Last week, we addressed this question from a reader about Mormon belief regarding suicide. Not knowing at the time what specific concerns spurred this question on such a tender and difficult subject, we wanted first to address those who may be struggling with thoughts of wanting to take their own life. We will say again that we urge anyone with such struggles to realize that there are people who care, to know that they are not alone, and to seek help from others…and from God.
This week, we address the question of what happens to those who commit suicide, as there are often concerns about the eternal situation of someone who takes their own life.
Today, we share some quotes and links for anyone wondering about this question.
First, in this article, Elder M. Russell Ballard (a current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) shares quotes and thoughts that help explore this question further. He says:
I feel that judgement for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think…. I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.
When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth….Suicide is a sin—a very grievous one, yet the Lord will not judge the person who commits that sin strictly by the act itself. The Lord will look at that person’s circumstances and the degree of his accountability at the time of the act.
Elder Ballard also shares a quote from Joseph Smith:
“While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. … He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. … We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgement [sic] or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 218.)
Elder Ballard reminds us that we ought not use this doctrine about the Lord’s perfect mercy and judgment to justify sin. But he also teaches us that progress continues even after death.
Of course, this gives us no reason to excuse ourselves in committing sins, nor will the Lord excuse us, if I understand correctly. We must constantly strive to do our best in following the example of the Savior in every aspect of our lives. At the same time, however, let us rememberthat spiritual growth comes ‘line upon line,’ that the key—in the spirit world as well as in mortality—is to keep progressing along the right path.
In addition to sharing these and other doctrinal reflections, Elder Ballard also includes a few personal experiences from people in his article.
We encourage anyone wondering about this question to read and ponder his article.
We also include a couple of links to others’ experiences here. As we do, we reiterate something Elder Ballard said as a preface to the experiences of others that he shared. He said:
I must point out that individual spiritual experiences of Church members do not determine Church doctrine.
Understanding this reality, we do feel there is much that can be gained from reading others’ thoughts and feelings and experiences as they have sorted through this question and the pain that results from a loved one taking his/her own life. Perhaps some of their perspectives may ring true for those who are wondering about these questions.
My Son’s Suicide: Seeking Gospel Perspectives: A woman shares gospel perspectives and experiences that helped her sort through her own guilt, and through her grief and worry. Elder Ballard’s words brought her great comfort and perspective. She also shares how a deeper understanding of the Savior’s Atonement helped her sort through the thoughts about the seeming unfairness of life and circumstances.
With all the heartfelt reflection on the Savior’s mercy, love, and perfect judgment that He will give us, she also shares these poignant
I don’t think for a minute that all is peace and serenity on the other side for someone who commits suicide. This dangerous myth has sometimes spawned more suicide in the aftermath. Death does not shield us from the consequences of our actions or the sorrow for sin necessary for repentance….No matter how much comfort there may be in the Savior’s mercy and goodness to those who choose to take their own lives, I feel that Brian would tell us now that the most important decision any of us can make is to stay the course, finish the race, endure to the end. Only God knows when we have learned all we were sent here to learn and served all those He has sent us to serve. I can’t help but feel that Brian’s pain would be deepened, his regrets magnified greatly, should any of his friends or relatives choose a similar “way out.”
She ends with lessons she feels she her son taught her in life and death — lessons that are helping her continue to seek God more and to seek to be more like Him.
We Believe: Perspective: A couple experiences hope and healing as they have temple work performed for their adult son who had committed suicide. This essay reiterates the principle that life does continue after death, and so does the potential for progress.
Again, reiterating what others quoted here have said, truths such as this should not lead us to justify ourselves or others in sin. But knowing that life and progress do continue after this life can bring hope for those wondering about a love one’s life cut short by suicide.
If you are wondering about general Mormon teachings about what happens after death, see here and here for a couple of articles on the topic written by Church members. For official Church material on the subject, we recommend searching at lds.org on topics like “plan of salvation” or “life after death” or watch videos on topics such as this at mormon.org.
Many of these same words of truth and comfort were said at my brother-in-law’s funeral after his suicide and I appreciate seeing them here again today. Thank you.