Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we’ll be answering the question, “What does the Church teach about cremation?” Do you have a question you’d like to see answered? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it in the comments below.
This question requires a further look into what happens to the body after we die, and what our expectation of how resurrection occurs.
What happens to a buried body over time?
First, there may be some who think that a deceased, buried body remains in the form of a body until the morning of the First Resurrection when the body will simply be reanimated back to life. According to forensic science, this belief is false.
According to Wilson’s Funeral Advice, “You may have the misconception that an embalmed body within a coffin will take hundreds of years to break down and return to the earth, but this is not always so.”
While King Tutankhamun has remained remarkably preserved, he also had the very best of circumstances regarding his embalmment and entombment in a solid gold coffin. For most of us, “An embalmed body usually lasts in a coffin for up to 10 years.”
Embalming before burial is meant to delay decomposition, but it can’t delay it indefinitely. Thus, even an embalmed, buried body becomes dust eventually.
The Outcome of Cremation
If a buried body becomes dust, and a cremated body is dust, what difference can there really be in their resurrections?
The Church Handbook states, “The family of the deceased person decides whether his or her body should be buried or cremated. They respect the desires of the individual. Members should be reassured that the power of the Resurrection always applies.”
Whether we are buried or cremated won’t affect the power of the Resurrection on our behalf.
Where Did I Get the Idea the Church Was Against It?
For many years, the Church handbook stated, “The Church does not normally encourage cremation.” In ancient times, burning the body, even post-mortem, was considered disrespectful to God as man was His creation. In the Old Testament, cremation was used symbolically to burn away or purify unrighteousness in sinful people. While the Church still holds that the deceased bodies should be treated respectfully, cremation is now understood to be hygienic and practical, particularly in dense urban areas as it requires less land.
Resurrection Is For All
Alma 11:43 states, “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time.”
Verse 44 continues, “Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame.”
With these promises, we can be sure all will have the privilege of a resurrection through Jesus Christ. As to how? That’s in God’s hands, but He has given us some clues.
Mosiah 2:25 tells us, “Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.”
If God created us from the dust of the earth originally, can He not resurrect us from the dust left behind after we die?
Furthermore, we will not be resurrected to mortality, but to immortality—and not only immortality, but to “celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial” (1 Corinthians 15:40). Our bodies will not be of the same substance they are now, otherwise they would not be glorious, immortal beings.
So, while we do not know His process of how, I believe we can rest assured that He can resurrect us from whatever matter, organized or unorganized that remains when the day of resurrection arrives.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.