Mormon Doctrine: Is Abortion Murder?

Abortion: the topic everybody has an opinion about but nobody wants to be that guy who is really into talking about it. Unless you are a Republican senator, then you are obsessed with women’s wombs. (Something, something… Freudian desire…)

Ok, so everybody feels strongly about abortions. The biggest thing that the pro-life (who let’s be honest and just call them anti-choice) people talk about is that abortion is equal to murder. Abortions kill innocent human lives!

Now I don’t know about that, but since my records are in the Mormon church and I go to BYU-I, I’m more interested in how Mormons deal with abortions.

Shockingly, most Mormons with conservative leanings tend to resort to the same murder rhetoric as the politicians that they worship  vote for and tell people to pray about and get revelation from God about. But what does the church really say?

Abortion is approved of in the church in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life is in jeopardy. That is the rules in the religion. Of course that is the philosophy. How that translates to actual policy is questionable. How would a doctor decide if a woman was really raped three months after the sexual assault? Does he just have to take her word for it? What if he doesn’t take her word for it and denies her an abortion for a rape baby? Questions, questions.

So what about the idea that an abortion, done for none of those three reasons above, counts as murder? Does it really?

Here’s a thought (brought up by a very intelligent BYU-I professor). Let’s look at how the church deals with murderers and people who have had abortions. Specifically, let’s look at non-members who want to be baptized. If abortion and murder are really the same thing, then the church should treat them both equally.

But that is not the case.

If a person has had an abortion, what is the church policy for them to get baptized? In Preach My Gospel it tells the missionaries about abortion:

If the missionaries have properly taught the candidate before the baptismal interview, these issues, if they exist, should have been directed to the mission president. If they do arise, express your love and review the commandments and the principle of repentance. Kindly explain that these sins are serious and that a person with more maturity and experience (your mission president or someone he assigns) will talk with them and help them with these matters. Then forward a baptismal interview request directly to the mission president.

I had this happen to me a few times on my mission. We called our mission president and he had an interview with our candidates. Easy. The baptism proceeded without issues.

How about murder?

According to the Mormon Encyclopedia, this the effects of a murder:

Those who have been convicted of, or have confessed to, homicide cannot be baptized without clearance from the First Presidency, and excommunication of members guilty of murder is mandatory. Joseph Fielding Smith, as an apostle, indicated that vicarious temple work should not be done for deceased murderers (DS 2:192).

That’s pretty different from the abortion policy. Also note that abortions are approved in some cases, but murder is only approved of when God directly commands it.

Now I am not arguing that abortions are morally right here, but I think it is clear from this that any Mormon using abortion = murder rhetoric is not in line with the church and is further hurting women who have chosen to have the procedure.


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