Self-Assessment and Babies

Casual listeners* to general conference may have come away with the impression that the Church, as represented by Elder Neil L. Andersen, really wants us to have more babies. There is plenty of reason for this, but I’m going to suggest that Elder Andersen was making a subtler and more nuanced point. The target of the post was not childlessness; it was selfishness.

First of all, I do think that the church (and Elder Anderson) would like us to have more babies. A few years ago, Elder Packer gave an address at BYU wherein he argued that the somewhat shrinking number of missionaries worldwide was due, not to “raising the bar,” but rather to the somewhat shrinking birth rate. Although the number of children per capita is always higher than the US national average amongst Mormons, it is also true that as a group acquires more education and a higher standard of living its birth rate drops.** The reasons for that are a little chicken-and-egg-y, and outside the scope of this post, but the correlation seems clear. As the Mormon corridor (and the US) in general has become a better place to live, it has also become a harder place for finding babies.

Now perhaps this trend could be offset by people joining the church in other countries, with a lower standard of living. However, thanks to the Perpetual Education Fund (and other forms of church welfare (and, arguably, God’s blessings)), the temporal lives of our members often improve as a result of their long association with the church, which likely means that they have fewer children than they otherwise would. We are educating ourselves out of children.

So, Elder Andersen is reinforcing God’s command to multiply and replenish the earth. There are people who, for whatever reason, are putting off having children. Some subset thereof is doing it for reasons of which the Lord would not approve. It is to these people that Elder Andersen directs the stories in the talk (Adam, Lehi, Jesus, and Elder Mason). Elder Anderson would like these people to repent, which is slightly different than wanting them to have children. Though slight, it is an important difference.

If we need to repent, that is because there is a sin involved. The key to the talk, I think, is the quote that Elder Anderson pulled from a blog. The non-LDS Christian blogger wrote:

Growing up in the culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on mother hood…Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get…

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

The quote comes in two parts that deal with two different issues. The first has to do with the effect children have on a life and a relationship. When you become a parent, all other priorities and dreams can (and should) take a back seat to caring for that child. In our American culture, this burden falls more heavily on women than on men, but even though it is currently an unequal yoke socially, it is one that must be born for the good of the child. So, the first question you need to ask yourself in figuring out if you are ready for children is “Am I willing to bear this burden?” Of course, you don’t really know that until you have children. But you should be realistic about yourself.

The second half of the quote deals with a different, although similar, issue. Why do you want children? Seriously So Blessed used to parody blogs to whom the second half of the quote applies. Do you understand having children as a means to improve your social standing? As a means to improve business opportunities? As a way to distract you from an ordinary live? The reasons for our acts are just as important the acts themselves.

And this leads to the several injunctions against judgment:

When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions – decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.

Brothers and sisters, we should not be judgmental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility

and, further, to an admission of mitigating factors:

The bearing of children is a sensitive subject that can be very painful for righteous women who do not have the opportunity to marry and have a family.

The bearing of children can also be a heartbreaking subject for righteous couples who marry and find that they are unable to have the children they so anxiously anticipated.

There is, spite of the above injunctions, the tendency to judge in these things. Both to assume that people who don’t have children don’t want children and to assume that people who don’t want children do so for sinful reasons. What Elder Andersen makes clear is that both assumptions are sinful, but he also makes clear that we can be guilty of both.

I submit that he is serious when he says that this is a matter that is between the couple and the Lord. But that isn’t intended as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Elder Andersen is asking us to really consider why we have the number of children we have (or plan to) and what that number means to us. Judgment is intended, but it is the couple’s job to judge themselves.

One final note: Elder Andersen couches the birth process and the nurturing of children as gifts given to one’s spouse. Setting aside the ultimate appropriateness of that phrasing, it does seem to set the decision making regarding number of children in the woman’s court. I’m not certain what to make of that, but it seemed worth pointing out.

* I’m actually skeptical that there is something that can be called a “casual listener” of conference, but it seemed like a good way to start.

** I’m not actually qualified to make such statements. Please correct me, o sociologists, if I have my info and assumptions incorrect.

Comments

  1. Well done John.

  2. chance that this will cause people to judge me and my decisions less, or give me less grief about it : 0%.

  3. My wife and I heard this talk differently. My wife heard it as a “motherhood IS an acceptable profession” talk, and one which counterbalances what she often feels is the outside message that she hears in our area (not Utah) that being a mom is just not enough. As our youngest chldren (of 7) are now in middle and high school, she keeps flirting with what her next step in her life will be. Complications with older chldren signal that she’ll be mothering for many, many years to come, and it’s not been completely easy for her to accept. This talk provided her with some bit of comfort.

    I heard the talk more the way you did, John — not necessarily a command to have more children (those decisions are private and not to be judged by one’s fellow saints we heard at least twice, maybe three times in the talk), but to be open the the opportunity to have a family and let that outcome move up the priority scale.

  4. I think it’s silly though to imply the talk did not imply having more children (broadly speaking). And dude is right, it won’t really stop judgement. I think people who want to judge will find it fuel for the fire.

  5. I dunno, I always feel like there are contradictory statements in these kinds of talks. “We want you to have more children, but you should decide how many. No one should judge you for how many you have, but you really should be having more, and you should repent for not wanting more. You can decide when you want to have them, but you really shouldn’t wait very long at all. We won’t judge you for waiting to have children, either, but you also ought to repent for wanting to wait a little while to have them.”

  6. John, I hope you are right, but I’m not convinced.

  7. Also–I just need to get this off my chest–why did the wannabe doctor need to exercise faith?! He didn’t have to give up med school, just make do with a little less while he was in school. What if his wife had been the one who really wanted to be a doctor? It bothers me a lot that that scenario seems not to even be worthy of consideration.

  8. Amen Kristine.

  9. One of the advantages of infertility is that it removes all these dilemmas and attendant responsibilities of resolving them.
    Of course, with a combined 12 years of graduate school between us and 12 years of marriage, I’m sure some people wonder why we don’t have kids. I don’t really care if that’s the case, but I suspect even if it were, my wife would be the one hearing about it, not me.

    And I’m with Kristine on the med school thing.

  10. I guess it’s easier to go on pretending that Mormon women who want to be doctors or lawyers or business people just don’t exist, or that if they do exist they are sinful for wanting anything in addition to motherhood. Best we just don’t talk about them.

  11. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    While nuance and subtlety make for a fun and engaging analysis, I’m not sure how useful they are in a Conference address meant to be heard by millions of people in dozens of languages. Your analysis could be spot on, but even if so I’d imagine that the subtle distinctions have been lost on the majority of listeners and will continue to be lost. If the majority of members who listen to the talk feel that it’s only a call to have more children, then isn’t that what it’s actually about? How far does authorial intent go versus the interpretation applied by the masses? Should the bishops and stake presidents who may overstep their bounds and start using the phrase “Where is your faith” to prod young members to expand their families be blamed for misinterpreting the talk? We often respond to criticisms against the Church by responding with how things actually work “on the ground”, so to speak. If this talk is not received as a call for repentance but instead as a call for specific actions couples should take, isn’t that what actually matters?

  12. #2: What are the odds that the talk will help you to be less judgmental and give others less grief for their decisions?

  13. MCQ, unless of course we consider the mormon.org commercials currently in circulation. Lot’s of proffesional women there.

  14. observer fka eric s says:

    This is great, thanks. I found his talk to be fascinating because it creates such a narrow, anxious place of judgment for many couples to work within in our culture. This is because of the guidance that the couple are to ideally operate within in reaching the decision:
    (1) The timing and number are between the couple and Lord; BUT
    (2) Don’t put it off for x, y, z reasons.

    It seems like x,y,z reasons will almost always swallow any of couple’s discretion that is left.

  15. Eric S.,
    I’m read the “x,y,z” as all being “the wrong reasons.” That gives me (and others, I hope) the latitude to determine what those wrong reasons would be for us, as well as whether I am using them. I think it is important that the quote he highlights comes down as hard on people who have babies for the wrong reasons (like fitting in with your co-religionists) as it does on people who put off kids to afford a vacation to Jamaica or some such.

  16. The only thing that really bothered me was that his chosen anecdotes don’t really illustrate the doctrines and advice he spelled out explicitly.
    For as hard as he harped on the idea that the decision of when and how many children to have is a private one to be made prayerfully as husband and wife- the way he told the Mason’s story it makes it sound like the decision to have children immediately was made right there in Elder Kimball’s office. (As Stephen Colbert put it “A woman’s health decisions are a private matter, between her priest and her husband!”) Adding a simple sentence about taking Elder Kimball’s advice home and praying about it with his wife would have made a world of difference to me.

  17. Julie M. Smith says:

    I’m too lazy to look it up, but I am under the impression that LDS do not follow the general rule that increased education leads to a decreased birthrate, but actually the opposite.

  18. If we didn’t have talks like these my children just might grow up to not know that God wants them to have children. Because they sure aren’t getting any messages from anywhere else to have children.
    Nowhere else are they ever taught to be parents, how to be a parent, how to be a good parent. All of the criticism of the talk seems so alien to me. I am used to outsiders disdaining our choice and belief that having children is a good thing, but I find it disheartening that even Mormons are anti-children.
    Because of trends I assume my four children will only have 2 or 3 children. I assume my daughters will graduate from college and work part-time during all their motherhood years. I still want them to have talks encouraging them to have children because it WILL require courage for them and their spouses to choose to get pregnant those two or three times. (I also assume that at least one of my children will not find a spouse to marry–half of my sibling set did not marry and we’re 40 now).
    Just because a few people go crazy and have too many, doesn’t mean we should stop encouraging people to have children. The world has changed. Getting married is now a choice, it is not the automatic next step. Having children is now a choice, not the automatic next step. Now that it is such a culturally bizarre, strange, unusual choice, it does not surprise me that the church has to explicitly encourage people to be willing to go for it despite the challenges because it is such a good use of one’s time here on earth.

  19. I interpreted the talk the same way you did, John, but only by using my nuanced super-powers. I found the med student story problematic and wish it hadn’t been included. It’s a good example of having faith, I guess. It’s not such a good example of making the decision to have children after sincere prayer, counseling together with the Lord. It’s a story about someone deciding to have children after counseling with Spencer W. Kimball. And no offense to Pres. Kimball, a great man, but neither he nor any other church leader is on my short list of who to talk to about having another baby. (Actually, no one’s on my short list these days, since I have pretty much unilaterally decided not to have any more children. I’m comfy with that decision, but I sure as heck don’t want to know Pres. Kimball’s opinion.)

    Of course, a talk that can’t be used to condemn people for their private choices is probably more than any mortal can provide. People will make of it what they will.

  20. “If the majority of members who listen to the talk feel that it’s only a call to have more children, then isn’t that what it’s actually about?”

    No. If that were the case, then wouldn’t the meaning of all scripture be determined by majority vote?

    “unless of course we consider the mormon.org commercials currently in circulation. Lot’s of proffesional women there.”

    Stapley, I actually think that’s part of the problem. When things like mormon.org confirm the reality that we all know exists out there in real life, why is it so unthinkable that we might hear our leaders talk about it, acknowledge it, even (gasp!) praise it in a conference address or in any other setting? Afraid we’re going to infect our daughters with the possiblity of professional success, or with any ambition other than motherhood? Is motherhood such a fragile ideal that we have to protect women from the knowledge that there are other pursuits that are possible?

  21. Thanks for your post, John, but this talk still really bothered me. I’m 22 years old, I have been married about a year and a half, planning on going to graduate school, and already getting tons of pressure to have kids (especially from my mother-in-law.) It frustrates me to no end. I absolutely want to have kids eventually, but I feel very strongly that I should be ready emotionally for parenthood and that I am able to fulfill some of my own very personal life goals – like going to graduate school. It really bothered me when Anderson was telling the story about the couple and Spencer W. Kimball. Right at that moment my mother-in-law, who was sitting right next to me nudged me and said “listen to this,” and kept looking at me. Then Anderson commenced to quote Kimball in saying that the couple was “breaking a commandment” and “not faithful enough.” This made me feel horrible. Like I said, I WANT to have kids, and I totally have faith, I just also happen to have other life goals as well. I too felt like Anderson was completely contradicting himself when he said that the decision to have kids was between a husband, wife, and God, and then that waiting to have kids was “breaking a commandment.” What???

  22. My decision to put off having children was based on my own anxieties. I am extremely anxious around small children to the point of wanting to run away from them. I have been to therapy for this. In the end, my wife convinced me that it was the right thing to do, it’s what the Lord wanted us to do and I should just trust her and the Lord and see what happens.

    Well, we now have twin newborn sons (one of whom John C. was able to hold last night) and it hasn’t killed me yet. I’m not particularly happy about it, but I can see that it makes my wife happy. When I take care of them, or other baby-related work around the house, I’m doing it for her. So I guess I agree with Elder Anderson.

    —A casual listener of conference

  23. #20 MCQ: “Is motherhood such a fragile ideal that we have to protect women from the knowledge that there are other pursuits that are possible?”

    Do you believe a child can grow up in the US (or anywhere in the developed world) without a knowledge that there are other pursuits that are possible?

    Rare are the messages that motherhood is an acceptable alternative.

  24. #21 ingridlola, tell your MIL to jump in the lake. She has no say in the matter. Then highlight the two or three times that Elder Andersen said this is a private matter for you and your husband. Then give your MIL a copy of Elder Holland’s talk from last conference and move far away.

  25. JKS: Are you certain that things are as bleak as you describe when it comes to non-Mormons and their lack of desire for children? Perhaps families are smaller, but there are still plenty of people of all cultures and beliefs who want children.

  26. observer fka eric s says:

    John C.(15) dood, did you just judge members who put off a baby so they could take a vacay to jah carribeaON mon? Dat is gut judgment mon.

  27. Ironically, I didn’t hear most of the talk due to my children. The bits I caught, though, sounded very much like advice to not wait to have kids, and I immediately wondered how my sister, married for a year and struggling with her husband for them to both get through school, would react, since they are waiting until sometime later to have kids. I suppose I ought to go read the talk in it’s entirety now and see what I think of its message then.

  28. I think that’s garbage, Paul. The message that motherhood is acceptable and expected are all around us too. My daughter only has to look at her own family, her extended family, the families of everyone in her neighborhood and countless examples in history and the media to know that motherhood is acceptable and laudable. All alternatives are in evidence out there, but all alternatives are not in evidence in our Church meetings.

    We are not doing ourselves or our daughters any favors by pretending that there is only one acceptable choice in existence. We should talk about the choices that real women, even Mormom women, are making, why they are making them and we should find and praise the examples of those who live praiseworthy and beautiful lives regardless of what choices they make regarding work and careers. Those examples are out there. I know many of them personally. Most of them feel ignored and marginalized by their Church. I suppose you think that’s a wonderful thing in the service of making motherhood acceptable.

  29. I was talking about your #23, Paul. I love your #24.

  30. I heard this a little differently (over the radio, interrupted frequently). I heard not to wait to have kids. I don’t think you should plan on having kids w/o the means to pay for them w/o gov’t help. I don’t really want to pay for anyone else’s kids. Also, I don’t know how this goes over for the economically disadvantaged in foreign countries, how are they supposed to have lots of kids?

  31. Any mother-in-law who thinks it’s her place to tell people when to get pregnant, should be invited to watch.

  32. #31 queno – you mean invited to watch the making of the baby or the actual giving birth of the baby? … because she’s already requested to be present at the latter event. Luckily she hasn’t yet said yet requested to witness the former.

  33. Along these lines, the tension found within the criss-cross of prophetic mandates to 1. “start our families,” 2. “stay out of debt,” and 3. “get all the education you can” has always been interesting to me (probably because I lived it). Anecdotal examples of people going 3 for 3 are out there, I’m sure, but I’d think often as an exception (at least if “all the education you can” includes anything post-graduate).

    I managed 2 out of 3, and just keep telling myself it’s the “good kind of debt.” (I’m only occasionally successful effort at maintaining that delusion). Still, it was definitely an ongoing self-assessment process for me and my wife. As long as we can look ourselves in the mirror and at the end of the day knowing we’ve done our best, that’s probably the only thing that matters.

  34. I’ve been married for 4 years and me and my wife have not started trying to have kids. We have prayed for direction and the feeling we get is that it doesn’t really matter if we wait a few years to have kids. This talk was for my demographic and at least for me and my wife, it did absolutely nothing to clarify the topic. In fact, it seemed to blatantly contradict itself over and over. I hate to draw Orwellian parallels with the Church but how is “It is between you, your spouse, and the Lord when to have children” and “Do not delay having children” not doublespeak?

  35. queuno, unless that mother-in-law is like mine and would force herself into the delivery room if given the chance.

    I don’t really remember a lot about this particular talk but I took it as the OP stated–If you have kids, why did you have them? If you don’t have kids, why not? Are you happy with your answer?

    Not necessarily a “thou must procreate” but a “analyze yourself and make sure you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time”, with ‘right thing’ being having kids. (Which is when he lost me)

  36. I personally don’t see this as doublespeak. Church members are having fewer babies and having them later, and Elder Anderson feels that’s good evidence that people aren’t taking their responsibility to reproduce seriously enough. Doesn’t mean he or anybody else can or should judge specific people, just that looking at the numbers, he feels he can judge that the church as a whole ought to be having more. I don’t think anybody should be surprised that an apostle feels he can judge general trends in the church. It’s just like when they ask for more senior couples and suggest they don’t need to take care of grandbabies or elderly parents. Of course some senior couples really must care for grandbabies or aging parents, and determining that is between them and the Lord, but others might ought to re-prioritize. I think this is the same sort of talk.

  37. Chris Gordon says:

    You know, I found the message of the talk timely and at least tacitly addressing the choices and opportunities Mormon women make and choose from. Newly (#35), I think your synthesis of the talk and the OP is spot-on: Make your choices. Make them between your spouse and the Lord. But be honest with yourselves about your motives for making your choices. And every once in a while let a talk like this challenge you to analyze those motives from time to time just to keep yourself honest.

    The other point that I think is at least implied in this particular talk and in others is to be wary of evaluating “readiness” to ________ the way that is commonly done (fill in the blank with marriage, have kids, repent, whatever). On a personal level, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome in starting to date seriously was a mental one: was I ready to think about marriage and family? It took some prayer (fortunately, those around me pretty much laid off) for me to realize that I needed to sort through my friends’ influence as to what makes someone ready for that step. I continually have to re-check myself there as the wife and I discuss our family planning. By most of my friends’ estimation, I am ridiculous for being married with two kids at this point. By my Mormon friends’, I’m either right on track or even lagging a bit.

  38. WaMo – it absolutely feels bleak around here. My husband works in Seattle. Almost all of my husband’s co-workers in the past few years are childless, many of them in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
    I went to Utah last summer and was shocked seeing pregnant women–like walking around in a grocery store–in person! We rarely see pregnant women around here. Of course sometimes at church there is one or two but not right now, and I know two moms at my kid’s schools who are pregnant (one is religious), but still it seems rare.
    So, like I said, I’m not hoping for my kids to have the 6 kids of my parents’ generation or the 4 kids of my generation, I’m hoping they can be brave enough to go for 2 or 3, because I think there is a serious danger that they won’t have any because of how the culture has influenced them.
    Those of you who live in family friendly areas or in the flyover states may be unaware of the trend, but there are countless news articles about the declining birthrate in many parts of the world. There seem to be no easy answers.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-02/26/c_13751382_2.htm

  39. Chris Gordon says:
  40. Ok, so I went and listened to the talk. I got the impression from the story about the doctor that he and his wife did not *want* to wait to have children, but had decided to wait because they didn’t think they could afford them and school, but if they had been able to think of how to do both, they would have. So when Pres. Kimball told him the Lord would provide a way, it wasn’t going against his own wishes or those of his wife to go ahead and start their family.

    After listening to the whole thing, the message I took away was still don’t wait to have kids if you can help it (though it is between you, your spouse, and the Lord). And don’t judge others for their lack of kids.

    Maybe if I listen to it again when I’m not horribly sleep deprived due to newborns, I will be able to pick up more of the nuance found by the OP.

  41. I came away from this talk with the unfortunate aftertaste of “members can pretty much pick and choose anything about this they wish.” If they want to pick the side of “having babies as much as often as possible as that proves your faith” they can find justification. If they want to pick the side of “it’s a decision between you and your spouse and the Lord” the statement is there. I felt “carried about by every wind of doctrine” regarding this issue that I felt a little seasick by the end. I felt like this by Elder Ballard’s talk as well, almost like they had to parse their words so much as to make them practically meaningless.

  42. Regarding the story of the medical student and his wife, I think Elder Anderson may have assumed that everyone knew who he was talking about. He identified the medical student as James O. Mason, but didn’t explain the rest of the story: Mason went on to not only graduate first in his class at the UofU medical school, but had the highest grades of any graduate of any year up until that point. He went on to get a masters and PhD in public health at Harvard, become the US Assistant Secretary of Health and Acting Surgeon General, and later become the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also served as a general authority and is currently emeritus. I think this context helps a little in understanding the story.

    More on James O. Mason: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_O._Mason.

  43. Martin: I would be more inclined to agree with you if he didn’t use a strong term like “do not delay having children” and used more consistent language. However, instead he told the story about SWK saying ‘Where is your faith?” to a young couple, implying that if you had faith you would not even ask if you should delay having children.

  44. kadusey–that may be true, but his wife’s wishes are mentioned nowhere. And JT, I’m not sure how that clarifies anything, except to make it clear that a man’s career needn’t suffer much because he has children early and often. The same is simply not true for women, and I think Elder Anderson’s failure to mention that sacrifice is a significant oversight.

  45. Kristine, I absolutely agree with you. I think that that is probably what bothered me the most about this talk.

  46. JKS: Well, since Seattle has probably the highest population of DINKs in the country, I understand a bit about where you’re coming from, but I can assure you that if you head south to Renton or east to Issaquah or even drive over the mountains to Eastern Washington, you’ll see plenty of happy little families all over the place.

  47. Well, maybe not happy ones, or little ones.

  48. Kristine, I agree that there’s an inherent sexism there, but it’s the assumption it’s the men’s fault there aren’t more babies, because they’re either tied up in endless manchild syndrome, selfishly wanting to play instead of manning up, or so focused on their careers that they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Because women all want to have babies, of course. The fact that women are selfishly playing or pursuing careers/education might not be on the radar (for that talk, anyway). For the general population, it’s got to be women. For Mormons, maybe not.

  49. Oops.. missed a sentence there:

    “It’d be interesting to know who’s more responsible for the decline in birth rate, men or women. For the general population, it’s got to be women. For Mormons, maybe not.”

  50. “The fact that women are selfishly playing or pursuing careers/education might not be on the radar (for that talk, anyway).”

    Or NOT selfishly (!), but in obedience to prophetic counsel to get all the education they can.

  51. 32/35 – I was suggesting inviting her to watch the making of, so that she can give pointers. That ought to shut her up.

    My wife basically told her mother that she would switch hospitals and not tell her, if she tried to show up.

  52. I don’t know what make of SWK guidance given before he was a prophet. I mean, that guidance was pre-Priesthood Revelation.

  53. Well, as one who started soonish and churned them out through many years of college I have little sympathy for the blaming of college life. I heard the talk as a reminder that we still needed to be having kids. It’s about personal choice between a couple and God. Just keep it that way-don’t find other excuses or reasons for having or not having kids.

  54. whizzbang says:

    it’s talks like these and other statements that now I totally ignore. Elder Andersen and others never have to live with the consequences of our choices and having kids just to have kids to appease Elder Andersen or some local leader wanting to climb the local ladder is a very bad idea. When I was married I bought it all and it completely backfired and left me in therapy so unless Elder Andersen wants to pay my therapist then I just skip his talk and go onto others’ talks

  55. “Or NOT selfishly (!), but in obedience to prophetic counsel to get all the education they can.”

    I think you meant “…all the education they can without unduly delaying having babies”. Didn’t you read the talk?

    I’m pulling your chain, but a couple has finite resources, and if they’re both intent on pursuing education/careers, it’s going to slow them down to have babies. The assumption that it’s the woman who has to be most impacted isn’t valid for feminists. Women can be exactly as selfish as men when it comes to prioritizing education/career over family.

  56. No, they really can’t. There’s that darn biology thing, and the sexism it engenders in the workplace and in the academy. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/15/education/15women.html (for instance)

  57. There has never existed a man whose decision to have a child has the same potential ramifications and consequences for his career as it would if he were a woman. Period.

  58. “Well, as one who started soonish and churned them out through many years of college”

    I’m sure your children are happy to know how you feel about the miracle of their coming into the world. Keep on churnin’!

  59. Wes Brown says:

    I’m not trying to troll here, but I think the notion that ‘not having kids = selfish’ is nonsense. I’m also surprised that no one has floated the idea that having lots of kids could be one of the most selfish things a human could do. Reproducing. Everything living species on Earth MUST do it. It takes no thought and is one of the most carnal instincts. The world is not hurting for more people. Yes, I understand that caring for children is a life-long selfless endeavor. But the church isn’t saying, “Yeah, have kids sometime. It can be a great experience for you!”

    Anytime a religion or nation lauds this stuff, all I see is NUMBERS. “Please! We need more people! Not converts either. Full fledged, taught from birth members!”

    I love kids. I think motherhood and fatherhood are two of the coolest things a person can experience. I think organisations telling people to have more kids is disgusting and selfish.

  60. “I felt ‘carried about by every wind of doctrine’ regarding this issue that I felt a little seasick by the end. I felt like this by Elder Ballard’s talk as well, almost like they had to parse their words so much as to make them practically meaningless.”

    Probably because anytime they give prophetic counsel about reordering our lives without a million caveats, people freak out. But I agree with you that they should stop giving the caveats because people will ignore them and freak out anyway.

  61. “Yes, I understand that caring for children is a life-long selfless endeavor. But the church isn’t saying, ‘Yeah, have kids sometime. It can be a great experience for you!'”

    So the Church should encourage people to engage in this “selfless endeavor” by telling people that it’s a “great experience for you.” Got it.

  62. “I’m sure your children are happy to know how you feel about the miracle of their coming into the world. Keep on churnin’!”

    Looks like someone forgot to bring their sense of humor with them to the Internet today.

  63. CJ Douglass says:

    I’m concerned about overpopulation and American levels of consumption and waste. People who decide not to have kids deserve our gratitude. We better hope Jesus comes sooner than later.

  64. Wes Brown says:

    MC, yes. There is a lot of doctrine that would classify humility and selflessness as a good/great for you. Growth through adversity. Every fast Sunday.

  65. Wes, I agree with you on the notion that not having kids can, and probably is, just as selfish as having kids. Growing up I had quite a few friends who were literally starving for food while mom and dad were still baking. There are also quite a bit of the young fertile women (at least in my ward) that are addicted to the attention a pregnant belly brings.

  66. #62: or you did.

  67. I think talks like this assume that most (all?) children are born in ideal circumstances. What about when far from being a gift to your spouse, a child is simply when you get knocked up? What about orphaned children in need of homes? What of even children in abusive households, whether that household is LDS or Christian or whatever? I know that this was not the focus of his speech but the first point especially seems to be a powerful counterargument to this idea that all babies are just waiting to come to this or that family . . . sometimes kids just happen.

    I’m 23 and so are both my coworkers: one a lapsed Mormon and one non-. Neither (both are men) seem to want children, ever. I want one badly, but my wedding keeps getting delayed by distance and family ill-health and general bad scheduling . . . I guess I just find it surprising that these guys NEVER want kids, not even in their 30s . . . perhaps the biological imperative for women really is that strong? I don’t feel judged by any Mormons for not having kids/being married yet: I never have, and I think this must be a myth of particularly insular areas.

  68. Stephanie says:

    There are also quite a bit of the young fertile women (at least in my ward) that are addicted to the attention a pregnant belly brings.

    How do you know that? Perhaps the injunction to “not be judgmental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility” applies just as much to those who choose to have children as it does to those who choose not to.

  69. futureglimpse says:

    I found this talk extraordinarily refreshing. I disagree that the world values a woman’s decision to “just” be a mother. I certainly feel judged as unambitious, lazy, and anti-feminist, with my choice and hearts desire to be a 100% and full-time mother. This talk reaffirmed that although the world doesn’t applaud my efforts and choice, at least the Lord does. And really, what else should really even matter?
    I know there is judgement in the church when people put off having children, or don’t have many. But I think I see the opposite cropping up more and more. My brother isn’t yet 30 and his wife is pregnant with their fourth child. They are great parents and their kids never want for necessities, love, or attention. But even within the church, they are judged as radical and irresponsible. So, once again, I really appreciated the message in this talk.

  70. Steve Evans says:

    Imagine if grad students on welfare were having kids, too! The mind boggles.

  71. “I certainly feel judged as unambitious, lazy, and anti-feminist, with my choice and hearts desire to be a 100% and full-time mother.”
    Can you point to a mainstream feminist source where the choice to be a mother is belittled? I hear this ALL the time, and yet I spend a lot of time with feminists who are totally in love with their babies, who write essay collections like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Child-Mine-Writers-About-Motherhhod/dp/0786862335/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317866539&sr=1-5 and publish magazines like this: http://www.brainchildmag.com/ Where are all these terrible people that think it’s bad to have babies and stay home with them? (besides that one doctor last year arguing that med. school was wasted on women who weren’t going to practice full-time)

  72. “Regarding the story of the medical student and his wife, I think Elder Anderson may have assumed that everyone knew who he was talking about.”

    FWIW, Elder Mason was a Regional Representative during his years as director of the Centers for Disease Control. Starting out, one of his issues of prevention was urinary continence, which results in a lot of nursing home admissions. I wondered how much of that was his wife having seven kids. But anyway, that was all overshadowed because the AIDS epidemic hit, and that’s all he did for the rest of his tenure there.

    When he came to talk at church, he told us great stories about struggling through school with all those kids. Since my husband was in grad school and we had three, it was very encouraging to hear his stories.

  73. 67.

    I don’t feel judged by any Mormons for not having kids/being married yet: I never have, and I think this must be a myth of particularly insular areas.

    Wait–you’ve never experienced something, therefore it’s a myth?

  74. “Can you point to a mainstream feminist source where the choice to be a mother is belittled?”

    Oh, how about

    http://prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10659

    where Linda Hirshman calls staying home, “bad for them and certainly bad for society.” In her book “Get to Work: A Feminist Manifesto,” she advises against having children at all and strongly warns against having more than one child.

    Then there is Leslie Bennetts

    And in Anna Quindlen’s book THE PRICE OF MOTHERHOOD, one of her last chapters is critical of NOW and other feminist organizations for not making mother’s issues a priority.

  75. I thought

  76. MCQ (66),
    If you were actually making a joke then I withdraw my snark.

  77. My problem with talks like this is that I know many young Mormon couples who are in college and barely making rent. They aren’t waiting to have kids to go on fancy vacations or buy new toys, they’re waiting so they can afford to feed and clothe their baby. I don’t know of anyone who is waiting to have kids so they can have nice things instead. I don’t think it’s really okay to use government aid when you could just wait 3 years and provide for your child.( Especially if you’re a Republican. ) If anything, waiting until you’re done with school to have children is responsible.

    Many single people I know claim not to want kids, but most married couples do. I think somewhere along the way comes a shift in what people want.

    I’m married and planning on applying for grad school this semester, and while plenty of girls my age who have been married for less time than me are having babies, I am not one of them, nor will I be for awhile. I like my quiet childless evenings and I’d like to spend a few more years getting to know my husband before we add any spawn into the mix.The person who has the most say in how many children I have and when I have them is me.

  78. I thought his talk was a potential minefield, but my impression was he is saying this:
    1 Children are important, if you can you should start having them.
    2 Others shouldn’t judge
    3 Its between you and the Lord what you decide to do
    4 But #3 doesnt mean you should decide to postpone, it just means no one but the Lord can judge you (ie. its up to you to disobey this commandment and the church won’t do anything about it and your neighbors/family/friends should keep it to themselves… but seemingly there are spiritual repercussions if your exceptions are truly not merited in the eyes of the Lord)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think much attention was given to good reasons to not have kids. The only scenarios it seems the talk would suggest are health and infertility.

  79. Stephanie (68),

    Because they’ve told me so. Being known as the socially awkward mom in the ward provides a benefit that I can ask questions flat out and get an honest answer. (I don’t do well in crowds)

  80. Stephanie says:

    NewlyHousewife, so they said, “My reason for having another baby is that I am addicted to the attention I get when I am pregnant”?

  81. StillConfused says:

    Because I chose to only have two children, parenting and the rest of my life were not in conflict. I was able to raise very successful, independent, good children, while having a career, working with a charity, doing home improvement etc (all of the dorky stuff that I like). The “moderation in all things” worked very well for me.

  82. Chris Gordon says:

    Kristine, I can only speak anecdotally (and the hearsay kind as well), but my wife constantly feels looked down upon for being “just a mother.” There’s nothing said, generally, but it’s sort of the bizarro version of the judgmentalism we complain of within the church that seems to exist outside of it. When we try to socialize with or befriend our neighbors or whatever outside of church, no matter how proudly she answers the question “What do you do?” with some variation of “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” there’s the awkward/pregnant (doble entendre intended) pause, the “look,” the break in the conversation that makes those interactions hard. So no, it’s not evil feminists decrying motherhood, because by all accounts this generation’s version of feminism is rampant with Mommy-hood. What our family comes across is much more subtle.

  83. Kristine-
    “Marie and I had rationalized that to get me through medical school, it would be necessary for her to remain in the workplace. Although this was not what we wanted to do, children would have to come later.”

    That quote sounds very much to me like he and his wife had discussed it and both wished to have children sooner rather than later if possible. Maybe I’m misreading it though.

  84. I confess I have not read the above 81 comments, but I’ll throw this out there anyway in case it hasn’t been brought up. What if he wasn’t necessarily talking to church members in the United States? There was a fantastic article in the National Geographic a month or two talking about how the birth rate in Brazil (and a few other countries with huge populations) has completely tanked over about 2 generations. Brazil went from something like an average of 7 kids per household to less than one. Maybe this talk was addressed to some of those concerns about declining birth rates in other parts of the world as their status/income increases. I realize that could apply to the US as well, but just throwiing it out there.

  85. Chris, I get it; I’ve been there. But I honestly think most of the judgment is self-inflicted. Maybe the content of those pauses is jealousy, or merely conversational recalibration–if you’ve been swapping workplace stories, it takes some gear-shifting to pull a stay-at-home mom into the conversation.

    For what it’s worth, there are weird pauses in every conversation where I tell people I edit an academic quarterly about Mormonism, both in and out of the church ;)

    Thanks, kadusey–I missed that.

  86. Danielle, the birth rate in Brazil is still above replacement rate (it was around 2.4 in 2010, down from almost 6 in the 50s/early 60s), but point taken.

  87. My wife and I waited until we graduated so that we could have medical insurance. Silly us.

  88. That quote sounds very much to me like he and his wife had discussed it and both wished to have children sooner rather than later if possible. Maybe I’m misreading it though.

    Whether or not they wanted to have children right away doesn’t change the fact that they had decided *together* that they should wait, and (apparently) brother Mason decided alone to not wait. It may have been a welcome change, but it was still a decision Sister Mason should have been a part of. From the way the story was told it isn’t obvious that she had much of a say at all.

  89. #85, okay, okay. The article was fairly dramatic so maybe I’m remembering the numbers to be more staggering than they were. Regardless. I think it has an impact on our church as well as the world at large. It is always interesting to me how we in the US still largely think of the church as “ours.” Sister Beck is one who has done a great job of reminding us otherwise. The global nature of our church does, I’m sure, pose interesting challenges to the speakers as they consider their messages. (And of course, I don’t really know who Elder Andersen’s target audience was, but I suspsect that the author here is right that we all need to hear at least a little bit of this, no matter what specifically we take away from it.)

  90. We had two children on Medicaid and the third has a nasal passage paid for by CHP. Silly us.

  91. We stopped after 3. Our main consideration…my wife’s happiness. I could care less about all other factors.

  92. When mired in the day-to-day of our earthly lives, seeing the bigger picture is often lost.
    There ARE a finite number of spirits that must come to earth and receive bodies.
    Do we assume that if they are not born into our families, that they will not be born at all?
    I always felt that in welcoming children to our family, at least they would have the opportunity to learn the reason that they were born.

  93. futureglimpse says:

    Kristine, I don’t have any links to SAHM-hating feminist blogs to prove my feelings of being judged by the world. But like Chris said, it is constantly there in subtle ways with friends and associates. I’ll add that it is also there in the not so subtle ways. TV shows, movies, media, magazines, (even Parent magazines) do everything they can to promote the empowerment of the working woman. Throw motherhood in among the Phd’s, the successful business owners, and anti-dependent women of the world, and you have the icing on the cake. A child makes you complete in your womanly glory. But if you take away the degrees, the careers, the money, and are left with just an inter-dependent marriage and children, it’s strongly implied that you are a failure.
    I don’t have the luxury of staying home with my children right now, (careful, a divorcee is among you!) and I hate it. My boss is a 30 year old woman who openly looks down on me and some fellow co-workers who wish they could stay home with their kids instead of work for the rest of their lives. And it’s okay for her to do so, because society permits that attitude everywhere, except for maybe the church.

  94. Stephanie,

    Pretty much. Though I believe the exact words were “I love the attention I get when I’m pregnant.”

  95. futureglimpse says:

    Loving the attention that comes with being pregnant doesn’t translate into getting pregnant just because you love the attention.

  96. Stephanie says:

    Does enjoying the process (rather than sacrificing in sackcloth and ashes) warrant a charge of “selfish” motivation?

  97. There’s a self-indulgent phenomenon with this generation’s 20 and 30 somethings that I find anthropologically interesting.
    As I’ve said to my own kids many times before, “Believe it or not, everything’s not always about you.”

  98. Tracy,
    I’m just not seeing it. I guess Elder Andersen sees something I’m missing too. Amongst all the people I know I just don’t see people delaying children for fun.

    and “There ARE a finite number of spirits that must come to earth and receive bodies.”
    You sure about that?

  99. I wouldn’t say it’s mainstream, but here’s a group that encourages rants about moms. Frequently using “whiny” and “martyr” to describe all mothers. http://www.happilychildfree.com
    I only know about them because my cousin is quite vocal about her distaste for motherhood on their facebook page, which comes up on my feed (I can, of course, block it). Everyone needs a place to vent, I guess. Even if the ideas aren’t mainstream, they still exist.

  100. Karen,
    She’s right that many SAHMs do act like martyrs or holier-than-thou for staying at home, as if it’s a huge sacrifice, when really, it’s what’s they always wanted and dreamed of doing. So where’s the sacrifice from that standpoint? (and I’m typing all this as a SAHM)

  101. Chris Gordon says:

    Kristine (84), I’m all for giving the benefit of the doubt against slights that are only perceived. I can only hope that we’re all a bit more forgiving and patient when those same pauses, looks, etc. benign or otherwise occur both with our brothers and sisters within the church and without. Maybe we owe each other a higher standard within the context of the gospel, but I think we also owe each other a greater willingness to turn the other cheek.

    That said, I’m usually the first to convince my wife to give the benefit of the doubt, and I’ve often caught others telling us that we’re crazy while asking to hold our kids with looks of envy in their eyes. But as objectively as I can, even the need to recalibrate a conversation foments a sense of isolation and “weirdness.” Whether benign or not in intent, the resulting feeling is hard to bear.

  102. Starfoxy–

    I guess it just didn’t bother me that he didn’t specifically include a sentence about going home and discussing it and praying with his wife about it. I just kind of assumed that he did so. Perhaps he didn’t, but I’d much rather assume that he did.

    “We appreciate husbands’ and wives’, especially our wives’, willingness to have children”, along with the mention of the gift women give their husbands by bearing and rearing their children, both came across to me as nods to the sacrificing of careers and other interests by women, though not blatantly stated. Obviously it didn’t come across that way to others.

    …And my thoughts have been completely derailed by a screaming baby, I might be back later to try and finish whatever I was trying to say if I can remember it.

  103. 97. mmiles: I am absolutely CERTAIN that there are a finite number of spirits waiting to be born. That is part of what we as members of this Church believe. How can there not be? We were all spiritually born before we were physically born. We were all intelligences before we were spiritually born. We don’t come from nowhere. We do not spontaneously appear as spirit children if someone on earth wants to have a baby. We already existed. The children being born on the earth now already existed before the foundation of the earth. To not understand that basic tenent of this religion, is worrysome.

  104. 97. mmiles: And that truth: that my children existed before the world was created–that they were my spiritual siblings–perhaps born as spirits long before I, myself, was born as a spirit, was my inspirational impetus for their birth.

    To see myself as as having no beginning and no end–and my children as eternal spiritual beings willing to spend the formidable years of their earth lives with me as their mother–changes the discussion about our choice to bring those children into our family. It becomes not about now, but about forever.
    Our relationships with our children are eternal—having no end—AND NO BEGINNING.

  105. After the comments made on 97, I’ve got to go talk to all my kids and make sure that they understand the concept of the pre-exisitence and the Plan of Salvation. I feel certain that they have been taught this, but I need to make sure that they don’t have any questions.

  106. Tracy,
    Welcome to BCC. I sense that you are new here so I kindly suggest you read this http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/10/04/come-join-the-conversation/ and the last link (or perhaps just the last link) before continuing this conversation.

    I’m familiar with the folksy-style idea that there are finite spirits waiting for birth, but am unaware of anything to back it up from recent church leaders. It’s 100% speculation, preexistence notwithstanding; so you can give your heart a rest and quit worrying about my worrisome misunderstanding.

  107. mmiles, I know. Some (many?, probably all of us at some point?) SAHMs do act badly, but the comments from this group tend to get really nasty. And they’re not just talking about SAHMs, but working moms too. I’ve read rants against women asking for affordable childcare and blanket statements about how girls raised by SAHMs are doomed to a life of dependence and intellectual stagnation – just because their mother chooses to stay home! Granted, the commenters are probably more free with their barbs because they’re in the company of like-minded people. But there do exist feminists who aren’t nice to women, just as there are Christians who don’t act much like Christ. I think it’s important not to belittle the feelings of people like futureglimpse who’ve experienced this kind of thing by telling her that maybe it’s all in her head.

  108. Stephanie says:

    She’s right that many SAHMs do act like martyrs or holier-than-thou for staying at home, as if it’s a huge sacrifice, when really, it’s what’s they always wanted and dreamed of doing. So where’s the sacrifice from that standpoint?

    Just because it is something you planned on doing doesn’t make it easy. “Always wanted and dreamed of doing” is full of child-like fantasy – doesn’t change the reality that it’s a hard job.

  109. Kristine, I’m not even a full-time SAHM, and I live in Utah, but I have had many experiences where I have felt dismissed or judged for being a mother or for having “too many” children. It is real and, I believe, culturally pervasive.

  110. Stephanie,
    Sure it’s hard, sure their are sacrifices in the work. But I think it would be going more than a bit far to act like I gave up another life to do what I ultimately want to be doing at the moment.

    Karen M,
    I think you’re confusing feminist with Child-Free uppity person. (Not to say that all child-free people are snotty.) I am a feminist, and I’m a SAHM.

  111. Mmiles: If we believe that we existed–as spoken of in Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price–before the world was created how, then, can we not exist in finite numbers before we were born?
    This is not folksy rhetoric. It is scripture.
    I am not sure how this part of the Plan of Salvation can be dismissed just because it doesn’t fit with what someone may want right now.
    I won’t bother any of you again. This is a blog full of whining. I am really grateful that I can concentrate on nature, animals, people, and my personal salvation and revelation and not all this “What do people think of me? “What about what I want? “What about me?”
    What a limited experience. What a short vision.

  112. Actually I dont see how there are finite spirits Tracy… it would seem worlds without number would have infinite spirits. The very nature of eternal increase and continuing to have spiritual children which will then take up mortal probation would seem to suggest infinite, unless you you think one day we’ll say, “Well the work of genetations and families is now done… sorry about you last generation… there just wasn’t enough intelligence around for you to have children.” Talk about the ultimate (semi) eternal ponzi scheme!

  113. Stephanie says:

    mmiles, I think that’s a simple way to look at complex decisions and emotions.

  114. futureglimpse says:

    I’ve always understood that there is a finite number of spirits destined for THIS world. We were the ones spoken of in Abraham 3. http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/3.23?lang=eng#22
    That said, I also believe that other worlds, future worlds, will each have a different set of spirits sent to them.
    But the war in heaven was fought by the group that was set apart to come to this world to have our mortal experience. The two thirds that weren’t cast out all need to have their mortal bodies on this earth. You can’t get 2/3 out of infinity.

  115. Perhaps that is oversimplifying it Stephanie. But I’m not a martyr. And excuse my bad grammar please.

  116. Chris: Those who didn’t have the opportunity for earth life –those still-born, died before the age of accountability, etc.–are those raised during the millenium. It is not a ponzi-scheme. We have a pre-existent life with those born to THIS earth. Worlds without end does not mean that our pre-existentence is filled with the beings to be born unto all those worlds without ends.

    All of these concepts are taught in the Brigham Young University Religion Department.

  117. Oh, and Chris, we create our own spirit children for our own eternal increase.
    They do not come from our father’s spirit children.

  118. Tracy,
    Not every BYU RD professor thinks the same way on such things. As you can see, there are a few different ways to interpret scripture. That’s okay, we don’t have to all think the same.

  119. mmiles, I was just saying that self-proclaimed feminists cover a broad spectrum which can include uppity childfree people. I am not against feminists at all. I would say I am one, but I think anyone looking at me would probably assume otherwise. Ah, definitions.

  120. Tracy if you desire to know more there is more to be known. What you say may be true to this creation and I believe there are a finite number of spirits for this earth. But the eternal number of spirits in all creations is not fixed. Eternal increase is bringing new spirits into existence for new worlds. That is our role in eternal marriage. What significance do you suppose a priesthood which acts for God on earth does in the eternities in the fullness of that priesthood? Hint… same thing but carrying on his work of eternal creation and not ordinance ministration. What has not been spoken on is what happens in the premortal life for those spirits… presumably council continues for each world with those spirits deciding to enter mortal life. You don’t need to accept or worry about these things now if they dont increase your faith… its more important now to focus on become like Christ in how we act and think.

  121. VeritasLiberat says:

    On a side note…

    Hey, Chris Gordon, by any chance were you a missionary in PA in 2002? If so, you may have been in my ward and helped me and my husband move.

  122. All of these concepts are taught in the Brigham Young University Religion Department.

    Check and mate!

  123. Chris, E, futureglimpse, Karen–I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. I’ve lived through it. I’m just not sure it’s culturally pervasive enough to warrant what seems like an extreme response in Church discourse, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on feminists. Guys in suits (whose wives were probably home with their kids!) were always the rudest to me when I was out and about with my three kids (in under 4 years, thankyouverymuch). That’s all–I don’t think we disagree much.

  124. I’m with Kristine in that there is plenty of pro baby material out there. I also acknowledge that there is plenty of anti baby material out there. This is more an example of niche marketing than social trend (although that’s chicken-and-egg-y). However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on both sides. Mrs. John C. was once accosted by some random woman in a Superfresh for being pregnant when our first child was one. At the same time, she understands that most of the women in our ward haven’t asked her about why we only have two children because they know she has an advanced degree and she kept her last name and, therefore, she must be someone who only wanted two kids (the reasons we don’t have more are both simpler and more complicated than that, but that particular reason isn’t a factor).

    Really, though, I think you folks are ignoring the factor that makes this more about personal choice than baby-makin’. By including that blogger quote (which I am officially encouraging in our leadership), he comes down as hard on people who have babies for the wrong reason (like fitting in in church) as he does people who don’t have babies for the wrong reasons. And although he focuses on a certain set of bad motivations, that doesn’t exclude the existence of other bad motivations.

  125. One tip on dealing with the awkward pause when announcing full-time parenthood: I have learned that a lot of times, people aren’t meaning to dis you, they just don’t know what to say next. Parenthood may be out of their frame of reference; to them, it’s like saying you are a Martian.

    I tried to make it easier for them by always including an “and” phrase, with something else about me. “I’m at home with our kids full-time, and I also volunteer with the freenet”…OR “and lead a book club (have you read anything interesting lately?)”….OR “and usher at the local theater…”

    That way, the people without an agenda can have something else to grab onto, to continue the conversation. And Elder Ballard has told us that we should have something other than motherhood, so hopefully everyone has at least one “and” statement, most more interesting than mine.

    [Of course a few folks still say ignorant things like “you must not be a feminist,” or “strange that such a successful scientist would have a wife with no ambition of her own.”]

  126. “I’m with Kristine in that there is plenty of pro baby material out there.”

    I agree that there is lots of such material, but looking at the sales figures on the feminist books that are anti-baby versus those in the pro-baby niche, it is clear that anti-baby has the stronger voice in the last decade.

  127. Steve Evans says:

    Wow, Tracy got really weird all of a sudden.

  128. Naismith,
    I’d need numbers to accept that. I’m deeply skeptical that the anti-baby crowd is in the majority.

  129. John C., I take it that you are interpreting Elder Anderson’s use of the line “You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps.” to mean parents should not allow their selfishness to induce them to have more children than they unselfishly would. I took that line to be a dismissal of disparaging theories why a family might have more children than seems reasonable to the disparager.

  130. I’m trying to find the set of bad motivations for having children that you tell us are found in Elder Anderson’s talk, to which could be added other bad motivations that he didn’t mention.

  131. John M.,
    Again, I think placing that line in the context of Seriously So Blessed and other such mommy blogging sets it up as a criticism of modern Mommy consumerism. It could be read as dismissal of lame excuses, but it doesn’t really make sense that way in the context that Elder Anderson gives it.

  132. So, Elder Anderson tells us that “motherhood is not a hobby,” and since he is quoting blog-writing mother, that gives us the context that he is calling to our minds all the blog-writing mothers for whom motherhood is a hobby to give them status and something to write about, women who had they acted in a less self-centered way would have born fewer children? The set of bad motivations is found by reading the mommy blogs to which he has alluded?

  133. Just throwing in my 2 cents to agree with Kristine @ #85 and #123. I’ve never personally experienced “the pause” because I’ve always either been in grad school or working, but there can be lots of reasons for it other than negative judgment. imo.

    In my world there’s a high correlation with economic privilege and SAMotherhood. My husband’s the music director at a church in one of the most economically privileged towns in the country (we do not live there), and most women there assume I’ve quit working because we have two kids. When I tell them I’m still working, the typical reaction is a singsongy “Ohhhhhhh.” [Implied pity, I think]. These are educated, in many ways “worldly” women, who consider themselves feminists.

    Elder Anderson’s talk seems so bazaar to me because the vast majority of married couples I know in my Chicago suburb have kids. And the vast majority of Mormon couples I know have even more kids. Where is this childlessness he’s lamenting? I guess it’s in Seattle, because I don’t see it here!

  134. “Where is this childlessness he’s lamenting?”
    Asian countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong with rates about 1.2.
    European and former USSR countries like Czech Rep., Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania with rates about 1.25.
    Poland, Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece with rates about 1.4.
    Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, China, Albania, Cuba with rates about 1.5.
    Canada, Thailand, Sweden, Puerto Rico, Belgium with rates about 1.6.
    Austrailia, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Lebanon with rates about 1.75.

    It is pretty obvious that our U.S.’s 2.06 is heading to below replacement level too.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?t=0&v=31&l=en

  135. Steve Evans says:

    jks, the ability of LDS people to affect those numbers is basically zero.

  136. I now want to watch Saturday’s Warrior more than ever.

  137. Steve Evans – I don’t think the talk was aimed at affecting the numbers. I think it was aimed at trying to counteract the worldly culture so that LDS people will have the courage to have children. Just like when they tell us to not drink alcohol. No one expects it to change the overall numbers, but it makes our own lives better.
    It is my belief that choosing to have children is worthwhile (for almost all married couples). I also think it is a difficult choice to make and it will continue to become a more difficult choice for couples to make because of the influence of society on our lifestyles and expectations of how to raise children well.

  138. Steve Evans says:

    JKS, sure, I agree with that.

  139. John M,
    In a word, yes. That is a significant part of the culture that the post was decrying, mostly because it turns children into just another possession. If you are asking yourself where children rank in your lifestyle, that is a kind of consumerism run amok. Or, at least, that is how I’m reading that particular inclusion in this talk. YMMV

  140. John,
    I think that’s a stretch. It seems to me he used those quotes to point out children aren’t something you can pick up and then let go like a hobby whenever it’s convenient. It was more condemnation for putting off family because you think it’s something it isn’t.

  141. mmiles,
    I have a feeling that the whole post hinges on what you think he is doing with that quote. So, I’m kind of attached to my interpretation. However, I’m open to being wrong.

  142. Maybe I’d agree if I read the talk, however I think your post still works with my interpretation.

  143. Re: 128 “I’d need numbers to accept that. I’m deeply skeptical that the anti-baby crowd is in the majority.”

    Well, it’s hard to calculate anything when the denominator is amorphous–there is no agreed-upon definition of what a feminist is. So hard to figure the dominant view among feminists.

    But I did a quick Bing search (attempting to avoid the customization of Google). I compared the hits for GET TO WORK (Hirshman’s book) and FEMININE MISTAKE (Bennetts) with the book that Kristine listed. I put all authors and titles in quotes, since some of those titles refer to multiple books. And admittedly, the book she listed was published in 1997, compared to 2006 and 2007 for the books I listed, so one would expect fewer hits. But what it came up with was

    6,660 Feminine Mistake
    4,890 Get to Work
    73 Child of Mine

    Also, in just glancing through the hits, GET TO WORK had been selected as a “One Campus-One Book” selection for a university in the midwest, and was on syllabi for courses at Ohio State, Brandeis and George Washington University, just to name a few. Whereas CHILD OF MINE was seen as a good Mother’s Day present.

  144. “So hard to figure the dominant view among feminists. ”

    That is because you are so freaking stubborn and do not listen!

    I am not only a feminist theorist, but I hold a joint-appointment in women’s studies.

    Takes a look at these major works in feminist theory:

    Maternal Thinking by Sara Ruddick

    Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education by Nel Nodding

    Love’s Labor by Eva Feder Kittay (the focus of my master’s thesis).

    The Ethics of Care by Virginia Held

    Antigone’s Daughter’s (an essay) by Jean Bethke Elshtain

    Justice, Gender, and the Family by Susan Moller Okin

    Feminism has focused heavily on mothering and it’s vital role for the last 30 years. Granted…you might need to read more than two books to find that out.

    (Steve, please don’t smack me. Please)

  145. Naismith, are you sure Bing hits are a good proxy for book sales?

  146. Don’t leave Sarah Blaffer Hrdy off your list, Chris!

  147. Chris Gordon says:

    @VeritasLiberat (121), no that was not I. But I’d like to think that I would have helped you move. :)

  148. “That is because you are so freaking stubborn and do not listen!”

    This nastiness might be justified if you had posted the citations, then I refused to acknowledge them. As it is, you could be just a tad more civil.

    I recognize that some within feminism do support motherhood. I have never denied that. When raising my last batch of kids, my favorite book was “Feminist Parenting: Struggles, Triumphs & Comic Interludes” by Dena Taylor.

    But here’s the thing: That book was published 17 years ago. The books that you cited were published mostly in the 80s and 90s. So I do think it is worth questioning whether that trend is continuing nowadays (given the recent high-profile books that are not in that vein).

    Also, even 10 years ago when I commended the Taylor book to others as proof that feminists did support parenting, I was routinely told that she wasn’t really a feminist (the same claim that some make today about “choice feminism”).

    So I applaud you for taking that stance in your teaching, but are you really going to claim that every women’s studies teacher is the same?

    And no, Bing hits are not in indicative of book sales, but they are a crude measure of what people are talking about.

  149. Naismith, feministing.com is perhaps the premiere blog of the current young, modern breed of feminism. The founder Jessica Valenti recently had a baby and wrote extensively about the experience and feminist takes on motherhood. Here is a piece she wrote for the guardian.

  150. observer fka eric s says:

    Isn’t there something here to be said about exponential birth rate given the overall growth of the LDS population within the last 50 years. 50 or 100 years ago when LDS were having 8+ kids (through the ’80s), that increased the church dramatically. Now, if those 8+ kids have at least 2.+ kids then there is still increase over time. The only difference is that those 8+ kids don’t each have 8+, but so what?

    What is the fear or preoocupation if the birth rate declines anyway? The church shrinks? Humanity declines? We believe the world is gonna end, and in the humanity will decline. If the focus isn’t strictly the intrinsic personal development that occurs when a person becomes a parent, then what’s with all the ominous talk about declining numbers and birth rate?

  151. Naismith,

    This must be the eighth time we have had this exact same discussion. I wash my hands of you and will let these kinder souls put up with you.

  152. There is even the “Radical Doula” movement, spurred by one of the feministing bloggers. Radical doulas are those who care deeply about pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, but want to infuse their work with their radical sensibilities on feminist, LGTBQI, and race/class issues.

  153. Naismith,
    I can think of several New York Times articles that I have encountered regarding some or another mothering trend. That’s fairly anecdotal in its own right, but there you go. I think you are highly underestimating the market’s desire to cater to mothers and to give them validation in their choices; much as we may be underestimating the market’s desire to cater to the childless. I’m certain that there is plenty of material on both sides of the divide.

    And certainly there is a lot of feminism on both sides of that divide. It may be best, at this point, to just disagree on the interpretation than to bother trying to establish a dominant narrative which can be so easily and anecdotally countered.

  154. A lot of you talk as if parenthood is all but gone. Yet one of the most popular new comedies is “Up All Night” a show about new parenthood. I spoke to one of my happily not a parent friends, and they said the show held no interest for them. Now, it may interest some people who are not families, but I imagine the majority audience is one of parents. Modern Family is also extremely popular, and it is also a show about families.
    Women who stay at home can be made to feel awful for their choice. Women who work can be made to feel awful about their choice. We are all in a sense picked on. However, my sister in law, who has a 6 month old, said that she prayed long and hard about using birth control. They are currently living in one bedroom in my basement, and barely have enough money to make ends meet. She had a horrid pregnancy, during which she lost her job, and had to take a job that paid half as much. Her husband finally has a decent job, but it is not enough for their family right now. The baby sleeps in the same small room with them, because they are not the only relatives living with us, and I also have two children of my own. They decided now was not the time to have another child, and prayed and felt their answer was correct. However, Elder Anderson’s talk has now left her with a sense of guilt.
    I work, I work a lot. I happen to have an extremely good, stable career, and am helping all of my family who have been adversely effected by this economy. I also had a horrible pregnancy with my second child who will be a year old in November. It almost killed me. I have no intentions of ever having a child again. My children need a mother ALIVE. I did not feel the need to consult with my religious leaders about this, and am choosing to not let anyone guilt me into feeling anything different. I am doing the best in my situation. But I am judged by people every single day of my life. I have wonderful friends whose choices are completely different than mine, and they are judged every single day of their lives. My choice to not have any more children, or to work, does not make someone elses choice to stay at home better or worse. However, talks such as Elder Andersons can appear to be the opposite. He did say that we should not judge one another, but then proceeded to make it seem that if one chooses to delay children for schooling reasons, that was the unfaithful choice. This kind of talk is very confusing and upsetting, especially when we are also told to be self-reliant and live within our means.
    Most people I know want to have children, LDS or not. Yes, some do not. But I seriously doubt it is so dangerously epidemic that people will stop having children. I personally believe the ecomony and lack of good paying jobs will “destroy the family” way more than the fear of “feminism” leading women away from wanting children. One of my best friends, non-LDS, had a child a few months before me. She loves this child, and really wants to have another. It is the economy that is holding her back right now, as she and her husband want to make sure they can care for their child. Another good friend of mine, not LDS, her husband died early of cancer. They knew this was happening, so they had some of his sperm saved before he got really sick, and she continued to have a child after he had passed away. Another couple I know, not LDS, suffered several miscarriages and still born children before adopting three special needs children. Yes, there are vocal people out there against having children, but I find the attitude that no one wants to have children, no one values children or motherhood, a bunch of lies and bull crap. People value motherhood. People value parenthood. LDS do not have the corner on placing importance on motherhood. There are plenty of strong feminist mothers. I have always been a feminist, but it was becoming a mother to two daughters that strengthened my resolve in feminism. The problem is not that people are not valued. The problem is that we are so quick to say I am right and you are wrong that we are not able to see what is truly important. Difference and Choice is what really matters. I have the choice to work. Feminism brought that about, and it has literally saved my extended family. My dear friend has the choice to stay at home, and it has literally saved her children. Thank God we were both give that choice. The med student, most likely thanks to Medicaid and WIC and who knows what else, was given the choice to have children while going to school. It made his family happy, so thank God he was given that choice. My mother had three children under the age of 2, and it about killed her mentally. She was able to have contraception which gave her a much needed break, until she was able to have her last two children (one ME!) and Thank God she had that choice. We get so defensive because people look down on us, but maybe we need to take a step back and look at who we are looking down on as well.

  155. I knew two intelligent women who self-identified as feminist, and wanted neither marriage nor children because they would get in the way. So anecdotally, it’s out there.
    One of them became my wife, the other now has three kids and is a prominent writer/blogger/researcher on a related topic.

  156. Oh, and one more thing. Yes, many countries, especially 3 world countries who are becoming more industrialized and gaining access to birth control are having less children.
    My mother-in-law, from a third world country, came home many nights to 10, yes 10, starving children that she could not feed. It is not surprising that once access to birth control goes up, the amount of children born goes down. It is not that children are not valued. It is evidence that children are valued so much that once a parent can avoid watching their child STARVE TO DEATH, they will do what it takes, including having less mouths to feed. I struggle to see why having the amount of children you can reasonably care for should be seen as a lack of value in parenthood.
    Besides my own health, another reason I will have no more children is because I value feeding and clothing my children and see no logical way of feeding another one. If that changes, I will be happy to go out and find an already birthed child who needs food, and do what it takes to make sure they do not starve.

  157. Maren- wonderfully said!

    We have way more in common with our non-LDS neighbors than some of us think- we don’t do our culture any favors when we act like we are the only ones who value motherhood. I think that when we ‘out’ ourselves or lifestyle to our neighbors the awkwardness we feel is one-sided: it is what we were expecting, so it is what we received.

    Like another poster, I’m from a town where being a SAHM is a status thing, so it blows my mind when people say they are put down for it.

    Finally, there are many different types of feminism. So generalities like, “This is what feminists think” are inherently false.

  158. #154 maren: “They decided now was not the time to have another child, and prayed and felt their answer was correct. However, Elder Anderson’s talk has now left her with a sense of guilt.”

    Then she also needs to read Elder Holland’s talk from last conference in which he clearly said, if one is already in compliance with what one talk is stressing, “then give yourself high marks and, when we come to that subject, listen for another which addresses a topic where you may be lacking. If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.”

    Elder Anderson himself stressed that couples should do exactly what your SIL and her husband did: pray and make their own choice. Why should she feel guilty if she’s already heeded the counsel he gave not once but at least twice in his talk?

  159. I did have her read that exact talk and she said it helped a little. However it’s not that easy to just let go of guilt. I have absolutely no doubt I am exactly on the

  160. Oops! On the path god wants me on but certain talks in church can and do lead me to feel guilt for working, and I have to make a concerted effort to get past that guilt. People often feel unwarranted guilt.

  161. Maren, I apologize for the snippiness of my comment. I do recognize that we often feel unwarranted guilt. In my circle of acquaintance it is especially true among the women of the church, and I don’t have a clear solution to offer. I know a number of sisters who tend to walk away from church more burdened than when they came in (my wife is sometimes among those). I’m sorry that your SIL feels the burden she does, and I hope that she finds resolution.

  162. The reading above of Elder Anderson’s blog quoting puts the first chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price in a whole new light, the Lord God Almighty speaking repeatedly of his endless works and their connection with his glory.

  163. Thanks Paul. I confess I am probably a little too touchy about these things as well. I just hate it when people say things that make it seem like Mormons are the only ones who care about families and having children. Some of the best parents I know are not LDS. Some of the best parents I know are not LDS and not in Utah. I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for many years, and saw many a pregnant woman. In fact, my obstetrician had her office in the basement of a free standing birthing center that most insurances covered. And she was always willing to have night appointments and weekend appointments to cater to my schedule. When I moved to Utah 5 months pregnant, I found nothing like that at all. My employer in NYC was very family friendly, their policies for FMLA were clear, they were completely willing to work out alternative scheduling, give time off for family or church things, etc. My Jewish boss would often plan schedules around religious holidays and was very respectful of the Muslims and Christians he worked with and their religious needs. He and his wife were both WONDERFUL parents. I have a friend here in SLC, an atheist, best mom I know. She has had coworkers and neighbors express things to her such as “if you don’t believe in God, why in the world should you even have children?” She has told me that she is so sick of people acting like someone without religion is someone without morals that if she were ever to set foot in a church, it would certainly not be the Mormon church. We do not have a monopoly on caring about children and wanting to have families. Yes, people are having less children. There are also studies out there that show that my generation is the first generation that will have a decreased standard of living from our parents. So of course we are guarded about the timing and amount of children we have. It does not mean we love or value the children any less than our parents did. Many of my friends have had to move in with Mom and Dad in order to care for their one or two children. Should they really just “have faith” and have number three right now? I see nothing wrong with waiting until you have a job to have a child. If a person wants to exercise faith and have five children while in graduate school, or unemployed, or already struggling to make ends meet, that is fine for them. But there are those of us who also feel a strong desire to remain self-reliant, and having one more child would mean living off of government or church support. I truly feel that the story shared by Elder Anderson was clouded just a little by the difference of cost of life and schooling in the time this doctor went through med school, and what we are going through now. Cost of tuition has long since surpassed the rate of inflation. Housing costs had until recently become out of reach. Home loans remain out of reach for many people. Rent remains high. Jobs are no longer secure. We are not selfish young people choosing fun rather than choosing family. Yes, there may be some out there, but they are not the majority. I work with many, many working mothers, and NOT ONE is doing it so her kids can have luxuries. Every single one is doing it so her children can have necessities. The choice not to have more for them is based on practicality. Its definitely hard to be a working mom of 5-7 children. My friends who are blessed to stay home, well, they have the children their family can handle, but living on one income now is HARDER than before. They are managing, but if they are limiting their families, it is because they see no way of affording being able to feed another, and their husbands come home each week talking about how another coworker was laid off. It is not a selfish desire to want to take care of the children you do have, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Elder Anderson did say not to judge, but his message opened the door for a floodgate of judgement.

  164. 1) Re:#150, We don’t need large numbers of LDS to battle in the last days. Quite the contrary, our battles are fought with God, not size (David and Goliath, Elisha, Gideon, Stripling Warriors, etc.) God needs our quality first, not our quantity.

    2) Please pass me some prozac. I don’t have kids. I saw the talk as the equivalent of the “sinlge [men] over 25 [are] a menace to society” talk aimed at women.

    3) If selfishness were the real core of the talk, why not focus on that? Why use such a sore and complex topic (delayed or medically impossible parenthood) to try to illustrate it? Isn’t there a simplier comparison which would have allowed him to speak more boldly and forthrightly instead of talking as though walking through a mine field, throwing caveats left and right in order to escape, obscuring the real message?

    4) Economic advantage is positively correlated with SAHMs and young motherhood. Interestingly, so is poverty. Its the middle class that struggles with finite resources and time- always walking the line. I’m not sure where most of Mormondom falls, but most of mormon leadership (like Anderson) fall in the top financial stratas.

    5) I don’t think Elder Anderson and his wife or the senior GAs and wives understand how life has changed since they were young and how other social classes struggle. They were able to pay for school, take out few (if any) loans, and support a growing family simply by working overtime at a part time student job, thrifting, typing papers and washing clothes. Money stretched further in the past than it does today. Now, it isn’t possible to get through school without the cost of a home on your schoulders. In the short period betwen my graduation and my younger brother’s graduation, tuition at our state university had quintoupled ! ! ! Whether one pursues a college education or a trade, the cost of higher education is still soaring out of control and a 12th grade education is irrelevant. While we’re on the subject, if one more sister who raised her kids before 1980 gives me a “thrift to get by” homemaking lesson, I will absolutely scream. It isn’t about shopping for discount food, having a garden, or mending hand-me-down clothes. We (the middle class) can’t pay for HEALTH CARE. We can’t afford to have babies, because a C-Section and a month in the NICU can cost a small underinsured middle and lower-class young family their home, their life, any hope for retirement, any mission or college money for kids, and essentially any economic freedom for the rest of their lives.

    6) I’m really happy that the “talented tenth” in mormondom is able to sacrifice and make happily-ever-after endings with a crop of kids. Elder Nelson had about a dozen kids while going through Med School, Elder Mason juggled it all as well. Wow. Bloggers, I’m just going to say, I’m not one of these brilliant, super talented, amazing people. I’m just an average Joe. I’ll never be a world-class cardiac surgeon, never going to be the head of CDC, never going to be a GA. I’ll be lucky to plug along with my middle class job until I retire. I work my butt off, but I simply am not in their league and never will be. I’ll never have the capacity for earning that they did when they “risked” or “faithed” having families. (“Risked” and “faithed” aren’t the right words to describe med students who have families. Med students have fin aid and Physicians do not lack for money or social capital.) Why am I being compared to these statistically improbable individuals? Is it simply to teach faith and selflessness? I learn more from widows’ mites and widow’s oil than comfotable, talented, privlidged white males who have perfect wives, and “sacrifice” to be less rich for a time, knowing they will be very rich in the future.

    5) GAs are business and numbers men. Lots of MBAs and JDs. I’m positive that they receive and review not only financial, but demographic church data on a regular basis. They employ researchers to watch and report. I think we can pretty much assume he’s seen a baby trend of some size.

    6) Interesting book to add to the thread’s bibliography: The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke. Elizabeth Warren.

  165. “Please pass me some prozac. ”

    Mine is the generic version. Does that work for you?

  166. futureglimpse says:

    J.A.T.
    Your #5: “I don’t think Elder Anderson and his wife or the senior GAs and wives understand how life has changed since they were young and how other social classes struggle.”
    But what about the Lord? Don’t you think He would know and understand the current struggles? And we know from D&C 1:38 “…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
    This whole thread is replete with excuses for why we shouldn’t obey the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Yes, there are excuses and some seem extremely logical and right. Some probably are. That sentence that so many found offense with, “where is your faith?” was put in there on purpose. Because we have these excuses, and we leave it at that. What Elder Anderson seems to be trying to get across is that we should be including the Lord in the process. Maybe He’ll agree with the reasons that some have to not want to try for kids. But how many ask Him? Between husband, wife, and the Lord, not just husband and wife. That’s the kicker.
    The talk wasn’t just from some old-fashioned, out-of-touch, rich, old man. It was from God. This counsel was meant for us right now because the Lord sees a problem with it in the church. I guess it’s hard for me to understand why so many people can find fault with God’s chosen Apostle.

  167. J.A.T

    So certain are you…

    Always with you what cannot be done.

  168. I always smile when people tell me that having children just isn’t economical anymore, Currently have 4 with number 5 on the way. I am a High School teacher, with a frozen salary and my wife stays at home.

    Follow the Liahona it will show you the more fertile parts of the land.

  169. Fertility is not our problem!

    Oh…wait…that is not what you meant.

  170. I thought someone would say something about that

  171. I am good at being that “someone.”

  172. My husband and I waited to have kids. If it wasn’t for the church we would have waited even longer. We have four children. If it wasn’t for the church we would have fewer children. We definitely wouldn’t have asked God about having our fourth (#3 wasn’t planned so I can’t claim she is church related).
    I am so glad that we have the kids we have. I am completely sure we wouldn’t have them all if it wasn’t for the church leaders telling us to make it a priority.
    Sure, I remember the feeling of when I had a four year old and a two year old and thought it would be impossible to have another child. I would cry to think about having another and I would cry to think about only having two because it was too hard. Thankfully, God was there to give me peace and I finally got an answer not to worry about it, that the answer would become clear down the road, there was no need to worry about it at the moment.
    I thought it was a great talk. We are only just barely past the age to need the counsel on the subject.

  173. Futureglimpses,

    I got a gentile rebuke, didn’t I? I hope I didn’t sound anti, I just find value in studing past and present Apostles’ and Prophets’ background. Knowing Luke was a physician, Matthew was a tax collector, others were fishermen, Joseph was a ploughboy, W. Richards and Luke were physicians; helps me understand their perspective as they communicated God’s word. Frankly, I don’t think it is blasphemous to call any of the GAs ‘rich, out-of-touch, old, white, men’. Some of them are! Doesn’t that fact testify to the divinity of messages which manage to transcend the individual? This is more than a log cabin mentality, it’s truly a ‘marvelous work and a wonder’. At times we see their human thumbprint on God’s work and I think it is important to identify it. God has called hermits, ploughboys, the speech impaired, disabled, tax collectors, fishermen, doctors, old, young, healthy, strong, lawyers, educators, scribes, teachers, farmers, fishermen, merchants, and many others to his work. They become part of the story, part of the message. They also bring perspective and personality as the mouthpieces, and I can’t but help wondering whether culture and environment colors what topics are addressed and to which extent, and what topics don’t even enter our minds to inqurie about. There is also a human element in packaging “epistles” to specific audiences. My intent wasn’t to criticize, but to simply ask, don’t we sometimes need an ‘Emma’s voice’ asking our mouthpieces to please inquire about the spitoons? When are we ever allowed to ask, ‘what meanest thou’ to a servant?

    JTB #168,
    I’ve got to remember your response . . . that is terrific!

    JTB #169,
    Congratulations on your state and federal union fought benefits and your government health insurance. Wise career master yoda. I can’t imagine a large family without health insurance.

    Chris H.,
    Yes please ; ) I’m toasting my glass to you now.

  174. “This must be the eighth time we have had this exact same discussion. I wash my hands of you and will let these kinder souls put up with you.”

    Actually, this is the first time that I recall you providing me with some references, which are very helpful. Thanks for that. Some of the previous exchanges that you describe as a “discussion” consisted of a mere “sigh,” which is not instructive.

    An interesting thing about these references: None of them were available in my public library. The Kittay book was not even in my university’s library, though available by inter-library loan.

    So part of your point may be that you are on the cutting edge of academic feminism, whereas I am looking at mainstream books and listening to groups that I work with in the community? Fair enough.

  175. “So part of your point may be…”

    I do not know what my point is anymore. I really should comment less on blogs.

  176. Oh, and sorry for being a jerk.

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