Part 3 of 3
Last time we compared the Church’s stance on abortion to the Doctrine of the Church. However, due to a lack of scriptural evidence supporting Church policy, there was still much to look at before coming to any conclusions. Is the Church’s stance on abortion like blacks and the priesthood before it? Why wouldn’t abortion be an acceptable answer for women that are pregnant out of wedlock? According to the LDS Handbook 2:
“When a man and woman conceive a child outside of marriage, every effort should be made to encourage them to marry. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely due to age or other circumstances, the unmarried parents should be counseled to work with LDS Family Services to place the child for adoption, providing an opportunity for the baby to be sealed to temple-worthy parents. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses both the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity.” – Handbook 2: 21.4.12
(It should be noted that these handbooks are not scripture but rather policy and are not binding on the religion, but by sustaining current leadership members are agreeing to follow their policies. They can be changed at any time, with or without the Lord’s input.)
In the Old Testament, the law stated that men are to marry women they have sexual relations with, or pay for the service (Exodus 22: 16-17), so the council for them to marry is sound. This is because in today’s society, it would be demeaning to treat a girl as a prostitute. It makes cultural sense that the Church no longer requires monetary payment for sexual acts. It would also be logical to presume that Christ pays for the act through the atonement for either party willing to repent if they are unwilling to marry.
Men and women that reject this council are not excommunicated, unless they refuse to repent or at the very least work towards repentance. If the woman keeps her child there are no policies to punish her, nor should they be. Unmarried women are not breaking any commandments by keeping their child, merely the means by which the child came. The Church handbook even requires young women to join the Relief Society (10.12.4) and so clearly, women of Relief Society age having children out of wedlock are not kicked out of that program either.
However, abortion is not on the table. As a policy, this seems sound. As mentioned in the previous installment, children are to be seen as a blessing, not a curse. The question becomes, what happens to women that reject the policy against abortion? They “may be subject to Church discipline,” according to the Church website. In fact, anyone promoting abortion would be as well.
There is, however, no doctrinal reasoning behind this. The point here is clear – we live in a modern time and we either need clearer revelation from the Lord, or we are walking in blindness.
Logically, if the family is the smallest unit of the Church and the father receives personal revelation from the Lord that his daughter should get an abortion, the Church’s policy is null and void, as it is not from God but is the council of men, regardless of how righteous they may be. The problem comes later, if the Church rejects the Lord’s prophecy to the woman coming through her husband (if the couple if married) or the father (if the woman is not married). Logically, if it is the will of the Lord, then the Bishop, as a judge in Israel, would be made aware – as would anyone else in the Church that could try to take disciplinary action against those involved. Yet, this does not grantee that those with calling in the Church will hear or listen to the will of the Lord. For example, look at blacks and the priesthood, we are a religion of revelation yet we still do not know why there was a ban, merely that it wasn’t of the Lord (as he rejected it when finally asked about it and there is no revelation provided by God asking for the ban).
At this point, the truth can only be found by looking to the Lord for our own revelations. This said, the conclusion I come to is that the Church is correct in it’s statement:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.”
However, while the Church can, and I would even argue should, council members and the world at large to avoid aborting unwanted babies, it should clearly not be a requirement, at least not without a sustaining voice from the body of the Church or new revelation letting us know the will of God.
In fact, the last part would contradict our own scriptures, “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” To do so would be a violation of our scriptures, those that require us not to interfere with other religions (Articles of Faith 1: 11) and the commandments to follow the U.S. Constitution (Doctrine and Covenants 98: 5, 101: 77-78). Most specifically:
“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” Doctrine and Covenants 134: 1-2
The Church’s policy reflects the spirit of the Law in the eyes of modern day man-made religion. It is not the Lord’s law, but should be honored by members, as long as they are sustaining the Church leaders that wrote it. Like other issues from the Church’s past, it is subject to change as it comes from man and not the Lord. Further revelation is needed to clarify many things on this issue. While the Law found in the Old Testament could be used to contradict Church policy in this matter, revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants could be used to push this policy, even though the real meaning is unknown/unclear and the Church’s footnotes actually contradict this idea.
On a personal note, the idea that an unborn, potential person has no rights in today’s more enlightened age seems to be the real issue. This shouldn’t be a question of the baby over the mother vs the mother over the baby, yet that is exactly what it has become. While it is clear that the Lord has stated it is in fact the mother over the baby the reality is both are important as both can be used to further the Lord’s work at one time or another. When looking at abortion, prayer and fasting by loved ones (the mother should not fast) should be done to find the correct course of action for any Christian, regardless of religious preference. Knowing that Christ’s atonement paved the path for the child to get to heaven does not mean that it also protects the mother or the doctor if they are performing an abortion against the Lord’s will. This is why revelation should be sought in every instance to ensure the will of the Lord is being done. It is clear, after much studying and prayer, that this is not a black and white issue. Perhaps the reason the Lord has not given us the exact answers to this question is because it is one He would prefer we seek His guidance on every time it is a genuine question.