Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is past and present counsel regarding multiplying and replenishing really that different? (Part 2)

Disclaimer: I have seen this kind of question come up many times in discussions, and I wanted to do a bit of a study to see if the counsel (and I'm thinking more along the lines of doctrinal underpinnings) really has changed that much.

I want to make clear (although I hope it goes without saying) that these posts should not be understood as official interpretation, or the final word, or even all that is said. I just included some of the things I found in my study that I thought were relevant and important. Your own personal study on the topic might lead you to focus on different things, of course. And, of course, your opinion about the answer to the above question may differ from mine.

This is part 2 of my exploration of the topic.

Comparing Past and Present Quotes


Now, I will explore some comparisons of past and current quotes on various issues relating to the commandment to multiply and replenish. I'm walking through and pulling things out from basically each quote that was included on BiV's post...I figured that was a meaningful way to continue to study what she had posted, and to consider beyond just what is said about birth control methods -- because I think that there is SO much more to consider than just birth control when analyzing past and present teachings.

But first, here is a quote that has become something of a mantra for us in our family, from then-Elder Eyring:

The Apostle Paul wrote that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time.

I should note that almost without exception, I am certain I could find (and, in fact, have) more than one quote in both the 'past' and the 'present' to support each of these concepts. In some cases below, I do include more than one, but this is by no means an exhaustive review. I do think this is a compelling support for the idea that the doctrines indeed have not changed, even if comments about contraception per se have.

In the end, I believe that birth control per se is not the issue (even though there were some leaders who said the only form of birth control should be abstinence -- we can allow for more light and knowledge (about sexuality, about birth control (for example, that it is used for medical reasons and not just contraception) without undermining the underlying concerns and doctrines tied to specific comments about birth control).

As I have studied these quotes over the years, I think the primary concern, even when specific comments were (and sometimes still are!) made about birth control, was (and is still) about selfishness and worldliness that often drive its use. Even as specific comments were made about using 'natural' methods for birth control when it was warranted, I can't imagine that the leaders would have condoned such methods for selfish motives. So clearly, there is more to this than just methods.

And even as specific comments about birth control are now rare (as I said, they do exist), I don't think the core concern has changed. Our leaders expect us to be true to our covenants and to be obedient to the commandments, to put away selfish desires and to seek the Lord's guidance in our lives toward fulfilling our eternal roles and responsibilities in this life.

I would hope that none of us disagrees with that, but I find it valuable to see the consistency in the teachings, both past and present.

I think this quote by Elder John A. Widstoe sums up the concern about the use of birth control, then and now.

"Since birth control roots in a species of selfishness, the spiritual life of the user of contraceptives is also weakened. Women seem to become more masculine in thought and action; men more callous and reserved; both husband and wife become more careless of each other." (John A. Widtsoe, Improvement Era, Dec 1942.)
The root problem he addressed was selfishness, not contraceptives per se. For an interesting exercise, try reading quotes that mention birth control specifically and mentally preface each use of those words ('birth control') with 'selfish use of' and see how much more clarity is brought to the issue from start to finish. It brings clarify for me, anyway, and helps me see more consistency across the board.

And consider how the selfish use of birth control (ANY method, including 'natural' methods) could affect a marriage and the individuals therein, as well as the plan of God on a larger, broader scale. I think that is worth careful consideration. Birth control is such a common thing (go to your pre-marital appointment, get the pill) that I am not convinced we carefully ponder these issues enough (speaking collectively and not individually, of course).

In the end, whether or not our leaders use the same words, I still believe that they strongly condemn selfish attitudes and the sin of falling into step with worldly trends (you use birth control just because everyone else is (with no thought or prayer or pondering), or because that is just what you do because the doctor (even an LDS doctor!) gave you the pills, or you wait to have kids because mom or your best friend say you should, or you enter your marriage thinking it's good enough to predecide to have x number of children without seeking the Lord's guidance all along the way) that are not consistent with the doctrine of God. I believe they condemn anything that threatens the plan of God and/or means that we are not fulfilling our covenantal responsibilities. (The key, of course, is that the specifics will look different for each couple. This isn't about head count, but about hearts, motives, desires, and obedience to both general and personal revelation.)

So, onto the quote exploration. :) (Even where I neglected to mention it, anything in bold is my own emphasis.)

----

On having as many children as we can:

"It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can." Brigham Young (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197.)

"How many children should a couple have? All they can care for!" Dallin H. Oaks

Note that both talk about having children as couples CAN.

----

On not putting materialistic goals before eternal ones, and on how society's trends should not be our own:

“To check the increase of our race has its advocates among the influential and powerful circles of society in our nation and in other nations. The same practice existed forty-five years ago, and various devices were used by married persons to prevent the expenses and responsibilities of a family of children, which they must have incurred had they suffered nature's laws to rule preeminent. That which was practiced then in fear and against reproving conscience, is now boldly trumpeted abroad as one of the best means of ameliorating the miseries and sorrows of humanity." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 12, pp. 120-121.)

President James E. Faust:
"I next address the present-day challenge to the words of the Lord recorded in Genesis: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” 15 All my life I have heard the argument that the earth is overpopulated. Much controversy surrounded a 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt. No doubt the conference accomplished much that was worthwhile. But at the very center of the debate was the socially acceptable phrase “sustainable growth.” This concept is becoming increasingly popular. How cleverly Satan masked his evil designs with that phrase....Those who argue for sustainable growth lack vision and faith. The Lord said, “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” That settles the issue for me. It should settle the issue for all of us. The Lord has spoken."

"{S]ome cultural forces steadily move us away from that ideal" (Elder Holland)

'You’ll note as we go through this that declarations such as this [including multiplying and replenishing] are challenged. The world wants to change it. We will not. We cannot. When you wonder who we are and why we are, remember that we have this pattern and we will follow it." (Boyd K. Packer, in the recent Worldwide Training Broadcast)

"With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history." - President Gordon B. Hinckley, as a preface to the Proclamation to the World on the Family, which reminds us that the commandment to multiply and replenish is 'still in force.' (Emphasis added.)

----

On the problem of couples looking at marriage as not needing children:

"...parents are afraid to fulfill the first great law of God, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth;" and by desperate circumstances are almost forced to the unnatural wish of not propagating their species...." (John Taylor, The Government of God, Chapter 2).

(As a sidenote, in the recent broadcast, they addressed this issue of fear, and told us to replace that fear with faith on this issue of multiplying and replenishing.)

President James E. Faust: Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. As someone once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.”
Some people find it hard to make a decision. A psychiatrist once said to a patient, “Do you ever have any trouble making up your mind?” The patient said, “Well, yes and no.” My hope and prayer is that we can be as resolute as Joshua when he proclaimed, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

President James E. Faust...addressed a “shift in attitude about the purpose of marriage. More and more young people view marriage ‘as a couples relationship, designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults, rather than an institution for bringing up children.’ …
“Another disturbing challenge to the family is that children are becoming less valued. In many parts of the world, people are having fewer children."

President Boyd K. Packer:
"Do not be afraid to bring children into the world. We are under covenant to provide physical bodies so that spirits may enter mortality (see Gen. 1:28; Moses 2:28). Children are the future of the restored Church [the kingdom of God on the earth, which we are bound by covenant to build]."

Elder Robert D. Hales:
Because of the importance of the family to the eternal plan of happiness, Satan makes a major effort to destroy the sanctity of the family, demean the importance of the role of men and women, encourage moral uncleanliness and violations of the sacred law of chastity, and to discourage parents from placing the bearing and rearing of children as one of their highest priorities."

The implication here in these quotes (in my mind) is that children should be valued, in spite of the trends of the world, which, throughout our dispensation, have been going further and further away from the commandment to multiply and replenish. These selfish, worldly trends are devilish and evil by definition because they fight against the plan of God.

----

I already addressed the Wilford Woodruff quote above...motives and circumstances DO come into play, and appear that they always have.

----

On the commandment to multiply and replenish still being in force:

"The command which he gave in the beginning to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force upon the children of men." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 276.)

Elder David A. Bednar:
"The commandment given anciently to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force today....
"The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him. Lucifer’s attacks on the plan are intended to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to halt their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become “miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27), and he works to warp the elements of the Father’s plan he hates the most. Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family. And he persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts."


“[from the Proclamation to the World on the Family] 'The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.'
"You’ll note as we go through this that declarations such as this are challenged. The world wants to change it. We will not. We cannot. When you wonder who we are and why we are, remember that we have this pattern and we will follow it." (Boyd K. Packer, in the recent Worldwide Training Broadcast)

Sister Susan Tanner: “[C]hildren are an heritage of the Lord” (Ps. 127:3. The family proclamation declares, “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24). We hope Heavenly Father will bless you with children. Many in the world miss the joy and see children only as an inconvenience. It is true that parenting is physically exhausting, emotionally draining, and mentally demanding. No one will give you good grades or blue ribbons for what you do as a mother. Sometimes you might wonder, “Did I do this right? Is it all worth it?”
"It is worth it! All latter-day prophets have borne witness to the sacred role of motherhood. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It is important for you Latter-day Saint women to understand that the Lord holds motherhood and mothers sacred and in the highest esteem” (“Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 105). The Spirit testifies to my soul that this is true.


----

On the blessing and covenantal responsibility of having children, and the warning against selfishness: (lots on these topics, both in the past and in the present)

Past:
"“Another of the great evils of the age is race suicide. This also is not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Providing opportunity for the spirit children of our Father in Heaven to come to earth and work out their own salvation is one of our sacred privileges and obligations. We teach that among the choicest of eternal riches are children.” (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, p. 154.)

"Children are a heritage from the Lord, and those who refuse the responsibility of bringing them into the world and caring for them are usually prompted by selfish motives, and the result is that they suffer the penalty of selfishness throughout eternity. There is no excuse for members of our Church adopting the custom of the world. . . We have been better taught than they." (George Albert Smith, "Birth Control," Relief Society Magazine, Feb. 1917, p. 72) [We have been taught what? The eternal doctrines of the gospel and plan of God!]

"No doubt there are some worldly people who honestly limit the number of children and the family to two or three because of insufficient means to clothe and educate a large family as the parents would desire to do, but in nearly all such cases, the two or three children are no better provided for than two or three times that number would be. Such parents may be sincere, even if misguided; but in most cases the desire not to have children has its birth in vanity, passion, and selfishness." (David O. McKay, Relief Society Magazine, v. 3, no. 7, July 1916)

"Since birth control roots in a species of selfishness, the spiritual life of the user of contraceptives is also weakened. Women seem to become more masculine in thought and action; men more callous and reserved; both husband and wife become more careless of each other." (John A. Widtsoe, Improvement Era, Dec 1942.)

“We 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.’ Surely those who project such measures to prevent life or to destroy life before or after birth will reap the whirlwind of God's retribution, for God will not be mocked.” (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1972, p. 63.)

Current:

"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....God has a plan for the happiness of all who live on the earth, and the birth of children in loving families is central to His plan. The first commandment He gave to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The scriptures declare, “Children are a heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Those who are physically able have the blessing, joy, and obligation to bear children and to raise a family. This blessing should not be postponed for selfish reasons."
From lds.org on the topic of birth control.

President James E. Faust:
"One might ask, “How do I become a greater follower of righteousness?” A righteous person is one who makes and keeps gospel covenants. These are holy contracts, usually between individuals and the Lord. Sometimes they include other persons, such as spouses. They involve most sacred promises and commitments, such as baptism, the conferral of the priesthood, temple blessings, marriage, and parenthood." (Emphasis added.) [The flip side of this equation is that a sinful person does not fulfill (or at least desire to fulfill) these obligations, no?]

President James E. Faust:

"In contrast, when these sacred gifts are exercised as the Lord intended within the bounds of a temple marriage, they bring us our greatest joy and happiness. We become co-creators with God in having family and posterity."

President James E. Faust: Many covenants are indispensable to happiness here and hereafter. Among the most important are the marriage covenants made between husband and wife. From these covenants flow the greatest joys of life....
In a world where we and our families are threatened by evil on every side, let us remember President Hinckley’s counsel: “If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself.”
Faithful members of the Church who are true to their covenants with the Master do not need every jot and tittle spelled out for them. [I thought that was significant. We should understand the doctrine well enough and be close enough to God that we can take our knowlege and make appropriate decisions.]

President Boyd K. Packer:
"Do not be afraid to bring children into the world. We are under covenant to provide physical bodies so that spirits may enter mortality (see Gen. 1:28; Moses 2:28). Children are the future of the restored Church."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Knowledge of the great plan of happiness also gives Latter-day Saints a distinctive attitude toward the bearing and nurturing of children. In some times and places, children have been regarded as no more than laborers in a family economic enterprise or as insurers of support for their parents. Though repelled by these repressions, some persons in our day have no compunctions against similar attitudes that subordinate the welfare of a spirit child of God to the comfort or convenience of parents.

"The Savior taught that we should not lay up treasures on earth but should lay up treasures in heaven (see Matt. 6:19–21). In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.
"President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.” Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices."

Elder J. Ballard Washburn: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
“And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
“He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1–4).
"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.
"We go to the temple to make covenants, but we go home to keep the covenants that we have made. The home is the testing ground. The home is the place where we learn to be more Christlike. The home is the place where we learn to overcome selfishness and give ourselves in service to others." (Emphasis added.)

-----
Many of the above quotes included the issue of covenants and how multiplying and replenishing is part of the covenants we make. Following are more quotes on the topic of covenants and commitments that have been consistent.

"There is nothing that should be held in greater sacredness than this covenant by which the spirits of men are clothed with mortal tabernacles." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, Pg. 85-9)

(Brigham Young could come back here, too, as he spoke of "the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can." Righteous mena nd women keep covenants, and having children, when couples are able, is a covenant. But it's also a tremendous blessing and joy!

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "The cultural tides in our world run strongly against commitments in family relationships. For example, divorce has been made legally easy, and childbearing has become unpopular. These pressures against commitments obviously serve the devil’s opposition to the Father’s plan for His children. [That to me means that if we don't follow commitments as outlined in God's plan, we are in sin, because we are succumbing to the devil's opposition to the plan.] That plan relies on covenants or commitments kept. Whatever draws us away from commitments weakens our capacity to participate in the plan."

[In this address, not fully reprinted in the Ensign, Elder Oaks also mentioned Elder Nelson's talk on "Faith and Families" which is quoted extensively here. He mentioned particularly the fact that he and his wife followed prophetic counsel to have [five!] children even while he was pursuing his extensive education. He also mentioned that talks prepared under the inspiration of the Spirit and given by our leaders are not to be "enjoyed" but to "inspire, edify, challenge, or direct." We should not "trifle" with the words spoken but should open our ears to hear, as King Benjamin counseled (Mosiah 2:9). He also reiterated what has been said before about prophets teaching the general rule, not the exception. I think all of these concepts are relevant to this post.]

Elder Charles Didier: "The challenge is that as we learn to conquer this freedom to act for ourselves, we also are tempted to try to escape it for fear of being rejected by others. For example, are we not tempted at times, voluntarily or not, to escape the consequences of our spiritual choices and hide from the responsibility that is ours because of the covenants that we made in the waters of baptism and renewed by partaking of the sacrament that we would always remember Jesus Christ and His Atonement? Don’t some try to escape the duty of marriage as ordained from God and replace it with a worldly substitute called cohabitation or by not even considering marriage? Is it unusual today for some to escape the principles directing the union of a man and a woman—called marriage—by accepting alternative lifestyles? What about the escape from the sanctity of marriage and its eternal nature by finding an easy exit called divorce? What is your thinking about the escape from the purpose of marriage—procreation, the principle to form eternal families of our own—by forsaking the plan of our Heavenly Father?"

Duty, covenants, commitments...they are all synonyms that indicate the responsibility we have in this sacred realm of our lives.)

-----

On consequences of not fulfilling the commandment to multiply and replenish:

"The abuse of this holy covenant has been the primary cause for the downfall of nations. When the sacred vows of marriage are broken and the real purpose of marriage abused, as we find it so prevalent in the world today, then destruction is inevitable.
"No nation can endure for any length of time, if the marriage covenants are abused and treated with contempt." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, Pg. 85-9)

(Remember, Joseph Fielding Smith was one who recognized that there are exceptions to the rule. Just as our leaders do today, he was preaching the rule.)

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." (From the Proclamation to the World on the Family)

President Boyd K. Packer said that the words in the Proclamation on this subject have "taken on the status of scripture." In this same talk, he also said, "Now the birthrate is declining in every country in the world....This trend is seen in the Church. Worldwide, the birthrate among members married in the temple is notably higher than in the world, but this rate too has been declining....Worldwide, the birthrate of Church members is only slightly higher than the world at large.
"Like the rest of the population, members of the Church must suffer the consequence of these trends. We face a particular set of issues because the pool from which missionaries are drawn is in steady decline." [In other words, I think he might be saying we aren't just concerned about replacement rate, which he mentioned as a problem in the world, but we have other problems as well. Do we think that selfish contributions to these trends is not sinful? Is slowing the work of the Lord down (personally and on a widespread basis) not a serious thing?]

Also, I can't help but wonder if the calamities foretold go beyond just natural disasters or other similar problems, and could even include the problems of population decline, including the disintegration of cultures and nations because they are not procreating? There are some governments that are actually seeking to reverse these trends because they realize that they will lose their idenities as nations if they don't get their people to multiply and replenish. (I know of one nation that actually contacted the Church for help and counsel in this regard!)

So, again, can we think that it's not still sinful to make choices or to follow trends that literally thwart the plan of God? Past and present prophets have made it clear what the plan of God hinges on the bearing and righteous rearing of children (many of the quotes here underscore that, and the recent broadcast focused heavily on this).

What about personal consequences (negative and positive) related to this commandment? Is this just about the number of children we have? NO. It's about our attitudes and desires of our hearts. Early prophets (in many different quotes) spoke boldly of condemnation and being judged by the Lord for not bringing children to earth when it could or should have been done. Following are examples of current quotes that I have found sobering and wonderful and worth pondering:

Elder Merrill J. Bateman:
"The body contains the seeds of creation, which allow us to have children and begin an eternal family. In mortality this power is given for a limited period of time. If we are faithful and abide by the commandments pertaining to its use, that power of creation is restored in the Resurrection. The scriptures indicate that “a fulness of joy” comes when the body and spirit are inseparably connected (D&C 93:33). However, a “fulness of joy” requires more than the Resurrection. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught that those who enter into “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” and are faithful enter into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and there receive a “fulness” of glory and “a continuation of the seeds forever” (D&C 131:2; 132:19). It is the eternal marriage relationship and the power to create life that produce happiness in mortality and a “fulness of joy” in the life to come.

(The next two quotes are from the recent worldwide broadcast)
Sister Beck:
"I know of many couples who desire to have children and aren’t given that blessing. Their challenge is the challenge of not having children, and we need to be listening and supportive and encouraging toward them. And I also believe that the desire to have children in the single sisters and in these couples probably won’t go away if they’re righteous, because that is a God-given desire. It speaks to their very natures and the training they received in the heavens. So that longing will not go away. But the Lord will bless them."

Elder Oaks
"And that longing will weigh in the final judgment. One of the most comforting passages in all of scripture for me is in the 137th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 9, where we’re told that the Lord will judge us according to our works and according to the desires of our hearts."

In our recent general conference, Sister Beck also said: "Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child (see 1 Samuel 1:11), the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality. There is eternal influence and power in motherhood."

-----

On not postponing marriage and family responsibilities:

"I have told many groups of young people that they should not postpone their marriage until they have acquired all of their education ambitions. I have told tens of thousands of young folks that when they marry they should not wait for children until they have finished their schooling and financial desires. Marriage is basically for the family, and there should be no long delay. They should live together normally and let the children come. . ." (Spencer W. Kimball, "Marriage is Honorable," Speeches of the Year, 1973, p. 263)

"Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in Heaven. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, "We will wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we have obtained a few of the material conveniences," and on and on. This is the reasoning of the world and is not pleasing in the sight of God. Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And, husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing of children. Do not curtail the number of children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity. In the eternal perspective, children -- not possessions, not position, not prestige -- are our greatest jewels." (Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Mothers in Zion," Parents' Fireside, Salt Lake City, Utah, 22 February 1987.)

Current:

President James E. Faust: Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. As someone once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.”
Some people find it hard to make a decision. A psychiatrist once said to a patient, “Do you ever have any trouble making up your mind?” The patient said, “Well, yes and no.” My hope and prayer is that we can be as resolute as Joshua when he proclaimed, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: In his address at the BYU spring 2005 commencement exercise, Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Seventy referred to an article in a recent issue of Time magazine. It states that the years from 18 to 25 have become “a distinct and separate life stage, a strange, transitional never-never land between adolescence and adulthood in which people stall for a few extra years, [postponing] … adult responsibility.” The article describes these transitional individuals as “permanent adolescents, … twentysomething Peter Pans.”
"Putting this analysis in terms more familiar to his audience of BYU graduates and their families, Elder Tingey spoke of “the indecision some college graduates have in … accepting the responsibilities of marriage and family.”
"This tendency to postpone adult responsibilities, including marriage and family, is surely visible among our Latter-day Saint young adults. The average age at marriage has increased in the last few decades, and the number of children born to LDS married couples has decreased." [Clearly these are not trends that our leaders think are good trends for us to be following.]

Elder Merrill J. Bateman:
"The body contains the seeds of creation, which allow us to have children and begin an eternal family. In mortality this power is given for a limited period of time. If we are faithful and abide by the commandments pertaining to its use, that power of creation is restored in the Resurrection. The scriptures indicate that “a fulness of joy” comes when the body and spirit are inseparably connected (D&C 93:33). However, a “fulness of joy” requires more than the Resurrection. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught that those who enter into “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” and are faithful enter into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and there receive a “fulness” of glory and “a continuation of the seeds forever” (D&C 131:2; 132:19). It is the eternal marriage relationship and the power to create life that produce happiness in mortality and a “fulness of joy” in the life to come."

------

On honoring motherhood and parenthood:

“Honor your wife’s unique and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her special capacity to bear and nurture children. We are under divine commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and to bring up our children and grandchildren in
light and truth (see Moses 2:28; D&C 93:40). You share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home. Help teach, train, and discipline your children” (Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 67; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50.)

Elder Nelson:
"Many years ago the First Presidency issued a statement that has had a profound and lasting influence upon me. “Motherhood,” they wrote, “is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.” 3
"Because mothers are essential to God’s great plan of happiness, their sacred work is opposed by Satan, who would destroy the family and demean the worth of women....As fathers we should have love unbounded for the mothers of our children. We should accord to them the gratitude, respect, and praise that they deserve."

Read this talk by Sister Susan Tanner. A few excerpts follow:

"I know that for some time it has not been vogue for women or young women to extol the virtues of motherhood or to express the desires of their hearts to be mothers.
"One day when our presidency was first called, we were meeting with one of our priesthood advisers. He asked us about our vision for young women. Among other things, we said that we want to help them prepare for their future roles. He waited expectantly for us to say more. Finally he said to us, “Then why don’t you say it? Just say the 'M' word—motherhood. You must be bold about it. The young women and their leaders need to hear it. They won’t hear it from the world, so they must hear it from you.”
"I went back and read those talks that inspired our daughter. I also read President Kimball’s talks from the first general women’s meetings, President Benson’s and President Hinckley’s talks to women and young women, and other talks from our prophets. The beautiful truths from these talks are now carefully stated in the historical proclamation to the world on the family."

[There you have a talk bringing together past and present counsel, and tying it all to the Proclamation. Doctrines are remaining the same, even if some of the methods and implementation details discussed (or not discussed) may vary.]

-----

Other quote comparisons -- on economic factors:

"A more frequent cause of birth control is real or fancied economic pressure. Under modern conditions requiring the services of an obstetric physician and hospital care, the husband and wife of moderate means hesitate to incur this added draft upon their resources. And, often they delay the coming of children because they prefer first to pay for and enjoy the house or piano or automobile or refrigerator or radio-phonograph, or other desirable but not indispensable things. Married students sometimes feel that if they have children they must forego or greatly delay the completion of their educations. In one form or another the economic excuse is a common one." (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.310)

"We’re in danger today, it seems to me, of our members of the Church looking to worldly priorities in their decisions about childbearing. Instead of making those decisions in faith on the Lord’s promises and in reliance upon what we know of the great plan of happiness and the purpose of life, they look to other sources—television or prominent ideological gurus in the world today or even the pressure of their neighbors—to make decisions that are fundamental and eternal and need to be made prayerfully before the Lord. Elder Oaks, in the recent Worldwide Training Broadcast).

"I think it is an issue of faith. We know of many places around the world where there are housing shortages. How do you find even a place to live as a new married couple, let alone bear children, when you can’t find a place to live? I think that this is a matter of faith. We don’t have children because we have money, because we have means. We have children with faith.

"That feeling and attitude of seeking for the Lord’s blessings under the plan, I believe, will create miracles in the lives of people. If you’re in a place where there’s a housing shortage, the way will be opened up. Just as paying tithing is a matter of faith, so is having children a matter of faith. You don’t pay tithing with money; you don’t have children with money." (Sister Julie B. Beck, in that same broadcast)

"And let us be mindful of the fact that in many parts of the world where people are listening to this broadcast, the idea of having children has been rejected. Or the thought is that if you have one child that’s enough and a person is just foolish or unpatriotic to have more than one child. There are plenty of ideas out there in the world that work against the gospel plan. And as father Lehi said, “[There] must needs be an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). We can’t expect to be applauded every time we do something that we know is right. But God will bless you." (Elder Oaks again)

Do you see the patterns here? We should not use materialistic measures wholly to make our decisions. That counsel has remained the same through the course of this dispensation.

-----

"To this end the mother's health and strength should be conserved and the husband's consideration for his wife is his first duty, and self control a dominant factor in all their relationships." (First Presidency {David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner}, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Office of the First Presidency, April 14, 1969.)

I just wanted to say that I think there is more in this quote than just counsel about contraception. I think this counsel is still valid re: contraception (I think all couples should at least consider potential benefits of 'natural' means of birth control.) BUT, I think there is wisdom here that should be considered, for all of us. Is considering self-control in all aspects of our marital (and other) relationships not applicable now? Could this not apply to marital sexual relationships beyond just multiplying and replenishing? Was there ever more need for self-control than in our day?

-----

"We are born into the world that we may have life, and we live that we may have a fullness of joy, and if we will obtain a fullness of joy, we must obey the law of our creation and the law by which we may obtain the consummation of our righteous hopes and desires -- life eternal.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 276.)

Elder M. Russell Ballard:

"The basic doctrinal purpose for the creation of the earth is to provide for God's spirit children the continuation of the process of exaltation and eternal life. God said to Moses:
"'And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.
"'And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.' [Moses 2:27-28]
"The Church's proclamation on the family confirms that God has not revoked or changed this commandment."

There is no doubt that we are being allowed the space to make choices with regard to this commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. But this to me also demonstrates a great trust, and as I have said, a great responsibility we have on our shoulders to really seek God's guidance and direction and to make sure our hearts, desires, and motives are in line with eternal principles, not simply worldly trends or personal fears. Note how President Hinckley framed this:

President Hinckley, as quoted by Elder Oaks: “I like to think of the positive side of the equation, of the meaning and sanctity of life, of the purpose of this estate in our eternal journey, of the need for the experiences of mortal life under the great plan of God our Father, of the joy that is to be found only where there are children in the home, of the blessings that come of good posterity. When I think of these values and see them taught and observed, then I am willing to leave the question of numbers to the man and the woman and the Lord” (“If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo, Utah: University Publications, 1984, p. 11).

He also said: "You have nothing in this world more precious than your children."

-----

As a summary point, I wanted to bring out what True to the Faith says about this. BiV emphasized the fact that we have the blessing of being able to prayerfully approach these decisions, but I wanted to emphasize the doctrine that is clearly stated in that pamphlet.

When married couples are physically able, they have the privilege of providing mortal bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. They play a part in the great plan of happiness, which permits God’s children to receive physical bodies and experience mortality.

If you are married, you and your spouse should discuss your sacred responsibility to bring children into the world and nurture them in righteousness. As you do so, consider the sanctity and meaning of life. Ponder the joy that comes when children are in the home. Consider the eternal blessings that come from having a good posterity. With a testimony of these principles, you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.
(True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 26.)


I believe this is true. It is an understanding and testimony of doctrinal truths and of our covenants (things that have been taught throughout this dispensation, principles that are woven through teachings past and present) that can prepare us to make wise and Spirit-led decisions about how many children to have and when. A preoccupation with what leaders have said about birth control methods, in my opinion, can be a distraction from the core doctrines and teachings that have been consistent since the restoration of the Church. I believe as we focus on the doctrines, the Lord can help us make the specific decisions (even about birth control methods, if their use is appropriate) that will be right for our situations, our growth, and His work and glory. Each of our paths will be a little (or very!) different, but we can have confidence in our path if we center our lives on the doctrines.

10 comments:

Jacob J said...

If selfishness is one of the underlying principles here, then abstinence in marriage is definitely out.

M&M said...

Jacob, I'm tired, but I think I am missing your point.

Anonymous said...

I think you are greatly underestimating the impact of the church teachings and the hell that couples went through when they basically had the choice of having a loving, healthy sexual relationship or having children they knew they couldn't afford (either financially, emotionally or whatever). It wreaked havoc on many people's marriages. Please don't dismiss their pain so lightly by saying that things are basically the same today.

The most influential quote I've heard from that generation is one you didn't include in your then/now analysis:
"We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity. Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by."
(First Presidency {David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner} Letter to presidents of stakes, bishops of wards, and presidents of missions, 14 April 1969)

It doesn't say anything about selfishness or personal situations. It just says there is a curse, period.

Two of my children, when getting ready for their temple marriages, got counsel from church leaders not to get pregnant in the first year. This would never have happened in the 1960s.

A lot of older women are understandably bitter that they were caught having children they didn't want and couldn't afford, and I can see their frustration. Please stop pretending that it was pretty much the same as now!!

M&M said...

anonymous,
I am not trying to dismiss anyone's pain. I'm sorry you feel that I am.

I can imagine the struggle that existed, but I think you have oversimplified the issue. There is more to consider than just the sexual relationship or having children, and that is, I believe, what the prophets have always been trying to remind us of. There are eternal consequences of these decisions.

BTW, I think it's important to note that there was nothing said of a curse in that quote...all that was said is that couples who limited their families unnecessarily or inappropriately would reap disappointment someday. I believe that this still is true for couples today.

I also think it is unfair to lay blame on the Church for this. A couple can get guidance and direction about how to apply prophetic counsel, and they could have done that back then, too. From personal experience, I can testify that He will give us direction, even when we feel our choices are limited and things are hard.

Two of my children, when getting ready for their temple marriages, got counsel from church leaders not to get pregnant in the first year.

If we believe this is really between a couple and God, then imo, I don't think that local leaders have any business giving this counsel, especially when no such counsel has come from our leaders.

M&M said...

btw, I want to add that my personal experience is not so far from what anonymous describes couples used to face. I have health problems and cannot get pregnant without threatening my health. We have felt impressed not to put my health at risk in this way, in fact. Add to that that hormonal birth control is something I can't use. It doesn't take much to realize that this presents a real struggle, and not many options. It has been hard, but we have found that a marriage can not only survive, but thrive, when spouses seek to work together through such trials and seek the Lord's guidance.

So when I speak of these things, it is not from some corner of ignorance. I know of the struggle from personal experience, and know that it is something that need not be a hell. It has strengthened our marriage through the course of time to fact this challenge together and to help each other through the struggles that have been part of our situation.

BookwormMama said...

It is always interesting to me how often people choose to remain anonymous when they are disagreeing with someone's view.
In any case, good work putting together such a great compilation and piecing this together for us M&M!
Anonymous, the Lord gave us all a mind to use and we are all entitled to personal revelation for each of our situations as M&M pointed out. In that quote you left us, it says nothing about a curse. I read it a few times to make sure. Those who have more children than they can care for and then blame the church for that are not very mature and are not taking responsibility for their own choices or have not sought personal revelation for their situation. I do not speak from ignorance either as I have 6 children, all under the age of 8. And this is all we can care for. We are happy with our 6 children and we love them and can provide for them. We are done having children and Heavenly Father is happy with the children that we have. However, more important than how MANY we have is the quality of our relationships with them.

Anonymous said...

First, the reason I chose anonymous is that I could not find a way to enter my usual screen name.

Second, if you weren't a young mom in the 1960s, I don't know how you could understand and know (which you claimed to!) the diverse influences that made this such a tough choice. Saying you know what it was like is like saying you know what it is like to be raped, or to be black before 1978.

While the quotes that were assembled are nice and could support the idea that it hasn't changed much, those aren't the quotes that most people actually heard and used in their decisions.

Remember, General Conference was not available on television in many places; the place I lived in the 1970s, we got a Saturday conference session only, at 6 a.m. on Sunday. In contrast, the letter I cited (which you failed to include) reached every member, because it was read from the pulpit.

And yes, it did too have a curse (in the BoM sense); it warned us that we would be disappointed if family size was curtailed. Under the new system, there is no such promise if a couple feels right about curtailing their family size at 2. 4, 6 or whatever. A lot of people just couldn't feel good about contraception because of that curse.

Another very influential refernce you have not cited was the I HAVE A QUESTION which ran in the Ensign in the late 1970s, which was the first time most members saw the idea that it was a personal thing. It was much talked about.

So maybe we were all wrong and stupid to take those church teachings so literally. But that really was how things were presented and talked about.

And a lot of us were also worried about a nuclear bomb dropping. It was just another era.

M&M said...

anonymous,
Thanks for your followup comment.

Of course, I can't fully understand all the forces, and that wasn't what I was claiming to understand. But I feel very strongly about this commandment, I know that my choices in this regard have eternal consequence (that may not say 'curse' to you, but it does to me), and we have to essentially sacrifice in a big way to keep me from getting pregnant. You painted a dichotomy between a 'healthy sexual relationship' (which must tie into frequency) and having children. That is what I feel is not so far in my experience from those days and the challenges that were faced.

I also still do not feel from our doctrine and teachings that greatly curtailing the birth of children is appropriate, so I still feel the forces exist to a great degree, btw. Sure, birth control itself is not mentioned, but the doctrines behind it are. So again, I wonder, have things really changed?

BTW, did you see that quote from Conference in 1966 from Presidet Packer? "Often when young couples come, they ask the specific question, “How many children should we plan to have?” This I cannot answer, for it is not within my province to know. With some persons there are no restrictions of health, and perhaps a number of children will be born into the family. Some good parents who would have large families are blessed with but one or two children. And, occasionally, couples who
make wonderful parents are not able to have natural offspring and enjoy the marvelous experience of fostering children born to others. Planned Parenthood involves a good deal more than just the begetting of children. Nothing in our lives deserves more planning than our responsibilities in parenthood. (Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, Oct 1966, p. 132) Does this not say to you that there was some measure of planning and choice, even 'back then'?

One last thing -- I don't think people were wrong and stupid to take this counsel literally. I think if they did, they were wise and will be blessed eternally. But I do think it's wrong for people to blame the Church for their choices. I also find it sad that people would somehow regret or resent the choices they made, especially since that means they will be blessed with posterity throughout this life and in the life to come. What else matters more than that? Read the current quotes and tell me what else matters more, and I would submit that then and now, nothing else does (or for those of us who can't have as many children, nothing matters more that the desires we have toward that blessing).

M&M said...

You painted a dichotomy between a 'healthy sexual relationship' (which must tie into frequency)

That should read "which I sense you think must tie into frequency."

Doug Towers said...

I think the point is that we want to be Gods or Godessess. This means having numberless children. If we are swamped by 2 or 4 or 6 etc, and say it is too much to have more, then what are we thinking its going to be like as a God?

As has been stated, circumstances may not be correct for us to be able to have more. But I would say in regard anonymous's concerns that the prophets have always told us to use the Spirit in things we are doing. We have been told since Joseph Smith's time, to get and keep the Spirit with us. Had members followed that instruction in the 60's they would have known what to do. God has always had the ability to have the truth available to those who diligently seek it.