I’ll never forget, during one early morning seminary class, several years back now, when a student shocked me with a very inspired interpretation of a verse of scripture.

Often, as a teacher, you try to anticipate comments. It’s necessary in order to be prepared to answer questions, or to help students seek their own answers. Often, you feel in your preparation you’ve discovered all the most important doctrines, the most important things for your students to know, and grasp. You’ve dug up all the necessary “in the moment” information, and then you turn it over to the Lord.

But then, you have those days that no matter your preparation, no matter your own aha’s while getting ready, God has something better in store…and your students teach you. Those were always my favorite days—when my students came up with profound truths that made my mouth drop open and which set me pondering. And this is one I have never forgotten.

The scripture was Doctrine & Covenants 93:33-34. It reads:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

I asked my students, during this particular lesson, to read certain sections of scripture and pull out truths (i.e. doctrines). These two verses were simply in a large block of verses assigned and I hadn’t even focused on them by themselves. Then, one of my students got up when it was his turn to share some “truths” and he said something to the effect of:

What I learned from these verses is that suicide won’t make people happier. Suicide disconnects people from their physical body. And, if a fullness of joy only comes from them being together, or eventually reunited, then maybe if people knew that, they wouldn’t be tempted to commit suicide.

I remember sitting there (because I always sat down when I had my kids stand up and share) stunned. Such a doctrine had never before occurred to me. And certainly reading those verses had never led me to contemplate the intricate doctrines attached to suicide.

In Doctrine and Covenants 138 we find a vision by Joseph F. Smith regarding what happens to people after they die. While studying verses about Christ’s atonement and what He did in the three days His body was in the tomb, Joseph F. Smith received this incredible witness of the spirit world. In verse 11-17 Joseph F. Smith recounts:

As I pondered over these things…the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company… I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided that they might receive a fulness of joy.

Then, in verse 50, we read:

For the dead had looked upon the long absence of the spirits from their bodies as bondage.

Contemplating suicide

Now, if we are to be frank, there are a lot of reasons people contemplate suicide. I myself, during the chaos and struggle leading up to my divorce (9+ years ago now) seriously considered the idea of it. I considered it from a very lucid state of mind, though I was most certainly compromised emotionally and in consequence physically from the stress and lack of sleep and the struggle to maintain my life at the time. I remember perusing all the medications in my house and seeing if any of them could be overdosed on. I did with an acute sense of how ridiculous it was, but I did it anyway.

But, in reality, I knew why I was doing it. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t believe that happiness was out there in the future somewhere. I figured it probably was, though I couldn’t comprehend it at the time. I contemplated suicide because I wanted to get my ex-spouse’s attention. I wanted to find a way to quickly bypass all the pain that was there, at present, and that subconsciously I knew was coming. I wanted to progress through this trial faster. I wanted to shock my ex-spouse into some kind of state where he was willing to see how much I (and our marriage) should mean to him. I wanted to skip past all the unknown drama and hurt, because there seemed to be no end to the pain (both emotional and psychological).

I had never known such numbness, such emptiness, such neglect, nor such personal stagnation. My life was in a horrific limbo. I couldn’t do anything until I knew I had given everything to save the marriage and I couldn’t move forward until the other party “threw in the towel.” And, suicide, in the back of my mind, seemed like a possible way to take control—to force something to happen, because it seemed like nothing was. I was trying so hard to save the marriage and yet it was getting better and it some ways it wasn’t getting worse…it was just stagnating in the slowest possible way.

That contemplation of suicide only lasted one evening. I have the blessing and curse of being incredibly self-aware and nearly incapable of going against my own testimony, my own logic, and reason. Rebellion against common sense and practicality is nearly impossible for me. Thus, so also was suicide.

However, other people contemplate it for reasons that may include: escape, fear, depression, revenge, control, psychological collapse, or despair. Other reasons tend to be more fanatic and are rare and I’m not sure such fanatic and eccentric reasons for taking one’s own life are related to this article at all.

superhero

Bodies are a spiritual catalyst and a spiritual amplifier

However, no matter why a person may contemplate suicide, it’s important to understand that no matter how difficult life “in their body” is, that abandoning that body doesn’t necessary mean happiness. Bodies (whether mortal or immortal) are powerful. They are a power (i.e. glory, Abraham 3:26) that our spirit gains by simply coming to this life. To cast them off, no matter how much pain or suffering we may be experiencing, is to cast off the most powerful tool we have to access happiness.

The scriptures teach us that eternal happiness is achieved first and foremost by having our body and spirit together, or reunited (if we have died). A physical body (whether mortal or immortal) is a godly power. It’s something God had that we didn’t, and it is one of the primary reasons we chose to come into this mortal world.

A body grants us the power to create life, manipulate matter, and do all sorts of amazing things by the sheer act of our spiritual/mental will. In a body (D&C 138:33-35) we can gain access to ordinances and covenants that allow us to take advantage of God’s grace and by so doing seek godliness—to be like God. We can’t do that without a body!

Without a body…none of these critical, eternal things are possible unless done vicariously by proxy individuals who have bodies. And God has made it clear that this is not the best way, though it is available (Alma 34:32-36) because our bodies amplify who we are and are a catalyst to godly development. Simply separating our body from our spirit won’t make us into something we aren’t already, fundamentally. We are who we become while we are in our bodies. Our bodies have an amplifying effect upon our spirits (2010, Bednar, David. A, Things as They Really Are). Our bodies also have the power to help us change, and improve, our fundamental spiritual nature. If our spiritual nature needs improvement and refinement, a mortal body can help us accomplish that faster than eons of existence as a mere spirit.

A lot of people who don’t understand the purpose of life foolishly assume that religion is about simply being a good person. It is not. God’s plan of salvation and the fullness of His truth is about becoming like Him. We can’t do that by casting off our body simply to escape pain or trouble, to abandon fears, to avoid dealing with the very real physical struggles of depression and other psychological, to enact revenge, to seek control, or to escape despair. Our body is the very godly tool that allows us, through perseverance, to transcend pain and trouble, to overcome fears, to conquer depression and other psychological struggles, to gain peace and conquer forgiveness, and to find joy.

To cast off our body purposefully is to give up the power to gain happiness and joy. It does not create the power to gain happiness and joy.

Death comes to all

Death is a very real thing. It comes to each of us in God’s own will and time. It is the doorway to other pieces of God’s plan for us prior to our eventual resurrection. But, even to God death (separation of the body and spirit) is temporary. Through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ we will get our bodies back, perfected and immortal. His body is eternally connected with His spirit and so will ours be. Our body, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is His to take, not ours to cast off.

Martyrdom and Sacrifice

There is only one person, in all of God’s plan, who got to choose (by God’s divine decree) when to offer up His physical body and cast it away and when to take it up again and reunite it with His spirit, and that was Christ (John 10:17-18). And, He did so in a supreme act of self-sacrifice and by a vicarious ordinance to save us both physically and spiritually for eternity. He didn’t do it to escape anything. Rather, He wished that He might not have to do so (Matthew 26:39).

Throughout scripture we see that God commands people to kill in rare instances, to be the hand of justice. We also see God commanding His prophets, apostles, and people to die for His truths rather than to compromise. We also see many people giving their lives to save others. Such instances, it would seem, are the only godly ways to walk purposefully into death. And God is the judge and grants the authority to do so.

Conclusion

What’s God’s feeling about suicide? Even as mortals we understand that suicide is not a solution, ultimately. It’s not something we should choose, and even non-religious people recommend against it. But how God treats it for those that commit suicide? That’s not for us to worry about. It’s in God’s hands.

But, if you are contemplating suicide, or if you know someone who is, please share with them God’s love for them. Remind them how precious and powerful their body is. And that just as their body allows them to experience so much pain and sorrow, it is also the catalyst and godly tool which can allow them to seek ultimately joy and happiness, both in this life, and in the life to come. Remind them that their soul (spirit + body) is, by the grace of God, the tool He has given them which gives them the power to find, create, and seek happiness and joy. Love them. Encourage them to hang on. Encourage them to seek help. To find answers. To take ownership of their ability (that body) to change their lives!

BT

I’ve been given a lengthy question/comment to “respond to” with doctrine. Below is not the whole question, but it is the major portion.

Why would a loving God want any of His spirit children to go to a family that doesn’t want them? Why force a child to be born to a single mom, or a rape victim, or even force a family into adoption? If the spirit has always been around there should be nothing that can change God’s plan.

There is more than this question/comment to respond to. But, this blog will focus on the doctrine of agency as it pertains to the pre-earth life (scripturally referred to as “the foundations of the earth”).

Doctrine: There is no doctrine more paramount in God’s own eternal laws and plan than the doctrine of agency (i.e. free will). In the pre-earth life we CHOSE to enter God’s plan, to receive a body, and to come to earth. We are not forced to be born against our own will. Those who rejected God’s plan did not receive a body and were cast out (e.g. Satan and his followers).  To not get a body means an eternal spirit cannot progress. Therefore, a body, however it comes is far better than not ever receiving a body. By getting body, the possibilities for how a spirit may spend their eternity are expanded.

mastermind, chakra power, inspiration abstract thought together, watercolor painting

Though we often use the terms interchangeably (and in certain contexts it may work), a spirit and a soul are not the same thing. A spirit is a spirit. A body is a body. A soul is a spirit and a body—together. Spirits are eternal, but one cannot become an eternal soul without receiving a body. So, while God is the Father of our spirits, He is an eternal, perfected, and resurrected soul. Therefore, part of His plan for our eternal progression in becoming like Him is for us to also receive a body. Yet, once we receive our mortal body it eventually dies. So, why get a body? Well, mortal birth appears to be as much of an ordinance as baptism, the sacrament, and marriage, if not more so (I could say the same of death). Christ, Himself, had to be born physically and to die physically before being resurrected. So, even a God was subject to the same eternal law/terms when it came to getting a body.

So, even though the mortal body will die, the ordinance of birth has been accomplished and God, through the atonement and resurrection can bring the eternal spirit and the body (the soul) back together in a glorified, perfected, and resurrected form.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-16 we read:

And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.

Note here that a soul is defined before it is also made clear that resurrection from the dead is for “the soul.” Not just the spirit.

Being born is not only getting a body that one has been waiting around for eons to get. It is taking part in an eternal ordinance that creates a soul! As well, a body is not what makes a spirit eternal. But, a body is what makes a spirit more than spirit. Giving an eternal spirit a body makes a soul with a particular purpose and grand potential which the spirit by itself could not attain. The potential to become like God and live in His presence.

Here is where we start talking about “the foundations of the earth.” A lot of people don’t ever think about who we were before being born because they can’t strictly remember it. Religions usually stay away from the concept and leave the speculation to poets. What a lot of pastors teach is their own opinion about what little the scriptures say.

All this is quite sad, because modern prophets and revelation have given quite a clear picture of the pre-earth life. We can’t ever know everything. That is not God’s way (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33). But, whether people want to believe it or not, there is a lot of logical, correct information to be had.

Details about “the Foundations of the Earth”

plan1We are the literal spirit-children of God (Romans 8:16). We were spiritually conceived and organized from the matter and intelligence already eternally (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29) existing within the universe (Abraham 3:22-28).

As God’s spirit-children (like all children) we had the capability to become like God (Romans 8:17).

God had a glorified, perfected, and resurrected body/soul (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23). He had perfected godly attributes and characteristics. He was omniscient and omnipotent. He had eternal family, including an eternal wife…who is undoubtedly the mother of our spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4).

God, because He loves us so much, wanted to give each of His children (us) the opportunity to become as He is: a glorified, perfected, and resurrected soul with perfected godly attributes, with omniscience and omnipotence (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48). He wants us to not only live in His presence forever, but like Him forever, meaning with eternal family and the capability to produce spirit children of our own.

However, to become God means to be bound by covenant and law (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20-22), by justice and truth. It means eternal and universal self-sacrifice and love. It means receiving all power but only being able to use that power to save and exalt others. So, each of us had to have the opportunity to “try out” these godly conditions for ourselves to see if ultimately, being like our Heavenly Father was what we really wanted. We had to have the opportunity to “prove ourselves” to ourselves that the level of godliness God had was the level we wanted too. Minimally, we would all at least want a body. This “try out” time is called mortality and was the whole purpose of the creation of the earth (Abraham 3:22-28).

Satan didn’t fall because He wanted to become like God (which many Christian religions teach). Satan, or Lucifer as he was called before he fell, was cast out of heaven for wanting to get God’s power and glory without all the red-tape, mortal hoopla, and eternal restrictions (Isaiah 14:12-14; D&C 29:36-39; Abraham 3:27-28; Moses 4:1-4). Satan wanted absolute power. He wanted power not tempered or controlled by pure love. He wanted to remove our agency/free will—which clearly existed in heaven or he wouldn’t have wanted to get rid of it—so that he could rule absolutely. He was not about sharing power. The wicked never are.

So, while this mortal life was being set up for us (which includes the creation and designating a Redeemer and Savior), Christ volunteered to be our Redeemer. Why the need for a Redeemer? Well, part of the plan of learning to become godly is to experience the entire spectrum of good and evil and learning to desire and to choose the good over the evil. Part of the plan is experiencing this spectrum out of the immediate presence of God so that we can have a full use of our agency. It even required a veil to be drawn over our memories so that we could “start fresh.” No heavenly conditioning or overt godly influence. Just the Holy Spirit and the seeds of who we were and what we chose before we came to earth that could be awakened and re-ignited, through faith, if we so desired.

But, this absence of memory and this massive spectrum of good and evil would leave us all vulnerable to making poor decisions, sinning, hurting others, and experiencing a great deal of misery and pain. Even if we learned to gain the godly attributes and characteristics needed for eventual godhood, all of the mess we made while learning to be such would keep us from ever arriving at our goal. Not to mention that our physical body would also eventually die and leave us as just spirits again. What could be done? Well, God established that we would need a Redeemer and Savior to pay justice on our behalf so that we could learn to become godly without being condemned by the godly learning process. We would also need someone to overcome the death that would be brought about by a necessary fall into mortality.

Then, God asked for a volunteer. God did not force Christ to be the Redeemer. Christ volunteered. Lucifer tried to volunteer, too, but then asked if he could alter God’s plan, force us all to be good (remove agency/free will), and avoid actually have to do anything remotely close to redeeming us…and for his brilliance he wanted God to give him His power and glory without all the godly righteousness required to wield it. This plan sounded nice, but it was not loving and we would only get a body. We would not be able to progress, get better, etc., because such improvement requires free will. In other words…it wouldn’t work. It never could have.

So, then God’s plan was presented to all of God’s spirit children. Christ, Himself, was the gospel and the word that was preached (JST, John 1:1). Then, we had the choice. Come to earth and get a body and see if we want to become like God, ultimately. Or, do not come to earth and never get a body and never progress and never figure out if this whole “godly-thing” is for us.

Satan chose to not take part in the true plan. A lot of spirits followed him (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36-39). These spirits were cast out and will never receive a body or progress any further. Sure, they are eternal, but they are eternal spirits, NOT eternal souls. They cannot inherit any more glory than that which they had prior to being cast out (Abraham 3:26). They will never have eternal families. They will be separate, single, bodiless, and unperfected for all time (Isaiah 14:15-20).

So, does God force us to get bodies to make us eternal souls? No. He gave us the choice to choose to get bodies to grant us the opportunity to change the nature of our eternal existence. For, even if we don’t want to actually become like God, for even having tried we will still receive kingdoms of glory equivalent to the level of goodness and righteousness we were willing to receive and act upon (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-24, 28-39).

Now, as to what conditions we are born into in this mortal life, it is not my place to indicate just how much say we got in the pre-earth life. But the scriptures are replete with references to foreordination, predestination, and the like. Some foreordinations are called elect-ions. However, as God was willing to part with a third of His spirit children rather than sacrifice our agency/free will, it is my belief that foreordination and/or predestination has more in common with chosen occupations, volunteer positions, and accepted assignments—all which require personal ambition, volition, or acceptance based on the use of agency—than with any type of force or coercion.

We can ask a person to run for public office, but ultimately they must accept the request and put forth the effort to run. We can choose an occupation, but ultimately we still have to go and get the skills, then apply and get hired. God clearly asked some of His spirit children to serve as prophets and leaders before they were born (Job 38:4, 7; Jeremiah 1:5; Abraham 3:22-23). But, once they were born they would have forgotten and would still have to be reminded, called, and to still accept. That is fairly obvious.

There is no scriptural proof on what the rest of us did, and even current prophets and apostles do not speculate on this. I claim no authority to state what the rest of us did during “the foundations of the earth.” But, I do know that if you’re here you chose to be born. I do know that some people are born into this world into the worst of situations and yet somehow they rise above it. I know that some people are born into privilege and turn out the worst sort of people. I also know people who are born simply knowing from a young age what they want to be and they change their community, state, country, or the world with their talents. Some are born prodigies.

It seems unlikely to me that these are rare, genetic coincidences. To me, they are evidence that each of us, to some extent, whether great or small, chose, volunteered, or accepted assignments to be born under certain circumstances and to perform certain roles or missions. It seems apparent that some of us even came to this earth bursting with talents that simply could not be submerged.

So, I don’t think anyone can try to assume that God forced any person to be born under any unfavorable circumstances. As well, it seems quite clear that due to the atonement’s power to right all wrongs, heal all suffering, and provide salvation and exaltation to the repentant and faithful (at many degrees), that getting a body at all is quite an accomplishment and never a mere formality or tactic for coercion.

Agency was as paramount in the pre-earth life as it is now.

BT

Stay-tuned. There is more to this question/comment that was given to me. Doctrine on its way!