responsible. To take a life that we could not give is a sin. To commit suicide is a sin if one is normal in his thinking. We should avoid becoming disturbed in our minds or thinking about it. The terrible sin of suicide is tragic, and it is far more prevalent than we would like to admit. So if the party is mentally well, he has the responsibility to keep himself well and his thinking clear. (75-03)

Suicide is no escape. Suicide can only add another great crime to those already committed. It cannot alleviate any distress but can double or treble or quadruple it. It does not postpone the day of retribution nor of sorrow very long, for one plunges immediately from time into eternity, from mortality into the spirit world, and he goes with all his faculties, his mentality, his attitudes, his weaknesses, and his strengths. (12/16/64)

Avoid considering suicide. A minister acquaintance of mine, whom I knew rather well, was found by his wife hanging in the attic from the rafters. His thoughts had taken his life. He had become morose and despondent for two or more years. Certainly he had not come to suicide in a moment, for he had been a happy, pleasant person as I had known him. It must have been a long decline, ever steeper, controllable by him at first and perhaps out of hand as he neared the end of the trail. No one in his "right mind," and especially if he has an understanding of the gospel, will permit himself to arrive at this "point of no return." (MF 106)

The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.188

Copyright by Bookcraft

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