The Sanctity of Life

A disciple of Jesus Christ has a reverence and respect for living things.

“Thou shalt not kill,” God commanded on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Mosiah 13:21). And Jesus extended that commandment to less violent offenses: don’t get angry; don’t say unkind things. (See Matthew 5:21, 3 Nephi 12:21.)

When we recognize that all people are children of God, we will treat them with dignity and honor.

Captain Moroni “did not delight in bloodshed,” even though he was a military leader (Alma 48:11). He pursued strategies which enabled him to win battles with a minimum of casualties on both sides. (See his innovative rescue of prisoners in Alma 55.)

The Anti-Nephi-Lehies buried their swords, as a testimony “that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood” (Alma 24:18).

When we value life, we not only avoid harming others, we also do all that we can to help them, particularly those who are most vulnerable. UNICEF reports that in 2019 alone, 5.1 million children under the age of five died, most from preventable causes. We ought to do all that we can to provide adequate protection and health care to those who need it, around the world.

We also value emerging life. In a revelation given in 1831, the Lord said, “Thou shalt not…kill, nor do anything like unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6). Church leaders have consistently warned against abortion unless (1) the life of the mother is in danger or (2) the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. (See James E. Faust, “The Sanctity of Life,” April 1975, Russell M. Nelson, “Reverence for Life,” April 1985, Dallin H. Oaks, “Protect the Children,” October 2012, Neil L. Anderson, “The Personal Journey of a Child of God,” April 2021.)

For many, the ethics of abortion hinge on the question of when a fetus becomes a human being. I like David Brooks’s more nuanced approach: “My intuition is that it’s not a moment, but a process — a process shrouded in divine mystery” (“Abortion: The Voice of the Ambivalent Majority,” New York Times, 2 December 2021). This seems like a respectful and appropriate way to talk about emerging human life.

What about animals? Joseph Smith’s revision of a passage from the book of Genesis provides a sobering warning:

Surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.

JST Genesis 9:11

“We affirm the sanctity of life,” wrote the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles in 1995. An appreciation for that sanctity leads us to make decisions in harmony with our Heavenly Father’s will.

Today, I will remember and respect the sanctity of life. I will avoid harming others. I will find ways to assist the vulnerable. I will reverence life in all of its forms and will strive to protect and preserve it.

4 thoughts on “The Sanctity of Life

Add yours

  1. Thanks for this very thoughtful post, Paul. I’m very troubled by
    national policies about immigration and recognize how great the
    ambiguities are in dealing with the problem. I think the Church’s policy
    on on abortion makes sense. And broadening the scope beyond human life,
    I’m distressed–even disgusted–by sport hunting and fishing, especially
    when the goal is not to provide food. Peter Wohlleben’s  “The Hidden
    Life of Trees” models a respectful attitude toward the miracles that
    trees performer quietly through every season. And I’m admiring our
    gardent, glittering under a snowstorm that has left even the smallest
    twigs stacked with two inches of snow, creatively posed against a
    brilliant blue sky.

    Affectionately, Lavina


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