I’ll admit it, I like to debate. I don’t mean I like being in heated, emotional arguments, I mean I like to debate facts and present evidence in a cool and calm manner. For me, the value of debate is not in proving one’s point, but learning. I don’t enjoy debating anti-Mormons because I think I can prove they are wrong or because I like to annoy them, I debate them because it forces me to more closely examine what I believe through which I learn quite a bit about myself and my own religion, and because I like to understand how other people think and how they see Mormonism.
Unfortunately, it seems that while I enjoy logical debate, most anti-Mormons are in favor of the heated, emotional argument, and that their intent is to prove a point rather than to arrive at a better understanding of the truth. Here is an email exchange between myself and an anti-Mormon regarding some content he had posted on his website about Mormon beliefs which I informed him was incorrect. I’ll post my emails in bold and his in italics.
Regarding the sentence “The preexistence spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth and their memories of the preexistence are lost at the time.” at http://www.carm.org/lds/mormon_beliefs.htm, there are a few inaccuracies.
1. The commonly held belief among Mormons is that life begins (or spirits enter the body) at conception. Although I can find no LDS Church statement regarding this, I can most definitely say that is in error to state that Mormons believe that “spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth”. If anything, Mormons claim not to know and therefore err on the side of believing that life begins at conception. But after 30 years in the Mormon church I’ve never heard it taught that spirits inhabit babies at the time of birth. The only mention I can remember of the subject is that one prophet once said something to the effect of when a mother feels life within her then the spirit is there.
2. Mormons refer to life before this was as the “pre-mortal existence” since “pre-existence” doesn’t really make sense. However, a LOT of Mormons accidentally say “pre-existence”.
3. Mormons don’t believe that the memories are lost, per se, but rather hidden, although I suppose you could argue that this is a minor point and why quibble about it?
I think a more correct way to rewrite this sentence while still preserving the original intent would be to say “The spirits come down, receive bodies, and memories of the pre-mortal existence are hidden.”
Thank you for writing to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (www.carm.org)
Marion G. Romney, “We Are Children of God,” (Ensign, Sep 1984)
From this scripture we learn that we were to come to earth for a purpose, and the purpose was to be proved, to be tested, to see if we would do what the Lord instructs us to do. In being born into this world as human souls, our spirits—which are the offspring of God—enter into our bodies, which are the offspring of our mortal parents; at death the spirit and the body are separated. That’s all death is, a separation of the spirit and the body. The body returns in time to the dust or earth matter, and the spirit goes to the spirit world. When we are resurrected, the spirit reenters the body, and each of us will become a soul again, our spirit and body never again to be separated. “And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” (D&C 88:16.)”
Please read this verse: “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him,” Zech 12:1.
According to the Bible the spirit of man first comes into exsistence within the fetus. It is created by God.
I hope that this helps you to understand about when a spirit begins life in the womb.
I guess it could be debated, but I don’t think it was Marion G. Romney’s intent to make a statement about exactly when the spirit enters the body. The topic of abortion wasn’t as controversial then as it is now, so I don’t think he would have been watching his words to see how they would be interpreted in light of today’s perspective on the matter. Since he wasn’t making a statement on specifically when the spirit enters the body, I think it would only be safe to interpret “in being born” as meaning any part of the process of being born, from conception to birth, and to say anything further would be to put words in his mouth that we can’t be sure he meant.
Furthermore, since LDS doctrine clearly states that a “soul” is made of the spirit and body combined, you could argue that Romney is stating that the spirit and body are already combined prior to birth when he says “born into this world as human souls,” as though the formation of the soul (body + spirit) had already occurred. I don’t believe this was his intent either, I’m just pointing out that this quote probably isn’t a very good one for determining what Mormons believe about when life begins.
You said, “I guess it could be debated, but I don’t think it was Marion G. Romney’s intent to make a statement about exactly when the spirit enters the body.”
MATTS RESPONSE: If a fetus was not life or a human being, then there is no harm in destroying that biological tissue. However, if the fetus is a “person” then it must have value, ere go, a spirit. That is why taking innocent life is an evil act. If you don’t believe me, believe your church:
Russell M. Nelson, “Reverence for Life,” Ensign, May 1985, 11:
It is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science. Approximately twenty-two days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At twenty-six days the circulation of blood begins. 9
Scripture declares that the “life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11.) Abortion sheds that innocent blood. Another excuse some use to justify abortion relates to population control. Many in developing nations unknowingly ascribe their lack of prosperity to overpopulation. While they grovel in ignorance of God and his commandments, they may worship objects of their own creation (or nothing at all), while unsuccessfully attempting to limit their population by the rampant practice of abortion. They live in squalor, oblivious to the divine teaching—stated in the scriptures not once, but thirty-four times—that people will prosper in the land only if they obey the commandments of God. 10 How can God fulfill his promise to prosper his children in obedience if they worship idols or destroy life created by him—destined to be in his very image? They will prosper only when their education includes faith in and obedience to the God of this world, who said,
“I, the Lord, … built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide. … But it must needs be done in mine own way. … For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:14–17; italics added.) Now, as a servant of the Lord, I dutifully warn those who advocate and practice abortion that they incur the wrath of Almighty God, who declared, “If men … hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, … he shall be surely punished.” (Ex. 21:22.) Of those who shed innocent blood, a prophet declared: “The judgments which [God] shall exercise … in his wrath [shall] be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” (Alma 14:11). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has consistently opposed the practice of abortion. One hundred years ago the First Presidency wrote: “And we again take this opportunity of warning the Latter-day Saints against those … practices of foeticide and infanticide.” 11 Early in his presidency, our beloved President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We decry abortions and ask our people to refrain from this serious transgression.” 12 Why destroy a life that could bring such joy to others? Now, is there hope for those who have so sinned without full understanding, who now suffer heartbreak? Yes. So far as is known, the Lord does not regard this transgression as murder. And “as far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.” 13 Gratefully, we know the Lord will help all who are truly repentant. Yes, life is precious! No one can cuddle a cherished newborn baby, look into those beautiful eyes, feel the little fingers, and caress that miraculous creation without deepening reverence for life and for our Creator. Life comes from life. It is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is eternal, as he is eternal. Innocent life is not sent by him to be destroyed! This doctrine is not of me, but is that of the living God and of his divine Son, which I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
You seem to be trying to convince me that life begins at conception. Do you understand that this is what I already believe, and my intent has been to convince you that most Mormons already believe this?
You said, “The commonly held belief among Mormons is that life begins (or spirits enter the body) at conception. Although I can find no LDS Church statement regarding this, I can most definitely say that is in error to state that Mormons believe that “spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth”. If anything, Mormons claim not to know and therefore err on the side of believing that life begins at conception. But after 30 years in the Mormon church I’ve never heard it taught that spirits inhabit babies at the time of birth. The only mention I can remember of the subject is that one prophet once said something to the effect of when a mother feels life within her then the spirit is there.”
MATTS RESPONSE: Then, do you withdraw this accertion that CARM is inaccurate?
But the CARM site says “The preexistence spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth and their memories of the preexistence are lost at the time.” which makes it sounds like you’re saying that Mormons believe that the spirit doesn’t enter the body until the moment of birth, i.e. nine months after conception. This is not an accurate statement of what Mormons believe and to say so would be to either create or perpetuate a misconception about Mormon beliefs. The most accurate portrayal of Mormon belief would be to say that the LDS Church has no official stance, but most Mormons believe that life begins as conception and the LDS Church’s other policies related to abortion are in harmony with that belief.
You said, “The most accurate portrayal of Mormon belief would be to say that the LDS Church has no official stance but most Mormons believe that life begins as conception….”
MATTS RESPONSE: You said that LDS have no dogmatic statement on when the spirit comes into a fetus, right? We just know that the pre-existing spirit comes into a fetus sometime during the first 9 months of the pregancy, right? CARM has made the assumption that the LDS spirit enters in at birth and that idea which falls within the range of truth. Why should you even care about a doctrine the LDS has not made it clear in modern revelation? CARM is accurate.
I hope you come to see the truth.
To say that Mormons believe the spirit enters the body at the moment of birth is not accurate. This has never been taught as LDS doctrine and therefore your statement saying that it is a church doctrine or a belief of the church members is inaccurate. Everything the LDS Church teaches is in line with the idea that life begins at conception, but your statement would lead people to think that Mormons believe otherwise. I care because I don’t want people having the misconception that Mormons are ok with abortion when we’re vehemently opposed to it.
You said, “The most accurate portrayal of Mormon belief would be to say that the LDS Church has no official stance.”
How can we be wrong about a doctrine that has not been make official or that has been clarified?
By saying that there is a doctrine.
A doctrine undefined by a religious group cannot be false or in error.
Think about it.
What I hear you saying is that if person A says that person B believes fact A when person B has never said they believe fact A, that person A is correct. That’s like me saying that all evangelicals believe in bombing the planet Mars with rockets filled with penguins. Is there any statement by evangelicals to the contrary? If you can’t show me an official statement by evangelicals saying anything to the contrary then I’m not in error to publish such a thing, right?
You are not making logical conclusions. Think about this.
Do Mormons believe that pre-existent spirit enter into the fetus? Yes. That is official, right?
Is it true that the LDS Church has no official position on WHEN the spirit enters the fetus? If not, tell me how we are wrong for saying it happens at birth??? You cannot.
Thus, you cannot fault us for saying the spirit enters at birth. You cannot say that is in error because there is no official LDS position.
We have had that information posted on the Internet for 10 years and you are the first to ask about it.
BTW…if this issue makes you think we are dishonest, then you need to read my book “Breaking the Mormon Code” (www.breakingthemormoncode.com) see how BYU professors are dishonest. BYU twists history, and abuses the Early Church Fathers in attempt to make them teach Mormonism. I have 900 footnotes that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Mormon scholarship is dishonest in discussions on Christian doctrine.
I hope and pray you see the truth.
You are incorrect in saying that Mormons believe the spirit enters the body at birth because the LDS Church has never said any such thing, nor do you have any statistical evidence to show that any percentage of members of the church believe such a thing. To say somebody believes something when they haven’t said they do believe such a thing is to make an assumption. But you do not present your assumption as an assumption, you present it as a fact, thus the obligation is on you to prove that this is the church’s official stance, since you are saying it is. If it is not the church’s official stance, then you are incorrect to imply that it is.
You are putting words in the church’s mouth, so to speak. You are saying Mormons believe something when you have no evidence to support your statement, other than that there is no official statement to the contrary. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to support the idea that the LDS Church and its members believe the spirit enters the body at conception, which is the opposite of what you are claiming the church and its members believe.
You said, “You are putting words in the church’s mouth, so to speak. You are saying Mormons believe something when you have no evidence to support your statement…”
MATTS RESPONSE: I will recommend a change to CARM if you can prove that any of the LDS leadership has stated anything about when the spirit enters the fetus.
I would think you wouldn’t want to make statements on your website about what a religion believes unless you could find an official source since it damages the credibility of the site. If you’ve made this up, how am I supposed to know that anything on the CARM website is accurate? It calls all the content on the entire site into question.