"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."


The official statement from the Mormon church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) regarding abortion is as follows: "In today's society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord's declaration, "Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it" (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.

Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.

When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services"

—See True to the Faith (2004), 4–5

The following is a contribution to LightPlanet.com from W. John Walsh and Jenny Scoville Walsh which provides a viewpoint on abortion, although not the official viewpoint of the church.


The First Presidency has stated:  “Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day…” [2]   President Ezra Taft Benson stated:  “we oppose and abhor the damnable practice of wholesale abortion and every other unholy and impure act which strikes at the very foundation of the home and family, our most basic institutions.” [3]   He also warned members of the Church “in all seriousness that you who submit yourselves to an abortion or to an operation that precludes you from safely having additional healthy children are jeopardizing your exaltation and your future membership in the kingdom of God. [4]    


Church members “guilty of being parties to the sin of abortion must be subjected to the disciplinary action of the councils of the Church as circumstances warrant.” [5]   Such discipline, which applies to all parties consenting to the evil act, may include excommunication from the Church.  President Spencer W. Kimball taught:  “There is such a close relationship between the taking of a life and the taking of an embryonic child, between murder and abortion, that we would hope that mortal men would not presume to take the frightening responsibility. . . .” [6]


Latter-day Saints take this position on abortion because the gift of children is considered the greatest blessing in both time and eternity and lies at the heart of LDS theology. The Church teaches “that not only have we a Father in heaven, but a mother there.” [7]   (See Mother in Heaven)  Our Heavenly Father and Mother spend all eternity creating “worlds without number” [8] and populating them with their children. [9]   The performance of this sacred work is considered the ultimate expression of true happiness.  Nothing is more holy than the creation of a child.  Likewise,  latter-day prophets have taught that “possibly no greater sin could be committed … than to prevent or to destroy life.” [10]


Latter-day Saints believe that the primary purpose of our creation is to learn to become like our Heavenly Parents so that we may also perform this holy work of creating life.  One author describes this process as follows: 


 “Logically and naturally, the ultimate desire of a loving Supreme Being is to help his children enjoy all that he enjoys. For Latter-day Saints, the term ‘godhood’ denotes the attainment of such a state—one of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is.” [11]   (See Godhood)


It is the ability to have children after the resurrection which distinguishes between eternity spent as an exalted being or as a serving angel. [12]     (See Eternal Lives, Eternal Increase)  As one can plainly discern, the evil act of abortion is in direct opposition to the entire world-view of the Church.  


It is often believed that exceptions to the LDS position are made in the case of rape, incest, or for the health of the mother.  However, you will not find any authoritative statement in LDS literature which actively endorses abortion under any circumstance.  In other words, no prophet or apostle has ever explicitly said it is definitely approved by God to ever have an abortion under any particular circumstance. The view that sometimes it is acceptable to God to have an abortion is an incorrect understanding based on false assumptions of both the doctrine and the policy of the Church. 


Latter-day Saints believe God sends the spirit body of a child to join with its physical body sometime between conception and birth.   (See When Does the Spirit Enter the Womb?)  Once the spirit body has joined with the physical body, it is murder to kill that person, whether he or she exists in or out of the womb.  As President Boyd K. Packer noted:  “In or out of marriage, abortion is not an individual choice. At a minimum, three lives are involved.” [13]   Since Latter-day Saints also oppose the practice of birth control, [14] it should not be assumed that killing the physical body before the spirit body arrives is acceptable to our Heavenly Father either.  Instead, it is simply a different degree of sin.


If this is true, then why do some statements in LDS literature seem to imply that abortions are acceptable to God in certain instances, such as:


“The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.” [15]


“Except where the wicked crime of incest or rape was involved, or where competent medical authorities certify that the life of the mother is in jeopardy, or that a severely defective fetus cannot survive birth, abortion is clearly a ‘thou shalt not.’ Even in these very exceptional cases, much sober prayer is required to make the right choice.” [16]


While a simple reading of these select sentences might lead someone to believe the Church espoused a view that abortion was acceptable in these instances, a careful examination will show that this is incorrect.  To properly understand what these select sentences mean, one must look at the context of the doctrines of the Church and how they are implemented in totality. 


First, when statements listing possible exceptions are given, they are almost always followed by a disclaimer suggesting that the person meeting one of these supposed exceptions counsel with their priesthood leaders and approach God about the matter in very sober prayer.  If an abortion is indeed acceptable under any of the conditions noted above, then why suggest priesthood counseling and prayer?  Why the qualification?


When a woman counsels with her priesthood leader about abortion, what normally happens?  She is comforted regarding her condition and reminded of the doctrines of the Church.  If she was a victim of rape or incest, she is reminded that “children are an heritage of the Lord” [17] and that the child she is carrying is a “spirit son or daughter” [18] of Heavenly Father.  The growing baby within her “comes into this world innocent” [19] of any crime committed against her.  She is reminded the baby will be born pure into the world through the “mercies of Christ and the power of his atonement.” [20]   She will be reminded that there are many, many LDS couples who cannot have children who desperately desire to adopt one born to someone else.  She will be reminded that sometimes the “the followers of Satan are so used as to help accomplish the divine purpose.” [21]   In other words, the Lord can take the evil actions of mankind and turn them to good. 


If a woman’s own health is endangered by the baby, her priesthood leader will remind her that Jesus Christ “died that we might live forever.” [22]   If she is concerned about her other children, he will remind her that the Lord required Joseph Smith to be martyred at an early age, leaving a young family behind.  He will remind her that throughout history both men and women have been called upon to make great sacrifices on behalf of their convictions, even to the sacrificing of their lives. 


The true test of your beliefs is not when you sit quietly at home facing no dire consequences, but when you must bear your testimony directly facing death and sealing your testimony with your own blood.  Her priesthood leader will undoubtedly remind her that many, many women have already made this sacrifice and perhaps call attention to the story of Rachel in the Bible. 


Rachel was the second and favorite wife of the patriarch-prophet Jacob, also called Israel. “The story of Rachel is a story of unparalleled love and devotion in the biblical narrative.” [23]   Despite her favored status and her husband’s preeminent position with God as the founder of the chosen people, Rachel was called upon to give her life during childbirth so that their son Benjamin might be born.  In all of history, if there was any woman justified in preventing this birth, was it not Rachel?  From his four wives, did not Jacob already have eleven sons and an unknown number of daughters?  What would one more child matter?  And if that child was indeed needed, could not one of the other wives bear him into mortality if she could not do so safely?


In the providence of God, Rachel was the one elected to perform this holy mission and ensure that twelve tribes—and not eleven—would exist, even though it cost her own life.  It is said that her patriarch-prophet husband mourned for her the rest of his days and even favored her children over those of his other wives.  A priesthood leader may ask the woman considering abortion how she will feel to come to the gates of the celestial kingdom and see Rachel there sanctified and glorified by her sacrifices in behalf of the Lord.  If she kills this child growing within her, will she feel worthy to sit next to Rachel in eternal glory, knowing the sacrifices that Rachel made? 


As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, “The real test is (and always has been), ‘How much do we love Him?’ We know how much He loves us. His test is, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’” [24]   After counseling with her priesthood leader, a woman will be encouraged to approach her Heavenly Father in the deepest and most sincere prayer and ask his will concerning the matter. By inquiring of the Lord for herself, she will know directly from God the right course of action.  (See Prayer, Fasting, and Revelation home page)


And how will God answer these questions?  Will he say, “Because you feel sorrow for the evil acts of others perpetrated against you, I sanction your killing my own innocent child which I have placed within you; and those faithful Saints who yearn for children will simply have to do without because you lack the emotional or spiritual strength to reconcile this situation in your own mind”?


Will he say “Because you value your own life above my other children, I sanction your killing of my own innocent child which I have placed within you”?  Will he say “While you lack the emotional and spiritual strength to give everything to me, even your own life, I will still bless you with the inheritance of those who did give everything, including their lives, to me”?


While some would suggest that the Church’s supposed exceptions are blanket endorsements of abortion in those cases, I propose that they are simply the Church’s kind and long-suffering way of encouraging people to make the right decision to keep the pregnancy even in the face of great adversity. When a woman (or couple) comes in burdened with the great weight of rape, incest, or fear of death, she is comforted about the great promises of the gospel which give her a “frame of reference within which to view” [25] her difficult situation.  She is gently provided the correct spiritual principles which will enable her to make the right decision, which is to give birth to her baby.  As she (or they) ponders the promises of the gospel and sincerely approaches Heavenly Father in prayer, the Holy Spirit will strengthen her (or them) enough to do what must be done.


And what if she doesn’t have that strength, for example, when the emotional trauma is so great that the woman cannot stand to see the pregnancy through?  In those cases, she will not be subject to Church discipline.  Why should she be?  This is not a case of convenience or the attempt to “cover up their sin,” [26] such as an unwed pregnancy.  She simply lacks the emotional or spiritual strength of some other people who have had the strength to overcome by faith such things.  And in the end, at the judgment day, it is not the Church or any official within who will have to answer for the choices she made in her life.  She will stand alone facing her God (as will anyone supporting the decision to have an abortion).


However, the importance of the following point here should not be missed.  Celestial glory comes to those “who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial,…and who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true”, [27] not simply those who somehow made it through life exempted from Church discipline.  Church discipline is not and should not be applied to everyone who comes short of the requirements for eternal life.


Church discipline is applied to abortion in general because the wanton disregard of human life must be addressed, lest the “integrity of the Church” [28] be lessened.   However, since abortion in the very limited circumstances mentioned above is not deemed to affect the integrity of the Church as a whole, no local disciplinary procedures are needed.  Most people understand the terrible trials and discomfort that accompanies pregnancy as a result of incest, rape, or when the mother's health is endangered.


Yet, while most people understand the anguish of soul, the doctrines of the gospel and common sense tell us that these discomforts do not justify killing the innocent child involved.  For example, since few people would support the idea of killing children conceived by rape or incest after birth, why would it be acceptable before?   Likewise, who could condone a woman killing her child after birth to save her life?  To illustrate, suppose a woman and her daughter were involved in a boating accident and only one life jacket were available.  Few people would have any sympathy for the woman who selfishly took the life jacket and let her daughter drown.  President Joseph F. Smith taught:


“…The true mother, the mother who has the fear of God and the love of truth in her soul, would never hide from danger or evil and leave her child exposed to it.  But as natural as it is for the sparks to fly upward, as natural as it is to breathe the breathe of life, if there were danger coming to her child, she would step between the child and that danger; she would defend her child to the uttermost.  Her life would be nothing in the balance in the balance, in comparison with the life if her child.  That is the love of true motherhood for children…” [29]


Why would it be acceptable for a woman to kill her daughter before birth to save her own life?  What if the child would not likely live for an extended period?    One of the purposes of life is “to receive a physical, mortal body,” [30] without which one cannot receive eternal life.  Perhaps that was the only thing the child needed to enter exaltation is that physical body.


The only way you could find such positions acceptable is if you believe life begins at birth and not before.  However, as explained before, Latter-day Saints believe that life begins before birth.  This is one reason why we have often tried to avoid arguing about abortion with people.  The issues around abortion always come down to basic theological beliefs.  If we can’t convince you that life begins before birth, we will never convince you that it is wrong.  Yet, if you do believe that life begins before birth, then how can you logically say it is right in some cases, but not in others?


We believe that since Christ gave his life for us, any woman not prepared to give her life for her child is not fit for the Kingdom of God.  Any woman who says “My will be done” is not the same caliber of person who says to God, “Thy will be done.” [31] Consider the example of Jesus Christ.  He submitted to the Father's will in all things, even laying his life down for Heavenly Father's children.   We cannot be exalted if we say,  "my life is more important than other spirit children of my Heavenly Father." Nor can we be exalted when we believe our comfort, desires and goals are a higher priority than God's plan for us.  Christ never said, "it is too much for me to suffer physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual agony.  It is too hard and I will not do it."  No, we are grateful to say that he willingly endured inexpressible agony of body and spirit because he loves us.  We are all to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  A woman who is Christ-like will love all children, including her unborn child.  She will love her child above herself.  She will be willing to die for her child.  Though she will desire to live, to be comfortable, or to avoid emotional distress, her desire to protect her child will be greater. 


If a woman has other children, the choice may be more poignant, yet how could she truly love her children who have been born if she was willing to sacrifice her unborn child for personal comfort?  Is her earthly life more important to her than her eternal life?  Is giving her children an earthly mother more important than making sure she is worthy to be their mother for eternity?  Would she want her children to watch her example and determine that babies are not valuable or that their parents are not willing to give everything for them either?  If she dies for her unborn child, leaving her living children without a mother, she leaves her testimony of the reality of the resurrection, the value of each of her children, the eternal nature of the family, and the importance of following the Savior.


We have been in a situation like this ourselves.  We determined that though we both wanted Jenny to live, neither of us could kill our unborn child to save Jenny's life.  We loved and valued that child so much that both of us were willing to give our lives for her.  It was very possible that the pregnancy was masking a deadly form of cancer that was fatal in a matter of months.  We were not sure if the baby were growing properly or if her heart was beating, as it was still early in the pregnancy.  We knew that the cancer treatment would kill our baby and that they would not even give the treatments unless Jenny had an abortion.  We waited for another week and hoped to hear the heartbeat and receive more conclusive test results.   In the meantime, we agonized over what we would do if we had a baby and cancer growing at the same time.


It took great faith, humility, and strength from Heavenly Father.  We could not have done what we should have done without him.  He gave us the power and the faith we needed to make the right decision.  We determined that, no matter what, we could not abort our child.  We chose to put our lives in his hands.  If Jenny had to die because of that choice, she was prepared to do so and John was prepared to lose her companionship and love for this life.  On the other hand, if Heavenly Father wanted Jenny to live, he could give her health so she could keep the baby, or he could decide to discontinue Jenny's pregnancy so she could undergo the cancer treatments.  We both wanted to do the will of God. We know that with God's perfect love, power, wisdom, and knowledge, he would do what was best for us.   Our story has a happy ending, through the power of the priesthood, prayer, our faith and the faith of our family and friends.  The next week, the tests were normal and our baby was healthy.  However, if she has to, Jenny is still prepared to give her life for her children, born or unborn.


If one thinks about why the Church opposes abortion, it becomes clear that abortion is not endorsed in any circumstance, notwithstanding the fact the Church chooses not to impart Church discipline in a few limited cases, leaving the ultimate fate of the offender to God.  It is also clear that our Savior's righteous example negates the arguments for so-called exceptions for performing abortions.  We shudder to imagine standing before him and trying to explain why we participated in an elective abortion when he suffered and gave his life for us.


(See Daily Living gome page; Teachings About Sexuality home page; Attitudes Toward Health, Medicine, and Fitness home page; Teachings About Children home page)

[1] Matthew 16:25, The Holy Bible, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.


[2] First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney), Priesthood Bulletin, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Feb. 1973, p. 1-2.


[3] Benson, Ezra Taft, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 539.


[4] Benson, Ezra Taft, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 541.


[5] First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney), Priesthood Bulletin, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Feb. 1973, p. 1-2.


[6] Kimball, Spencer W., The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 188.


[7] Smith, Joseph Fielding, The Restoration of All Things, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1973, p. 251.


[8] Moses 1:33,  The Pearl of Great Price, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.


[9] Young, Brigham, Discourses of Brigham Young, Ed., John A Widstoe, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1941, p. 37.


[10] Smith, Joseph F., Conference Report, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1900, p. 40.


[11] "Godhood"   K. Codell Carter, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[12] “‘Eternal lives’ is a term that refers to the right and power to beget children after the resurrection, granted to those who are exalted in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.” “Eternal Lives, Eternal Increase,” Shirley S. Ricks, , Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[13] Packer, Boyd K., Conference Report, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1990, p. 108.


[14] “Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children.  We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.”  First Presidency (David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner), Letter to Presidents of Stakes, Bishops of Wards, and Presidents of Missions, April 14, 1969.


[15] First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney), Priesthood Bulletin, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Feb. 1973, p. 1-2.


[16] Packer, Boyd K., Conference Report, Salt Lake City, Utah:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1990, p. 108.


[17] Psalms 127:3, The Pearl of Great Price, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.


[18] “Spirit Body,” Wilson K. Andersen, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[19] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Answers to Gospel Questions Volume 2, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1958, p. 178.


[20] Smith, Joseph Fielding, The Way to Perfection, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1931, p. 198.


[21] Widtsoe, John A., Evidences and Reconciliations, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1960, p. 209-10.


[22] First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose), Ed., James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency Vol. 4, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1965, p. 299.


[23] Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York: Doubleday, 1997, 1992.


[24] Maxwell, Neal A., Notwithstanding my Weakness, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 55.


[25] Maxwell, Neal A.,  We Will Prove Them Herewith, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1982, p. 54.


[26] Stapley, Delbert L., Conference Report, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1961, p. 23.


[27] D&C 76:51-53, The Doctrine and Covenants, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.


[28] “Disciplinary Procedures,” Bruce C. Hafen, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[29] Smith, Joseph F., Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Joseph F. Smith, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998, p. 35-36.


[30] Benson, Ezra Taft, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 27.


[31] Matthew 6:10, Matthew 26:42, The Holy Bible, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.




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