Mormon in the Real World
I’m taking a course on Death & Dying. Our last period focused on murder, mass murder, natural disasters, serial killers, and suicide. It wasn’t the most uplifting class. We watched a documentary titled “The Bridge”. The directors set up cameras to record a year of death at one of the top suicidal destinations in the world, The Golden Gate Bridge of San Fransisco, California. It broke my heart to watch these people jump, hear their stories, and see the grief experienced by their loved ones. What hope is there for those who choose such a bitter end?
The majority of suicides are committed by people who are mentally ill or disturbed on some level. One woman on the film suffered from depression and schizophrenia, another case was about a boy who attempted but miraculously survived and was later diagnosed as being bipolar. They were both very troubled individuals.
The story of the surviving boy was interesting. He realized a moment after jumping that he didn’t want to die. The thought came into his mind to readjust his body in mid-air to approach the water feet first, in a sitting position (turns out this is the safest way to hit water at 147 miles/hr.). He did so, but was still badly injured upon impact.
He had just enough strength to surface when he felt something bump up against his foot and thought, “Great, I’ve survived the bridge to be attacked by sharks” and quickly lost pace with reality. He later discovered the bump on his leg was a seal that circled around him, keeping him afloat until the Coast Guard came. He would have died otherwise. He believes God saved him.
Many of us have heard Christianity’s blanket view on suicide, “If you take your own life you are doomed to spend all eternity in Hell.” I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
It’s amazing to me that some people view God as a ferocious being who strikes in furious wrath at sinners. I see him as a Father figure who loves us and provided us with a Savior who atoned for our sins so we may return to Him. He is about mercy and love.
I don’t think God wants to hurt or condemn us, rather He wants to lift and help us. I believe this compassion and understanding extends to those who woefully choose suicide. They too are His children. I’m not saying “Hell” (aka Telestial Kingdom) isn’t a possibility, but I don’t believe it’s the rule, either. Some understand the gravity of their actions and have little care beyond their selfish act. Others do not. I can’t imagine a Heavenly Father who would place a mentally ill person under such judgement.
There is a great article titled, “Suicide: Some things we know, and some we do not” by Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of our Church:
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? [. . .]
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. 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 emulating the Savior in every aspect of our lives.
I believe God will judge in fairness and if possible, provide them with further opportunity to repent, grow, and continue on their journey. I encourage you to read the full article, it’s amazing and may be of some comfort if you have lost someone in this manner. My heart goes out to you and yours.