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When deciding whether to donate their or their loved ones' organs, many will turn to their faith to find the answer.

In an effort to encourage more donation, Intermountain Donor Services this week reminded Utahns that most mainstream religions encourage donation or leave it to the individual to decide.

''One of the biggest questions people have from time to time is, 'What does my religion feel about donation?' '' said Alex McDonald, Intermountain Donor Services spokesman.

Leaders from four religions - the LDS Church, United Church of Christ, Congregation Kol Ami and Quaker - held a news conference Tuesday to explain their faith's teachings.

The LDS Church recently changed its statement on organ donation from one of neutrality to calling the giving of organs and tissues a "selfless act that often results in great benefit to individuals with medical conditions."

Scott Parker, who represents the LDS Church on the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, cautioned that the decision is still an individual one.

Rabbi Tracee Rosen said there is a misconception that donation is considered a "mutilation" by Jews because of the sanctity the Jewish tradition places on the ritual cleansing of the body and the teaching that all body parts should be buried.

"The opportunity to use a part of the body in order to save somebody's life . . . is in fact encouraged," she said, recalling one of her congregant's daughters who received a heart transplant over the weekend.

The donor "gave a 38-year-old woman a chance to have a normal life," Rosen said.

Russell Baker, pastor of a United Church of Christ in Bountiful, said his denomination "strongly" encourages donation. He is signed up to give.

"I want to continue an act of grace even in my death," he said.

Elaine Emmi, a Quaker and chairwoman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, said she plans to donate her body to science, though her church has no set doctrine on donation. She encouraged religious leaders to ponder donation, because they may be asked by their members what to do.

Matt Robinson, who attended the news conference with his 2-year-old son Brick, hopes such statements will help the boy get a kidney. Brick was born with just one that wasn't fully developed, and he has been on the waiting list since January.

"It may put to rest any preconceptions," said Robinson, a member of the LDS Church who lives in Eagle Mountain. "When the name Christ is used, people are more willing to open their hearts."


* HEATHER MAY can be reached at or 801-257-8723. Send comments about this story to

Organ and tissue donation by religion

Baptists: Donation is a compassionate and personal choice.

Buddhism: Donation is a matter of individual conscience.

Catholicism: Donation is an act of charity and love.

Christian Science: Donation is an individual decision.

Episcopal: Donation emulates Christ's sacrifice for mankind.

Hinduism: Donation is an individual decision.

Islam: Donation fulfills the priority of saving human life.

Jehovah's Witness: Donation is an individual decision.

Judaism: Four major branches encourage donation.

Lutheran: Donation contributes to the well-being of humanity.

LDS: Donation is a selfless act to be considered on an individual basis.

Pentecostal: Donation is a personal choice.

Presbyterian: Donation is encouraged.

Quakers: Donation is an individual decision.

Seventh-Day Adventist: Donation is strongly encouraged.

Shinto: Expresses concern about "injuring" a dead body.

Unitarian Universalist: Donation is an act of love.

United Church of Christ: Donation is strongly encouraged.

United Methodist: Donation is encouraged.

Source: Intermountain Donor Services