Part 1 in a 3 part series
When does life begin? Who can say but God? A prophet, after all prophets exist to give us the will of God (Exodus 4: 12, Deuteronomy 18: 18, Amos 3: 7, 1 Corinthians 12: 27-28, Ephesians 2: 20 Doctrine and Covenants 1: 38). So prophets reveal to us about when exactly life beings?
According to the creation story, Adam was not alive until the breath of life was given to him by God (Genesis 2: 7; Moses 3: 7, 19; Abraham 5: 7). The question then becomes, what was this breath? Was it life (his soul) or was it the Lord bringing his creation intelligence? Was this the breath of life or the breath of conciseness that separated Adam from the other humans that existed at that time? Moses 3: 19 helps, “And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air… and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life.” But again, this could be referring to the Lord giving some of the already existing creations the understanding to obey man. In other words, this may be referring to pets and other animals that co-exist well with mankind.
Isaiah makes this idea a little clearer and a little more confusing:
“Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein” – Isaiah 42: 5.
Here spirit could be life life and breath could be the covenant as the verse after this refers to holding the hand of the righteous and the Lord guiding us those in His covenant. In other words, the spirit He gives could be life and the breath could be the intelligence. Both together could be why he guides us, because we are both His spiritual and physical creations. This idea conforms to a statement by Orson Hyde;
“The world was peopled before the days of Adam, as much so as it was before the days of Noah. It was said that Noah became the father of a new world, but it was the same old world still and will continue to be though, it may pass through many changes.” – Journals of Discourses 2: 79
Yet Ezekiel seems to contradict this idea, telling us that the breath is life clearly when he saw in vision;
“Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” – Ezekiel 37: 1-5
But again, these bones are the house of Israel, so does the breath of live come to those who are alive in the Lord? If this is referring to the Resurrection, then the breath here would be life immortal. This idea seems to find a home in the New Testament as well;
“God that made the world and all things therein…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth… That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” – Acts 17: 24-27
To the Lord life is a dual nature life and breath, in other words we can be alive physically (a body given a spirit) and alive in Him (the Lord breathing the breath of Salvation/the Holy Ghost/Spiritual life). It appears that it is the breath of life – a spirit obtaining a body – that makes us alive physically, but also the breath of the Lord (gaining the gift of the Holy Ghost) that makes us alive spiritually.
The question we must now ask on the topic of abortion is, when does physical life begin? The scriptures make it clear that the soul God created must enter the body in a semi-permanent way, or in other words – until death of the body. We do not know when this happens. We know that the pre-mortal Jesus Christ spoke to Nephi, son of Nephi, letting Him know that he would be born the following day (3 Nephi 1: 13-14). However, this could have been the Holy Ghost speaking in place of the Lord, just as Jesus at times speaks for the Father as though He were God the Father.
I have received personal testimony that it was not the Holy Ghost speaking to Nephi, but rather it was the pre-mortal Christ. When pondering and praying on this for a week, I was in Sunday School and there a Stake leader was teaching the lesson. The spirit told him to relay the story of the birth of his son. Before his son was born, the man was in the room with his wife waiting to deliver. His son stood next to him, and he looked like a man in his mid twenties. He stated that after his son’s mission, he looked exactly like he did in that delivery room. (This was over a decade ago.)
The spirit whispered to me that this was how the pre-mortal Christ spoke to Nephi. The spirit informed me that the first breath of physical life is when live began for the Savior and for us all. However, this is personal revelation and not binding on the Church until such time as it is revealed to the Church by the prophet and then sustained by the body of the Church. Until then, it is still a mystery to those the Lord has not reveled this to.
Spiritual life begins when the Holy Ghost enters the body of a person, when they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Physical life comes when the soul is semi-permanently attached via the first breath, until then the fetus is a potential life relying on the mother. Physically it is true that there is a greater chance of survival after a certain point in the womb, yet the permanent attachment of the soul to the body will not happen until the first breath is taken. However, there is no official doctrine as to when life begins, therefore it is irrelevant to the Church (and thus our salvation) at this time. We should then seek personal revelation to know for ourselves the answer to this question.
Readers should reject my knowledge/revelations on this topic until the Lord makes these things known them and should not teach them as doctrine until the Lord has revealed to the Church and the revelation has been sustained by the body of the organization. No information given by any man at any time is doctrine or binding on the Church until it has been sustained by the body of the Church.