By Robert P
Virtually all major world religions view suicide as a major sin, with some going further by labeling it a kind of murder—a mortal sin leading to sure condemnation. In my life I have personally known about half a dozen people who have killed themselves. I do not think they are condemned to hell and are currently roasting in some lake of fire and brimstone. Having known them, such a scenario does not feel right, and is not consistent with a God of love as I understand Him. Fortunately, I know there are alternatives.
This is not to say that suicide is not a serious issue, and that there are some reasons for committing suicide that will be condemned by God. There are. But the folks I know do not fall into that category. And my religion gives me additional counsels that bring peace to my soul.
One young man had fallen into drug abuse, and was insanely furious at another man for stealing away his girlfriend. Higher than a kite on a drug cocktail that made him dangerously impulsive and aggressive, he got a gun and shot the man. Except he picked out the wrong guy. Realizing what he had done, he put the pistol to his own head. His victim lived, but he did not. So is he condemned? Here is the counsel of Bruce R. McConkie, which I believe with all of my heart:
“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. … 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.”
This principle is epitomized by my nephew who became suicidal while taking an anti-acne medication known to occasionally have that effect. I refuse to believe a merciful God would condemn him for being under the influence of a drug prescribed by his doctor when he poisoned himself. And there are so many mitigating factors—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. I agree with Russell M. Nelson, who concludes:
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 that led to despair and a loss of self-control? … Only the Lord knows all the details, and when he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration.
Further, I do not believe in the finality of death—it is more of a transition to a world of spirits where we can continue to learn and repent and change. To the extent faulty genes and chemical imbalances and brain injuries destabilized you, those will all be wiped away in the resurrection, when you receive a perfect body with an unbeatable, eternal warranty. So to my good friend in college who struggled with chronic depression and lost the battle when he realized that his grades were not good enough to be a doctor, and he could not afford to stay in school because his last parent had just died, I say that bridge you jumped off of was not the end. You will get another chance. You have made things much harder for yourself, and particularly on your surviving friends and family, and you are going to feel terrible about that, but you will get another chance. That brings me a measure of peace. And that is worth celebrating.