June 10, 2004

LDS and Stem Cells: Timely Revelation

Today I was surprised to see an editorial in the Deseret News, the LDS*-oriented newspaper, calling for federal funding for stem-cell research. Soon came the explanation: Matthew Yglesias, at TAPPED, links to an August 2001 Slate piece by Drew Clark explaining the LDS position on stem cells.

The position also makes it seem as though the LDS position on abortion is not quite as firmly engrained as the Catholic Church's. Perhaps that's why the street preachers who picket LDS sites to encourage Mormons to convert to Christianity occasionally hold up pictures of aborted fetuses.

Now if someone can explain why the D-News also ran two cartoons criticizing Bush today....

*"Latter Day Saints," often called "Mormon."

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 10, 2004 05:43 PM

It's not that LDS theology is more flexible than the Catholic Church when it comes to its sanctity of life ethic, it is just that it is inconsistent. For example, not only is stem cell research permissible, but they are also pro-death penalty. This is not to say that I think the Catholic Church is right regarding its stance on various issues having to do with sanctity of life (for example, I think that they do not have good grounds for being anti-stem cell research).

Posted by: Linda Fiorentino at June 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Well, I don't think being pro-death penalty is necessarily inconsistent with being anti-abortion--you could argue that it's taking innocent life that matters. I could see a Kantian being both (I don't know if Kant had a stated position on abortion, but he was definitely pro-death penalty, except in cases of infanticide).

And it's not so much that I think LDS views on abortion are de facto more flexible, but that they have the potential to be more flexible. (Since "flexible" is already a dispositional term I don't know if that makes any sense!) Namely--since likeness is generally fuzzy, if the reason to oppose abortion is that it's like murder rather than that it is murder, then you could have a later ruling that abortion is not enough like murder to be sinful. I could see a theological basis for a later ruling that capital punishment is like murder in the relevant respects and abortion isn't, for instance. Although since I know nothing about LDS theology I'm perhaps not the best person to talk about this.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 12, 2004 01:46 PM