“What can Latter-day Saints do to fight the growing incidence of abortion?” Ensign, Dec. 1984, 45–46
William S. Evans, director for Church Special Affairs/Public Communications, and father of six children. Abortions have increased at a staggering rate in recent years. There are now an estimated fifty million or more abortions each year worldwide. In the U.S., in the decade since a Supreme Court decision provided for abortion on demand, the number of abortions has increased threefold.
Elder James E. Faust has observed: “We have come to a time when the taking of an unborn human life for nonmedical reasons has become tolerated, made legal, and accepted in many countries of the world. But making it legal to destroy newly conceived life will never make it right. It is consummately wrong.” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 28.)
Not surprisingly, the Savior foresaw the iniquity of our day. He prophesied that our time would be characterized by a condition of diminishing human warmth and sensitivity. Said Jesus, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt. 24:12.) Wanton abortion is a dramatic symptom of love growing cold. It is evidence of people drifting further and further away from our Father in Heaven’s counsel and influence.
What can we do to help create a climate in which abortions might actually diminish?
First, understand the Church position on abortion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints vigorously opposes abortion. President Spencer W. Kimball has repeatedly condemned abortions: “We take the solemn view that any tampering with the fountains of life is serious, morally, mentally, psychologically, physically.” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 7.)
But Church leaders also recognize that there are extremely rare instances when an abortion may be justified. The Church policy statement on abortion explains under what circumstances and with what safeguards an abortion might be considered:
“The Church opposes abortion as one of the most revolting and sinful practices of this day. Members must not submit to, be a party to, or perform an abortion. The only exceptions are the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or health of the woman is in jeopardy or the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape. Even then, the woman should consider an abortion only after counseling with her husband and bishop or branch president, and receiving divine confirmation through prayer.”
Church members who, ignoring either priesthood consultation or the approbation of the Lord, “encourage, perform, or submit to an abortion are to be disciplined by Church councils, as necessary.”
The Church policy statement concludes: “As far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.” (General Handbook of Instructions, 1983, pp. 77–78.)
Second, help create “an environment conducive to spirituality”
Abortion flourishes in a degenerative climate of permissiveness and immorality. The Book of Mormon vividly portrays what can happen when people cease to serve God and deliberately choose to disobey his commandments.
Commenting on society’s growing antipathy toward having children, one writer observed:
“I believe this evident denial of reproduction is creating a repression of what is normal and natural to human experience.
“It is a repression that is in turn creating an atmosphere of cynicism, psychological indulgence and harshness toward those who do have children.” (Carole Cameron Shaw, “The Increasing Cynicism about Having Children,” Wall Street Journal, 9 Apr. 1981.)
Church leaders have counseled us to work thoughtfully and vigorously to reverse society’s slide. They have pointedly told us that the complexity of the problems we face in society does not absolve us from taking action. In 1968, the First Presidency counseled:
“We urge our members to do their civic duty and to assume their responsibilities as individual citizens in seeking solutions to the problems which beset our cities and communities.
“With our wide ranging mission, so far as mankind is concerned, Church members cannot ignore the many practical problems that require solution if our families are to live in an environment conducive to spirituality.”
They further urged that “where solutions to these practical problems require cooperative action with those not of our faith, members should not be reticent in doing their part in joining and leading in those efforts where they can make an individual contribution to those causes which are consistent with the standards of the Church.” (Quoted by President Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ seminar, 31 Mar. 1978.)
Third, choose life and beauty
We can choose to seek and promote truth, beauty, and goodness wherever they may be found in the spirit of the thirteenth article of faith [A of F 1:13]: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Such choices may become contagious, giving others hope in a world that is becoming increasingly pessimistic and nihilistic.
The Lord’s instruction to Adam to dress the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:15) suggests that Adam was expected to improve on what was given him. Think of what the early members of the Church did with Kirtland and Nauvoo in that same spirit, even when they knew they might not be there long. Look at what they did as transients along the route to Utah to plant and cultivate and improve. And consider the miracle of the Great Basin kingdom: not just crude shelters and crops, but schools and universities, theaters, meticulously constructed tabernacles with marvelous organs and choirs, and awe-inspiring temples epitomizing single-minded devotion to excellence and improvement regardless of obstacles or cost.
As one outside observer noted in 1867: “In the new church work is honorable, the recovery of barren places noble, the production of corn and oil, of fruit and flowers, of gum and spices, of herbs and trees, a saving act; the whole earth being regarded by the Saints as a waste to be redeemed by labor into the future heaven. … With them, to do any piece of work is a righteous act; to be a toiling and producing man is to be in a state of grace.” (W. H. Dixon, New America, Philadelphia, 1867, pp. 195, 200.)
Imagine what could happen if there were a resurgence of such a spirit today; if we sought to improve our environment—social, physical, intellectual, cultural, spiritual—to the same degree and with the same energy that our forebears did.
These efforts might be small and go unnoticed at first. But gradually, like the tender blades of green grass overcoming the cold tyranny of winter, the effects of these efforts might begin to spread. And in their wake, selfishness, immorality, even abortion might begin to diminish.
Abortion is a serious symptom of people and societies out of tune with Heavenly Father’s plan for human progress and happiness. Inspired counsel directs us to use our lives and personal influence in helping others choose life.