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beast by the Creator was to ‘multiply and replenish the earth;’ and I have not learned that this commandment was ever repealed.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.
- lds.org (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:
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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.