The Wisdom of Death

The Wisdom of Death Latter-day Saint culture has sought to demystify death through metaphor and ritual. Death is often portrayed as a ‘gateway” to the next life, a necessary step in the plan of eternal progression. However, this approach overlooks many profound life lessons we might learn and experience through giving serious contemplation and consideration to death, including our own mortality. In this paper, I contrast the ritualization of death in LDS culture with experiential reflection on death as developed by two thinkers, the Danish existentialist theologian Soren Kierkegaard and the contemporary philosopher Herbert Fingarette. I argue that we can come to understand a lesson of universal importance voiced by Kierkegaard, that learning to die well is the highest wisdom of life.

Courtney S. Campbell, Benjamin Huff