Mormonism and politics/Church involvement


Mormonism and involvement in politics

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Question: Why does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) take a stance on certain political issues?

The Church will become involved in a political matter if it is deemed to have a moral consequence

The following video is published by Church Newsroom.

Church leaders encourage members to be active in politics and to exercise their right to vote. The Church does not, however, specify how members should vote or which political party they ought to belong to. Occasionally, however, the First Presidency issues a letter which is read over the pulpit urging members to act upon some political matter. Why does the Church choose to do this? President Gordon B. Hinckley answers this question:

We try to follow a very strict course in political matters. We observe the principle of the separation of church and state. We do concern ourselves with matters which we consider of moral consequence and things which might directly affect the Church or our fellow churches. We try to work unitedly with other people of other faiths in a constructive way. We hope we can use our influence for the maintenance and cultivation of the good environment in which we live as a people in these communities.[1]

The Church will become involved in a political matter if it is deemed to have a moral consequence. President Hinckley reiterated the same point while speaking at a conference in Japan:

We believe in the separation of Church and state. The Church does not endorse any political party or any political candidate, nor does it permit the use of its buildings and facilities for political purposes. We believe that the Church should remain out of politics unless there is a moral question at issue. In the case of a moral issue we would expect to speak out. But, in the matter of everyday political considerations, we try to remain aloof from those as a Church, while at the same time urging our members, as citizens, to exercise their political franchise as individuals. We believe, likewise, that it is in the interest of good government to permit freedom of worship, freedom of religion. Our official statement says, "We believe in worshiping God according to the dictates of conscience, and we allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."[2]

Upon which issues might the Church take a stand? President Hinckley specifically mentioned issues involving alcohol, gambling and "thing[s] of that kind."[3] On June 30, 2008 the First Presidency under President Thomas S. Monson issued a letter urging Church members living in California to " all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman." (See: Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8)

Does the Church devalue those who are not married or who do not have children?

Some charge that the Church devalues those who are not married or who do not have children. This is not so.

A significant portion of adult Church members are single people. Their challenges and lifestyles are somewhat different than those of married members, but Church leaders make ongoing efforts to acknowledge and respond to the needs of single members. Living as a single person is challenging both inside and outside the Church. This is not a difficulty limited to the LDS context. Within the Church, the promise that no eternal blessings will be withheld from worthy members simply because of their marital status is repeated over and over again.[4] Church leaders have denounced mistreatments of single members and continue to call members of all marital statuses to positions of trust.

Ideals and realities

LDS teachings—like those of most every other belief system and culture throughout history—regard formal, conjugal marriage relationships as vital social ideals. Among Latter-day Saints, marriage is not only a social ideal but a spiritual one. According to the scriptures, marriage is a requirement for the greatest blessings to which we can aspire. D&C 131꞉2

It is of course not possible for every Latter-day Saint to find a suitable spouse. Due to death, divorce, or other causes it is not always possible or wise for members to stay married. This means that many have been, are, or will be single. In 2007, First Presidency member, James E. Faust, reported that one third of the adult membership of the Church was single.[5] This is a substantial proportion but it’s still a minority. The fact is single Latter-day Saints live in a faith community comprised of many married couples. Naturally, such an environment can be challenging.

Some may feel life as a single person is less than ideal. But an ideal is "a conception of something in its absolute perfection."[6] Married members of the Church don’t achieve perfection in their marriages during their lifetimes. Their lives are different from singles', but they too are also less than ideal. As the apostle Paul taught, all of us have "come short of the glory of God." Romans 3꞉23 None of us—no matter what our marital status—is living an ideal life. In this we are all alike.

The time will come when the Lord bless all of His Father’s children with every blessing He can, including eternal marriages for people who lived their lives single

Speaking to single members, Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley said:

I…remind you that there are those who are married whose lives are extremely unhappy and that you who are single and experience much of deep and consuming worry are not alone in your feelings. [7]

Fortunately, the time will come when Christ shall "wipe away all the tears" Revelation 21꞉4 and bless all of his Father’s children with every blessing they desire, including eternal marriages for people who lived their lives single.

Feelings of social awkwardness and marginalization are not limited to single people living in the LDS context

In popular Western culture, there’s a fairly steady stream of books, articles, and all kinds of other media produced about the difficulties of single life. People of all beliefs, not just Latter-day Saints, struggle to find a comfortable place in the world as singles. It is a widespread problem—one that was not created by the Church and one that cannot be escaped by avoiding the Church.

Statements of Church leaders

The challenges of single members are not unknown and unaddressed by Church leaders. President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, speaking of singlehood and childlessness among Church members, said:

These are temporary states. In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.[8]

Living as a single Latter-day Saint is more common for women than it is among men. In recognition of this, much of the counsel and consolation extended by Church leaders to single people is addressed specifically to women. This counsel includes assurances that members should not settle for unworthy or inadequate marriage partners just to satisfy what may seem like little more than a formality. Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel the gospel is true and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord, and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now, the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed, for no blessing shall be withheld.[9]

Comments like these have become de rigueur when Church leaders teach about marriage and families. Efforts are constantly made to acknowledge and address the circumstances of adult members of the Church who are not married.

Among these circumstances is the reality that there is no monolithic Latter-day Saint single member. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of his distaste for the generic label "single":

Though you are so diverse in your backgrounds, we have put a badge on you as if you were all alike. That badge reads S-I-N-G-L-E-S. I do not like that. I do not like to categorize people. We are all individuals living together, hopefully with respect for one another, notwithstanding some of our personal situations … when all is said and done, we should not be classified as married or single but as members of the Church, each worthy of the same attention, the same care, the same opportunities to be of service.[10]

In the same address, President Hinckley condemned the thoughtless mistreatment of single members within LDS congregations, calling it "a tragedy" and "a betrayal."

Single Saints serving in the gospel

The New Testament contains the story of Anna, a woman called a "prophetess" who served in the temple at the time Jesus was born. By the time Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple, Anna had been a widow for almost all of her long adult life. She was a single woman who was blessed for her faith and service with the privilege of recognizing and greeting the Lord. She had much to offer her community even though she had lived without a husband for eighty-four years Luke 2꞉36-38.

In the modern Church, single women also play important roles as leaders, teachers, and exemplars. One of the most storied women of the early days of the restored Church is Mary Fielding Smith, widow of Hyrum Smith, who crossed the plains from Nauvoo to Utah as a single mother. Emmeline B. Wells, the fifth General President of the Relief Society, was abandoned by her first husband.[11] Clearly, her status as a divorcee did not prevent her from holding a prominent leadership position.

Counselors in the Relief Society General Presidency have included Barbara Thompson and Sheri L. Dew, neither of whom has ever been married. Upon being called, Sheri L. Dew introduced herself saying:

If there’s any message in the fact that a never-married woman has been called to the Relief Society general presidency it is that all women, regardless of their status or situation, are welcomed, loved, and valued…The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. We are all significant parts of the whole. I never think of myself as single; I think of myself as Sheri, a member of the Lord’s Church.[12]

Along with singleness there often comes childlessness

Along with singleness there often comes childlessness. Since many members of the Church have children, and see childbearing as a blessing and the ideal, single members may feel doubly marginalized. Married members may also struggle with the heartbreak infertility.

Fortunately, motherhood is not merely a demographic or a reproductive state in Church doctrine. Instead, it is a spiritual gift in which all can participate.

In 2001, Sheri Dew, taught,

While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord's language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve "the mother of all living"—and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born.[13]

Do Church teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on women?

Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading

Some claim that CHurch teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on LDS families, especially women.

Most women raising families, not just Latter-day Saint women, encounter "burdens" as they run their households. Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading. Recognizing the difficulties women face in family life, Church leaders have denounced male behaviors that add to these burdens. In speaking to women, Church leaders have reassured us that we are free to make choices—including choices about childbearing and service in our homes—that will better tailor our workloads to our individual strengths and abilities.

Childbearing in the Church

In 1995, the Church underlined its commitment to family life in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." The proclamation states: "The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force."[14]

In harmony with these beliefs, Latter-day Saint life is often family life. In general, Latter-day Saints in the United States marry earlier than their neighbors outside the Church, are more likely to stay married, and have more children during their lifespans.[15] As the larger society surrounding the Church has moved away from traditional family life, the LDS lifestyle— or, at least, the stereotype of it—has become more conspicuous. For some, this raises concerns with regard to the roles women play in LDS families. Critics have inflamed these concerns—arguing mostly by assertion than with data—that the childbearing aspect of the ideal LDS family system places an unfair and unhealthy burden upon women.

Women's workloads inside and outside the Church

No matter how many other people live in it, running any household can be difficult. This is not a difficulty experienced by LDS women alone. Arlie Hochschild’s landmark work "The Second Shift" studied domestic workloads to see if household divisions of labor had become more fair for women as they started to take on non-traditional roles. What she found was that even when women worked at full-time jobs outside their homes, they still wound up doing most of the household chores themselves.[16] The assertion that women outside the Church are somehow immune from the burdens of running a household is simply wrong. Every woman—regardless of whether she’s involved in paid work, or how many children she has, or where she goes to church—is at risk of winding up doing far more than her fair share of household tasks. Inequalities like these are not limited to any particular religion or family structure.

The Church's position on domestic workloads

Despite the strong social pull of unequal household divisions of labor, leaders of the Church have counseled church members to alleviate the strains family life can have on women. Men overburdening women within families was denounced by late Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley. Speaking of young mothers he said:

I see their husbands, and I feel like saying to them: 'Wake up. Carry your share of the load. Do you really appreciate your wife? Do you know how much she does? Do you ever compliment her? Do you ever say thanks to her?' [17]

While his approach to husbands was firm and corrective, President Hinckley took a different tone when speaking to wives in the same address:

You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure.[17]

Reassuring language like this has become a fixture in addresses made to the women of the Church. Another common theme is the assurance that there is no monolithic ideal of how to run a "proper" LDS household. As late member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Marvin J. Ashton said in 1987:

Sisters, do not allow yourselves to be made to feel inadequate or frustrated because you cannot do everything others seem to be accomplishing. Rather, each should assess her own situation, her own energy, and her own talents, and then choose the best way to mold her family into a team, a unit that works together and supports each other. Only you and your Father in Heaven know your needs, strengths, and desires. Around this knowledge your personal course must be charted and your choices made.[18]

What seems most important isn’t how LDS women shoulder their burdens but why they do it at all. In 1980, Melvin Wilkinson and William Tanner made a study of large family life in the LDS setting. The prevailing sociological wisdom was that large families yield less affection for children. However, the researchers found that the negative effect of large family life "is not so strong that it cannot be neutralized or even reversed."[19] Furthermore, they found that the key to reversing the bad effects of a large family wasn’t an increase of the amount of time parents spent with their children (or in other words, not an increase of the size of the "burden" placed on the parents) but an increase in the level of the mother’s commitment to the Church. Temple attendance was used as a measure of the mother’s religiosity. From there, the researchers went on to find that the higher a mother’s religiosity, the more affection the children in the family reported feeling.

Apparently, gospel living can actually provide relief from burdens—even those that seem universal and inevitable for all women running their households. As the Lord himself taught, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" Matthew 11꞉28-30.

Are Latter-day Saint women taught to be "gratefully subservient to Mormon males" and that women must "not aspire…to independent thought"?

These claims are nonsense. President Spencer W. Kimball urged:

When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.[20]

In an unpublished paper "Mormon Women, Prozac, and Therapy," by Kent Ponder (copyrighted 2003, readily available on the Internet), women in the Church are said to be taught to be "subservient" to men and are considered "eternally unalterable second-class." Among some of its more colorful—if unfounded—statements are the claims that women are expected to be "gratefully subservient to Mormon males" and that women must "not aspire…to independent thought."[21]

Ponder's 2003 paper suffer from the following defects:

  • An overarching sexism and condescension, both overt and benevolent;
  • A particularly pointed and derogatory sexism leveled at devout LDS women;
  • The misrepresentation of LDS doctrine and clear signs of being out of touch with current Church structures and instructional materials;
  • Poor research methods, the use of unreferenced authority, and misleading terms;
  • Claims that contradict official statements of Church leaders and ignore the experiences of devout LDS women.

These flaws are fatal to the arguments. The 2003 paper is not a useful analysis of gender politics within the Church. Instead, it is insulting, misleading, unduly inflammatory, and ought to be disregarded.


Summary: Statements by Church leaders regarding the roles of men and women with regard to each other.

Problems with Ponder—a feminist response to Kent Ponder’s work

The focus of this paper is on anti-depressants use among women in the state of Utah. A general treatment of many of the logical, methodological, and psychopharmacological problems with Ponder’s work can be found here: Utah/Statistical claims/LDS use of antidepressants.

Problems with underlying general sexism: "Thank the Lord I’m Not Female."[21]

In an attempt to show how gender politics in Western society have evolved over the past 100 years, Ponder offers a description of former roles and power dynamics:

"Most women used to be naturally dependent upon men for safety and livelihood, resulting in more-natural subservience to male control. Because subservience to males was more needed and natural, it was less oppressive..."[21]

This characterization of centuries’ worth of male oppression of females as something that was once "needed and natural" is clearly sexist. We have never required nor benefitted from subservience and male control. To suggest we once did is to approve and validate the suffering of millions of women and girls throughout the course of human history.

Also advanced in the paper are hackneyed stereotypes of our feelings and behaviors. The claim is made that we "tend to be more alert to social relations than men." The author writes at length about our abilities to "intuit." He sets up our supposed intuitive powers in opposition to the ability to use reason and make deliberate inquiries. He introduces the thoughts of women he’s spoken with by saying, "Women tell me they intuitively sense…"[21] In another place, it’s observed that a problem is so glaring that "The women notice too."[21]

This isn’t the only way we are treated as an inferior intellectual sub-class by Ponder. In a section meant to show "The Larger Perspective," a review is given of the wisdom of thinkers who could help us in our struggles. All of them are men.

The paper dismisses hallmarks of Latter-day Saint feminism such as self-reliance and the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother. According to the paper, this doctrine is a ploy meant to bind us up and secure our compliance.

There are misogynist cheap-shots, such as an insult of the athletic ability of prominent female role model, Oprah Winfrey.

Benevolent sexism

Along with these examples of overt sexism, the paper is steeped in benevolent sexism.

The word "innocent" is repeatedly invoked to describe LDS women who use anti-depressants. The word occurs six times, usually not far from other kinds of inflammatory language like "torment," "horrendous," and "anguish." To describe grown women as "innocent" is to describe them in a diminutive way that diminishes the notions of their adulthood and autonomy. The word makes them seem childlike and desperate for the "needed and natural" male control and protection spoken of elsewhere in the paper. By making the women "innocent," they are drawn back into a paternalistic, sexist system. Ponder's use of the word is patronizing. It’s classic benevolent sexism.

The patronizing tone and language continue throughout the paper. Ponder recounts marrying an "LDS girl."[21] Perhaps he is speaking frankly about marrying an under-aged person. What’s more likely is that he is speaking of a peer woman using a childlike descriptor. Later in the paper, when talking about marriage, Ponder says women must marry "a man" rather than saying, "a boy." This shows that his use of childlike descriptors is not evenly applied between the genders—another example of benevolent sexism. Cutesy monikers are used in other places to describe women. Depressed LDS women are called "unhappy campers"[21]-–a term often used to describe fussy infants—in another sexist diminution.

The author takes a simplistic view of women and presumes to be able to read our minds. In several places, he refers to what women—those inside and outside his interview group—are thinking and feeling. At one point, he ventures an explanation of what "nearly all LDS girls internalize from near-infancy."[21] Such a concept has never been measured nor is it measurable. "Near-infants" cannot report on their internal states, unless he considers that infancy to be extended by many years. That could explain his constant infantilization of adult women.

Sexism toward devout Latter-day Saint women in particular

An effective tool used by oppressive, small "p" patriarchs to make sure women do not unite and grow in power is to orchestrate situations in which we will fight amongst ourselves. Such blatant tactics are obvious in the paper when the "best and brightest"[21] of LDS women—that is, the disaffected and depressed—are pitted against the rest of us.

One part of this tactic is to vilify devout LDS women and cast them in caricature. One extreme of this kind of rhetoric, is the comparison of the religious convictions of devout LDS women to "people willing even to strap bombs around their waists and blow themselves up."[21] The suicide bomber comparison is revisited a second time, later in the paper.

In Ponder’s analysis, by definition, devout LDS women are not smart women. The claim is made that we are "unable to comprehend"[21] the thoughts and feelings of the women Ponder has interviewed. The paper denies the existence of "intellectually curious"[21] yet devout LDS women. It even warns, "Remember that, for many LDS women in Utah, this is really all they know."[21]

On the other hand, Ponder’s respondents are described as being of "the highest-caliber in intelligence, education, rational ability and conscientiousness"[21]. No data nor other reasoning besides his opinion are provided to support this claim.

An analogy is crafted using metaphors about frustrated swimming prowess to illustrate the tension between the groups of LDS women. At its conclusion it is argued,

"The happy LDS woman is often the one who likes restriction of choices. She gains security from having to make fewer decisions since so many are made for her." [21]

Again, this claim is made without any supporting qualitative or quantitative evidence. It is an expression of the author’s bias and bigotry, nothing more. Ponder reveals himself to be far more sexist than the supposedly-evil system he is railing against.

Problems with misrepresentation of doctrine

Ponder speaks as if he’s an expert on LDS doctrine and life. However, a few glitches in the paper reveal a writer who is out of touch. He refers to positions in the Church hierarchy that do not exist right now as if they are current, namely, the Church Patriarch and Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve.

He also describes the format of Relief Society lesson manuals. But the format he knows is an old one that hasn’t been used at all in this century. It was replaced with manuals identical to the ones used by the men of the Church years before the 2003 date of his article. This is not a writer who has intimate—or even cursory—knowledge of daily life in the current Church.

The fact that he does not realize this, and does not bother to inform himself, is further evidence of his condescension and ill-informed arrogance toward those he presumes to swoop in an 'help'.

Ensign, "Women of the Church"

Gordon B. Hinckley,  Ensign, (November 1996)
First let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan."


No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance."

Click here to view the complete article

Similar gaffes come to light in his description of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Ponder produces a list of 24 things he claims "Any Mormon…will recognize"[21] as being mandatory for LDS women. The impact of the list is under-whelming. Most of the items—such as tithing, doing genealogy in cultures that use patrilineal systems, being assigned a geographically determined Church unit, accepting callings,—apply to both male and female Church members equally. Some items deny and ignore the roles women play in the Church as teachers and leaders. And most items claim that female subservience is part of CHurch doctrine without providing any references to scriptural or prophetic sources authorized to make statements on doctrine.

All these references to the indoctrination of young women might lead the reader to wonder what the Church actually teaches girls? At no point during the paper are there any direct references to what Church leaders and educators really say to young women about social and spiritual gender roles. The contemporary lesson manuals of the Church’s Young Women’s program for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen contained a curriculum which emphasizes the importance of marriage and family but that also teaches girls that "each young woman has the power to bring happiness into her own life."[22]

Lessons on responsibilities inside the home are balanced with lessons about self-reliance and the value of work, education, and personal development. Far from preaching inferiority and subservience, the Young Women's manuals include quotations such as this one by late member of the Quorum of the Twelves Apostles, John A. Widstoe: "There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ." [22]

When addressing a worldwide gathering of Latter-day Saint young women in 2001, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part. [23]

Perhaps no references or quotations from Church leaders or official Church materials are presented to buttress Ponder’s claims about what young women are taught because such instruction on subservience simply does not exist and are, in fact, contradicted by the actual record. The author cannot quote what has been said because it undermines his position. And, of course, he cannot quote what has never been said.

Ponder correctly reports that an LDS woman "learns that she absolutely cannot enter the highest heavenly kingdom without a temple-married husband."[21] However he does not go on to mention that, according to LDS scripture, the same is true for men. D&C 131꞉2-3

He also contends that we require "permission from men"[21] in order to make decisions. Again, no evidence is offered to prove this claim—not even any anecdotal evidence from his "nearly three hundred" interviews, or from Ponder’s family life. It’s a serious problem because the claim misrepresents how we live. No LDS woman is expected to grovel for permission or to follow the leadership of a man who leads her away from her Christian ideals. Through our scriptures and ordinances, we are taught to only consent to male leadership that is meek, compassionate, and loving. D&C 121꞉41-42

There is even an example in LDS scriptures showing how women ought to act when men try to compel them to choices they know to be wrong. The story of Lamech and his wives, Adah and Zillah, depicts women who rebelled against male authority after Lamech confessed he had committed a murder. He tried to administer an oath of secrecy to his wives but, "they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion" (Moses 5꞉53).

LDS doctrine is not properly represented in Ponder’s paper, either due to ignorance or more malign reasons.

Problems with methods

The paper is not presented or intended as a rigorous work of social science. However, even in an informal study, certain minimum standards ought to be respected if one hopes to enjoy the privilege of making quasi-scientific claims.

Ponder claims to have done "extensive research"[21] through interviews. However, no methods are outlined and very little data is presented. No sample size is identified, though he claims to have corresponded with "nearly three hundred women."[21] Ponder never describes how the sample was selected so reviewers are not able to assess it for sampling errors. In the analysis of the data, no demographic profiles or other aggregate measures are provided. Key terms like "church-active believers"[21] are not defined. With a sample of this size, it’s surprising to find only seventeen direct quotes from respondents in the text of the paper. Most are brief and colorful rather than substantive. When it comes to articulating the subjects’ beliefs and attitudes, the author seems to prefer to use his own words.

He also fails to provide sources for statistics. Also missing are references to "studies" that go unnamed and uncredited. Experts are quoted but no names are given. Attempts at quantitative claims are usually vague and couched in terms like "very large" and "far more."[21]

The text is peppered with phony psychological conditions like "cognitive-dissonance headaches"[21] Ponder also misrepresents Church parlance by repeatedly enclosing certain pet phrases like "One Size Fits All"[21] in quotation marks as if they are taken from common use in the LDS community and will be acknowledged by general Church membership. They are not.

Problems with personal confounding factors

Ponder acknowledges the role of his personal experiences and relationships in his contentions. He frankly reveals that his emotional state is not objective but "deeply offend[ed]."[21] We were to indulge in the kind of quasi-scientific pop psychology that Ponder uses, we might say that this represents the projection of his own neuroses onto others.

As is not uncommon in such critical pieces, Ponder expresses something like good will for the Church. He speaks for his female family members when the moment comes to complain about the Church. Ponder outlines hardships female family members have endured. They deal with problems such as: housework, childrearing, household finances, and mental and physical health problems.

Ponder reports that his approach to these struggles was once callous. He says:

What astonishes me now is recalling that, at that time, I blithely took for granted everything she was doing. I'm ashamed to admit that I never gave most of it a second thought. I was too busy exulting in my LDS male role to even perceive her work-horse status, which I accepted as normal status quo.[21]

While this may tell us a great deal about Ponder's behavior and personality, it doesn't tell us much about the Church.

He goes on to claim that it was the family’s connection to the Church that made life difficult. He claims, "some Mormon beliefs are direct root causes of serious harm to many women."[21]

This is one of many instances where a clumsy leap is made from correlation to causation. One factor does not necessarily cause an effect simply because they occur in the same place, at the same time.

The problem of overloading female members of households is not exclusive to LDS homes. It’s an endemic problem—one revolving around flaws in the exchange economies of specific family units regardless of their religious beliefs. Outside the Church, women may not be burdened by large families. Instead, they swap this burden for the burden of full-time work outside the home. Even in homes where both adult partners have jobs, work inside the home is not equally divided. Women still do far more housework and childcare than men and they tend to perform the onerus and odious tasks. [24]

For further discussions, see above.

Ponder admits feeling "ashamed" for his part in his family’s unhappiness. This is a critical confound of his opinions and findings—one that we cannot assume is adequately counteracted by the mere admission of his feelings. Even if it were, his family’s experiences are not limited to LDS life. The case for causation has not been made and LDS doctrine cannot be accepted as the cause of their troubles.

Perhaps what's most troubling about this part of the analysis is the underlying assumption that outside LDS life, women live in some kind of well-balanced, egalitarian paradise where there's no longer any need to struggle and work toward greater gender equality. This assumption is badly flawed. It belongs in the same category as claims that racism has ended in America. Sexism has not been extinguished outside the Church. Those who imply that it has been—including Ponder and other critics—are complicit in advancing a dangerous, backward, sexist delusion.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Kent Ponder, Ph.D., Mormon Women, Prozac® and Therapy, 2003

Is there some rule that states that women cannot open Church meetings with prayer?

As of 2010, the Church's Handbook of Instructions in section 18.5 says, "Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings"

As of 2010, the Church's Handbook of Instructions in section 18.5 says, "Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings."[25]

There was a time in which by tradition men would typically stay opening prayers. There was never a doctrinal explanation or reason for this. It has not been the case for many decades.

Are Latter-day Saint women placed under covenant in temples to subordinate themselves to their husbands?

Important note: Members of FAIR take their temple covenants seriously. We consider the temple teachings to be sacred, and will not discuss their specifics in a public forum.

In a previous version of the temple endowment, the covenant for women was phrased slightly differently than the men. We will not describe the details or wording, but offer the following thoughts:

  1. The covenant is conditioned upon the faithfulness and obedience of the husband. If the husband does not follow God's counsel, the woman is not obligated to honor his counsel.
  2. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states explicitly that men and women should work together as equal partners in their familial obligations. "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."[26] One objection to this may be that the The Proclamation states that men should "preside" over their families. However, this shouldn't be interpreted to mean anything other than "use priesthood to bless their families".
  3. How can men and women be "equal partners" yet one "preside"? Latter-day Saint feminist Valerie Hudson gave a perspective on this that is consistent with the covenant as currently revealed and may be beneficial to those wanting help with this. This talk, given at the 2010 FairMormon Conference, describes the covenant as the balancing of two trees—Eve being the first to bring us past the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Adam to bring us to the Tree of Life:

I think it’s important to think about the fact that we have two trees and we have two people. Two trees, and a man and a woman. What I would like to address first is kind of an interesting interpretation of the fact that we have two trees and two people. Let’s address that by asking, Why was Eve created second? Now, I’m a convert to the Church, so I grew up in a tradition where the fact that Eve was created second was taken to mean that she was an appendage to Adam, that she was somehow inferior to Adam, that being derivative of Adam and not derivative of God that she was two steps away from divinity, not one step as Adam was.

[. . .]

Let me offer a suggestion here. Could it be that Eve was created second to demonstrate Adam’s helplessness before the First Tree? Could it be—two people, two trees—that Eve was foreordained to partake first of the fruit of the First Tree?

To answer that question, we must ask ourselves what partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means in a spiritual sense. And I think you know what it means. It means to enter into mortality with a mortal body, to enter into full agency, and to have awakened within us the light of Christ that will serve us so well as we pass the veil. Think—two people, two trees—whose stewardship does this sound like? It is through women that souls journey to mortality and gain their agency, and in general it is through the nurturing of women, their nurturing love of their children, that the light of Christ is awakened within each soul. And I would include in that list of souls Jesus the Christ. Even Christ our Lord was escorted to mortality and veiled in flesh through the gift of a woman, fed at his mother’s breast, awakened to all that is good and sweet in the world. Women escort every soul through the veil to mortal life and full agency. I believe that when we think about it—two people, two trees—that what we’re really thinking about is two stewardships. And that the fruit of the First Tree symbolizes the gift that women give to every soul that chose the plan of Christ. It symbolizes the role and power of women in the Great Plan of Happiness. It was not, in this view, right or proper for Adam to partake first of the fruit of the First Tree. It was not his role to give the gift of the fruit of the First Tree to others. It is interesting to think that even Adam, who was created before Eve, entered into full mortality and full agency by accepting the gift of the First Tree from the hand of a woman. In a sense, Adam himself was born of Eve.[27]

We strongly encourage readers to see the full talk here.

In any case the endowment's separate wording was altered as of 2023—likely to prevent and preclude any such misunderstandings.

Learn more about women: in the Church
FAIR links
  • Sharon Eubank, "“This Is a Woman’s Church”," Proceedings of the 2014 FAIR Conference (August 2014). link
  • Neylan McBaine, "To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure," Proceedings of the 2012 FAIR Conference (August 2012). link
  • Andrea G. Radke, "'The Place of Mormon Women: Perceptions, Prozac, Polygamy, Priesthood, Patriarchy, and Peace'," Proceedings of the 2004 FAIR Conference (August 2004). link
  • Noel B. Reynolds, "The Status of Women in Old Testament Marriage," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 28/12 (23 March 2018). [233–236] link
  • Lynne Hilton Wilson, "Unveiling Women's Veils of Authority," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 28/8 (23 February 2018). [133–154] link
Sub categories

What is the position of the Church of Jesus Christ on elective abortion?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders have consistently opposed abortion for all but a few rare situations.[28]

Except in certain rare circumstances, the Church opposes abortion and denounces it as a serious sin

LDS Newsroom, "Abortion"

LDS Newsroom,  LDS Newsroom
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

  • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
  • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
  • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.

Click here to view the complete article

Except in rare certain circumstances, the Church opposes abortion and denounces it as a serious sin. However, the Church does not equate abortion with murder. Further, the Church acknowledges that women and men who have been involved in abortions can be forgiven and become members in good standing. The exceptions to the commandment prohibiting abortion highlight the Church’s commitment to women’s rights and to our intrinsic value apart from our biological roles as mothers.

Are there exceptions where abortion may be appropriate? Yes

The Church has not adopted a simple, all-or-nothing approach to abortion. While the Church stands firmly by the commandment "Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it" D&C 59꞉6 and Church members are cautioned that participating in abortion will usually bring their membership under scrutiny, allowances are made for situations where abortion may be necessary.

The Church recognizes there are cases when abortion is medically necessary. When a woman’s health would be severely threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term, the Church offers counsel and support while mothers themselves decide how to proceed. The same approach is taken even when the mother's life is not at risk but a pregnancy is medically deemed to have no chance of being viable. In such cases, the Church leaves the final choice of whether an abortion will be performed to the parents. There is no universal formula for how the exceptions to the Church's usual stance on abortion must be applied.

The list of situations where abortion may be appropriate demonstrates the Church’s commitment to women’s right to make choices. In cases of rape or incest (crimes sometimes known by other names but likely meant to describe any non-consensual sexual intercourse brought on by force or by the abuse of a position of power), the Church does not require victims to continue pregnancies arising from someone else’s abusive choices. If a woman does not consent to sexual contact, the Church does not consider her morally obliged to accept the consequences of it.

At a gathering of university students, Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Dallin H. Oaks quoted the following:

The woman’s right to choose what will or will not happen to her body is obviously violated by rape or incest. When conception results in such a case, the woman has the moral as well as the legal right to an abortion because the condition of pregnancy is the result of someone else’s irresponsibility, not hers. She does not have to take responsibility for it. To force her by law to carry the fetus to term would be a further violation of her right.[29]

The fact that an impending threat to the mother’s health is accepted by the Church as a valid reason for opting for abortion suggests that the Church prefers the life of the adult woman to the life of the unborn fetus—especially if there is no chance the fetus would be able to live if the pregnancy took its natural course. This preference is controversial to many in the mainstream Pro-Life movement. Clearly, however, women are not valued solely for their reproductive abilities. They are free to protect and preserve their own lives even if doing so directly compromises reproduction.

Though denounced by the Church, abortion is not considered murder

In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the ancient Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not kill" Exodus 20꞉13 was expanded to read "Thou shalt not…kill nor do anything like unto it." D&C 59꞉6 Abortion has been interpreted to fall within the category of "anything like unto it." Though denounced by the Church, abortion is not considered murder per se. It is a less serious sin and one for which men and women can be forgiven.

While a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Church President Russell M. Nelson said:

So far as is known, the Lord does not regard this transgression as murder. And "as far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion." Gratefully, we know the Lord will help all who are truly repentant.[30]

The Church does not persecute or demonize people involved in abortion. Instead, it reaches out to them with compassion and the promise of a possible redemption.

The Church itself has not been involved in the politics of abortion

As explained in the Church’s official statement on abortion, the Church itself has not been involved in the politics of abortion. However, Church members are free to express their own opinions and to be involved as individuals in political causes including abortion legislation.

The Church has come under criticism from conservative groups for not taking a more absolutist stance against abortion. At the same time, the Church is criticized by "pro-choice" groups for its extremely limited tolerance for abortion. Both sides of the argument accuse the Church of trying too hard to please the opposite side. Clearly, the Church’s stance on abortion cannot be the result of political pandering. If it's meant as a compromise, it would be a poor one that leaves both sides of the abortion argument angry and unsatisfied. In an argument as polarized as the abortion debate, no compromise would ever be acceptable. Rather than crafting a position that pleases either side of the debate, the Church position is a tempered one—one based on the application of revelation and true principles to a real, complicated world where difficult situations must be reckoned with on careful, individual bases.

Despite its lack of direct engagement in abortion politics, some Church leaders have warned members against aligning with movements that would promote the use of abortion beyond the circumstances of rape, incest, and catastrophic health outcomes accepted by the Church.

Dallin H. Oaks said:

Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. But being pro-choice on the need for moral agency does not end the matter for us. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. …In today’s world we are not true to our teachings if we are merely pro-choice. We must stand up for the right choice.[29]

Adoption is encouraged as an alternative to abortion

Wrote the First Presidency in 1999:

Every effort should be made in helping those who conceive out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely, unwed parents should be encouraged to place the child for adoption ....

Unwed parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of an obligation to care for one’s own. Generally, unwed parents are not able to provide the stable, nurturing environment so essential for the baby’s well-being.

When deciding to place the baby for adoption, the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration. Placing the infant for adoption enables unwed parents to do what is best for the child and enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned.[31]

What is the stance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on birth control?

The use of birth control is not prohibited by the Church

Though the Church places a high value on families and regards the commandment given to Adam and Eve to "multiply, and replenish the earth" Genesis 1꞉28 as still being in force,[32] the use of birth control is not prohibited by the Church. Married LDS couples are not expected to limit their sexual contact to attempts to conceive. Sexual behavior between married partners is seen as wholesome and sanctifying even when there is little or no chance of conception. Birth control is meant to be used carefully and prayerfully but it is not forbidden.

Church leaders' statements on birth control

A recent statement explains the Church's stance on contraception:

Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for a husband and wife.

God has a plan for the happiness of all who live on the earth, and the birth of children within loving families is central to His plan. The first commandment He gave to Adam and Eve was to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." The scriptures declare, "Children are an heritage of the Lord." Those who are physically able have the blessing, joy, and obligation to bear children and to raise a family. This blessing should not be postponed for selfish reasons.

Sexual relations within marriage are not only for the purpose of procreation but also a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual ties between husband and wife.

Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.

Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple. Elective abortion as a method of birth control, however, is contrary to the commandments of God.[33]

In 1993, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Dallin H. Oaks, spoke in the Church’s General Conference saying:

How many children should a couple have? All they can care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed, clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good parents themselves. Exercising faith in God’s promises to bless them when they are keeping his commandments, many LDS parents have large families…In a matter as intimate as this, we should not judge one another.[34]

Elder Oaks quoted the then President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, expressing similar sentiments:

I like to think of the positive side of the equation, of the meaning and sanctity of life, of the purpose of this estate in our eternal journey, of the need for the experiences of mortal life under the great plan of God our Father, of the joy that is to be found only where there are children in the home, of the blessings that come of good posterity. When I think of these values and see them taught and observed, then I am willing to leave the question of numbers to the man and the woman and the Lord.[34]

This moderate approach has a long history. In 1916, Church leaders, such as David O. MacKay, endorsed of the wisdom in using moderation and sensitivity when it comes to childbearing. MacKay said,

In all this, however, the mother's health should be guarded. In the realm of wifehood, the woman should reign supreme.[35]

The language and tone may be old-fashioned but the message of mothers’ needs as the priority was a progressive one for its day.

Sexual behavior and emotional health

The Church has long taught that sexual relations are not only for the creation of children, but have other important roles within marriage. Late President of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball, taught:

In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love.[34]

Cautions and qualifications

Church leaders have also issued frank warnings about the over-use of birth control. As late Church President, Ezra Taft Benson, taught:

Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And, husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing of children. Do not curtail the number of children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity.[36]

Even this statement contains the qualification that mothers enjoy "good health." Childbearing is never meant to be carried out with dogmatic recklessness. In all things, the LDS decision making process is a deliberate, thoughtful one where individuals "study it out in [their] mind[s]" D&C 9꞉8 and receipt spiritual confirmation before acting.

President Benson knew this and added, "I would ask our young people to think seriously about these things, pray about them, fast about them. The Lord will give them the answers, because He wants them to have the blessings of a righteous posterity." [37]

What do the scriptures say about the issue of abortion?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders have consistently been against abortion.[28]

Latter-day Saints regard the guidance of the living prophets as the most important factor in determing the Lord's will for modern quesitons and practice.

Wilford Woodruff recalled an experience during the Church's early years in Kirtland:

I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. ... [A] leading man in the Church got up ... and said: “You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.”

When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.”[38]

Prophetic guidance often draws from—and is consistent with—canonized scripture. We here examine scriptural passages that have relevance to the abortion debate—though we must remember that the position of the Church of Jesus Christ derives fundamentally from modern prophetic guidance, and not an interpretation of past scripture. We can use the prophets' current stance, however, to explore scripture to see what we might learn.

Exodus 21꞉22-25

One of the most commonly cited and discussed scriptures relevant to abortion is Exodus 21꞉22-25:

¶ If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, nd yet no mischief followhe shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This is a type of casuistic law— that is, it stipulates what kind of punishments should be inflicted on a person if they engage in certain kinds of acts. This is a case where two or more people are fighting and accidentally hurt a woman and her fetus. This would be an accidental miscarriage or accidental premature birth of a woman while two people are fighting.

The scripture stipulates that if the men make the woman miscarry/have this premature birth, they must first be confronted by the husband of the woman. The husband along with judges will jointly determine what kind of fine to impose on those who fought. The same procedure was followed if the husband himself was one of the combatants in the altercation.

The passage further stipulates that if the woman herself is injured or dies (exactly which is not clear), then the people who engaged in the fight are liable for death and other punishments lex talionis. It’s important to note that lex talionis "is a principle of fair treatment of assailants and not necessarily a literal prescription for retaliatory treatment in all cases."[39]

Some have argued that this passage and, consequently, Israelite law treats the value of the mother as greater than the value of the fetus. But this argument depends on the correct translation of ויצאו (wytsaw. Translated as "depart from her" in the KJV above), how one translates the term אָסוֹן (ʾason) translated as "mischief", what that ason included, and who that ason is applied to. None of these questions can be answered with certainty.

Wytsaw is typically translated as "give birth prematurely" in modern, popular, English biblical translations, though other important translations say "miscarriage". "Premature birth" is may be preferred because of 'ason which is typically translated as harm or injury. Some say that it should be translated as "serious injury". Some take it to refer to death.

Who the injury, serious injury, harm, or death is inflicted on is also important. If it is only the woman, then the woman is being more valued than the fetus. If the harm is assumed to either the woman or her fetus, then both are being valued equally. If the harm is only to the fetus, then the fetus is being valued more than the woman. It's uncertain, but the first two options are more likely than the last. Injury to either a woman or a child would be negative.

Even if we translate and interpret the passage such that the fetus is miscarried and no other harm is brought on the woman, the passage still stipulates that a fine be paid. This indicates that the fetus still had at least some value in the eyes of the Israelite law. This scripture under no circumstances allows a kind of ethic that sees the fetus as entirely expendable no matter the stage of development.

The very least that we can conclude from these passages is that this was an accidental situation (not a deliberate one as in the case of elective abortion), that both the mother and fetus were seen as valuable at least in some way, and that damages needed to be paid or punishments received commensurate with the harm inflicted on mother and fetus.

We now consider some other relevant scriptures.

Numbers 5

Numbers 5꞉11-31 outlines what is known today as the Ordeal of the Bitter Water.

The major talking point is concerning verse 27 and what happens as a priest makes a woman partake of the water.

And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

The word "thigh" is a translation of the Hebrew yarek (יָרֵך) which does mean thigh but euphemistically refers to the genitals and other reproductive organs of a human being.

The passage says that a woman’s belly will swell up and that her uterus and perhaps vagina will either shrivel up or fall out (or maybe both).

Some have interpreted this passage to refer to miscarriage. The NIV translates this verse to say that "your womb [will] miscarry and your abdomen swell". But the passage doesn’t apply to just pregnant women. It applies to all those that have been caught in adultery, whether pregnant or not. The curses that 5꞉27 is establishing refer to infertility. Thus, it’s not that a woman loses her baby because of the trial, but loses her ability to conceive entirely.

Thou shalt not murder

Texts that may be relevant to the abortion debate include those that condemn murder. There are many such texts in the scriptures tha; they are well-known enough that we will not cite them here. The question is "does abortion really constitute murder"?

Certain leaders of the Church have analogized abortion to murder in the past.[28]

The current position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that abortion does not necessarily constitute murder. The Church most frequently cites a text contained in the Latter-day Saint canon: Doctrine and Covenants 59꞉6. It tells the Saints "Thou shalt not…kill, nor do anything like unto it." Abortion has typically been seen in the "nor do anything like unto it" clause.

The first mention of "kill" clearly refers to murder. But there are obviously other categories of sinful killing that are not murder. (Some killing, such as in self-defense, could be considered not sinful at all.)

This is where abortion is situated by the Church: not necessarily murder, but still an act of unjustified killing like murder.

Impeding obedience to other commandments

Scriptures that apply to abortion and it's ethical implications are not only those which discuss murder. Other commandments and other moral considerations might be broken or encouraged if we endorse abortion.

One of these would be the command to "multiply and replenish the earth" given by God in the creation accounts contained in both the scriptures and the temple (Genesis 1꞉28; Moses 2꞉28; Abraham 4꞉28).

Marriage is another command that applies. Elective abortion is often treated as a safety net for individuals that want to have unprotected sex without the consequence of an unwanted child. Abortion can thus disincentivies marriage. Scriptures forbidding extramarital sexual acts are many, and not cited here.

Latter-day Saint scripture portrays the body as a treasured thing—crucial to our learning. Doctrine & Covenants 93꞉33-34 tells us that a fulness of joy can only be obtained when the spirit of a person and his or her body are inseparably connected by resurrection. It is clear in scripture that bodies are wanted by both righteous and wicked spirits (Matthew 8꞉28-32; Doctrine & Covenants 45꞉17; 138:14-15,18,50).

It is clear, as Dallin H. Oaks as observed, that "[f]rom the perspective of the plan of salvation, one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth" and especially to deny them birth within the environment most-aptly suited for their progression through mortality: marriage.Ensign 42/11 (November 2012): 43. off-site</ref>

Some abortion debates focus on when the soul enters the body—presuming that killing an ensouled fetus or child would be murder, while an unesouled one might be aborted without concern.

The scriptures provide no guidance as to when ensoulment happens

Some believe that the question is resolved by Genesis where God grants Adam his "first breath" so that he becomes a living soul. By these lights, one can know that the soul has entered the body when a person breathes. The Latter-day Saint temple appears to teach that God first places Adam’s spirit in his body and then afterwards grants him his first breath. Furthermore, if first breath is truly when personhood is thought to begin, exactly which "breath" should we be treating as someone's first? Fetal breathing (though not strictly breathing for oxygen exchange) can begin as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy and about as late right before birth.[40] A "first breath" standard for when personhood begins might prohibit a large number of abortions.

Others believe that blood is what grants personhood and indicates ensoulment. Oftentimes it is thought that blood in connection with breath grants full-personhood in Israelite law. This has at least some merit when considering the thought world of the authors of the Bible. Here again, though, the answers are not as clear-cut as we might like: "By the end of the fifth week [of gestation], the heart of the fetus is able to pump blood throughout its body."[41] So does a fetus' working circulatory system at the fifth week of gestation grant them personhood?

Some believe that the answer as to when a fetus receives its human spirit/gains personhood is when a fetus is "quickened" or when it first begins to move inside of a woman’s womb. There are some scriptures/statements from leaders of the Church that may be used to justify this view.

  • Luke 1꞉44, "For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." This scriptures discusses John the Baptist and his mother Elizabeth. The New Testament mentions that Elizabeth hid herself for five months. Thus we might deduce that a soul was in John’s body after five months when Mary visited Elizabeth.
  • President Brigham Young once said that "when the mother feels life come to her infant it is the spirit entering the body" (Journal of Discourses, 17:143).

(We now know that fetal movement begins much sooner than the mother can feel it—the sensation is only when fetus is large enough and its movements strong enough to be felt by the mother.)

President Young’s view stands in mild contrast with an official statement from the First Presidency in 1909 which is less certain about when life enters the body:

The body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man.

Thus there is no definitive answer about when the soul enters the body from the scriptures nor The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some believe that full-personhood for fetuses is asserted by what they perceive as the continuity of personal identity displayed in biblical passages such as Job 3꞉3, Psalm 139꞉14-16, and Jeremiah 1꞉5.

  • Job 3꞉3 – "Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived." This verse does not assume personal continuity of identity as some have claimed. It merely asserts that Job wishes he weren't conceived nor born.
  • Psalm 139꞉14-16: "For thou hast possessed me reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee ; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." This may indicate a kind of continuity, but it's not certain. The Lord at the very least here sees a kind of form that he intricately weaves the psalmist's bones and other members according to. It is certain that the Lord, according to the psalmist, takes a special concern for/interest in and performs a special creative act on the unborn.
  • Jeremiah 1꞉5 – "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." This is perhaps the strongest scripture in favor of continuity of personhood (though still not entirely certain). The Lord ordained unborn Jeremiah, like the prophet servant of the Lord in Isaiah (Isaiah 42꞉1; 49꞉6), to be a prophet unto the nations.

As before, these scriptures are suggestive, but not definitive.

Biology as it may relate to personhood

Biologically, asking "when life begins" is absurd—the egg is alive from the moment it is fertilized. In a fallen world, cells that are dead do not come back to life. And, if the egg is not "human" life, then what kind of life is it? The cells involved come from humans, are only produced by humans, and develop into a human.

Thus wholly 95% of biologists agree that a new, distinct human life begins at conception: when a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm.[42]

One can only wonder about the other 5% of biologists—presumably they understood that the question was poorly posed, or didn't like the ideological implications.

The fertilized egg is certainly alive—it metabolizes, replicates DNA, divides, differentiates, etc. There is never a point at which the egg is "dead" and then becomes alive again. Nor is there a point at which the embryo or fetus is not alive.

"When does human life begin?" is thus a sloppy way to ask the real question: When does a fertilized human egg acquire any rights or moral standing? At what point does killing it have moral implications?

We kill things that are alive all the time—we kill billions of bacteria without a thought. The key question is, Is killing a human embryo like killing a bacteria? Or is it like killing a toddler? Or something in between?

Our laws do tend to treat human bodies as persons regardless of their current brain function, heart function, lung function, sentience, etc. And, there is never debate about whether these people are alive. Of course they are.

What to do in the face of uncertainty?

Some have argued that there are moral duties even when we are not certain of all the facts. There are, with abortion, at least three possibilities:

  1. Abortion is the equivalent of murder, killing a fully-human (in the sense of having full human rights, not in the biological sense).
  2. Abortion is still a serious moral act, even if it does not rise to the level of murder.
  3. Abortion is of no moral consequence regarding the fetus.

In the face of uncertainty, we could choose to

  • support or participate in an abortion; or
  • oppose or participate in an abortion.

If it turns out that abortion is murder or a serious moral wrong (option #1 or #2) then it is far better to have chosen to oppose abortion. Standing by would be like doing nothing to stop slavery, or not attempting to stop the slaughter of prisoners of war.

If abortion turns out to have no or few moral consequences (#3), we have at least not committed a murder or murder-like crime. We would have opposed the right of women to do something that they wanted to do—and that would be a moral wrong. But it is surely not as grave a moral wrong as the mass killing of the innocent and defenseless.

Which risk should we run if we are not certain?

Learn more about abortion
  • Peter Kreeft, Three Approaches to Abortion: A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Today's Most Controversial Issue (Ignatius Press, 2002). [A thorough treatment of the issues by a Catholic philosopher.]
  • Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion Kindle (IVP Books, 2009). [An imaginary dialogue in the Socratic tradition about abortion.]


  1. Press Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 13, 1995., reprinted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 62. (emphasis added)
  2. Media Luncheon and Press Conference, Tokyo, Japan, May 18, 1996, reprinted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 62. (emphasis added)
  3. BBC Interview, February 21, 1997., reprinted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 62-62.
  4. [citation needed]
  5. James E. Faust, "Welcoming Every Single One," Ensign (Aug 2007).
  6.', s.v. "ideal" (accessed 17 July 2012).
  7. Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Conversation With Single Adults," Ensign (November 1997). off-site
  8. Boyd K. Packer, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them]," Ensign (May 2012). off-site
  9. Joseph Fielding Smith, Elijah the Prophet and His Mission (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1957), 51.
  10. Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Conversation With Single Adults," Ensign (Nov 1997). off-site
  11. Julie Wardell, "Heroes and Heroines: Emmeline B. Wells." Friend, Feb 1985.
  12. News of the Church, Ensign (May 1997).
  13. Sheri L. Dew, "Are We Not All Mothers?," Ensign (Nov. 2001): 96 (emphasis in original). off-site
  14. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Family: A Proclamation to the World (First read by Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held 23 September 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.)
  15. Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin), 2003.
  16. Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin), 2003. [citation needed]
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gordon B. Hinckley, "To the Women of the Church," Ensign (Nov. 2003). off-site
  18. Marvin J. Ashton, Be of Good Cheer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 25–26.
  19. Melvin L. Wilkinson and William C. Tanner III, "The Influence of Family Size, Interaction, and Religiosity on Family Affection in a Mormon Sample," in Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints, 93-106.
  20. Spencer W. Kimball, "Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters," Ensign (Nov. 1978): 106, (italics in original)..
  21. 21.00 21.01 21.02 21.03 21.04 21.05 21.06 21.07 21.08 21.09 21.10 21.11 21.12 21.13 21.14 21.15 21.16 21.17 21.18 21.19 21.20 21.21 21.22 21.23 21.24 21.25 21.26 Kent Ponder, "Mormon Women, Prozac, and Therapy," unpublished, 2003, online version accessed 30 May 2012, (emphasis in original).
  22. 22.0 22.1 Young Women Manual 1, 2002.
  23. Gordon B. Hinckley, "How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?," Ensign (April 2001). off-site
  24. Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin), 2003.
  25. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Handbook 2: Administering the Church—2010 (Intellectual Reserve, 2010) , 146. Meetings in the Church 18.5 direct off-site
  26. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" <> (accessed 4 October 2018)
  27. Valerie Hudson "The Two Trees" FairMormon Conference 2010 <> (accessed 4 October 2018)
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Daniel Ortner, "The Consistency of Prophetic Abortion Teaching," Public Square Magazine, 7 June 2022, off-site Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ortner" defined multiple times with different content
  29. 29.0 29.1 Dallin H. Oaks, "Weightier Matters," BYU Devotional, February 1999. off-site
  30. Russell M. Nelson, "Reverence for Life," Ensign (May 1985): 11. See also Russell M. Nelson, "Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless," Ensign (Oct 2008): 32-37. off-site
  31. Cited in "Policies and Announcements," Ensign (April 1999): 80, (emphasis added).
  32. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," 1995.
  33. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Birth control," Gospel Topics [{{{1}}} off-site] (accessed 4 June 2024)
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign (November 1993). off-site
  35. David O. McKay, Relief Society Magazine (July 1916) 3:7.
  36. Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Mothers in Zion," Parents' Fireside, Salt Lake City, Utah, 22 February 1987.
  37. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 539–543. ISBN 0884946398. GospeLink
  38. Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report (October 1897), 18–19. See also Ezra Taft Benson, "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet," BYU Devotional (26 February 1980), off-site
  39. Carol Myers, "Exodus," in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press), 114. Importantly, Myers further states on the same page: "Note that compensation is sometimes acceptable (vv. 22, 26, 27) and that the rabbinic understanding of talion calls for paying damages."
  40. Coleen de Bellefonds, "How Babies Breathe in the Womb," What to Expect, July 19, 2021,
  41. "Medical Animation: Prenatal Heart Circulation," St. Louis Children's Hospital, accessed April 5, 2023,
  42. Steven Andrew Jacobs "Biologists’ Consensus on ‘When Life Begins’," SSRN, August 6, 2018; "Life Begins at Fertilization," Princeton, accessed May 7, 2022,; Steven Andrew Jacobs, "Balancing Abortion Rights and Fetal Rights: A Mixed Methods Mediation of the U.S. Abortion Debate," (Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2019); Steve Jacobs, "I Asked Thousands of Biologists When Life Begins. The Answer Wasn’t Popular," Quilette, October 16, 2019,

Question: Why did Mormon leaders oppose the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the United States?

The Church did not oppose equal rights for women. However, it was opposed to the potential consequences of the brief, vaguely worded ERA

It's sometimes mistakenly assumed that because the Church opposed a proposed amendment to the United States constitution known as the Equal Rights Amendment, the Church must have also opposed equal rights for women. As explicitly stated by Church leaders, the Church did not oppose equal rights for women. However, it was opposed to the potential consequences of the brief, vaguely worded ERA. The concern was that the amendment would unintentionally have a negative impact on women's rights and families. Furthermore, the Church felt the Constitution already prohibited gender discrimination, making the ERA an unnecessary risk.

What is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)?

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed as an amendment to the constitution of the United States. It was first introduced in 1923 and rode the tides of American politics until it failed to be ratified by the required minimum number of states in 1982. It has never been enacted.

The proposed amendment read, in its entirety:

• Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

• Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

• Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The Church’s Position on the ERA

In 1976, during the strongest, most vocal push to ratify the ERA, the Church made an uncommon move and took an official position on a political issue. The First Presidency—then comprised of Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney—issued a statement opposing the ERA. It went on to urge American Church members to work as citizens to defeat the proposed legislation.

The First Presidency’s statement reads, in part:

There have been injustices to women before the law and in society generally. These we deplore. There are additional rights to which women are entitled. However, we firmly believe that the Equal Rights Amendment is not the answer.[1]

Even with an endorsement from the First Presidency, no Church funds were used to campaign against the ERA.[1]

Mistaking Opposition to the ERA for Opposition to Gender Equality

The Church was not the only organization in America to oppose the ERA. Religious groups sponsored by Catholic and other Christian and Jewish faiths also opposed it. Secular organizations, most notably Phyllis Schlafly’s STOP ERA, campaigned against it as well. The Republican Party wavered in its support for the amendment and still managed to win the 1980 election. Clearly, the American populous – inside and outside the Church—was not without reservations when it came to the ERA. However, this does not mean the majority of the nation was against women’s rights simply because it was unsatisfied with the ERA. A popular slogan of the day was “Equal Rights, Yes. ERA, No!”

Critics of the Church, both in the twentieth century and today, often equate the Church’s opposition to the ERA to opposition to equal rights for women. This misconception continues despite clear, unequivocal statements from the Church to the contrary.

Long before the ERA became well-known, leaders of the Church were already speaking of women’s rights. In 1942, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle, John A. Widtsoe said:

In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel … was devised by the Lord for men and women alike…The privileges and requirements of the gospel are fundamentally alike for men and women. The Lord loves His daughters as well as He loves His sons… This makes individuals of man and woman—individuals with the right of free agency, with the power of individual decision, with individual opportunity for everlasting joy… There can be no question in the Church of man’s rights versus woman’s rights.[1]

Opposition to the Vague Language

The ERA was written in very brief and general terms. Those concerned about the wording feared the amendment was overly vague and too vulnerable to unintended consequences.

Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, addressed this in 1977:

I recognize that the proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment may be well intentioned in their desire to improve the status of women. We need to be very alert as to what the amendment would do besides what is intended. It is so easy to set about to solve a problem and end up creating yet a greater one.[2]

Rex E. Lee, (a legal scholar, an Assistant Attorney General in the US Department of Justice, and the person who would soon become the 37th Solicitor General of the United States) warned:

By its nature, [the ERA] will either do too little or too much…The highly vague language of the ERA has the potential to do far more than simply add one additional suspect classification (sex) to existing equal protection doctrine. How much more? I really don’t know. And that is the greatest problem.”[1]

Several states passed legislation with similar wording to the ERA and unintended consequences did indeed arise. In Maryland and Pennsylvania women were deprived by the courts of spousal and child support as direct results of ERA-type state laws. In one case, a man succeeded in proving in court that he could no longer be prevailed upon to pay his wife’s medical expenses.[1] Cases like these bolstered the notion that the ERA was flawed and risky.

Opposition on the Basis of Redundancy

Opponents of the ERA pointed out that the legal principle of the equality of all citizens was already guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the United States’ constitution which reads,

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In other words, all US citizens—regardless of any individual characteristics including gender – are entitled to “equal protection” under the law. When the fourteenth amendment was applied in courts in matters of gender discrimination, such discrimination was rejected as unconstitutional.

This would have been the interpretation Boyd K. Packer envisioned when he said of gender discrimination:

Existing laws, if properly enforced, could effect the corrections necessary. Even some proponents of ERA have admitted that a Constitutional amendment is not really needed to achieve the desired legal reforms. They argue, however, that its adoption represents some kind of a symbolic gesture, some overcorrection of a long neglected cause…I am for the equitable enforcement of existing laws. There are sufficient of them to protect the rights of women and of children and of men. Or to enact judiciously and wisely any needed legislation to correct particular circumstances.”[2]

The special Ensign publication on the ERA provides “a partial list” detailing eight acts which make gender discrimination illegal in the United States. According to the Ensign, “existing laws…prohibit discrimination, on the grounds of sex, in virtually all areas of American life—education, employment, credit eligibility, housing, public accommodation.”[1]

Rex E. Lee said:

In all the debates over ERA in which I have participated, I have yet to hear anyone suggest a single discriminatory law, which a majority of Americans would want repealed, that would not already be unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Opposition on the Basis of Democracy

The ERA was seen by many as an attempt to wrest political power away from elected local authorities and put it in the hands of unelected federal judges and bureaucrats. As proponents of democracy – what the Book of Mormon calls “the voice of the people” Alma 29:26—Church leaders were troubled at the prospect of this kind of shift in power.

Opposition on the Basis on Gender Homogeneity

Both inside and outside the Church, opponents to the ERA expressed concerns that the amendment would erase important distinctions between men and women. In the words of Boyd K. Packer:

Among the great dangers in the [ERA] is the fact that it would deprive lawmakers and government officials alike of the right by legal means to honor the vital differences in the roles of men and women.[2]

The concern was that a codified homogenization of genders would limit women’s power to choose to fulfill traditional roles. Without certain “necessary protections and exemptions” [1] it was feared that women would be forced into difficult positions through:

  • being made subject to compulsory military service even if they were raising small children
  • lapses in court orders for child and spousal support payments
  • weakening of sexual assault prosecutions
  • loss of existing spousal benefits such as medical insurance
  • changes to the tax system that might make it more difficult financially for people to live as married couples.

All these potential effects of the ERA were seen as damaging to family life in America. Boyd K. Packer said:

We [the Church] analyze the effect of every influence that comes along, as it may ultimately change by way of strengthening, or threaten by way of weakening, the family. We have the lingering, ominous suspicion that the proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment have paid little, if any, attention to the family at all.[2]

The ERA and Church Discipline

The special ERA section of the Ensign states:

Contrary to news reports, Church membership has neither been threatened nor denied because of agreement with the [ERA]. However, there is a fundamental difference between speaking in favor of the ERA on the basis of its merits on the one hand, and, on the other, ridiculing the Church and its leaders and trying to harm the institution and frustrate its work.[1]

It’s likely that attention was drawn to this question due to the case of Sonia Johnson, an ERA activist who was excommunicated. Her excommunication came after she gave a speech, titled "Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church."[3] She spoke several more times on the topic, always harshly criticizing the Church and its leaders. Johnson often cites her stance on ERA to be the reason for her excommunication, although there is no evidence besides her claims that this is actually the case. The reasons for an individual's excommunication are rarely publicly released by the Church. However, Johnson and those close to her claimed that she was excommunicated for apostasy.[4] No other individual has ever claimed to have been excommunicated for their stance on the ERA, although a number of other members did publicly disagree with Church leaders on the issue.

Johnson's later remarks in Chapter 5 of her book, Going Out Of Our Minds: The Metaphysics Of Liberation also make it clear that there were other issues at work, though in keeping with the Church's practice of disciplinary council confidentiality, they were not revealed by the Church, and have only become public knowledge because of Johnson's decision to speak about them publicly.[5]

America without the ERA

Of course, it’s impossible to know how the United States might have developed differently if the ERA had been ratified in 1982. Some of the effects opponents of the ERA were trying to avoid—such as the proliferation of abortion and same-sex marriages—eventually became parts of American society anyway. Maybe the ERA would have brought on these changes sooner – or maybe not. It’s impossible to know.

Since 1982, the Fourteenth Amendment has continued to uphold the principle of gender equality before the law. Still, gender discrimination continues to exist. It’s no longer overt or common in institutional settings but it endures in the everyday lives of American women. It continues to be a disgusting though pervasive and enduring fact of life. It doesn’t seem realistic that any act of government could have undone millennia of prejudice and abuse. As the special section of the Ensign explained back in the days of the ERA:

The ERA does not automatically guarantee equal rights…the ERA would not affect many inequities that result from attitudes and customs. It would prohibit only governmental discrimination.[1]

Gender inequalities are much more complex and insidious than any law has the power to lob off in a single stroke. To say otherwise is to oversimplify and trivialize women’s struggles for equality. These facts highlight the ERA’s status as a symbolic gesture – an attempt to promote awareness and attitudinal changes about gender equality more than an attempt to effect real change. It was the position of the Church that such a move was not worth the risk of inadvertently losing rights women already enjoyed.

In the company of many other organizations, the Church opposed the ERA. However, it explicitly did not oppose the principle of equal rights for women and men

In the company of many other organizations, the Church opposed the ERA. However, it explicitly did not oppose the principle of equal rights for women and men. The ERA was brief and vague and considered too vulnerable to unintended, unfortunate interpretations. It was deemed unnecessary since equal gender rights were already protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. It was feared the ERA would erode democracy by moving power away from elected local officials and giving it to unelected federal courts. Another concern was that the ERA would dull the salience of important gender differences and cost women their access to child and spousal support and benefits and their exemption from compulsory military service. Despite claims made in the media of the day, the Church did not discipline members merely for disregarding the First Presidency's stance on the ERA.

Gender inequalities are much more insidious and complicated than any law has the power to lob off in a single stroke. To say otherwise is to oversimplify and trivialize women’s struggles. The ERA was largely a symbolic gesture – an attempt to promote dialogue and attitudinal changes about gender equality more than an attempt to effect real change. It was the position of the Church that such a move was not worth the risk of inadvertently losing rights women already enjoyed.

Question: How do Mormons view the issue of immigration reform in the United States?

"We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society"

On 17 March 2011, the Church's official website posted the following:

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the fact that the Church’s Presiding Bishop, H. David Burton, attended the signing of a comprehensive set of immigration reform bills passed by the Utah legislature. The article said: “One thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has abandoned its claims to neutrality on these bills.”

This needs a clarification.

While the Church does not endorse or oppose specific political parties, candidates or platforms, it has always reserved the right to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that have significant community or moral consequences. Immigration is such an issue.

Before the 2011 Utah legislative session began, the Church announced its support for the Utah Compact. Our hope was that lawmakers would find solutions that encompassed principles important to Mormons and other people of goodwill:

  • We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The Savior taught that the meaning of “neighbor” includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.
  • We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.
  • We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.

Our focus during the legislative session was to encourage laws that incorporated these principles. The Church did not dictate what kinds of bills should be proposed. Like many others on Capitol Hill, Church officials voiced their views and trusted the state’s elected officials to do their job. We consider the comprehensive package passed by lawmakers to be a responsible approach to a very complicated issue. Bishop Burton was invited, along with other community leaders, to witness the signing of a series of immigration bills by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and to show support for the diligent efforts of lawmakers in this area.

We expect that our country will continue to struggle with this complicated issue, which the federal government will have to address. Our hope is that good people everywhere will strive for principle-based solutions that balance the rule of law with the need for compassion.

Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8

Summary: The passage of California Proposition 8 during the November 2008 election has generated a number of criticisms of the Church regarding a variety of issues including the separation of church and state, the Church's position relative to people who experience same-sex attraction, accusations of bigotry by members, and the rights of a non-profit organization to participate in the democratic process on matters not associated with elections of candidates.

  1. REDIRECTTemplate:Test3

Question: Why does the Church focus on religious freedom?

Religious freedom is an important part of democratic society and is important for worldwide growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The following video is published by Church Newsroom.

Question: What was the MX Missile System?

Introduction to Question

During the 1970s and early 80s (near the end of the Cold War), the United States Department of Defense at the behest of the Jimmy Carter administration wished to create a field of missile silos and MX missiles in order to counteract a growing fear of American vulnerability to Soviet nuclear attacks. The missile system would have consisted of about 200 MX missiles and housing silos and it would have been constructed in western Utah and eastern Nevada.

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then consisting of President Spencer W. Kimball, President N. Eldon Tanner, and President Marion G. Romney, officially opposed the construction of the MX missiles on May 5, 1981. The statement was republished in the June 1981 edition of the Ensign, the official magazine of the Church. Support for construction of the MX was very high up to that point among members of the Church and elsewhere. It had received bipartisan support in the United States congress, would have brought a huge spur to the local economies, and would have aided in quelling fears regarding Soviet attack. The First Presidency garnered much criticism from supporters of the MX.

The First Presidency's statement reads as follows:

We have received many inquiries concerning our feelings on the proposed basing of the MX missile system in Utah and Nevada. After assessing in great detail information recently available, and after the most careful and prayerful consideration, we make the following statement, aware of the response our words are likely to evoke from both proponents and opponents of the system.

First, by way of general observation we repeat our warnings against the terrifying arms race in which the nations of the earth are presently engaged. We deplore in particular the building of vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry. We are advised that there is already enough such weaponry to destroy in large measure our civilization, with consequent suffering and misery of incalculable extent.

Secondly, with reference to the presently proposed MX basing in Utah and Nevada, we are told that if this goes forward as planned, it will involve the construction of thousands of miles of heavy-duty roads, with the building of some 4,600 shelters in which will be hidden some 200 missiles, each armed with ten warheads. Each one of these ten nuclear warheads will have far greater destructive potential than did the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We understand that this concept is based on the provisions of a treaty which has never been ratified, and that absent such a treaty, the proposed installation could be expanded indefinitely. Its planners state that the system is strictly defensive in concept and that the chances are extremely remote that it will ever be actually employed. However, history indicates that men have seldom created armaments that eventually were not put to use.

We are most gravely concerned over the proposed concentration in a relatively restricted area of the West. Our feelings would be the same about concentration in any part of the nation, just as we assume those in any other area so selected would have similar feelings. With such concentration, one segment of the population would bear a highly disproportionate share of the burden, in lives lost and property destroyed, in case of an attack, particularly if such were to be a saturation attack.

Such concentration, we are informed, may even invite attack under a first-strike strategy on the part of an aggressor. If such occurred the result would be near annihilation of most of what we have striven to build since our pioneer forebears first came to these western valleys.

Furthermore, we are told that in the event of a first-strike attack, deadly fallout would be carried by prevailing winds across much of the nation, maiming and destroying wherever its pervasive cloud touched.

Inevitably so large a construction project would have an adverse impact on water resources, as well as sociological and ecological factors in the area. Water has always been woefully short in this part of the West. We might expect that in meeting this additional demand for water there could be serious long term consequences.

We are not adverse to consistent and stable population growth, but the influx of tens of thousands of temporary workers and their families, together with those involved in support services, would create grave sociological problems, particularly when coupled with an influx incident to the anticipated emphasis on energy development.

Published studies indicate that the fragile ecology of the area would likewise be adversely affected.

We may predict that with so many billions of dollars at stake we will hear much talk designed to minimize the problems that might be expected and to maximize the economic benefits that might accrue. The reasons for such portrayals will be obvious.

Our fathers came to this western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace to the peoples of the earth. It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization.

With the most serious concern over the pressing moral question of possible nuclear conflict, we plead with our national leaders to marshal the genius of the nation to find viable alternatives which will secure at an earlier date and with fewer hazards the protection from possible enemy aggression, which is our common concern.

The Reagan Administration cancelled the MX project.

Reflections on the entire episode were published by the Latter-day Saint academic journal BYU Studies in late 2022 by Paul A. Cox. BYU Studies' bio of him reads as follows:

Paul Alan Cox was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, sometimes known as the Nobel Prize of the Environment, and was named one of TIME magazine’s eleven “Heroes of Medicine.” His conservation foundation, Seacology, has set aside over 1.5 million acres of rain forest and coral reef in sixty-six countries around the world. After serving as professor and dean at Brigham Young University, he became the first King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor of Environmental Science in Sweden. Currently, he serves as director of the Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This article is based on a talk presented at BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies on January 18, 2017.

We strongly encourage those interested in this episode including criticisms of the Church to read Dr. Cox's article. It is a testament to the Church's wisdom in opposing the MX and the duty we have as Latter-day Saints to deescalate war efforts and protect our environment with the stewardship over the earth that God has granted us.

BYU Studies, "The Orchid and the Missile: Reflections on the MX"

Paul A. Cox,  BYU Studies 61/2 (2022)
As Latter-day Saints, we are fortunate to have the Book of Mormon, which consists of writings of prophets from around 600 BC to AD 400 and of Christ’s teachings to inhabitants of the New World. The last of these New World prophets was named Moroni. As the lone faithful Nephite survivor of a genocidal war, Moroni spoke directly to us in our day, prophesying the conditions that would ultimately prevail: “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth” (Morm. 8:29–31). Our days and times are truly marked by wars, rumors of wars, vapors of smoke, and great pollutions. It is interesting that Moroni links smoke, fire, and pollution to warfare in these verses, because modern warfare has serious environmental consequences. Although climate change, rain forest destruction, species extinction, and degradation of clean air and clean water all represent formidable environmental challenges, these threats pale compared to the environmental consequences of modern warfare in its most vicious and destructive form—detonation of nuclear weapons.

Click here to view the complete article


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue," Ensign (Mar 1980).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Boyd K. Packer, "The Equal Rights Amendment," Ensign (March 1977).
  3. Sonia Johnson, "Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church" speech given at the American Psychological Association Meetings, New York City, 1 September 1979. {{{1}}}
  4. Linda Sillitoe, "Church Politics and Sonia Johnson: The Central Conundrum," Sunstone no. (Issue #19) (January-February 1980). off-site PDF link
  5. Sonia Johnson, Going Out Of Our Minds: The Metaphysics Of Liberation (Crossing Press, 1987), chapter 5.