What do Mormons believe about abortion?

I just posted this last week, but in researching the LDS Church’s stance on abortion hadn’t found anything definitive about whether Mormons believe life begins at conception or at some other time. Coincidentally enough, the new edition of the LDS Church magazine, the Ensign, just arrived and what do you know, there’s a big article on abortion in it by Elder Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

While Elder Nelson doesn’t make what I would call an “official church declaration” about when life begins, he comes about as close to it as you can to it, in my opinion, when he says:

Nearly all legislation pertaining to abortion considers the duration of gestation. The human mind has presumed to determine when “meaningful life” begins. In the course of my studies as a medical doctor, I learned that a new life begins when two special cells unite to become one cell, bringing together 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 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. Approximately 22 days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At 26 days the circulation of blood begins.10 To legislate when a developing life is considered “meaningful” is presumptive and quite arbitrary, in my opinion.

Hopefully this will end any doubt as to what Mormons believe about abortion and when life begins.


  1. Um. I think you read into that statement what you want to see. And I think this highlights one of the key misunderstandings between the pro-life and pro-choice groups. Pro-lifers are often heard chanting "life begins at conception!". The problem is nobody is arguing with that. Obviously a blastocyst is "alive" by any and all definitions. The question is when does that embryo become a human being worthy of rights. Your skin cells are "alive" and your kidney is "alive" as well. There is nothing inherently wrong about stopping the life of something that is alive. Especially if its a part of your body. But we all agree that ending the life of a human being is wrong. So that's the real question, when does an embryo become a human being.

    And Elder Nelson also addressed that question in his statement. When he said, " A continuum of growth results in a new human being." Meaning that as the embryo grows, at some point in the future it becomes a human being. So he seems to be clearly saying that the spirit does not enter the body at conception and the recently conceived embryo is not a human being. This shouldn't be surprising to members of the church because the church has stated very clearly in the past that an embryo is not a human being. Similarly, the church's stated stance has always been that Abortion is NOT murder. Missionaries will notice that when interviewing someone for baptism, if they have participated in an abortion it requires only a quick call to the mission president, however if they have committed murder, they will not be allowed to be baptized except under special circumstances. So if abortion is not murder, then apparently the church does not believe you are not killing a human being.

    Also, consider this line of reasoning. Far more than 50% of conceptions end in termination. Also, we believe that your spirit only enters one body ever. Church leaders have specifically stated that your spirit has one body and never enters another under any circumstances. So if the spirit enters the body at conception than more than half of our heavenly father's children who came to earth apparently didn't need to be tested. Because they died long before the age of accountability and will automatically be saved in the celestial kingdom. Combine that with the high infant mortality rate that we have had for most of civilization and the number is probably close to 70%. That just doesn't jive with Mormon theology. Notice also that the church does not perform temple ordinances for unborn children since they have been deemed unnecessary.

    Furthermore, church leaders have speculated on the time the spirit enters the body since the beginning of the church and I'm not familiar with any of them who believed the spirit entered the body at conception. Most seemed to believe it was at the "quickening" or the time the baby began to kick. As in the statement you quoted in your previous post. Some early church presidents (John Taylor I believe) thought it was at the time of birth.

    So no, the church does not know for sure when the spirit enters the body and a human life begins, but I think we can safely say based on the doctrines of the church, the church's practices, and the statements of church leaders that it is not at conception. So why then do church leaders denounce abortion? Because ending a potential human life is still a sin. So we do not participate in abortion except for in exceptional circumstances because you are still ending a life that would eventually have received a spirit and gone on to live a life had you not ended it. This is why the church, in abortion statements, often quotes the scripture that says, "though shalt not commit murder OR ANYTHING LIKE UNTO IT." Often with that second part emphasized. Abortion is not murder, it is not the ending of a human life. But it is the ending of a sacred life that could become a human being and falls into the category of "anything like unto it."

    Of course this complicates our stance on the legality of abortion. We can't assume all sins should be illegal. Should we make laws against fornication? Or coffee? The laws of the united states generally deal only with acts that infringe on the rights of another human being. If we aren't sure when an embryo is a human being, then how should those laws be applied. Its a murky area. We can say for sure that abortion shouldn't be made illegal, since church leaders (Elder Oaks) have said that in the case of rape, incest, or threat to the life, or HEALTH of the mother "the woman has the moral as well as the legal right to an abortion".

    The position of those who believe that life begins at conception is that abortion should be banned period. The republican party's position is that the constitution should be amended to ban abortion in all cases without exception even for the life of the mother. This was the position pushed by Senator McCain and Sarah Palin in the last election. It was written clearly on their website and is still on the website of the RNC. This is clearly out of step with the church and were such a policy instituted it would violate the moral and legal rights of women according to Elder Oaks. I'm not saying abortion should be allowed without restriction. I'm not jazzed about the Democrat's position either. But it seems to me that the reasonable position for an LDS person is that abortion should be legal, but with restrictions.

    Sorry that was so long, I just got in the flow there.

    • Well put. Although it seems to me that if we don't know exactly when an embryo becomes a human being that we should err on the safe side. I do not agree with the push to make all abortions illegal regardless of the situation, and I'm not so sure I'm in favor of changing our laws on the matter (although I'm not well-educated on abortion-related law). I am in favor of people choosing to do the right thing, and in an ideal world whether there was any law regarding abortion it wouldn't matter. What I am definitely against is my tax dollars funding organizations like Planned Parenthood that have turned abortion into a profitable business.

  2. The embryo becomes a life when it develops a heart beat. To me the heart beat and blood are signs of life.

  3. I'm sad to read this. I'm sad to know there are people who say to belong to the church and have such thoughts. As members we are required to follow the law but our main concern is to follow what God want us to do. I don't really know why you're writing this blog. People who want to know about our beliefs should visit the official web sites. Even though you wrote this is not 100% acurate, people tend to believe what they read without discriminating the source too much.

    When the spirit enters the body is not an issue for the general authorities , why should this be an issue for us.??!!

    If someone reads this please go to, if you want to know about someone dont ask their enemies, it just makes sense…

    http://www.lds.org http://www.mormon.org

  4. Ryan, you laid it out beautifully. The Mormon position on abortion is that it is patently wrong except in a few circumstances, but is clearly not murder. This puts Mormonism at odds with Catholics and Christian fundamentalists who insist, without any scriptural support, that all abortions are murder. There are a lot of "Christian wannabees" among Mormons who wish to accept the more conservative position lest there be someone seen as more conservative than us. However, can you imagine having to do temple work for every miscarried human embryo? The fact that miscarriages have never been included on the records of eternal families should clearly define that such early fetuses are not viewed as children in the Lord's eyes.

  5. 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

  6. "The church thinks"?How about what the Bible says. When life begins is not determined by the creature but by the CREATOR. If what is meant by latterday saint is latterday prophet then there is no need to consult the Bible. If we take it for granted that God doesn't change then there is no need for further REVELATION. For the body without the spirit is dead,even so the faith without works is dead.James 2:26(If what's in the woman is not dead then it must already have a spirit.)

  7. Gary, I do not see how you could have possibly interpreted that so wrong. Obviously(let's be truthful here), miscarried babies ARE children in the eyes of the Lord. He loves them SO much that he only sent them down for a short time. They already have their Temple Ordinances done. They died before age eight, therefore they automatically are recieved into the Celestial Kingdom. That is the whole purpose of this earth.

  8. I have enjoyed the comments of this website, but I sincerely think that Madeline is right on. The nature of this subject is so sacred, that to get into ideology and and the evolution of what God think’s, we then have to be accountable for our rational and our comments, when through those comments we might influence someone to make a tragic choice. We must realize in Isaiah 55:8-9, that the Lord (Jehovah), Jesus Christ, reminds us that, “For MY THOUGHTS are not YOUR THOUGHTS, neither are YOUR WAYS MY WAYS, saith THE LORD. For as the HEAVENS ARE HIGHER than the earth, so are MY WAYS HIGHER than YOUR ways, and MY THOUGHTS than your THOUGHTS.”
    To debate when the spirit enters, whether at conception or at whatever state till birth is foolishness. God said, “Thou shalt not KILL”. Nephi said, “there shall be many that shall teach (after the manner of the issue of abortion, it doesn’t matter if we kill anytime while that CHILD is in the WOMB) after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrine..” Nephi also said, “but wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state. O that cunning plan of the evil one!! O the vainness and frailties and the foolishness of men!! When they are learned they think they are wise and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, FOR THEY SET ASIDE, SUPPOSING THEY KNOW OF THEMSELVES, whereofore, THEIR THINKING IS FOOLISHNESS, AND IT PROFITETH THEM NOT. AND THEY SHALL PERISH. BUT TO BE LEARNED IS GOOD IF THEY HEARKEN UNTO THE COUNSELS OF GOD.”
    GOD has said, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL!!!!” GOD ALSO SAID, “TO MULTIPLY AND REPLENTISH THE EARTH”.. of course, only after marriage. In order to live that commandment, we understand, “to replentish and have children, we have to marry and find the love of our life.” In order to replentish and follow God’s plan, we now, join with Him in becoming PRO-CREATORS with Him to bring HIS SPIRIT CHILDREN to EARTH. As we lawfully engage, with our mate, in the UNION OF PROCREATION SANCTION BY GOD, which is SO SACRED, at that instant, when the egg and sperm come together (23 chromosomes each from the male and the female) DNA is instantaneous. Life begins right then. 20 days late there is a heartbeat and 24 days late blood circulates thought their veins.
    Now, to debate the issue of when the spirit enters that physical body is frivolous and not open to us to speculate. I know that when the God of us all says, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL!!”, that is just what HE means, because the beginning of LIFE is at CONSCEPTION!! When we deal with ETERNAL LIFE, this life on earth is part of our progression through our ETERNAL LIFE. GOD has said, “THIS IS MY WORK (NOT THE WORK OF THE WORLD AND OF MEN TO MAKE HIS DESCISSIONS) AND MY GLORY, TO BRING TO PASS THE IMMORTALITY AND ETERNAL LIFE OF MAN.” GOD”S WORK for us to replentish the earth, begins at CONCEPTION.
    We have to remember, that God created each one of us in HIS IMAGE. As I mentioned earlier, GODS THOUGHTS AND WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS, WHEN WE ARE LEARNED AND THINK WE ARE WISE (what God is saying, it doesn’t matter how smart we think we are and how learned, no one will ever know what He knows, an if we think we are, like He reminds us. “And they shall perish!!!!!” For whomever, finds in their lives that they are confronted to have to make that descission of abortion, remember in the Old Testament the act of Abortion is hardly ever mentioned, because they understood what, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL MEANT” AND THAT MEANT AT CONSCEPTION.”
    There is no question as has been mentioned, rape, inscest, and danger to the mother’s welfare must be directed by a JUDGE IN ISRAEL and through prayer and fasting, God will direct that person and all involed in His descission in what should be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>