Liquid cremation, composting and other new approaches raise questions about how to honor the dead and the environment

Families looking for an environmentally friendly way to handle a loved one's remains have a controversial new option in Washington. Is this new procedure respectful of human remains?

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  • Peacevibes55 , 00
    May 30, 2019 4:45 p.m.

    First off I believe the soul is nothing but energy, I don’t believe in heaven
    Or hell . And I believe cremation is the best way to go , I will be cremated in my ashes will be scattered amongst the trees , or the coastal areas .
    And I believe in reincarnations we all have many lives depending on how you live this life depends on how or what you will be when you come back .

  • RIPMalcolmYoung Draper, UT
    May 30, 2019 4:38 p.m.

    And I thought I'd be done working in the garden after I passed away..

  • socorny Canyon Country, CA
    May 30, 2019 3:46 p.m.

    For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. I don't see the big deal.

  • DieselCoondog Albuquerque, NM
    May 30, 2019 3:42 p.m.

    Hopefully those quoting 50 year old Ensign articles remember that policies often change but doctrine does not. For example, a proper church burial is not legal in many, possibly a majority, of places where most members in 2019 actually live.
    On all but basic doctrines, most policies have had significant refinements since then. The relative silence on burial practices is all the more evidence of nonimportance in the grand scheme of things.

    As for me, I'm happy to grow an apricot tree. Though my fruit would undoubtedly be sour, it probably would do more good for mankind than all of my other so called achievements put together.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 30, 2019 3:08 p.m.

    Burial is placing remains in a box to be lowered to occupy a piece of real estate for centuries after the corpse decays and bones turn to dust. Meanwhile, in the air up above, new lives come and go in an increasingly crowded world where housing competes for space with ever expanding cemeteries. Does the effort keep us any more alive after we're dead. Or is it all just the selfish foolishness of not wanting to let go and accept the inevitable?

    Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    May 30, 2019 2:59 p.m.

    Ah the contrived concerns of what you want done with your body. When all is said and done, its the living that will determine what is done. This is one of those things that you don't have a final say in.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    May 30, 2019 2:58 p.m.

    The vast majority of faithful monotheists over the ages have been buried in such a way as to rapidly allow "the dust" to "return to the earth as it was" (Eccl 12:7). Embalming and elaborate permanent tombs were associated more with Egyptian idolatry. As jalapenochomper said, the modern embalming and burial process is grotesque; there's no way this can be expected as a way of showing 'respect' to the body. And our divine mandate to be good stewards of Creation seems to sit uneasily with the chemicals and the permanent use of materials and land.

    It really is worth thinking through the issues surrounding desecration. A body is not just a heap of possibly useful minerals, and treating it as merely that is just as abhorrent as e.g. using your spouse's corpse as a doorstop.

    But a very wide variety of burial methods could be done with proper respect, including many which are vastly more environmentally friendly and more economical than present-day embalming burials.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    May 30, 2019 2:46 p.m.

    "Finding someone who studies theilogy (sic) who would weigh in on this issue might take effort but it would make the article better."

    How so? How does "theology" uniquely qualify a person to speak about "how to honor the dead and the environment"?

    It doesn't!

    Studying theology qualifies a person to opine about theism and atheism, at best. And history hath shown that precious few "theologians" have contributed anything valuable to human kind over the generations.

  • EscherEnigma Ridgecrest, CA
    May 30, 2019 2:01 p.m.

    @Brave Sir Robin
    From a quick google search, I found a 50,000 lb satellite that cost about $60 million to launch.

    Now, a cremated adult male will usually weigh around 6 lbs, and an adult female around 4 lbs, giving us an easy average of 5 lbs.

    So that 50,000 lb satellite is roughly equivalent to 10,000 people (assuming that wanting your remains launched into the sun is a gender neutral inclination). So $60,000,000 divided among 10,000 people is only $6,000 per person. This would, of course, be after the cost of cremation (about $1000).

    Now, this giant bag o' human ash would probably need some basic launch mechanism to aim it at the sun, but put it on a good arc and you don't need propulsion or anything. And again, that cost can be amortized between everyone.

    So you joke (I think), but within a few decades this will probably be an option, and well within the price plan of most middle/upper-class retirees.

  • bamafone Salem, UT
    May 30, 2019 1:40 p.m.

    All these nutty granola people lol. Your wish is our command, well do our best to plant you in a flower bed or launch you to the sun.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    May 30, 2019 12:43 p.m.

    All matter and energy in this solar system started with the sun. I want my dead corpse to be launched into the sun. The least I can do is give back the stuff I borrowed.

  • EscherEnigma Ridgecrest, CA
    May 30, 2019 12:09 p.m.

    If you believe that your afterlife depends on specific forms of burial, then specify those beliefs and wishes in your will and to your families.

    But don't outlaw them for other people.

    This is a pretty classic case of "if you don't like it, don't do it, but don't tell me what I can do".

  • jalapenochomper Albuquerque, NM
    May 30, 2019 12:03 p.m.

    Those familiar with the desecrations needed to make a typical dead person look 'natural' in that open casket scoff at the idea that a traditional burial (now happening a week or more after death) is in any way respectful to the body. Yuck!

    For less money a loved one can literally be made into a diamond, much more respectful and meaningful in my mind.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    May 30, 2019 11:19 a.m.

    If you truly believe in a powerful god, than you can't honestly believe that you won't be able to be resurrected because your body was burned into carbon, instead of decomposing into mulch under a gravestone. It's a rather silly belief.

    I am active LDS but have long toyed with the idea of being cremated and having my ashes spread across the Uintas. Then if my family wants to visit me they just have to take a pleasant hike in the Uintas and they can feel me all around them. LDS leaders are wise to stay out of the debate.

  • TNgirl Memphis, TN
    May 30, 2019 9:57 a.m.

    @thomasjefferson

    If it makes you feel any better, as the article states, at least here in Utah religious leaders have stayed out of the debate and haven't given any input publicly. I imagine they probably see it the same way as you, it's a personal decision that there's no need to get involved in.

  • Sequoya Stafford, VA
    May 30, 2019 9:51 a.m.

    I like the fishing hole idea cited above. good for fishing?? if Wifey wants me to make the roses grow; also Ok. especially if cheaper than other options.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    May 30, 2019 9:42 a.m.

    To "ottocrat" if you want green burial, then there are companies that offer cardboard caskets and do not embalm the deceased. That is even more green than what this process generates.

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    May 30, 2019 9:24 a.m.

    Composting is a great idea and at first glance appears better than cremation. What somebody wants to do for religious reasons is up to them but they shouldn't get in the way off how others want their remains handled.

  • ottocrat , UT
    May 30, 2019 8:45 a.m.

    I've always thought embalming and display to be so macabre:"looks so good" "they did such a great job" etc. Green burial is the only way to go; composting the dead is a fantastic idea.

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    May 30, 2019 8:36 a.m.

    "They're also challenging long-held beliefs about how to honor the deceased."

    Just because people have held some belief for a long time doesnt make it good.

    "Both methods have raised objections from religious leaders who say the new methods are disrespectful of the dead. One scholar called natural organic reduction "the ultimate denial of the human soul.""

    Why should anyone care? Is this being forced on your 'flock of sheep'? Well then its none of your business.
    There is no reason to 'deny the human soul' because there is no evidence of a soul existing.

    "One cubic yard is about the amount that can fill two large wheelbarrows."

    Good luck with that.

    "reminding Catholics that the church strongly recommends that bodies be buried "in cemeteries and other sacred places""

    Because?

    "..Grondelski said in embracing a "return to nature" in putting people to rest, people diminish the God-given status of human beings.

    "... is fundamentally not different from other organic matter."

    Because we are no different from other organic matter. That fact is even more obvious once we are dead.
    Once again religion tries to stick its nose in where it isnt welcome.

  • BJMoose Syracuse, UT
    May 30, 2019 8:34 a.m.

    Well I want my ashes spread out at my favorite fishing hole so if it was compost instead of ash that would also be fine. The last thing I’d ever want is to be buried.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    May 30, 2019 8:09 a.m.

    To "John Pack Lambert of Michigan" the LDS church discourages cremation because of statements by Joseph Smith who spoke about how he viewed grave sites as being sacred. See "“What about cremation?”" from the July 1972 Ensign. See also "Cremation is a custom in various parts of the world. Do Latter-day Saints practice it?" from the August 1991 Ensign.

  • shamrock Salt Lake City, UT
    May 30, 2019 8:06 a.m.

    "One scholar called natural organic reduction 'the ultimate denial of the human soul'."

    A puzzling response. Regardless of how our bodies are treated after death, they'll decompose to one degree or another. Why does this scholar believe that decomposing in a wooden box is more respectful to the soul or spirit than decomposing in a field?

  • Aggielove Caldwell, ID
    May 30, 2019 7:20 a.m.

    I have lots of thoughts about this topic over the years.
    I’m LDS. Well don’t we believe that when the soul goes up to heave that really the body has no purpose now? Other than to have the living visit? Well I’ve found that to be somewhat creepy. Why not just find a better solution?
    But I guess we need something to remember...?

  • Elsleuth Valencia, Ca
    May 30, 2019 6:34 a.m.

    In Europe people are buried for a period of time say 25 years. At the end of the time the marker is returned to their family and another person takes their spot. In the 1800s when people died their body was placed on the dining room table and a day later they had a service and buried the body. Today burials have become a billion dollar business. The cost of burying someone has become outrageous.

    I do lot of family history and enjoy visiting grave sites and remembering my ancestors. I think it is nice to have a place to remember them. So I'm not in favor of spreading the ashes of loved ones on the ocean or into your garden. But cremation or composting if it involves a place for their remains, so they can be remembered, is fine in my mind.

  • bass679 Novi, MI
    May 30, 2019 6:31 a.m.

    My wishes are to be buried so I'm probably biased but this method doesn't seem any worse than cremation to me from an ethical/religious standpoint. Not much more "returning to dust" you can do beyond becoming mulch.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    May 30, 2019 6:15 a.m.

    This article would have benefitting from more actual conversations with theological experts. I understand Church leaders in the Catholic and Latter-day Saint tradition are reluctant to take hard stands. However why does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discouraged cremation. Finding someone who studies theilogy who would weigh in on this issue might take effort but it would make the article better.

  • OldSalt94 West Jordan, UT
    May 30, 2019 6:04 a.m.

    All I can think of is "Soylent Green".