• Quote of the Day

    “Surely the reason Christ said, ‘Father, forgive them,’ was because even in that terrible hour He knew that this was the message He had come through all eternity to deliver.”
    —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Commentary on Elder Nelson’s Article on Abortion

Elder Russell M. Nelson’s article in this month’s Ensign immediately received a bit of attention in the bloggernacle. In “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless,” Elder Nelson puts forth the Church’s position and doctrine related to the practice, and he offers a few of his own opinions on related issues, such as the debate over when “meaningful life” begins. The reactions to this article have been quite interesting to observe. Here are a few of the online discussions about it:

Now that a little time has passed and everyone’s moved on to other matters, here’s my take on all this talk.

As always, the bloggernacle ignores the substance of the article and focuses instead on the seemingly more controversial or political issues related to it. Fine. That’s their prerogative. But frankly, I’m a little less interested in whether the article was timed to influence U.S. elections than in what Elder Nelson actually has to say about abortion. Why aren’t people discussing that? Is it too straightforward for them? Too predictable? Whatever the reason, it apparently doesn’t warrant much discussion in the bloggernacle. But then again, most of what the current Church leaders are actually saying gets short shrift there, so it’s par for the course.

In addition, does anyone sincerely believe that Elder Nelson would have written this article for purely political purposes, or as a mere academic plaything for the self-appointed intelligentsia? Think about it. When was the last time a Church publication discussed this issue in such detail? If there’s any timing involved in the publication of this article, it’s more likely the long-range, multigenerational timing of the Church’s influence over its members than some partisan agenda.

If you talk to bishops and LDS Family Services counselors, many of them will tell you that they have counseled young women who either had an abortion or were considering an abortion and were apparently unaware of the Church’s teachings and disciplinary policy on the matter. This sort of situation is, in part, what Elder Nelson is trying to address in his article, I think.

Now, of course, Elder Nelson also discusses abortion as a matter of public policy, so it’s fair to talk about his article in a political context. But even if Elder Nelson carefully planned the timing of this article, in collusion with the General Authorities and Church employees who oversee and run the Church magazines, so what? Perhaps he saw election time as the perfect time for Church members to be discussing the matter since it may be on people’s minds anyway. He still doesn’t tell anyone which party or candidate to vote for. He merely infuses a bit of Church doctrine and policy into the debate. In his argumentation he is careful to label some statements as his own opinion, though those statements are made in support of a larger argument regarding the Church’s official teachings. If all of this upsets people or doesn’t harmonize with their political ideas, so be it. But it shouldn’t be ignored and labeled as purely political.

In any event, I’m glad to see that the Brethren are still speaking out on a variety of moral issues, knowing that they’ll be criticized both from without and from within. And I’m glad that the Church magazines provide a channel for them to publish their words.

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Come unto Christ

In this month’s special issue of the Ensign on the Savior, President Henry B. Eyring discusses a pattern he has observed among those who accept the invitation to come unto Christ. In “Come unto Christ” (also available on the new Web site JesusChrist.lds.org) President Eyring mentions three truths the Holy Ghost has manifested to people he knew who came unto the Savior. President Eyring is a man who is very close to the Spirit, and the pattern he describes shows how the Spirit works on us to helps us become perfected in Christ. Basically, it leads from belief to action to total conversion. It is in that last step that he speaks of retention of converts. He gives what I believe to be an important insight:

“We sometimes speak of retaining members as if we held them in. We can and we must be a friend to those who have made the choice to come unto Him. They can become discouraged when trials come, as trials always do. Yet we must remember that the best and surest friends they have are the Savior and His Father, who is also their Father. Heavenly Father and the Savior will send them the Holy Ghost to comfort them and confirm their faith if they are humbly obedient.”

I believe that this is true of all who have come unto Christ, whether they were baptized last week or 80 years ago, whether they are converts or lifelong members.

Was I Saved?

Another good article from this month’s special issue of the Ensign is one that describes a situation that many Church members may find themselves in at some time or other. “Was I Saved” is one young woman’s account of her visit to a friend’s church meeting and her subsequent confusion about whether she really needed to publicly accept Jesus in the manner prescribed there. This article teaches us two things: (1) we should prepare people we invite to our meetings for the things that might be unfamiliar to them, and (2) we Mormons have no reason to doubt whether we’ve been “saved” or have done everything necessary to accept Christ. The article also refers to a good talk by Elder Oaks on this subject.

Plain and Precious Truths

In this month’s Ensign, which is a special issue on the Lord Jesus Christ, is another article noteworthy for its clarity, brevity, and insight. “Plain and Precious Truths” simply lists 25 truths regarding our beliefs about the Savior and then gives statements supporting those truths from the Bible as well as latter-day scripture and prophets. The statements range from “Jesus Christ was in the beginning with the Father and is the Firstborn” to “The Savior can change human nature” to “The Lord will judge the world in righteousness.” The supporting statements show both the continuity of Christian teaching and the added insight gained through the Restoration.