Friday, March 5, 2010

Debunking An Urban Legend: Cremation Of The Dead Not Banned By LDS Doctrine, Will Not Prevent Resurrection

Some of you may have heard rumours that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forbids its members from cremating their dead. Guess what - NOT TRUE!

This urban legend has been debunked in the Ogden Standard-Examiner by Doug Gibson on March 4th, 2010. Gibson serves as a home teacher to an elderly woman who has very little money and who tries to stay independent. Eager not to have her death be a burden to her children, she long ago started putting money away so that when she dies, she can be cremated. However, the decision has caused her anguish, as some members of the Church have told her that cremation is not permitted in the LDS Church.

So Gibson did some research, and discovered that in the 1972 LDS Church publication, The New Era, Spencer J. Palmer, a former mission president in Korea, offered the LDS Church position on cremation: “Funerals and burials are prohibitive in cost to some of the most faithful members of the Church in that part of the world. Hence, although I personally prefer embalming and burial and although it has been the pattern followed by Israel, there appears to be no prohibition against cremation in the scriptures or in the theology of the Church.”

How did this urban legend take root? The reason for the “cremation is wrong” is probably due to its reference in “Mormon Doctrine,” which was written by the late LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie. Now, “Mormon Doctrine” is an amazing work, but its title is not accurate. It’s Bruce R. McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine,” NOT the official LDS Church's "Mormon Doctrine". In fact, some of the book was changed after its first edition. In the second edition, here is what McConkie says about cremation: “…Cremation of the dead is no part of the gospel; it is a practice which has been avoided by the saints in all ages. The Church today counsels its members not to cremate their dead. Such a procedure would find gospel acceptance only under the most extraordinary and unusual circumstances …”

On Judgment Day, we will be privileged to resurrect our bodies regardless of their state or keeping. Think of those whose bodies have been atomized in a fire, or lost at sea, or consumed by wild animals. Would it be fair not to resurrect them simply because their bodies weren't embalmed and laid in an orderly grave? Of course not! In the Book of Mormon, Alma 40:23 states: "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame." No additional conditions have been attached to that verse.

As a matter of fact, alternatives to conventional burial should be encouraged. Cemeteries are gobbling up an increasing amount of land both here in the United States and elsewhere. And a cemetery is not the most efficient use of land ever conceived. Make sure a General Authority's personal opinion is doctrine before you treat it as doctrine; if in doubt, a baptized member of the Church has the right to a personal witness via the Holy Spirit.

No comments: