Recently, investigative journalists have brought forth the egregious and gruesome acts of abortion to the limelight. Abortion is considered to be one of the most revolting practices of our day, and thus the constant and pressing need to keep it from being hidden in the cold, dark shadows of abortion facilities.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is firmly and openly against abortion, and continues to stand against this “assault on the defenseless.”[i] The Church has consistently opposed the practice of abortion. More than a century ago, the First Presidency wrote, “We again take this opportunity of warning the Latter-day Saints against those … practices of foeticide and infanticide.”[ii] This issue has always been important to the Church. As President Russell M. Nelson states, “As Latter-day Saints, we should stand up for choice—the right choice—not simply for choice as a method.”[iii]
This article has been created to add to the current conversation and can be used as a resource guide for Mormons on the topic of abortion. It utilizes information from scriptures, Church doctrine, and teachings from past and present prophets and apostles, and will hopefully help members of the Church explain, teach and defend their beliefs on this issue.
Abortion: LDS Church Perspective on Abortion and Human Life
Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church. 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.[iv]
We remember our Savior’s teaching as He placed a little child before His followers and declared:
“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:5–6).
Of little children, Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said:
I cannot speak for the welfare of children without implications for the choices being made by citizens, public officials, and workers in private organizations. We are all under the Savior’s command to love and care for each other and especially for the weak and defenseless.
Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves and little influence on so much that is vital to their well-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests.[v]
LDS Church Leaders Speak Out Against Abortion
Prophets and apostles have consistently spoken boldly against abortion. The language used is clear, concise, and powerful in its condemnation. Take a moment to read these strongly worded statements, keeping in mind that prophets are on the earth to speak the will and mind of God:
President Russell M. Nelson
“This war called abortion is a war on the defenseless and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn. … Man-made rules have now legalized that which has been forbidden by God from the dawn of time! Human reasoning has twisted and transformed absolute truth into sound-bite slogans that promote a practice that is consummately wrong.
… When the controversies about abortion are debated, “individual right of choice” is invoked as though it were the one supreme virtue. That could only be true if but one person were involved. The rights of any one individual do not allow the rights of another individual to be abused. In or out of marriage, abortion is not solely an individual matter. Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life—and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.””[vi]
President Gordon B. Hinckley
“Abortion is an evil, stark and real and repugnant, which is sweeping over the earth. Abortion is not the answer. This only compounds the problem. It is an evil and repulsive escape that will someday bring regret and remorse.”[vii]
First Presidency Letter
“Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightening evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.”[viii]
President Spencer W. Kimball
“Abortion is a growing evil that we speak against. Certainly the terrible sin of premeditated abortion would be hard to justify. It is almost inconceivable that an abortion would ever be committed to save face or embarrassment, to save trouble or inconvenience, or to escape responsibility. How could one submit to such an operation or be party in any way by financing or encouraging? If special rare cases could be justified, certainly they would be rare indeed. We place it high on the list of sins against which we strongly warn the people.
“Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightful evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.” [ix]
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
“Abortion, which has increased enormously, causes one to ask, ‘Have we strayed so far from God’s second great commandment—love thy neighbor—that a baby in a womb no longer qualifies to be loved—at least as a mother’s neighbor?”[x]
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“The ultimate act of destruction is to take a life. That is why abortion is such a serious sin. Our attitude toward abortion is not based on revealed knowledge of when mortal life begins for legal purposes. It is fixed by our knowledge that according to an eternal plan, all of the spirit children of God must come to this earth for a glorious purpose, and that individual identity began long before conception and will continue for all the eternities to come. We rely on the prophets of God, who have told us that while there may be ‘rare’ exceptions, ‘the practice of elective abortion is fundamentally contrary to the Lord’s injunction, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6)’[xi]
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
“Unfortunately, the world’s “final solution” is abortion.”[xii]
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
“Attitudes toward human sexuality threaten the moral authority of women on several fronts. Abortion for personal or social convenience strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority.”[xiii]
President Boyd K. Packer
“Nowhere is the right of choice defended with more vigor than with abortion. Having chosen to act, and a conception having occurred, it cannot then be unchosen. But there are still choices; always a best one. Sometimes the covenant of marriage has been broken; more often none was made. In or out of marriage, abortion is not an individual choice. At a minimum, three lives are involved.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
“Ironically, as some people become harder, they use softer words to describe dark deeds. This, too, is part of being sedated by secularism! Needless abortion, for instance, is a “reproductive health procedure,” which is an even more “spongy expression” than “termination of pregnancy.” [xv]
President Ezra Taft Benson
“We oppose and abhor the damnable practice of abortion and every other unholy and impure act which strikes at the very foundation of the home and family, and our most basic institutions.” [xvi]
President Spencer W. Kimball
“Abortion, the taking of life, is one of the most grievous of sins. Abortion is a growing evil that we speak against. Certainly the terrible sin of premeditated abortion would be hard to justify. It is almost inconceivable that an abortion would ever be committed to save face or embarrassment, to save trouble or inconvenience, or to escape responsibility. How could one submit to such an operation or be party in any way by financing or encouraging? If special rare cases could be justified, certainly they would be rare indeed. We place it high on the list of sins against which we strongly warn the people.”[xvii]
President Gordon B. Hinckley
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 1,200,000 abortions performed in 1995 in the United States alone. What has happened to our regard for human life? How can women, and men, deny the great and precious gift of life, which is divine in its origin and nature?… Abortion is an ugly thing, a debasing thing, a thing which inevitably brings remorse and sorrow and regret.”
“What is happening to our appreciation of the sanctity of human life? Abortion is an evil, stark and real and repugnant, which is sweeping over the earth. I plead with the women of this Church to shun it, to stand above it, to stay away from those compromising situations which make it appear desirable. There may be some few circumstances under which it can occur, but they are extremely limited and for the most part improbable. You are the mothers of the sons and daughters of God, whose lives are sacred. Safeguarding them is a divinely given responsibility which cannot be lightly brushed aside.” [xviii]
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“I have been fascinated with how cleverly those who sought and now defend legalized abortion on demand have moved the issue away from a debate on the moral, ethical, and medical pros and cons of legal restrictions on abortion and focused the debate on the slogan or issue of choice. The slogan or sound bite “pro-choice” has had an almost magical effect in justifying abortion and in neutralizing opposition to it. … Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. … Latter-day Saints follow the teachings of the prophets. On this subject our prophetic guidance is clear. The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience.
… For example, consider the uses some have made of the possible exceptions to our firm teachings against abortion. Our leaders have taught that the only possible exceptions are when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or when a competent physician has determined that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy or that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Because abortion is a most serious matter, we are counseled that it should be considered only after the persons responsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmation through prayer.
Some Latter-day Saints say they deplore abortion, but they give these exceptional circumstances as a basis for their pro-choice position that the law should allow abortion on demand in all circumstances. Such persons should face the reality that the circumstances described in these three exceptions are extremely rare. For example, conception by incest or rape—the circumstance most commonly cited by those who use exceptions to argue for abortion on demand—is involved in only a tiny minority of abortions. More than 95 percent of the millions of abortions performed each year extinguish the life of a fetus conceived by consensual relations. Thus the effect in over 95 percent of abortions is not to vindicate choice but to avoid its consequences. 1 Using arguments of “choice” to try to justify altering the consequences of choice is a classic case of omitting what the Savior called “the weightier matters of the law.” (For Elder Oaks’ full talk on abortion, please click here).
Repentance and Forgiveness Is Possible
President Russell M. Nelson offers some comfort to those who seek repentance from participating in an abortion. He lovingly says, “Is there any hope for the person who has participated in the act of abortion? Is there any hope for those who have so sinned and who now suffer heartbreak? The answer is yes! “As far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.” 16 We know the Lord will help all who are truly repentant.”
President Boyd K. Packer adds, “We can teach you of the cleansing power of repentance. If covenants have been broken, however hard it may be, they may be reinstated, and you can be forgiven. Even for abortion? Yes, even that!
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18.)
Where Do We Stand? Some Soul Searching Questions
Several years ago in General Conference, President James E. Faust shared a message from Mother Teresa that cut to the very heart and soul of the moral issues affecting our day. She stated that the greatest proof of that selfishness is abortion. It was reported that Mother Teresa had tied abortion to growing violence and murder in the streets by saying, “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? . . . Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”
President Faust concluded, “What consummate spiritual courage this remarkable aged woman demonstrated! How the devil must have been offended! Her remarkable declaration, however, was not generally picked up by the press or the editorial writers. Perhaps they felt more comfortable being politically or socially correct. After all, they can justify their stance by asserting that everyone does it or that it is legal. Fortunately the scriptures and the message of the prophets cannot be so revised.”[xix]
With the words of the past and present prophets, seers and revelators (and Mother Theresa) ringing in our ears, I pose some questions to anyone who is reading this today: Do we have the courage to stand up against abortion? Do we have the courage to defend virtue, to declare the validity of our faith, to oppose false teachings, and to fight the unpopular battle? Do we have the moral stamina to confront any and all opportunities and preserve truth and defend the cause of God?[xx]
Additional Statements, Talks, and Articles on Abortion
For more specific information on Church policies, including special concerns, medical issues and adoption, please visit the following links:
LDS Church Official Statement on Abortion
LDS.org Topic: Abortion
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless – President Russell M. Nelson
Weightier Matters – Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Reverence for Life – Elder Russell M. Nelson
Protect the Children – Elder Dallin H. Oaks
LDS.org Topics: Unwed Pregnancy
Eternal Marriage Student Manual: Abortion
Repentance: Forgive them I Pray Thee
Mother Refuses Abortion in the midst of Cancer Treatment
[i] Russell M. Nelson, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless” Ensign, Oct. 2008
[ii] John Taylor and George Q. Cannon, “Epistle of the First Presidency,” Apr. 4, 1885; in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 3:11.
[iii] Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless” Ensign, Oct. 2008
[v] Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Protect the Children,” Oct. 2012 General Conference, Ensign, Nov. 2012
[vi] Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless” Ensign, Oct. 2008
[vii] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Save the Children,” Oct. 1994 General Conference, Ensign, Nov. 1994
[viii] First President Statement on Abortion: “News of the Church: Abortion Is Considered ‘Revolting Sin’ by Church,” Ensign, Mar. 1973
[ix] Spencer W. Kimball, “Guidelines to Carry Forth the Work of God in Cleanliness“, (Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 8; or Ensign, May 1974, 7).
[x] Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Behold, the Enemy is Combined’ (D&C 38:12)’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 94–95; or Ensign, May 1993, 76).
[xi] Dallin H. Oaks, (Supplement to the 1989 General Handbook of Instructions, p. 1).
[xii] Neal A. Maxwell, “Reasons to Stay Pure,” New Era, March 2003
[xiii] D. Todd Christofferson, “The Moral Force of Women,” Oct. 2013 General Conference, Ensign, Nov. 2013
[xv] Neal A. Maxwell, “Becometh as a Child,”Oct. 1996 General Conference, Ensign, May 1996
[xvi] Ezra Taft Benson, “Guide for Unwed Parents,” Ensign, September 1984
[xvii] Spencer W. Kimball, “Guidelines to Carry Forth the Work of God in Cleanliness,” Apr. 1974 General Conference, Ensign, May 1974
[xviii] Gordon B. Hinckley,“Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Oct. 1998 General Conference, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 99).
[xix] James E. Faust, “Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign, Sep. 1995
[xx] Mark E. Peterson, “Where Do We Stand?,” Apr. 1980 General Conference, Ensign, May 1980
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