When I Die I will Burn in…

January 7, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 3:50 pm   Category: Life

…a Crematorium. 



I decided this a while back because one of my good friends passed away growing up and her funeral expenses nearly ruined her parents financially, coming in at over $10,000 dollars (which is fairly common for a coffin, phermaldahyde, etc burial). On the other hand Cremation costs around $600. I can’t stand the idea of leaving a financial burden like that to the kiddos, and I figure it is my way of repenting to mother nature, as I figure the land I would have been buried in is approximately equivilant to the amount of land I used in landfills by using disposable diapers. (6 ft deep, by 7 ft long,  by 4 ft wide, you do the math)

But I have heard that there are some LDS concerns about this. I mainly blew them off as outdated ideas with no place in the worldwide church, but then, upon the urging of some, I looked up one.

The latest I found was an opinion of a GA which noted that burial is preferable as it leaves the body to decay via natural means and scriptures site “You were made from Dust and to Dust you shall return”. First, I was raised Catholic and I am pretty well aware of the whole “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust” idea. Second, there is absolutely nothing natural about injecting preservatives into my body, locking it in an airtight metal box and burying it. Third, nothing says “Dust to Dust” more than being reduced to the same.

So I ask you, does anyone have any legitimate objections to cremation?


  1. I have heard plenty of illegitimate Mormon objections to cremation but no legitimate ones.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 7, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  2. Cryonics may enable faster resuscitation.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — January 7, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  3. Lincoln: Call me boringly mainstream, but I guess I don’t figure I need resuscitation if I get resurrection. Further, Cryonics is shockingly expensive and I am shockingly cheap.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 7, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  4. Frankly I’m a bit weary of non-doctrinal “edicts” driving church members rather than living a Gospel-centered life. The pure Gospel is oh-so-much harder to live by so we placate ourselves into believing we are living righteously by following what amounts to a bunch of man-made rules. In the long run if we live the pure Gospel judgment day is going to be a breeze regardless of how we ultimately had our expired physical shell disposed of.

    Comment by Bob — January 7, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  5. I would like to donate my organs, and then I don’t care about the rest of it. I just read the book Stiff, which pretty well convinced me of the benefit of organ donation, and of the pointlessness of anything else. Doctrinally, I can’t see how an argument can be made favoring burial when bodies have been returned to the dust by many methods through the millennia. Surely, the resurrection must be able to deal with all of them.

    Comment by rick — January 7, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  6. I voted “other,” because if it were up to me I would be cremated but no way will my wife allow that (or allow me to put that in a will, etc.).

    What’s with that spelling of “formaldehyde”?

    Comment by BrianJ — January 7, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  7. There used to be instructions in the Handbook that church leaders were supposed to “discourage” members from considering cremation. That instruction was removed sometime in the 90s.

    Comment by Mark Brown — January 7, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

  8. as it leaves the body to decay via natural means and scriptures site “You were made from Dust and to Dust you shall return”

    Yeah, and this can happen a lot sooner if I am already reduced to ashes and don’t need help from bugs and worms.

    Comment by C Jones — January 7, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  9. Moldy rotting corpse in a coffin or cremation? Cremation is a lot more appealing. Cremation costs do vary and the coffin was probably less than half of the 10,000 so cremation will still leave some expenses beyond the 600 you mention.

    Comment by Bob W — January 7, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

  10. Well when you put it that way I don’t see why anyone would/should object. :)

    Comment by Clean Cut — January 7, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  11. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by age of the responders to your poll. My guess would be the older a person is, the more likely he/she would chose burial over cremation.

    Comment by Yet Another John — January 7, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  12. A proper burial of an endowed female includes covering her face with the veil just before the lid is closed. Do you suppose covering her face just before cremation is acceptable?

    Comment by ed42 — January 7, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  13. My guess would be the older a person is, the more likely he/she would chose burial over cremation.

    That may be true Yet Another John, but there is no denying that non-cremation can put a heavy financial burden on many families as well and that certainly must be taken into account.

    I personally think the former policy in the General Handbook reflects an institutional resistance to all things new-fangled more than any preference by God. That’s probably why is gone now I suppose.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 7, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  14. In the state of California, Direct Cremation includes pick up, cremation in a cardboard box, and return of remains in a thick cardboard box. The cost is set by the market. In our area it ranges from $700-1800 depending on the funeral home, though the services are the same at each facility.

    Although urns, death certificates, funeral services, caskets for viewing and clothing add to the costs, a person can be cremated for $700 without any additional costs.

    Comment by gilgamesh — January 8, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  15. The church still discourages cremation, except where decreed by law (Japan, for example). One used to hear reasons like “it’s harder to resurrect a cremated body”, but that is clearly not an issue. The words in the General Handbook of Instructions have been softened over the years, now saying only “not encouraged”. The 2006 GHBI also indicates that, where possible, an endowed member’s body should be clothed in temple clothes before cremation. Personally, I prefer that funeral costs be saved for the use of my family. It’s crazy to spend $10K+ on a dead body, in my opinion. For those who say that we should let nature take it’s course – being buried in an air-tight coffin is certainly not natural. Have you every seen 180 lbs of liquified fat?

    Comment by mentat — January 8, 2009 @ 1:07 am

  16. I’ve been looking into this recently, whilst I was sick with flu!! Have decided to go for a green woodland burial, and be buried in a cardboard coffin.They aren’t as grim as they sound, as they come decorated in all sorts of designs, or you can have one custom designed for you.It cuts the cost substantially, is better for the environment, and compromises all those LDS fears about not not being cremated. if the appearance is important, for an extra cost the cardboard coff]fin can be p
    placed inside a traditional coffin ‘liner’, for the purposes of the funeral service etc, but only the cardboard coffin is buried.Offspring get more money to live on, and everyone is happy.

    Comment by anne — January 8, 2009 @ 6:10 am

  17. Anne: I looked into this a little at one point, and it’s illegal to do the green burial is some states. I didn’t get far enough to figure out all the details, but was discouraged by the legality issues.

    On another note, I was informed that in some states if you are a full organ donor, the state will give you a “free” cremation. I am not sure what that entails, but there you go.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 8, 2009 @ 7:18 am

  18. I’m hopin for something really close to this:



    Comment by Thomas Parkin — January 8, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  19. That’s too bad, Matt. I’m in the UK, where pretty much every local authority and several independent organisations provide woodland burial sites. There’s so much more land in the US, I wonder what the reasoning is?

    Comment by anne — January 8, 2009 @ 7:44 am

  20. I’ve told my wife I would prefer cremation, but to do whatever she feels good about when the time comes. However, I will not allow my corpse to be put on display during this weird “viewing” ritual that we practice–as an exhibition of the skills of our human taxidermists (morticians). How many times do you hear comments like “Doesn’t he look lifelike?” or “Didn’t they do a nice job in him?” Like we’re part of some macabre art exhibit. I think I’ll pass!

    Comment by Will — January 8, 2009 @ 8:37 am

  21. Hmm, I’ve long considered cremation, aside from the cost aspect, almost any method of burial will obliterate the body in a relatively short period of time. If you are buried at sea you will have been wholly devoured long before you sink halfway to the bottom, if caught in a volcanic flow reduced to your component ashes in moments (Mount Vesuvius comes to mind, and the Romans frequently practiced cremation). Some cultures require that the aged or infirm walk out into the desert (or jungle) without possessions in order to return them to the earth, letting “Nature run it’s course.” Many other cases could be brought up, from dying in a house fire, or really anything that does not leave the body intact. One way or another (even if only on a geological scale) in a short time, the body will cease to exist, just as our current bodies are made up of the redigested material of billions of other life forms (plant and animal) over time.

    It just seems to make sense to me that the resurrection wouldn’t require an intact husk, else the promise that all men will be resurrected would ring hollow. A more interesting question, is, what of LifeGems: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LifeGem …cremation, then compacting the carbonized remains into a diamond your descendants can keep as a memento.

    Comment by Nathan — January 8, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  22. When my first husband died he was cremated, as per his wishes. My extended family was appalled and one of the neighbors (also LDS) told my children that we would go to hell for cremating him. He had cancer and we knew for a long time he would die. It took me a long time to adjust to the thought of cremating him and I worried about any issues that my kids would have with it. When the time came, it went smoothly. My kids are/were fine and I am thinking I might do the same thing. Although I really like the cardboard coffin idea. I told the kids I want a pine arts and crafts coffin that everyone could sign or decorate. I want a fun funeral.

    Comment by Mama — January 8, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  23. Don’t worry Nathan. The tradition has nothing to do with resurrection. That simply make no sense. It apparently has no logical basis at all. Just a “tradition of men” as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 8, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  24. I want to be laid out on a wooden raft, set on fire, and pushed off down the river, because how cool would that be?

    Comment by Susan M — January 8, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  25. So Matt, I think one interesting question is what if your spouse or a child dies first? Cremation to save a few bucks? I am cheap too….

    Also, what does ‘not encouraged’ mean when it is in something like the CHI? Is that the same as ‘not discouraged’? Doesn’t ‘not encouraged’ mean ‘up to the individual’?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 8, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  26. I will second the Mary Roach book STIFF as it covers just about all the possibilities for a dead body. Another one I just read was Does This Mean You Will Get To See Me Naked? by long time funeral director Robert Webster. He talks about the whole funeral business in this short and very funny book. The wife and I are getting cremated. She would have me do it in the backyard for free if it was legal.

    Comment by TStevens — January 8, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  27. Great point Matt. I am an organ donor and I want whatever is left to be cremated. Stuff like this really epitomizes the concerns I have about how many traditions we pass on as part of the gospel when we have seemingly zero scriptural or revelatory basis for them.


    Also, what does ‘not encouraged’ mean when it is in something like the CHI?

    Fantastic question. I have often wondered this. If all that is being given is advice, then I can’t really evaluate it without the reasoning behind it, which is missing from the CHI, so that advice seems pretty much useless to me.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 8, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  28. I think the not-encouragement of cremation has more to do with respect for the body. You risked eternity to get it; seems a little incongruent to burn it up.

    That said, Penn & Teller’s show did a thing on the enormous racket that is the funeral business. Bereaved family members aren’t exactly in the mood to be shopping around for bargains, resulting in the ridiculous prices.

    I recently heard that Costco sells caskets, though. I wonder how much they run.

    Comment by Bryan H. — January 8, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  29. Re Jacob: “Not encouraged” without a doctrinal backing would seem to indicate a cultural perspective, rather than a doctrinal one.

    A few other ones have gone different directions, Adherence to the Word of Wisdom was not a temple requirement until 1902; However, even then, church president Joseph F. Smith encouraged stake presidents to be liberal with old men who used tobacco and old ladies who drank tea. And even with that, there were notable exceptions including George Albert Smith who drank Brandy for medicinal purposes (per wikipedia, take it for what it’s worth)

    On the other end of the spectrum, the advice of Brigham Young that every YSA has heard and dreaded “if you’re 25 years old and unmarried, you’re a menace to society.” It isn’t doctrine, and really isn’t all that applicable to todays environment with lifespans greatly expanded, far more educational opportunities, and medical care far better than was available 150 years ago. But well meaning brothers and sisters are quick to tell you about it, and YSA’s get so frustrated by hearing it that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 speak of marriage to them in almost apologetic tones (I’m sorry to bring this up again, but get married).

    As the church grows and expands, it will continue to be evaluated, and either dropped entirely from mention (as appears to be the trend for this topic at least), or a more strict instruction will be given. That it’s left in the form it’s in seems to support Joseph’s statement that “I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves”

    Comment by Nathan — January 8, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  30. I’m looking for a send off like in the Big Lebowski- with the wind blowing my ashes all over!

    Comment by scw — January 8, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  31. Bryan,

    You risked eternity to get it; seems a little incongruent to burn it up.

    Seriously? I think you need to brush up on your monty python.

    Bereaved family members aren’t exactly in the mood to be shopping around for bargains, resulting in the ridiculous prices.

    As Walter Sobchak would say: “Look, just because we’re bereaved, that doesn’t make us saps!”

    Comment by Jacob J — January 8, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  32. A fine point often overlooked in these discussions is that, while cremation is clearly an alternative to embalming, it is not an alternative to burial.
    That is because a person’s cremated remains (“cremains”) can be buried, if desired, the same as embalmed or unembalmed remains. For many people, the modern process of cremation is no less respectful, and a good deal less disturbing, than the physical, chemical, and cosmetic processes involved in embalming. As well, the choice of cremation as a preparation for burial can reduce a loved one’s funary costs by thousands of dollars.
    Thanks be to God and to his Beloved Son, who has promised that “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23), which I truly believe.

    Comment by Tristan Baier — January 8, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  33. The ultimate:

    Friends gather ’round the gasoline-soaked funeral pyre while the Door’s play the long version of “Light My Fire”. When Morrison lets out his last scream of FIRE!, everyone throws a match to the wood. As the final organ riff plays out and the drummer concludes the song, larryco_ goes up in flames – never to comment on a blog site again.

    totalllllly awesommmmme!

    Comment by larryco_ — January 8, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  34. Pre-planning is the way to go. Some sort of directions and budget should be in your will.

    There are also at least two major trends on burial. One is the embalmed remains with sealed coffin and fully enclosed concrete burial vault to protect the coffin. The other trend is non-embalmed remains, biodegradeable (wood) coffin and open-bottom burial vault that allows the elements in to help decompose the coffin and remains. I was told that this latter is a traditional Jewish method of burial.

    In the latter option, the concrete burial vault is merely to hold the ground up so it doesn’t sink when the coffin collapses due to decomposition. Otherwise, the ground would slightly droop down over the coffin after a few years, and the cemetery would look unsightly.

    I don’t usually see coffin-sized mounds over burial plots at cemeteries, nor sunken areas, so they must remove and possibly replace enough dirt to keep the ground even.

    No one has yet mentioned the playground song:

    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
    The worms play pinochle on your snout.

    Full lyrics here:

    With funerary music (but not sung), here:

    Comment by Bookslinger — January 8, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  35. Matt W, #17, When you donate your body to a medical school, the remains of the remains (after all the slicing and dicing) are cremated.

    But I’m not sure what is done with the bits and pieces as they are removed during the course of the classes that use your cadaver. They might be disposed of as “medical waste” (along with the associated hospital’s tonsils, appendices, amputed limbs, etc) at the end of each dissection session, or saved in jars (sort of ancient Egyptian style) to be kept with the cadaver and cremated all at the same time. I dunno.

    Comment by Bookslinger — January 8, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  36. First, I am 100% for organ donation. For the longest time I had planned on building my own coffin (long before I die). Recently, I’ve decided to buy some land and dedicate about half an acre for a family graveyard. If I can do it, i’ll be saving tons of money in funeral expenses.

    Green burials are becoming more popular, but, you may need to find a green graveyard that has the permits to bury you that way. It may save some money, but not sure.

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — January 9, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  37. I want to be laid out on a wooden raft, set on fire, and pushed off down the river, because how cool would that be?

    So cool that is has to be illegal.

    Comment by jjohnsen — January 9, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

  38. I think the traditional objection to cremation has to do with respect for the body as a temple. We don’t burn our temples, therefore we shouldn’t burn our bodies.

    Me, I’m highly tempted by this: http://www.lifegem.com/secondary/whatisLG2006.aspx Gives new meaning to “Grandma’s diamond ring!”

    I do like the viewing custom though. I wonder if it’s possible to have it minus the formaldehyde and stuff? It meant a lot to me to be able to say “Goodbye” to my grandfather, to see his body and know he was no longer in it. To have him just gone would have been harder.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — January 10, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  39. Do you think it would be creepy if I got turned into a life gem and then one of my descendents gave me to his/her fiance in their engagement ring? Should they tell their fiance that they are wearing grandma around on their finger?

    The whole cremation issue can be really tricky, I know that when my family burried a relative there was such a huge argument over cremation that almost 3 years later there are still hurt feelings.

    Financially cremation would have been the best option for us but some family members were so against it that they were willing to sacrifice family relationships over it. My family ended up burying the individual and using money that the widow desperately needed.

    After that experience I’ve decided that it really should be left up to the individual who will financially have to deal with the funeral expenses and no one else.

    Comment by kristen j — January 11, 2009 @ 8:02 pm

  40. Is a Lifegem more like a CZ gem? If that’s the case, my wife would no approve.

    Kristen, I totally agree. A big problem with funerals that sadly they are times when we seem to be at our most irrational.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  41. There’s a big difference between “discourages” and “does not encourage.” The handbook does refer to places where law requires cremation, but it doesn’t say that the “does not encourage” standard applies only there.

    I suspect it grows out of a “respect for the body” tradition, but I have a hard time seeing any disrespect for the body in cremation–just old Western traditions.

    By the way, for those of you planning the backyard cremation, better start gathering firewood. It takes a lot of fire to consume the body. Just ask Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun how five Jerry cans of gasoline did on them. Or Josef Goebbels.

    For you young folks who weren’t around 45 years ago when it was published, Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death is a classic expose of the funeral racket. Read that, and you’ll be contacting the crematorium!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 13, 2009 @ 11:15 am

  42. Burial is the traditional Christian position.

    Whether or not you think thats legitimate says more about you than it does about its legitimacy.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — January 13, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  43. Adam:

    Your turn of phrase there is interesting. Are you saying that by being cremated I am illegitimizing the fact that burial is the traditional christian position, or that burial being the traditional Christian tradition is a legitimate reason to not be cremated?

    It my be a legitimate reason for hesitancy, but since my grandmother was cremated and my mother plans on being cremated, it is certainly not my family tradition.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  44. I plan on donating my body to science. When they get done with it.. they cremate it and return the ashes to my family. Cost I believe is the shipping of the ashes only. My dad did this.

    Comment by MrNirom — January 26, 2009 @ 10:46 pm