Recently several students have asked about suicide. The questions are mostly asking how the Lord will judge those who take their own lives. This and questions relating to how the Lord will judge us are common among the youth. When Joseph Smith was 17 years old, he approached the Lord in prayer with this as his main concern (see Joseph Smith History 1:29).
Elder M. Russell Ballard stated: The act of taking one’s life is truly a tragedy because this single act leaves so many victims: first the one who dies, then the dozens of others—family and friends—who are left behind, some to face years of deep pain and confusion. The living victims struggle, often desperately, with difficult emotions. In addition to the feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and rejection which the victims of such a family feel, Latter-day Saints carry an additional burden. The purpose of our mortal lives, we know, is to prove ourselves, to eventually return to live in the celestial kingdom. One who commits suicide closes the door on all that, some have thought, consigning himself to the telestial kingdom.
Or does he? What is the truth regarding suicide?
The late Elder Bruce R. McConkie, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve, expressed what many Church leaders have taught: “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. 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, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 771; some italics added.) (as quoted in Suicide: Some things we know, and some we do not, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, October 1987)
We discussed Moroni 7:16 which teaches that the Spirit of Christ is given to every man. We all have within us the light of Christ which points the way to what is right. Deep down, every mortal has a moral compass that guides us to do good. We also spent some time discussing the meaning of D&C 137:7-9. I find verse 9 especially relevant to our discussion. It reads, “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.”
We discussed several examples where an apparent criminal act could be interpreted in various ways. It is the work of the court to determine if the individual is guilty of a crime, and if so, to what extent. As the attorneys proceed down the path of describing the crime, one of the goals is to determine the intent of the accused. The circumstances surrounding the events as well as the state of mind of the accused oftentimes determine the level of punishment imposed. In the case of suicide, it is impossible to determine the state of mind of the accused because they are no longer with us. To try and established guilt is futile. This judgement must be made by the perfect judge, for he knows the thoughts, circumstances, and the intents of our heart.