PLEASE NOTE: This post is first in a series of four about abortion. Post 2 discusses the scriptures; Post 3 discusses the living prophet’s teachings (kind of); Post 4 discusses equality between men and women. If your comment is focused on the topic of a different essay, I’m going to defer responding to it until that particular essay.
The unique doctrines taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could easily support the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.
Catholics and Evangelicals don’t believe in the pre-existence. They believe that God creates the spirit and the body at about the same time (let’s not discuss the exact timing of ensoulment) and so an abortion wipes out a soul’s only chance for a body and condemns the soul either to limbo/hell (per Catholicism) or to an unknown fate (per Evangelicals who may differ about the fate of unsaved souls, but who generally acknowledge that the Bible doesn’t give a clear answer on this topic). The fate of a soul provides much of the religious impetus for the pro-life movement. They’re anxious to save baby souls from the gaps in their own theology.
The LDS doctrine of the pre-existence and the eternal nature of souls leaves plenty of room for LDS faithful to be pro-choice, actually, which is why the LDS stance on abortion has always been more pro-choice than religions like Catholicism and Evangelicalism. We wouldn’t even need to change any LDS beliefs, just the current interpretation of them. Let’s begin by reviewing our basic beliefs about the eternal nature of our souls.
Each person who comes to earth is a unique son or daughter of God. Our personal journey did not begin at birth. Before we were born, we were together in a world of preparation where we “received [our] first lessons in the world of spirits.” (D&C 138:56). Jehovah told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Some may question if life begins with the formation of an embryo, or when the heart begins to beat, or when the baby can live outside of the womb, but for us, there is no question that spirit daughters and sons of God are on their own personal journeys coming to earth to receive a body and experience mortality.
If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to continue with LDS theology and pro-choice beliefs couched in General Conference language to help demonstrate just how easy it would be for the Church to support all reproductive rights.
For a woman, having a child can be a great sacrifice. For reasons that he has not revealed to us, Heavenly Father designed our bodies in such a way that men and women are able to engage in the sacred procreative process even if the woman is not prepared to be a mother either physically or emotionally. While we do all we can to limit procreative activities to those who are prepared to be parents, we acknowledge that not all are obedient, and an even greater number are not members of our faith and may misuse their bodies’ sacred procreative abilities in ignorance.
Motherhood is a sacred and divine role. It must be voluntarily chosen, even actively pursued, in the same way we expect men to make themselves worthy of receiving the priesthood. We would not try to coerce any woman to be a mother before she is ready any more than we would coerce a man to receive the priesthood before he is prepared. We teach, we support, and we hope, but we do not coerce.
To those women who are pregnant and who, after sincere prayer, have realized that they are not ready to pay the physical, emotional, spiritual and economic price of pregnancy and childbirth, we say that God is not angry with you. Jesus Christ himself said, “Wo unto them that are with child, and unto them that give suck in those days!” (Matthew 24:19; JSM 1:16). He knew that these latter days before his Second Coming would be especially difficult for pregnant women.
Surely God understands the pain and fear of being with child during times of tribulation. Further, the Church of Jesus Christ embraces all knowledge revealed by our Heavenly Father, including the miraculous advances in medical science. We would never say that a woman must forego medical help simply because it wasn’t available in scriptural times.
In his infinite wisdom and love, God treats an abortion the same way he treats a child who is miscarried or stillborn without ever drawing breath.
We do not know exactly when the spirit is sent to the womb. However, if an abortion takes place before a soul is sent to a womb, then we can rejoice to know that a child has avoided a difficult start in life. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Children are entitled my brothers and sisters. Surely none of us want a baby to be born to a mother who either cannot or will not welcome that baby. Adoption or abortion are both ways by which our Father in Heaven can redirect a soul to a loving family that is better prepared to rear a child.
If an abortion takes place after a soul is sent to a womb, then this is no different than if a young child dies before the age of accountability. As saddened as we are at death, we also rejoice to know that this individual was so valiant in the pre-existence that he or she did not need to be tested in mortality. Heavenly Father in his eternal wisdom, knowing that the mother would terminate the pregnancy, chose to send a soul so righteous that their time in mortality could be measured in only weeks or months, before being “saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137:10).
Jehovah told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Because Jeremiah had a special mission on this earth, Heavenly Father sent Jeremiah to the right mother and the right place. Jeremiah was not sent to a mother who would die in childbirth, her baby still unborn. Jeremiah was not sent to a city that would be swept with a pestilence that would cause him to die an untimely death as a young child. Those who teach that Heavenly Father’s plan for an individual could be thwarted by either miscarriage or abortion doubt his wisdom and foreknowledge.
My dear brothers and sisters, motherhood is one of God’s greatest blessings. A pregnancy is not a punishment or a consequence, a threat to hold over a woman’s head to deter her from breaking God’s law of chastity. Motherhood is a privilege and an honor, and as such, we honor women and respect their choices about when they become mothers. May we extend charity and acceptance to all women, regardless of their circumstances and their choices.
- Does the doctrine of the pre-existence affect your opinions about abortion?
- Do you believe an abortion affects a soul’s fate differently than a miscarriage does?
- Should we blame the whole problem on God for the design flaw of being fertile before being ready to be a parent?