There’s a myth in the religious world, even among Latter-day Saints, that if someone takes their own life, it’s a one-way ticket to an eternal Hell. That’s simply not true.
Suicide is tragic. If you haven’t been affected by it yet, chances are you will be at some point in your life. I’ll never forget sitting in a small internet cafe in northern Mexico as a young missionary and opening up an email from my father breaking the news that a good friend of mine had taken his own life. It’s when something like that happens that heavy questions arise. What is going to happen to my friend now? Did he just seal his eternal fate? Here’s what one Latter-day Saint apostle, Bruce R. McConkie wrote in one of his books:
“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.”
Another apostle, M. Russell Ballard, echoed Elder McConkie. He said:
“I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think … 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.”
Elder Dale Renlund added that he personally believes “the vast majority of cases will find that these individuals have lived heroic lives and that that suicide will not be a defining characteristic of their eternities.”
In other words, those who take their own lives are so much more than that one desperate decision they made. We would do well to remember that, and we’d do well to remember that God remembers that, too.
Of course, God commands us not to take life, including our own. It’s not a good thing to do, we don’t want to give the impression that it is, but final judgment belongs to the Lord. He knows their heart, their circumstances, and their struggles more intimately than any of us can imagine. And that should give us hope.
If you or someone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, let’s get you some help. Suicide-dot-lds-dot-org has tons of resources, from how to recognize warning signs to recovering from a suicide attempt or coping with the loss of a loved one. There’s a list of international crisis helplines and non-Latter-day-Saint resources if you’d rather go that route. We’ll throw a bunch of helpful links in the description. We just want you to be OK, we want to help you to keep pushing forward in any way we can, and we want you to know that there is still hope for you, for me, and for our friends who have taken their own lives.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (United States): 1-800-273-8255 / https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- Suicide Prevention in the Church: https://bit.ly/2qvg8Oh
- More info on what Mormons believe about suicide: https://bit.ly/2MShtZf
- Is this segment scripted? Yes! Here’s why: https://bit.ly/2Gf3pIS
- Watch more Faith and Beliefs videos: https://bit.ly/2BlOxEB
Here are some articles from the Church about suicide.