The Church Handbook in Section 21.3.2 it states:
“The Church does not normally encourage cremation. The family of the deceased must decide whether the body should be cremated….”
My father passed away from an aneurysm on March Fourth of this year. With all of the emotions to process, family to inform, and decisions to make, one thing was never questioned. For years my father expressed that he wanted to be cremated. He gave his reasons, and that is precisely what my family did for him. We honored his wishes, little 10did I know that we would have to defend them against family and friends.
The following Saturday we had a beautiful service for him. I was able to find someone in our area to play the bagpipes, and my dad’s urn was there surrounded by beautiful flowers. As everything was winding down my mother, siblings, and myself stood by the doorway to thank everyone for coming. It was quite the normal funeral-esque scene. While sharing memories and exchanging hugs, several Mo’s voiced their concerns:
“Was this truly what he wanted?”
“Why did you have him cremated?”
A well-meaning lady even mentioned to me that my father will not be able to be resurrected because of this. (How some people have the gall to say such things, I’ll never know.)
To all of these people, I calmly listened to their concerns, and did my part to inform them. I once had these same concerns, and I’ve heard all the Mormon-myths surrounding cremation. As with any misinformed/judgmental thought, we must educate it with facts and a spirit of love. I reassured these friends and family that we made the correct decision, that it would not affect my father’s chances of being resurrected, and that it was an appropriate decision to make.
In the midst of losing my father and realizing all that that meant, I felt attacked. I second guessed how I honored my father’s memory. The Mormon guilt was heaped upon me. To me, this was another fine example of cherry-picking the scriptures. A way of making my family feel inferior because we do not fit the mold of a ideal Mormon family. I wondered if none of these people heard of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones? Or if they truly meant to doubt the power of God. God commands Ezekiel to “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:4) At which point Ezekiel sees the bones begin to gather together and become clad in sinews and flesh. These bodies that Ezekiel described as “very dry,” were again made whole through the power of the priesthood. The restorative power of God can not be negated by the fire used during the cremation process. We can not believe in God’s ability to create the heavens and earth, give life, bring to pass miracles, and then say that he is unable to resurrect someone who has been cremated. There is no logic in that argument.
An article published in the August 1991 Ensign by Roger R. Keller responds to a members question on the issue. He gives a history of the practice, and speculates as to why Mormons do not usually dispose of their dead in this manner. His article finishes with this quote,
“In the end, however, we should remember that the resurrection will take place by the power of God, who created the heavens and the earth. Ultimately, whether a person’s body was buried at sea, destroyed in combat or an accident, intentionally cremated, or buried in a grave, the person will be resurrected.”
Losing my father has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. In many ways it has strengthened my testimony of eternal life, and that families can be together forever. In other ways this experience has helped me realize that my transition out of the Mormon Church is best for my emotional health. That the Mormon Church doesn’t have all the answers that make my soul ring with truth. My father hadn’t been active in the Church for decades, and perhaps that altered what his final wishes were. However, I can be assured that I made the correct decision to follow his wishes, and that no matter what, he will be whole again.