Sunday, January 9, 2011

LDS Church's Stance on Tubal Ligations, Vasectomies, and Hysterectomies

A few weeks ago I finished writing the family planning section for the book I am working on. In preparation for it I did a lot of research on the LDS church's teachings on birth control and family planning. I rounded up dozens and dozens of quotes from church leaders throughout the years. It was an eye opening experience for me and has really changed the way I view my family. One of the things I learned that I wasn't aware of before is the church's stance on sterilization as a form of birth control (this includes tubal ligation, vasectomies, and hysterectomies performed for non-medical reasons).

In the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions (which has recently been put online) it says this about surgical sterilization as a form of birth control:
"The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if 1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or 2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgement and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer. " Source
I also found that many leaders have made strong statements and warnings about sterilization and birth control. Here are just a few of the ones I found:

Prophet Spencer W. Kimball said,
"We marry for eternity. We are serious about this. We become parents and bring wanted children into the world and rear and train them to righteousness. We are aghast as the reports of young people going to surgery to limit their families and the reputed number of parents who encourage this vasectomy. Remember that the coming of the Lord approaches, and some difficult-to-answer questions will be asked by a divine Judge who will be hard to satisfy with silly explanations and rationalizations. He will judge justly, you may be sure." (General Conference, October 1974)

Prophet Ezra Taft Benson said,
"'Consider these words seriously when you think of those political leaders who are promoting birth control and abortion: "O my people they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." (Isaiah 3:12). Let me warn the sisters in all seriousness that you who submit yourselves to an abortion or to an operation that precludes you from safely having additional healthy children are jeopardizing your exaltation and your future membership in the kingdom of God." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.541)
Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said,
"Now I wish to ask a question: How will a young married couple feel when they come to the judgement and discover that there were certain spirits assigned to them and they refused to have them? Moreover, what will be their punishment when they discover that they have failed to keep a solemn covenant and spirits awaiting this mortal life were forced to come elsewhere when they were assigned to this particular couple?" (Conference Report, Oct. 1965, p. 29)
"I regret that so many young couples are thinking today more of successful contraceptives than of having a posterity. They will have to answer for their sin when the proper time comes and actually may be denied the glorious celestial kingdom." (Conference Report, October 1943, p. 30)
and Elder J. Ballard Washburn said,
".. 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." ("The Temple is a Family Affair", General Conference, April 1995)
These are just a few of the quotes I found about sterilization and birth control. There are many, many more, some of which are stronger and more powerful than these ones. These quotes were so interesting to me because I know so many active LDS women and men, whom I would still consider to be fairly young, who have already been surgically sterilized. It is actually quite common among the LDS couples I associate with (I live in a conservative Utah town) and many couples are public with the fact that they are "done" having children. It is not my place to judge another person's choices-- and I won't. I understand that I don't live in another person's body, life, or marriage and such important eternal decisions aren't mine to make. I also realize that many times sterilization isn't a choice and that because of health problems, c-section complications, cancer, and various other reasons women and men have to have such procedures done. There are circumstances that are beyond our control and God understands that.

Still, finding this information brought up some questions for me:

Are most LDS couples aware that this is the church's stance on sterilization and that the only time elective sterilization is acceptable, from a spiritual standpoint, is because of health problems or mental incompetence? Does this, or would it, influence their decisions?

Why do you think purposely choosing to close your gateway from heaven is something which has eternal consequences and is serious enough that one should consult with priesthood authority before doing it?

If you, or someone you know, has gone through sterilization how was the choice made? What guidance or spiritual insight would you give to someone thinking about one of these procedures?

I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts. Yet as you leave comments please remember that not everyone has the same marriage, body, testimony or is in the the same stage of life or situation you are. Please be kind and considerate of other people when you comment.

58 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have wondered about this and have sincerely been trying to find any guidance in this matter. I have prayed and searched. I have always been unsuccessful in finding direct quotes. These quotes solidify the personal revelation I have received.

    I am really looking forward to your book. :-)

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  2. I found your post enlightening, as usual. Thank you! I have always felt that surgical sterilization would be appropriate in times of threat to the mother's health.

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  3. I was sterilized at 26 after having four children in five years, the last three being c-sections. Because I was worried about my decision my stake pres. told me, "Your body wasn't meant to be continuously cut open and stitched shut." It gave me reassurance that I did the right thing for OUR family. Every family is different though so go about it like everything else in life- with a lot of prayer and priesthood guidance.

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  4. My husband and I studied this topic in detail a while ago, and decided that FOR US, it comes down to this; As it states in DC 132:63, "...for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified." The purpose of the new and everlasting covenant that we make in the temple at marraige is to continue the work of the Father - bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Bearing children is our part in that. Combine that with the many quotes we found from the prophets, we feel that if we are not ready for the responsibility of a child in marriage, abstinence is the method preferred by the Lord in preventing such. We know that the relationship between a husband and wife is also for creating a bond and holy union, but that with that blessing comes great responsibility. We feel deeply that this method does not take anything away from our agency, but also helps us to rely on the Lord as we should. To really, truly have faith in his plan, and know that He is at the helm.

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  5. Ooh birth control. This is one area where the world has really creeped into LDS culture. So many women I know think of it as their 'right' to limit the amount of children they have and control when they have them. So many women look down on those who have 6 or more children, and mock them.

    I am one of those women. I always thought birth control was my right-and how dare the prophets try to counsel me otherwise. I joined in the mocking. Then I started my journey to really gaining a testimony and to realizing that it was this simple: either they are prophets and they speak for God or they don't. I can't pick and choose the counsel I'll follow and still keep my testimony. I have to obey all of it. And that has led to such sweet peace. Gaining a testimony of motherhood has opened my heart and made my life so much happier and joyful.

    When my husband and I got married we arbitrarily decided on four children. It's a nice round number and that's why we picked it. But what does Heavenly Father have in mind for us? And shouldn't we be open to His wisdom instead of trying to close it in our pride? Because isn't that what birth control is all about? Putting our will over God's? It says it right there: control. Who knows maybe God only wants us to have four children. Or maybe just one, or maybe 11. But we won't know unless we humble ourselves enough to really ask-and not offer Him some arbitrary number and ask if that's okay.

    These are just my thoughts on the matter, and they have been 4 1/2 years in the making-4 years of using birth control to prevent babies and 1/2 a year pregnant-so really what do I know at this point?

    Birth control is so insidious partly because it makes us view children as a burden the world can free us from instead of a blessing-an heritage from the Lord.

    I'm still not sure how we'll handle birth control when the baby gets here. Will we use it until we feel 'ready' for another baby? Will we use it for the first year and then stop (it takes a year for the body to rebuild stores in preparation for another pregnancy)? Will we stop all together? I'm not sure-but obviously it's something weighing on my mind and something we need to discuss.

    Sorry for the long comment-apparently I should have made my own post and linked!

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  6. about 3 years ago, my husband and I decided that we were "done". We had 5 kids, that was big enough, right..? He had a vascetomy, without any prayer, fasting or much discussion. Not long after the procedure I started to feel so bad, and then someone told me about what the Bishop's handbook said about it. I was really upset.

    First of all, we made a really bad decision. We didn't do want we should have done before (pray, fasting, study) we limited our family size, and second, why was the church not talking about this? (I now realise, if I would have dug just a little I would have known) All of my friends have had "it" done, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. About a year after the "V" my husband off hand said something like "we should have had 12" (meaning kids) I started to cry and we finally talked. Both of us were uneasy about what we had done. We knew there were more children that needed us.

    We looked into adoption, it just didn't feel right. So we looked into a reversal. We found a Dr in Oklahoma that does reversal for very cheap, he considers it his mission, to reverse the mistakes couple make, so children can be born.

    In August we drove to OK and had the reversal. In Novermber we found out we are pregnant and due in July. We are so happy!

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  7. I don't think I knew the church's position on permanent sterilization until I also saw it in the new online handbook recently. I am glad I know it because I think it communicates how serious the Lord is in these matters.

    I would like to add to the discussion a link to a passage included in the "Eternal Marriage" Manual, written by an LDS gynecologist. http://institute.lds.org/manuals/eternal-marriage-student-manual/a-c-birth-2.asp

    The whole thing is worthy of being read, but here is one quote from it: "But, on the other hand, we need not be afraid of studying the question from important angles—the physical or mental health of the mother and father, the parents’ capacity to provide basic necessities, and so on. If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children—discounting possible medical or physical effects—makes little difference. Abstinence, of course, is also a form of contraception, and like any other method it has side effects, some of which are harmful to the marriage relationship."

    I take this to mean that while permanent sterilization is not advised for most of us, sometimes the use of other birth control methods is appropriate. I personally feel that NFP is a wonderful option that is often overlooked. I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

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  8. I always felt that it was my responsibility and blessing to provide bodies for the spirit children that the Lord had prepared for our family. My pregnancies were very difficult, but I felt blessed to be able to bear children. After having three children, I went through a long period of very poor health. I felt it a miracle that I was able to give birth to our fourth child. However, my health continued to be poor. I always felt that there was a little boy to come to our family (we had four daughters.) However, after much prayer, my husband and I decided that it was better to have four children and mother to raise them, than to try for five children and possibley not have a mother survive. I mourned over a loss that I never even had. I finally felt at peace that this little boy would come as a grandson. Many years passed and when I was in my 40's--SURPRISE-- I was pregnant. I wasn't sure if I would make it through a pregnancy at an older age. (It had been hard enough when I was in my 20's.) But, the Lord strengthened me and our son was born. During my pregnancy, I seriously pondered and prayed (fasting was not an option during pregnancy) about whether to have a tubal litigation. My husband and I talked it over and prayerfully made the decision to go through with that. I felt that the Lord had given me the strength to bring this child into our home. But, that there were no other children prepared for us. If I were to get pregnant again, I felt I would be on my own. My health was a serious concern. We felt at peace that I had brought forth the children the Lord had prepared and that he was pleased with my offering. Our son is a wonderful blessing. I am so glad that the door was open for him to come to our home. Often the Lord has blessings planned for us that we don't have planned ourselves. If we trust in him, we will be blessed beyond our expectations.

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  9. Interesting topic, thanks for posting.

    I have enjoyed reading all of your responses. I commend you for your faith, it is inspiring!

    I do, however, think, that a very important quote has been left out in this discussion:

    I don't have the direct quote, but President Hinckley did say the following (in response to a mother asking him whether Mormon women were supposed to be barefoot and pregnant all the time). He said something to this effect: We are commanded to have children. But Heavenly Father has not commanded a certain amount, nor has he commanded how to space them. It is up to the couple how many children they have, and when they welcome them into their family. (I think this is also stated in the new Priesthood Manual.)

    This quote seems to me to clearly indicate that birth control is okay. Sterilization et. all may not be, as is clearly stated, but birth control in general is.

    Which leads me to the question, though:

    Is there one type of birth control preferred over the other? Condoms over pills? Patch over IUD?

    I really doubt Heavenly Father wants a married couple to be abstinent.

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  10. Isa,
    I understand your doubt....for us though it's right. You don't have to abstain all the time, really only a few days out of the month; obviously that leaves room for "mistakes" that I DO NOT believe are true mistakes, as we have had one of those ourselves. I know in hindsight that God knew better there!

    I also have read many quotes like the one you listed. I don't think they're in conflict with the earlier statements by the prophets that are more clear on the matter. You can be prayerful and considerate about the matter and make a conscious choice whether or not to bring a child into the world without using today's devices. My two cents!

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  11. I really appreciate this post, and have been pondering on it all morning.

    While I'm not quite ready to post a response, I just wondered if you knew that it is tubal LIGATION, not tubal litigation? Just wondering...

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  12. In previous eras, married couples did abstain during certain times; in some cultures for more than two years to give the mother a recovery time and to ensure an extended breastfeeding length--both of which were very important. In our modern day, that sounds so extreme, eh? I would propose, however, that it is our methods in the era that are the extreme.
    One issue with birth control methods is that many are actually abortificants--when a fertilized egg makes it to the uterus(which is quite common from what I understand), they don't allow the egg to "stick" as they otherwise would--and the pregnancy is ended.

    There is a blog somewhere, out there that is called multiplyandreplenish that has many of the quotes by the prophets...let me see if I can find it. http://multiplyandreplenish.blogspot.com/
    Another consideration with BC is the woman's health. The pill BC's deplete the body of much needed nutrients, esp. B vitamins, which are needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. They also disrupt hormones and some women then have trouble getting pregnant after using. Some IUD's are high in copper and can actually cause copper poisoning--I have known someone who had this happen, and my young daughter has had copper poisoning (from elsewhere, obviously)--it is not something to mess with.
    A compelling look at how we differentiate betweenblessings can be found here: http://pursuingtitus2.com/2009/02/12/blessings-but/comment-page-1/#comments
    I know I probably came off strongly, sorry.;-)
    I do think that we must gain a testimony of motherhood and childbearing just as we would any other area in the Gospel.

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  13. I tried to respond earlier, but I don't know what happened to my comment? I apologize if it ends up showing up and I repeat myself.

    This article that is included in the Eternal Marriage institute student manual addresses the question of how to know whether or not to use temporary birth control and if any methods are preferable to others: http://institute.lds.org/manuals/eternal-marriage-student-manual/a-c-birth-2.asp

    I personally really like using fertility charting for child spacing because of the lack of side affects and because I really like knowing more about what is going on with my body, but that is me and what works for me may not work for others.

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  14. I can't help but think that preventing spirits from being able to progress through mortality is probably very helpful to the Enemy's cause. It must be very frustrating to be on the other side waiting for your turn to come down but to have the opportunity denied or delayed because of the choices made by potential parents. The Lord is, of course, forgiving and understanding of individual circumstances that prevent couples from having children, but I somehow think that fear and/or pride are not satisfactory excuses for obstructing another's opportunities for progression.

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  15. I've spent many hours contemplating this situation as well. For me, I have always felt that permenant birth control (vasectomy's and tubal ligations) aren't right. I have seen several couples who rushed into the decision and then later mourned the fact that they couldn't have more children. I never wanted that to be me.

    I also have several friends who have struggled with infertility and I feel like it is so ungrateful to take away my body's ability to bare children when others struggle so hard to have just one.

    I also wonder that when the millenium comes, If I have somehow steralized myself, that I might miss out on the opportunity to bare children during that glorious time.

    My husband and I always discuss how many children we should have (we have four now) and I know that there is at least one more spirit waiting to come to our family. He isn't on board with the idea. I leave it in the Lord's hands to convince him when the time is right.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment!!!!! I have felt the same way about permanent birth control! It just has always felt wrong to me and when people talk about it the spirit isn't there and I feel sick to my stomach. Almost everyone I know who has had it done has regreted it later. Right now we have 3 children with one surprise on the way. We are due in October. All 4 of our kids will be 2 years appart. I am only 26 and my husband 29. I feel that there is at least one more precious little spirit waiting to come down but my husband is convinced that he is done and wants to get a vasectomy. I have been researching and will present the information to him I have found, and he knows I am against it, so hopefully he wont do it!!! I think as long as I am willing to do somekind of birth control he wont get it done. But, after a long heated conversation about having more or not having more he left the room and I felt at peace. I prayed and I felt the Lord telling me that everything will be ok. I will be doing the same thing you are, just pray that if there is another one to please let my husband know, give him a dream or some impression that yes there is another one so he will be willing to have another one! I really enjoyed your comment and love your persepctive and your decision to trust in the Lord to convince him to have more. "I leave it in the Lord's hands to convince him when the time is right". That is perfect and I will be doing the same!!!

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  16. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I think this is an important topic for LDS women to discuss.

    Aimme and Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your stories. They are so inspiring. They remind me a bit of my own mother's story. She had her tubes tied after her 4th child. She was going through a really hard time and was certain she couldn't physically or mentally handle another baby. Years later when my siblings were all together we mentioned how it always has felt like someone was missing. She broke down and said that she knew there was a little boy she was suppose to have but because she wasn't willing to he never came. Sometimes I think my little boy is the boy that was suppose to come.

    Isa, I think the quote you are referring to is this one,

    “The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Cornerstones of a Happy Home [pamphlet, 1984], 6).

    and the Church handbook of Instructions says this about Birth Control:

    It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

    Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.

    I think what I gather from these and in light of all the other quotes I've read-- I believe that what a prophet said 20 or 70 years ago still applies today-- is that birth control is a personal matter but that couples should understand that it is a matter which affects their salvation and that those choices need to be made with fasting, prayer and sincere desire to do the Lord's work and not based off of worldly standards or selfish motives.

    It is interesting that today Segullah had a post called "Is there a magic number" talking about how it seems it the "norm" among LDS couples to have 4 children-- which is true for my ward I can count 10 young couples who were "done" at 4. It is funny that everyone who commented today said that their ideal number was 4. I think sometimes we let cultural expectations and standards make eternal decisions for us when we really should be turning to the Lord.

    Oh and Cali, how embarrassing. I will change my spelling mistake. If you haven't noticed spelling isn't my strong point :)

    Great conversation. I'd love to hear more thoughts.

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  17. What is it about the number of four, as you asked? My fourth child was an extremely difficult baby. I told people we were done, and I meant it. However, when my fourth child was born, my oldest was 5 1/2, and we had been married 6 1/2 years. I think I was mostly burned out, of being pregnant and nursing constantly for most of that time.

    Two years later, I was willing to tell the Lord I'm ready again, if that is the plan for us.

    We have ten children, spread over 20 years. The last five are further spread than the first five. There were some miscarriages along the way.

    All I can say is I am very grateful that we did nothing permanent during that difficult time following child #4.

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  18. Interesting viewpoints by the blogger and others that have commented.

    I think that overall, we as individuals have full rights over our bodies and that consulting with a bishop or other church leader, or even taking seriously, the viewpoints of white, old men is not how we should base decisions we make for OUR bodies.

    I am continually amazed how so many people both in the LDS church and outside of it forfeit or "turn over" their decisions to a a group of old white and in some cases, dead men who lived in a much different time with other challenges.

    I guess if people want to turn over decisions on their bodies to someone else, then that is their prerogative. But as for me myself and I (and my wife), we will make decisions on our own.

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  19. For the record, I’m speaking in generalities here & within MY OWN experiences, not as a result of any particular comment made here.

    As one of those LDS women who elected to be sterilized via a hysterectomy, there are times I get frustrated with others in the Church who have the attitude that putting a square peg into a round hole is the way things ARE meant to be. Square pegs fit better into square holes, and round ones into round holes, don't they?

    Frustrated is a good word because I don’t get offended or even angry. Just frustrated because I sometimes feel that I am unfairly being lumped into that group of women who get elective sterilization for selfish reasons. Others don’t know my body or situation and in reality, they’re the ones who are committing a sin by ignorantly judging my choice to be “electively sterilized.”

    Mental/emotional/physical health is such an important factor--for BOTH parents. Like the one commenter said, it's better to have Mom around to raise four than to have five motherless children.

    I was given the option of a hysterectomy by my OB seven years ago as a piggyback to another procedure and I jumped on it. I knew my family was complete and I was at peace with the decision we made although my husband and I both sometimes wish that my caboose who is nearly 11 had a sibling closer to his age because he is often alone and bored.

    Considering that I’ve had THIRTEEN surgeries since my hysterectomy with two more within the next few months as well as an unknown number more within the next ten years because of a previously unknown and certainly unexpected health problem that hast turned my life upside down, I’m not worried that my Heavenly Father will punish me for the decision to be “electively sterilized” because even then, HE knew what was and is ahead for me. I feel comforted that I made the right decision FOR ME and MY family since He was in on the decision, He is "okay" with it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, it would be nice if everything was always black and white. In reality, it’s not. I believe the key, as others have said, is communication with our spouse, receiving and acting upon personal revelation as well as not assuming that our own personal revelation is meant for anyone else. There are doctrine and/or commandments that are indisputable that we MUST obey to return to Him and then there are others that through no fault or choice of our own, we can’t follow no matter how willing we are to do so and in those situations, we must rely on our personal relationship with God.

    Anyway, that’s just my worthless opinion. *wry chuckle*

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  20. Very interesting.
    Strange how I found your post... I accidentally signed up for Deseret News updates (which I never look at) but I did today. None of the links looked interesting until I saw this one--
    I have definitely been led here.
    I can see both sides of the issue (except Scott- and I guess I can see his perspective as an anti-Mormon or agnostic), and I can tell you that from experience, the people who are getting defensive about the words of the Prophets either have guilt about their choices or have had to defend their actions many times. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it just is.
    If you're LDS and you have a testimony of the Gospel, when a Prophet speaks, you listen. I think most people in the Church have not heard these quotes or their opinions on this subject would change. Thanks for bringing them into the light!

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  21. Personally, I think of surgical methods of birth control as extreme and not really in the same category as condoms, the pill, etc. It's just seems so permanent.

    My three boys came after years of infertility and more fertility treatments than I would have liked. After years of hoping and having hopes crushed, I find myself so grateful for my three rowdy, wrestling, mess-makers. I have only three because age has closed that door for me. I am not one to judge other's choices, either. But from my perspective, I can't wrap my head around not wanting more kids. I would absolutely have more if I could.

    Every family is different, and many of my friends were very vocal in announcing that they were DONE. That's their business, not mine. I have wondered about the surgical procedures and how the church felt about them, though. I appreciated your research.

    I also read the Segullah article, and have to agree. LDS families are definitely shrinking.

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  22. This is a topic I feel strongly about. I'm one who has had health problems and has felt that it was important to preserve my health and so we have not had any more children in the past 9 years. But we have not felt right about permanent birth control solutions.

    That said, Sister Snoopy, I don't think your opinion is worthless at all. I think we can acknowledge that there may be situations where permanent solutions may end up being right for some couples, and God can guide couples about that topic. But I think it's important to still look at the rule, the guidelines, the doctrine, and I think that is what this post is about. It is all too easy to let cultural norms and attitudes creep in. That is why we have prophets to keep giving us guideposts as we seek to make decisions of eternal import.

    On the flip side, I have never felt that throwing the baby out with the bathwater (no pun intended) with all birth control is appropriate, either. We do have consistent teaching about the doctrine and the commandment to multiply and replenish. We now have access to very clear counsel about permanent birth control. But I do not think that these things constitute absolute condemnation of hormonal birth control, and I think we ought not use Church leaders' counsel to try to justify something that I do think crosses into the 'personal choice' category. I think any condemnation of birth control that we have seen through the years is more about selfish and short-sided attitudes than it is about temporary methods. (And that is coming from someone who has chosen not to use hormonal bc, so I'm not trying to justify my own choices. I do think people can wisely and prayerfully and unselfishly use birth control in a 'wisdom and order' kind of a way with God's help, even as I do believe we have to be careful not to use it with selfish motives (either about family planning or about sexual 'rights' or 'needs' trumping spiritual health).

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  23. p.s. I did some research on this topic myself a few years ago. I was looking at the assertion that some people have made that Church teachings have drastically changed over the years about birth control. My viewpoint on this can be found below on an old blog of mine.

    http://iammullingandmusing.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-counsel-regarding-multiplying-and.html

    http://iammullingandmusing.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-counsel-regarding-multiplying-and_23.html

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  24. This is such a tender subject for me... I agree whole heartedly with the authorities and the only thought that goes through my mind when I think of "permanent" birth control is the line from Saturday's Warrior "Jimmy, don't forget me Jimmy!" "I won't forget you Emily!!" then the chills and tears start in! But on the other hand my husband isn't active and wasn't raised in the church. It is hard when your companion isn't thinking of it from the same spiritual standpoint. Thank you for these quotes! I will pray, pray and pray some more about this subject!

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  25. Scott, I don't believe our bodies are our own. In 1 Corinthians 6:20 it says , "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s." We have a debt to pay-- one that we never can and the only thing we have to offer is ourselves, our agency and our willingness to serve.

    There are certain laws that govern morals just like there are certain laws that govern physics. I see the "old white guys" to be inspired men of God who have the ability to teach us about those laws and warn us about when we are deviating from them. Just like I'd trust an air traffic controller to give me direction on how and where to fly my air plane so that I was safe and in accordance with the laws of physics. True, I could claim the air plane was my own but I would be very unwise to ignore the counsel and warnings of those who can see further than I can. I may not always understand the counsel the Prophets and scriptures give but I trust it and have faith that God knows things that man can not comprehend. I'd rather be safe than crash my airplane because I didn't listen.

    Sister Snoopy, thank you for your insights-- they are most definitely not worthless. I'm sorry that you've felt judged by other people. It is never our place to judge the counsel that God gives another person. Just imagine how Mary, the mother of Christ, must have felt when she was pregnant out of wedlock and had to face all the judgement and gossip. If ever there was a woman who was following God's will it was she, but people didn't understand and she probably faced a lot of criticism. We each need to follow the plan he has laid out for us.

    Ashleigh, What a sweet woman you are! It is funny that you mention Saturday's Warriors because I often think of that scene too. I think that God understands our situations, we can't force another person to do what we want them to (even though that wold be nice). He knows our hearts and will judge us based on that. You have a good heart and I'm sure your husband does too. It is hard to change ones paradigm but I believe that the Spirit works miracles. Don't give up on him.

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  26. I was just reading my first comment and realized that I made an assumption that wad unfair. I stated that there were 10 couplrs in our ward who were done at four. The truth is that I don't know why they only have four kids nor do I know if they are really done.I was to quick to judge and shouldn't have made assumptions just to reinforce my point. Sorry. I am working on perfection but have a long way to go. Thanks for being forgiving.

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  27. Asleigh pointed me to your blog and I just had to thank you for this post! What a great compilation of such reverlations. I appreciate these words. I am a mom of 6, we had our kids in under 8 years so they are very close in age and we look a lot younger than most parents with 6 kids. I had all c-sections and consider them all miracles since at age 17 I was told I would have a difficult time getting pregnant if at all. (couldn't have been more wrong, but whatever :) ) We don't feel like we are done. We will see if we are blessed with any more children or not. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the hardest thing about having so many young kids is the looks and comments I get from other people. It is nice to be reminded that it IS the right thing. I love that I have Prophets' words to back up the CHOICES we made to have our family the way we did. Thanks for the uplift!

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  28. To be clear, I'm not anti-Mormon, nor agnostic. I'm a Mormon, was married in the temple, served a mission, go to church but also still choose to think for myself rather than just blindly follow "the brethren."

    Our bodies, contrary to what was quoted earlier, are in fact, OUR OWN. We have freedom to treat them as we may and then let the consequences follow. If anything I hope that people will understand that vital concept of free agency that we are taught we fought for in the pre-existence and that continues today and will surely continue after this life.

    A bunch of old (and in many cases) inspiring and wise men, do have great teachings and positions that is wise for us to follow. However, we must think for ourselves, question everything, analyze and mull over things in our minds and then make a decision that is best for us as individuals (and couples when relevant). If you want to pray to God and receive guidance from Him, then by all means do that. If you want to read everything you can from Packer, the Smiths, Bednar, Scott, Hinckley, Monson, et. al., then do that and then make your OWN decision. But please, as a human with freedom to choose and not be derided by what "the brethren" think on how to use your body on a matter that is so personal (selective sterilization), please make that decision on your own and not just blindly follow what some church authority said in General Conference or in some book.

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  29. One more thing that I wanted to share.

    I'm not guilty of anything nor do I live my life that way - to feel guilty about my actions. I make mistakes without question, but I also don't beat myself up. I'm very happy with my life and worldview. I love my family and my significant other and our children. I believe in God and I see Him as loving, kind and that He wants us to follow our own dictates and also be wise in our decisions.

    No man or woman knows what is best for us better than we do for our own lives. We can and are wise to consult others' views and opinions, but that is all that others have: views and opinions on how we should live.

    Good discussion here.

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  30. I think some of us need to brush up on this very important talk given by Elder Holland.

    http://salifeline.org/HollndSoulsSymbSacrs.pdf

    I also think certain personal revelation are just that, personal. And I whole heartedly believe that this is a decision made between husband and wife with the Lord as our guide.

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  31. Hi! First time here. Great discussion! Just wanted to add another angle to think about. I feel its tragic that the medical world is actually, in many cases, limiting the number of children women can safely have. This is because of the outrageously high percentage of c-sections performed, and then the increasingly common NO VBAC policies of hospitals. I am expecting #7 and have had an "emergency" c-section, highly medicated VBAC, natural birth in hospital, lightly medicated birth in hospital, then our first homebith...the most amazing experience of our lives, a second home birth, and this will be our third homebirth.
    I encourage all women to spend much time researching all your birth options, being prayerful about it, and being firm about making sure it happens the way YOU want it to happen, not the way the doctor finds it most convenient or comfortable for him/her.
    I share this idea only because I feel SO BLESSED to have discovered the amazing world of home birth midwives and this method of birth. It took me five tries to get there. I know many don't get that much experiment time. :)

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  32. Heatherlady: Thanks for this interesting post. I have a little blog which nobody has ever, ever read. But, I wanted to let you know that I linked this post to my blog because of the topic and the great feedback. Thanks!

    Mahonri

    http://middle-agedmormonman.blogspot.com/

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  33. Great post. Great reminders!

    I do believe that the overlying answer is always going to be following the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Between each of our children (we have five), we've used birth control (usually an IUD) so that we wouldn't have a baby "too soon." We've talked about how when we feel prompted by the Spirit that we are finished having our family, my husband will have the vasectomy. Since we're still hoping for more, it's not an issue now.

    But it's like what Rachel said --it's a personal issue with God.

    That being said, I don't think we should dismiss what "The Brethren" say. (And Scott, seriously, I doubt there's a Mormon alive who hasn't discussed the "blindly following" concept to death. We get it. We aren't blind followers! Sheesh!) We should take what they say and pray about it sincerely. Like it's been said before, not all of these concepts apply to everyone. Of COURSE there are exceptions. But that doesn't mean the rules aren't there for guidance.

    P.S. Sorry to rant as a first-timer!

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  34. I want to point out something:

    If we are really "done" having kids, as decided by the Lord, do we really need parmenant birth control? Will the Lord "prevent" us from being pregnant? He is the one in control, so if we let him be in control, and if he intended one mother to have only five kids, will he help her do that or if she let him do anything, would he allow nature do its course or "close" her womb?

    I couldn't help but think about Sarah and how she wasn't able to get pregnant. But the Lord "opened" her womb even in the impossible old age in her 90s...and she was able to have Isaac. Don't forget Rebecca and Rachel and Hannah. In fact, does it seem interesting to you that a lot of women in the Old Testament were barren?


    I'm just asking this question because I'm curious- if God would really "help" us not have kids when we're done, not ready or something?

    Any idea?

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  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  36. I would add one point - Prophets preside over different periods of time, and each of those different generations of people have different responsibilities to fulfill. This is why we have continuing revelation. Members today are having fewer children, but I would not jump to judge them all as more worldly or selfish. It could be that they are, but it just as well could be that our generation has different responsibilities than those before. I do not know the answer.

    The answer I do know is that, as has been stated several times here, the decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between the couple and the Lord. That is the end of the story for me.

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  37. @Kate & Heatherlady:
    It's good to be faithful; it's better to br faithful and competent.. —Elder Hugh B. Brown, counselor in the First Presidency

    As for now, my wife and I will enjoy my recent vasectomy, rejoicing in the deepening of our temple-sealed marriage relationship through loving sexual intimacy without having to introduce foreign devices or unnecessary—and risky hormone treatments (NOT abortifacients, by the way, as someone said) —using the $$ we save on birth control and condoms to contribute to our two beautiful girls' upbringing and college funds. We've even discussed adding the cost of the pill we won't have to buy anymore to our fast offering.

    Strange to me that God seems to be omnipotent enough to fertilize virgins and nonagenarians, but he apparently can't get around a 1 cm gap in my vas deferens?

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  38. I haven't read through all the comments so forgive me if I'm repeating what someone else has already mentioned.

    I wanted to address one of the questions at the end of the post about why birth control has such significance in our eternal progression: What is one of the main blessings of exaltation? Eternal increase. If we refuse that blessing and responsibility in this life, how could we expect to be worthy of it in the next?

    Also, I'd suggest two pamphlets the church was putting out a few years ago (I think I found my copies about 5 years ago) called "To the Mothers in Zion" and "To the Fathers in Zion" based on conference talks from Ezra Taft Benson from the '80's, as well as a book called "Prophets, Principles and National Survival" that is a compilation of quotes from Prophets and First Presidency Members about freedom and government. The last chapter is devoted entirely to the family and birth control. I believe it is out of print (was compiled in the 70's) but you can get it for a decent price on amazon or ebay. Well worth reading!

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  39. Catherine, I love your answer:
    "What is one of the main blessings of exaltation? Eternal increase. If we refuse that blessing and responsibility in this life, how could we expect to be worthy of it in the next?"

    I think a lot of it comes down to our attitude towards having children. I am thrilled with the doctrine of eternal increase. Sadly, though, I know many members who are not. In all fairness I have to add that I haven't always felt this way. My attitude has changed as my testimony has grown and as I've tried to distance myself from worldly philosophies that the Spirit has confirmed are not good.

    Another huge leap forward in my attitude towards having children comes from having birthed my last three children at home. In a sacred, private atmosphere and in an unmedicated state it is so much easier to really understand and appreciate just how profound is this amazing privilege of bringing children into the world. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but for me I only felt that to a very small degree during my medicated hospital births.

    I am so grateful for this post because it confirms what my heart has told me for years. And I'm so grateful I followed my heart after my 4th child in not doing anything permanent. Otherwise I would have missed out on some of the greatest and most spiritually empowering experiences of my life.

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  40. Sorry for the late comment, but I wanted to point something out. Something that many seem to miss.

    First off, we as a modern society have a very weak comprehension of the body. A couple years ago, I made the mistake of trusting an old white man (a urologist) and I got a Vasectomy at the behest of my wife. It was only after having major complications and being forced to ask lots of questions did I realize that doctors knowledge in the field of urology are infant at best. They don't understand the long term effects nor acknowledge them. Most men will rave about the outcome because they do not want to acknowledge weakness, it is just in our nature. But most men, have a poor outcome from surgical sterilization. I don't mean that the procedure fails to make you infertile, but often provides many wide and varied undesirable side effects.

    I doubt that the prophet would ever get up and talk in detail about such side effects, nor do I believe that the Lord would relate such details to the prophet. More of a "trust me, you don't want to do this". As opposed to "Tell the saints that vasectomy will lower their sex drive faster into old age, and some will suffer from an allergic reaction to sperm antibodies in their blood stream and have life long constant pain". Although, in retrospect, I sure would have liked to hear that last quote from the prophet a couple years ago. It would have have saved me a lot of money, pain, and suffering!

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  41. Interesting question above about the Lord closing the womb. we could turn it around and ask why can't the Lord open it? That is one thing that comforted me, when we decided on a tubal ligation after the planned cesarean of our twins, making our family with 5 kids into 7. I learned that pregnancy is not impossible with a tubal.

    When we had the 5 my husband felt strongly that we were 2done," although I dreamed of a little boy and girl and even wrote down a name for each of them a few years ago. A year ago we were surprised with a twin pregnancy,a boy and girl. they are a joy and have enhanced how I feel toward all y children for the better.

    That said, I stil feel good about the tubal ligation. I've had enough issues in the past to make me a mental case when I am pregnant.

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  42. I just happened to come across your blog. I know the church discourages sterilization, but it all boils down to what is best for your family. I had my fourth baby at the age of 24. At that point my husband and I decided that he would get a vasectomy. I was, and most days still am, completely overwhelmed. Even though I originally wanted six kids I still don't know what I was thinking. I want to be a good mother and be sane while raising my children. I was raised in a home with a mother who kept wanting and having more kids, while severely abusing the ones she had. I did now want to be a mom like that to my kids.

    I feel peace having the knowledge that we are not going to have a baby we didn't want and plan for. I know that Heavenly Father knows the intents of my heart and understands that having four kids in four years is what we wanted and we truly feel that being done having kids is okay.

    If you know that there aren't any more kids intended to come to your family by physically giving birth to them, then how you choose the prevent pregnancy really doesn't matter. I think the Church doesn't encourage sterilization because people may want more children at a later date and feel terrible about the choice they made.

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  43. Guilt is a poor reason to continue having children. I've seen families where the mothers continue to have children because that is what they were "supposed" to do, yet were not prepared to handle it and the family members in almost every case were usually neglected in some way, resulting in a whole host of problems, especially later on. I've also seen the opposite, where the large families thrive. After all the council, we should remember we are still stewards of our own bodies and should not beat ourselves up if we feel we are done having children and take measures that we feel are best for our situation. The children we have here and now deserve happily married, healthy parents, especially a mother who is mentally capable of nurturing them the way the Lord wants her to. For some, that means properly spacing and maybe even limiting the number of children, especially if the family doesn't have a good support system.
    I had a tubal after our 4th (there were 10 years between our 3rd an 4th) we thought we were unable to have any more after the 3rd, despite not having any health probs. We were ecstatic to have a 4th, but I still decided to have the tubal because now I'm an "older" mom and didn't want to risk mine or any future baby's health because of my age. Now I'm focusing on being the best Mom (and Grandma) I can be!
    We do the best we can, and when we know better, we do better.

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  44. I swear I left a comment just before this one but it must not have gone through?

    What everyone seems to be hinting at but not actually saying is that it is a matter of personal revelation. We've been given the law --the principles-- relative to birth control and especially permanent birth control. Generalities about when it is okay and specifics about when it is not. Now it is up to us all to pray about it and find out exactly how it applies to our specific situation. That is why it is taught that it is between you, your spouse and the Lord. That doesn't mean He hasn't set a standard. We must know the standard and then seek the Spirit through prayer and fasting to know how to apply the principle in our life.

    The problem is that few bother to actually learn the law and principles set forth by the prophets and make decisions of such an eternal nature on the wisdom of men alone.

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  45. I'm so glad you linked to your popular posts so I could read this. I am surprised how outspoken those quotes are, although they make sense for me. I get a little frustrated sometime with how quick other LDS families are to announce to everyone about getting their tubes tied. This was a very educated and enlightening article. Amazing! I would also like to mention the effect of modern medicine and limiting the family. As you know :), I also had 2 csections, and a very healing VBAC with a midwife. Right before my 2nd csection, the nurse said, "Now, you wanted your tubes tied right?" I freaked out and almost took a black sharpie to my stomach that said, "Do not tie tubes!" It's just so commonplace now and the unfortunate csection epidemic just makes it that much easier to do. Thankfully they didn't make a mistake on me. I was told at one point I would always have to have csections but not wanting to stick to whatever number of children my doctor would "allow" me to have, led me on a journey to natural childbirth. How about we listen to the actual prophets and apostles who receive guidance for us instead of listening strictly to our doctors opinions? I've about had it with the statement, "My doctor won't "let" me. What ever happened to personal revelation? Thanks Heather :)

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  46. Interesting discussion everyone! First, I'll say that I'm in the camp of it's totally personal, between the couple and the Lord, and I believe that people can be inspired to pursue paths from surgical sterilization to abstinence... it's all individual.

    That said, I'm interested in the opinion Heather offered that the Lord is in complete control of the womb and opens and closes it based on whether a person ought to have children or not, according to his divine plan. My one concern with this perspective is that it doesn't seem consistent with the fact that many naturally infertile couples are able to have children through the blessings of modern medicine, fertility interventions, etc. This makes it is clear that Lord allows for modern medical devices to assist in opening the womb. Likewise, I believe the Lord permits and even inspires the use of modern medical devices to close the womb, based on personal circumstances. I don't disagree that by faith the Lord can open and close the womb himself-- I certainly believe that. Just like he can heal any sickness himself (and he often does), he also allows us to be healed by modern medicine too. So I also believe that the Lord can inspire people to open and close the womb with modern miracles that we have access to. I'd rather not put limits on how the Lord can inspire us on this deeply personal matter; I believe there are as many unique answers as there are individuals, and the best way to deal with these issues is to treat each other with kindness, respect, giving the benefit of the doubt, and not judge one another. Then go about our lives seeking personal revelation for ourselves. (Heather I don't mean to suggest that you think differently on that last part, only that we might differ on our views of how the Lord could open and close the womb).

    Last, I agree with Audrey, who said: "I would add one point - Prophets preside over different periods of time, and each of those different generations of people have different responsibilities to fulfill. This is why we have continuing revelation. Members today are having fewer children, but I would not jump to judge them all as more worldly or selfish. It could be that they are, but it just as well could be that our generation has different responsibilities than those before. I do not know the answer."

    I'm sure we can all agree that the demands of our modern times put a great strain on parents; children have an amazingly significant amount of temptation to deal with that was not so available in the past. To me, it seems possible that the Lord is actually inspiring some people to have smaller families because we are able to operate more effectively as parents that way. Who knows? The only thing I am certain of is that, where we used to have clear statements from prophets condemning any form of birth control, we now have published doctrine stating that the decision of when and how many children to have is personal, between a couple and the Lord. This current counsel is the counsel we should be focusing on, as it is given in our time and day. There is a reason for that; approaching the Lord as a couple, asking about our personal plan as parents, is the prescribed method for our time. Which to me is exciting-- we are being offered more and more personal responsibility for our personal revelation. It's a wonderful progression!

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  47. The handbook's statement that the timing and number of children in a family is "between the couple and the Lord" DOES NOT mean the Lord hasn't given His standard and taught us correct principles. The command to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force. Principles do not change, though application can change and is as personal as following every other commandment. I've compiled quotes on this topic, and some of the most outspoken quotes about birth control (8 pages just of current statements)and especially the limiting of families IS current by CES/Correlation Dept. standards and they were spoken, written, published and distributed by the church while the handbook said exactly what it says now. To atually change doctrine requires direct revelation and a statement from a current prophet...which hasn't happened. President Monson hasn't spoken about the Word of Wisdom, does that mean the doctrine has changed?

    If you're using the handbooks as the only source of doctrine on this issue, then don't skip the "surgical sterilization" section in handbook 2:

    “The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgement and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.” Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 pg. 197 (2010)

    Following the Lord's council is not "putting limits on the Lord", those limits He set for us to follow. Shall we limit what subjects of our lives He is allowed to give council or even commands for? Yes, some are exceptions to the rule, as with every commandment, but they are few and the exceptions are plainly stated in the words of the Prophets.

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  48. Catherine Brown, I think maybe you were addressing me? It seems like you interpreted my thoughts in a way that I didn't mean-- maybe you thought that I was saying if you follow past counsel about avoiding birth control, you are putting limits on the Lord. That is not what I meant. All I am saying is that we shouldn't make broad statements about how the Lord will inspire other people. We can know what the Lord has inspired us about, and certainly he can inspire us to avoid the use of birth control. While we can agree that the former statements about birth control are worthy of study and consideration, where we seem to differ is that you consider them to be the law everyone should obey (if I interpret you correctly) and seem to be dismissing the personal revelation aspect and other counsel that permits the use of birth control, whereas I prioritize the personal revelation aspect, in concert with the study of prophetic statements about timing of children. Complementary to your collection of past statements about avoiding birth control are a number of current statements from seventy, Brethren etc. that emphasize personal revelation in this matter. For example:

    "We need not be afraid of studying the question from important angles—the physical or mental health of the mother and father, the parents’ capacity to provide basic necessities, and so on. If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children—discounting possible medical or physical effects—makes little difference. Abstinence, of course, is also a form of contraception, and like any other method it has side effects, some of which are harmful to the marriage relationship." (From the LDS Eternal Marriage Manual"

    In a talk from Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, regarding numbers of children and when to have them: “You also know that the scriptures and the prophets have not been explicit about things such as numbers [of children], timing and so forth. This is because not only are these things intensely personal in terms of decisions, they are absolutely unique in terms of our customized, individual circumstances.”

    So you can see that there have been a variety of statements on this matter. If we conclude that one or the other end (birth control vs. it's personal/there is not a proscribed timing or number) is correct, then we must also conclude that these statements are at odds with each other. But if we focus on the current church statement, offered in the official handbook, we can find recourse. Because if it is indeed about personal revelation, then both genres of counsel can play a role in our life, and contribute to the personal inspiration that flows from our Father in Heaven.

    In your comment you seemed to be angry about my thoughts, which surprises me. I'm not sure why an emphasis on personal revelation, which doesn't mean an endorsement of birth control, but rather an emphasis on personal responsibility for our unique inspiration from God, would ignite such frustration.

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  49. I'll also add this link to a post and discussion that elaborate on the perspective I am offering here: http://empoweringldswomen.blogspot.com/2011/10/birth-control-and-family-planning.html

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  50. I did not express anger in my previous post just as I will not in this post. Please remember that this is typed media and thus tone is not discernable. While I do try to speak plainly and directly, that does not equate to anger or frustration. I carefully used caps in both because I don't know how to use the html codes for italics, etc, on blogs. It is not intended to be considered yelling, if that is what caused the misconception.

    You mistook my meaning when you said this: ""...you consider them to be the law everyone should obey (if I interpret you correctly) and seem to be dismissing the personal revelation aspect.." If you read my previous post thoroughly (as restated in this post), the Lord has given us the principles by which we should live in this area and the application of those principles requires personal revelation. I in no way dismissed personal revelation and even stated (and feel) that it is absolutely necessary.

    If one does not understand the underlying principles it is very difficult to receive revelation on how to apply them in our lives. It isn't impossible, but is highly unlikely and we almost always make more mistakes than if we understood the principle first.

    My previous post was specifically addressing this part of your previous post:
    "The only thing I am certain of is that, where we used to have clear statements from prophets condemning any form of birth control, we now have published doctrine stating that the decision of when and how many children to have is personal, between a couple and the Lord. This current counsel is the counsel we should be focusing on, as it is given in our time and day. "

    I have nothing against using birth control to space children when done within the parameters set by the Lord, and the same goes for permanent forms of birth control (though there are side effects to consider). In fact, I have used various methods of birth control (their efficacy is another story entirely!) in an attempt to space my children due to my health. We will again fast and pray about whether my current pregnancy should be my last due to those same reasons. If the answer is yes, we will meet with our Bishop (as required by the handbook) and if moving forward is correct, will not feel guilty about taking that step because I know I followed the principles the Lord has given and within in that context, received revelation about my specific circumstance being an exception to that rule.

    The quotes in your above comment are ones I'm very familiar with and are included in the compilation I mentioned. They are not more current than the statements against birth control and limiting of family size and in no way overrule other statements...they are in complete harmony. The words of the prophets very clearly teach us the Lord's standards (principles) and give us specifics about what the exceptions to those rules are. They don't tell us how many children to have total and how close/far to space them and they never did. That is why the statements are in complete harmony, not because doctrine changed, but because that was never part of the doctrine to begin with.

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  51. (Apparently I wrote too much and had to make it into two separate posts!)

    One thing to remember is that some quotes discuss generalities only (condemning birth control/sterilization), some discuss exceptions only (explaining what those exceptions are and when birth control may be permissible), and some quotes discuss both together...just as with any other topic. That is why reading all of them is necessary, so you can get a complete picture of what the standard is and what are possible exceptions to that standard. Then you can better determine where you fall in the mix and be able to make appropriate decisions based both on personal application (revelation) and following the laws and standards set forth by the Lord and His prophets.

    Mothers working outside the home is another good example --there are individual quotes about the standard only (mothers should not work outside the home), and quotes about the exceptions only (support and advice for single mothers or working mothers), as well as quotes that address both (including what might be causes for some of the exceptions, but stating the standard as well). The principle behind mothers not working outside the home did not change and those statements are not wrong or outdated, but because society and family needs change, application of that principle may require personal adaptation. If I were to only use the "exception" quotes as my basis, then I would not understand the principle (doctrine) and might think it fine to work outside the home and send my children to daycare simply because I want extra income or prestige, etc. Knowing the principle and excpetions and living by them would mean I work oustide the home only if necessary in our situation, having done my best to live the principle fully and wishing with all my heart that I could apply it as intended. If I only knew the rule itself and not the exceptions, I might conclude that anyone mother who works outside the home is automatically breaking that command. Both are wrong because they are based upon an incomplete understanding.

    So I guess to sum it all up:

    The doctrine has not changed.

    Number of children and timing thereof has never been specified by doctrine and always required presonal revelation.

    Reading and relying on "rule-only" quotes AND/OR "exception-only" quotes leads to an incomplete and false understanding of the principles, causing incomplete and false application of those principles.

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  52. Thanks for the clarification Catherine, and sorry I mistook your caps for anger. Glad to hear I wasn't being electronically yelled at :).

    I think in this case we'll simply have to agree to disagree about interpreting doctrine etc. I wouldn't interpret past statements as a "standard" in the way that you have, but I respect your approach and can understand why you would view things that way. My approach is more to look at what is being currently said in the most pulpit/handbook/central location and then consider all peripheral counsel in light of those key current points. For example, in the case of being a stay-at-home-mom, I've observed that in recent conferences, publications, etc the emphasis has been on making family the number one priority, rather than an exclusive focus on being a full-time stay-at-home mom. The emphasis seems to be shifting to personal revelation regarding making your children and eternal role as mother a priority, in whatever way the Lord inspires you (granted, for many women that may mean being a full-time mom when possible). I take that to be my key guide, and then considering other counsel that has been given I make a choice based on what I feel right with from prayer, fasting, etc.

    Maybe we're not so different? Your description of choosing to briefly use birth control sounds a lot what I described above. The one key difference is simply our interpretations of what the "standard" vs. "exception" is, but like I said I appreciate your perspective and it looks like either way we're both depending on revelation, which is really the point in the end! I'm sure we're all relieved at least by the clear doctrine that these choices are personal and that we're not responsible to judge each other about them-- fewf :).

    I probably won't check back on this but thanks for the engaging dialogue, I appreciate a well thought out and articulated perspective.

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  53. Thank you for sharing these important quotes. I have studied this topic in great depth, but this wonderful post has added to my education!

    My husband and I went and discussed sterilization with our Bishop after the birth of our tenth child. The wise wonderful man that he was, he reminded us of the Church's views of the issue.

    And so we went on to have Baby Number 11. And as I sit here, pregnant with Baby Number 12, I am SO GRATEFUL that we chose to CONTINUE to let the Lord decide on the size of our family. When I thought we should be "done" after number ten, it all about me taking CONTROL-- and not submitting to the will of our Father in Heaven.

    But guess what? He really DOES know best, and we really CAN trust Him.

    Big revelation, right? ;-D

    I blogged about the experience here: http://blog.oldfashionedmotherhood.com/2010/01/and-baby-makes-13.html

    Thanks again for your beautiful post!

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  54. Mama Rachel,
    I love your perspective. It's right on the mark. I also loved your blog post. Here's hoping and praying for #8. I had thought I "should be done" at 4, but thankfully turned it over to the Lord and have so far been blessed with 7 incredible spirits.

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  55. Kimberly,

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate your response. My husband and I are going to be having our third child in November and were just informed by the doctor that it will most likely be our last and that we will need to be surgically sterilized for my health. I have been struggling for weeks as we have always wanted many more children than three. Your response has given me the most peace I have had thus far in my process of trying to understand and come to grips with "our news". You are so right... who are we to arbitrarily pick some number and tell the Lord that is what is best for us (and Him)? I am so grateful for the children I do have and for a testimony that Heavenly Father knows what is best for me. Thank you all so much for your insight into this. I am so grateful for it.

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  56. The First Presidency has declared, "We seriously deplore the fact that members of the Church would voluntarily take measures to render themselves incapable of further procreation." ~ General Handbook of Instructions (1989).

    "Deplore" is a very descriptive word. Let us not compare this to other such issues such as whether I should pay taxes on net or gross. The Church cannot come out and say "You can do this" or "You cannot do that" on some subjects, because there may be a situation that doesn't apply. In this case, if the health of the woman is at jeopardy.

    But just because the Church leaders have not come out and said these procedures are wrong, doesn't mean that gives us the green light to perform them and then justify that by saying "It's a personal choice".

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  57. Leslie Ann, you might appreciate this story, it is themed around father's day but it mentions how the family had to stop at 4 for medical reasons, then describes what happened next:

    http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1146&sid=20838076

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