Too Much of a Good Thing: A Birth Control Poll

HawkgrrrlMormon 89 Comments

Does the church discourage birth control?  Are couples encouraged to breed as quickly and frequently as nature allows?  Take this poll to share your feelings on the subject.

Although Mormons have a less strict stance on birth control than Catholics, this has not always been the case.  There have been some anti-birth control statements in the past (mostly before reliable safe birth control and indoor plumbing were widely available), and those statements have not necessarily been refuted.  Here are a few historical statements that might be of interest:

  • Joseph F. Smith, prophet (1916).  In answer to your communication in which you ask me for my views on the issue of “birth control, or the limiting of the number of children in a family to one or two”… I have this to say: The first great commandment given both to man and beast by the Creator was to ‘multiply and replenish the earth;’ and I have not learned that this commandment was ever repealed. Those who attempt to pervert the ways of the Lord and prevent their offspring from coming into the world in obedience to this great command, are guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the category. There is no promise for eternal salvation and exaltation for such as they, for by their acts they prove their unworthiness for exaltation and unfitness for a kingdom where the crowning glory is the continuation of the family union and eternal increase…”
  • Ezra Taft Benson, apostle (1969).  The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its pills and practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children.  We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else.  There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity.
  • Ezra Taft Benson, prophet.  True to form, many of the people who desire to frustrate God’s purposes of giving mortal tabernacles to His spirit children through worldwide birth control are the very same people who support the kinds of government that perpetuate famine. They advocate an evil to cure the results of the wickedness they support.
  • Spencer W. Kimball, ap0stle (1971).  Many good people, being influenced by the bold spirit of the times, are now seeking surgery for the wife or the husband so they may avoid pregnancies and comply with the strident voice demanding a reduction of children. It was never easy to bear and rear children, but easy things do not make for growth and development. But loud, blatant voices today shout ‘fewer children’ and offer the Pill, drugs, surgery, and even ugly abortion to accomplish that. Strange the proponents of depopulating the world seem never to have thought of continence!”
  • Spencer W. Kimball, prophet (1979).  It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so.
  • Harold B. Lee, prophet (1972).  [W]e declare it is a grievous sin before God to adopt restrictive measures in disobedience to God’s divine command from the beginning of time to ‘multiply and replenish the earth.’ 
  • J. Ballard, seventy (1995).  Thus we see that in marriage, a husband and wife enter into an order of the priesthood called the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. This covenant includes a willingness to have children and to teach them the gospel. Many problems of the world today are brought about when parents do not accept the responsibilities of this covenant.  It is contradictory to this covenant to prevent the birth of children if the parents are in good health.  Thirty-five years ago when I first started practicing medicine, it was a rare thing for a married woman to seek advice about how she could keep from having babies. When I finished practicing medicine, it was a rare thing, except for some faithful Latter-day Saint women, for a married woman to want to have more than one or two children, and some did not want any children. We in the Church must not be caught up in the false doctrines of the world that would cause us to break sacred temple covenants.
  • Julie Beck, general RS president (2008).  Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,” in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”  Faithful daughters of God desire children.
  • (current statement regarding “birth control“).  Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife. . .  Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children. . . Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple. Elective abortion as a method of birth control, however, is contrary to the commandments of God.

The church’s strong pro-family stance seems to make it unlikely that the church would ever encourage birth control, even if it is not prohibited.  The current Church Handbook of Instruction states that birth control is not prohibited but surgical methods are discouraged.  As the product of a reversed vasectomy, I still find myself somewhat indifferent to that instruction.  So, let’s see what the rest of you think with a few polls:

 [poll id=”55″] [poll id=”56″] [poll id=”57″] [poll id=”58″]

Is all this detailed instruction because people keep taking private decisions to their bishops (vs. to the Lord) or is it because leaders feel members are making bad choices?  Discuss.

Comments 89

  1. Over the years, some Church leaders have placed a great deal of pressure on women to have children. However, David O. McKay wrote, “It is the policy of the Church to discourage the prevention of conception by any means *unless the health of the mother* demands it. It is also the policy of the church to regard marital relations of husband and wife as their personal problem and responsibility to be solved and to be established between themselves as a sacred relationship (Private Correspondence, September 11, 1963). He also made a similar remark in one of his books. My husband and I believe that “the health of the mother” statement was and is a critical one in determining how many children a couple should have.

    After I had my fourth child and was completely physically and emotionally spent, I prayerfully made the decision to have my tubes tied. I’ve never regretted the decision, even though the Church handbook at the time said you should have a bishop’s permission to do it. (I did not!)

  2. I was a little conflicted about the second question. We track my wife’s firtiliy through her cycle, and then use a condom when there is a “chance” of conseption.

  3. I guess I am not very well informed about church handbooks because it never occurred to me to go to the bishop or check in any manuals. I had children when I felt that it was time. I wasn’t raised entirely in the church though, so I missed lots of stuff….

  4. I didn’t love the choice of answers for question #4. I would have chosen the option that says I would encourage my children to consider their finances, as I think that is an appropriate consideration. However, I won’t butt in and give my opinion if I think they’re making a mistake.

  5. I do know that they will sell married studens birth control pills fairly inexpensivly at the BYU-Idaho on campus clinic. At least that was the case in 2003. I don’t know if that says anything about “The Church’s” stance on the subject.

  6. PaulW, what you describe is commonly referred to as the rhythm method, unless I am wildly mistaken. Which I fully admit that I might be.

    Frankly, I think clauses like ‘health of the mother’ were *probably* uttered with physical health in mind, but these days mental health is rightly and properly considered in my opinion. I personally think that multiplying and replenishing the earth is widely misunderstood. One CANNOT replenish the earth with children alone. One must also have the resources to feed, clothe and otherwise care for those children. An inability to do so means that you are NOT replenishing the earth in my opinion. But that’s my opinion.

  7. Post

    Rhythm method refers to using a calendar to avoid sex on days when the wife is deemed most fertile. It’s slightly more effective than crossing your fingers, but less effective than the return of the fall TV season.

    The term “rhythm method” sounds like something musical or primitive is happening, but not so much.

  8. There’s a difference between the rhythm method and fertility awareness. “Rhythm method” is usually used to mean using a calendar to determine fertile and infertile periods and is notoriously unreliable. Fertility awareness involves observing and recording physical signs of fertility, and is highly effective for family planning (I’ve used it for 10 years :)).

  9. Temple recommend carrying active men (non-Utah experience here) seem to have no problem asking for referrals to get vasectomies when they are “done.” They seem to come with decisions made as a couple and do not tell me as a referring physician whether or not the handbook instructions were considered. As their healthcare provider, its not, IMO, any business of mine to know their theological reasoning. They know correct principles and can govern themselves.

    I am aware of one LDS physician who, when by patients was asked for prescriptions for viagra, would decline authorizing them for certain patients with the explanation that he didn’t prescribe viagra to single men. I was a bit surprised when a non-member colleague shared this information with me and watched me to see what my opinion was. I suspect that LDS patients who saw this physician would get a different response when they request a vasectomy referral from him than they do from me. I’m not sure his freedom of religion argument would hold up if it went to court. Didn’t hold up so well for the physician who declined to do IVF for same-sex partners.

  10. #7-Hawkgrrrl–“Rhythm method refers to using a calendar to avoid sex on days when the wife is deemed most fertile. It’s slightly more effective than crossing your fingers, but less effective than the return of the fall TV season.”

    Hawkgrrrl, you are the man!

  11. It never crossed our minds to ask anyone before we had my tubes tied. I can’t imagine anyone asking their Bishop’s approval or having someone consult the CHI. I’m surprised to learn that it ever was addressed in the CHI or that anyone thought they had to ask permission.

  12. #1-

    “I’ve never regretted the decision, even though the Church handbook at the time said you should have a bishop’s permission to do it.”

    Please tell me you’re joking about having to ask a bishop’s permission? That’s just over the top to me. Uh, bish, I am thinking of having my tubes tied, what say you? No thanks! Good for you Karen having it done without his “permission.”

    I don’t think God has a problem with permanent birth control methods once people have completed their families. I mean come on, the women need to be able to enjoy SOME time not worrying about getting pregnant before all the perimenopause, menopause symptoms hit! 🙂

  13. The irony of the third quotation (from Pres. Benson) is that, empirically speaking, his argument against birth control also perpetuates famine.

    Here, he’s implicitly arguing against communism (or any left-leaning policies, which we all know he hated). Presumably, he favors free-market capitalism, in part because it favors innovation and technological development, which is what drives economic growth. But the other piece of fundamental economic growth theory (which explains how we get out of poverty) is that the GDP growth rate has to exceed the population growth rate.

    There’s a reason that richer countries have lower birth rates: it’s a major part of why they’re rich, because they don’t dilute their GDP gains so much that everyone regresses to poverty levels. In condemning restrained population growth, Pres. Benson would exacerbate the conditions which produce poverty and famine.

    But while increased standards of living have been associated with fewer children, recent statistics show an interesting shift: once we get to a certain degree of material comfort, we’ve actually started to have more.

  14. One also has to consider by what standard Julie Beck is considering how much we value children. Do we value quantity of children? In the Abrahamic sense that we view family, more posterity is better.

    But are children really “becoming less valued”? It’s an undeniable fact that from an economic standpoint, children are less valuable in developed societies. Part of why a large posterity was so moral in the past was that they contributed to household production, and with higher mortality rates, if you pumped out more of them, you were more likely to have a few that survived.

    Now children drain, rather than add to family finances. And the few we have tend to survive. Doesn’t the change the moral basis somewhat? Do I really value my children less because I find them less expendable and give them a better education and standard of living?

    If only the number of posterity matters in the eternal sense, then perhaps society is guilty as charged. But if the object is giving each child more education and intelligence and a better earthly experience, then perhaps it’s not so immoral after all.

  15. I just don’t get it. Is there something out there that would merit any GA’s concern that we’re not having enough children?

  16. I spent my first two years of married life in Wymount Terrace at BYU, which is about the most conservative neighborhood in all of Mormondom. Most couples didn’t wait particularly long to have children, but at the same time, all but the most extreme seemed fairly comfortable with the concept of birth control. I don’t think that birth control is very controversial among the younger generation of Mormons–unless, of course, it is used beyond the first year or two of marriage. At that point, the obligation to multiply and replenish apparently kicks in.

    It strikes me as supremely inappropriate to involve local priesthood leaders in personal decisions regarding birth control, child bearing, or surgical sterilization. But then, Christianity has long been obsessed with people’s sex lives.

  17. Statements by church leaders against the use of birth control seem to come in cycles. In 1973, when my husband and I got married, it was made very clear to us by church leaders that we should not wait to have children. However, our own parents, who married at the beginning of WWII, were not given that advice (and both sets waited). Our oldest daughter got married in 1997, when there seemed to be a wave of “no birth control,” but our other three children, who have married more recently, have felt no pressure to start a family immediately after they wed.
    And yes, it’s true that surgical methods were more than discouraged, especially at the time when I had a tubal ligation in 1986. I don’t know if it was suggested that you ask permission from the bishop. My husband WAS the bishop, so I guess that was a mute point.

  18. We use birth control because there is a heritable condition on my wife’s side and we feel it’s much more responsible to both the (potential) child and ourselves to be in a position where we would be able to provide for possible medical issues. It’s like a 50% chance, and birth control seems more fiscally prudent; we both know personally how expensive chronic medical problems can be. Why bring a child into the world knowing we can’t provide for him/her?

  19. I had a boss at BYU who was a total Nazi on this subject. Whenever someone on our staff got engaged, he would pull them aside in his office and loudly read Spencer W. Kimball’s anti-birth-control statements to them. When Paul and I got engaged (we were both working there at the time), I sensed that he wanted to say something to us in his office a few times, but I think the non-member thing was enough to stop him. Good thing for him, too, because he would have gotten an earful from me if he’d tried it. The only man who has any right to be interested in how many children I’m having, when I’m having them, and what I’m doing to keep from having them in the meantime is my husband.

    I do agree with those who have said that birth control seems pretty acceptable among the younger generations of Mormons, and I also think the younger generation of Mormons are much better at minding their own business. Both welcome changes IMO.

  20. “I do agree with those who have said that birth control seems pretty acceptable among the younger generations of Mormons, and I also think the younger generation of Mormons are much better at minding their own business. Both welcome changes IMO.”

    I agree with this Bridget. I’m young (28), been married for 6 years, and have (only) 1 child. What a terrible Mormon am I. No one, including either of our parents, our bishop of the ward we were in before we got married, or either bishops at ‘home’ said anything to us about it. The only people who told us to get a move on were my 2 little sisters, who were dying to become aunts; and my mother reprimanded them the instant she heard it.

    My main point is that perhaps we let the Church have too much control over my own business. When I’m concerned about something in my life, I talk to my wife, my parents, even my little brother. But I rarely have ever thought to ask my Bishop about anything other than: ‘Can you sign my temple recommend’. If I can answer the questions in the interview (and only those to the Bishop), then all is well. Anything beyond that falls under Joseph Smith’s statement: ‘let them govern themselves.’

  21. Anyone know if they sell condom’s at any of the BYU facilities or at any church related facilities? I think that would be a good indication if BC has made it’s way into acceptance in the church….

  22. Yeesh, bishop’s permission to tie your tubes? That’s overbearing to a cringe-worthy degree…as are most of the statements quoted in the OP.

    Glad things have loosened up.

  23. Thanks Hawkgrrrl,

    I took a little of a beating about my comments about the “Nasty Things” which was probably deserved.

    Birth Control is a question that a lot of church couples deal with. My personal feeling is this is between and husband,wife and the Lord. When I first joined the Church back in the 70’s there was a lot more oversight by Leadership in your personal life. One of the weirdest interviews I ever had was by a Stake President that explained to me about what was and was not acceptable in our sex life. After that interview I was thinking “What have I got myself into”. The Bishop also counseled us on birth control and how many children we should have. Which meant that we should not practice any form of birth control. Our Bishop was a great guy, so I just blew it off.

  24. I don’t think the handbook actually says (said?) that you need the bishop’s permission. I’m pretty sure it just says that you should counsel with the bishop.

  25. I always thought it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of thing. Has anyone ever been asked in a temple recommend interview whether or not they use birth control? And has anyone actually gotten their bishop’s permission to get a vasectomy?

    I’ve never been asked these questions by leaders and would refuse to answer them if asked. I know my husband (as a non-member) would also be livid about it. 🙂

  26. After years of using condoms (and a terrible, terrible experience with the Depo Provera shot long ago), my wife and I recently decided to experiment with the rhythm method.

    We are expecting our first child in March. 🙂

  27. Nothing in the handbook requires permission for birth control surgery. The fact that the handbook discourages it (but does not require anything else) means that if somebody asks, the leader is to inform the person of the church’s position. That’s it.

    We are youngish and I suppose we have a lot of kids for this day and age, even among many of our fellow Saints (especially on the right coast). It is interesting that some people assume this is because we don’t use birth control. (My response is that we have a lot of kids — but not *that* many kids.)

  28. I’m with Brother Jones. I would definitely tell them that finances need to be considered, but then it would be their decision. It’s wouldn’t be my business.

  29. DH and I had a bishop tell us it was time to have a second child. We decided to get another bishop instead.

    We would never dream of consulting with our bishop, or anyone else, about such personal matters.

  30. I agree with Br. Jones #4, that the financial consideration had some poor wording. The financial ability, both in terms of current income and future prospect, should be a crucial determinant when considering children. For me that includes the ability to provide a decent living while in my home, and then to provide for a college education so that they can enter the “world” prepared enough to fend for themselves. However, that does not mean I need(ed) a million dollars first, nor that finances are the only crucial concern. I think emotional readiness and spousal unity on the decision are also central determinants that should be fully considered before a decision is ultimately made.

  31. My first OB was also my Stake Pres and he told me after the baby was born that I HAD to use birth control until I was ready for another baby and he went through all of the options with me. He had seen way too many overwhelmed moms with lots of tiny kids. He also did a stake RS meeting where he basically said it is the woman’s decision when and how many kids and although it was important to discuss it with your husband and work it out together prayerfully, the final say should absolutely rest with the mom. And then he explained all the birth control options. He was a great stake president.

  32. If the goal really is to have as many children as possible, it could be argued that the best way to achieve this is to use birth control to space them appropriately. Most women who have 3 or 4 children back to back with no break in between will burn out, whereas having 2 years or more in between might allow for more total years of childbearing.

    Of course, I don’t think maximum baby output should be the goal. Each family will be different. We have an only child right now (4 years old). I get asked about it frequently, and I’m always glad I can blame it on infertility. What I don’t tell people is that even if we were super fertile I don’t think we’d be doing things much differently.

  33. Just a caveat to Br. Jones and Cid. I agree with the financial consideration part, however I have some disagreement with “minding my own business”. I am very glad that my Dad intervened on some stupid decisions that I was about to make once. As an adult my Dad really can’t stop me from doing something I am set on, and experience bears this out, but his efforts to take me to task verbally has kept me out of at least one pot hole, looking back. I don’t think parents should try and excercise control over their Children in the authoritative manner they might while raising them in their home, however their consultative influence should not be withheld either, that includes the necessity of sometimes getting into their “business”. If I felt my Son or Daughter were making a mistake in their marriages, they will get my opinion, emphatically, however they must then ultimately make their own decisions, such as when to have Children. I can’t see myself really pressing them to have Children, if they appear ready but for some reason are waiting. I can see myself however, discouraging them from having children if the appear determined but unready. Bear in mind that when unready people have Children, the responsibility quite come extends quiter onerously to other people, particularly the supportive Grand Parents.

  34. We’ve been married less than a year, use the pill, and plan on keeping things this way for a couple of years (until my wife gets close to finishing school, at which point we’ll prayerfully consider starting a family.

  35. #37 – You make a good point, Cowboy.

    Incidentally, I am not the same person as Bro. Jones, although he seems like a reasonable fellow.

  36. Post

    #40 – interesting. Although this could just be a minimalist approach to health care. Every employer is providing less and less these days as health care spirals out of control. Still, it seems birth control would fit into “preventive” health care – since pregnancy is considered an “illness” (or was by our insurance when I had my last kid). It certainly had many qualities of an illness. 🙂

  37. Warning: cynical comment

    So is this a really important issue because of the Adam/Eve commandment, or because it is a lot easier to raise a mormon than it is to convert one?

    Are we responsible not only for replacing ourselves, but also having enough children to make up for the ones that will leave?

  38. Post
  39. You left out an option on “How much inspiration…” question. There should be a choice for “I was inspired by my hormones.”

  40. Post

    I noticed no one commented on my subversive link to the Onion article if you click on the word “Catholics” above. I feel compelled to point out the Easter egg in this case. It’s about abortion, not birth control, but it was pretty funny.

  41. This is actually a great subject matter to illustrate how much the teachings of Church leaders evolve greatly over time, though I would be hesitant to say they keep up with the times.

    Consider this simple timeline, based on Hawkgrrrl’s post:

    1916 – Joseph F. Smith describes the use of birth control as “one of the most heinous crimes.”

    1972 Harold B. Lee calls it “a grievous sin before God” to use BC. Harsh, but not quite on par with “heinous crime.”

    1979 – Spencer W. Kimball uses the term “extreme selfishness.” A relative softball compared to past statements.

    1995 – OK, so J. Ballard is a lightweight next Church presidents, but the softening is still apparent. It is now “contradictory to this covenant,” which seems a lawyerly way of saying ‘we think it’s wrong, but won’t say that outright anymore.”

    2009 – It’s devolved all the way from a “heinous sin” to “a private matter for the husband and wife.”

    Who says we don’t believe in evolution? 🙂

  42. Interesting stuff, Hawkgrrrl. Thanks for posting about this. I find it particularly interesting to see the changing counsel over time as the Brethren seem to have kind of thrown up their hands at trying to regulate birth control, after clearly being appalled by it earlier.

    I really like your comments (#13,14), SW Clark. I might run on a tangent from one of them… As you point out, children are actually a net cost (economically) now, where they used to be a net benefit. This suggests that perhaps we now love and value our children far more than people in the past did when children were a net economic benefit. After all, when they’re a benefit to you, how do you separate your motives for having them–economic benefit and love? But now, things are much clearer. We have kids in spite of the fact that they’re costly. So our motives are purer. 🙂

    Rico (#26), thanks for the pointer. Tracy, when I first started reading your comment, I also laughed and wondered what business your bishop was running out of your uterus. Perhaps a book distribution like gst’s mom (see the last paragraph in the linked post).

    Finally, brjones and Bro. Jones, it’s nice to have that cleared up. I’ve enjoyed comments by both of you a great deal, and I’ve occasionally wondered if you were the same person.

  43. I find it very interesting and a little disheartening that so many responders here say they would not consult with their bishop on matters of birth control or bearing of children. Have they forgotten that when they got married it was a 3-way agreement? Husband, Wife and God. If God is part of the pact, then what’s the matter of discussing important family matters with God’s representative in their ward? All he will do is give counsel from God’s Church’s policy. If you honestly are afraid to discuss these matters with your bishop because it’s “none of his business” (as so many responders have said), then in essence you’re saying, “Our family decisions are to be made by me and my spouse alone”. It sounds like you’re leaving God out. “But” you say, “we prayed about our decision”. So you have faith to pray, but you don’t have faith that God can reveal his will through his ordained servant the Bishop?

    Yes, I find it very interesting.

    Me? My (34-year old) wife and I have 7 children. When we announced the first few pregnancies, the responses were congratulating and filled with excitement. The responses with the last few were more like masked disappointment. And of course, the FIRST question everyone asks now is, “Are you done?”. What can we say? We can tell them how we feel right now, but we can’t tell them how we will feel two or three years from now. And we can’t tell them how God feels about it. We have to involve him in these decisions of eternal importance. It’s a decision we can’t make based on current social norms or what the “Joneses” think. So are we done? Perhaps. I don’t know. I haven’t spent time praying and pondering the question in the temple yet. But I won’t make any permanent decisions now.

    Yes, I agree it’s a personal decision that needs to be made by each couple with God’s input in the matter. I hope I haven’t come across as judgmental. Everyone’s situation is different. I just felt like I should speak up because it sounded like many folks were saying that the decision lies in the hands of only 2 of the 3 partners in the marriage agreement. And doesn’t getting God’s input include listening to the counsel of his ordained leaders?

  44. #52 Just curious if you think that the Amish belief/practice of ending the formal education of their children after the 8th grade is a rational, moral, or ethical practice? Or, if you believe that the voice of the Lord came to you and directed you to sacrifice one of your children, would you follow through with it? If you believe the OT, have you stoned any of your children lately when they are disobedient? If you answered no to any of these, why is it that you can identify which impressions, practices, or commandments to ignore or rationalize away and not see how others can do the same with the obsolescence of mandating a third party into your marital affairs?

  45. #53

    reductio ad absurdum (?sp) arguments are polarizing and not helpful. Feeling guided by the spirit in how many children to have can’t be compared with stoning your children. Try again.

  46. Re #52: I already feel sorry for those in the Bishopric. They sacrifice so much time from their families and work to help others. What a burden to also have to council with every couple on their birth control decisions. FWIW my husband just came into the room and read your comment and said in essence “be a man” and make your own decisions and don’t burden the Bishop with your decisions.

  47. #54 why can’t irrational choices be compared with equally irrational choices? Do you think that a woman’s health typically improves during or after every pregnancy? Has a woman ever died as a result of pregnancy/giving birth when they felt it was an obligation to have more children? I fail to see the absurdity in comparing that to irrationality stoning you own child. If you don’t like one of the choices, pick the simple Amish one and explain why it is OK for #52 to use rationality to identify and abandon (either literally or via moving the principle/event into a metaphor e.g. the flood) aspects of a theology that are absurd and obsolescent, and not do the same for intruding into the intimate affairs of individuals.

  48. #56 “intruding into the intimate affairs of individuals.”

    the point is that many people (including myself) believe that a marriage covenant isn’t between just two individuals, but two individuals and God. Thus, there is a valid point as to inquiring of the Lord about how to govern all aspects of your relationship, including having children.

    My previous post about not going to the Bishop is based in the idea that as parenting is most disruptive to my wife, then to me, I believe that answers to prayers about whether or not we should have more children will come to my wife and then to me. I would like to think that this follows the spirit of revelation comes to those who have authority/jurisdiction over the topic of revelation. The parents always have first and foremost say in the affairs of the family.

  49. #56

    If your agrument at its base is that relying on the “Spirit” to make decisions is inherently flawed, then we can discuss that. It’s a bit of a threadjack but ok. But falling back on what’s in the mosiaic law or what you find repugnant in someone elses religion, or what Abraham almost did to Isaac is beside the point. If you feel someone elses religion or their moral principles ar “absurd or obsolescent” that’s fine but you need to recognize it as your opinion and not fact. If the result of someone’s decision is not to your liking or offends your moral sensibility, that’s your opinion but not a violation of some eternal law. Those decisions are for God and the legal system to make. I feel bad when someone with a large family feels criticism as much as when someone is condemned for having few children. People are responsible for their own choices. It’s called agency and none of my business.

    Getting back to my first point. I have, at times, had a lot of problems with someone who says that God or the Spirit told them to do something, especially when it seems to make no sense. And because of my own personal experiences or lack of them, I am inherently distrustful of those claims. But as long as those decisions are not illegal or place innocents in harms way, it’s not for me to judge or interfer. If whether or not there is a Spirit or whether or not God hears and answers prayers is what you have a problem with and that people are silly to use that as the reason for their actions, then discuss that and skip the other stuff about stoning/Moses/Abraham/Joshua, etc. And with that, I grant you the last word.

  50. I don’t necessarily have an objection to the notion of seeking God’s input in important decisions, I’m just not sure that a Bishop is any more qualified to access God’s input in these matters than his ward members. I think that this perspective holds for even a Mormon point of view, since we believe that every member has equal access, based on their faithfullness, to God’s divine influence. Personally I have a hard time seeing Bishops as more than just my neighbors, and I just don’t include my neighbors/Bishops in the important non-ecclesiastical affairs of my life. I think I have a better stance on what is good for me and my family than they do. I think this is particularly poignant given the timeline of Church opinion already discussed in this post which demonstrates a complete shift in ecclesiastical opinion (see comment #49). Based on this information it would appear that God has either changed his mind, loosened his opinion, or HIS opinion was never given to Church leaders. If the latter is the case (which I think represents the majority opinion here, particularly given the problematic implications of the first two options), then it is safe to conclude that seeking a Bishops opinion is more likely to render a damaging perspective which the member may take too seriously as the will of God, to the disregard of their own/better informed inclinations as to what is good for them. Given this, a couple seeking Gods input through prayer without consulting a Bishop, seems the prudent thing to do.

  51. Post

    Ziff & SW Clark (#13, #14, #51) – Funny you should call out the economic factor because in my original draft I had inserted a snarky parenthetic comment into Sis. Beck’s statement about how sweatshops were still thriving in parts of the world, making children a valuable commodity in those regions. But yes, my thought was the same you have pointed out.

    I’m surprised anyone is surprised that people would not take their birth control decisions to their bishop. Even the current counsel on does not suggest this. When considering abortion or sex reassignment operation, consult your bishop. We are consistently taught that we shouldn’t need to be “commanded in all things” and that leaders should “teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” The only reason, IMO, that the CHI gives a guideline is to bail out the bishops who oversee individuals who can’t make these kinds of decisions for themselves.

    As for bishops being God’s local representative, do have a care how you throw those words around. Bishops have hearts of gold (for the most part) and are great guys, but let’s not set them up for a fall. It’s a temporary 5-year calling, and there are about 32,000 bishops in the world at any given time. They can’t all be winners. Just sayin’.

  52. Looking at the specimen cup that was to be used to determine whether I needed surgery to correct a condition that could impair fertility, an unusual reality sank in. The specimen that was requested, of course, was not urine. In order to produce a specimen, a practice frowned upon by the church would be required. Nevertheless, if I wanted to keep the commandment of multiplying and replenishing the earth, then the test would give information that would enhance my future ability to do so.

    In a moment of Seinfeldian comedy, I looked in the mirror and said, “Masturbation!? To keep the commandments!?” (Throwing the right hand and left hand out with each considered argument). “Well, if we have to, we have to.”

  53. #52-

    “And doesn’t getting God’s input include listening to the counsel of his ordained leaders?”

    I think in many things this does apply, but I do not believe it applies in matters of birth control. I would think the only time a couple would need to receive counsel from their bishop in regard to birth control is when one or both are unwilling to have children for selfish reasons (i.e. they don’t want children to interfere with their comfortable life, etc.). Otherwise, I think members are more than capable of receiving revelation from the Lord in relation to their family without the input of the bishop. Bishops are so very different from one another and this can make a big difference in the counsel one might receive as well. One can be very relaxed about things and another can be very authoritarian in nature. I have seen situations that are similar in nature be treated very differently by different bishops enough to know that their personalities have a significant amount to do with what they “hear” from God. I don’t mean to say that they aren’t called of God, but they don’t always give the best counsel. Most of them aren’t trained in the matters they deal with and they are just doing the best they can. It is our responsibility to find out what the Lord would have us do and not run to the bishop everytime we can’t figure it out. Remember, the bishop has a family that he has to care for in addition to everyone else in the ward.

  54. I think another useful data point is the number of children each apostle has (after all, THEY wouldn’t do things “contrary to the covenants,” right?”)


    Packer- 10

    (Hinckley-5; Hunter-3; Benson-8)

    Evidently, having children is important, but whether that’s two or twelve iis a personal decision. It’s also interesting that younger apostles have smaller families.

    There’s an apocryphal story that Elder Uchdorf spoke at a multi-stake conference in Lehi (arong 2005-06) and said something to the effect of “I don’t understand why you feel obligated to have so many kids.” Can anyone in the blogosphere confirm this?

    By the way, the church never disavows any past statements. It just issues a contradictory statement, and expects us to figure it out.

  55. I’m sort of late to the discussion here, but I will throw in my 2 cents…

    My hubby and I are both 30 and have 1 child. I have an IUD, and we consider ourselves “done”. In about 3 years I will need to go back to the doctor to get a new IUD. I don’t care what the church does or doesn’t teach about this, I feel good with my decision. I may change my mind to have a second child, and I reserve that right.

    We made our decision to have our 1 child under strong peer pressure from our ward – hence, we have had “more children than we were inspired to”. The pressure was intense, I am a convert, so I was quite easily pressured, especially with reminders from fellow ward members about the church’s “stance” on BC. For the record, my DH did not feel good about the decision, but he prayed about it for over a year until his “heart was softened”. I feel kinda bad about that, in a Martin Harris “ask the Lord again” sort of way. I had a hard labor, and our son almost died as a result. I developed post-partum depression and OCD. Turns out the OCD was an underlying condition that I was never aware of until I was pregnant. Our son is almost three, and we are probably the only couple in our ward with only 1 child over 2 – everyone else has had their second and some are pregnant with their third.

    We are very vocal about being done – or at least waiting several years – and I have even been questioned strongly by my Bishop about it. My labor/post-partum experience wasn’t so extreme that I couldn’t go through it – carefully, with better decisions this time – again. Perhaps some day.

    Anyway, in my experience, the local pressure to “multiply and replenish” is still strong. On the other hand, there also seems to be a sentiment that the “magic number” of kids is 4-5 before mom turns 30, and then she is done. I am not sure if anyone else has seen this? More than 5 and you are crazy, less than 4 and you are “limiting your family” and will “reap sorrow by and by”.

  56. Madam Curie, I’m curious as to where this happened? I wonder if the pressure is more intense in mostly mormon communities as opposed to elsewhere.

  57. Wow. That’s my ward too — East Coast, bigish city, inner city ward. I’m sorry you got that pressure. Stick to your guns, and tell others to mind their own business.

  58. There wasn’t an answer I liked for #4. When I got engaged, my mom set up a Dr. appt for me so I could get on birth control. I don’t remember even ever discussing it (although we might have)- it’s just what we did in our family- and it seemed to be what all my friends did too. My mom also had no problem talking to me about getting her tubes tied, so it seemed normal to me- I had no idea it wasn’t (at least at the time in mormon culture) until I was an adult.

    I only have sons so far, so perhaps my involvement will be less, but I’ll talk to my kids about what we did, and hopefully by the time they’re ready to get married themselves, they’ll know enough and be comfortable enough with their options that it won’t be a big deal.

  59. Post

    I haven’t really had any direct pressure from anyone regarding decisions about having kids, but I have noticed the tendency of strong active Mormons to settle on 4 kids lately. Honestly, I’ve seen the same thing among my Catholic friends, too – 3 kids in Mormonism or Catholicism is the “average” number – like 2 kids is to those outside our religions (one boy and one girl preferably). I think those that have 4 just like even numbers.

  60. I think those that have 4 just like even numbers.

    My DH’s patriarchial blessing talks about having “boys and girls”. He always took that to mean he would have at least 4 kids – 2 girls, 2 boys.

  61. I have a relative whose blessing mentioned sons and daughters. They currently have 4 girls and one boy and are wondering if son and daughters is close enough.

    I must like even numbers…

  62. Our ward is so heavily skewed toward retirement age people, there seems to be little interest in growing families within the ward. It’s more like, “oh another baby on the way, well how nice (just don’t call me back into the primary).”

  63. My wife and I very recently had our 4th child. Prior to getting pregnant with the 4th late last year, my wife was very intent on having another, and I was relatively ambivalent, although I knew that I didn’t want more than that. My wife has unbelievably difficult pregnancies (months of pick lines IVs, bed rest, etc.) Soon after she became pregnant, she came to the realization that one of the major reasons she had wanted to have another child was due to peer pressure from family and friends. In fairness, I don’t think most of it was overt, but she is a convert and has always felt the pressure of what a “good wife and mother in zion” should do. Along with this realization came the realization that she didn’t really want another child. 3 was already a handful, and on top of that, she was facing months of debilitating sickness with 3 children to deal with. It ended up being her most difficult pregnancy, both physically and emotionally. I would definitely agree that there still exists a great deal of social pressure within mormon culture to continue to have children. The sentiment I’ve heard most often is that as opposed to people being prayerful about when to have children, they just continue to have them until they receive some kind of signal from god that it’s time to stop. I frequently hear people say “we just knew we were done.” During the prime baby-making period, though, I think there are a great deal of members who give it very little thought.

  64. My experience has been that as we made more money (job promotions, etc.) we were pressured from some family members to have more children because we could “afford” it. Having family members tell you how many kids you should have seems like it could be right up there with having the bishop get involved in your family planning. I figure if all these people want to be a part of my family planning, they should sign a pre-me-having-a-baby contract saying how much time they will babysit and support the child. If that doesn’t interest them, then I believe they should close the old trap (and leave it shut!).

  65. Madam Curie-

    I can see it now, “Sister so and so seems like she could pop out at least a few more, let’s put it to a vote!” haha

  66. Since this topic appears past I imagine that most will not see this post, but since I was on a cruise while the main discussion was going on and really to make myself feel better I thought I would add.

    My wife and I use birth control. I joke that if I look at my wife without protection that she gets pregnant (the thought of the rythm method terrifies me) but, while we are done having children neither of us have discussed permanent options to preventing further kids. Not necessarily against it just not sure I am interested.

    I will discuss birth control and waiting to have children for a bit after marriage with my kids. I will give them advice on what I feel is best and, then I will allow them to do what they choose. I often consult with my parents on important decisions in my life. In most cases they have been there done that and I have always received good advice.

    I do not believe it is my responsibility to put my children through a university education. While they are in High School I will support them in obtaining good grades and doing all they can to obtain scholarships to pay for their university education. If they choose to attend school locally they can live in my house and I will feed them, but paying for school is their deal. Education is a privelege not a right. I know it is important and believe that all my kids will get an undergrad degree and in some cases maybe more. I do not buy into the society driven idea that it is mine or anyone elses responsibility to provide one for them.

    I think when to have children and how many children to have is between a Husband and Wife. I also believe that if I feel inspired to have a child, that in being obedient by doing so, I will be blessed in such a way that I will be able to support that child in all aspects of their life (Financially, spiritually, emotionally, etc.).

  67. 52: Uhhh.. Husband, Wife, God, and the Bishop is 4 not 3. And if you understand how prayer and personal revelation work then you know that one doesn’t have to consult the bishop on every decision just because he’s called of God. You CAN get answers yourselves… “You took no thought save it was to ask me” seems to come to mind. In the very same comment in which you say that you should include the bishop or at least not seem so outright upset about the idea… you go on to say ..

    “So are we done? Perhaps. I don’t know. I haven’t spent time praying and pondering the question in the temple yet. But I won’t make any permanent decisions now”

    So you are praying about this and not consulting your bishop? Just clarifying. He -is- God’s representative as you stated.

    The scriptures CLEARLY lay out how to get answers and if you are stumped and want counsel from a bishop – go for it – absolutely – ask for a blessing, but REMEMBER the poor man has a lot on his plate and there are probably a lot bigger fish to fry in the ward than our fertility decisions.


    AS for personal feelings on this matter, When I got married and had an interview with both bishop and stake president for a temple recommend I was counseled to pray and consult with my husband and the Lord about matters of children, when, and how many both. Since the covenant is between these three alone, it is between these three alone that the answers and decisions on children should be determined. Asking your Bishop for counsel will give you some guidance, a blessing would be even better, but neither is required because prayer and personal revelation usually cover it well. In my life the Lord has not been silent concerning my prayers about children, something so important and central to his entire focus on Earth.

    My personal experience was that my father sat me down to talk to me (a stake president at the time) and told me that this was between husband, wife, and the Lord. He told me I should pray about it, and do as commanded that way. I did pray about it, as did my husband, and the answer we received was to have faith and begin our family, and so long as we were obedient in this regard, a way would be provided to provide for them. And it was, and still is. We now have three children, all sons. My husband is still finishing his bachelor’s degree, and has one year left. I have had a miscarriage that wreaked a lot of havoc on my body as well as severe PPD and two surgeries relating to pregnancy induced issues. We still do believe that there will be a way provided. we have never gone hungry, never failed to meet our bills and obligations, lived providently and wisely, paid our tithing, and never needed assistance from the church either. We do not make a great deal, but the plan is that we will shortly.. enough to support what family we are asked to have in this life. My husbands Patriarchal blessing tells him so, and we have faith in that. In the interrum between children I have had to resort to IUD’s though because no other method works for us, and I am so fertile that I would spend my entire life pregnant (which would be bad for us financially as well as for me emotionally and physically) and miserable. We prayed about the decision each time we have done so.. and know we have made the right choices.

    The prophets give revelation based on their time as the leader and spokesman for Christ’s church and what counsel is needed AT THAT TIME. I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone that there have been changes in doctrine through LDS history based on situation for that time and that generation. So while some have appeared to be stringent, and others not as much… if you notice the trend changes with changing times. 1916 was a vastly different world from the here and now, and thus the counsel would be based upon that time frame in which it was spoken.

    On the the topic of surgical procedures, it is also up to the same decision making process as having children. I will not, and do not look down upon those who choose to do so.

    My mother had 7 children and even in that generation 7 is a lot. She would get comments all the time about “honey don’t you know by now how this happens?” and her response was always lighthearted, “Yes! why do you think I have so many?” but in reality, they prayed each and every time and they did so at the end as well, leaving open the possibility for an 8th, but there was no more spirits that would come, and that was as it needed to be.

    I know a lot of people who swear up and down that one HAS TO BE reliant entirely upon themselves and have certain degrees of financial security to have a child, or how much is to be provided for the child and so forth, but in reality I think this is not so much determined by our financial status as it is our spiritual one. It is not prudent to have so many children that the mother cannot be able to take care of them, the father cannot support them, and life falls apart, but sometimes in order to prevent such measures (because procreation happens whether we intend to have children or not… ie pregnant teens) we need to use what methods are available to us and work for our individual situation.

  68. “Education is a privelege not a right. I know it is important and believe that all my kids will get an undergrad degree and in some cases maybe more. I do not buy into the society driven idea that it is mine or anyone elses responsibility to provide one for them.”

    If I understand correctly then I agree with the premise of this comment, and yet disagree with the conclusion. I also don’t buy into the school of thought that suggests Children should be able to continue in total dependency until the completion of college. At the same time, why wouldn’t you want to arm your children with one of the single greatest differentiators between success and mediocrity that society can offer. I think there are fewer things that you can give your child that is of more worth. Just my thoughts.

  69. So I came across this blog discussion, and am attempting to make my contribution 5+ years after the last comment prior to this is dated.

    Scanning through the above comments, several thoughts come to mind. One is this, regarding what GBSmith says: If someone tries to persuade another to do or not do something, that is not in any way, necessarily, interfering in another person’s agency. Even father Lehi talks about there being a need, in order for anyone to truly be able to exercise their agency, to be enticed one way or another.

    Also, so much that I find in regards to the subject of having children on ‘Mormon’ type blogs so much typically seems to mirror by most commenting what I view as a worldly view, and not a Godly one.

    Yes, Abraham and Sarah had but one child. However, I’m sure that if they could have, they would have had more—likely many more!

    Ditto in regards to Isaac and Rebeckah. They, of course, had but two.

    And, lastly, while Jacob or Israel had 12 sons total, and only 1 daughter, the “load” (in pregnancies and bearing the children) was among two wives and two concubines, or four women). Leah bore exactly half of the children herself, or six. Rachel bore the last two, but I am gathering at some “advanced” age, whatever that may have been. And, to be sure, she literally gave her life in bearing the second of those two, Benjamin.

    All three of the matriarchs to these godly men (hence, we must assume they are godly women, since they’d pretty much have to be, for their husbands to have reached godhood—and the only ones we have been told explicitly are now already so, other than the trio in the Godhead), had difficulty getting pregnant, to begin with. So I wonder what their honest viewpoints of most of the comments made on these blogs would genuinely be.

    Personally, I believe that what God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish (or refill) the earth…” with, of course, babies, was when He sealed those two, for both time and all eternity.

    Why? Because, it parallels what I myself heard in a certain place. And, so often, like in many commandments God has given, I have the propensity to figuratively stare at those others who receive these commandments from God, likewise, and then listen to them discuss at length, the minutiae of them considering and even “praying” about if, whether, and when they should basically “obey”!

    You see, if Nephi followed the ‘logic’ one reads/hears on these blogs, he might have said, “I will go and do the thing which the Lord commmanded me, after I have discussed, and knelt and prayed at length over whether God meant me, and now, and always, or just if I felt like it, or didn’t seem pressured at all by anyone else to do it, because then, of course, my rebelious streak would kick in, and then I definitely wouldn’t, because then, you see, it’s not really just my choice, but other people trying to annoy me into submission!”

    “Further, for I know that He giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall put other people all around them who will annoy the h*ll out of them, and try to brow beat them into doing it, making them wish they’d never even been told to do it, because then you absolutely never want to do it, because that’s pressure, and that is too much like how I suppose Satan would do it!”

    “So, I like ‘smooth’ gods, like some guy who said he was “the god of this earth”, who said I was doing his will, because I was doing my will! And we know, god, that if my will be done, then thy will, for sure, is done. Because thou art a god who whispers into my ear, what I want to hear, and will scratch my itchy ears by telling me reassuring, and non-agency infringing things!”

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