Organ Donation and the Resurrection

August 2, 2010

Q. Do Mormons believe in being organ donors? When we die the spirit leaves and the body is left behind. Must you have a body to continue on your journey or can you donate parts to help someone left on earth?

Great question–I’ve been wondering the same thing since I’ve been reading “Stiff–the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” for book club this month (we have a kind of quirky book club). The answer is: Yes. Mormons can be organ donors.

The best advice I’ve found on the subject comes from Cecil O. Samuelson, who is the President of BYU, a general authority of the church, and a doctor. He stated:

As is the case with many other scientific developments, there are many questions about organ transplantation that have serious economic, ethical, moral, and religious implications. And, as with many other important aspects of life, we have been counseled to study the information, make decisions, and pray for wisdom about our choices. (See D&C 9:7–9; D&C 58:26–28.)

The Church has taken no official position on organ transplants. It seems obvious, however, that organ transplantation does not affect one’s resurrection, since the organ would soon have returned to the basic elements of the earth following death anyway. Whatever happens to an organ following death, we are promised that “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body, yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost.” (Alma 40:23.)

Since our bodies decompose back into the elements from which they were made in a matter of a few weeks or months (depending upon your burial method–read “Stiff” for lots more information about that), we don’t resurrect from an intact body–rather, we resurrect from the elements that created us, as they gather back together in a perfected form. So whether a person is missing a heart, kidney, liver or lung–everything will be returned and restored to him or her at the time of the resurrection.

So do good with your organs! Spread life around!

This is Elder Samuelson’s entire article on organ donation (just scroll down to the second heading), and this article talks about cremation.

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8 Responses to “Organ Donation and the Resurrection”

  1. Brandon

    So in response to this blog I would also like to ask about cremation. My grandparents are going to donate their cadavers to BYU science department and then eventually become cremated. Crazy thing to hear coming out of the grandparents mouth and even crazier to know that their stake president said that it was fine, any quotes or info on this matter?

  2. O

    Yes, organ donation and cremation are both fine and will not affect the post-mortal life in any way. I mean, think about it…are people who are burned in fires or lose limbs in war prevented from resurrecting in the hereafter? No. What about people who have their appendix or a kidney removed? What about all that hair you lose on a daily basis? What about those nail clippings? Blood transfers? Plastic surgeries? Etc?

    Dust to dust…it all ends up in the same place eventually.

    Also, being an organ donor does not prevent you from having a normal burial and/or viewing/open casket, etc. You can’t even tell.

    So please, register to be an organ donor in your state and save up to 9 lives, and improve the lives of many, many more. (Did you know that donating your irises can help two blind people to see?! That’s seriously amazing.) Talk to your family members and tell them your wishes, too. Ultimately, its up to them, no matter what you register to do.

    You can register for your state here in just a couple of minutes:

  3. O

    Also, organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions. This includes Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism.

    Here is a detailed list of statements from most major religions on their view of organ donation.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers the decision to donate organs a selfless act that often results in great benefit and the decision to donate for medical purposes, or the decision to authorize donation from a deceased family member is made by the individual or deceased member’s family. The Church states that the decision should be made after receiving competent medical counsel and confirmation through prayer.”

  4. Thaddeus

    Brandon, check out the link on cremation Jan included in the opening post. The important thing to remember is that resurrection is guaranteed for all people born into this world. Turning into ash and smoke doesn’t change that.

    The main principle is that we treat our bodies with respect and be grateful for them. We should not look at our bodies as something to be eagerly cast off and burned. A body is a sacred gift and cremation, with the appropriate mindset, may be viewed as a good, even uplifting ‘retiring’ ceremony similar to retiring an American flag.

    In any case, if they have the full approval of their stake president, I have no reason to doubt their decision. I’m sure it has been made with sincere prayer.

  5. Derrill

    I personally do not want to be cremated. We as LDS believe that our body is the living temple of God for us as individuals, and we do not defile our temple (even tatoos, body piercings etc. – my choice). I also believe that God approves of helping others and saving lives. I however will not donate organs because of my diseased body (and it is). I don’t want to give false help to some deserving person. If my organs were healthy I surely would donate. My older lost his right arm many years ago. He was too good a man to be condemed because that.

  6. Lynn Ballard

    On October 1, 2011, my beautiful wife of 33 years left her mortal body behind.  We were in Florida scuba diving off the coast of West Palm Beach.  We were down about 50 feet on top of a coral reef.  She had just seen a beautiful sea turtle swim by and had a wonderful smile on her face.  And then she was gone.  The next day as I was walking around this great resort my wife had lined up for us on Groupon, I got a call from the university of Miami offering their condolences and then went right into what they really wanted.  This was so painful!  This was my best friend, my love of my life, my eternal partner.  This is not a death do we part situation, but a forever situation.  I got through the painful questions they ask which was supposed to take 25 minutes, but took an hour.  I called the detective in charge(it happened off a boat, so they treated it like a crime scene) afterwards and he said it was a personal decision and he felt that I had made a good decision because people always need organ donations.  I told them specifically the funeral was open casket, and they honored that..
       The big problem now is that her side of the family is spreading amongst themselves that my wife’s final resting spot is not where most of her body is, and I had one sibling ask me if the donations were made before the autopsy was made.  I would suggest that husbands and wifes, parents and children, siblings, etc. talk about what ifs and pre-plan what one might do after death occurs.  When accidents occur, you don’t have time to check with everyone, and do you really need to?  This all happened so quickly.  From the moment the call for organ donation came, I was praying, sobbing, talking on the phone all at the same time.  Five and a half months later, I still feel I made the right decision.  For those of us that believe in a loving God,  my tesimony of knowing that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone that has lived on this earth will be resurrected.  Their bodies will be restored perfectly. and not even a hair on their head will be lost.  My only regret is that some of her family have second thoughts.  I never wanted anyone to feel badly on the account of organ donations.
       One more thing.  My sister told me last week of a testimony meeting she went to many years ago, where a girl got up and bore her testimony thanking the Lord and an organ donor for the eyes that she was given. My sister remembered this so strongly for these many years because before the meeting, not knowing, she mentioned to this young lady “what beautiful eyes she had”.  I very emotional right now so plese do’t criticize me for spelling, grammer, or content.  I don’t even know when this article went out or if they are taking comments any more, but it was a way to get my feelings out, even if no reads it or cares.   


  7. Thaddeus

    Lynn, thank you for sharing that experience with us. I know that the power of Christ’s atonement can resurrect all people and that it has the power to heal hearts. I pray the rift in your family will soon be mended, and I’m grateful for your advice to talk about these things together before the moment of decision.

  8. I lost my dear son of 22 years of age in Jan. of 2010 from a motorcycle accident. We as well were given the opportunity to donate his organs. They couldn’t find him on any donation registry and left it up to us to make that decision. He was so young we never discussed it. My 4 daughters and I came to feel the decision to donate was something my son would approve of. He was one of the selfless young men I know, always listening to the spirit and assisting others in need. My only regret now is that we couldn’t give up his eyes. They were so deep and loving and held a deep compassion for others. My mother is now going blind and it pains me we didn’t donate his eyes as well. Now I can only imagine the joy of restoring someones eyesight, blindness is so debilitating.

    To our surprise the organ harvesting team found his consent on Washington States organ donation registry. At the age of 16 when he got his first drivers license my completely unselfish son knew he wanted to continue to bless others after he was gone from this earth life. What peace that brought us as a family.