Thoughts on Suicide

I really need to get back into this more than once a month, though I suppose I’m happy I’m doing this well. No blog before this has had this much success for me in terms of how often I write.  Some news outside of this blog for anyone interested: I’m back in school, taking two classes from my local community college, Comp 2 and IT Intro Networking. Both are going swimmingly, but have started to take up more of my time. Rehearsals also start back up tonight for the Heartland Men’s Chorus which I’m a member of. It’s going to be a very exciting, very busy fall. I can’t wait.

I’ve decided to take a break from the chronological narrative this post. My next in that vein is going to be about my main theological snag that ‘broke the camel’s back’ as it were and led me to leave the church. However, it is appropriately complex and deep, and I’m still working on it. I want to give it the justice and time it deserves. It’s important to me that people reading this understand all my thoughts in the clearest way I can give.

So instead I’m doing a topical post, which is something I’ll likely do more of in the future. When you come out to people, you get, understandably, a lot of questions. The first is always “When did you know?” One that invariably comes up is the depressing, “Did you ever consider suicide?” I’m lucky that, in the strictest sense, my answer is no.

I add that little caveat because though I never got anywhere close to doing action in taking my own life, there were periods on my mission where I wanted to die, and not because I was sad, depressed, or sinful, but because I was worthy, and I wanted to stay that way.

About four or five weeks into my mission I confessed to my Mission President my pre-mission transgressions that I should have taken care of, according to LDS theology, before my mission and before going through the temple. I sent letters to my Stake President, and Bishops to whom I had been less than truthful during my temple and missionary interview process, apologizing for my deceit. Once through the repentance process, I felt better about things because I had gone through the process taught to me and in my mind, things were back on track. I had done the remorse thing, the penance thing and lots of praying and asking forgiveness. A month or so later I felt worthy, happy, and gung ho about the mission again.

The oddest feeling struck me about six months into the mission. Everything was going rather well. I was in a good area, the people were nice, and the work was successful. We were walking down 13th East back down towards our apartment in Draper, for lunch. I want to say near 126th South? It’s been a while. It’s a decently busy area and a fun hill to drive down and offers a beautiful view of Corner Canyon near where we could see the Draper Temple being constructed.

We had decided to walk up the area to some of the neighborhoods in our area to go tracting for exercise and because we wanted to save on miles for the car. As we were walking down the hill, and I looked at the temple construction site, I had this weird thought cross my mind. ‘Given your same-gender attraction, this might be the best things get for your spiritually.’ I was a temple-worthy missionary. I was as close to pure as I was ever going to reach. I had given up my normal life to do God’s work to preach, there was no greater calling, right? I had the clear and distinct wish, almost a silent prayer, that a car would jump the curb and strike me dead at that moment so I could return to heaven, clean and pure, and not ‘ruin it’ for myself after the mission.

Think about that for a minute. It’s not technically a suicidal thought, as the definition of suicide implies intentional taking of one’s own life, but what would you call it? Spiritual death wish? It wasn’t isolated either, that thought would occur to me more times throughout the next eighteen months. What lead me to this?

It would be easy for me at this moment to blame the church and church teachings about worthiness, cleanliness, and the afterlife. Yet LDS belief about judgment and the afterlife is actually among the best in Christianity, in my opinion. Christ, the man who had suffered all, and knew my pain intimately, would be my judge. Someone with infinite knowledge of my life and my struggles, about my intentions and the nature of my heart, he would be the one to pass judgment on me, and I knew, according to church teachings, that I believed in a merciful, loving God and Savior. To throw the LDS church a bone, because some think that I’ve somehow made it my life’s mission to destroy it, as if I could, the church has some really great views about suicide and the afterlife, as much as is possible anyway.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking at the funeral of a good friend who took his life, stated:
“God has said ‘You leave this to me.’ We’re not wise enough to make judgments in such matters. We don’t know enough. We did not walkwith Karl in that dark night. As much as we have known him and as much as we have loved him, we have not been able to imagine whatKarl must have been thinking. Because we can’t and because God can, he has said, ‘You leave this to me.’ And in such times when we do not know why this would happen, then we cling to what we do know. Itis a great rule of life: When we come to things we do not know and donot understand, we hold more firmly to things we do know and do understand. We know that God lives and loves Karl. We know that Christ went into that Garden and to the summit of Calvary, for Karl. We know that life is eternal. We know that the plan of salvationis perfect. We know that redemption, renewal, restoration and resurrection are great principles of the gospel, great images ofChrist. And so we don’t throw any rocks and we don’t fail to forgive. Inthis case, we probably aren’t able even to understand. We simply yield to God in this.”

Yet the simple fact remains, there is an epidemic of young, gay, Mormons who are committing suicide each year, added to the numbers of non-Mormon gay kids who are also taking their own lives. Then you have others like me, simply wishing they would die so as not to ‘ruin’ their worthiness.

My only conclusion I can come to is that theology plus culture is creating this problem. Life for many can be an isolated hell. Life just gets hard to deal with. When you add to that a teaching many in the LDS church believe as doctrine, that the lowest of the three Kingdoms of Glory (one of the three heavens people will go to after judgment day) is so beautiful and peaceful, is it a wonder some might see the afterlife as immensely preferable to this one? I’m afraid that so much emphasis in the LDS church on worthiness and working towards perfection creates psychological side effects for some people that are hard to identify and to combat.

I’m really just speculating. I don’t have any degrees in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, or even theology or philosophy. I just know that this is happening, and we need to watch what we say to young people in our lives. Remember that your children hear every word you say and internalize it as near absolute truth most of the time. Constantly tell all in your life that they are loved and wanted right here, that it really does get better. No matter how bad, or even good, life is, it can and will get better.