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when does human life begin?


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I think Mormonism has had ensoulment (the soul entering the body) when a baby breathes. This is based in part upon the Book of Mormon scripture where Jesus talks with the prophet the day before He is born. Temple work is not done for stillborn infants. Abortion is viewed very differently than murder in Moromonism, in contrast to many Christian sects. Recent events have caused me to question whether this is correct.

During an EXIT procedure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EXIT_procedure) it was made possible for a fetus to live that otherwise would have died at birth. (The baby had laryngeal agenesis which makes it impossible to breathe without a tracheostomy.) A tracheostomy was performed and the infant was mechanically ventilated. But she did live and is alive now. So when do we become human? How much difference is there really between when the cord is cut, or when the baby takes its first breath -- and isn't that such a trivial way of deciding when we are human or alive?

This baby never take a breath for several minutes after the cord had been cut. It had the same pulse before and after. The procedure was done when the fetus was ~ 35 weeks gestational age.


Temple ordinances are not performed for stillborn children. However, a child who lived even briefly after birth should be sealed to his or her parents. In some countries, particularly in Europe, children who died shortly after birth were often recorded as stillborn. Children listed as stillborn on records from these countries may be sealed to their parents. The FamilySearch Internet site will let you know if a sealing ordinance needs to be performed for a child who was recorded as stillborn. You should record all births, indicating any stillborn children. ("Chapter 7: Providing Temple Ordinances," Member

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"Life" begins even before conception; the egg and sperm are alive. But let's not take any of this too far. "Life" as a viable human being changes with technology. In the "old days" no baby survived premature birth by more than a very few weeks. Then modern medical practices made it possible to nurture a premature infant and they survived. The "Law" almost everywhere preempts abortions beyond 22 weeks. Yet we now have seen 22 weeks-old infants that were aborted live longer than a day by accident; in one case in England I read about recently, the mother tried three times to have her 22 weeks-old baby aborted and they all failed; he is now six years old and in school.

Obviously the "Law" is behind the times: the maximum age for abortion should be put at 20 weeks. Then, if it occurs that a 20 weeks-old infant survives, the maximum allowed age for a legal abortion should be put at 18 weeks. When it happens that ANY removed fetus could be made viable through artificial means and brought to term, THEN ALL ABORTIONS SHOULD BE MADE ILLEGAL AND VIEWED AS MURDER. We are not there yet. But the whole issue is whether or not human life could be saved. As long as the attempt is viable then its opposite - the deliberate destruction of human life - can only be regarded as murder.

That's the indirect way of saying, "Human life begins at the moment when we can intervene and preserve it"....

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The LDS Church accepts that are "justifiable reasons" for abortion. "Justifiable reason" is a change from "seldom any excuse" for abortion.

As far as I know the LDS take no official position on when life begins.

As far a I know this is correct, the Church has no official position on when life begins. Do not confuse there extremely limited possible justifications for abortion though as the Church being less protective of the unborn.

Understand that just because someone has one of these situations does not guarantee them that they can have an abortion, they must meet with there local leadership and are counciled by them in regards to an having an abortion. They then take the council given and seek confirmation from the Holy Ghost to know that the council they received is the will of the Lord for them.

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I had always been taught that the LDS view of "ensoulment" is the moment of "quickening"--when the mother first feels the baby move. I believe the reference (non-cannonical as it is) is from Joseph Fielding Smith's Doctrines of Salvation. I'll have to look and see if I can find it.


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I had always been taught that the LDS view of "ensoulment" is the moment of "quickening"--when the mother first feels the baby move.

That's a pretty antiquated notion, isn't it? I believe the embryo/fetus is moving around almost from the beginning.

The moment that the mother starts to feel movement is understandably a big deal to her, but it isn't likely to be an important event for the fetus itself.

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And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
---Luke 1:39-44

The voice of the Blessed Mother of the Lord, which made cousin John leap in the womb, appears to have barely conceived her Holy Child at the time, for after accepting the angel's request, Mary had arisen "in those days...with haste into a city of Juda." We are informed elsewhere that Elizabeth's child was already six months old, and that Mary stayed about three months. It appears from the account that she stayed almost until the time John was born. Then John was born. But even if one argues against the simplest reading of the text, that Jesus was three months, and John was nine when Mary came to Elizabeth, it seems very difficult to account for why the baby John in the womb would have been enthused with the baby Jesus in the womb if Jesus was not even human yet. The very latest we can place human life if this passage sheds any light on the subject is three months, and I would argue for the moment of conception.

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