My son asked me yesterday if it was acceptable for someone who was terminally ill and in severe pain and suffering to commit suicide or have assisted suicide. I gave my own opinion to him, but I wondered what you would say about it.
Are you asking me under what conditions it is permissible to violate both the laws of God and of man? Mortality was never designed to be a rose garden. One of the purposes of life is to experience and overcome pain, difficulty, sin and opposition. However, there is some sort of a fine line in considering this subject. No one should look for or invite pain, difficulty, sin or opposition. They are not to be invited; they are to be opposed and overcome. But, being inevitable, they are to be experienced.
The counsel given by the Lord to the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith is instructive in this regard. Joseph Smith and others had been falsely and unjustly imprisoned in the jail in Liberty, Missouri. They were grossly mistreated and their incarceration had lasted for nearly six months. Finally, in anguish Joseph Smith cried out, as recorded in D&C 121:1-6,
O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol–stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.
That plea did not go unanswered, but the answer was not to relieve the suffering. Instead, the Lord replied in D&C 121:7-11.
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun.
The instruction of the Lord here, that may be generally applied, was to endure it well. If that were accomplished marvelous blessings were to follow.
In a report on the experiences of the Martin Handcart Company, the following account was given. Francis Webster, one of those who suffered unspeakable pain as a member of the Martin Handcart Company, said:
“Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.”
To turn from a task in order to avoid the inevitable pain associated therewith may alienate us from wonderful promised blessings. How could we hope to merit any blessings from our suffering if we were to terminate that suffering by violating one of God’s fundamental commandments, “Thou shalt not kill?” Not only would we alienate ourselves from promised blessings but we would come under the severe condemnation of God for the great sin of taking into our own hands the termination of human life. God knows our suffering; He knows our thoughts and all the feelings of our hearts. He is a most kind and loving Father, more interested in our welfare than we can imagine. In his hands and in his hands alone lies the decision of when the mortal life of his children begins and when it ends.