And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them… (D & C 45:26)
What better represents a “failing heart” then – suicide.
A way of coping
Suicide has been used as a way of coping with life problems for centuries. Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 16:23 was referred to as “an oracle of God.” He was a “counsellor” to King David and hung himself. (See 2 Samuel 17: 23). And perhaps one of the more famous suicides was the apostle Judas in Matthew 27:3-8 where he too hung himself. Unfortunately we Latter-day Saints are not immune from suicide.
In the past 30 days there have been 2 suicides within a mile of my home! Within this calendar year I’ve consulted with three separate wards who wanted advice on how to help their young men and women organization – deal with one of their youth who had committed suicide. If you haven’t had a personal experience with suicide…. unfortunately YOU probabaly WILL.
We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (D&C 1:35), when “all things shall be in commotion” and we read again “men’s hearts shall fail them”(D&C 88:91). There are many causes of commotion as we go about our daily lives – including wars, natural disasters, wickedness, addiction, etc.
We mental health professionals have known for a long time one reason people committ suicide is because they perceive it as -solving a problem- typically a way of dealing with “commotion.”
A suicide every 40 seconds
Every year, almost one million people die from suicide; a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death by suicide every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide. (World Health Organization, Suicide Statistics) To bring this figure home- if you took 10 minutes to study this blog 15 sons and daughters of God would have successfully killed themselves. If your ward had 300 members – it would take less than 4 hours before an equal number would be in paradise.
Imagine that – the equivalent of dozens of wards disappearing every week. Yet we don’t talk about it… nor recognize this as a sign of His Second Coming.
Let me share one personal story about a Bishop and his son.
My son Gary was probably my best friend. We spent a lot of time together. When he was little he liked sports and I coached his baseball and basketball games. I loved watching him play. A little later, he learned to bowl and found he had a natural ability for the game. I always went with him to his tournaments and shared his happiness when he won. … He dropped out of school altogether at age 16. He had several jobs but they didn’t last long when he was about 20, Gary met and married a girl he loved a lot. For a while they were really happy he vowed to give up the things that were bringing unhappiness. Some of his old friends started coming around and he started drinking again. He and his wife divorced and he moved back home.
Come on Dad…
During this time we spent a lot of time together. When he was working nights, he’d wake up early and say , “Come on, Dad Let’s go for a ride.” He’d get coffee and I’d get hot chocolate and we’d just ride around. He loved riding on country roads or in the mountains.
… Shot in the heart
The day before he died we helped with ward clean-up-day. He worked so hard and enjoyed being with the other guys there. He came home, got cleaned up and went to a street festival in town. I didn’t hear him come home but it was late. The next morning I went to Bishop’s meeting and then my wife and I attended the other Sunday meetings. It was about 4:00 pm when I got home. My wife asked me to go downstairs and get Gary for dinner. He didn’t’ wake when I called his name. When I turned on the light, I saw him lying back on his pillows and that he had shot himself in the heart.
Raising from the dead…
I reached out to hold him but his spirit had gone. Thoughts raced through my mind-with my Priesthood, I could heal him-If only I was good enough-so I gave him a blessing. I was bishop of our ward at the time. I remembered how Jesus had raised the dead and I wanted so much to have the faith to bring my son back to me…. I was standing at the foot of his casket when I realized that my son was just 33 years old, the same age the Savior was when he died. (Where is our hope for peace?: A resource guide for LDS families coping with suicide)
Some of the most powerful memories imprinted in my soul for the eternities have to do with suicide.
With every suicide there are many questions. M. Russell Ballard shares a few:
If your life is such that you and those around you have a sense of peace and “will” to live… thank the Lord tonight in your personal prayers. Not everyone is blessed with such.
The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace. At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. No one knows the time of His coming. Our challenge – study the signs and to be prepared.