I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

What can Latter-day Saints do to fight the growing incidence of abortion?

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.

We would like to keep in touch with the bishops of the wards our son attends in the military. How can we find their addresses?

Robert G. Crawford, executive secretary of the Church Military Relations Committee. We are all encouraged to keep in touch with ward members serving in the military—especially those on their initial tour of duty and those in remote and overseas areas.

In addition, many parents also feel the need to keep in contact with the bishop in the area where their son or daughter is stationed. They want to make sure that local Church leaders are aware of their child’s whereabouts and are encouraging his or her Church involvement and spiritual development.

If you wish to contact the bishop of your son or daughter in the U.S. military, see the bishop of your own ward. He will have a list of all the major U.S. military installations worldwide. The listing includes the name of each ward and stake responsible for LDS members in the military—and indicates the name, address, and telephone number of each stake president, and the name and telephone number of each bishop.

You may call your son or daughter’s bishop on the telephone, or write him in care of the stake president. If he is a member of the military and you use his military address, it is best to address the envelope using his military title rather than the title bishop.

If any additional information is needed, your bishop may write or call the Church Military Relations Committee, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. (Telephone: 801-531-2286.)

What are the features in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants that can aid us in our scripture study?

Bill Applegarth, Institute director, University of Idaho. There are seven major improvements in the 1981 edition:

1. There are important textual additions: Sections 137 and 138. “Official Declaration—2,” and excerpts from three addresses by President Wilford Woodruff concerning the “Official Declaration—1.”

2. A new “Explanatory Introduction” has been written.

3. Many of the section headings have been rewritten to give clear, concise historical background.

4. A synopsis of the verses has been added at the beginning of each section.

5. The footnotes have been expanded to include cross-references to all the standard works and to the Topical Guide in the LDS edition of the King James Bible.

6. The index has been expanded and combined with the indexes of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price.

7. Maps of the areas of New England, New York-Ohio, and Missouri-Illinois have been included, as well as a map of the United States in 1847.

Using these new features as we study the Doctrine and Covenants during the 1985 curriculum year will increase our understanding of the principles taught in this book of modern day revelations.

The section headings tell us the date the revelation was received, where it occurred and who was present, and other historical circumstances surrounding it. This information can help us better understand what prompted the revelation or what questions the Lord was answering.

For example, in the heading for section 76, we are told that the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on the translation of the Bible and had just translated John 5:28–29: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

“And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

As Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were meditating on the passage “the Lord touched the eyes of [their] understanding … and the glory of the Lord shone round about.” (D&C 76:19.) Other revelations also become more meaningful as we see them in their proper historical perspective.

The section synopsis, immediately following the section heading, gives us a preview of the text before we read it, helping us understand what the section is about. The synopsis shows which verses the main ideas occur in, directing us quickly to specific ideas. For example, the synopsis at the beginning of section 76 indicates that information on “the glory and reward of exalted beings in the celestial kingdom” is found in verses 50–70 [D&C 76:50–70]. When we finish reading the section, we can review the synopsis to see if we have recognized and understood the main points of the revelation.

The footnotes cross-reference ideas and words in the Doctrine and Covenants to relative, helpful concepts in all the standard works. The footnotes also refer us to further references in the Topical Guide in the Bible.

The index can be a great tool as we study by topics. It can also help us find answers to questions about certain doctrines and prepare talks and lessons. We can look up key words in the index, and find a list of specific scriptural references for each subject. For example, if we want information on baptism for the dead, the index would direct us to five scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants that explain the Lord’s instructions and Joseph Smith’s teachings on the subject.

The four maps can help us better understand the geography of the United States during the time most of these revelations were received.

The study helps in the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants have been developed so that we may better understand and apply the scriptures in our lives. It remains now for us to use them.