From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Sullivan, Clyde E.
From an LDS perspective, suicide is a moral issue and is to be handled with particular sensitivity and human caring. The General 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.
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.
CLYDE E. SULLIVAN