Excommunicating Pro-Choice Catholics

January 29, 2004 | 143 comments
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Kaimi has asked whether a faithful Mormon can be politically and publicly pro-choice while remaining true to his conviction that abortion is an offense against God and life. The debate continues (tentative answer emerging from the debate–No, well, Maybe, well, No, but you don’t have to be an enthusiast).

Catholics ask the same question.

Recently a Saint Louis archbishop has decided to answer it. He has threatened to excommunicate a couple of prominent pols in his archdiocese if they continue to avow pro-choice politics.

The eminent Robert P. George of Princeton, and Notre Dame Law School’s own Gerard V. Bradley have weighed in on the controvery. They mostly address the claim that the archbishop has violated the separation of church and state (taken not as a constitutional mandate but as a desirable public policy:

Many insist that “separation of church and state” means that no religious leader may presume to tell public officials what their positions may and may not be on matters of public policy. But if we shift the focus from abortion to, say, genocide, slavery, or segregation, we see how implausible such a view is. When, in the late 1950s, the Catholic archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated Catholics who opposed the desegregation, liberals rightly applauded him.

I doubt we’ll see anything similar. Our own stake presidents and regional authorities are much less independent than a Roman Catholic Archbishop. Our prominent politicians are also mostly pro-life, so the Church is in no way provoked to do such a thing (some give Gov. Romney as a contrary example, but his position is more an admission of helplessness to change the laws of Massachussetts and less a comment on the undesirability of doing so).

Let us be grateful that on this, as on many other questions, God and his servants have given us guidance and left us agents to ourselves, to do things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness.

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143 Responses to Excommunicating Pro-Choice Catholics

  1. Aaron Brown on January 30, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    Adam,

    I admit I know virtually nothing about Mitt Romney’s views on abortion. But if Greg Call’s post from the previous thread is at all accurate, then I don’t see how you can characterize Romney’s position the way you do. It doesn’t read as “more an admission of helplessness to change the laws of Massachussetts and less a comment on the undesirability of doing so.” Upon what basis do you draw your conclusion about Romney’s views?

    Aaron B

  2. lyle on January 31, 2004 at 6:25 am

    I’m just a nut, but I’m all for the LDS Church following the example of the former Bishop of Lacrosse, now the ArchBishop of St. Louis:

    Support murder, fail to vote in oposition…
    no sacrament for you.

  3. Shawn Kellis on August 20, 2005 at 7:01 am

    As a life-long member of the Church (though recently excommunicated), I seem to remember being taught that we Mormons are all pro-choice. Most simply portrayed in the “I have a plan” debate in “My turn on earth”. Remember? Satan wanted to force us to be “good” while Jesus’ plan was to retain our agency to choose!

    I am pro-choice.

    My choice is life.

  4. Mega Eagle on August 20, 2005 at 7:50 am

    If the desired result is less abortion, then pro-lifers’ efforts should be more geared towards teaching principles to the masses, not campaigning for a certain piece of legislation. I grew up with a lot of girls in Southern California who had simply never been taught to believe that abortion is bad; in fact, many of their parents encouraged and financed the practice when their daughters got pregnant. Purchasing air time on TV to make the moral case to people would have a much more dramatic impact on the number of abortions that take place every year, than money spent making sure pro-life politicians get elected. I have no problem with Romney’s position (or lack thereof). Legalism is not the answer to reducing abortions; making the moral case to people is a much more effective deterrent.

  5. Lisa B. on August 20, 2005 at 8:17 am

    I thought a pro-choice stance was necessary due to the exceptions that the church itself grants–for the life of the mother, and in the case of rape or incest. In order for these exceptions to be honored, legal abortion must be necessary. Am I missing something here?

  6. Matt Evans on August 20, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Lisa,

    The church’s exceptions to it’s general prohibition against abortion are supported by many pro-life groups, including the largest, National Right to Life. No national pro-choice group, on the other hand, supports any form of legal protection for fetal life, and all of them oppose laws requiring parental consent to perform surgical abortions on a minor, and even oppose restrictions on killing the baby solely because it has down syndrome or because the baby’s sex isn’t the one the parents wanted.

    Incidentally, abortions performed for the reasons recognized by the church account for only 3% of abortions in the US. The other 97% are simply done at the mother’s request: she (or those bullying her) doesn’t want her baby.

  7. Seth Rogers on August 20, 2005 at 10:48 am

    I’m not sure I like the idea of requiring dad’s consent to his daughter’s abortion when he’s the one who impregnated her in the first place. Otherwise, I think Matt has some good points.

  8. Aaron Brown on August 20, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    Matt,

    That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t really address what I take to be the thrust of Lisa’s point (or, doesn’t really address the point I’m making, using Lisa as a springboard. :) ) It seems to me a conservative, orthodox member of the Church could strongly agree with the Church’s position on the immorality of abortion, strongly agree with the Church’s need to provide for certain exceptions to the general prohibition, and then feel that those exceptions are SO important that as a public policy matter, we ought to err on the side of caution against supporting overbroad abortion restrictions. This, coupled with the not unreasonable belief that support for pro-life forces will swing the pendulum way too far towards absolute abortion restrictions, might then lead such a member to believe that it is better to support the legality of abortion (perhaps all-the-while trying to combat the alarming frequency of abortions by other means).

    Just one more reason that I find the “Mormons can’t be pro-choice” argument to be rather odd.

    Aaron B

  9. danithew on August 20, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    If I ever knew, I have forgotten what the statistics are — the average number of abortions performed annually in the United States.

  10. Matt Evans on August 20, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Aaron, I’m not sure if you thought I was, but I wasn’t saying that Mormons couldn’t be pro-choice. I was just pointing out that you can’t be a *good* Mormon and be pro-choice. (Just kidding!) Actually, I wasn’t speaking about the ability of Mormons to vote however they like at all.

    My point to Lisa was that the goal of the pro-life groups, like National Right to Life, is to enact laws that basically mirror the church’s position. In other words, there’s no concern that by supporting pro-life groups like NRL you’ll all of a sudden find yourself on the other side of the pendulum. I think this claim is backed up by polling results, which show a slight majority of Americans (around 50-55%) want to ban elective abortion (the church’s position) while only 10-20% want to ban abortion even in the case of rape. There’s no reason to resist democratic rule out of fear that moving to the position preferred by the people might embolden a small fraction to push for additional restrictions rejected by most people.

    There is a lot of confusion about the various “life or severe health risks to the mother” standard, and maybe this is what you’re getting at, since some pro-life groups want to criminalize abortion even when the mother’s life is at risk. Those groups do not actually believe women will have to die rather than have an abortion because they know people can raise the “risk of life or serious bodily injury” as an affirmative defense against criminal charges under the common law. If someone commits any crime in order to prevent their death or serious injury, they can pull that defense out of their pocket and avoid conviction (and usually, prosecution).

  11. Matt Evans on August 20, 2005 at 11:14 pm

    Danithew, in 2002 about 24% of pregnancies ended in abortion, for a total of 1.29 million American abortions. Another interesting fact from the AGI (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) is that only 45% of minors having an abortion tell a parent, even though it’s legally required in 33 states. (AGI says 61% of aborting teens have at least one parent who *knows* their daughter is having an abortion).

    http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

  12. danithew on August 20, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    In comment 9 I’m basically seeking to begin a logical path that does lead to a relevant point in this discussion. Let’s say that an average of one million abortions happen in the U.S. per year. [From what I've heard in the past, that should be a low estimate.] Matt suggested in comment #6 that an average of 3% of abortion procedures are performed with women who had a moral right to an elective abortion (by the Church’s standards). That makes for 30,000 women a year. I’m assuming the actual number of women who would exercise that right to decide is more than that 3%, since surely there are many women under those circumstances who still decide have babies. The main point of all this numerical nonsense is simply to point out that though 3% is a very low percentage, it still constitutes a significant number of women.

    No doubt there are those who would consider the other 970,000 abortion procedures to be of such an overwhelming weight that it obliterates any concern for the rights of the measly 30,000.

    I feel queasy about my math and statistic skills. If I’m way off the mark I’m sure someone will be gentle in saying so.

  13. danithew on August 20, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    Whoa, after hitting send I see that Matt responded to my query. Sorry for the delay.

  14. annegb on August 21, 2005 at 10:37 am

    I am ambivalent about this subject, I neither identify pro-choice or pro-life, I find some aspects of both movements despicable.

    But if, God forbid, the brethren started excommunicating pro-choice people, I would put a pro-choice poster in my front yard. Or vice versa. Because I think we should be free to choose if we want choice or not.

    But I would be very surprised if they did that.

  15. Wilfried on August 21, 2005 at 10:52 am

    Annegb, I love your unique way to say things simply and straightforwardly. This one should be remembered as a top one: “We should be free to choose if we want choice or not.”

  16. Kaimi on August 21, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    I guess this is a good time to note that I previously posted — a loooong time back — on the topic “Is it okay to be a pro-choice Mormon?” See http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=333 . (Adam notes this). It generated quite a few comments then, many of which are relevant to the new discussion.

  17. Jack on August 21, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    One million three hundred thousand abortions performed last year out of which ninety-seven percent had nothing to do with the preservation of the mother’s life or well being and what we concern ourselves with the most is not losing the freedom to continue in that kind of barbarism.

  18. danithew on August 21, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    Jack, my point in talking about numbers is not to say that we shouldn’t consider the seriousness of the high number of abortions that are taking place. I’m simply saying that the 3% cited by Matt actually represents a significant number of people and thus shouldn’t be casually dismissed. It does need to be considered and factored into any abortion policy or law as well.

    By the Church’s expressed standards there are hundreds of thousands of women who should not be having abortions. At the same time, by the same standards, there are tens of thousands of women who should have the right to an elective abortion.

  19. diogenes on August 21, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    a slight majority of Americans (around 50-55%) want to ban elective abortion (the church’s position)

    Matt Evans is, as usual, playing fast and loose with his description of “the Church’s position.” The Church’s “position” is that, absent certain extenuating circumstances, elective abortion is a serious sin.

    This is entirely different from saying that a ban on such abortions should be enforced by the government.

    While I have seen scattered instances of individual general authorities suggesting or implying that it would be appropriate to institutionalize governmental intervention into the decision whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, I am unaware of any Church policy calling for the enactment of such laws.

  20. Jack on August 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    danithew,

    I agree with you. That 3% represents a large number. And as such (agreeing with Matt) I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t have access to legal abortion. My ire is raised by the likes of comments #14 and 15–though generally I do enjoy the contributions of those two commenters.

  21. Matt Evans on August 21, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    Diogenes, I didn’t mean to suggest that the church has taken an official position against the legality of abortion. As I said in the sentence prior to the one you quoted, the objective of the most prominent pro-life groups is “to enact laws that basically mirror the church’s position,” which means enacting laws that mirror the church’s *moral* position on abortion. I take it as a given that people understand that if we enact laws mirroring the church’s position on abortion, laws mirroring the church’s position on abortion will be enacted.

  22. Mark B. on August 21, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    The pro-abortion crowd have won the contest if they are conceded the right to call their position “pro-choice.” After all, who in the premortal existence was against choice? Do you want to be on his side?

    There are all sorts of actions that I think all would consider crimes that could be justified under a “pro-choice” banner. How about murder? “I chose to kill the guy. He deserved it. Don’t I have the right to choose?” Or, how about rape? “I chose to have sex with her. I’m just pro-choice.”

    Every crime (except for the few crimes that consist of negligent or reckless behavior) requires a finding of mens rea, a guilty mind, that presupposes that the actor chose to act in accordance with that guilty mind. So, every section of the penal code represents a limitation of people’s “right to choose.”

  23. Tatiana on August 22, 2005 at 12:49 am

    I’m a faithful member of the church who is also pro-choice. I can think something is wrong without believing it should be made illegal. I feel the various loving methods for reducing abortions are the right path to take, rather than taking punitive measures toward what are perhaps society’s most vulnerable members. For make no mistake, rich and powerful women will still have access to safe abortions. It is poor young girls who will be most affected if abortion is made illegal.

    There is no prison draconian enough, in fact, to prevent a mother from doing harm to the child in her womb if that is her choice. In this case, as in Satan’s plan for universal salvation, the cure would simply be worse than the disease. My support is for better education, birth control, loving guidance, healthcare, and adoption options to be made available, as well as outreach programs to teach our view of families and chastity. Gentle persuasion, firm guidance, and love unfeigned will actually decrease the incidence of abortions in the world. A punitive approach will only increase the world’s load of misery and despair.

    This is my heartfelt belief, and what I support politically. Does this mean I should be excommunicated? I truly hope not.

  24. anonymous on August 22, 2005 at 1:07 am

    One year ago, this month my life changed. And I love you, and I think you should know about the past year of my life. I wish I could tell you what I need from you. I need different things all the time and sometimes….most of the time….I don’t even know what those things are. I guess I just need you to know.

    On August 16, 2004 I was raped. I hate that word. I hate it because it is ugly, but mostly I hate it because it is simple. Rape is a word that can describe too much. What happened to me feels like so much more some days and so much less on others. I guess really I was just hurt that day. I was hurt so much that it hasn’t gone away yet. I was hurt by other things, and I was hurt by other people, but, My heart burst on that day and I guess now you could say that my heart bleeds. I can’t stop my heart from bleeding and I don’t know that I would want to if I could.

    I was assaulted 1 year ago. That is a word I can use. I was assaulted. I was hit and I was pushed. I was choked and I was forced. I fell and I cried. I begged and I pleaded. I kicked and I grabbed and there was nothing I could do. I thought I was strong 1 year ago. I thought I could do anything. There were things I couldn’t do.

    I was terrorized 1 year ago. The fear I could not describe. I looked into the face of the man who would kill me. I wasn’t going to leave that island alive. I wanted to live and I wanted to go home. I learned about fear. Things that most people never learn. I learned what you do when you are about to die. The things you say. The things you will do.

    I was a girl a year ago and then I couldn’t be anymore. Girls haven’t been to the places I’ve been. Girls don’t know the things I know.

    I learned to love what I hate a year ago. The lines in this world became blurred. I need you to know that I love and I hate all at the same time. I hate what makes me scared and I love that I’m alive. I love that people are bad and good all wrapped up together.

    I found someone that day in the bush. She didn’t know who she was. She was beaten and defeated and she couldn’t fight anymore.

    But this year hasn’t just been about birth. The girl who was born through the terror. This year was also about un-life. The life that almost was. A mother was born and a baby died, but really it’s not that simple. Life and Choice are words that are broad. I like life because that is what was saved. I read somewhere that if you think death is the worst, you know nothing about life.

    I got to meet an angel. She was an abortionist. She held my hand and called me sweetheart. I remember she seemed so warm. You might think it was the darkest day, but that day I felt a light.

  25. Jack on August 22, 2005 at 1:12 am

    Tatiana,

    Of course it doesn’t mean you should be ex’d.

    Two thoughts about your comment:

    1) The rich have always been priviledged. Historically, they’ve gotten away with murder–literally. I don’t think that means we should make all things equal by making everything that money can buy legal.

    2) You say :”My support is for better education, birth control, loving guidance, healthcare, and adoption options to be made available, as well as outreach programs to teach our view of families and chastity.” I agree that this is absolutley necassary and it is my hope that we’re improving in this area. However, that doesn’t mean that a war cannot be fought on multiple fronts. I think it’s important that there be greater legal restrictions on elective abortions.

  26. John Kane on August 22, 2005 at 1:25 am

    Mark is absolutely right. Framing the question as a “choice” is a little off the track of the real question. Believing that it is “just a choice” and we should leave someone to exercise their free agency as they wish, regardless of the situation, presents a whole new set of problems. Where do you draw the line?

    Should we, as Latter Day Saints become indifferent to all laws and punishments for all crimes, under the guise of free agency? Just because I choose to hit someone in the head with a shovel doesn’t mean it should be ignored by society, because our life here on earth is about choice. There must be boundaries.

  27. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 1:28 am

    Tatiana, I agree that poor and disadvantaged mothers (and fathers) are disproportionately likely to abuse and kill their children, but I don’t believe this argues against our prohibitting abortion and other forms of child abuse or abandonment. More than anything, it highlights that society’s most vulnerable members are probably the children of the disadvantaged.

    Having worked for the team that monitors Utah’s foster care system, I know that many parents, even after receiving professional training and education, and all the persuasion and guidance a community can muster, still hurt and kill their children. For this reason I support laws that prohibit the harming or abandoning of children. We shouldn’t simply say it’s ultimately the mother’s choice, after all of our counseling and long persuasion, to choose whether to help or harm her kids.

  28. Tatiana on August 22, 2005 at 1:52 am

    anonymous, I hear and believe you. Many times there is no choice between good and bad, only between bad and worse.

    Jack and Matt, thank you for responding. This is the first time anyone’s responded to any of my comments here on T+S and I’m quite pleased. To clarify, my statement about the disparities between rich and poor was only meant to make the point that a punitive apporach affects mainly the weak and vulnerable. It makes a great deal of difference to me if by enacting laws we actually cause more harm than we prevent.

    I am not trying to convince others to hold my views, only telling my own personal heartfelt moral decision and asking if this makes me unworthy to go to the temple or to take the sacrament. I really hope not, because I love the church and sustain the prophet and the apostles, and take their counsel very seriously, though I don’t believe I am allowed to give up my moral agency to them, nor that they are infallible.

  29. Seth Rogers on August 22, 2005 at 2:50 am

    The pro-life groups are wasting their time.

    They ought to be focusing on the causes of the abortion problem: 1) teenage sexuality; 2) poverty; 3) marital abuse; 4) general lack of accountability in society.

    But no. It’s SO much more glamorous to make the headlines by tackling the “sexy” issues like “abortion.” Why bother focusing our attention where it can actually make a difference?

    This whole debate is a collosal waste of time, emotion, and energy that could be side-stepped entirely. It’s high time that people stopped slapping band aids on a patient dying of internal bleeding.

    Abortion laws won’t make much difference one way or the other. So perhaps we can stop this useless legal bickering and actually try to get something done?

  30. John Kane on August 22, 2005 at 3:00 am

    Seth,

    Abortion is a “sexy issue”…well…

    Maybe people happen to care about it, and will fight it because their conscience doesn’t allow them to be any other way.

    Many would say that attacking 3 or 4 of the other problems you listed as a monumental waste of time also. Abortion laws won’t make much difference one way or the other? Well, trying to be like Christ is never going to be accomplished in my lifetime either…shall I stop trying?

  31. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 4:18 am

    Um, Seth, come on, prohibitting abortion is quixotic but tackling sexual promiscuity and a general lack of accountability is do-able? I accept your point that abortion (and all other forms of child abuse) are symptomatic of moral failure, but even if we could turn western civilization around and reinstill chastity and responsibility, we’d still need laws against child abuse because there’d still be some bad parents. (Unless you believe we shouldn’t waste our time passing or enforcing child abuse laws because our time would be better spent ensuring there are no bad parents!)

    It seems to me that you’re arguing the 1850 equivalent of, “Abolitionists shouldn’t waste their time fighting slavery, they should fight the cause of slavery: racism. Once they rid the world of racism they can turn to ending slavery.” The problem, of course, is that slavery perpetuates racism, just as permitting abortion and child abandonment perpetuates our “general lack of accountability” now.

  32. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 4:31 am

    Tatiana, thanks for visiting T&S. I hope you’ll continue to comment.

  33. manaen on August 22, 2005 at 4:31 am

    11. AGI/Planned Parenthood, of course, has its own agenda about abortion. More-impartial numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the U.S.’s abortion rates crested at 438 per 1k live births in 1983 and have declined fairly steadily to 324/1k live births in 2000. See: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/vitstat.pdf — p. 89

    “Time” magazine had an article some years ago about life in the middle ages. It said that an indicator of the relative barbarity of the time was that 1 of 3 children was considered surplus and given away, usually to someone of higher station. I noticed that 1 of 3 was about the same ratio as we then had of abortions to all pregnancies. In pondering the relative barbarity of the different times, I concluded that that it would be better to give away a child to a better life than to kill it pre-natally.

    24. My preceding paragraph leads to my response to “My support is for better education, birth control, loving guidance, healthcare, and adoption options to be made available, as well as outreach programs to teach our view of families and chastity.” I believe that the Church is doing this through the efforts of YW, RS, LDS Social Services (adoption counseling and placement), bishop/stake pres. interviews, public service ads, and the missionary program, except for direct supply of birth control and healthcare.

    On birth control, the “I Have A Question” section on page 23 of the Aug., 1979 “Ensign” has an interesting discussion. It includes this comment: “If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children—discounting possible medical or physical effects—makes little difference. Abstinence, of course, is also a form of contraception, and like any other method it has side effects, some of which are harmful to the marriage relationship.” (Available in Gospel Library section of http://www.lds.org).

    In my own experience, some of the fetus remained in my wife’s uterus when she miscarried. The attending physician recommended a D&C (please don’t ask whether this refers to scriptures), which technically was an abortion. We felt like that the answer was automatic, but still prayed and checked with the bishop, who gave his immediate and strong endorsement.

  34. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 4:35 am

    Hi Manaen, thanks for your comment. D&C’s are performed routinely following a miscarriage to ensure that nothing is left behind. I know of no one who opposes them for this purpose.

  35. Randy on August 22, 2005 at 4:58 am

    33. And church policy *has* changed over the years on choosing not to have additional children. My meetinghouse library has some Improvement Eras from the early 1940s. An article that was sort of like “I have a question” indicated that not having more children for any reason other than health was “race suicide”.

  36. Kristine on August 22, 2005 at 8:31 am

    Matt, I think I may have asked you this before, but I would be really interested in hearing about why/how abortion became such an important issue to you. I think many Mormons share your views and would vote the same way as you do, but I don’t know many who are as passionately involved as you are, and I’m very curious to know why you have chosen to make it such a priority, if there’s a story you don’t mind telling.

  37. Frank McIntyre on August 22, 2005 at 8:49 am

    Randy,

    Changing Church counsel does not, in and of itself, tell us that the policy is not inspired or was not inspired. We know God adapts his counsel over time “to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”

    And does this 1940s statement actually constitute Church policy (was it, for example, a letter from the First Presidency)? If so I’d be interested in getting the citation if you have it handy.

  38. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 9:24 am

    Hi Randy, if you wouldn’t mind posting or emailing the relevant section from the Improvement Era I’d be very interested to read it.

    Hi Kristine, I don’t really have a story that explains my determination to protect fetal rights. It was one of the first controversial issues I was exposed to, and as I learned about it I paid more attention, and would debate it, which forced me to learn more, which led me to pay more attention, which led me to act more publicly, which led me to debate it more, which forced me to learn more. There were some tipping points along the way, but my story is pretty much a textbook example of the commitment model from social psychology. I was also born on January 21, 1973, the last day America protected fetal rights. And God does not play dice. : )

  39. danithew on August 22, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Matt, I am curious about the connections between the fetal imaging business you run and your feelings about the abortion issue. I imagine that seeing color images of a baby as it develops in the womb increases the real sense that this is a human being.

    I should volunteer that I was somewhat motivated to be pro stem-cell research because I worked for awhile in a clinic where I saw people with spinal-cord injuries on a daily basis.

    I too have been impressed by your dedication to this cause. I used to share many of the same feelings you expressed as I grew up in a very strongly pro-life household. My views changed somewhat over time because of my personal experiences.

    Like Kristine I was curious about how your experiences shaped your views.

  40. Karen on August 22, 2005 at 9:42 am

    Matt, that’s pretty interesting. I was conceived somewhere around the week that you were born (probably), to an unwed teenager who put me up for adoption. I’ve always thought the date of my birth was rather significant as well…

  41. Seth Rogers on August 22, 2005 at 9:48 am

    It’s not just that I consider abortion symptomatic of the other issues I listed. I also consider those issues to be frankly, more important.

    Abortion essentially boils down to a discussion of whether fetuses have souls. This sounds a lot like celestial vegetables to me (i.e. a pointless speculative exercise that provides no practical answers in Gospel Doctrine class).

    I have always been concerned with the problems of REAL people, over simply theoretical people.

    Besides, abortion has always been an overly-polarizing issue that has prevented groups from working with each other who otherwise might have found a lot in common. Mormons and feminists in opposing the objectification of women for example.

    Abortion is a massive red herring that prevents us from talking about anything else. For this reason alone, I’m willing to shelve the issue entirely and get to work on less peripheral societal problems.

  42. ed on August 22, 2005 at 10:30 am

    Frank,

    Why so defensive? Randy didn’t say or imply that the policy is/was not inspired. I think you’d have to admit, though, that there has definitely been a change in emphasis over time. It would be nice if we could look at first presidency letters or handbooks of instruction, but as you know the church doesn’t make these things easily available. However this anti-mormon site has a lot of references. It’s not easy to tell what “church policy” is anyway…hence the topic of this thread. It is good to keep in mind that before correlation, lots of things could be printed in church magazines without a lot of oversight from the top.

  43. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 10:30 am

    Danithew,

    One of the appeals of starting our fetal imaging business was knowing that it would help humanize the fetus. I’ve since heard lots of people, especially new grandfathers, leave our viewing room saying something like, “Wow, it really is a baby,” as though they knew there was a big controversy over fetuses, but weren’t sure what to believe. Our clients visit after week 18, after the stage when most fetuses are aborted, and therefore our images aren’t perfectly applicable to the main abortion controversy, but ultrasound videos erode the mindset that people “begin” when they’re born, and foster healthy perceptions of unborn babies. It’s hard to see a baby yawn and stretch and suck its thumb and not conclude that it’s a full member of the human race.

    Seth,

    It sounds like you need to see more ultrasound videos of babies yawning and crying and sucking their thumbs. : ) But if you don’t think unborn babies are that special, then I understand why you think the amount of attention we focus on them is silly. You must be mystified that people will line up to pay $240 to see a vegetable!

  44. Kristine on August 22, 2005 at 10:35 am

    An brief but excellent summary of the history of church statements and policies on birth control is found in Melissa Proctor’s article “Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control,” Dialogue, Fall 2003. You should all read it before you get mired in the “what constitutes doctrine/official practice” quagmire.

  45. Frank McIntyre on August 22, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Ed,

    My point was pretty much the same as yours. Finding a statement in the Era from the 40′s about “race suicide” does not make it Church policy, so I was trying to figure out if there was something to the statement that would actually link it to the Church policy claim Randy was making.

    And as for changes over time, apparently there have been changes, but when people talk about it, it often seems that they are implicitly claiming that the changes in policy mean the policies were not inspired. Has that not been your impression? I thought one of the points of having a modern prophet was so you could get counsel adapted to the current environment.

  46. lyle on August 22, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Seth: It’s not about souls. Its about movement. Folks think that just about everything a baby does is cute; esp. the ‘first’ step, etc. This is more of the same thing…folks will pay to see ‘their’ baby make its first smile.

    I just saw the medical ultrasound of our new baby. It either yawned or smiled; hard to tell in black or white. either way…that’s life to me.

  47. Seth Rogers on August 22, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Sorry, I should have clarified. You guys are apparently talking about much later term abortions than I am.

  48. Seth Rogers on August 22, 2005 at 11:55 am

    To clarify even further, the only part of abortion that’s even a matter of debate is abortions performed during the first trimester.

    The pro-lifers like to throw pictures of late-term abortions (second and even third trimester) at us to pull at our heartstrings (like pictures of what looks like a complete baby having its neck broken and being dragged out of the womb). But most people aren’t really thrilled with the idea of late term abortions anyway (except for nazi feminist nut-jobs). So I don’t really consider the kind of abortions Matt Evans was talking about to even be a topic of significant debate. Of course I’m opposed to those kind of abortions. So are most people.

    No, what is being debated is the FIRST trimester (when the fetus looks more like a tadpole). It’s there that we get into questions of personhood. Just about everyone considers a fetus a person by the third trimester, and probably by the second trimester.

    So the emotional pleas about ultrasounds are a bit misplaced. Incidentally, we had ultrasounds done on both our daughters. Really, kinda neat.

  49. Kristine on August 22, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    “when people talk about it, it often seems that they are implicitly claiming that the changes in policy mean the policies were not inspired. Has that not been your impression? ”

    Frank, I think when people point to changes, it’s mostly to counter false principles that are being extrapolated from current policy. For instance, many (most?) members of the church infer from current policy about women giving blessings that women are never to administer or participate in priesthood ordinances. Noting the change in practice over time suggests a) that the practice could change again, and b) that we ought to be very careful in making generalizations about male and female access to priesthood power based on current policy.

    Blacks and priesthood is another obvious example–there are doctrinal pronouncements based on pre-1978 policy that are terribly embarrassing to the church now. If people had been willing to say “this is the current policy; the principles underlying it are not (yet) clear to us,” we’d have spared ourselves the backpedaling we still have to do.

    Birth control seems to fit into this paradigm. We have some very broad general principles: it’s a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, children are a blessing that comes with great responsibility for their care. Beyond that, we’re left with guidance adapted to fit the times, and which may be influenced by cultural norms of the time and place in which prophets live (after all, we’re told that God speaks to each person in the language she or he can understand). I don’t have any trouble making room for inspiration in that framework. Do you?

  50. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Seth,

    Because the Supreme Court has ruled that mothers must be allowed to abort their babies to protect their emotional health, there are really no abortions prohibited in the United States. There are several clinics around the country that will kill a healthy 36-week-old baby if its mother says her baby’s jeopardizing her emotional health. According to the testimony of the abortion lobby at the congressional hearings on partial-birth abortion, and tracking of late-term abortion clinics, people estimate that this happens a few thousand times a year. If you think this is outrageous, you too should work to overturn the Supreme Court cases that require it.

    As for first trimester babies, you’d be surprised at the number of people willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see what you call tadpoles. Actually, the way babies look at 10 weeks is exactly how human beings are supposed to look at 10 weeks. I’m not up to rehashing the argument again, but I will point out that our rights and moral worth don’t turn on our appearance, even though our natural emotional response closely tracks a being’s aesthetic appeal. People are sadder at the deaths of cute kids than a homely kids, and of whites than blacks, for example, but it would be repugnant to infer from this that homely and black kids have less moral worth. Instead we should see these surveys as exposing an ugly trait of our human natures that we should overcome. Please be sensitive to the fact that many people are offended by comparisons of different classes of humans to animals.

  51. Kaimi on August 22, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    Ed,

    Light Planet is definitely _not_ an anti-Mormon site. The site owner has posted his testimony, stating that “I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the earth.” See http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/testimonies/walsh_wj.htm . The owners also state that

    We believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God and personally headed by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ himself (See Head of Church). We are faithful Latter-day Saints and loyal supporters of current and past Church leaders, who we believe are servants personally chosen by God to minister his affairs upon the earth. . . . Both Church leaders and their teachings will be supported, affirmed, and sustained on this site.

    Not only is it not anti-Mormon, Light Planet is a very handy internet resource. The site owners have posted a number of articles from various church publications.

    Of course, its not an official site. And, while I find the site to be useful, it’s also certainly possible to make various critiques of its editorial choices (“they should include more X and less Y”) or design or other aspects of it. However, it’s demonstrably false to suggest that Light Planet is anti, and I want to avoid any appeared implicit endorsement of that idea by T & S.

  52. Kaimi on August 22, 2005 at 1:09 pm

    (I should also note that I think that John Walsh of Light Planet gets the birth control thing wrong. But his position is understandable, and who knows, he may be right.)

  53. Frank McIntyre on August 22, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    Kristine,

    I think you are right that people go overboard sometimes in attributing as eternal truth what is only a current implementation of a fundamental principle. As for being a product of the times, although prophets do receive revelation in ways they can understand, and so are a product of their times, I am more inclined to think that the real cultural limitation is often not the prophet, but the people. We, as a people, get the revelation we are ready for. Or we lose the stuff we can no longer handle.

    “Beyond that, we’re left with guidance adapted to fit the times”

    Yes, and, for example one finds people who feel that the fact women used to bless by the laying on of hands means that they should be able to do so now. In other words, change is used as an indication of lack of inspiration for current guidance. Or the fact that birth control counsel changes over time means that current guidance is not actually guidance, just the cultural norms of old men in Utah. I am certainly not attributing those views to you. I am just giving my impression that this is a reasonably common implication of those who enjoy bringing up historical change. Have you found the same, or has your experience been different?

  54. manaen on August 22, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    49 Kristine,
    re: “many (most?) members of the church infer from current policy about women giving blessings that women are never to administer or participate in priesthood ordinances. Noting the change in practice over time suggests a) that the practice could change again, and b) that we ought to be very careful in making generalizations about male and female access to priesthood power based on current policy.”

    We may have foreshadowing of much more than women giving blessings. Erastus Snow commented, “In other words, there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way… There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female” (JD 19:270). I’ve wondered about hints in the temple’s presentation that could support this.

  55. Kristine on August 22, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    Frank, people interpret historical data to support all kinds of agendas. I don’t think I’m willing to generalize about what agenda predominates among people who discuss historical practice in the church. I’d go so far as to suggest that you should not make such generalizations, either.

  56. ed on August 22, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    My apologies for calling lightplanet an “anti-mormon site.” I must have confused the name with other sites I’ve seen in the past. Also, in my experience this type of information seems to be most readilly available from anti-sites, so when it came up on google I jumped to an unwarented conclusion. Thanks for setting me straight.

  57. Frank McIntyre on August 22, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Kristine,

    I am not up to “predominates”. It is too much for me. I am under the impression that a case can be made for “reasonably common”.

    But I’m happy to accept that you don’t think you have enough information to generalize. Since the issue comes up all the time, remind me and I’ll start polling people as they bring up the changes over time.

  58. Kristine on August 22, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    A poll would probably be useful, if only to make people justify their interpretive methods. I think anyone who thinks responsibly about the history of policy changes in the church will discover that it’s not possible either to justify longed-for outcomes (the reinstatement of women’s privilege to administer blessings) or to argue for a best-of-all-possible-churches position (enshrining current policy as perfectly inspired) by an appeal to the historical record of changes in practice and policy. All history is messier than that, and the church’s history is particularly opaque because we just don’t have access to the kinds of documents (prophet’s journals, minutes of Q12 meetings) that would let us do more than make guesses about the fact, or even the claim, of inspiration.

  59. Ivan Wolfe on August 22, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    ed –

    you likely confused “lightplanet” with “lighthouse” as in “Utah Lighthouse Ministries” which is an anti-mormon organization.

  60. Jack on August 22, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    The thing that bugs me about judging whether or not past “policies” were inspired is that for the most part it’s just not knowable. I think what we can know (to a limited degree) is that some leaders may have been right for the wrong reason as opposed to being entirely wrong for implementing a policy because their facts weren’t straight. That’s were the scholar/historian needs to get off his/her high horse and allow God the good grace of working with His servants in their weakness–to allow His servants to do His will for the best reason they can come up with in lieu of no apparent reason or a divine edict to remain silent on the reasons.

  61. Lisa B. on August 22, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    Matt #6 I don’t believe it’s so extreme in the “pro-choice” camp nor so liberal in the “pro-life” camp as you suggest.

    Aaron #8 You got my gist.

    Back to the exceptions, I’m surprised no one has brought up the theological differences that make exceptions possible in LDS theology where they are not in Catholic theology. (Or perhaps I missed this part of the discussion?) We believe children are alive in Christ. We believe that children are not accountable for their parent’s transgressions. We believe that there is a millenial period in which children who die before the age of accountability will have another shot at mortality, to grown and develop and be tested. (Please do not try to blow a hole in this perhaps not totally doctrinal but very comforting teaching by prophets and apostles. It is a great comfort to those of us who have lost embrionic, fetal, infant, or older children who have not yet reached the age of accountability.) We also do not believe that God’s plan can be thwarted or that agency can be ultimately destroyed, so all of those spirits who valiantly chose in the pre-existence to come to earth (i.e. the “2/3″rds) WILL have the opportunity to do so.

    As far as legislation is concerned, consider how difficult it is to legally prove rape. Should the burden of proof lie with incest or rape (even marital rape) survivors? Should lawyers and judges be making these decisions? No. Also consider the fallibility of even well-trained and competent doctors and other healthcare providers. Their diagnoses can be wrong. Should they be making these decisions? No. These are some of the reasons I believe it is essential that we make sure that legal, safe abortion is available for those women who unfortunately may need it.

    Of course I agree that abortions are far too common (as do all the pro-choice people I’ve every talked to). As a childbirth educator I’ve been really surprised how many of my clients have had prior abortions. Also agree with everything said about defending and teaching sexual morality, supporting adoption, working for more fully informed consent (including risks–medical and emotional–of abortion), abuse prevention and education, etc.

    Though it’s really irrelevant in my mind to the discussion, most people underestimate how early on a fetus actually looks human. Get out your Miracle of Life, folks. The “tadpole-looking” phase passes much more quickly than most believe. Definitely before the end of the first trimester.

  62. greenfrog on August 22, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    No response to anonymous? Was her story not relevant to the discussion? Should she have been required to prove the legal elements of the rape she experienced in order to obtain the abortion of whatever might have resulted from that rape? To whom should she have made that proof? Presumably, to a court of law, if we are to afford blatocytes, embryos and fetuses identical rights under the law. Who would have served as her lawyer? Matt, would you? How long would those legal proceedings have taken? More than three months? Is there any category of proceedings that routinely take less? What level of proof should she have been required to meet in order to succeed? If we posit that a blastocyte should be treated as the equivalent of a post-birth human, isn’t a preponderance of the evidence way too low a standard?

    As I understand the Church’s official position, the procedure of abortion can be entirely appropriate in the circumstances anonymous described. What provision would should the law make for that allowance? I haven’t seen principles articulated here that are consistent with the Church’s position. Should we legislate the Church’s position without those principles?

    For myself, I would not do anything to impede anonymous from taking exactly the course she took. Like others here, I’m willing to consider different factors, different balancing, and different results for later points in gestation.

    But it seems to me that “an embryo is a person” kinds of arguments don’t get one anywhere in coming up with a rationale for the Church’s much more nuanced position.

  63. ed on August 22, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    Matt:

    I attempted to dig up the quote from the Improvement Era about birth control being “race suicide,” my first attempt at using my brand new “GospelLink” CDs (just 5$ on ebay!). It is hard to tell which one he meant–there are literally dozens of articles in the Improvement Era and in conference reports using the phrase “race suicide,” which I gather was a common object of concern during the first part of the last century. (The phrase occurs most often in the first decade of the century, and the idea seems to often be associated with Teddy Roosevelt and more generally with the eugenics movement).

    It’s hard to find anything in the 1940s quite matching Randy’s description, but there is this quote from Heber J. Grant in the Improvement Era, Vol. XLIV. JUNE, 1941. No. 6, in the context of a discussion about temple marriage:

    Another of the great evils of the age is race suicide. This also is not consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Providing opportunity for the spirit children of our Father in heaven to come to earth and work out their own salvation is one of our sacred privileges and obligations. We teach that among the choicest of eternal riches are children.

    He doesn’t exactly equate any birth control with “race suicide,” but I suspect that is how he was understood given the previous uses of the term.

  64. Frank McIntyre on August 22, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    greenfrog,

    As for rape or incest, perhaps we could start with a simple sworn affadavit to that effect and then see what that gets us. If we feel that too many abortions still take place then I suppose we can consider some further action. If such a system cut out 80% of elective abortions I think we would still be in a much better place than we are now.

    The Church’s position is that elective abortion is “like unto” murder. Not that it is the same as murder. If this is your point then I agree wholeheartedly that a complete criminal trial would generally be overkill. But there are intermediate places to go legally.

    Ed,

    Thanks for digging that up. I think part of the problem in looking at old quotes is determining what they mean by borth control. Birth control (as in contraception) gets used for a few different things. One is limiting the number of children. Another is spacing children out, so as to assure the health of the mother, even if the total number of children is the same or even more (since the mother preserves health). Limiting the number of children for aesthetic reasons has, I think, come in for a lot more condemnation.

  65. Gavin McGraw on August 22, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    It is unfortunate that most of us cannot wrap our brain around an issue unless it is polarized to both extremes. To its oppositon, “Pro-life” has become associated with cranky dogmatic fundamentalists who scream bloody murder (sometimes literally) while not considering the intricacies of the issue. And to ITS opposition, “Pro-choice” has become associated with heartless backward fatalists who chant “woman’s body, woman’s choice” while obviously only validating one choice.

    The soil on the middle ground is soft, but it’s easier to maintain balance there. It does seem that the Pro-choicers got the better nickname, though. Nobody looks good as an absolutist these days.

    The point that I see most everybody here making is that the nuances DO matter, and that there should always be choice in the sense of deciding a course of action based on its merits or personal revelation, not because you’re a card-carrying whatever.

    One of my pet peeves on this subject (threadjack alert!) is that the hard-core Pro-Choicers (those who are mostly pro-abortion) totally discount any opinions or feelings the father may have. Sure, if he’s left the picture and has chosen not to be a part of the woman’s or the child’s life, then he shouldn’t and can’t have a say in the matter. But what if the father is in a committed relationship with the woman (dare I say even…married?), and she still says, “it’s my body, I can do what I want.”? This is of course a one-sided description, but I’m sure it’s happened more than once. To those women I would say that it’s not just ‘your body’, it’s the child’s body as well, and the father of that child has every right to have an opinion on the subject as she does, given that it’s just as much his baby as it is hers. And he’ll very likely have to help pay for the abortion just as he would have paid for the child’s upbringing.

    Given our beliefs on equal partnership in marriage, I’m glad that the aforementioned is probably not so common.

    Blah, blah, blah, vent, vent, vent. Ah, that feels better.

    Anonymous, my heart goes out to you. This happened to a loved one of mine (though at a much younger age and no child resulted) and it has deeply affected her more than I can fathom, even twenty years later. I can only hope that all who have endured this may be blessed with your perspective.

  66. Gavin McGraw on August 22, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    This blog moves too fast! By the time I think of something to say and post it, my comment already seems off-topic (more than is already may have been.) Arrrrgh!

  67. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    Lisa,

    The pro-choice camp is really that extreme. You can scour their websites looking for any statements condemning late-term abortions, or down syndrome abortions, but you won’t find any. They adamantly oppose every restriction that’s ever been placed on abortion and offers human fetuses any kind of legal protection. They even opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which requires doctors to administer care to a baby who “accidentally” survives an abortion and is born alive, something that apparently happens a few times a year. We might think they wouldn’t care if the baby lives, so long as the mother is made unpregnant, but their opposition to this bill showed that they don’t want to be only unpregnant, they want the baby killed. Fortunately the bill passed despite their protests. The also strongly oppose all legislation that treats the fetus as a potential crime victim. Men sometimes kill their unborn baby — by shooting the mother in the belly or some other awful thing — and many states say this is a murder. Scott Petersen is on death row because California has such a law. (To be eligible for capital punishment in California, you must kill two people, and Lacy and her unborn baby Connor were counted separately).

    NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood opposed all of these bills. They also oppose laws making it a crime to transport a minor across state lines for purposes of evading the minor’s home state parental notification laws. (Planned Parenthood workers and others drive Pennsylvania teens to New Jersey for abortions to get around Pennsylvania’s parental consent law.)

    Your point about children under age eight being saved in the Celestial Kingdom is doctrinal, it’s explicit in D&C 137. But I don’t see how that has anything to do with abortion unless you’re saying that because children will be resurrected in the millenium we shouldn’t worry too much when they’re killed in mortality. I don’t want to put words in your mouth so please clarify how you think D&C 137 should effect our laws protecting children.

    As for the rape exception. Yes, I think the mother’s story must be believable. She doesn’t have to reach anywhere near the level a prosecutor would for a criminal conviction, but we’d need more than her word to prove she’s morally justified to abandon her child. I think we should adopt a similar standard to what we do in other justified killings, like self-defense. We don’t automatically accept a claim that a killing was done in self-defense, for example, the law imposes some burden on the victim to show that he killed of necessity. Even though it’s presumably hard in many cases to prove that a killing was done in self-defense, if we dropped all requirements of proof because they are sometimes difficult to satisfy, as you suggest we do with abortion, we’d never convict most murderers. OJ could just have said he killed Nicole in self-defense and ended the police investigation right there.

    I would be willing to adopt for the rape exception a standard similar to the one used to determine whether a killing was done in self-defense.

  68. Matt Evans on August 22, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Ed,

    Thanks for digging up the quote. My concern was with the use of the word “race” — did “race suicide” refer to too few babies of the white race, or to too few babies of the human race? From the context of the quote you found, race appears to be used as a synonym for species. But then again, you connect it with the eugenics movement, so I guess I’d have to see more examples to know what they meant.

  69. JKS on August 22, 2005 at 11:46 pm

    Matt Evans,
    Requiring evidence for a rape victim’s abortion is unreasonable. Rapes go unreported.

  70. John Kane on August 23, 2005 at 12:09 am

    When dealing with a fetus in it’s first trimester, which admittedly is an impossible argument to prove if what we are debating over are “celestial vegetables” or real people…is it extreme of me to want to be on the safe side?

  71. ed on August 23, 2005 at 12:09 am

    I think that Roosevelt and others definitely did have the white race in mind. The great demographic transition was underway, birthrates were falling fast in the industrialized countries, and some people were alarmed about the future of civilization.

    Unsurprisingly, I think this sentiment was sometimes reflected in Mormon beliefs. In the April 1903 conference Apostle (and Senator) Reed Smoot said:

    You have, doubtless, noticed, of late, that President Roosevelt has called the attention of the world to the fact that “race suicide” is one of the great evils of the day. I thank God that this nation of ours has a man as its president, who believes it the duty of all married people to become parents. I also rejoice that the wife God gave him is thankful she is the mother of a number of children—not ashamed of one of them. He believes in rearing children, and in making the home an altar for our religious devotion. He believes in bringing children into the world by willing parents, and making Americans of them. I believe that this theory is pleasing in the sight of God. So I say to my brethren and sisters today, and I would that I had the power to say to the world, Stop “race suicide.” If you don’t want a family, don’t get married. I hope that we, as Latter-day Saints, will learn from the experiences of the world the evil effects of “race suicide,” and not pass through the experiences ourselves.

    However, a rather different take on this situation is reflected in this quote by Joseph Fielding Smith that I found on the definitely-NOT-anti-mormon website lightplanet:

    The old colonial stock that one or two centuries ago laid the foundation of our great nation, is rapidly being replaced by the “lower classes” of a sturdier and more worthy race. Worthier because they have not learned, in these modern times, to disregard the great commandment given to man by our Heavenly Father. It is indeed, a case of survival of the fittest, and it is only a matter of time before those who so strongly advocate and practice the pernicious doctrine of “birth control” and the limiting of the number of children in the family, will have legislated themselves and their kind out of this mortal existence.—Relief Society Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 7, July 1916

  72. Matt Evans on August 23, 2005 at 1:10 am

    JKS,

    While the percentage of rapes that go unreported is a subject of debate, it is the victims’ choice whether to report the rape or not. Presumably a woman choosing to avail herself of an abortion through the rape exception will report the rape if that’s necessary to her using the rape exception.

    Ed,

    Those are interesting quotes. I don’t read Smoot’s quote about Roosevelt as arguing for the success of a particular race, but maybe he didn’t have to explicitly say that because his audience would understand as much by his references to Roosevelt. (Though I don’t know what Roosevelt’s position was, either.)

    The Joseph F. Smith quote is fascinating both in his demonstrating his understanding of natural selection (and willingness to use the concept in a church setting), his assumption that Mormons descend from colonial stock (though by that time the ancestors of a majority of church members wouldn’t have been from colonial stock — they were still in Europe “one or two centuries ago”), and his use of rhetoric to motivate the members by pretending to compliment a class he or they apparently didn’t respect. And it raises an interesting question: is it wrong to cheer for our biological race? Or is that reading of JFS too broad, and he should be read not as encouraging people to cheer for their race, but as showing that it’s appropriate to mourn when one’s race declines? The latter possibility would be consistent with Nephi’s cries for his people even though he said that all are alike unto God and prayed too for his brother’s people.

  73. Jeremiah J. on August 23, 2005 at 2:36 am

    Adam, In on way I agree with what George and co. have said on this issue in the past (I haven’t read his most recent comments)–as a matter of Catholic teaching, the recourse to separation of church and state goes nowhere. For Catholicism, the Mario Cuomo answer to the problem (‘privately as a Catholic I regard abortion as a grave wrong but publicly as a citizen I regard abortion rights as the best political response’) is almost surely untenable. The formula “Mater si, magistra no” (coined by an American conservative first, incidentally) is to say the least an uncomfortable fit in modern Catholic teaching.

    Mormonism is quite different, and not just because of the relative independence of mid-level ecclesiastical leaders. Indeed Mormonism has not articulated anything like the comprehensive social teaching that Catholicism has. It is that teaching which articulates not just why abortion is a grave wrong according to the Christian faith, but why it is a wrong which should be prohibited by the human law (or: *is* prohibited by the natural law) and why the church is acting properly in telling us so. Most Mormons have been taught about the first of these things, but not about the latter two. That doesn’t stop most of us from being basically pro-life (indeed more American Mormons, according to social research, hold to a pro-life view which resembles the LDS moral teaching on abortion than the than American Catholics affirm the more clearly defined Catholic Church position). But I don’t think that this is evidence of clear political teaching as it is evidence of church members taking a moral teaching to the most apparent political conclusion.

    I probably wouldn’t try to argue that the church would be somehow outside of its rights if it excommunicated people for having the wrong political alliegiances. But there is the separate, very pressing political question about whether it makes decent political sense. One might be able to remain a good Catholic, but perhaps not an English patriot, if he stubbornly affirmed that a political crisis in the monarchy is nothing compared to the sin of divorce (Henry VIII’s). I like the policy preferences of these pro-life arch-bishops but I doubt that excommunication for being on the wrong side of a political question can be good for the republic.

    Aside from this political question, however: as for George’s comparison to genocide, slavery, and segregation, I think it’s a bad one. Of course it’s easy enough to imagine some practice so horrific that we would all agree to pile every punishment and curse, secular and religious, upon its advocates without hesitation. But that’s because we live in a world where people (or more specifically, Catholics or Mormons) generally don’t disagree about these things. Once upon a time they did disagree about these things. The disagreement disappeared for the most part because of political factors. So now the anathemas pronounced from the pulpit upon slavery seem very appropriate, but mostly because they’re now superfluous. Despite what George says, I think it is still an open question whether it was wise for some Catholics during the civil rights movement or even many Quakers during slavery to make correct views on a concrete political issue a condition of membership in the community. The correct moral answer to these questions is very clear to me, but the solution to the problems of the role of the church in political decisionmaking and the purpose of excommunication are not thereby made easier. Our own short history bears out that the church is not always on the moral cutting edge of history, and it probably can’t hope always to be. It doesn’t therefore become unholy.

  74. anonymous on August 23, 2005 at 7:30 am

    Why do you think that rape is usually unreported? It is a horrible crime. It keeps on demeaning the victim long after the actual crime is committed. I know why people do not talk about abortion if they have had one, it too, is a horrible procedure.

    To put the victim in the position to have to prove rape is to dredge up these memories over and over. No, no one gets up and says, “Hey, I think I’ll have an abortion today!” It is a procedure of desperate people, they are in frame of mind to prove what their circumstances are.

    I understand why women do NOT report rape, I understand also why women do not tell their best friends about abortions. Two terrible events, neither of these should ever happen to anyone. Do not compound the misery of rape with requring a woman to prove something in order to get the care she needs.

  75. greenfrog on August 23, 2005 at 8:31 am

    As for the rape exception. Yes, I think the mother’s story must be believable. She doesn’t have to reach anywhere near the level a prosecutor would for a criminal conviction, but we’d need more than her word to prove she’s morally justified to abandon her child. I think we should adopt a similar standard to what we do in other justified killings, like self-defense. We don’t automatically accept a claim that a killing was done in self-defense, for example, the law imposes some burden on the victim to show that he killed of necessity. Even though it’s presumably hard in many cases to prove that a killing was done in self-defense, if we dropped all requirements of proof because they are sometimes difficult to satisfy, as you suggest we do with abortion, we’d never convict most murderers. OJ could just have said he killed Nicole in self-defense and ended the police investigation right there.

    So you’d prefer, perhaps, that the likes of Johnnie Cochran be required before a woman can obtain a post-rape abortion? What happens when she can’t afford such a luxury? Even when she can, what happens when there’s no evidence of lack of consent other than the woman’s testimony? Since she’s the one seeking the abortion, her testimony is obviously biased. Why should we trust it? Shouldn’t we, instead, require physical evidence of force? But if we do that, don’t we wind up saying, “It isn’t rape unless you’re injured”? Which alternative presents a greater risk of false negatives or false positives, one that permits first trimester abortions to those who self-identify as victims of rape or one that requires judicial determination of that status? What is the harm associated with a false positive? What is the harm associated with a false negative?

    In my view, if we posit that a blastocyte is a human being, we should imbue it with all the rights we afford other human beings. If it’s a human being, why should the manner of its conception matter in the slightest? Is there a way of understanding the Church’s fully nuanced position that is consistent with blastocyte=human being? I haven’t figured one out, but I’m open to any suggestions.

    I would be willing to adopt for the rape exception a standard similar to the one used to determine whether a killing was done in self-defense.

    You’ll have my opposition if you introduce legislation to implement your proposal. FWIW, I experience a same-sex rape when I was 13. While, obviously, I was never in fear of pregnancy resulting from that experience, I am fully aware of the psychological destruction that both a rapist and society inflict on rape victims. Your proposal appears, to my biased perspective, to lack the courage of conviction to the principle you suggest — that a blastocyte is a human being. If it is, then no amount of proof should be sufficient to permit another person to kill it. If it isn’t, and I don’t believe it is, any more than I think the cells shed by my skin daily are human beings, I see only harm that would result from legislation that would inflict yet more harm and burden on the already torn innocent.

  76. Frank McIntyre on August 23, 2005 at 9:37 am

    Greenfrog,

    I am sorry you had such an awful experience. I imagine it dominates your thinking on the matter. But I think you are imposing false dichotomy to suggest that one must either treat abortion as murder or as nothing. The Church’s stance is intermediate and it is very natural that the stance Matt adopts would be intermediate. If you cannot see that then you are missing a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

  77. Matt Evans on August 23, 2005 at 9:55 am

    “Is there a way of understanding the Church’s fully nuanced position that is consistent with blastocyte = human being?”

    Yes. Even though I believe an embryo is a human being, I do not believe we should impose the obligations of parenthood on people who didn’t consent to, or assume the risk of, becoming parents, and parents are one of the few people who have affirmative duties to care for another. Viewing abortion as a refusal to care for the baby means that the mother isn’t *killing* the baby when she aborts it, she simply refuses to care for it and, technology not being sufficiently advanced to let the baby survive without her, the baby inevitably dies. It’s analogous to someone being stranded in the freezing woods with a young child: if they refuse to carry the child to safety the child will die, but this does not mean they killed the child. The law imposes affirmative duties upon parents to protect their children, and to carry them from the freezing woods, but does not impose this affirmative duty on strangers.

    Courts impose these affimative parental duties on fathers from the time of fertilization. (This question is actually litigated quite often because alimony, but not child support, is dischargable under bankruptcy law. Many men in bankruptcy try to argue that prenatal expenses should be treated as dischargable alimony payments to their spouse and not as child support payments for their unborn child. But the courts rule against each dad, saying he’s obligated to pay prenatal expenses not because he was the spouse but because he’s the father. The prenatal expenses are for his daughter.) The courts impose these parental obligations even when the father absolutely, positively did not want to become a father and used thirty-eight forms of birth control to prevent it. The courts tell him: by having sex you assumed the risk that you might become a father despite your best efforts to prevent it.

    Now if the man was raped, or his sperm was stolen from a lab, on the other hand, and he was made a biological father only by force, I would hope and expect that the courts would not impose upon him the obligations of fatherhood. He would be allowed to treat the child as *stranger* in the law. In the same way, the obligations of motherhood should not be imposed upon a woman who is raped, or whose eggs were stolen from a lab. She should be allowed to choose to treat the child as *stranger* in the law, and not required to carry the baby to safety.

  78. Mathew on August 23, 2005 at 9:58 am

    Matt,

    Are you simply requiring that she report a rape or are you requiring that she meet a minimum standard of evidence? If you require she meet some minimum standard of evidence, what would that standard be? Who would determine whether she meets that standard? A judge? A doctor? A jury? Of course any determination would have to be made fairly quickly so as to not render the exercise moot (recognizing a woman has a “justiciable controversy” after she has carried the baby to term would provide little comfort)–so necessarily the standard would need to be less stringent that that required to prove rape in a criminal proceeding.

    Simply asserting that a woman can report a rape in order to obtain an abortion without filling in the details strikes me as a little glib. And at this point it seems to me that requiring a woman to prove she was raped so she can obtain an abortion does smack of putting the woman herself on trial. I’m not saying that your idea isn’t worth thinking about, but that we need to think about it a great deal more rather than just throwing it out there as if it is already a viable alternative. Upon closer scrutiny it may prove to be unworkable. If pro-life advocates aren’t willing to think seriously about how to make a compromise position workable, it makes me suspect they are simply sloganeering in bad faith with no intention of compromise.

  79. Elisabeth on August 23, 2005 at 10:03 am

    Hi, Frank -

    Could you explain to me what the missing piece of the puzzle is? I’ve always been a bit confused about the official LDS position on abortion. If we value life as such, it is more consistent to believe that any taking of a life (or potential for life) is wrong – no matter how that life was created.

    Greenfrog raises some very important questions that you did not address in your last comment. I’d be interested to hear more details about how you and Matt propose that a woman should be required to verify she had been raped in order to achieve this “intermediate” postion on abortion.

    The self defense example is a difficult analogy to make with respect to proving a rape for many reasons. Would you require medical evidence as proof of rape?

  80. Lisa B. on August 23, 2005 at 10:04 am

    The self-defense comparison might (a very qualified might) have bearing on the “life of the mother” exception, but very definitely not in the case of rape or incest. The rape or incest exception is not based on a threat to life. Hmm… I wonder what it could possibly be based on. An affirmation that it is not God’s will that conception occur in this way? And recognition and respect for the fact that the giving of physical form and life to God’s spirit children is woman’s, not man’s stewardship (and therefore also accountability)?

    My stance on this issue would be very different if our theology were different. If our theology were different, I would make no exceptions to the preservation of life rule. I would be a complete pacifist. I would be against capital punishment. I would not seek interventive medical care of any kind, even to assist conception or prolong or preserve life. I would not allow for abortion on any grounds. And I would struggle even more than I already do with scriptural instances of divinely directed life-taking (Nephi, Abraham, the conquering Children of Israel, capital punishment…).

    For those men who struggle with the reality that women are the ones who ultimately grant physical life or not, consider that no one can force you to become pregnant against your will. Also consider the current church teachings that husbands should defer to women in childbearing decisions since they are the ones who bear the primary burden there.

  81. Elisabeth on August 23, 2005 at 10:07 am

    Oops – I didn’t see Mat’s comment before I made mine.

  82. ed on August 23, 2005 at 10:27 am

    Matt (#72): I agree that the quote by JFS is fascinating (the reference said Joseph Fielding, but for all I know it may have been Joseph F.).

    I don’t mean to suggest that Roosevelt (or Smoot) were especially “racist,” or even that it’s fair to judge them by modern standards on this issue. It’s important to remember that the “lower classes” that some were concerned about were also “white,” being mostly immigrants from southern and eastern europe. I’m not really sure what “race” he had in mind with the term “race suicide.” From what I can gather, Roosevelt agreed with the goal of increasing birthrates among the old-stock WASPs, but he was also completely against any efforts to discourage reproduction by the “lower classes.” I guess he thought that these lower classes could become good Americans just like everyone else. I really don’t know what he thought about American blacks, or Africans, or Chinese, or if he even thought about them at all.

  83. Matt Evans on August 23, 2005 at 10:35 am

    Mathew,

    I believe the woman would at minimum be required to offer a compelling story, or provide circumstantial evidence, showing that she was actually impregnated against her will. In my comment 77 I spoke of men being made fathers against their will. I once read a case of a man who claimed he’d been raped by the woman carrying his child; she’d drugged him at a hotel. The judge required the man to provide evidence of his claim before he’d consider exempting the man from parental duties for his biological child. That requirement makes sense to me.

    One possibilty to avoid delay would be to allow the woman to decide herself whether to have an abortion or not, as we do with killings in self-defense, and then require her to raise an affirmative defense if she’s prosecuted.

    Actually, here’s a structure that might work well: because we would frequently be able to identify the baby’s father through genetic testing, if the woman says she doesn’t owe parental duties to her biological child because she was raped, we know that either she does have parental duties to the child (sex was consensual) or that the father is guilty of rape. In those cases where we can identify the father, then, both biological parents should come before a judge to prove which of them is lying. As long as we throw the father in jail each time the mother is allowed to have an abortion under the rape exception, I’m not overly concerned with how the judge determines if one or both of them have parental duties. Knowing that the man will go to jail for a couple years if he exempts the woman from parental duties should motivate the judge to weigh everything carefully.

    This structure would probably make men think thrice before making babies with someone they can’t trust, too, and that would be a good thing.

  84. Frank McIntyre on August 23, 2005 at 10:39 am

    Lisa,

    I didn’t know the Church had specific counsel that fathers should defer to mothers on childbearing. Are you just talking about the deference to the woman’s health or referring to something more specific?

    Elisabeth,

    I think Matt layed out a pretty plausible way to think about the issue. But whatever the result, Elder Oaks’ talk, I think in 93?, quotes the General Handbook where elective abortion is considered a sin in being “like unto” murder. It does not say that it is or isn’t murder. Just that it, at the least, falls within a narrow proximity to murder. Whatever position we adopt should be consonant with that understanding.

    As for how to implement such a policy, I think it would be the same way we implement any law. We try something and then modify it if it doesn’t work. No law is victimless. Personally, I would start with a simple requirement that woman who claim rape file a sworn affadavit on the subject providing the details of such an encounter, and see what that gets us. It might be that some hearing is required where the facts are reviewed or perhaps not. Is this inconvenient for the mother? Terribly. But the gain of avoiding committing something akin to murder is worth a fair bit of inconvenience.

    Current judicial proceedings engage in all sorts of inconvenience, but that doesn’t mean we get rid of laws outlawing first degree murder or rape. Current paternity law, as Matt points out, can be hugely inconvenient for men. But that doesn’t mean we should not have child support laws.

  85. annegb on August 23, 2005 at 10:51 am

    If my daughter had pre-marital consensual sex and got pregnant and decided to get an abortion, I’d tie her down and sit on her until that baby was born. But if my daughter was raped, I’d make the doctors give her a D&C, at gunpoint, if necessary, immediately. And again in a week.

    The question–wasn’t it about excommunication based on our beliefs? If I had to take a blanket stand against abortion rather than be excommunicated, I’d have to be excommunicated. But if I had to take a blanket stand for choice rather than be deported, I’d have to be deported.

    This is not black and white. Anonymous, my heart goes out to you, hon, and God bless that woman who stood by you and held your hand. I think you did the right thing.

    But those women, say in Hollywood, who routinely have several abortions a year for the sake of convenience, God is going to get them.

    I will not.

  86. Rosalynde Welch on August 23, 2005 at 11:13 am

    It seems to me that the contention that the church’s position is compatible with the notion that the embryo=human being is severely challenged by the church’s position on contraception. The church makes no prohibition against hormonal or IUD forms of contraception, both of which prevent pregnancy in part by preventing the implantation of the embryo—that is, by artificially interfering in the womb’s ability to sustain the embryo. Under Matt’s principle, this would be a clear abrogation of parental duties if the hours-old embryo already constituted a human being.

    Instead, it seems to me the church’s position is undergirded not by a principle of the sanctity of human life, but by a principle of moral accountability: those individuals who knowingly assume the risk of pregnancy by engaging in unprotected sex are consequently accountable for their choice by sustaining the pregnancy regardless of their wishes. Those, in contrast, who become pregnant not as a result of choice, or who have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the risk of pregnancy, are not accountable for sustaining the pregnancy. Of course, this still leaves some sticky questions behind: if parents are allowed to interfere in the womb’s ability to sustain the embryo several hours after conception, why would parents who had taken reasonable precautions but those precautions failed (as they occasionally do) NOT be allowed to interfere in the womb’s ability to sustain the embryo at some later time? Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the principle of moral accountability on which the church’s position is based translates easily into law, so it may not lend itself to coherent legislation.

  87. Kristine on August 23, 2005 at 11:14 am

    Matt, I take it from your comments here that you’ve never spent any time with someone who was raped. I keep trying to think of some coherent way to respond to your ideas, and I’m too horrified to come up with words. Many rape victims can barely make it out of their houses for weeks, months after an attack–to suggest that they should have to go to court to prove they were raped or else carry the child of their rapist to term is beyond callous, and suggests an extreme privileging of the rights of the fetus over those of the rape victim. Surely both are innocent victims of crime and deserve compassion and protection. That you are so willing to make laws that would compound the woman’s suffering makes me, frankly, afraid of you.

  88. Mathew on August 23, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Matt,

    I appreciate your effort at a first cut, but your standard won’t work well at all. You can’t throw the guy in jail without giving him due process. Due process is going to require a criminal trial at which the relevant state’s evidentiary standards must be proved to a jury. I don’t see how you can hope to guarantee that all of the evidence can be gathered and processed in less than nine months (three?) months.

    In addition, you would have to address the perverse incentives you proposal would give legislatures and juries in places most hostile to abortion. Legislatures may be tempted to pass laws making it more difficult to prove a rape. Juries may be less willing to find a man guilty of rape no matter what the evidence because of strongly held beliefs about abortion. The voir dire process may be enough to weed out biased jurors, but then again it may not when it comes to the single most inflammatory issue in the country. To me it still looks like the alleged victim is on trial as much as the alleged perp.

    Finally and, I’m afraid for your proposal, fatally, I take it that you are working under the assumption that Roe is overturned and a different constitutional right preserving a woman’s right to an abortion in the instance of rape takes its place. As you know, rape is defined in each state’s penal code and the states have a variety of definitions as to what constitutes rape–so making a woman’s right to an abortion in the case of rape contingent on states’ penal codes wouldn’t pass constitutional muster.

  89. Steve Evans on August 23, 2005 at 11:15 am

    “be required to offer a compelling story, or provide circumstantial evidence, showing that she was actually impregnated against her will”

    Matt, your system seems pretty burdensome on the woman, and relies heavily on external meditation/control in order to function. Can you envision any alternatives that wouldn’t require embarrassing/invasive proofs and necessitate a lengthy/costly legal process?

  90. anonymous on August 23, 2005 at 11:17 am

    It’s called “Choice”.

  91. Steve Evans on August 23, 2005 at 11:33 am

    Matt, like Kristine I am afraid of you, but mostly because you are so burly and tough. You are the Bad Bad Leroy Brown of the Bloggernacle.

  92. Mathew on August 23, 2005 at 11:51 am

    I was unclear in my last sentence. As they now stand, I think it unlikely that each state’s definition of rape is likely to pass constitutional muster if a constitutional right preserving a woman’s right to an abortion in the instance of rape replaced Roe. Some states would be forced to change their rape laws to ensure that right–which seems to address my complaint about legislatures potentially seeking to change the laws to make it more difficult to prove rape. In any case, I think it is a terrible idea to commingle a criminal rape charge with a right to an abortion.

  93. Matt Evans on August 23, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I think you’re assuming I asserted that the church *does* believe embryos are human beings. The church’s official position is that God hasn’t revealed if embryos have spirits (the presence of spirt frequently being used as proxy for “human being” in these discussions). Further, I believe it’s a mistake to assume the church approves of abortifacient birth control by their silence. The church would be awfully busy if we were supposed to assume that everything is morally acceptable unless and until the church condemns it. Also, the Proclamation specifically says, “we affirm the sanctity of life,” so I think it’s wrong to write off the sanctity of life as a rationale for the church’s position on abortion.

    Kristine,

    I’ve only known a few rape victims (all three raped by family members) but none of them were made pregnant, fortunately. I am completely willing to have someone else suggest what the standard should be in determining in what cases it is acceptable to use the rape exception — so long as they share (at least hypothetically) my belief that a 6-week-old embryo has equal moral worth to a 6-week-old infant and a 6-year-old. How convinced would you have to be that a woman was raped to condone her abandoning her 6-week-old infant to die? (Assuming arguendo a rape exception to infant care.) Because I think the only point we don’t share is our view of the moral worth of the unborn child, I think if you substitute an infant for the fetus in your analysis I’ll be comfortable with your proposal. (Steve and others are welcome to chime in here too — I suspect my primary difference with all of you is over the moral worth of the unborn child.)

    Mathew,

    I’m assuming we’re working with state law in a post-Roe world. The reason why I think my proposal works in theory (I admit I’m ignoring current procedural rules) is because the risks are symmetrical, something the criminal law is unaccustomed to. We presume innocence in criminal cases because we consider false positives (jailing an innocent) as being worse than false negatives (letting the guilty go free). If the consequence of a false negative wasn’t only that the suspect goes free, but that a child be abandoned to die, we’d want to recalibrate the evidentiary burdens.

  94. Lisa B. on August 23, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    Matt, what do you think of the moral worth of the women and children the Israelites were commaned to kill? There are God-given exceptions to the preservation of human life, even innocent human life.

    I can’t find who commented on chidren being “alive in Christ” being doctrinal. Yeah, I knew that. I was referring to the second chance at mortality idea (prophetic reassurances to mothers and fathers who have lost children or infants that they would have a chance to raise them in the millenium) and implications of that if true.

    I’m sure that the deference to the mother on childbearing decisions includes me & my husband’s impressions of and experience, but I’ll see if I can find some statements we’ve based our attitude about it on.

  95. Elisabeth on August 23, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    Matt Evans – I appreciate your analysis – thank you for sharing your insights with us. How does the fact that pregnancy itself is a huge burden on women fit into your analysis? Some women go through horrible trauma to give birth to their children, and some women (and children) die as a result of difficult labor. How do the traumas and risks of childbirth factor into whether or not the woman should be able to choose to terminate her pregnancy?

  96. lyle stamps on August 23, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Lisa: You question in #94 might be answered by the fact that when the Israelites killed, they did so pursuant to an affirmative, explicit command from God. Similarly, the Church’s policy states that abortion _may_ be permissible in certain circumstances; all of which require the individual to seek affirmative and explicit guidance from God before make such a choice.

    However, I am puzzled by your explanation of such as innocent. If God judged them worthy of death; surely they weren’t innocent.

  97. Lisa B. on August 23, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    I meant the children included in that killing. Yes, I agree with your qualifiers, that it was and needs to be by inspiration of God. Just pointing out that abortion is not the only example.

  98. Lisa B. on August 23, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Oh, and that I have a hard time imagining how legislation or the judiciary could possibly play a role in the process of determining if that revelation is indeed from God–not to mention my other objections to such interference. KWIM?

  99. Kristine on August 23, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    Matt, even if I were willing to grant the moral equivalency of a 6-week-old fetus and a 6-week-old infant, the moral questions involved are different. The *physical* status of the embryo absolutely requires a large burden of care of one particular person, whereas the burden of care for a 6-week-old infant can be assigned to anyone willing to assume the burden. The law clearly recognizes that there are limits to the burdens one human being is required to assume for another–we won’t force a parent to donate a kidney to save a child’s life. When you require a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, you are not merely asking her not to kill someone, you are forcing her to assume an affirmative duty which our laws otherwise deem too great for the state to impose. I don’t think that accepting the moral equivalence of the fetus and an infant really makes the situation any less complicated, though it certainly allows you to ratchet up the rhetorical heat.

  100. Bryan Robert on August 23, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    #23 I agree wth you completely

    Matt,
    I dont think you have thought your proving rape theory through very far. Or, you do not understand human nature, or the legal system very well. There is another very serious problem that absolutely would arise if what you wanted was instituted. People lying about rape. It happens every day. In fact there is probably no crime that is committed and NOT reported, or reported falsly because it did not happen then rape.

    I had a friend that spent 7 years in jail for a “rape”. He was caught in bed with a married woman, who was also a prominent member of her church. (not Mormon) She later said it was rape, and because he did not have the money for a paid lawyer, was stuck with a public defender, he took a plea bargin, so he did not take a chance on getting 40 years, if he lost at trial.

    If you dont think that hundreds of thousands of desperate women, will falslely accuse men of rape, in order to get an abortion, you are living in a fantasy world. As hard as rape is to prove, it is also very scary how easy it can be, under the right conditions.

    If somone wants an abortion they WILL get it. If they have to get a back alley one, or lie about getting raped, they will get one. If only a handful of peoples lives are ruined because they have been falsely accused of rape it is far too many.

  101. Mark B. on August 23, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    Lyle

    In your 96 you suggest that God judged some worthy of death, and that they therefore could not have been innocent.

    Of course, I guess we’re all worthy of death, since we have sinned. On the other hand, God doesn’t generally execute the penalty now–see Alma 12:21-24–which raises the question: Why did God decide to execute the penalty NOW on those whom the Israelites were commanded to slay.

    I frankly don’t think it’s because they were particularly deserving of death (just as Laban was probably not particularly deserving of death on that day in 600 B.C.). Instead, the Almighty has His purposes, and the deaths of those people were part of the accomplishment of those purposes, not the execution of a penalty.

  102. anonymous too on August 23, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    “Do not compound the misery of rape with requring a woman to prove something … ”

    Just ask Hugh Nibley’s family.

  103. John Kane on August 23, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    Kristine,

    A parent choosing not to donate a kidney to a child does not necessarily result in the death of the child. There are many people in this world who have the ability to help that child.

    A child in the womb on the other hand has no one else to turn to. When the parents choose to terminate a pregnancy, the child has nobody on this earth who can then step in to help like is available in the kidney scenario.

    Just as the mother has options when the infant is 6 weeks old as opposed to bearing the burden alone when the fetus is 6 weeks old, the coin has two sides. The infant has care alternatives when he/she is 6 weeks old, but the child is alone and unable to be helped by anyone other than the one carrying him/her.

    Both people in these 9 months happen to be vulnerable and maybe a little isolated and helpless. I think people on both sides of the discussion tend to forget that when they only think about the rights or feeling of just one of the parties.

  104. Kristine on August 23, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    John, my point was that no one–not even a parent–would be forced by law to donate a kidney, even if the lack of a donor would result in the death of the child.

    I completely agree with your final paragraph–my problem with many of Matt’s arguments is that he appears not to be trying to balance the claims of mother and fetus, but privileging the fetus even in the case of the most innocent, vulnerable mothers.

  105. John H on August 23, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    To add further fuel to the fire, and something that (assuming it’s correct, which it may not be) challenges the idea of a 6 week fetus and a 6 week baby being the same, is this story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9053416/

    Studies apparently show that fetus’s don’t feel pain until the third trimester. Hardly a reason to justify abortion, but it is an interesting article.

  106. Julie in Austin on August 23, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Coming way late, but I’d just like to say:

    (1) Thanks, ed, for the JFS quote in #71. What a fabulous statement for him to make, and I’m not just saying that because I am Italian ;)

    (2) Matt, re your #83, the idea of hauling everyone before a judge, who will find the truth, is naive. While others have addressed this, I want to give you specifics. I’ve had posttraumatic stress disorder (not related to rape, tho) and I can assure you that if I had to talk about my experience in public (let alone in a court, let alone in front of parties involved, let alone when the outcome would affect the rest of my life), I would have literally not been able to speak. I would have hyperventilated, I would have sobbed, I would have passed out. But I couldn’t have spoken. There is NO WAY what you propose is fair to rape victims.

    (3) Frank writes, “I didn’t know the Church had specific counsel that fathers should defer to mothers on childbearing. Are you just talking about the deference to the woman’s health or referring to something more specific?”

    Frank, the GHI states that the wife’s opinion trumps the husband if he wants a child and she does not. Perhaps someone could find the exact quotation?

    (4) Later Matt write, “I am completely willing to have someone else suggest what the standard should be in determining in what cases it is acceptable to use the rape exception – so long as they share (at least hypothetically) my belief that a 6-week-old embryo has equal moral worth to a 6-week-old infant and a 6-year-old.”

    Matt, I appreciate your concern that women will fake rape in order to get an abortion. But you know what? A woman who would do that might also fake rape in front of your judge. Women (and men, of course) are going to lie. And they are accountable before God for that. Why should we destroy innocent men in her lies, and why should we force raped women to this ordeal? These are not rhetorical questions, Matt.

    (5) In general, I’d like to express appreciation to everyone who has commented for remaining civil, especially in the face of comments that may have seemed inflammatory to either side.

  107. Justin on August 23, 2005 at 8:04 pm

    Re #106:

    The 1989 General Handbook of Instructions stated:

    Birth Control

    Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have a great responsibility not only for bearing children but also for caring for them through childhood. Husbands should help their wives conserve their health and strength. Married couples should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel.

    The current Church Handbook of Instruction states:

    Birth Control:

    It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many chldren to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

    Married couples also should understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.

  108. JKS on August 23, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    Matt,
    1. A six week old fetus doesn’t have a spirit yet. It is not the same.
    2. I think no Child should be conceived in rape. Procreation is a sacred, wonderful thing and rape resulting in conception is a horrible burden. I would abort in case of rape for the child’s sake, as well as my own.

    annegb,
    Definitely talk to your daughters about reasons to report rape, or seek help right away. Counseling is important and I personally think I would report, but the morning after pill is a big reason to talk to someone right away. Even if they are too scared/shocked/incapacitated to go to the police, they should ask you or someone else to help them (call their obgyn for them, etc.)

  109. Justin on August 23, 2005 at 8:28 pm

    A few other relatively recent statements:

    The 1983 Church Handbook stated:

    The Lord has commanded husbands and wives to multiply and replenish the earth that they might have joy in their posterity.

    Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Married couples should exercise self-control in all of their relationships. They should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel.

    The April 1969 First Presidency statement:

    The First Presidency is being asked from time to time as to what the attitude of the Church is regarding birth control. In order that you may be informed on this subject and that you may be prepared to convey the proper information to the members of the Church under your jurisdiction, we have decided to give you the following statement:

    We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity. Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.

    However, we feel that men must be considerate of their wives who bear the greater responsibility not only of bearing children, but of caring for them through childhood. To this end the mother’s health and strength should be conserved and the husband’s consideration for his wife is his first duty, and self-control a dominant factor in all their relationships.

    It is our further feeling that married couples should seek inspiration and wisdom from the Lord that they may exercise discretion in solving their marital problems, and that they may be permitted to rear their children in accordance with the teachings of the gospel.

  110. DavidH on August 23, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    One way to implement a rape exception in a hypothetical world in which Roe were overturned and abortion generally banned would be to look at the current federal law exception that permits or requires funding by Medicaid of abortion in cases of rape or incest. I am not sure what paperwork is required, but, according to this article, it appears very few abortions are funded in cases of rape. http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=615981

  111. Frank McIntyre on August 23, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    Justin,

    Thanks for the quote. I fully understand that men should be mindful of the work of a child for the mother and of her health. Is this the deference that is being referred to? I was curious if there was some statement that implied the husband should defer to the wife’s decisions in the matter, as opposed to a joint decision and I confess I don’t see it.

  112. Julie in Austin on August 23, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    Frank,

    I think Lisa and I were reading an expectation of deference into the 1983 wording.

  113. Mark on August 23, 2005 at 8:38 pm

    Frank,

    Is there any decision at all where the church doesn’t suggest that men defer to their wives?

  114. Julie in Austin on August 23, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    Mark,

    Would you fault your brethren for following the path laid out for them by deity in Gen 21:12?

  115. Mark on August 23, 2005 at 8:53 pm

    Julie, nope. In fact, I intend to follow Nate O.’s example and refer to my wife as She Who Must Be Obeyed.

  116. manaen on August 23, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    113 & 115
    I saw a PBS special on marriage some time ago. A female interviewer asked one couple, who were happy after 50 years of marriage, what was their secret. The husband answered, “When we got married, we agreed that I’d make all the big decisions and that she’d make all the little ones.” The interviewer then asked, “How do you decide which are the big decisions and which are the little ones?” The husband paused for a moment, smiled, and answered, “Well, so far, we haven’t had any big ones.”

  117. Matt Evans on August 24, 2005 at 1:37 am

    Elisabeth and Kristine,

    I think I’m going to turn my Stranded in a Freezing Wilderness hypo into it’s own post. I’ll address the issues from your comments 95 and 99 there. (Though Kristine, I don’t believe anything I’ve written should be construed as privileging the fetus over the mother. I privilege the person whose life is at stake, which in the circumstances we’ve been discussing happens to be the fetus, but when the lives of the mother and baby are both at stake, I actually privilege the mother, and in a situation where the mother’s life depended on the fetus doing something difficult but common, I’d favor the mother then, too.)

    John H (Comment 105),

    Unless you think that the reason it’s immoral to kill someone is because they feel pain, a fetus’s inability to feel pain has no bearing on her right to life.

    Julie (Comment 106),

    We’ve been discussing the rape exception with the assumption that the fetus has full moral worth. If the fetus has full moral worth, equal to any other human being, I believe women seeking permission to abandon their child to die must explain their reasons, and the reasons they offer must be convincing. You say that what I’ve proposed isn’t fair to rape victims, though I’m guessing you aren’t assuming that the fetus has full moral worth, equal to that of your oldest child. If you are, what standard would you require of the rape victim if the life at stake wasn’t her baby’s, but that of your oldest child?

    The reason I would require the woman to provide a convincing argument is because the stakes are so high, and I want to eliminate, as much as possible, her ability to abandon her baby to die (who I believe has as much moral worth as your or my oldest child) because of a lie. My inclination, like yours, is to be exceptionally deferential and compassionate to a woman who says she’s been raped. But if she seeks permission to abandon her child to die on the basis of her being raped, then I’d want to make sure, as best we can, that she’s telling the truth.

    I agree that she’s accountable before God, as we all are, but I don’t know where that gets us.

    Lisa (Comment 94),

    You haven’t said it explicitly, but you seem to be saying that the Mormon belief that children will have a second mortality means our secular laws shouldn’t consider killing a child to be as heinous as killing an adult. I strongly reject that implication.

    JKS (Comment 108),

    The prophets say they haven’t received revelation on when the spirit enters the body, so I’m reluctant to accept your assertion that six-week-old fetuses don’t have spirits. And the many people alive today who were conceived by rape would all tell you it’s outrageous to suggest they’d be better off dead. If they agreed with your assessment they’d fix it.

    David H (Comment 110),

    The Medicaid forms would be a good place to see how the rape exception is proven now. I was disappointed the story never said what the forms required, or provided links to them.

    Manaen (Comment 116),

    That is LOL funny.

  118. Bryce on August 24, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    This might be rambling, but: Most laws in the criminal code concern judgments on moral values. They say, in essence, “As a people, we believe X behavior is wrong, and believe it to such a degree that we will punish those who behave this way.” Usually the aim is to protect others or property, though this is not always the case, it is certainly the predominate reasoning throughout the criminal code. Of course there are exceptions such as drug use, etc. However, the idea that we as a society can not legislate morality is a false one. Legislating morality is precisely what the criminal code does. Most agree that behaviors that harm others should be illegal. Many argue that behaviors that fall under the so called victimless crimes banner should be legal. Others would argue that there are no victimless crimes as personal behavior inevitably affects others in a society.

    Where does abortion fit in this argument? One could make the case that the unborn fetus is alive and deserves protecting, another could argue it is simply cells and not a ‘person’ and therefore deserves no protection. As member of the Church, how can I approach this issue? Is it proper to support legislation restricting abortion? How “wrong” do we consider the behavior? Our leaders have referred to abortion as “debased” but they’ve also said the same about using pornography, should we support censorship of adult material? I personally believe that using pornography is ‘wrong’ but do not feel that it rises to such a level of ‘wrongness’ where its use should be suppressed in the face of 1st amendment considerations. I am very open to the argument, “what if someone decided the Book of Mormon is “debased”. However, I do believe that the use of child pornography does rise to that “wrongness” level and should be restricted even if its user may never hurt a child.

    What of abortion? When I look at images of a fetus, there is no doubt in my mind that something is growing. Is it life? Does it have a spirit? I have no idea. But though it may not have a spirit, it is certainly growing – to my mind how can something grow that isn’t alive in some sense? “Next to murder” is how some Church leaders describe abortion and to me this elevates it beyond simply “debased” and would seem to rise way above the level of “wrongness” needed to include the behavior in the criminal code. The main issue with this is that there seems to be a large percentage of our society that does not believe abortion is morally wrong. Where’s the victim? Who’s being hurt? They say.

    These are all considerations that fill my mind as I decide where I stand. Here’s where I come down on this: I believe that abortion ends the existence of something that is growing and is made up of the same material that I am – though perhaps not a spirit. I believe that stopping this growth should only be done is specific circumstances as outlined by President Hinckley: 1. Rape 2. Incest 3. Health of the mother 4. Viability of the fetus. That is what I believe morally.

    The next question is: Can this standard be applied to the criminal code? And I believe that it can if the will of our society is strong enough. We would say “We believe that abortion on demand is so “wrong” that we do not support its availability on our society. Therefore, we will punish any doctor who performs one that does not fit the specific circumstances as outlined in the criminal code: Rape, Incest, Health of the mother, Viability of the fetus. We acknowledge that this will require scrutiny of medical professionals and some discomfort for rape and incest victims, but we believe abortion on demand to be so “wrong” that we are willing to accept these.”

    BUT – I don’t know if this level of societal will exists in all states – therefore, it is my opinion that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and the issue should be decided by the States. My guess is that most states would change the laws to be more restrictive. This would be progress to me because I do firmly believe that abortion on demand is “wrong” to the degree that I would support restricting it.

    Isn’t that what this is all about? How “wrong” we consider abortion to be? If we truly believe that it is “next to murder” in severity, how can we support its legality, even if restricting it might lead to problems?

  119. lyle stamps on August 24, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    re: 109:

    Doesn’t T&S have a policy re: not allowing quotes from the Church Handbook? Or was that just Jim who (self) edited ?

  120. danithew on August 24, 2005 at 1:41 pm

    Bryce, I like the way you’ve approached the subject. The way I see the abortion issue is pretty simple. There are far too many abortions happening. Whether the laws on the books are changed or not, I feel there are practical ways to increase the seriousness with which people approach sexuality and human life. I believe that an increased awareness on the local level, in communities, could dramatically decrease the number of abortions that take place.

    It also seems to me that regardless of whether people are pro-choice or pro-life, they should be able to agree that too many abortions are happening.

    This is really an area where I think ecumenical groups could do some good — leaders of the various religious groups could meet and discuss how to work together to increase respect for sexuality and human life in a local community. In saying this I should say that I’m heavily influenced by an article I read a long time ago about some groups that came together with this exact purpose. According to the article, these religious leaders of various denominations and faiths were able to make a significant difference. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing happening and much less of the constant heated ideological arguments that take place.

    In dealing with issues like abortion, the law and government can be pretty clumsy. I’m not trying to offend lawyers by saying this. That’s just my feeling on the matter.

  121. obi-wan on August 24, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    In dealing with issues like abortion, the law and government can be pretty clumsy. I’m not trying to offend lawyers by saying this.

    You haven’t. We know it, perhaps better than anyone else.

    If you want to solve the problem of abortion, send out more missionaries. Invite your neighbors to home evening. Heck, start an ultrasound business that shows people how cute fetuses are in utero. Just keep the government out of it.

  122. Jack on August 24, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Obi-wan,

    Ideally, we could solve all our problems that way, but it ain’t happening.

    It’s kinda funny to see liberals calling for less government involvement while conservatives are calling for more.

  123. danithew on August 24, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    Jack, I’m not even all that liberal.

  124. Ivan Wolfe on August 24, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    Jack -

    Only libertarians want limited government. Conservatives and liberals each want less government in some places and more government in others – they just disagree on where that more/less government should be.

  125. Kristine on August 24, 2005 at 5:44 pm

    lyle, T&S does not have a policy forbidding quotes from the CHI. Some commenters have been offended when a woman (unclean! unclean!) posts from her husband’s copy.

  126. Ashley on August 24, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    re: 119:

    Whatever T&S’s policy on quoting from the Church Handbook, the two paragraphs attributed to the CHI in #109 are basically contained in my copy of the First Presidency’s Statement on Birth Control (circular letter, April 14, 1969)–and therefore, appropriate for general citation, I would think.

  127. manaen on August 24, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    (Need new glasses — skimming the Recent Comments marquee, it seemed to read Excommunicating Emma Ray)

  128. Tatiana on August 27, 2005 at 5:35 am

    I apologize for repeating my question, but I only got one response, and I’m unsure if this is representative of church policy in general. I’m a recent convert and have no LDS close friends or family whom I can ask. I would not like to try for a recommend and fail. Does my pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage political stance disqualify me from going to the temple? Is it really possible grounds for excommunication? I had previously thought that political decisions were left to the individual, but from reading T+S, now I’m unsure.

    I do sustain the church leaders and believe they are the ones chosen to lead. However, I don’t believe they are infallible or that I’m allowed to give up my moral agency to them. Also, I believe we as a church are given the revelations we are ready for at any given time. I make an analogy with the revelation about blacks and the priesthood, and think we will be given more revelation about gays when we are ready to receive it. In the meantime, if asked by my Bishop to put an anti-gay-marriage sign up in my yard, I would refuse. This is my sincere and prayerful moral decision.

    I’m asking this not rhetorically but seriously wanting to know what is the policy on this, and if there is a firm policy or if it depends upon my particular Bishop’s decision. Any help or information anyone can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way, I love T+S and the opportunity to learn about and discuss all these issues with thoughtful faithful and knowledgable members. I’m enjoying all of the entries and discussions very much.

  129. Frank McIntyre on August 27, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Tatiana:

    “Does my pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage political stance disqualify me from going to the temple? Is it really possible grounds for excommunication?”

    There is no Church policy that being pro-choice or pro gay marriage will keep you out of the temple or, by extension, get you excomunicated.

    Of course, loudly proclaiming that the Church’s position on these issues is wrong could, I suppose, fall under the category of not sustainning your leaders. But there is a longstanding recognition in the Church that there is a big difference between private doubts (which are largely okay) and repeated public denouncements (which are the road to apostasy).

    On occasion, I’m sure individual local leaders have gone beyond this, but that is the general policy as I understand it. I am also under the impressions that the Church frowns on local leaders “adding a hedge” to the temple questions.

  130. annegb on August 27, 2005 at 9:55 am

    Tatiana, one comment is good. Count your blessings.

  131. Wilfried on August 27, 2005 at 10:30 am

    Tatiana, I would say: also use wisdom in answering questions in a worthiness interview. One does not need to say more than what is asked.

  132. Tatiana on August 27, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you, Frank, Anne, and Wilfried! I’m greatly relieved! You’ve made me very happy, thanks!

  133. manaen on August 27, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    129
    Tatiana, Joseph Smith said that you can believe anything that you want and be member of this church. I believe that there is a difference between personal beliefs and actively encouraging somebody to something wrong. An example would be supporting the legal concept of legal sanction for homosexual couples couples, which you say you do, vs. encouraging someone to act out homosexual tendencies, which you have not said that you do.

    In the 70s, an LDS woman became well-know for campaigning for the ERA whie the Church called for its defeat. No action was taken against her for that. She then used the public media to tell people to not listen to the missionaries until the Church changed its position. She then was excommunicted. I hope you can see how the Church would say you could not be a member if you’re campaigning to in effect deny people the blessings of baptism and temple, regardless of the lesser issue you pursue.

    This is my personal, completely-without-authority-to-speak opinion. As a member that put up signs favoring the Defense of Marriage Act, let me say to you welcome to the Church and may you find the acceptance and peace in it that has helped me so much.

  134. JKS on August 27, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    manaen,
    Tatiana’s question was more about being temple worthy. She needs to believe certain things before entering the temple. You can be a member of the church whatever you believe, but if you, for instance, aren’t sure if Pres. Hinkley is really a prophet, you should not get a temple recommend.
    Tatiana,
    Regarding abortion, it is fine to be pro-choice. I’m sorry if anything anyone said made it sound like it wasn’t! What you need to commit to is following the church policy on it. Don’t have an abortion (except for the accepted exceptions) and don’t specifically help or encourage someone else to have an abortion and therefore be a part of that abortion (except for the accepted acceptions). It is not required that you prevent all abortions around you. Many LDS temple worthy members feel abortion is “wrong” in many cases, but don’t feel it is necessary for the government to step in and so are therefore pro-choice. No one gets excommunicated for it. I would like to thank you, by the way, for your emphasis on other methods to reduce # of abortions.
    As for gay marriage, we should also realize that the First Presidency has come out and defined marriage as between a man and a woman being a divine principle. However, an LDS person might feel genuine empathy for the situation of homosexual people in the country. There are many things of an eternal nature that we do not understand. If you can believe that right now God, through his prophet, says that gay marriage is not acceptable to him (I am of course paraphrasing based on how I view the official statements), and if you feel with that knowledge you can vote according to what kind of laws you think should be in our country, then you are fine. Laws are rarely written so well that they are easy to understand exactly the implications of implementation. We don’t vote for “God says SSM is wrong.” We vote for what laws we think our society should have.
    Unfortunately, I do not know exactly what the First Presidency said about the last election and what we should weigh in our minds as we make our decision. I urge you that if specific guidance is given, even if it seems out of the normal range (the church doesn’t usually pick laws and parties and candidates since they are rarely black and white choices), that following it might be very important in a more eternal view.
    You should only have a problem in “passing” a temple recommend interview if you think any of the following:
    1). God is wrong
    2). The prophet is wrong
    3). You commit sin despite the counsel given.
    No one actually does everything right all the time, but the temple recommend questions highlight certain important commandments and give you the opportunity to consider if there are any other sins that you need to repent of.
    You mention blacks and the priesthood. In my view, it was not because of prophets’ mistakes that we had that particular policy for years. I think it was God’s choice. I think that we may never understand why. But it is important to realize that in the Old Testament not everyone could have the priesthood either. Only Jews were allowed. Gentiles were excluded. God’s reasons for this are beyond my understanding.
    ANyway, I think that it is great that you have made entering the temple a goal. The questions for the temple recommend interview are not to exclude people, but to make sure that those who choose to make those covenants are ready to do so. If you can answer the questions that yes, you believe in Jesus Christ’s Atonement, and yes, you believe Pres. Hinkley is a prophet, and yes, you try to obey the commandments given, etc. That is what is important about the questions.

  135. Adam Greenwood on August 27, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    It is not fine to be pro-choice. It is not fine to favor SSM. But neither should keep you from the temple. The Lord has set standards and those are the standards, period.

  136. JKS on August 27, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    Adam,
    I think perhaps we have a different opinion on what “pro-choice” means. In our country’s political climate, if the choices are pro-life and pro-choice it becomes difficult to choose a side since my views don’t fall within either extreme. God did not define either of these political definitions so it is very possible for both definitions to contain some good and some bad within them.

  137. Adam Greenwood on August 27, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    I think thats disingenuous, JKS, unless you favor abortion for other than rape, incest, or the mother’s life.

  138. manaen on August 28, 2005 at 3:29 am

    134
    JKS, I understood that Tatiana’s concern was about temple admission. After reading your post, I now also understand that I was the only person that would see my first paragraph in #133 was my answer to her. Thx for pointing to my obscurity.

  139. Matt Evans on August 28, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    Today I encountered a conference talk of Elder Nelson’s that focused exclusively on abortion. I don’t remember ever having seen it before. Rosalynde asked in comment 86 if the church opposes abortion out of a belief that the fetus is a human being. While Elder Nelson doesn’t speak for the church, he clearly considers the immorality of abortion to stem from the killing of an unborn human child:

    “Regrettable as is the loss of loved ones from war, these figures [deaths from WWI and WWII] are dwarfed by the toll of a new war that annually claims more casualties than the total number of fatalities from all the wars of this nation. It is a war on the defenseless—and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn.”

    “What logic would encourage efforts to preserve the life of a critically ill twelve-week-old infant, but countenance the termination of another life twelve weeks after inception?”

    “The consequence of terminating the fetus therein involves the body and very life of another. These two individuals have separate brains, separate hearts, and separate circulatory systems. To pretend that there is no child and no life there is to deny reality.”

    “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.”

    “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.)”

    “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.”

    Reverence for Life, Elder Russell M. Nelson, General Conference, April 6, 1985.

  140. JKS on August 28, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    “I think thats disingenuous, JKS, unless you favor abortion for other than rape, incest, or the mother’s life. ”

    I am saying that pro-choice does not necessarily mean you favor abortion. I do not favor pre-marital sex. Yet, I do not think we need to have laws against pre-marital adult consensual sex. Adultery is wrong–very, very wrong. It is a very serious sin. But it is no longer against the law or can even be used against you in a divorce (in this state anyway).
    But by not being for anti-adultery laws, does that mean I favor adultery? No.

    Just because someone thinks we shouldn’t return to the circumstances of pre-Roe v. Wade, doesn’t mean they condone abortions.

  141. Adam Greenwood on August 28, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    This is an old argument, JKS, but I have a hard time understanding why you wouldn’t want laws against adultery.

  142. JKS on August 28, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Maybe I think laws against adultery are difficult to enforce. How do you prove adultery? How do you go around enforcing the law? What kind of punishment to you sentence the adulterers? Is only the married person at fault? What if the other person didn’t know he/she was married?
    To prove adultery, you would have to get some pretty racy photos/video which would mean I wouldn’t want to watch evidence of adultery or require that anyone else watch it or take the pictures/footage.
    Where exactly do you draw the line. Where would the law draw the line. Intercourse? Kissing? A suggestive email? Longing looks? Sitting next to each other at a PTA meeting?
    It is no wonder that even some who think adultery is a serious sin, think that it is too problematic to enforce laws about it.

  143. Adam Greenwood on August 28, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    None of these seem very hard to deal with to me, JKS. Abortion would be even easier.

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