22nd General Conference Session Special Report
WHEREAS a question was submitted regarding the church’s position on organ donation, it was RESOLVED, that when organs may be used to sustain someone’s life, body organs may be donated, provided that the deceased person had given prior consent and/or the family members give consent to donate. There is no Scriptural prohibition in donation of organs to save someone’s life. While we are alive, we may donate blood or other organs to help sustain life. This is also in accordance with the gospel principle.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die” ().
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” ().
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” ().
“Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. The wondrous works of God are a mystery to man. The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection every man will have his own character. God in His own time will call forth the dead, giving again the breath of life, and bidding the dry bones live. The same form will come forth, but it will be free from disease and every defect. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend. There is no law of God in nature which shows that God gives back the same identical particles of matter which composed the body before death. God shall give the righteous dead a body that will please Him.”—.
WHEREAS the issue of the placement of the Reform Movement within the prophecy of the seven churches had been discussed by the General Conference Delegation Session (#52/2003) and was passed to the Working Doctrinal Committee, it was RESOLVED, that we acknowledge that the prophecy of the seven churches represent Christ’s church living in different periods of the Christian era, and that the Reform Movement, as the remnant church of Christ, is living within the period of Laodicea. The counsel of the Faithful Witness applies to each individual who desires salvation. It is our duty to accept this message personally and it is our mission to preach it to the whole world. Those who overcome during the Laodicean period will be granted to sit with Christ in His throne.
It was FURTHER RESOLVED, that there is a difference between a person or denomination living in the last period of the New Testament church who have a tendency to fall into the condition described in the message to the Laodiceans receiving the message of warning and hope, and between those who actually come to the point of being spewed out. The missionary outreach programs or other religious exercises of an individual or denomination that is spewed out of the mouth of Christ are not accepted before God.
It was FURTHER RESOLVED, that we as a people continue to recognize our spiritual need of this most precious message of Christ Our Righteousness as it began to be presented in 1888. “The message which the messengers have been proclaiming is the message to the Laodicean church [quoted.].” . The acceptance of this message is made manifest in the obedience to all the commandments of God as it accomplishes the needed reformation among those who are preparing for translation. As the church of God in the last period of the Christian era, the important counsels of each of the seven churches are to be accepted. “I call upon our church members to read the whole of the third chapter of Revelation, and to make an application of it” ( ).
“The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world.”—.
WHEREAS God is the Life-giver, and it is not the right of anyone to take human life, it was RESOLVED, that the practice of any human being intentionally ending a human life in order to relieve pain or suffering (euthanasia) is contrary to God’s will (). As Christians, we are not to request or consent to euthanasia nor should we be involved in the so-called mercy killing of another human being.
It was FURTHER RESOLVED, that we believe that every human being has a personal human right to either choose or refuse medical treatment for any ailment, including terminal illness.
WHEREAS a question regarding the properly conducted customary (tribal) marriage between a man and a woman was considered and how far we recognize this as a legal marriage, and further clarification was requested on Resolution #61/1995, it was
RESOLVED that in compliance with Resolution #32 /1955, such a marriage when properly conducted in the presence of witnesses and recognized by the society as an official marriage is binding before God and the church considers that couple married; and it was
FURTHER RESOLVED, that when the law or necessity requires further documentation of such marriage, then that marriage should be registered with the appropriate government body.
In such cases where the individuals are already members, they must follow our existing principle on marriage that also requires a church blessing in addition to the above (see Principles of Faith and Church Order, point 18).
WHEREAS the subject of abortion was analyzed because of its prevalence in many cultures, and WHEREAS it is the church’s duty to reiterate its clear stand against killing through abortion and also to instruct those that seek its guidance, it was
RESOLVED, that abortion is contrary to the biblical expression of human life beginning at conception.
The Bible supports the idea that human life begins at conception, not only at birth. At the moment of conception a new human being is created—possessing his or her own individuality with a God-given right to a future. (; , ; ; .)
Human life from conception is a wonderful and sacred gift of God that deserves . . . protection from being destroyed. . . .
The taking of life at any stage of development is murder and forbidden by God. (; .)
Consequences of Choice
God does not arbitrarily rule the conscience of an individual. It is also not the role or intention of God’s church to control the individual’s conscience.
“[Thousands today] do not see that to deprive man of the freedom of choice would be to rob him of his prerogative as an intelligent being and make him a mere automaton. It is not God’s purpose to coerce the will. Man was created a free moral agent. Like the inhabitants of all other worlds, he must be subjected to the test of obedience; but he is never brought into such a position that yielding to evil becomes a matter of necessity. No temptation or trial is permitted to come to him which he is unable to resist. God made such ample provision that man need never have been defeated in the conflict with Satan.”—, .
Each individual is endowed with the capability of choosing. Therefore each individual is responsible for his or her choice, and those that abuse this capability and choose contrary to the requirements of God’s Word will be responsible for the tragic consequences of their choices. (, .)
“Your entire future will be influenced for good or for evil by the path you now choose.”—Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 421.
God is the One who gives life to all, and He is the only One who can maintain it. Therefore, He is the only One who has the right to take it away under any circumstance. (, , ; ; .)
Opposition to the termination of human life before birth (based on the biblical imperative to protect life) is not a rejection of the choice of a woman to control her own destiny or her own body. A woman is free to avoid conception or to make the parental sacrifice and place the child in the care of another loving parent if the mother cannot raise the child herself.
We recognize that carrying a human life inside her womb is a significant experience requiring effort and sacrifice from the mother. Having that experience forced upon her by the sin of another human being can be very difficult. Nonetheless, avoiding that experience by abortion is no more morally defensible or acceptable than infanticide after the birth of the child. In such cases adoption may be a viable option.
Any woman who has a pregnancy forced upon her needs the support and encouragement of Christians. Avoiding or rejecting such a person is contrary to the example of Jesus (, ) and the teachings of His word.
Implications for Family Planning and Contraception
To be a parent is a God-given responsibility and one not to be taken lightly nor given up lightly. In order to establish healthful families, part of the gospel work is to hold seminars for single young people, instructing them how to have a healthy relationship before marriage.
The church, as an institution that cares for the life and happiness of its members and of society in general, should hold family seminars in order to strengthen family ties. During these seminars, parents must be instructed about the privileges and responsibilities involved in training a child from the womb. (, , ; , .)
Proper birth control and family planning is a Christian requirement according to the following counsel: “Parents should not increase their families any faster than they know that their children can be well cared for, and educated. A child in the mother’s arms from year to year is great injustice to her. It lessens, and often destroys, social enjoyment, and increases domestic wretchedness. It robs their children of that care, education, and happiness, which parents should feel it their duty to bestow upon them. The husband violates the marriage vow, and the duties enjoined upon him in the word of God, when he disregards the health and happiness of the wife, by increasing her burdens and cares by numerous offspring. ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.’ ‘So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the lord the church’ (, , )” ( .
We do not accept as a method of contraception any intrauterine device (such as intrauterine spirals) and any medication which prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg or destroys a fertilized egg (). This is not contraception in its proper understanding but just another form of abortion—as it removes the fetus after conception.
A Supportive Role
Jesus demonstrated that humans struggling with temptation and its consequences need compassion. Attitudes of condemnation are inappropriate in those who have accepted the gospel. Among the responsibilities of the church is the care for the poor and needy. Therefore the church should provide relief for individuals and families facing a pregnancy crisis as well as support to those who mistakenly have made wrong choices and are in need of spiritual, moral, and psychological help. (; ; , ; ; .)
In cases where the baby has already died, the mother must follow the physician’s guidance to preserve her life and health. The removal of a dead fetus cannot be considered an abortion.
In cases where one insists upon the continuation of a pregnancy that imposes a great threat to the mother’s life and little possibility for the baby’s survival, then the mother, together with the physician’s guidance, must consider the options and possibilities according to the specific circumstances. Such decisions will be more appropriately dealt with withing a healthy family environment.
WHEREAS the topic of photography, videography, and other multimedia and their use on the Sabbath has been raised over many years due to concerns for true Sabbath observance; and while we realize the danger of photography and multimedia becoming a species of idolatry when abused, we also realize that when rightly used, it can have a beneficial effect in spreading the gospel message. In order to understand what is appropriate with photography or the use of multimedia on the Sabbath, the following considerations were made.
Why the Sabbath Is Given
The Sabbath is a time for us to come into a closer relationship with God and spend time in worship, meditation, praise, fellowship, holy deeds of necessity, and commemoration of what He has done for us.
“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words” ().
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (, ).
“The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no labor for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God ceased His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds.”—.
“When you associate together, let the mind be reverently turned to the contemplation of eternal realities. Thus you will be helping one another to be spiritually minded.”—.
Photography or videography on the Sabbath
In view of the above principles of true Sabbathkeeping, it was
RESOLVED that the use of multimedia, such as photos, video, and similar technologies, intended for use in the promotion or dissemination of the truth, such as baptisms, religious meetings, and other spiritual events, when taken on the Sabbath is in harmony with the spirit of true Sabbathkeeping. However, we should keep in mind that “from doing works of necessity” we may “fall into the habit of doing things on the Sabbath that are not necessary. The sense of its sacredness is lost, and the holy commandment is of no effect” (MM 215). Also, care should be taken by all members that reverence for the Sabbath and the house of God is maintained at all times. In order to maintain reverence during the meetings, it may be necessary for local organizers to appoint a limited number of people to be responsible for multimedia recording, including photography.
Common photography or videography
Ministers and members “upon the Sabbath . . . should conscientiously restrict themselves to conversation upon religious themes—to present truth, present duty, the Christian’s hopes and fears, trials, conflicts, and afflictions; to overcoming at last, and the reward to be received” (.
The servant of the Lord counsels us that “albums filled with photographs of the family and their friends are placed where they will attract the attention of visitors. Thus the thoughts, which should be upon God and heavenly interests, are brought down to common things. Is not this a species of idolatry?” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 317).
As the photography or videography of family and friends when taken, viewed or shared on the Sabbath in a non-religious context has a tendency to bring the thoughts down to common things, in order to keep the Sabbath day holy, we should avoid such practice.
RESOLVED, that while we do not rent out our sanctuaries, in general we also do not rent out our churches or meeting halls, particularly where we gather for weekly services. However, we believe that we can make some exceptions, particularly where the church owns a property that is not being used on a regular, weekly basis for religious services (an example of this may be a church-run school or a campground where conferences are held). Where this is the case, the properties generally are underutilized, by staying vacant most of the year. In such cases, we may consider renting the facilities to outside groups from Sunday to Friday. However, we should be careful in evaluating each group and each situation on its own merit. Some points to analyze include: the particular organization and its purposes, types of activities to be conducted, and any implications to the honor of God and the reputation of our organization for allowing that group or activity on our facility. We should be careful not to allow such inappropriate activities as the playing of loud music, consumption of alcoholic beverages, or anything that is opposed to our fundamental principles, and so forth. If the facility rental would also include the Sabbath hours, then all the above are applicable, with the addition that the purpose and activities of the renting organization would not violate the principles of true Sabbath-keeping.