TMTP: “Jimmy, why didn’t you keep your promise?” edition

Your Tuesday Morning Theological Poll:

If a child in utero is miscarried or aborted, what happens to the spirit that was going to inhabit that body?

Please post your comments/screeds below.

Comments

  1. From my understanding, the spirit enters the body until it is born, although I haven’t found any reference official or otherwise that would confirm when, in the LDS theology, a spirit enters a body.

    From a gut feeling, I would say that even if the spirit enters the body at conception, it would get a clean bill of health as it died before the age of accountability and, as explained in D&C 138 it would go to the Celestial Kingdom. As a parent that has experienced several miscarriages, I hope that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom I will be reunited with all those precious babies and will be given the opportunity to nurture them.

  2. From my understanding, the spirit enters the body until it is born, although I haven’t found any reference official or otherwise that would confirm when, in the LDS theology, a spirit enters a body.

    From a gut feeling, I would say that even if the spirit enters the body at conception, it would get a clean bill of health as it died before the age of accountability and, as explained in D&C 137 it would go to the Celestial Kingdom. As a parent that has experienced several miscarriages, I hope that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom I will be reunited with all those precious babies and will be given the opportunity to nurture them.

  3. From my understanding, the spirit enters the body until it is born, although I haven’t found any reference official or otherwise that would confirm when, in the LDS theology, a spirit enters a body.

    From a gut feeling, I would say that even if the spirit enters the body at conception, it would get a clean bill of health as it died before the age of accountability and, as explained in D&C 137:10 it would go to the Celestial Kingdom. As a parent that has experienced several miscarriages, I hope that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom I will be reunited with all those precious babies and will be given the opportunity to nurture them.

  4. I meant section 137, not 138. Would administrators please deleted comments 1,2 and this to remove this inadvertent mistake?

  5. AlexG, didn’t Brigham Young state that the spirit enters the body at quickening? Or did he say at birth? I can’t remember.

  6. pwaldrop2 says:

    Liviticus 17: 11, 14 http://scriptures.lds.org/en/lev/17/11,14#11 , says that the life of flesh is blood. I think that the spirit of an individual enters the body when blood starts pumping through their veins.

    That being my belief, I don’t think I can appropriately answer the poll question. . .given the two choices.

  7. Wow, this a tough one. On the one hand, I feel so sorry for those that have lost children before birth, and I want them to have the chance to reunite with them. On the other hand, and this is what I voted for, I would like the children to have a mortal experience sooner rather than later.

  8. Neither. I’m with the spirit is present at quickening crowd. So the fetal body is the spirit’s earth life. How many sets of DNA does a spirit need?

  9. re # 8, so if the fetus is miscarried or aborted before quickening, then you go with the option that the spirit goes to the next appropriate body?

  10. Matt W. says:

    john f. quickening, but that did not mean conception. I think it depends. My wife had a miscarriage and we strongly felt like the spirit had not entered the body yet. Others have had miscarriages and felt otherwise.

  11. I’m with the posters who said that it depends. I think if a fetus is aborted or miscarries prior to when the spirit enters the body, then the spirit gets another chance. If it happens after the spirit enters the body, then that’s the end of that spirit’s mortal probation. I’m inclined to believe that the spirit enters the body either when the heart begins to beat, or when brain activity starts. (Using the analogy that death occurs upon cessation of brain activity and/or heartbeat.)

  12. re # 10, I understand that — I think Jami took it to mean conception.

  13. hmm…..I don’t know. I think it could go either way

  14. Last Lemming says:

    I read the alternatives too quickly and voted for the second option thinking that the first option read “first available body” instead of “first appropriate body.” Still, the likelihood of an appropriate body becoming available prior to the Millenium is exceedingly small.

  15. Steve G. says:

    Its interesting problem to determine when the spirit enters the body which probably can’t be answered. I think sometime within the 2nd trimester the spirit enters the body. To think the spirit enters at birth, just doesn’t seem right. At conception seems a little too early.

    As an interesting aside, in the scriptures we read about John the Baptist in utero leaping when Mary, pregnant with Jesus) was nearby. We also read of Jesus speaking to Nephi as a God the day before he was born. Its possible he did that while in utero or maybe he was a special case. I don’t know.

    I think if the spirit has already entered the body, than that is that spirit’s earthly life. If not, then it will have another chance.

  16. I believe that spirits are able to come and go while the fetus is in utero, and that upon living birth the spirit is then tied/sealed permanently to that particular body.
    So, I feel that if the body/spirit pair don’t make it to birth then the spirit may choose between waiting for that particular body at the resurrection, or entering another appropriate body.

  17. I am not sure I have a LDS framework with which to answer this question. Any answer would be sheer speculation.

  18. Years ago I read a quotation by Brigham Young that indicated, as Starfoxy has mentioned, that the spirit could come and go while the fetus was in utero. He stated that the spirit was not bound to the body until it took the breath of life. I have searched and not been able to find that quote. If anyone knows of it, I hope they will give us the reference.

  19. To clarify, I think if her spirit has not yet entered the body that she doesn’t move on to a new body, because the body was not yet hers. Moving on implies she’s been there already. She will simply receive a different body.

    If she has received her body and then that body dies, I believe that she has completed her (extremely short) mortal probation. Then she will be resurrected and raised to maturity at a later date. Like those who die between birth and the age of accountability, she will go to the celestial kingdom.

    I’m not really a “the fetus is a person from conception” person. If I had to place my bets on a particular moment when the spirit enters the body I’d go with the beginnings of brain function. If that wasn’t right, my back up bet would be when the heart begins to beat.

  20. Isn’t it a pretty high number of all fetuses that are miscarried (over 25 percent?), with many of them very early on (usually before the woman has any knowledge of the pregnancy)? When you add this to the number of aborted aborted fetuses, the percent of fetuses that do not survive gets even higher. I have a hard time believing that there are that many spirits who never get a chance to come to earth, although I admit this is pure speculation.

    That said, I do think there is a point in pregnancy when the spirit has entered the body of the fetus, I just don’t think it is during the first trimester.

  21. I always thought that the spirit enters the body at birth and people thinking that they would raise miscarried babies in the Millennium and all that jazz were just mistaken. Unfortunately, when I was researching this a few weeks ago, I discovered that the question is anything but settled. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism reads “Mortal birth is the event by which one’s spirit body is temporarily joined with a mortal tabernacle begotten by earthly parents,” but the very next sentence says, “The exact time when the premortal spirit enters the unborn physical tabernacle is not specified in divine revelation.” It seems like a weird juxtaposition to me. I wish the brethren would just make a firm statement on it. Bruce R. McConkie has indicated that he believes (he makes it clear that he is expressing his own opinion, not Church policy) stillborn babies will be resurrected and raised in the Millennium and encourages families to name and record them though the Church does not. I haven’t even been able to find a similar statement indicating one way or the other on miscarried babies — no counsel to name them or otherwise.

    It seems to me that if a spirit enters the body before birth at all, it probably enters very soon prior to the birth, like within days, hours, seconds even. Therefore, I selected that the spirit goes to the next appropriate body, but am inclined to actually think the spirit usually hadn’t entered the body at all. I think that once the spirit has entered a body, it is there to stay.

  22. Honestly, option #2 doesn’t make sense to me, even though my parents named a stillborn daughter and firmly believe she “is theirs”. I personally don’t see growth in utero as “mortality”, but I also am open to various radically heterodox possibilities about this expanded topic, so I’m not claiming to know the answer to this poll. I’m just saying option #2 doesn’t make sense to me.

  23. In short: If I had to actually state when I think the spirit enters the body, I would be conservative and say it enters at birth since we know it’s there at birth. I would rather bank my faith on a time that I know the spirit is there than on a guess I make tying the spirit’s presence in the body to finger formation, kidney function, blood flow, or even brain function since it would be entirely conjecture.

  24. #17: which is what these polls are ALL about! =)

    There’s sort of a quirk with the original question* in that it seems to present that the spirit has not yet entered the body. Not the spirit that HAS inhabited the body, but the one that was going to inhabit.

    I have to confess that the whole pre-AoA child death = CK doctrine doesn’t really make sense to me, as far as satisfying Justice goes. Raised in the Millenium, ok.

    * I’m sure John C. stays up late considering how to word these. Makes me wonder what his tests are like.

  25. Re #20

    National Vital Statistics Report 1999 indicate that about 16% of recognized pregnancies end in spontaneous “abortion” or misscarried loss. Recognized pregnancies implies a positive test/missed period, generally a little shy of or at 4 weeks (or 2 weeks post conception).

    Those who study this sort of thing using super sensitive tests think that up to as many losses occur before 4ish weeks (so, bump the number up to 32%). Many of these super early losses are “chemical pregnancies” or those where conception occurs but implantation does not.

  26. Wow, I remember saying that line [the post title] on stage back in 1979!

    Actually, this very question — how the play Saturday’s Warrior might influence Mormon attitudes on abortion — is one of the central points of this novella

  27. A complaint about the poll (though it’s not intended to be sceintific, so that’s okay, I guess)…

    “next appropriate body” is a non-offensive, even positive, phrase. “It misses it’s chance” implies injustice and is negative in connotation. The poll as it reads is pretty slanted. It could just as easily be phrased with the opposite slant: “misses the chance to be with his or her intended family” vs “stays with God to receive blesings of mortality during the Millenium”

    I think the poll blends two questions, too: (1) how spirits are allocated to families–that is, how much preordination is there to a specific time and a specific family? And that question, I feel, depends on several factors in the premortal existence that we aren’t really privy to.

    And (2) can disembodied spirits (which presumably a spirit once assigned a miscarried/aborted fetes would be) be clothed in a mortal tabernacle after having once entered one…or if they get one shot at being inserted into mortality and after that they can ONLY re-enter their disembodied body, resurrected? I feel uncomfortable with the idea of re-insertion into different mortal bodies, since it opens up the possibility for two bodies to belong to one spirit and borders dangerously on reincarnation.

  28. And a third question, of course, which is a follow-up to question 2: when is a spirit considered assigned a body that is its permanent tabernacling? At conception? When it reaches a certain pundage? When it begins to move (or “the quickening”)?

  29. Since we’re wildly speculating, I don’t think the spirit enters the body until the baby takes his first breath.

  30. I think it actually comes to the same family, if at all possible. I have personal reasons for believing that , which I won’t go in to here.

  31. StillConfused says:

    I was told as a youngun that these were spirits that were so valiant that that is as far as they needed to go in the mortal process. Much like how severely handicapped children are considered likewise valiant

  32. Ugly Mahana says:

    I don’t think we know, and find speculation useless on this point. (Could be a third answer to the poll?)

  33. chanson,
    I got the idea from your brother (at least, if your brother is who I think he is). He also told me of you (potential) anger at the update of the hippies to preppies.

  34. #29 – I don’t know when the spirit enters the body, but I like the old Jewish belief that life starts when the last child leaves for college.

  35. Nice one, Ray.

  36. Has no one mentioned the passage in Helaman? The one where Jesus tells Nephi to be at peace “for on the morrow come I into the world.”

    If that’s Jesus talking, and we assume it wasn’t the fetus using telepathy, wouldn’t that imply Jesus wasn’t really entirely in Mary’s womb the night before he was born?

    Or is it just God the Father talking to Nephi in some sort of trinitarian sense?

  37. I’m on the side of baby’s spirit coming and going until it is born. With my second baby, there were a few times that I totally felt the lack of her. It scared me at first, but then she came back. It was totally bizarre and I didn’t experience that with either of my two pregnancies, but it would make sense that she was sort of in a state of transition and could go to either place.

  38. Steve G. says:

    #36, see #15

  39. Good thoughts everyone. For me, I don’t believe in reincarnation so for a stillborn baby their earthly mission was to get a body.

    I wrote about my experience at: http://www.millennialstar.org/2009/02/25/tears-in-heaven-a-lds-perspective-on-stillborn-and-miscarried-babies/

  40. I got the idea from your brother (at least, if your brother is who I think he is).

    Not surprising — he and I used to sing along to this record together when we were kids.

    He also told me of you (potential) anger at the update of the hippies to preppies.

    You mean the update for the video version?

    I wouldn’t say I was angry about it, but I think the video version was very poorly done, especially the scenes involving Mack’s gang (hope it isn’t too ridiculous of me to be picky about renditions of “Saturday’s Warrior”… ;) )

    I wrote about what they changed (and why) here.

  41. Jesus said, “on the morrow come I into the world”. Did His spirit leave the womb and then return, or had His spirit not yet entered His little body?

    I would say that if Mary had aborted the fetus, Jesus’ spirit would have had another chance. Jesus’ body was special, conceived by God the Father through commandment, as He had the power to move the elements just by speaking them to move.

    His is the only example I am aware of in scripture of a spirit speaking the day before birth, and from that I hang my belief, that a baby who breathes on it’s own has spirit living within.

    I can see why God would not want this known, if it were so. A fetus that is aborted and lives outside the womb for even a split second, has had its only chance for life, and will not be given another. That is my opinion.

  42. Incidentally, the idea that children who die young were valiant in the premortal life is a kind of predestination, isn’t it? (Or is it foreordination?) Aren’t they basically being Judged early?

  43. I feel spirits enter at birth, not before. A few comments, for what they’re worth:

    1) Scriptures repeatedly talk about being “Born” in a number of different contexts. We are born into this world. We are born with baptism. We are born with the spirit. I think there is a difference between being conceived and being born.

    2) The reproductive process is fraught with problems. Genes combining is a messy thing. A very high percentage of miscarriages occur because of genetic defects that would ultimately make a non-viable baby. I think miscarriages are the body’s way of ensuring that babies born have the best chance of living.

    3) Statistically speaking, between 30-50 percent of fertilized eggs are “miscarried”, often before the woman even knows she is pregnant. Of known pregnancies, 15-20% are miscarried. Suggesting that every fertilized egg represents a spirit that is “just getting a body” implies that a third of our spirit brothers and sisters are so far ahead that they “just need a body”.

    4) The whole purpose of the “Plan” that Christ presented in the premortal world was for us to come to earth and to learn how to work with free agency to chose the right. If it was just to get a body, there certainly would have been a better way. Since up to 1/2 of fertilized eggs are miscarried, this would imply that the whole purpose of earth life for half of God’s children isn’t available.

    5) As mentioned above, Christ (through I assume His spirit) spoke to prophets the day before he was born, implying that it wasn’t “bound” to his body.

    So, there are my logical reasons behind thinking that a spirit doesn’t enter until birth. Whether they are right or not, who knows???

    Earth life is imperfect.

  44. If it were an honest poll there would be a third option – “I don’t know.” I am willing to bet most bloggers would choose that option.

    While speculating on this topic may be fun for some, it is also highly offensive for many who have experienced miscarriages or had abortions (possibly regretting it later in their life).

    I understand John C wanting to stimulate a speculative discussion, but I think his approach is both insensitive and crude.

  45. DrewE,
    I apologize for offending you.

  46. DrewE,
    I apologize for offending you.

  47. No, John. I am the one that needs to apologize. I also have an apology for you at MormonMatters. I think this poll struck a little to close to home for me.

    As someone who loves to speculate on the unknown, it is hypocritical of me to call you out.

    I have a bad habit of typing before thinking. I’m getting better, but clearly have a lot of work to do.

  48. John C- That was a poor speculation. Not substancial at all. You all do realize that logically through your speculations, you have no problem with abortion if the spirit enters the body at birth. It is not murder if there is no life. Biblically it makes no sense that John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb if there was no spirit in him. Scientifically you can not separate body from spirit. That is what humans are, body and spirit. Just because some of you “feel” like there was no spirit in you in utero, doesn’t mean it’s true. Feelings are not always concrete. Any educated person would agree. A lot of you sound uneducated and flippant. Might want to think about it more.

  49. I stand corrected, sorry John C, I meant Mike S. Please forgive my mistake.

  50. John Taber says:

    Just a perspective from the other end of things . . .

    Many years ago my father administered to a young man in the hospital, who had been hit by a drunk driver. He was on life support but was brain dead – and would die physically a few days later. My father clearly felt that the young man’s spirit had already left, or at least wasn’t there at that point.

  51. Paige- “…you sound uneducated and flippant. Might want to think about it more.”

  52. Firth- My comment was not a cynical or unkind one, but a corrective one. You sir, are the unkind one to say such a thing. Take comments in their proper context, please.

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