Does the church believe the spirit enters the body at conception? I’ve read that science says life begins 18 days after. I have a friend who miscarried at about 6-8 weeks. Would the spirit of that embryo be given to her in the next life? She’s very concerned about losing it.
We are sorry to hear about your friend’s loss, miscarriage, which is never easy for any woman and family members. At the end of this response, I have provided some other responses given with regards to miscarriages. The Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t have an official declaration, as of yet (Article of Faith #9), regarding when our spirits (our intelligence) enter the human embryo within the mothers’ womb. When I perform a search on the internet pertaining to scientific declarations regarding when life begins I read people stating different periods as to when life begins.
The first article I read stated that science would agree with the following pertaining to human life, and when human life begins: 1) 18 days after conception a heart will begin to beat (which may be what you are referencing), 2) Between 6-7 weeks old brain signals have been detected, 3) The human fetus, around 8 weeks is able to sense touching and respond to the touching (both spontaneous and reflexive), and 4) By 8 weeks the human embryo is showing breathing motions.
The second article I was able to read mentioned other aspects that science has discovered: 1) At 14 days the human embryo is showing first signs of a nervous system, and 2) At 18 days the human embryo’s heart begins to beat. The author of this article, a biologist, proposes that life begins when the human embryo is able to fully exist outside the mother’s womb. If the human embryo is not able to exist outside the mother’s womb, then life never began with this embryo.
Other articles I was able to read provided quotes from medical journals specifying that life begins at fertilization. The moment the male semen and the female ovum becomes a single zygote life begins. From these articles and others science appears to agree upon the quantitative development of the human embryo, but as to the question “when life begins” the scientific realm and scientific educators appear to still have this question in debate.
Now that we have shared some thought from different articles relating to scientific findings, here are now three thoughts from the scriptures and words of past general authorities of the Church:
1) 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.” The scriptures previously mention Elizabeth hid herself for five months. In light of this passage we are safe to say life surely was within the womb around five months when Mary visited Elizabeth.
2) President Young said the following, “when the mother feels life come to her infant it is the spirit entering the body.” (Journal of Discourses, 17:143.)
3) The First Presidency in 1909 shared the following, “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.”
When we review scientific findings in correlation with scripture and prophetic words, in the absence of an official revelation, there is room for a variety of beliefs among our fellow Latter-day Saints. Faithful saints are able to study, ponder, and come to their own conclusions regarding when our spirits first entered our mortal bodies. A faithful saint can believe life begins as early as the development of a nervous system (at 14 days or so), or a believing saint can believe the spirit enters the body at a later stage of the embryo’s development; however, if we take a firm look at Luke 1:44, John’s spirit appears to be within his body around five months. This scripture at least gives some evidence that our spirits enter our mother’s womb before five months.
I mentioned above that I would provide some other articles “askgramps” has answered with regard to miscarriages and the question you specified regarding your friend, “I have a friend who miscarried at about 6-8 weeks. Would the spirit of that embryo be given to her in the next life? She’s very concerned about losing it.” I hope these provide some further light and comfort for your friend.
The bottom line is this: We’ve been given no official position on when the spirit enters the body. Much of my answer is based on speculation when researching the scriptures and other scientific documents.